Happy Birthday Wrigley Field

Yesterday, they celebrated the 100th “birthday” of Wrigley Field in Chicago. As you might imagine, there was a ton of sentimental falderal for the day but the Cubbies knew the best way to honor their home field for the past century.

    They took a 3-run lead into the top of the 9th inning and then gave up 5 runs to the D-Backs to lose the game.

Unlike the vast majority of baseball poets, I am not enamored of Wrigley Field. I do not need luxury amenities at a baseball venue, but it took about 95 years for Wrigley Field to install urinals. I think that is sufficient for me to say that the place needs more than a coat of paint. Of course, Wrigley Field is the place where the Cubs labor under the burden of their “curse”. With regard to their supposed curse, I have always had a question in mind about its origin:

    A fan was denied entrance to a Cubs’ game because he wanted to bring his goat with him into the park. He is the one who affixed “the curse” to the team.

    Question: What kind of numbskull/social misfit would think that it was even a borderline reasonable idea to bring a goat to a baseball game?

While in the mode of asking questions about the Cubs’ misfortunes over the years, here is another one that has always interested me:

    Question #2: Was Steve Bartman in the Federal Witness Protection Program the night he became involved in baseball lore? Given that no one ever heard about him before that night and given how thoroughly out-of-sight he has been since then … Oh, is he really “Steve Bartman”? Perhaps, he is the jumper formerly known as D. B. Cooper? Enquiring minds want to know…

While on the subject of baseball – sort of – I am beginning to wonder when it became de rigueur for players to take offense at the play of other players. Carlos Gomez hit a long ball to centerfield and flipped his bat to stare at it before running to first base. When he arrived at third base with a triple, the pitcher “took offense” at his posturing and a bench clearing brawl ensued. Why?

Babe Ruth pointed to where he was going to hit the next pitch – and then he did it. There was no fight after he went back to the dugout. Jimmy Piersall celebrated his 100th career home run by backpedaling around the bases. [I remember seeing that game on TV as a kid.] There was no brawl. So, just when did the “unwritten rules of the game” change to allow players to be spring-loaded into the pissed-off position with regard to the way opposing players behave during the game? Why is a pitcher offended when a batter hits the ball a long way and looks to track the flight of the ball? Does anyone remember Carlton Fisk with the Red Sox in the World Series and his “demonstrative” behavior? I do – and I also remember there was no fighting after the fact.

One more baseball related item… Recent stories about the way Yasiel Puig arrived in Mexico and then in the US to be able to play MLB are disturbing to say the least. The idea that he was coerced to sign over 20% of his future earnings under threat of torture or losing a bodily appendage is not exactly the best story to tell about a man who left his homeland to start a new life here in the US. What I find offensive is that MLB is at the end of a chain of events – and the end that provides Puig with sufficiently large “future earnings” that it is worth coercing him to sign over a portion of them – that are reprehensible enough to be labeled “human trafficking”. Look, I do not expect Bud Selig and the MLBPA to go riding off on some crusade to end human trafficking worldwide; that is not their job. However, the fact is that they are complicit in that practice to some degree.

In the past, I have been more than critical – some would say less than kind – in my remarks about golfer Michelle Wie. When she was a young prodigy, she was exploited by adults. Because she could beat male golfers in high school, people tried to hold her up as a teenager who might be able to play in The Masters or something equivalent to that. That did not work; her game fell apart and it got to the point where she had difficulty being competitive even on the LPGA Tour. She attended – and graduated from – Stanford University indicating that she is an intelligent young woman and recently she won an LPGA Tour event in Hawaii with a final round of 67. That was her first LPGA Tour win in 4 years.

Earlier this season, Michelle Wie finished second in the Kraft Nabisco Championship and her win last week gives her a total of just over $600K in winnings for this year. Now that she is “merely” a professional golfer and not a promotional show-pony, I hope that she succeeds. My beef was never with her; it was with the adults who exploited her when she was a teenager.

The idea of “separation of church and state” is at the core of US society. However, there is no such separation demanded or expected with regard to sports. Allow me to offer evidence in support of that statement by looking at the world of Internet dating.

    JDate.com is an Internet dating site focused on single folks who are Jewish. It has been around for more than 15 years. Clearly, there is a strong religious affiliation/angle to this site.

    ChristianMingle.com is an Internet dating site focused on single folks who are Christians. This site says it will assist you to “Find God’s match for you”. Clearly, there is a strong religious affiliation/angle to this site too.

Now comes the sports equivalent… People have figuratively labeled fans of various teams as ones who revere and even worship those teams. And in that spirit, let me advise you that there is a new Internet dating service at www.greenbaypackerslovers.com. The site launched in March 2014; and as of this morning, the site claims to have 2138 members. Religious fervor manifests itself in a wide variety of ways.

Finally, here is a comment from Greg Cote of the Miami Herald with regard to another young winner on the LPGA Tour:

“Coral Springs’ Lexi Thompson, 19, last week became the second-youngest woman to win an LPGA major. When I was 19, I first tried to solve a Rubik’s Cube before stomping on it in frustration.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

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Comments

  • john  On April 24, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    Fair enough on the Babe Ruth “pointing” homer that did not end in a brawl. But look up the footage of it. There is some motion picture film of the lead-up (unfortunately it ends prior to the point, so no one is sure if he is actually addressing the pitcher with the point). To say that the Babe is very angrily gesturing and yelling at players in the opposing dugout (in response to claims they were heckling him) would be an understatement.

    No brawl, but not exactly a “let’s just all play with good sportsmanship” moment.

    • The Sports Curmudgeon  On April 25, 2014 at 10:54 am

      john:

      Agreed that all was not “peace and tranquility” surrounding The Babe’s “pointing where he was going to hit the ball”. However, it all stopped at the level of jawing and gesturing. Today, there would be about 60 people on the field either fighting with one another or trying to separate combatants. The “trigger point” for fighting in baseball has moved.

      • Ed  On April 26, 2014 at 6:38 pm

        Actually, IIRC there was some bad blood when the Cubs voted midseason pickup Mark Koenig, a former Yank, a half share of the WS money, and there was a lot of yelling back and forth. Some say Ruth did not point at the stands, but at some of the Cubs he was yelling at.

        Piersall was a nut… and it was known…

        Fisk was a WS walkoff, and most of the dance was “body english” trying to coax it to stay fair… a lot different

        The goat was the bar mascot for the Billy Goat tavern.. the owner was doing his own stunt. Bill Veeck likely would have loved it….

        • The Sports Curmudgeon  On May 7, 2014 at 9:06 am

          Ed:

          Yes, Fisk’s “body English” was different from flipping a bat and staring at the ball. However, there was no retaliation in the next game either…

  • Rickey  On April 24, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    Maybe the goat guy was ahead of his time. He was just trying to start the first Goat in the Park, which has since turned into Bark in the Park.

    If you ever watched the ESPN 30 for 30 on Bartman and the stuff he went though after that game, you would go into hiding also.

    • The Sports Curmudgeon  On April 25, 2014 at 10:57 am

      Rickey:

      You would need to sedate me and then revive me inside the stadium to get me to witness “Bark in the Park” days.

      I did see the 30-for30 documentary on Steve Bartman. Indeed, his retreat from the public eye after that incident demonstrates good judgment. My allusion to the Federal Witness Protection Program was an attempt at snark.

  • Rich  On April 25, 2014 at 2:24 am

    No Sammy Sosa at Wrigley.

    • The Sports Curmudgeon  On April 25, 2014 at 11:00 am

      Rich:

      Sosa is a “polarizing figure” in the baseball world and in Chicago more specifically. The Cubs would have taken some criticism if they had invited him just as they are taking some criticism now for “snubbing” him.

      My opinion: If you are going to have Ernie Banks on hand for the celebration, Sammy Sosa adds little to the moment.

  • Doug  On April 25, 2014 at 6:26 am

    Other than nostalgia, does Wriggly have redeeming qualities? I can imagine they retired the mortgage a few years back, but upkeep and modern facilities like urinals are expensive (check the DOD approved products list).

    Actually, I think ball parks like Wriggly, located in neighborhoods, are a lot more fun than suburban stadiums with parking lots surrounding them. The Braves are moving out of Atlanta to a new stadium in Cobb County. This will be their 3rd custom designed venue since the team moved South from Milwaukee in the 60s.

    • The Sports Curmudgeon  On April 25, 2014 at 11:08 am

      Doug:

      The fact that most games at Wrigley are played in the afternoon is a redeeming feature for me. I love afternoon baseball.

      The Braves are bucking the trend moving out of the city. Most new parks today are built either in “downtown areas” or in “sports complexes” within the city. Venues such as Philly, Baltimore, Washington, Seattle, Houston and Denver come to mind here. The current field in Atlanta is only about 20 years old if I recall correctly. Yes, Wrigley Field has gone way beyond its “sell by date”, but is a 20-year old venue so obsolete that it cannot be spruced up?

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