Baseball, Boys and Dads

Today was opening day for the Chicago Cubs.

To most of you that’s not a big deal. In fact, I’m sure there are a good number of you who read that first line and said “Who cares?”

Well to this baseball fan, it’s a big deal. Because baseball means more than just nine guys running around a field hitting a ball with a wooden stick. It’s because, for the most part, boys and dads have a sort of innate relationship around baseball. Sometimes that relationship blossoms into a loving and wonderful coexistence; and sometimes it harbors a lifetime of regret and/or agony.

For me, the relationship between me, my Dad and baseball has almost always been a positive one. I remember playing catch with him in the backyard and going to the park to hit a few line drives (which were probably only bloopers but to me they were line drives.) I was never much good at playing the game, but I definitely recall the first few trips we made to Wrigley Field to watch the Cubs play.

One of my fondest memories is during our second visit to Wrigley Field. I was probably about 8 or so and my sister was 6. We were seated in the main grandstand area, to the right of home plate, just under the upper grandstand. They were pretty great seats. I had my program and my Cubs baseball cap, and my sister was sporting her trademark Cubs fisherman’s cap which was so cute on her little head. Mom and Dad were reviewing the lineup with us, getting us ready to start keeping score for the game.

I looked up and saw a mob of people forming from the Cubs dugout, walking up toward the stairs of the grandstand. In the mob I could see Jack Brickhouse, the legendary Cubs broadcaster. I knew he was probably just finishing the “Lead-Off Man” interview with one of the players and was heading up to the announcer’s booth in the Mezzanine. The only way to get there was through the crowd, so every time he made the trek, he would be besieged by autograph seekers.

I asked my dad for a pen, and he found one for me. In a flash, I grabbed my program and took off. I could hear my dad calling after me, “Ricky! Get back here! RICKY! You’ll never find your way back!” But I knew where I was going. I ran after the mob, and followed them down the stairs into the concourse. Just after turning to the right, I reached the the mob and tunneled my way between the legs of the taller fans. I got right up to Jack Brickhouse, smiled with my toothless smile, and said, “Mr. Brickhouse, can I have your autograph?”

Jack replied, “Sure, little fella!” and grabbed my program and signed it with my felt-tip pen. I looked at the signature, said “Wow! Thanks!” and dashed back to the seats.

When I got back, my dad was fuming and my mom was frantic. “We thought we’d never find you! How did you find your way back?” they cried.

I responded quite confidently, “I knew where I was going!” and not another word was spoken about it.

Throughout my dad’s and my life together, baseball remained as a constant in an otherwise symbiotic relationship. No matter what else was going on in our lives, we could always fall back upon what the Cubs were doing that year, or what bonehead moves the management made that would plunge the season into another fit of despair.

As I said before, I wasn’t much of a player. I did play on a Little-League type team in grade school, but I wasn’t all that good. I was always stuck in right field, and I spent more time picking dandelions than running after base hits. Dad, of course, was furious with me and couldn’t understand why I wasn’t a better player– but I assured him that it wasn’t because I didn’t like the game — I just didn’t enjoy playing it as much as I enjoyed watching it.

So that’s why, when the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus started rehearsing the song “What You’d Call A Dream” from the little-known off-Broadway play called “Diamonds,” I was struck by how much meaning the game has in so many people’s lives. Whether you’re the greatest or worst player, or whether you ever made the game-winning hit or cost a team the game; there’s something special and meaningful about the relationship between fathers, sons and baseball that can never be broken.

So this Friday and Saturday, when I’m on stage, choking back tears during that song, I will remember the trips to Wrigley Field; the days playing catch in the summer sun; the baseball cards and team rosters, and his recollections of years past; the afternoons watching WGN and Jack Brickhouse– and later, Harry Caray– call the games; and the good times–and bad– that revolved around the game.

What You’d Call A Dream

There are two men out, and its in the ninth, and the score is four to three
There’s a man at first, and a man at bat, and the man at bat is me
And I’m sorta scared, and I’m sorta proud, and I’m stronger than I seem
And I take a swing, and my dad is there, and its what you’d call a dream

For the ball flies in the sun, and it sails off as I run
The crowd is roaring, cheering as I go, so are all the guys on the team
And I run for home, and we win the game, and its what you’d call a dream
And the sun shines like diamonds
The summer sun shines like diamonds
The summer sun, high in a baseball sky, shines like diamonds
And the sun shines like diamonds

There are two men out, and its in the ninth, and the score is four to three
There’s a man at first, and a man at bat, and the man at bat is me
And it’s what you’d call
A dream.

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What a pity… what a shame

For the five of you reading this… and the two of you following baseball…

The Arizona Diamondbacks lost in SPECTACULAR fashion to the Colorado Rockies.

Spectacular in that they didn’t WIN any games at all. They completely collapsed. Fell apart.

Just like the Cubs did in the first round of the playoffs.

When the Cubs entered the playoffs, I foolishly (and cockily) placed a bet with Scott-O-Rama. I bet him that if the Cubs won the series, Scott would come to Chicago and pose in front of Wrigley Field in Cubs regalia giving the #1 sign. And if the Diamondbacks won, I would do the same in Arizona.

Scott countered that bet by requesting that I dress in a cheerleader’s outfit in front of Chase Park. I added a Teddy Bear outfit in front of Wrigley Field for Scott if the Cubs won.

Of course, I lost, and Scott reveled in my loss.

But all was not lost… Howard of The Web Pen Blog, who lives in Denver and was responsible for the whole cheerleader outft idea in the first place, placed a NEW bet with Scott: If the Rockies won the series, I was absolved of my penance, and Scott would write a post on both my and Howard’s blogs with a subject of our choosing. If the Diamondbacks won, Howard had to wear the cheerleader’s outfit in Arizona.

So to make a long story short (too late!), Scott will be appearing here on Thursday. I expect the post to be ULTRA SNARKY and maybe even a touch bitter. After all, I don’t know what’s worse– crashing and burning in the first place, or crashing and burning after beating the Cubs? Hell, the Cubs didn’t have much of a chance from the start. Arizona had a really good chance, and they BLEW IT BIG TIME.

So, Scott… what do you have to say? I won’t give you any guidelines. You probably wouldn’t follow them anyway.

Postscript: I would like to add that this is all in fun. Nothing said here is to be taken personally, and nothing Scott will say tomorrow will be taken personally. I think.

Second Postscript… or Post-Postscript.  Or PPS.  Or SPS. Anyway… Scott will not be here tomorrow.  Apparently he has to work on HIS schedule, not mine.  Whatev.  I’ll be waiting for you, Scottie. 🙂 

Gloating is SO unattractive

Scott is really getting on my nerves.

But, then, so are the Cubs.

I never watched the game.  I couldn’t bear to do it.  I did check the score on the Chicago Tribune website, and had it on the radio when I ran some errands.  All throughout the day, I received text messages from Mr. O-Rama, the faceless wonder of Phoenix.  And as the game went on, each message got snarkier and snarkier.

And my responses got more and more pointed…

Here’s the sequence of events:

10/6/07 at 5:48 PM: Ed’s bf Todd is flying thru Chicago right now.  Should he stop by to pick you & your cheerleading outfit up?

My response: Bite me!

10/6/07 at 8:22 PM: What flight can I expect you on?

My response: None– I was driving to the grocery store at the time.

10/6/07 at 8:32 PM: Is that the fat lady singing?

My response: Are you calling me fat?

10/6/07 at 8:43 PM: Not you sweetie, but how does that cheerleading uniform fit?

My response: I am NOT wearing a cheerleading uniform.. I don’t even have one!

10/6/07 at 8:46 PM: That’s OK, we’ll get you one, and I do believe it [was] in writing where you agreed.

My response: Sigh.. Yes.  Howard is a dead man. 🙂

And finally, this lovely bit of advice from the lover of the Snakes himself, on his current post:

P.S. I hope my tough love is teaching you something: You can cheer for the Cubs, but don’t ever expect them to win.  They’ll break your heart every time.

Yes, Scott, thank you so much for your concern and your “tough love” as you put it.  I am a Cubs fan, therefore I am subjecting myself to instant and immediate heartbreak and sorrow.  Well you know what?  That’s what’s different about a loyal fan vs. a fair-weather fan.  A loyal fan sticks with their team through thick and thin, right and wrong, win or lose.  A fair-weather fan bails as soon as he (or she) sees that all hope is lost.

Sure, I didn’t watch the game because I knew it wasn’t going to go well.  That doesn’t mean I didn’t care.  That doesn’t mean I still didn’t support my team, and it sure as hell doesn’t mean I won’t support them next year.  I will.  And I expect them to win– one of these days.

In the meantime, I’ll be wiping my tears with my crying towel and drowning my sorrows with spirits.

And of course, I’ll end all the wailing with the old phrase:  “Wait ’til next year!”

P.S. – Good luck against the Colorado RockiesBwahahahahahahahaa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

Go Cubs Go! — And a CHALLENGE!

The Cubbies!

Go Cubs Go!

Go Cubs Go!

Hey Chicago, whaddya say?

The Cubs are gonna win today!

–Go Cubs Go! by Steve Goodman, 1984

So this is it. The Chicago Cubs are in another pennant race– the 5th time in my lifetime. Somewhere, way up above the skies, my Dad and “Grandma” Madge are having quite a celebration. They’re probably also pulling as many strings as they can. My Dad pretty much vowed that he would do that once he was gone. So something feels really good about this.

It’s been a heck of a year for the Cubs. They started out with a new manager and a terrible previous season record. They went for a couple months in last place before something started to turn around for them, and they steadily began to climb up the rankings of the National League Central Division, eventually usurping the Milwaukee Brewers and staying there for most of the rest of the year. Some are calling them the “Miracle Cubs.” Some say it was just luck. I say… wait and see.

Tonight is the first game of the division playoffs, and the Cubs are playing the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Yes… Arizona. Home of cacti, desert storms, and Scott-O-Rama.

Now one would think that since Scott and I are friends, we would be handling this like the adults we think we are.

Guess again.

I’d like to place a wager on this series.

If the Cubs win the series (and of course, they will), Scott and Buckaroo have to fly to Chicago, dress in Cubs regalia, and take their picture in front of the Wrigley Field sign showing “Thumbs-up.”. Those of you who read Scott’s blog know that this would be a great challenge, for Scott and Buckaroo haven’t shown their faces once in all the time Scott has been blogging. Naturally, if the Cubs win, the photo will be published on my blog.

If the Diamondbacks win the series, I will fly to Phoenix and dress up in Diamondbacks regalia and stand in front of Chase field, giving the “Thumbs-up” sign. The photo will be published on Scott’s blog.

I welcome Scott’s inupt on this. He may offer to revise the challenge, and I may counter. But we will come up with a pact before it’s all over.

So, Scott… are you up for it?

Oh and by the way….

GO CUBBIES!

UPDATE:  Oh yes… it’s ON!  Scott has accepted the challenge, and is requesting assistance from his (far greater) readership to elicit a much harsher penance on me, SHOULD the Diamondbacks win the series.  Yes, I know, the Cubs lost tonight, but they played hard against the Diamondbacks’ ace.  Let’s see how things go in the next few games before we proclaim the series won.

And Scott, the Cubs’ jerseys are classic and tasteful.  The D’backs’ logo and jerseys have never been attractive in my eyes.  After all, didn’t we learn in the Bible that you should never… EVER… trust a snake?

So what much harsher penance should Scott receive should the Cubs win the series?  Help me out here, folks… this (friendly) war is just beginning!