Since things are in a bit of a holding pattern here, we decided to continue with our trip to the Cubs/Phillies tilt at Wrigley. What say we hop on the bus a take a trip to see some baseball?
A quick jaunt up Interstate 55 (which parallels what's left of the famous old highway US 66 of song and screen) finds us in The City That Works. Before long we'll hit Lake Shore Drive, right around the Loop, and to the North Side and the Wrigleyville neighborhood and the ballpark.
Probably a unique feature of the buildings around Wrigley Field are the bleachers on the rooftops of the bulidings around the ballpark. Originally these were apartment buildings, but starting during the 1984 season when the Cubs made their first postseason run since 1945, people started to watch the games from the upper floor windows and the rooftops. Then they invited their friends, who invited their friends, who built makeshift bleachers. Eventually professional interests bought the buildings and turned them into essentially the far outfield bleachers. After negotiations, the Cubs allow these enterprises to exist-for a cut of their profits. Fair enough.
The statue of the great baseball announcer, Harry Caray. He started his career with the Cardinals in 1944 and was the radio voice of the Birds until the early 1970s. After stints with the A's and the White Sox, he signed with the Cubs. Harry was the voice of the average fan, always ready to cheer on a Cubs home run with his signature 'Ho-ly COW!' or criticize a bad play or bad call. He was the voice of the Cubs until his death before the 1998 season. According to all accounts, he was always willing to talk to the fans-and he lived every one of his years!
This is new-and overdue-the statue of the great Ernie Banks, Cubs' first baseman and the team's first black player. He was quite a talent-and the eternal optimist. He made the Baseball Hall of Fame-but never played in the postseason. The Cub teams of the 1950s were truly atrocious, the teams in the 1960s somewhat better, but not quite enough to beat the equally good Mets teams of the era. And Ernie never got a World Series ring.
Let's get out our tickets and go on in. Today's starters: for Philadelphia, Joe Blanton, for the Cubs, leftie Ted Lilly, who quite possibly will be on the trading block if management decides the Cubs are out of the race. At 39-51, that is quite likely.
And here's the first pitch! Both pitchers were locked in for the first three innings. The top of the 4th, however, would see Phillies centerfielder Shane Victorino (a hard-nosed, scrappy player who can go get it with the best of them) knock a solo home run to put the Phils up 1-0...
...and here he is crossing home to the cheers of the Phillie faithful in attendance!
In the bottom of the 5th, the Cubs' Aramis Ramirez smacked a long double in the power alley to left. Byrd flew out. Later, Alfonso Soriano would draw a walk. Castro struck out. 2 on with 2 out. The Phils elected to intentionally walk catcher Geovany Soto to force pitcher Lilly to bat. Since the pitcher usually doesn't hit well (Lilly hasn't gotten a hit this year), the odds say this is a good move-right? But Lilly managed to work the count full. Three balls, two strikes. Bases loaded, 2 out. Will Lilly strike out?
No! Lilly drew a walk to force a run in! The strategy backfires! Sometimes it happens. But the Cubs tie it up at 1-1 at the end of 5.
The top of the 6th would see the heart of the Phillie order do damage. Jayson Werth drew a walk, bringing up their big slugger, Ryan Howard. Lilly gives up a lot of fly ball outs-except for the one Howard hit, which landed on the roof of the Batter's Eye Lounge shown in the picture-410 feet from home. Phils up 3-1. I figured this is where we'd end up since the Cub offense has been woeful this year.
But not today. In the bottom of the sixth, Ramirez walked, bringing up Cub centerfielder Marlon Byrd (who's played extraordinarily well on a mediocre team). Byrd parked one in the left field bleachers to tie it up at 3-all! Got ourselves a game here again all of a sudden! Don't go away, folks!
The 8th inning would see both starting pitchers gone. Sean Marshall came in and shut the Pirates down in the top of the frame. Ryan Madsen took the ball for the Phils in the bottom, and again Aramis Ramirez was at bat. After getting two strikes, the Ram connected! A deep drive, it might be out of here-going...going....
GONE! A solo shot to put the Cubs up 4-3!
The top of the 9th, and Piniella put in Carlos Marmol for the save. Now, will we see the Carlos who throws the wicked unhittable slider, or the Carlos who's nowhere near the plate and walking the bases full?
Two quick strikeouts! We got Wicked Slider Carlos today! And a called third strike for the last out!
And the fans got to sing 'Go Cubs Go'!
And that's how the game went. Always good to see the home nines get a victory. They've been few and far between this year. I have a feeling the Ricketts family, the new owners of the Cubs, will be doing some housecleaning in the last part of the season and afterward. Could be some lean years ahead until they can (if they can) get the organization running like a professional sports franchise instead of the world's biggest beer garden. They have promised a goal of a world championship. We'll see how they go about attempting to try that most elusive, nay, the Holy Grail of sports accomplishments-a World Series victory for the Chicago Cubs.
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