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WHERE CUBS FANS COME FROM, AND WHY THEY’RE THE WORLD’S BEST.

· Joe Sez · , , , , , , , , , , ,

FATHER-AND-SON-BALLGAME

When I was a kid, my dad used to take my brothers and me to Cubs games. Not all the time, but once in a while. Even took my sister once, but she fell asleep on his lap which meant he couldn’t get up and cheer when circumstances called for it. Oh yeah … that was the Cubs of the 1970s — no need to stand and cheer.

Goin’ to Wrigley was one of my favorite things as a kid. Still is. There’s nothin’ like that first glimpse of the impossibly green grass, the perfection of the infield carved from it, and the billowing clouds pushin’ across Chicago’s summer sky. But what sticks in my mind most from those trips to Wrigley was how tall everybody was. Walkin’ in the crowd was like bein’ in a forest of human redwoods. Even in our seats I couldn’t see a thing unless everyone was sittin’ down and I was up on my knees. That’s how I remember watchin’ most games at Wrigley. Makes my ACL swell up just thinkin’ about it.

My dad loved baseball. And more than that, he loved the Cubs. April was the most optimistic month in the Schlombowski household, but there was always a measure of it, no matter how far outta first the Cubs fell. “A 10-game win streak starts today, Joe,” he’d say as he was leavin’ for work. And when he’d get home, it’d be “See, I told ya,” or “I meant tomorrow,” depending on what the Cubs did that day. When they were on the road, Dad would haul our crappy, old black-and-white TV out on the stoop to escape the suffocating heat in our apartment, and watch the games with our neighbor, Mr. Kowalski. They’d smoke cigars and listen to Fergie Jenkins, Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Ron Santo try as they might to carry a team that was neck-deep in billy goat curse. The smoke seemed sweet, and curled up through the screen on the window of the room my brothers and I shared. I’d fall asleep to the sound of Jack Brickhouse or Vince Lloyd, the muffled conversation, and my dad’s occasionally animated and always colorful commentary on whatever the Cubs were doin’, and whoever was doin’ it to ’em.

To me, the quintessential ($5 word score!) Cubs fan was long ago defined by the intersection of my father and the Chicago Cubs. At Wrigley, I’d look up at him from my seat and see a guy who loved the experience of just being there much more than the game’s outcome. It was about the theater of the sport — its ebb and flow, the glacial pace interrupted by periodic moments of volcanic excitement. My father saw himself as a player in this nine-act play —the jester, if you will — the guy in the stands who has people three sections away laughin’ their asses off, and wishing they had the wit and courage to sling crap at the opposition like he did. You know, the kind of icy yet good-natured barbs that sting, but make one smile at the same time. If they gave a gold glove for that, my dad would have a trophy case full of ’em, and a couple of boxes in the garage for the ones that wouldn’t fit.

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PIAZZA ENTERS HALL AS A MET: REASON 800 AND F-ING 70 TO HATE THE F-ING METS.

· Joe Sez, News · , , , ,

TOMMY-LASORDA-AND-MIKE-PIAZZA

There is no joy in Mudville. At least on Tommy Lasorda’s street. Of course I’m just spit-ballin’ on that, but I gotta imagine Mike Piazza goin’ into the Hall as a Met instead of a Dodger musta been more than enough to orbit LA’s most famous Italian sausage. They probably heard it all the way in Vero Beach, cuz I’ll tell you … anybody who’s ever heard Tommy when he’s upset knows what his favorite words are, and that he wields ’em like Luke Skywalker with a lightsaber. Even Andrew Dice Clay probably covers his ears.

I think Piazza is still sore at the Dodgers for not givin’ into his contract demands back in the day. Let me just say right here that makin’ eight or 12 or 26 million dollars a year to play a game is not only stupid money, it’s just plain stupid. Nobody should get paid like that unless you’re curin’ cancer or somethin’. Anyway, instead of payin’ him, they traded the guy to the Marlins who immediately sent him to New York. The back story on all of that is pretty interesting. In the end, Piazza was the best position player the Mets ever had, was a GREAT hitter and had his best years in Queens. In addition to that, goin’ into the Hall of Fame ranks a little higher than gettin’ the prize outta your Cracker Jacks box, so you should pretty much be able to decide which one of the teams you played for gets the honor.

Still, if it weren’t for Lasorda, Piazza may never have stepped foot on a professional diamond — not even in A ball. Nobody wanted to give Mike a look. So Lasorda — a long time friend of Piazza’s dad and Godfather to Mike’s brother — talked the Dodgers into takin’ Piazza in the 62nd round of the June 1988 draft. That’s what you call a throw-away pick, my friend. They sent him to Salem, Oregon. If LA is the brightest spot in the Dodgers universe, Salem is a little asteroid that’s furthest from it. I don’t think they has much hope for Piazza. But he was like family. If Tommy hadn’t insisted on makin’ that pick … who knows? Maybe Piazza is sellin’ insurance.

Anyway, if I’m Lasorda, and I’m a big believer in family and loyalty and I bleed Dodger blue, I’ve got smoke curling outta my ears when I hear Piazza’s “Mets” decision, and I’m marchin’ through my house lettin’ loose with an extra large serving of the Dave Kingman and Kurt Bevacqua word salad.

Like I said, it’s Piazza choice. Of course it’s just another reason (number 870) to hate the Mets, and I just don’t think Lasorda would be all that giddy about it.

Joe