The Fans Are Back

After a year with no fans in the stands due to the corona virus, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced yesterday that fans can return for 2021 starting on Opening Day with 20% capacity.  That will put 8,122 fans at Guaranteed Rate Field when the White Sox open their home season on April 8th and 8,274 fans at Wrigley Field when the Cubs start their season on April 1.  Fans will still be required to wear masks and there must be at least six feet between groups in the stands.

Both teams plan to limit sales to season ticket holders initially, before moving out to the general public.  In an email to season ticket holders, the Cubs announced that April games will be either refunded or credited, with an option to purchase single game tickets in pods of one through four people spread throughout the ballpark, including reserved seating in the bleachers.  The White Sox have not released specific information yet, though  I imagine my 19 year White Sox Opening Day streak is in jeopardy.

Book 8 (of 52) – Stealing Home

Stealing Home: Los Angeles, the Dodgers, and the Lives Caught in Between – Eric Nusbaum

The story, as I had heard it, was that Walter O’Malley, owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, was looking to replace Ebbets Field and, after running into resistance from city officials on acquiring the land he needed, he turned his sights west, landing in Chavez Ravine and displacing Mexican immigrants who had called that area home.  In Stealing Home, Eric Nusbaum tells the story which is somewhat more nuanced than that.

Nusbaum weaves three tales, one of the Aréchigas family, one of Frank Wilkinson, and one of the Dodgers, which coalesce in the hills of what is now referred to as Chavez Ravine, but at the time was the neighborhoods of Palo Verde, La Loma and Bishop.  The Aréchigas put down roots in Palo Verde after emigrating from Mexico by way of Arizona, raising multiple generations in their humble abode.  Frank Wilkinson, meanwhile, had a vision for public housing that needed a place to build, and the neighborhoods of  Palo Verde, La Loma and Bishop were the unlucky winners.  As eminent domain notices went out to the affected families, including the Aréchigas, plans for the housing project hit a snag when Wilkinson was outed as a communist.  You would think this would have put a stop to the evictions, but no.

Following protracted negotiations, the city council convinced Walter O’Malley to uproot the Dodgers and move to Los Angeles and they purchased the Chavez Ravine property back from the Federal Housing Authority, with the stipulation that the land be used for a public purpose.  In June of 1958, 2 months after the Dodgers began their first season in LA, voters approved a “Taxpayers Committee for Yes on Baseball” referendum, which enabled O’Malley to acquire 352 acres of Chavez Ravine from the city in exchange for Wrigley Field (the Los Angeles version). After additional legal challenges, including the eventual removal of the Aréchigas, ground was broken on Dodger Stadium in September of 1959, and it opened for business on April 10, 1962.   The abandoned Palo Verde elementary school, which taught multiple generations of Aréchigas children, was simply buried and sits beneath the parking lot northwest of third base.

At the end of the day, multiple sources converged to remove the Mexican families from their homes in order to ultimately build a baseball stadium.  While the Dodgers have taken the majority of the blame over the years, had the original housing project either gone through to completion or never started in the first place, the land would not have been available for them to swoop in and overtake.  Had Walter O’Malley thrown a little extra money at the problem, it may have soothed a lot of hurt feelings.  This was an important story that I’m glad was finally told, filling in many of the holes of the popular myth.

Locked Out Of The 10,000 Step Club

Things were a lot different a year ago, as I was finishing up my fifth year using a Fitbit.  I had just added 45 new 10,000 step days, my 3rd best year to date, and, with upcoming trips to Boston and California already on the docket, things were looking good to add a good number more and add some new tales to this list of my top 25 step days.  Then, the corona virus happened and the world basically shut down.  I worked from home for the remainder of the year, which gave me a lot more free time, but also significantly cut down on my daily step totals.  All told, I managed only 3 10,000 step days for the just completed sixth year of Fitbit usage, which came to an end last week.  Just for giggles, here’s a duplication of last year’s top 25 step days, since nothing has changed over the past year.

1: 4/14/2018 – 27,470 steps

My best single day total is from my April 2017 trip to New York to see Angelina.  The day’s excursions included trips to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, the Museum of the City of New York, Central Park, the Guggenheim museum, and the Empire State Building.

2: 7/21/2018 – 27,278 steps

My July 2017 trip to Virginia, to hike up Catawba Mountain to McAfee Knob with Jeff and Val, fell just short of the top spot.

3: 6/6/2013 – 24,988 steps

2013’s trip to Disney World, which spent 5 years as my single day best, included excursions to both Epcot Center and the Magic Kingdom, and yes, falling 12 steps short of 25,000 still irks me.

4: 6/3/2019 – 24,665 steps

The first full day of 2019’s summer trip to Washington DC spent most of the day at the Smithsonian Zoo.

5: 8/8/2019 – 23,866 steps

Late in the summer of 2019, I spent two weeks in San Francisco for a work trip.   On my last full day, I went out after work, walking to Pier 39 and then back the other direction to Oracle Park to see the Giants take on the Phillies.  My totals would have been even higher, but I was dead tired and took an Uber back to the hotel after the game.

6: 3/18/2018 – 23,780 steps

My first day in Las Vegas for the 2017 IBM Think conference, the day’s totals include gallivanting around town, including a late night trip up to Caesar’s Palace from the MGM Grand to see Absinthe.

7: 10/24/2018 – 23,362 steps

My October 2018 trip to Boston to see Angelina for our birthday gives us our next entry.  While she was in class, I took tours of Fenway Park and Harvard, before meeting up with her for a late lunch and then heading to the airport for the trip home.

8: 3/22/2016 – 22,493 steps

My one-time second highest day took place during the ill-fated trip to Disney World in March of 2016.  The day’s excursion started at Hollywood Studios before heading over to Epcot Center with Jeff and Val.

9: 7/27/2013 – 20,592 steps

Still my highest total at home in the state of Illinois, the next entry comes thanks to the 2013 BTN 5K and a, for lack of a better word, misunderstanding about where I should be picked up after the race.

10: 12/29/2018 – 20,374 steps

We wrap up the top 10 with 2018’s trip to California and the trip to Disneyland to see Danny perform with the Lincoln-Way Marching Band.

11: 8/5/2017 – 20,218 steps

The next entry came in August of 2017 on the first day of my trip to Boston with Danny and Michael.  After landing in town, we traipsed to the Science Museum, a breakfast joint, our hotel, and, finally, Fenway Park.

12: 7/14/2017 – 20,208 steps

Down to #12 is my 2017 trip to Disney World, a one day journey with Angelina to celebrate her high school graduation. Continue reading →

A New Voice

The Cubs and the Marquee Sports Network announced on Monday that Jon “Boog” Sciambi has been hired as the new play-by-play voice of the Cubs.  Sciambi has been the voice of ESPN Sunday Night Baseball for MLB on ESPN Radio and the play-by-play voice for Wednesday Night Baseball telecasts since 2014.  He takes the spot vacated by Len Kasper, who moved over to the White Sox radio booth last month.

“Having the opportunity to come to Wrigley Field and call games for the Chicago Cubs every day is surreal,” Sciambi said in a statement. “It really doesn’t get better than that. Chicago is one of the best cities and Wrigley is the best ballpark out there.”  Prior to joining ESPN, Sciambi had served as the lead television announcer for the Braves from 2007-2009 and as the radio voice of the Marlins from 1997-2004.

Sciambi teamed with current Cubs manager David Ross on ESPN telecasts, so he should have an immediate in to the organization.  He will continue working for ESPN in some capacity under this new deal.

In somewhat related news, missing from the list of contributors in the press release from Marquee was Mark Grace, the former Cub star who was suspended last season after making derogatory comments about his ex-wife during a broadcast.  Not a huge loss for the network or the Cubs, since, in my opinion, Grace makes for a poor broadcaster, but losing a high profile gig must sting for the former all-star.

All Time Playoff Team Records

For the first time since 2008, both the White Sox and the Cubs are in the post-season following this abbreviated 2020 season.  The expanded run to the World Series will start with the White Sox facing A’s in Oakland for a best of 3 series starting tonight, while the Cubs welcome the Marlins to Wrigley starting tomorrow.  Winners will advance to the LDS and enter a playoff bubble, with the AL moving to California and the NL to Texas.

With the AL Wild Card Series set to kick off today, it’s time to take an updated look at the team records for the now 30 playoff contests I have attended. These contests come from the 2018 Wild Card game, the ALDS in 2000, 2005, and 2008, the NLDS in 2003, 2007, 2008, 2015, 2016, and 2017, the NLCS in 2003, 2015, 2016, and 2017, the ALCS in 2005, and, of course, the 2005 and 2016 World Series.  Sadly, I won’t be adding any games to this list this year.  Thanks, corona virus.

Post-Season Team Records
Team Name Won Loss Winning Pctg
Florida Marlins 3 0 1.000
Seattle Mariners 2 0 1.000
New York Mets 2 0 1.000
Colorado Rockies 1 0 1.000
Arizona Diamondbacks 1 0 1.000
Chicago White Sox 5 4 0.556
Los Angeles Dodgers 3 3 0.500
Atlanta Braves 1 1 0.500
Cleveland Indians 1 1 0.500
Los Angeles Angels 1 1 0.500
Washington Nationals 1 1 0.500
Tampa Bay Rays 1 1 0.500
Chicago Cubs 9 13 0.409
San Francisco Giants 0 2 0.000
St. Louis Cardinals 0 1 0.000
Boston Red Sox 0 2 0.000
Houston Astros 0 1 0.000

A Pause In The Season

This weekend’s series between the Cubs and the Cardinals in St. Louis has been cancelled after an additional two Cardinal players and a staff member have tested positive for COVID-19.  In total, nine Cardinals players have tested positive for the corona virus since last week and the team has not played since July 29th.  Assuming they can resume play on Monday, they will need to play 55 games in just 49 days in order to complete their 60 game schedule.

The Cubs will head back to Chicago tonight, and then likely hold work outs at Wrigley Field before resuming their schedule on Tuesday in Cleveland.  They aren’t scheduled to return to St. Louis this year, so making up these games will likely include some combination of double headers at Wrigley and mutual off days, if the games are made up at all.

Cubs All Time Leaders – Through 2019

chc_logoWith baseball now officially on its way back after the corona virus, I thought it would be an interesting time to look back at the all time leaders in both offensive and defensive categories for all 30 teams. We continue things today with the Chicago Cubs.

I’ve seen the Cubs play 416 times at 9 different stadiums in 7 different cities, with the earliest identified game at Wrigley Field on August 4, 1984 against the Mets, through a late August 2019 game against the Nationals.

Home Runs

Name Total
Sammy Sosa 42
Aramis Ramirez 41
Derrek Lee 38

Hits

Name Total
Derrek Lee 245
Aramis Ramirez 216
Sammy Sosa 136

Runs

Name Total
Derrek Lee 136
Aramis Ramirez 114
Sammy Sosa 102

RBI

Name Total
Aramis Ramirez 151
Derrek Lee 128
Sammy Sosa 97

Doubles

Name Total
Derrek Lee 51
Aramis Ramirez 48
Michael Barrett 29

Triples Continue reading →

Looking Ahead To 2021

For reasons that I don’t entirely understand, Major League Baseball released their tentative 2021 schedule late last week, 3 weeks before the 2020 season begins. The local squads should have common goals in mind for 2021: competing for a title.  Assuming, of course, that the 2020 season goes off as planned and the pandemic winds down enough for 2021 to proceed as planned.  So, for one day, at least, let’s turn our attention to next summer for both teams.

The White Sox open their season against the Angels in (Los Angeles, California, Anaheim), the first time that has happened since 1993.  Which, I guess, is a decent sign if one’s looking for omens towards a division title.  They return home a week later, facing the Royals for the home opener.

The interleague schedule pits the White Sox against the NL Central, with trips to Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Milwaukee and home series against the Reds, Cardinals, and the Pirates. The rivalry with their north side foes continues with a series at Wrigley at the beginning of August and a follow-up at Guaranteed Rate Field at the end of the month.

The season ends with a 5 game homestand against the Reds and Tigers.

On the north side, the Cubs open their season up at home against the Pirates, which seems to be a familiar Opening Day foe.

The interleague schedule pits the Cubs against the AL Central, with trips to Cleveland, Detroit, and Minnesota and home series against the Indians, Royals, and the Twins.

The Cubs end the year with a 12 of their final 14 games against the NL Central, with 9 of those coming against the Brewers and the Cardinals, who are likely to challenge them for the NL Central crown.

200 Things To Do In Illinois – Skydeck At Willis Tower

Illinois celebrated its bicentennial as a state in December of 2018.  To celebrate, the Chicago Tribune published the Bicentennial Bucket List: 200 Things To Do In Illinois, celebrating the best the state has to offer in history, food, architecture, culture, sports, nature, drink, and oddities. Now that the state is starting to open back up following the corona virus outbreak, I figured this was the second-best time to look through this collection and cover the ones I’ve done/eaten/seen.

We continue things this week with one of the entries from the Architecture category: Skydeck at Willis Tower, from Chicago, IL.

No story about Illinois architecture would be complete without name-dropping Willis Tower, or as many old-schoolers still like to call it, Sears Tower.  When it debuted in 1973, the 110-story icon from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill began its quarter-century reign as the tallest building in the world.  Play tourist, and pose for pictures on the Ledge, a glass balcony jutting out 4.3 feet from the side of the Skydeck on the 103rd floor.

I’ve made the trip up to the Skydeck at Sears Tower (not being one of those people, just haven’t been there since the name change) a handful of times over the years.  Two stick out in my memory: once in high school and my most recent trip back in 2004.

The high school trip was memorable, mostly for what went on outside the Tower than in it.  My friends Scott, Mike, and I made the trip downtown (probably when we weren’t supposed to) and tried to help some poor soul parallel park.  If the goal was to not hit the cars in front or behind her, then we failed.  After that, we managed to get Scott in for the 12 and under price, despite being 16-ish.

The 2004 trip came between games of a crosstown doubleheader, this one featuring the Marlins and Expos playing at US Cellular Field during the day.  With time to kill before the nightcap at Wrigley, Pete and I went up to the Skydeck, since he had never been before.

Cardinals All Time Leaders – Through 2019

cardinalsWith baseball shut down because of the corona virus, I thought it would be an interesting time to look at the all time leaders in both offensive and defensive categories for all 30 teams. We continue today with the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Cardinals began life in 1891, joining the National League the following year after the dissolution of the old American Association.  They took on the Cardinal name starting in 1900.  I’ve seen them play 31 times, most recently last May at Wrigley Field.

Home Runs

Name Total
Scott Rolen 7
Jim Edmonds 6
Albert Pujols 6

Hits

Name Total
Scott Rolen 22
Albert Pujols 22
Jim Edmonds 20

Runs

Name Total
Jim Edmonds 16
Albert Pujols 14
Scott Rolen 13

RBI

Name Total
Albert Pujols 16
Scott Rolen 15
Jim Edmonds 14

Doubles

Name Total
Ryan Ludwick 4
Albert Pujols 3
Scott Rolen 3
Jim Edmonds 3
Fernando Vina 3
Jason Heyward 3

Triples Continue reading →