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logoYesterday’s tease piece in the Sun-Times that envisioned a reunion in Chicago next year of Walt Jocketty, Tony LaRussa and Albert Pujols got me connecting some dots of my own.

looney logoThe weather on closing day was as perfect as it had been inclement on Opening Night. A full house was still trickling in at a leisurely holiday pace into the third inning. Enough came to nudge the season turnstile meter past the half million mark for the seventh time in the last eight seasons despite a last-place team that lost more games than it won for the first time since 2005 [for the record, the home slate was well above sea level at 40-31] and the loss of three dates, most recently on the Saturday night of a holiday weekend on the final home stand. Oddly, the franchise ended up setting an attendance record for a three-game series over the weekend, thanks in part to a rainout that nobody wished for.

The first hint that it was not a normal night at Principal Park came when the national anthem was whistled.

The team, the economy and the schedule all stunk. This looked to be the year when the Cubs’ winning streak at the turnstiles would snap.

statueThere are more than a couple hundred players enshrined at Cooperstown and they are paid homage by something like 350,000 annual visitors to baseball’s Hall of Fame. At Wrigley Field a mere three Cubs have been immortalized in statuary and only half a dozen’s numbers flutter atop the foul poles. This Mecca draws in excess of three million pilgrims per season. Maybe Ron Santo was on to something when he listed the corner of Clark & Addison in Chicago as the address of his personal HOF.

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The street that runs behind the right-center field wall of Principal Park in Des Moines is no Sheffield Avenue. Ballhawks do not roost there nor are there rooftops from which knotholers eavesdrop on the ballgames. Beyond it runs the Des Moines River which has been known occasionally to swell up and invade the playing field.

baseball cardOn April 16, 1972 I was about six weeks shy of high school graduation. It was a Sunday and that afternoon I was hanging out at Pete’s West End Super Service, a gas station down the street from a buddy’s house.

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Ideally there would be 32 teams divided equally between the four American time zones. We ain’t got that so here’s an alternative to shoot down on Day One of the Great Void…

team logoAnd we thought his range was limited! Sayonara, Bobby, and thanks for the memories.

Before yesterday the last time I saw Randy Wells start a big league game he failed to retire a batter, though he may have broken a sweat. By that low standard his outing versus the earnest young Royals of Kansas City was, I suppose, an improvement. After the first five hitters he faced hit safely and the sixth was walked, Wells' remarkable streak of futility with yours truly in attendance had reached the depth of a dozen consecutive batsmen. Might he again retire having retired no one? No, he persisted and slogged into the 7th, though it turned out that the game was already lost by the time he got around to recording an out. The sorry Wells appears more beleagured than big leaguer these days, and so, for that matter does the team he works for.


If there were highlights from yesterday's daytrip to KC for any Cub fans in attendance, and there were thousands of us, they were these:


*Of the three balls I saw the visitors swat into the seats while watching more than a half hour of batting practice, two were swatted by Marlon Byrd. I'll check him out against live, professional pitching tomorrow afternoon here in Des Moines.


*Reed Johnson, despite three strikeouts at the plate, also banged a double off the wall in the middle of what passed for a Cub rally and also made a pair of sparkling grabs in center field, one of them a do or die diver. He always seems to make a contribution when in the lineup.


*Geo Soto was all over the game; homering, doubling, plate-blocking, down-gunning. It would be nice if he made one or more of those occasional features a habit!


*Chris Carpenter posted triple digits several times on the scoreboard speedometer. Unfortunately, his stuff looks more imposing there, to the fans, than it apparently yet does to big league hitters. He may become a serviceable piece down the road.


Randomly, I saw LaHair and Castillo go back-to-back Friday night in Des Moines and they did it again yesterday while I was on the road. LaHair is now leading the PCL in homers and hitting .350+. Ho-hum...

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