CUBS WIN!!!

  • The Chicago Cubs beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 last night at delirious Wrigley Field to win their first National League pennant since 1945, a time that dates to the Greatest Generation. Now the northsiders will take on American League champion Cleveland Indians in the Fall Classic beginning next Tuesday.

Towns goes crazy! Historic Series awaits!

Better than food!

Better than food!

 

The Cubbies haven’t won the World Series itself in 108 years (1908), the Indians in 68 years (1948). It all reminds me of that night back in 2004 when the Boston Red Sox broke the Curse of the Bambino to end their own 86 years of World Series frustration.

My Chicago friends have always argued that the Cubs’ World Series drought was worse than the Red Sox because it was longer in duration (108 years to a mere 86).  But since their last appearance in the Series in 1945 the Cubs have been perennial losers, never really coming close, almost always out of the pennant race by mid-summer.

Oh, there was the Steve Bartman incident in 2003 when the Cubs were up 3-2 in the NLCS against the Florida Marlins, but the Red Sox have starred in any number of Shakespearean baseball tragedies. Line them up: 1946 and 1967 against the Cards in seven-game series, 1975 against Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine, also in seven, and most horrically in 1986 against the N.Y. Mets. Agonizingly just one out away,  congratulations already up on the Mets’ scoreboard, then the grounder dribbles through Buckner’s legs and the champagne gets wheeled away.

And that doesn’t even take into consideration the one-game playoff loss to the Yankees in 1978 for the AL East title on Bucky “effing” Dent’s home run off Mike Torres over the Green Monster.

So heartache and pain have long been etched more deeply into the soul of the New England fans than that of the hapless though hopeful Cubby faithful.

So let’s go back to the fateful night of October 27, 2004 when the Red Sox finally won it all against my hometown St. Louis Cardinals. Because this is what it might finally feel like in Chicago in a very short time.  Continue reading

BASEBALL IS LIKE THE MARATHON

Cardinals v Red Sox 2013    Baseball, in some ways, is like the marathon.  Both sports require the ability to endure a long, grueling task, be it months of training and 26.2 miles of racing, or months of a 162-game season, and the intensity of multiple championship series.  Both sports take from low two-hours to five-hours plus to complete, and taken in small doses or out of context, can seem incomparably boring. Yet when followed closely throughout a season or a race, the drama of each competition builds to Shakespearean levels, until every pitch, every foot strike takes on the weight of the world, and the glory of accomplishment — sometimes even in defeat — can resonate for a lifetime and beyond.

And so as the baseball season begins its annual fall ritual tonight in Boston with the National League champion St. Louis Cardinals taking on host American League king Boston Red Sox, we await the culminating event of the 2012-2013 World Marathon Majors cycle on the first weekend of November at the ING New York City Marathon with equal anticipation.

This year’s Fall Classic promises to be a beauty, as the Cards and the Sox have proven their mettle — both teams completed their seasons with a record of 97 —  65.  Both have excellent pitching, powerful offenses, and legendary support from their iconic fan bases.  We can only hope to witness a level of drama at the ING New York City Marathon November 3rd that will approximate what is expected in Boston and St. Louis – America’s Best Baseball Town. Continue reading

ST. LOUIS VAMPIRES

Maybe they should change their name to the St. Louis Vampires, cause they just won’t die!

This improbable baseball season runs out to its final game tonight for the still-named St. Louis Cardinals as, down by two runs with two outs  and two strikes twice in their last at bats, the Redbirds rose like Nosferatu himself last night beneath the gleaming Gateway Arch to take game six of the 2011 World Series, 10-9, against the decanted Texas Rangers.

St. Louis native David Freese fullfilled every boy’s dream twice in the span of two innings to lead the Cards into game seven in search of their 11th World Series title.  First, just as it seemed the Rangers could begin celebrating the first World Series win in their 51-year franchise history, Freese cooly delivered a two-strike, two-out, two-run, bottom of the ninth triple into right field over the head of Nelson Cruz off the Rangers All-Star closer Neftali Feliz to send the game into extra inings.

Then, as the excitement of the ninth still buzzed through Busch Stadium, Ranger slugger Josh Hamilton drew gasps of despair from the Redbird faithful with a two-run homer in the top of the 10th to seemingly bury the Cards once and for all. But, after coming back from a 10 1/2 game deficit to the Atlanta Braves in late August to take the Wild-Card entry into the playoffs,  Tony LaRussa’s flock took flight again, tying the game in the bottom of the tenth on another two strike, two out run-producing single by Lance Berkman after  Ranger manager Ron Washington had intentionally – and intelligently – walked Card’s slugger-supreme Albert Pujols with first-base open and a runner in scoring position.   Instead of champagne flowing for the Rangers, it was their life blood spilling out onto the lush green lawn.

As if fated, when the Rangers, who had leads all night long – including 7-4 in the seventh off back-to-back jacks by Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz – failed to score in the top of the 11th, Freese finished the blood-letting with a lead-off, walk-off 11th inning blast to dead center field to send the frenzied Redbird fans home in a blood lust.

An epic game six, at first poorly played with numerous run-producing errors by both teams – including a dropped pop-up by Freese, himself – the heroics late turned this one into a fall classic.  A game at least on par with the hallowed game six between the Boston Red Sox and Cincinnati Reds of 1975 when Carlton Fisk’s wave-it-fair homer over the Fenway Park green monster in left field lifted the Sox to a 12th inning win – before a devastating loss in game 7 continued the Red Sox winless World Series curse for another 29 years.

Baseball, in some ways, is like marathoning. Both sports take from low 2-hours up to even five hours to complete (last night’s game lasted 4:38), and taken in small doses or out of context, each can seem incomparably boring. Yet when followed closely throughout a season or a race, the drama builds to Shakespearean levels, until every pitch, every footstrike takes on the weight of the world, and the glory of accomplishment can resonate for a lifetime and beyond.

And so the baseball season ends tonight on the last weekend in October, just as the World Marathon Majors season will conclude on the first weekend of November in New York City.  We can only hope to witness a level of drama at the ING New York City Marathon that was been on display in St. Louis – America’s Best Baseball Town – where tonight the Vampires,  I mean Cardinals, hope to draw blood again while the Rangers look to drive a stake through their collective hearts.

END

America’s Best Baseball Town

> www.cardinals.com/tvads<

     One of my boyhood friends from our old South St. Louis neighborhood sent this link, bringing back many fond memories of baseball’s impending return.

St. Louis has long been recognized as one of, if not the best baseball city in America.  Not because the Redbirds have won 10 World Series titles, second only to the 27 won by the mighty N.Y. Yankees.  Nor because the Redbird fans are knowledgeable, and root, root, root for the home team in good times as well as bad.  No, St. Louis gained its reputation over many decades as the quintessential baseball town because its fans appreciated the game at a level that allowed them to cheer even for the good plays by the opposing teams, or former Cardinals now returned in a visiting team’s uniform.

As a result, we St. Louis kids grew up playing many variations on the ball-and-bat theme from early spring to late in October.  While I’m sure other cities had their distinctive baseball-influenced games, too, we seemed to have a game for any field of play and for every number of players available.  Games with such evocative names as stepball, stickball, fuzzbull, wall-ball, wiffle ball, Indian Ball, cork ball, run ups, rounders; the list seemed to go on forever.

If you were on your own, you’d play step ball or wall-ball.  Two kids would, of course, play catch.  With three you could play run-ups, simulating getting picked off first and trying to not get tagged out.

Once you rounded up three or four friends you could start batting games like wiffle ball, cork ball, fuzz ball (played with a de-frocked tennis ball), as well as a fielding game that originated in St. Louis called Indian Ball. Continue reading