25 Random Baseball Things About Me
With kudos to Craig Calcaterra ("ShysterBall") over at The Hardball Times, who suggested giving the Facebook game, "25 Random Things About Me," a baseball twist, I offer my list of 25:(updated: mine now added, below Cubnut's, below the fold. - Trans)
1.) I attended my first Cubs game in 1968--Cubs v. Giants, Fergie Jenkins v. Ray Sadecki. I still have the scorecard and thanks to the miracle of Retrosheet have been able to confirm that I did a pretty decent job of keeping score for a 7-year-old.
2.) The first Cub baseball card I ever turned up in a Topps package was a 1968 Rob Gardner and yes, it was eventually thrown in the trash by my mother, along with all of my other precious cards.
3.) About three years ago, I bought a replacement Rob Gardner card on eBay. Take that, Mom!
4.) I have snagged one Major League foul ball in my life. It was at a night game during Joe Girardi's first tour with the Cubs. I was sitting in the second row of the upper deck on the first base side. Girardi sliced a ball that was on a direct line with my wife's skull. She ducked and without thinking, I reached up and caught the ball on the fly in my left hand. I don't know how I did it and I am positive that I could never do it again
5.) I know all the words to "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and could sing it even without Jeff Foxworthy, Barbara Eden, Joan Cusack, or Erik Estrada leading the way.
6.) I once wrote a commercial starring former Cub and actor Chuck Connors (The Rifleman). During a break in the filming, he turned to me and said, "You look just like Woody Harrelson." I was strangely flattered, though Connors was barely lucid at that point in his life. And, oh, yeah, I don't look anything like Woody Harrelson.
7.) My favorite Cub of all time is Don Kessinger and I carry his 1967 baseball card in a pocket of the folio I carry around at work for taking notes. Rick Monday is a close second.
8.) My least favorite Cub of all time is...well, I don't really have a least favorite Cub of all time, but so many are in contention. Among recent players, Jose Macias leaps to mind.
9.) I have had the honor of meeting three Cub broadcasters in my life. I met Lou Boudreau in the ballpark one day as he made his way up to the press box after he had completed his "Leadoff Man" show down on the field; I met Jack Brickhouse outside of Northwestern Hospital; and I met Harry Caray one night in his restaurant. They were all extraordinarily gracious.
10.) In my opinion, it is less painful to see your son get drilled by a pitch in a Little League game than to see him inadvertently drill some other kid when he's pitching, and feel your son's regret.
11.) I keep a spectacularly neat scorecard. Strangers often comment on it at the ballpark if they happen to catch a glimpse of it over my shoulder. They are complimentary, but I believe deep down they are thinking, "What is wrong with that guy?"
12.) My favorite teams besides the Cubs: the Twins (saw them down in Spring Training in Fort Myers when we used to vacation down there) and the Dodgers (used to see them in Spring Training down in Vero Beach, where we have vacationed the past few years while visiting my in-laws).
13.) My favorite baseball movies: "Eight Men Out," "Bad News Bears" (the original, Walter Matthau version) and "Pride of the Yankees."
14.) My favorite baseball books: "Ball Four," "The Baseball Card Flipping, Trading and Bubblegum Book."
15.) I have witnessed via the miracle of television four Cub no-hitters: Carlos Zambrano ('08), Milt Pappas ('72), Burt Hooton ('72), and Kenny Holtzman ('71). Holtzman's first no-hitter, against the Braves at Wrigley in 1969, happened while I was at Golden Arrow Day Camp, and though I didn't witness the game, I have seen the video highlight of Billy Williams catching Hank Aaron's near home run so often, I feel like I saw all nine innings.
16.) Major League parks (past and present) I have visited outside of Chicago: Milwaukee County Stadium, Tiger Stadium, Cleveland Municipal Stadium, Fenway Park, Anaheim Stadium, Ameriquest Field in Arlington. I never saw a game at Tiger Stadium but was granted access to the field a couple weeks after the final game played there so a photographer and I could take some shots for a book we were working on. The book never fully came together, but I still have those remarkable photos...somewhere.
17.) Favorite Wrigley Field memory: watching Sammy Sosa's game-tying homerun sail over the wall onto Waveland in the 9th inning of Game One in the '03 NLCS. I was sitting in box seats not far behind the Cubs bullpen and I felt like I had seen a rocket pass right before my eyes. I have never heard or felt such an explosive eruption of noise as when the crowd reacted to that homer.
18.) The baseball mitt I most treasured as a kid was a Rick Monday model. I think it was a Wilson, but all that really mattered to me was the Rick Monday signature on the palm.
19.) If there is a worse fantasy baseball team owner than me, I have not met him.
20.) On the shelf in my office, I have a ball autographed by Derrek Lee and a baby food jar filled with dirt from the Wrigley Field batter's box.
21.) There is nothing I enjoy more than seeing the Cubs win, but watching the White Sox lose comes damn close.
22.) I miss regularly scheduled doubleheaders.
23.) I also miss two six-team divisions per league, 18 games against each in-division opponent, 12 games against each out-of-division opponent.
24.) I really miss baseball without the DH and interleague play.
25.) I have only met one fellow TCRer in person. That would be Ruz. I have spoken to Rob by phone and have seen a picture of Dr. Hecht. Transmission and Arizona Phil are mysteries to me, however. I picture Trans as a cross between Don Knotts and a young Tony Curtis; I imagine that Arizona Phil is a dead ringer for Dominic Chianese, not in his Corrado Soprano guise, but as he appeared in the role of Johnny Ola in Godfather II.
Transmission's 25 (Thanks for letting me in, Cubnut. I really was trying to ace you out on this one, having also read the 25 post over at Hardball times.)
1. Ron Cey is my all-time favorite Cub. He was my childhood hero,
primarily because of the "Penguin" nickname. Penguins are cool to
seven-year-olds. I cried when he was traded for Luis Quinones.
2. As a kid, I'd go out in the backyard almost every
summer day with mom, who would throw my fly balls (using a tennis ball)
to catch. I'd pretend I was Bob Dernier or Gary Matthews.
3. Like everyone else, I got into baseball cards. I
didn't do much trading with my friends, however. One of the few times
I did, I traded with my friend Justin down the street. Justin was an
all-right kid, I guess, but also was my first introduction to Spoiled
Little Rich Kids. I traded him... Ugh, I don't even remember any
more, and he traded me a Don Mattingly. The next day he knocked on my
door, and said "my family checked with our card broker, and
Mattingly has bounced in value to $2.50. My parents (a lawyer and a
real estate agent) say I should ask for my card back." My own parents adviced me that
I should give Justin and his Lawyer/Real Estate Agent parents their card back. I hate to admit it, but this probably
informs a lot of my adult perspective on the relationship between the
well-off and the rest of us
4. As does my own other baseball card trading
experience, a mirror image of number 3. I traded a Don Mattingly for a
Tim Raines to another friend of mine, Jeremiah. He and his mom
struggled a bit more than most families at my school. When I traded
him a $2.10 Mattingly for a $.35 cent Raines, and then quickly realized what I'd
done, I decided that I wasn't going to be a prick and demand a
cancelation. We kept the trade and I took my lumps.
5. In grad. school a friend of mine found - I don't know
where, and don't want to know where - a nasty old Chicago Cubs coffee
mug that looks like it must be from 1982. I've drank coffee out of it
nearly every day since in my classrooms.
6. The Cubs have a perfect 1-0 record on games played on my birthday. (As best as I can tell)
7. I don't think I remember my first Cubs game. I believe it was
1988. The pictures I took on my kids camera show Palmeiro and Dawson.
About the only thing I remember was my parents telling us to lock the
car doors as we drove through the neighborhood to get to Wrigley.
8. After the 1984 season, someone gave me "Cubs Win!: A
Celebration of the 1984 Cubs" by Bob Logan. I adored that book,
reading and re-reading it dozens of times. I still have it.
9. Hey Cubnut: My mommy never threw out a single one of my baseball cards. Neener, Neener.
10. Instead, I used them to play imaginary baseball games. I never
knew about stratomatic until I got online and started reading baseball
sites, so instead, as a kid I'd just get out my ball cards, pretend to
play a game between the Cubs and Reds (just because I had the most
interesting opposition cards from the Reds), lay the players out on the
parents' bed-spread to make an imaginary field, and then simulate a
game in my head.
11. When I wasn't doing that, I was using my
Transformers to play baseball games. Would position them in an
imaginary field in my room, and swing at, say, a tinfoil ball with a
pencil. The outcome of the play would be determined by where it landed
or who it hit. Metroplex was a good guy to put in left field. He was
huge, and could prevent home runs from landing in the desk shelf that
defined the left field fence.
12. Yes, I also had a real life: I'd play street ball games with the neighborhood kids almost every summer day, all day.
13. Being unoriginal and unromantic, I've thought about proposing to
the poor, demented woman crazy enough to be interested in me, at
Wrigley Field. We'll see if it ever happens.
14. In grad. school, a couple friends and I thought
about writing an article on the reactions to the introduction of the
QuestTec system. The discussion about whether it was more or less
objective, its level of technological precision vs. the "human factor"
of umpiring all fits into a lot of the central issues in my larger
academic field. Like most things, we never got around to it.
15. Because I was always the youngest kid in my class, I
also was almost always the youngest kid on my baseball team. But for
one glorious summer, going in to 7th grade, I was in a league with kids
more of my own age, and suddenly I became a jock - the top hitter,
pitcher, and charismatic leader on my team. It was heaven. Then I
went back to being a mediocre to weak player on teams where everyone
was a lot bigger than me. Quit playing organized baseball after ninth
grade. Still miss it.
16. I've been playing fantasy baseball almost
continuously since 9th grade. I used to dominate most of my leagues,
but now play with competition that is far more literate in baseball
research than I am, and I tend to struggle when I don't devote complete
attention to my teams. I've discovered that I enjoy being a
commissioner, and with a few exceptions, I seem to get good reviews.
17. The Cubs nearly killed me in 2004. After a
particularly bad loss (I don't remembe which one) I ran around doing
the fake-theatrics I-want-to-die, thanks-to-you-stupid-cubs things.
Most of this theatrics was to amuse my partner, who was living with
me. So I stuck my head in the (electric, turned off) oven, held my
breath, etc. etc., pretended to chug some cleaner fluid, generally
being funny. (I swear, in the context, it was.) Then I saw the cheapo,
cleaning-grade vinegar. I concluded I could swig a little bit of it
without it being a big deal, since hey, it's just vinegar. Big
mistake. I lay gasping on the ground, feeling my windpipe constrict,
for a few minutes. Feeling much better, now.
18. The only autograph I've ever asked for in person was Chico Walker's when he played for the Iowa Cubs.
19. I wrote twice to Ron Cey - once for an autograph, once just to
encourage him in a letter where I said I didn't need an autograph.
Both times he sent an autogrpah picture. I admit being a bit
disappointed when I deduced that he probably hadn't read my second
letter, the one of encouragement.
20. I've only ever met one person in any way connected
to TCR - a guy who signed up for one of my fantasy leagues through TCR
many years ago, then joined my keeper league. Met him when I was in
NYC this January. Good guy.
21. Field of Dreams makes me cry. (I don't believe I've
cried in front of another human being in maybe 15 years, which is why I
only watch Field of Dreams alone.)
22. I've never caught a foul ball, and have never really had one come close to me.
When I was maybe 15 and my brother was starting T-ball, the team needed
a coach. I volunteered. Mercifully, another guy finally also
volunteered, so I could just be assistant coach. One summer of T-ball
is the entirety of my coaching experience. It was fun.
24. I almost certainly will apply for any position I can get in the Cubs organization, later this summer.
Transmission doesn't exist. He's just a gimmick that Ruz. created in 2002 and that
Rob took creative control of in 2004. Part of our split from MVN was
over Rob's demand of complete creative control, liscencing and
marketing of the "Transmission" character.