Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Even with weeks to plan, the Cubbies stuck to their line and trotted out another company man to sing the stretch. Cubs television play-by-play announcer, Len Kasper, flexed his velvet pipes from Sheffield to Waveland with a pitch-perfect but very slow rendition of the 7th inning classic.
It was a nice welcome back to Wrigley after the long road trip and getting a sure thing for the stretch was a good plan. Kasper delivered, giving a slow, deliberate, pitch-perfect recital.
He shared the glory, letting the fans sing "One, Two, Three Strikes Yer Out" and hit all the key parts with the comfortable consistency you'd expect from someone who has heard every stretch since 2005.
His slow cadence was an exact duplicate of the game it serenaded - a 0-0 sleeper on a cold, Chicago day that saw many would-be homeruns get knocked down by the frigid air. Even the normally reserved Carlos Pena had a rare burst of emotion after his would have been walk-off homer fell just short of the wall with two-outs in the ninth.
Len notably finished with "Let's get A run! Go Cubbies!" emphasizing the "A" instead of the customary, "Let's get SOME runs." This meager request coupled with his steady, error-free overture gave him his wish.
It was so well-sung, in fact, that the Cub's only and winning run came as a result of catcher Giovanni Soto beating out a double play ball due to a defensive bobble. This was followed by a Tyler Colvin double that got him all the way home from first. Soto is not a fast guy by anyone's reckoning but it was the trundling catcher who won the plodding game, not with his arm but with his legs - twice in two plays.
Now that is some play-by-play mojo. Thanks Len.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
I guess the Ricketts want to wring a little bandwagon love out of the Bulls playoff run but finding the one available bulls guy who hadn't ever been to a Cubs game is weak sauce.
And if you don't care about fandom, at least get a good singer in there. 0 for 2. My eardrums still hurt. He just yelled into the mic with no decipherable melody.
O.k., maybe he's a Sox fan. I mean, we had a D-bags fan in there yesterday, why not just a baseball fan who knows the song and can pull it off regardless of musical ability. But no. We got our first triple play.
Not a Cubs fan, can't sing, doesn't even know the words to the song.
And it wasn't some un-important part of the song either. He blew the most important part. "Root, Root, Root for the Cuh-Bees" became "One, Two, Three for the Cubbies!" and it immediately spelled doom.
Nothing but errors, Cubs left on base and opposing home runs came after the flub. The game in general was all run-saving plays by the D-bags and run-costing mistakes by the Cubs, leading to another loss we could've had.
He did compel the Cubs to get some runs when he said "Give me the hot sauce!" before he graciously gave up the mic and this most-likely resulted in a Alphonso Soriano home run. Which was nice but not enough.
The Cubs have a long road stand the next few weeks and hopefully they will take the time to get some actual fans with talent lined up for future stretching. At least get someone interesting in there, show us you're trying.
See you in a week or so.
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
As all Cub fans know and what truly makes the "Take me out ..." song during the seventh-inning stretch the Cub's own, is the changing of the words "Home Team" to "Cub-Bees." It is as essential to the Cubs as pinstripes and ivy, Old Style and losing. It is the American flag lapel pin of sports. It shows your allegiance to the team and fans and is always, ALWAYS required. It may be contractually obligated for would-be stretch singers.
If there were a list of 5 people in this world who know this unequivocal fact, Mark Grace would be 3 of those people.
Yes, Mark Grace is an EX-Cub. All the good ones since 1980 are. Dawson, Maddux, Eckersley, Wood, Sosa. (Note: Mr. Company Man Sandberg is the only one I can think of who didn't leave.) Yes, Grace won a World Series with Arizona and now he's the tv color man but if I thought he still had some ivy in him.
As a song itself it was beautiful. The man knows his "Take me out to the ball game." Perfect rhythm. Perfect pitch. Perfect cadence. Right in time with the music. The excitement mounted as I wondered if he would move through "Cub-bees" smooth and comfortable like an old leather chair, or blow my eardrums of anticipation with a barrel-chested "CA-HUUUBBB-BEEEEEES" bringing the wrigley crowd to a frenzy and a tear to my eye.
I felt the soft "Huh" sound slip into my soul, nearly undetected. Momentary confusion was severely removed by the hard steel of betrayal, sliding between my shoulder blades and firmly into my heart.
"Ooome Team" finished the blow. Loud and sure. Not even a hint of regret in his dead eyes. As he wiped the blood of the knife he said, "Kerry Wood, welcome back," as if to say to his old teammate - "Sucker! Want to see my ring?"
I want to say the fans immediately dropped their beers and charged to the booth to carry out retribution on this traitorous son but they just took another sip. I at least expected my beloved spokesman Pat Hughes to decry the hateful deed but not a word. I haven't missed Ron Santo or Harry Carey more than at this moment.
At least the Cubs didn't let me down and have given me a renewed hope in this ramshackle team. They responded immediately with two runs for the lead and, though giving one back to the D-bags in the ninth, scrapped their way through to assure the victory and the series win.
The game-ending strike out came like a triage plasma bag, jerking me back from the light. Whatever doesn't kill us makes us stronger. How strong remains to be seen but I have renewed hope for this team. Goodbye mr. grace ... and watch your back.
Monday, April 4, 2011
A hard emphasis on both the first and second "Take" got the rendition out to a very harsh, staccato start but Moreland evened it out for a well-tempoed, sing-songy rendition. However, a slight voice crack on "Cub-bies" foretold of pain to come.
But no reference to Ron Santo during the stretch and a straight-forward finish of "Let's get some runs!" at the end, along with a solid tune throughout made this a very workmanlike effort. A well-played opening stint by Moreland.
So we had No Santo, a hard start, a slightly cracked "Cub-bies" but overall a good tempo, an even voice throughout and a strong ending.
The game mimicked Moreland's tune with a D-bags homer to start the game and some cracking in the eighth when SS Starlin Castro took his time with a routine grounder and had to hurry a throw to first, letting a D-bag on with one out. Two more D-bags got on base before Kerry Wood - who is no stranger to stretch-jinx - recovered and ended strong, holding onto the one-run lead with a clutch, danger-ending strike out and a harmless fly ball.
The strong finish in the stretch meant a strong end to the game as the Cubs got some long doubles in their half of the eighth and held the D-Bags off the boards for a good win.
- One topic of choice in the booth was - surprisingly - other Montana-players besides D-bags pitcher Kam Mickolio who is from Wolf Point, Montana. Pat actually listed off 5 other players from Montana and there was talk of a wolf-coat to end the bizarre exchange.
- Starlin Castro shared the NL player of the week. What a stud.
- Mark Grace, ex Cubbie and current D-bags announcer and my long-time favorite player will be signing the Stretch tomorrow. Can't wait to see if he says "Cubbies" ...
Sunday, April 3, 2011
We dipped into the Wrigley star bucket again today with John Cusack leading the charge. He brought his young nephew and gave a very solid duet rendition.
No surprise there as Cusack has stretched with the Cubs at least 10 times so knows what to do - plus he's an actor and I think they all have to be able to sing, just in case a musical breaks out. I guess Johnny is promoting his Edgar Allen Poe bio pic about the last four mysterious days of Poe's life and what better modern-day romantic pessimist than Cusack for that job.
He also invoked Ron Santo at the beginning of the song and ended with a "Let's go Cubbies!" then tossed his hat to the crowd. So we've got a Santo, a duet, a movie star and a hat toss.
This paid immediate dividends with a great inning-ending throw out at home in the eighth by Tyler Colvin on a fly ball to right but couldn't keep the defense going in the 9th where some suspect glove work gave the Pirates back the lead and the Cubs the loss.
I couldn't tell but I assume whoever caught the hat Cusack tossed bobbled it, thus ensuring some upcoming defensive bobbles.
The Pirates had 16 hits but almost all were singles and most were dinks or dunks and a lot could have been outs. There were a bunch to right field, especially past Pena while he was holding someone on. Also, the Cubs had two balls off the top of the wall so close to the basket I don't know how they didn't get out. I guess Cusack is bad luck.
BTW - This day in Cubs history they traded away Dennis Eckersley. Thanks for bringing that up. Do the Cubs have any positive memories queued up for these ? Do they have ANY positive memories? I'm beginning to wonder.
I learned four things in today's stretch. I will list them in order of growing incredulation.
Fergie Jenkins is Canadian and has a stamp.
His mother's family came to Canada on the underground railroad?
He played for the Harlem Globetrotters?!?
The Cubs CAN hit with runners in scoring position!?!?
Fergie's song itself was well sung but in stumbling around some of the words, it almost seemed like he didn't know this canon of Cubs lore by heart - as if he were a Canadian tasked with singing the American national anthem. Fergie pronounced "Cubbies" like "Cu-Hubbies." It threw me off.
After the song, he pleaded "Come on guys, let's get motivated here! Let's get motivated! Score some runs! Let's Go!"
This double call to get motivated seemed a bit needy but the guilt trip by a Cub HOF-er (and the only Canadian in the HOF) seemed to work. The Cubs ripped off 5 runs in the 8th with timely walks and doubles and earned their first win. We'll see if the guilt trip works in the future but for now we'll list it as "known to be effective" and worth at least 2-4 late runs.
Side note - Apparently today was the 8th anniversary of Ron Santo accidentally catching his hairpiece on fire while leaning too close to a heater in the booth during the national anthem. Ironically, Al Leiter was pitching against the Cubs that night. Pat Hughes ended the tale with "... could have happened to anybody ..."
Highly inaccurate and also hilarious.
Friday, April 1, 2011
Let me be clear, I'm a cubs fan and by no means a writer. I don't have a particularly compelling point of view or have any access to special stats or quotes.
I do listen to most Cubs games on the radio and what I will do is update this blog with the happenings of the seventh-inning stretch and the singing that accompanies it under the auspices that what happens during that sacred moment will predict what happens in the innings surrounding it.
For opening day, the brass brought in Ron Santo's kids to lead the crowd in the now-famous Wrigley rendition. As most of you know, Ron was the Cubs radio announcer until he passed away this year.
The Cubs are unveiling a statue of him later this year so his kids were there to promote that a little and generally just talk about Ron in a nice gesture.
We got some good Ron Santo "take me out to the Ballgame" memories, including the time he sang loud and proud thinking the PA system was on but instead of gracing the sellout Wrigley crowd with his rendition, it was only the people in the booth that heard him.
Ron's co-announcer Pat Hughes - as he said he did each and every time Ron sang - assured Ron that it was his best one yet.
The actual anthem singing, though hyped in the pre-singing interview, was anything but, mirroring the start of the new Cubby season.
Santos daughter took over the mic in a loud and off-key way and ended the affair with the statement "Let's make it the year" or something to that effect. it was so non-committal, I half expected to hear a "maybe see if we can try to" before the "make".
After the stretch, the Cubs responded by getting a run at the bottom of the seventh but just like the anthem - came up a little short.
Dempster was going well until the 5th when he walked two and gave up a grand slam with two outs. The Cubs hit fairly well but didn't put the game away when they had the early opportunities. They didn't give up though this was the Pirates.