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11:29 a.m. - June 16, 2006
Pity Me - I'm A Cubs Fan
As you may have guessed, I知 a man. Of the male persuasion.

That means I do like some manly-man stuff, like sports.

(No, ladies, don稚 leavenot yet!)

I love sports of all kinds.

I am intrigued by the World Cup, as always, even though soccer is bad on TV.

I will follow the US Open golf tournament this weekend, even though as a golfer I知 more of a sod replacement specialist. (I was getting fairly decent until I had a back injury a few years ago, and now with the kidlets my time on the course is limited, really. Limited is congruent to non-existent).

I am really enjoying the Stanley Cup Finals. Game five was a total blast (sorry Rachel) and I知 looking forward to a hard hitting game six. I used to work as the official scorer for a minor league hockey team so I think I know the sport, even if I can稚 skate to save my life.

I love college football and the NFL, without question.

Since I知 a Hoosier, of course I love basketball. I知 more of a college and high school hoops fan, but the NBA is getting a bit more exciting. As a kid, I used to go to a few ABA games and they were a blast very free wheeling and open. But I知 a hoops purist, as I壇 rather see players moving without the ball, setting screens, and hitting the open 15-footer than try to pound the ball inside for no reason.

But those sports are just my girlfriends. I am married to one sport.

That sport is baseball.

I spend a lot of time reading baseball books, studying baseball internet sites, and in fact, I own a discussion forum on baseball, The Baseball Clubhouse, which is just a group of online friends that talks all things baseball.

I am an acolyte of the new thinking in baseball statistics, and in shaking up the old, traditional beliefs.

I love the history of baseball. One of the most intriguing eras in sports history is the 19th century of baseball, as it is full of color, intrigue and drama. And it proves to me that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

I致e been a baseball fan for as long as I remember. It started with box scores, and then watching the Cincinnati Reds on local TV. I vividly remember watching the Oakland A痴 win three straight World Series (1972, 73, 74). I was ostensibly a Reds fan, and rooted for them in their two World Championships (1975 and 1976).

But then WGN came to town, and my world hasn稚 been the same. Because, starting with the spring of 1977, I became a rabid Chicago Cubs fan.

Yeah, I know, many people look down on Cubs fans as trendy yuppies who just want to get drunk and party in the bleachers. They don稚 care about the game or the team; they just show up for the fun.

Well, that痴 not me. In fact, that痴 not true for a lot of us. I take this damn seriously. And right now, it痴 killing me!

(Liz always asks why I watch, if it hurts me so much. Well, she痴 a huge Kansas hoops fan, but they致e never had a losing record in forever, so she wouldn稚 understand, really.)

Oh, I talked to the City Mouse the other night about the horrific bullpen of the Red Sox. I know Harri3t and her family are huge White Sox fans, and that my beloved Becks is a Yankees fan. (She痴 a Long Island gal she can稚 help it!)

But when I had a chance to watch a team every day at the age of 11, I fell in love with them, and when I start rooting for a team, I don稚 stop, with two exceptions. (The Chicago Blackhawks are dead to me because their owner is a total idiot and since the Colts came to town the Atlanta Falcons have taken a back seat.)

That year was special for many reasons. OK, I got my tonsils out, but it was the year that I discovered baseball, for real, and found a team I could love. I could watch every game, or part of every game, since WGN broadcast them all. I used to speed home from school just so I could see the last few innings during the spring, and in the summer, I was glued to the TV, often times delaying a dip in the local swimming pool until the game was over.

In 1977, the Cubs had a new manager and had made some seemingly astute trades. And they started out slow, but then caught fire. At the end of May they were 28-16 and in first place.

At the end of June, the Cubs were 47-24 and 7 ス games ahead of everyone. 47-24! This was the year. My dad told me all about how bad the Cubs were historically. My dad told me about the heartbreak of 1969, and how the history of the Cubs always worked against them. They always will find a way to lose, and do so in a way to break your heart.

Basically, my Dad told me not to get my hopes up.

滴ah! I thought. Not this year, this was MY team. And they were 47-24. That was the best record in baseball!

These were my team. I knew the batting order. I wanted to play second base like Manny Trillo. I wanted to be cool in the outfield like Jose Cardenal, Jerry Morales, Bobby Murcer and 典arzan Joe Wallis. I wanted to see Ivan DeJesus turn the DP. I wanted to be a gritty guy and get key hits off the bench like George Mitterwald, Gene Clines, Greg Gross, or Larry Biittner.

My favorite player was Dave Rosello. He didn稚 play much but he always hustled and seemed like he had a great time. Since I wasn稚 that good of a player, either, but I tried, he was my guy.

They had good pitchers as well. Rick Reuschel and Mike Krukow were my guys. Willie Hernandez was a good rookie, and Bruce Sutter was aces in the bullpen. Yeah, I cringed a bit when Ray Burris, Bill Bonham and Paul Reuschel pitched, but they had enough offense to carry them through those games.

So on July 1, I was on top of the world.

The Cubs treaded water in July. But at the end of July, they were 61-41 and still in first place. But I was concerned. Sutter, the ace reliever, hadn稚 pitched much since mid July. In fact from July 16 to August 23 he only appeared in two games.

Then, poof, it happened. Whether it was the lack of Sutter, the fact they played a lot of day games, or the fact they weren稚 really that good of a team, the Cubs wilted.

By August 7, they were out of first place. When they lost a doubleheader in mid August to the Phillies, they were 6 ス games OUT of first place and sitting in third at 65-51.

Well, I still watched them, and of course, hoped that they壇 turn it around. Nope.

When the dust settled, the team that owned the NL in May and June finished 81-81, after going 20-40 in August and September.

Ouch. But I was a fan. I was hooked. And even though the Cubs have caused me great stress over the years, they池e my team.

I致e been there through thick (1984 was great, so was 1989 and 2003 in the regular season) and thin (in each of those playoff years my heart was ripped from my heart, and shown to me and then lightly saut馥d in front of my eyes with garlic, butter and parsnips).

As for 2003, if anyone ever mentions a so-called shortstop to my face again, I will rend my garments, wear sackcloth and put ashes on my head. All he needed to do was make ONE play, and no one would remember Bartman. ONE play a simple ground ball. Ack!

I remember 1987, when I had my first real apartment, and we had a couch and two lawn chairs for furniture. I watched a lot of Cubs games and I remember lobbing beer cans at the screen when Jamie Moyer and Greg Maddux pitched. Andre Dawson hit 49 homers and they still finished last.

Maddux and Moyer? Aren稚 they great pitchers? Yeah, but they were young pups then. Maddux was 6-14 with a 5.61 ERA. Moyer was 12-14 with a 5.10 ERA. That season, the NORMAL National League pitcher had an ERA (Earned Run per Nine Innings) of 4.08. So they were one run, or more, worse than a normal pitcher. Ick.

That season was summed up on September 9, 1987. I was in college, and was watching the game. The Cubs and Pirates were tied at 3 in the ninth. Big Lee Smith was on the mound, and with two out the Pirates let their relief pitcher, Jeff Robinson, bat for himself. For his career, Robinson had 10 hits in 94 at bats, for a .106 batting average.

Crack! Home run! Pirates up 4-3 and the Cubs go out meekly in the 9th.

I have suffered through many seasons like that.

But I知 still a fan.

This season has been horrid. I disagree with many of the managerial moves that Dusty Baker makes, and especially the kind of players he puts his stock in. Their lead off hitter refuses to get on base. Their best hitter is out. The pitching staff is a mess, with two studs hurt and not getting better, and the bullpen a disaster area.

The only thing that has brought a smile to my face is when Michael Barrett punched that punk Pierzynski in the grill. It livened up another beat-down, that痴 for sure!

But still, I root. Still I have hopes that they can turn it around, if not this season, then next season for sure!

Why not? Stranger things have happened. Just ask the City Mouse about 2004!

 

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