Monday, May 28, 2007

05/28 - Moe and Tell

So as I approach the corner today, I see Moe standing in front of the Budweiser house with about 25 people around him. I get a little closer and I can see him motion with his hands, look up, and start to walk down towards the alley.

"Ah..." I think to myself. "He's telling the Sammy Sosa home run #62 story again."

Yep, good ol' #62. The one I almost had on the fly. The one that just missed hitting a women and her baby stroller. The one that Moe scooped up on the sidewalk before getting pushed and shoved into the alley. And the one that somebody unjustly pried out of Moe's hand (tearing a few ligaments in the process) at the bottom of a huge pile of [in]humanity.

I know Moe gets tired of telling the story all the time, but even after almost 10 years, people still want to hear about it, so Moe usually obliges. Today's audience was a bit larger than usual as I believe it was one of those Jay Buckley baseball tour groups. Never been on one, but I hear good things about them - seems like a great way to see a bunch of games in several cities in a short period of time. Everything's arranged ahead of time - coach buses, hotels, tickets.

Hmm... Wonder if there's a market out there for Ballhawk Baseball Tours. Let's see... We get into Moe's car, everybody chips in - ok, shovels in - for gas money, we stay in truck stop motels and either head east to hawk behind Fenway's Green Monster or head west to go swimming in AT&T/SBC/PacBell's McCovey Cove. And of course hit about a hundred or so minor league parks along the way.

Actually we kinda do that already down in Florida during Spring Training. Moe does the driving, I check the schedule and for the best team power/wind direction combination, and every two hours Andy chimes in with a "When do we eat?"

Out of the Ballpark Totals:
Monday, May 28: BP-11 [W-11,S-0], HR-0, Foul-0, Roof-0
Season: BP-116 [W-95,S-21], HR-5 [W-5,S-0], Foul-2 [W-2,S-0], Roof-14 [A-8,C-6]

Sunday, May 20, 2007

05/20 - One Good Slam Deserves Another

Not much happening outside the ballpark today. About 30 degrees colder than yesterday and those nice southern winds replaced by some gusty blasts from the Northeast. Only one team took BP today, but it didn't matter - nothing came close to coming out.

Given the wind direction and a couple of hard throwers on the hill, I decided to play roof balls. Konerko sent one my way in the second inning but a big CTA bus kept me from running into the street, so I had to watch it bounce up high over me and onto the roof of the auto body shop behind me on Addison. Paulie came up again in the 3rd, and once again lifted a high "foul ball off to the right and out of play" as Pat Hughes would say. This time there was no traffic, so it was an easy grab for me.

That was it for roof balls - only two - so I spent the rest of the time just enjoying "watching" the game by listening to Pat and Ron on the radio. Those guys know how to paint a picture. For example...

It's the top of 5th and Tadahito Iguchi is at the plate. Zambrano delivers and Iguchi fouls it off straight back. Ball deflects off of Barrett and nails Pierzynski who's standing in the on-deck circle. The way Pat & Ron described it, I felt like I actually saw it, and considering the whole Barrett/Pierzynski brouhaha from last year, I definitely enjoyed it as well.

But I have to give AJ credit - he certainly knows how to rise to the occasion. Top of 7th, bases loaded, and he manages to rip a line drive blast through the wind just far enough to make the basket in deep right center for a grand slam to ice the game for the Sox. I guess Derrek Lee's not the only one who knows how to make a grand statement during the Crosstown Rivalry.

Cubs rally but it's not enough as the Sox win, 10-6. Cubs still take 2 out of 3 though.

Out of the Ballpark Totals:
Sunday, May 20: BP-0, HR-0, Foul-0, Roof-2 [A-2,C-0]
Season: BP-105 [W-84,S-21], HR-5 [W-5,S-0], Foul-2 [W-2,S-0], Roof-14 [A-8,C-6]

Thursday, May 10, 2007

05/10 - Close But No Cigar

It was "value day" today at Wrigley, so with a relatively cheap bleacher ticket in hand, I went inside today. Of course, Murphy's Law came into play, and I spent most of BP watching balls go over my head and out onto Waveland. Oh well. Couldn't complain too much since it was a beautiful day and we had great seats - top row of the bleachers. True, the front row gives you the chance to scoop a homer out of the basket, but the top row gives you something to lean against, as well as not having to worry about a spilled beer waterfall from above.

So there we were, top row of the bleachers, top of the 5th, with the Cubs on the short end of a 5-1 score. Jason Bay of the Pirates is up and launches a nice high blast that's heading in our general direction. Actually, it's heading in our very specific direction. I'm standing near the aisle trying to figure out if I need to get on the bleacher or not. Ball keeps coming right at us and I quickly come to the conclusion I need to get taller, fast. But I get tangled up trying to turn around, step up onto the bleacher and still keep my eye on the ball, so all I can do is lean over and stick my glove up as high as I can.

Not high enough - guy on the other side is already on top of the bleacher seat, leans over and makes a terrific grab. I think he actually leaned back over the railing a bit, so if he hadn't caught it, there's a good chance that would have made it onto Waveland.

Of course, the guy throws it back, the fans cheer, and I'm left to second-guess myself for the next few batters, replaying the sequence of events back in mind. Then I took the only logical course of action - I had a cold beer.

Out of the Ballpark Totals:
Thursday, May 10: BP-7 [W-7,S-0], HR-0, Foul-0, Roof-2 [A-1,C-1]
Season: BP-73 [W-57,S-16], HR-5 [W-5,S-0], Foul-2 [W-2,S-0], Roof-12 [A-6,C-6]

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

05/09 - Short and Sweet

Wow - last night's game took 4:39 to play. Tonight's game took less than half that - 2:06 to be exact. Of course, not having to play 15 innings had a lot to do with it, but so did Jason Marquis throwing a 3 hit complete game shutout. And with the Cubs scoring only one run (Soriano's leadoff homer that stayed in the park), well, it makes for a quick game.

And as you might have guessed, a 1-0 game means not too much is happening out on the street. So I suppose the highlight of the evening was hearing the correct pronounciation of Xavier Nady's name over the PA system.

This may be hard to convey using just text, but last night, the announcer was going with a short 'a' in both his first and last name - sounded like "zah-VEE'-er nah-DEE'". Somebody from the Pirates organization must have said something because tonight, the a's were long and it sounded more like what you'd expect - "ex-ZAE'-vee-er NAE'-dee".

Of course, hearing two distinctly different pronounciations of a professional athelete, immediately brought to mind WKRP's Les Nessman and his news story about Chi-Chi Rodriguez. I won't even begin to try and type the phonetics on that one - instead, let's go to the video, thanks to YouTube:

Out of the Ballpark Totals:
Wednesday, May 9: BP-8 [W-7,S-1], HR-0, Foul-0, Roof-0
Season: BP-66 [W-50,S-16], HR-5 [W-5,S-0], Foul-2 [W-2,S-0], Roof-10 [A-5,C-5]

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

05/08 - Extra! Extra!

So many innings... so many stories.

I could talk about how Soriano's baserunning adventures tonight gave Ron Santo fits in the booth ("Oh mannnnn...", "Boy oh boy oh boy"). Or Pat Hughes reliving his rockin days talking with tonight's 7th inning stretch guest conductor, Kevin Cronin (lead singer, REO Speedwagon). Then there was the crowd chanting "Rocky! Rocky! Rocky!" in the 10th inning as Rocky Cherry was manning the mound for the Cubs. They were so loud I started wondering if Clubber Lang was pinch-hitting for the Pirates.

But for tonight's entry, I'll have to go back to batting practice and our newest ballhawk, Mike. Mike's been hanging around the corner for awhile now, glove always in hand. Not sure how old he is - maybe 11-13? He's gotten a few balls before but always on a bounce. The other day one came out and just grazed the tip of his glove on the fly, so he was getting close. And today was the day.

A nice high batting practice blast down the left field line, up over the bleachers and coming down right about the middle of the street. Only it never hit the street as Mike ran up, glove stretched high overhead, followed by the nice muffled 'plop' as the ball landed in his glove.

The only thing better than hearing that sound was seeing the toothy, mile-wide grin on Mike's face - a grin that easily lasted the rest of the night. In fact, I'm guessing he's going to sleep with that ball tonight.

Out of the Ballpark Totals:
Tuesday, May 8: BP-7 [W-6,S-1], HR-0, Foul-1 [W-1,S-0], Roof-0
Season: BP-58 [W-43,S-15], HR-5 [W-5,S-0], Foul-2 [W-2,S-0], Roof-10 [A-5,C-5]

Sunday, May 6, 2007

05/06 - Foreign Substance From Our Nation's Capital

Well, this bleacher expansion has at least done one good thing - the street value of a bleacher ticket has dropped way down. Second half of last season, fans were giving them away on Waveland but that was understandable with the Cubs in last place and stumbling along in the final throes of Dusty's Death March.

This year, even with the Tribune Co. raising prices and the Cubs on a modest yet impressive winning streak, bleacher tickets are still being obtained at reasonable prices. Got one today for $10 and saw another go for $5. Not bad for a weekend game in halfway decent weather.

So, yes, I went in again. I think I'm already close to a season high for going inside and it's only May. But I did stay outside for BP and was rewarded with one *OFFICIAL* TRAINING BALL by Rawlings, complete with Commissioner Allen H. Selig's signature and PRACTICE stamped under the MLB logo.

In other words, it wasn't a real Rawlings Major League ball - it was one of their low-end versions made in China. Kinda ironic that the Washington Nationals, the team from our nation's capital, are using practice balls made in China. Then again, the MLB official game balls come from a Rawlings factory in Turrialba, Costa Rica, and apparently under less-than-ideal working conditions. I guess all the foreign substance references in the MLB rulebook doesn't apply to the baseball itself...

Out of the Ballpark Totals:
Sunday, May 6: BP-4 [W-3,S-1], HR-0, Foul-0, Roof-1 [A-1,C-0]
Season: BP-51 [W-37,S-14], HR-5 [W-5,S-0], Foul-1 [W-1,S-0], Roof-10 [A-5,C-5]

Saturday, May 5, 2007

05/05 - Tony Armas Trivia Time

Wind blowing in, no batting practice, and a bleacher ticket in hand. So I decided to go inside today and see if the Cubs could continue their recent winning ways. They could and did, defeating the Nationals for the second straight day. Got kinda close at the end, but Ryan Dempster shut the door as the Cubs evened their record at 14-14. Rich Hill pitched another gem, Lee extended his hitting streak to 13 games and Ramirez hit one into the basket. Don't go making plans for October baseball quite yet, but at least they're starting to look like a winning team.

Meanwhile, back in the bleachers... Guy next to me stands up at one point, looks around, and says "There's nothing digital in this place. Can't tell who's hitting. Very antiquated."

I guess he didn't see the two electronic scoreboard strips hanging down from the first and third base upper decks that are constantly flashing game information in betweenst a bunch of advertising. And the two smaller, yet quite visible, electronic scoreboards hanging down from the roof along the first and third base lines. Oh, and then there's this rather large green scoreboard towering above the center field bleachers - antiquated, yes, but there's another electronic strip underneath it that clearly shows who's hitting. Crack me up...

Yes, I love the bleachers, and those who frequent them. From longtime Cubbie blue diehards to Trixie-come-lately wannabes and wannabe-seens, it's definitely an experience. I mean, where else can you hear someone say "Hey, you know Tony Armas has four body parts in his name?"

Out of the Ballpark Totals:
Saturday, May 5: No BP, HR-0, Foul-0, Roof-1 [A-1,C-0]
Season: BP-47 [W-34,S-13], HR-5 [W-5,S-0], Foul-1 [W-1,S-0], Roof-9 [A-4,C-5]

Friday, May 4, 2007

05/04 - Five will get you two hundred..

With all the health issues Ron Santo has to deal with, it's just a good thing high blood pressure isn't one of them. His first day back on the job in a couple weeks, and he has to watch Zambrano give up four runs in the first inning to the Nationals, quite possibly the NL's worst team. ¡Ay, caramba!

But the Cubs battle back to a earn a 6-4 victory, thanks to a Derrek Lee two run homer and quite a few doubles by his teammates. Lee's homer stayed in the park, as did Austin Kearn's three run blast in the first inning, so not much action out on the streets today. As opposed to a couple Mondays ago (April 23) when the Brewers were in town.

As I wrote in my original post for that day, I went home after batting practice when the wind shifted and started to blow in. So I missed all the excitement but after talking to several folks today, it sounds like Aramis Ramirez's 200th career home run that night went down something like this...

Ramirez crushes one to left-center where it goes off the hands of a fan in the top-row of the bleachers - that much I saw on tv. The ball keeps going, makes it over the back railing and down to Waveland. A passer-by and the hotdog guy are the closest to the ball and I'm told there was a bit of a scuffle for it. The passer-by emerges victorious and holds the ball up in triumph.

Naturally, there's a bunch of folks from the bleachers leaning over the railing and checking it all out. By now, I guess it becomes apparent that perhaps the passer-by has seen better days. So a few of the fans start throwing some change down for him, and at some point, one guy even tosses a five dollar bill. Well that gets the passer-by's attention, so in gratitude he tosses the ball up to his benefactor. Not sure what happened to the ball after that, or if its new owner even realized that it was Ramirez's 200th career homer.

Again, I'm piecing this all together after talking to several people, so these events may or may not have actually happened as described above. But I've seen stranger things outside the park, so who knows. At the very least, it makes for [what I hope is] an interesting story. And serves as a reminder to myself not to leave the ballpark until the game is over.

Out of the Ballpark Totals:
Friday, May 4: BP-2 [W-2,S-0], HR-0, Foul-0, Roof-0
Season: BP-47 [W-34,S-13], HR-5 [W-5,S-0], Foul-1 [W-1,S-0], Roof-8 [A-3,C-5]