Category Archives: Baseball

Dear Cubs …

… I am getting very tired of this abuse. You couldn’t be bothered to win when it actually counted for something. You couldn’t even be bothered to give a living legend a decent sendoff before he headed home to take care of his sick mama.

You went out of your way to stink it up all season, but now that you are out of contention, you are bending over backwards to play .700 ball for a guy most Cubs fans couldn’t even have picked out of a lineup a month ago.


I wasn’t terribly concerned when Mike Quade was promoted to interim manager after Sweet Lou retired. After all, Ryno’s boys in Iowa were in a pennant race, and it wouldn’t have been fair to pull him away from them for a few meaningless weeks at the helm of a team that had performed abysmally all season. But because he was doing a great job in Iowa, he didn’t get a chance to “audition” for the job he wanted — and now, thanks to your pointless last-minute heroics, it looks increasingly likely that Quade is going to become Hendry’s golden boy, and Ryno is actually going to end up being punished for a job well done.

This shouldn’t bother me. After all, Ryne Sandberg is enshrined in Cooperstown. He spent a decade and a half being paid obscene amounts of money to play baseball. He has a beautiful wife, hordes of adoring fans, and more money than God — not to mention a movie-star smile and the body of a 25-year-old.

If there is one man on earth who absolutely does not need to be pitied, it’s Ryne Sandberg. So why does it bother me so much to think that the Cubs might pass him over in favor of a smart baseball man who is making the most of an unexpected opportunity?

Well, first, I know how it feels to be penalized for being good at what you do, and it righteously sucks. Sandberg deserves better than that.

Second, it bothers me because I am terrified that if Chicago snubs him, some other team will snap him up, and once he leaves the Friendly Confines, he may not come home again. Give him a little taste of success, fit him for a World Series ring or two, and he’s liable to start running with the wrong crowd.

I’ve put up with a lot out of you jerks over the years. But if I have to look at Ryne Sandberg in Cardinal red or — God forbid — Yankee pinstripes someday, you and I are OVER. Capisce?



Many apologies for utterly failing to keep up this blog. Work is eating my life. (Well, OK … work plus obsessively scouring various and sundry baseball Web sites for any scrap of information or unsubstantiated rumor that might suggest which way the wind is blowing in the front office at Wrigley.)

By way of catching up, let’s hit some highlights by category:

1. Baseball: This has to be the strangest season ever for me as a baseball fan. I know the Cubs have sucked all year, but with Quade auditioning for Piniella’s old job, now is not the time for them to right the ship. If they can keep stinking it up for a few more games, there will be one less contender for Sandberg to fend off. Meanwhile, if the I-Cubs win their division (which they are currently leading by a half-game) and kick some butt in the playoffs, that will pad Ryno’s resume and make it harder for Hendry to blow him off … and, of course, another World Series ring for the Yankees would keep Girardi in New York where he belongs, which means I have, in recent weeks, found myself uttering a most distasteful phrase: “Go, Yanks!” Strange days, indeed. Most peculiar, Mama.

2. School: We finally got the End-of-Instruction test results back. I had a 79 percent pass rate, which means my kids not only made Adequate Yearly Progress under No Consultant Child Left Behind, but they met state standards. I’m hoping my Algebra I kids post similarly impressive results next spring. English II is fun, but I’m getting a little bored with it and wouldn’t mind switching to a full-time math gig.

3. Route 66: We went to the Will Rogers Memorial Rodeo last night in Vinita. It was pretty good, although I am pretty sure it sucks to be a calf. This time next week, I will be in Tucumcari. Do I need to tell you how happy that makes me? Two weeks from now, I will be standing on top of a scaffold, repainting the Lincoln Motel sign in Chandler.

Hope your weekend was good.


You’ve got to be kidding me.

So we went to the Evil Empire (Wal-Mart) this afternoon to buy oil for Ron’s car (for some reason, nobody else carries the weight he needs for his Insight), and while we were there, I decided to pick up some baseball cards to use with my Algebra I kids. You can pull a LOT of algebra problems out of a baseball card.

Or, at least, you could when I was a kid. Apparently those days are over.

When did it become OK to sell baseball cards without any stats on the back? Seriously: I bought a box containing nine packs of Upper Deck “Baseball Heroes” cards, and not one of them gave the player’s stats. For example, Ozzie Smith’s card tells us only that he earned 13 consecutive Gold Gloves between 1980 and 1992. Nice work, and you’ve got to respect the Wizard, but seriously: What was his fielding percentage? OBP? RBIs? Batting average? Slugging percentage? Bueller? … Bueller?

While we’re on the subject, when did it become OK to sell baseball cards five to a pack? Didn’t they used to come in packs of 10? And where the hell is my bubblegum? As my mother used to say: “I have lived too long.”

You kids get off my lawn — and don’t come back until you know the Red Baron’s lifetime ERA.


Ups and downs

Today did not begin well, but it ended well.

I started my morning with the faculty meeting from hell: Two and a half hours’ worth of talking to explain about 15 minutes’ worth of information. Yecch.

After a rather disappointing lunch (Starbucks was out of scones, the pound cake tasted like lemon Pledge, and I burned my tongue on my cappuccino), I battled through midtown traffic and a thoroughly jacked-up construction zone to get to another meeting, where the presenter spent an hour and a half telling us that math is important (because a roomful of math teachers probably can’t figure that out on their own) and taking gratuitous swipes at math teachers who hold degrees in other subjects.

I would like the record to show that I did NOT stand up and say, “Listen, Bucko: I’ll see your integral of f(x) from negative one to eight and raise you an in-depth analysis of the tension surrounding issues of racial and sexual identity in Faulkner’s Light in August. Mad props to you for finding the limit of my patience with arrogant, overpaid Powerpoint jockeys as X approaches 4, given that X equals the end of my contractual obligations for today.”

That was big of me, don’t you think?

On the up side, Ron and I went to the Drillers game tonight and watched the guys beat the Midland Rockhounds 10-4. It was a pretty sweet performance that included two absolutely beautiful double plays and one of the most graceful slides I’ve ever seen.

My classroom still isn’t quite where I wanted it to be by this point in the year, but I think I’ll be more or less ready by the time class starts Monday. If a few minor details aren’t quite in place, I’ll improvise.


Slow start

Nine hours and fifteen minutes from the first faculty meeting of a new school year, I still feel a little behind and a little overwhelmed by the prospect of beginning another semester, but I’m slowly catching up, and I’m slowly starting to get my energy back after an exhausting summer that ended on a pretty but weirdly introspective note.

A visit from several former students today at school helped nudge me back toward my old self. I’ve finally finished writing the syllabus for Algebra I, which turned out to be easier than I expected, and my department chair gave me her English II Pre-AP course syllabus, which I modified and blended with the one I use for the regular English II classes.

Swayze gave me some welcome news today: On their End-of-Instruction tests this spring, my kids didn’t just make Safe Harbor (a status that basically means you suck less this year than you did last year and helps get the government off your back); they actually met the state standards, which is a major leap from where we were when I started teaching again two years ago.

I’m proud of my kids, and I’m glad my boss is happy with me, but I still contend that the metric used to determine “progress” under No Child Left Behind (or as one astute former student called it, “No Child Left a Dime”) is bunk.

Claiming credit for improvement based on the fact that one group of students posted higher test scores than the previous group of students seems rather disingenuous; that would be like saying Lou Piniella had “improved” this year because Alfonso Soriano is batting .260 this season, while Carlos Zambrano batted .217 in 2009. You can’t measure improvement by comparing the performance of two different people (or two different groups of people) in consecutive years. You have to look at where each individual or group started and ended; otherwise, your stats will not yield any legitimate conclusions.

(Heh. I must really be into this cross-curricular thing, because I just managed to cram P.E., civics, and math into a single rant. Go, me!)


Home run

I’m heading to Southern Illinois first thing tomorrow morning. I’d initially planned to make one last New Mexico trip before school starts, just to get my Tucumcari fix, but then something unexpected happened: I felt a vague pang of homesickness for Southern Illinois.

That’s never happened before. Not once since I moved have I actually missed my home area.

I never felt really comfortable in Southern Illinois. Grew up there, spent the better end of 30 years of my life there, but never felt like I really fit in there. Oklahoma, on the other hand, felt like home from the minute I arrived.

Then I had my brush with fame at the ballpark last week, and I came back to Tulsa bubbling over with excitement, telling everybody who’d listen about how I’d met Ryne Sandberg … to which they replied: “Who’s Ryne Sandberg?”

For the first time in my life, I caught myself starting a sentence with: “Where I grew up…” and for the first time in my life, I caught myself feeling just a little bit smug about where I grew up.

For the first time in my life, I was proud to say that I come from Herrin, Illinois, where we grew up listening to Harry Caray on WGN or Jack Buck on KMOX. I come from Herrin, where the high-school softball team went to state so many times that the boys finally had to stop saying, “You play ball like a girl!” for fear it would be mistaken for a compliment. I come from Herrin, where for the latter half of the ’80s and well into the ’90s, you could not drive two blocks without passing a handmade plywood cutout advertising the owner’s baseball allegiance. I come from Herrin, where we damn well know who Ryne Sandberg is and aren’t likely to forget him — or anybody else from the 1989 Cubs’ starting lineup — anytime soon.

I come from Herrin, and tomorrow morning, I will rise with the dawn, get in my car, and drive back to Herrin to spend a few days looking at my hometown with fresh eyes.

Maybe I’ll play a little catch with my goddaughter and her older sister. Maybe teach Jamie where his strike zone is. Maybe rent “Field of Dreams” and watch it with Daddy and try not to cry. Maybe go out to the ballpark and run the bases when nobody’s looking.

Maybe slide headfirst into home.


Secret beauty and bounty

I couldn’t get quite enough of Ryne Sandberg on Saturday, so I attended two more games before he and his boys left OKC.

During Tuesday’s game, I was sitting behind the home dugout when a foul ball rolled outside the third-base line. Sandberg picked it up, and people immediately jumped up and started shouting: “Ryno! Throw it! Hey, Ryno — over here!”

I kept quiet, watching as Sandberg gave the crowd a quick once-over, spotted a little boy sitting in the front row, and tossed him the ball.

Good form, I thought. As the guys around me let out a disappointed groan, I leaned forward to watch the little boy’s reaction, laughing as he turned excitedly to his chaperone, who was already breaking out her cell phone.

When I glanced back up, I noticed that Sandberg was watching the same scene, with the same level of delight. That alone would have made me happy — after all, it’s wonderful to find out that a celebrity is as classy as you’d hoped — but a split-second later, I caught something even better than a game ball.

I caught Ryno’s eye.

He grinned at the kid, glanced back up at me, and gave me this sort of knowing smile, as if to say: “Oh, good — you saw that, too.”

As I was mentally replaying game highlights today, I thought about that brief, silent exchange, and I remembered a line from Science and Health:

“Christians rejoice in secret beauty and bounty, hidden from the world, but known to God.”

— Mary Baker Eddy

Beauty and bounty shouldn’t be secret, and they shouldn’t be hidden. In reality, they aren’t. They’re hiding in plain sight. The trouble is that mortal mind, with its emphasis on matter, has a way of obscuring them.

Everybody saw Ryno toss that ball. But once it landed in somebody else’s hands, they lost interest.

Had the ball been the gift, that might have made sense. But Ryno’s gift wasn’t the ball. That wasn’t where the beauty and bounty were. The beauty and bounty were in the boy’s response to an act of kindness by a man he admired. Ryno’s gift was a child’s joy. And it was there for everyone to share; we just had to look past matter to see it.


23 forever

NOTE: This post supplies 100 percent of your RDA of Vitamins 2B, GG, MVP, and HoF. It also includes a massive overdose of Vitamin 23, which has been found to cause elevated estrogen levels in laboratory rats. You have been warned.

Yes, that’s who you think it is. And yes, he’s even cuter in person.

The autograph line was a bring-your-own-Sharpie kind of deal. I came prepared with two of those little keychain Sharpies — one in black, and one in Cubby blue — and let my favorite Cub choose his weapon. When he tried to pull the pen off the keychain, it slipped away from him and landed in the dirt several feet away.

I would like the record to show that I did not seize the opportunity to check out his butt when he turned around to pick up the Sharpie. (Mainly because I didn’t think of it at the time … but that’s beside the point.)

OK, I apologize for not thinking of it so I could document the occasion for posterity (or is that “document the posterior for the occasion”?) and share it with you. Mea culpa.

While I was ogling Ryno waiting in the autograph line, Ron got out his Canon and took some truly lovely shots:

How adorable is this little Cub-in-training?

Speaking of adorable, this flock of chicks joined the San Diego Chicken at the ballpark tonight. They followed him around the field like little ducks and did whatever he did — which included harassing the umpire and smacking the catcher in the butt as they walked past. (Hm. Anybody know where I can put my hands on a chicken suit before tomorrow’s game? I have an idea….)

What an awesome night. The last time I was in the same stadium as Ryne Sandberg, I was in the eighth grade. At the time, it never occurred to me that he might retire. He was just always going to be there in Chicago, waiting for me to come back and see him again.

Who could have guessed that one of my fondest baseball dreams would come true 21 years later on a hot July evening in Oklahoma City?


P.S.: The Cubs beat the Redhawks 15-7. 🙂