Sunday, May 30, 2010

That Toddlin’ Town

My thanks go out to my friend “Reenie” for inspiring this blog. She is the biggest Mark Grace fan that I know. Therefore, it stands to reason she is also a devout Chicago Cub fan. Anyone who knows me is aware that I cannot stand Chicago sport teams, especially the Cubs. While “Reenie” is conscious of my distain for Cubs and most things Chicago, I don’t think she understands why. In fact, today in facebook, she posed this question, “Paul, just tell me why do you dislike the Cubs so much? Really, why?”

The answer I gave outlined, in some detail, the major reasons I deplored those guys from the Northside of Chicago. The response, although blunt and rather negative, made the rationale for my feelings very clear. Or so I thought.

“Reenie” came back with, “I just wanted to know. Tell me if they ever got to a World Series, would you root for them?” AARGHH!! I wasn’t sure if she really didn’t get it or if she was just busting my balls. So I politely answered definitely not.

At that moment I decided to quit being such a contrarian and would attempt to be more positive. “Reenie” had inspired me to write a blog about Chicago things that I enjoy. Remarkably it was easier than I thought.

Believe it or not, the very first baseball player that I ever was a fan of was Randy Hundley, a Chicago Cub. Growing up I was a slow, overweight child and always got stuck playing catcher when we played baseball.

Hundley was recognized as one of the best defensive catchers in the league, winning the 1967 Gold Glove Award for catchers, and setting a National League record by committing just four errors.

When Hundley was traded by the Cubs to the Minnesota Twins for George Mitterwald on December 6, 1973, I was devastated. It was then that I developed a loathing for the Cubs and threw all of my support to the upstart Milwaukee Brewers.

Another Cub that I remain partial to is outfielder Brant Brown. He may be most remembered for the error he committed on September 23, 1998 in a game against the Brewers. In a tie with the New York Mets for the lead in the NL Wild Card standings with three games remaining, Chicago held a 7-5 lead in the bottom of the 9th inning with two out.

Milwaukee was down to its last gasp, but they loaded the bases with Geoff Jenkins at the plate. Jenkins hit a long fly ball to left field, a routine play for Brown. But with the sunlight distracting him, Brown dropped the ball and let it get past him, allowing three runs to score and giving the Brewers an 8-7 win.

This play became famous for the radio call by the Cubs broadcasters Pat Hughes and Ron Santo, in which Santo exclaimed, “Nooooooooo!!!!!” when Brown dropped the ball. To this day, I get a warm and fuzzy feeling whenever I hear that audio clip.

Yet another person associated with the Cubs that I am a fan of is the infamous Steve Bartman. In the eighth inning of Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series, with Chicago ahead 3-0 and holding a 3 games to 2 lead in the best of 7 series, several spectators attempted to catch a foul ball off the bat of Marlins' second baseman Luis Castillo.

Bartman touched the ball once it crossed into the stands, disrupting a potential catch by Cubs outfielder Moisés Alou. If Alou had caught the ball, it would have been the second out in the inning, and the Cubs would have been just four outs away from winning the National League pennant.

Instead, the Cubs relinquished the lead that inning and then lost the game. When they were eliminated in the seventh game the next day, the “Steve Bartman incident” was seen as the turning point of the series. Thanks Steve.

There are a couple of Chicago things not related to sports that I have a fondness for. One is the Ferrara Pan Candy Company. They are responsible for such sweet treats as Atomic Fireballs, Lemonheads, Alexander the Grape and “The Original Jaw Breakers” – Jaw Busters.

Salvatore Ferrara came to America from Nola, Italy in 1900 and founded Ferrara Pan Candy Company in 1908 in Chicago, Illinois. 1908 was the same year that Teddy Roosevelt was president, Henry Ford invented the Model-T automobile and it was also the last time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series.

The fifth Chicago area thing that I have a soft spot in my heart for is Michelle Patitucci of Elmwood Park. When I worked at Koos Inc., Michelle worked for the General Cooperage Company in Franklin Park Illinois.

General Cooperage supplied Koos with the 100 lb. drums that we used for Safe Step Ice Melt. As luck would have it, it was my responsibility to order the drums, with the lovely Michelle taking the order.

This developed into a whirlwind romance that began with a Milwaukee Brewer game. Although it was a short-lived relationship, it provided me with many wonderful memories. It would be fair to say that Michelle Patitucci was my favorite “thing” connected with Chicago.

I am fully aware that tomorrow is Memorial Day and that somehow this blog should be honoring those that have/are serving in the Armed Forces. I truly tried to start in that direction but could not. Having lost the most important veteran in my life less then four months ago made it too tough for me to do that.

I apologize. That is why I opted for something a little lighter. Until next time…from the booth.


Randy Lain said...

Gotta admit, Santo's "nooooo" is funny even to me,I laugh at Santo every time I tune in on radio.He absolutely lives and dies by the Cubs.But really the play was meaningless because the Cubs won the Wild Card anyway.

As far as Bartman, I place no blame with him, the Cubs blew the game themselves. Right after the Bartman play their shortstop blew a tailor made double play ball.

I'm kinda surprised Bartman didn't capitalize on his noteriety. He could have made a bundle.

Paul E. Vagnoni said...

Randy, if I'm not mistaken, I believe Bartman is still in semi-seclusion. Santo is pretty funny on the radio. as much as I hate the Cubs, a small part of me would like to see them win for him. Don't let anyone know, okay?

Leplume said...

I lived in Chicago for almost five years, exactly one block north of Wrigley Field. I was there when Wrigley first got lights! Remember that? But, okay sit down Paul cause I'm going to admit it, I have been a Cubs fan forever. I was a kid playing on the living room floor when my Dad would be listening to the games on WGN TV with Jack Brickhouse. I love the Cubbies! While in Chicago, I could open all my windows, put the game on TV and hear the real crowd from the park. I could walk to Sheffield and watch people try to catch any homers that came over the wall. Or I could go sit on Murph's roof and have a few cold ones and actually see the game. I'm a Cubs fan. There...I've said it and I won't take it back! Hahah!

Paul E. Vagnoni said...

I should have known Mary! Unbelievable! Just for that you're not getting your bathing suit back!

Sue said...

I should have known better - there was me thinking Chicago - gangsters ! Very interesting Paul.

Paul E. Vagnoni said...

Sue, I enjoyed the Sopranos, but they were New Jersey gangsters.

Sue said...

Sopranos ? I was thinking more Al Capone. However much preferred reading some more sport