Fallen Hero

Former Cub Dwight Smith, who, as a rookie, was a key member of the 1989 NL Easy champions, died yesterday at the age of 58.  The Braves, with whom Smith played for after leaving the Cubs and earned a World Series ring in 1995, said he died of congestive heart and lung failure,

As a rookie, Smith hit .324 with an OPS of .875 in 109 games in 1989, finishing second in Rookie of the Year voting to teammate Jerome Walton.  He also sang the national anthem at Wrigley Field on July 21.  In his five seasons with the Cubs, he hit .285 with 32 home runs and 159 RBIs.  After the 1993 season, Smith was non-tendered by the Cubs and, following a nomadic 1994 season, he ended his career with the Braves from 1995-1996.  His son, Dwight Smith Jr., played parts of the 2017 through 2020 seasons with the Blue Jays and Orioles and is currently playing in the Mexican League.

FB8 – Week 25

A very bad week, saved only somewhat by an outlier day on Saturday.  Things got off to an ok start on Sunday, as I finished with 4100 steps.  A week of all day vendor sessions started on Monday, where I struggled to get 3500 steps.  Things got worse on Tuesday, which saw a big drop-off as I fell down to 2300 steps, by far the worst day of the week.  Wednesday saw a slight improvement, but still came in at a pathetic 2600 steps.  Thursday improved again, but still only managed to come within 35 steps of 2900.  Friday managed to climb back over the 3100-step plateau.  A trip to Wrigley Field on Saturday helped to end the week on a high note, as I broke my daily goal for the first time in nearly a month, finishing just over 7500 steps.

Total steps: 26,129

Daily average: 3732.7

Trouble At Wrigley Field

Last August, the Cubs threw themselves a party to celebrate the end of the 1060 Project and the completion of the remodeling of Wrigley Field and the build out of the surrounding area.  The event also included the premiere of a new documentary about the renovations titled Saving Wrigley Field and the unveiling of two new plaques outside of the main gate: one to commemorate Wrigley Field’s official designation as a National Historic Landmark and the second to, and I quote, “commemorate the Ricketts family’s commitment to preserving Wrigley Field.”

Today, the honeymoon period came to an end as the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago filed a lawsuit against the Cubs, claiming the renovations violated federal law by failing to make the park “appropriately accessible” to fans with disabilities.  The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, comes nearly three years after federal authorities had launched an investigation into whether the Cubs’ $1 billion, five-year renovation of Wrigley Field met the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The suit claims that the renovations of the bleachers and the lower grandstand did not provide wheelchair users with adequate sightlines when compared to standing patrons.

Per the suit, In the grandstand, “a wheelchair user can barely see any of the infield when spectators stand up—often during the most exciting parts of the game.”  The wheelchair areas in the lower bowl are usually directly behind the last row of a section, with no riser to put them higher than the standing fans in front of them.  In the bleachers, wheelchair seating is similarly clustered in the last row of seating sections, according to the suit.

The lawsuit also claims that the design failed to remove architectural barriers to access in unaltered portions of the ballpark and that premium and group seating areas, such as the Catalina Club in the upper deck and the Budweiser Patio in the right field bleachers, do not support wheelchair seating.

In a statement, Cubs spokesman Julian Green said the team had been cooperating with the probe and was “disappointed” with the Justice Department’s decision to move forward with the suit.  The Cubs “hope the matter can be resolved amicably, but we will defend Wrigley Field and our position it meets accessibility requirements for fans,” the statement reads.  “The renovation of Wrigley Field greatly increased accessibility of the ballpark and was completed in accordance with applicable law and historic preservation standards consistent with the ballpark’s designation as a National and City of Chicago landmark.”  The team also says that Wrigley Field “is now more accessible than ever in its 108-year history” and “has 11 more elevators than it did prior to the start of the renovation, more accessible restroom facilities, assistive listening technology for fans with hearing impairments, enhanced audio speakers and sound systems throughout the ballpark, and upgraded ticketing and online systems for purchase of seating, including accessible seating.”

So, what’s the likely outcome here?  It could end up going a number of ways, with a best-case scenario of a dismissal following initial legal arguments to a worst-case scenario of a lengthy trial, with settlements of cash or structural fixes in the middle.

FB8 – Week 21

Another solid-ish week, as I found myself staying on the right side of 30,000 steps thanks to some outside activities.  Things got off to a pretty good start on Sunday, finishing 13 steps shy of 5800 thanks to a frustrating trip to Guaranteed Rate Field.  Monday saw very little drop-off, ending with 5700 steps.  Tuesday saw a much bigger fall, dropping down to 4300 steps.  Wednesday fell even more, going down to 4100 steps.  Thursday was the high point of the week, thanks to a last-minute decision to head to the World Hollywood Casino Ampitheatre to see Garbage and Tears for Fears, putting me over 7000 steps.  Friday turned that around and saw the lowest total of the week, with only 3500 steps.  A trip to Wrigley Field to see the Cubs battle the Braves on Saturday was a decent way to end the week, finishing with 6900 steps.

Total steps: 37,414

Daily average: 5344.9

By The Numbers – 6

In 1929, uniform numbers appeared on the back of baseball jerseys for the first time, thanks to the Indians and the Yankees.  By 1937, numbers finally appeared across all uniforms, both home and away, across both major leagues.  Since that time, 81 distinct numbers have been worn by members of the White Sox, while the Cubs boast 76.

Today, we continue our look at those players, picking our favorite, if not the best, player to wear each uniform number for both Chicago teams with #6.  67 different players have donned #6 while playing in Chicago, 27 for the White Sox, who haven’t retired it but have not issued it since 1995, and 42 for the Cubs.

In his second go-around with the Cubs after being selected off waivers from the Mariners on July 6, 1998, Glenallen Hill, wearing #6. hit .351 with 8 homers and 23 RBIs in 48 games.  He appeared in one game during the NLDS against the Braves, where he was one for three with a run batted in and a stolen base.  Returning in 1999, Hill hit .300 with 20 home runs and 55 runs batted in.  On May 11, 2000, Hill became the first, and thus far only player to hit a home run on the three-story residential building across Waveland Ave. from Wrigley Field in the second inning of the Cubs’ 14–8 loss to the Brewers.  With the Cubs far out of contention, he was traded to the Yankees on July 23.

On the south side of town, Jorge Orta signed with the White Sox out of the Mexican Baseball League in 1972 and made the team out of spring training.  Playing shortstop, Orta batted just .211 through the middle of May before losing his job.  He returned to Chicago when rosters expanded that September.  Orta was shifted to second base for the 1973 season after batting over .500 in spring training.  Playing through injuries for much of the year, he batted .266 and tied for second in the league with eighteen errors among second basemen.

Orta began the 1974 season batting at the bottom of the White Sox line-up but was moved up to the two spot Chuck Tanner’s batting order, hitting .411 with 23 runs scored in the month of June.  For the season, his .316 batting average was second only to Rod Carew.  In 1975, Orta batted .296 with four home runs and 46 RBIs in the first half, good enough to be named to the All-Star team.  He topped that by hitting .314 with seven home runs and 37 RBIs in the second half.

New manager Paul Richards opted to move Orta to third base for the 1976 season, which proved to be a poor decision.  Orta was eventually moved into the outfield and the Sox narrowly avoided a hundred losses while Orta hit .274 with hitting a career-high fourteen home runs and scoring a career high 74 runs.  Orta returned to second base when Bob Lemon took the reins as manager in 1977.  The surprising White Sox, dubbed the South Side Hitmen, won 90 games and Orta, now batting third, finished second on the team with a career high 84 RBIs.  He remained at second in 1978, but new player-manager Don Kessinger deployed Orta as the designated hitter in 1979, a role Orta struggled with, putting up a .212 batting average, three home runs and 21 RBIs through June 27.  Orta returned to second base in the middle of July, and batted .313 with seven home runs and 22 RBIs the rest of the way on his way to free agency.

FB8 – Week 15

A pretty successful week, as a couple of baseball games gave me my highest weekly total completed in the state of Illinois since last July.  Things got off to a slow start on Sunday, as I managed just 3500 steps.  Monday saw a pretty decent increase, jumping up to 5600 steps.  My first trip to Wrigley Field of the season helped me surpass 6500 steps on Tuesday, while the return trip on Wednesday left me 6 steps away from 9000, the second time I’ve surpassed my daily goal at home in as many weeks.  Thursday saw a big decline, finishing 13 steps shy 3200 despite a trip out to meet friends for lunch.  Friday saw a small improvement, coming 16 steos away from 3900.  Another Cubs game on Saturday helped me see another big increase, ending the day 9 steps short of 6000.

Total steps: 37,757

Daily average: 5393.9

Throwback Thursday – Team Records Of The 1990s

Last week, we took a trip in the wayback machine to see all of the games that I attended during the 1980s.  This week, we turn our attention to the 1990s to see what my view of the baseball world looked like.

I’ve been able to identify 32 games I attended during the 90s, starting with a late April outing during the final season at Comiskey Park in 1990 through a September 2000 game at Wrigley Field, including my first visits to stadiums outside of Chicago starting with a July 1993 visit to County Stadium in Milwaukee.  All told, I saw games at eight different ballparks throughout the decade.

1990s Team Records
Team Name Won Loss Winning Pctg
Houston Astros 1 0 1.000
California Angels 1 0 1.000
Cincinnati Reds 1 0 1.000
Arizona Diamondbacks 1 0 1.000
Florida Marlins 1 0 1.000
New York Yankees 1 0 1.000
San Francisco Giants 1 0 1.000
Detroit Tigers 3 1 0.750
Oakland Athletics 2 1 0.667
Chicago White Sox 12 10 0.545
Chicago Cubs 6 5 0.545
Kansas City Royals Continue reading →

Throwback Thursday – Team Records Of The 1980s

With the 2022 season well underway, I thought it would be interesting to take a trip in the wayback machine and see what my view of the baseball world looked like in the long-ago period known as the 1980’s.

I’ve been able to identify 14 games I attended during the 80’s, starting with Luis Aparicio’s number retirement in 1984 through a September 1988 game at Wrigley Field, which turned out to be the second official night game.  There are more games that I remember something about attending, voting for the new White Sox uniform designs in 1981, Carlton Fisk bat day some point in the early 80s, getting a Cubs calendar in 1986,  and winning tickets from WGN radio for a game, but I haven’t been able to track down specifics about them as of yet.

1980s Team Records
Team Name Won Loss Winning Pctg
Toronto Blue Jays 1 0 1.000
San Diego Padres 1 0 1.000
Cleveland Indians 1 0 1.000
California Angels 1 0 1.000
Texas Rangers 1 1 0.500
Seattle Mariners 1 1 0.500
New York Mets 1 1 0.500
Baltimore Orioles 1 1 0.500
Chicago White Sox 5 6 0.455
Chicago Cubs 1 2 0.333
Kansas City Royals 0 1 0.000
Boston Red Sox 0 1 0.000

By The Numbers – 12

In 1929, uniform numbers appeared on the back of baseball jerseys for the first time, thanks to the Indians and the Yankees.  By 1937, numbers finally appeared across all uniforms, both home and away, across both major leagues.  Since that time, 81 distinct numbers have been worn by members of the White Sox, while the Cubs boast 76.

Today, we continue our look at those players, picking our favorite, if not the best, player to wear each uniform number for both Chicago teams with #12.  91 different players have donned #12 while playing in Chicago, 44 for the White Sox and 47 for the Cubs.

A.J. Pierzynski signed with the White Sox on January 6, 2005 and rewarded the organization with eight seasons of stability behind the plate that included one All-Star selection, two playoff appearances, and, of course, the 2005 World Series championship.  Over those 8 seasons, Pierzynski was involved in many key moments while wearing #12 that endeared him to the White Sox faithful, including:

  • The walk-off home run, and resulting bat flip (pictured above), against the Dodgers in 2005 while wearing 1959 throwbacks
  • The two home runs in a thrashing of the Red Sox in game one of the 2005 ALDS, the first White Sox home postseason victory since 1959
  • The controversial dropped third strike that led to a White Sox victory in game two of the 2005 ALCS against the Angels
  • The 2006 brawl against the Cubs where Michael Barrett sucker-punched him after Pierzynski enthusiastically scored a run against the crosstown rivals
  • Hanging on to the throw from Ken Griffey Jr. to preserve the shutout in the 2008 tie-breaker game that pushed the White Sox into the playoffs over the Twins
  • Being behind the plate for Mark Buehrle’s no-hitter in 2007 and Philip Humber’s perfect game in 2012

On the north side of town, a dynamic shortstop, the first player chosen in the 1982 draft, wore #12 when he made his major league debut in 1985.  Shawon Dunston quickly became a fan favorite.  In 1989, he entered the national consciousness thanks to the Shawon-O-Meter, a fan made sign that tracked Dunston’s batting average during each game.  The sign was seen in the Wrigley Field bleachers for a number of years and even made its way to San Francisco’s Candlestick Park for the 1989 NLCS.  Following the 1995 season, he left as a free agent before resigning with the team for the 1997 campaign.  He was traded to the Pirates at the end of August, ending his Cubs career for good.

The Time Of Your Life

After a disastrous 2021 that saw his reunion with the Cubs end with his August release followed by an even worse stint with the Padres, Jake Arrieta called it a career earlier this week.  Arrieta, 36, debuted with the Orioles in 2010.  He was acquired by the Cubs in July of 2013, in what turned out to be one of the best trades in team history, in a trade for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger.  He left the Cubs as a free agent after the 2017 season and signed with the Phillies on a 4-year deal.

After being acquired by the Cubs, Arrieta was sent to Triple A, where he made seven starts for Iowa before being recalled to the rebuilding big league club, showing vast improvement over the pitcher he was with the Orioles.  He turned into an ace for the Cubs in 2015, winning the NL Cy Young Award, and was a key contributor to their World Series championship in 2016.  He threw two no-hitters for the team, one in 2015 against the Dodgers and the second in 2016 against the Reds.  Injuries after the 2017 season left him a shell of his former self, but the Cubs rolled the dice for 2021, hoping for a miracle.  Instead, they got a rude awakening, as Arrieta set the team record for highest ERA for a pitcher in a season with at least 20 starts.  He followed up his last game, where he gave up 8 hits and 7 runs in the first inning, with a post-game tirade where he berated a reporter for wearing a mask, which he was required to do by city regulation, during a Zoom press conference.

For a brief period of time during the 2015 and 2016 seasons, Jake Arrieta was the best pitcher in baseball.  He was a key contributor to the 2016 World Series championship, earning him a place in Cubs lore for years to come.  His horrid performance in 2021, both on the field and as a functioning member of society, did little to hurt that standing.  I’m sure later this year or next year, there will be a Jake Arrieta Day at Wrigley Field, where he will rightly be feted as he throws out a first pitch and sings during the 7th inning stretch.