Can’t Beat Suffering at the Old Ballpark

CHICAGO—Lester reporting once again, happy as peach pie to be out of my sad and clammy Iowa basement. Neither Mother nor Father was coming home anytime soon, and handyman Cal never had a clue who I was.  So what better place to feel good again but a Sunday doubleheader at Wrigley Field with my beloved Cubs taking on the Phils?

I got off my Greyhound Bus downtown, hopped on the red El line and waited for Wrigley to roll into view at Addison. The good seats were all sold out, but it was gorgeous out and I was more than comfortable in the packed bleachers, even if a few too many white men with afros and girls in halter tops were staring at the calculator sticking out of my shirt pocket.

Games of the Day

Philly has been the tortoise to everyone in the league’s hare, slow and steady, slow and steady, and suddenly within a hot streak of the top. Lefty Carlton is on the hill for them, scorching now after a cold start, but we stitch together two runs in the 1st off him on two walks and singles by Clines and Ontiveros. The shirtless fellows around me cheer and spray a bit of beer from their plastic cups, but I’m very reserved as I make the notations in my scorebook. No pitcher has been safe for the Cubs lately, and Steve Renko is not exactly their ace.

A Hebner double and Boone single bring in the first Phillie run an inning later, before a Schmidt double and 2-run Luzinski bomb nearly into my lap puts them ahead in the 3rd. Sudden silence washes over the bleachers, as Carlton goes to work and has his way with us. The Cubs get a DeJesus double and four scattered singles for the rest of the game and score nothing, while Philly adds three more runs off Renko and Paul Reuschel, Rick’s bad brother, and that is that.

No one imagined the Cubs winning the pennant, but they sure weren’t expected to be the league doormats. At this writing, Bonham, Burris and Krukow are a combined 2-24, and their offense has produced the fewest homers and grounded into the most double plays. Still, in the twenty minutes between games, the fans drink more Old Style, flirt with each other, spin off loud trivia contests (two which I manage to win) and manage to have a fine time anyway. I realize it is a godsend that Cub fans have Wrigley Field, because in a dismal, cavernous pit like Olympic Stadium, their play would be lucky to draw 10,000 a game.

Note to self: create new stat for measuring ratio of attendance to poor team performance. Possible acronym–BFD (Broberg Factor Differential)

With Dennis Lamp being the only sixth starter available to spot start for the Cubs, I’m afraid Dennis Lamp starts Game Two for the Cubs. You would think with his Wild Bill Hickock moustache and imposing frame, the Phillie hitters would quake in their maroon shoes.

Not quite. Once again we take a 2-0 lead out of the gate when the only pitcher maybe worse than Lamp, Randy Lerch, allows a DeJesus double, two wild pitches and a Morales homer to start his afternoon, and is extracted from the premises for Warren Brusstar. Burning his pen is a risk Danny Ozark is willing to take, for he knows the wind is blowing out here and how suspect the Chicago staff is.

Nine unanswered runs later, his ploy pays off. And while the bleacher fans sit glumly watching hits bang around the yard that aren’t theirs, expletives begin to ring out. “Don’t worry,” I say to the sulking fat kid next to me, “they’ll put in lights here someday and a guy named Sammy Sosa will light up the place, and you’ll almost make the World Series in 2003, if not for an overzealous fan who shall not be named.” His eyes just about popped out of his head, and as his family walked him out he started telling him father everything I told him. “Don’t talk to weirdos,” I heard his dad say.

By the time Tug McGraw put us away 1-2-3 in the 9th, I started to get anxious. Not because we’d dropped our 40th game of the year and are now 1-11 against Philadelphia, but because I didn’t know where to go next. If only each game went 16 or so innings, so I would never have to leave my seat. I like sitting here in the late afternoon sun, lake gulls wheeling overhead and the sound of foot-popping soda cups echoing around the park.

And now I see a few security guards making their way through the empty stands. Please don’t make me leave…

Game One:
PHL 012 002 100 – 6 12 0
CHI 2000 000 000 – 2 7 1

W-Carlton L-Renko HR: Luzinski GWRBI-Luzinski

Game Two:
PHI 021 420 000 – 9 15 0
CHI 200 000 000 – 2 10 2

W-Brusstar L-Lamp HRS: Boone, Morales GWRBI-Bowa

Other Sunday action:

Game One:
at ASTROS 4-10-0, PIRATES 1-4-2
Another fabulous Joe Niekro game, nearly matched by Odell Jones until the ‘Stros plate four in the 5th.

W-Niekro L-Jones HR-Cabell GWRBI-Cabell

Game Two:
at ASTROS 7-13-0, PIRATES 4-11-1
Well if I ain’t a plucked chicken. Losers of eight out of nine to the Bucs when they arrive, Houston sweeps all three games and knocks Pittsburgh a game and a half out. Bannister and Forster are both awful, but the Astros win the long relief battle.

W-Bannister L-Forster SV-Forsch HR: Fregosi GWRBI-Herrmann

at CARDS 3-6-1, EXPOS 1-6-0
In other ownership news, St. Louis is now 10-1 vs. Montreal. The Cards make three in the 1st off Bahnsen stand up, and Ellis Valentine has a wretched game, 0-for-4 and grounding into two big double plays.

W-Rasmussen L-Bahnsen

at DODGERS 2-6-0, REDS 1-5-0
Seaver loses a bid for his ninth win by inches, thanks to solo shots by Garvey and Cey. Rau throws his best game in a month.

W-Rau L-Seaver HRS: Geronimo, Garvey, Cey GWRBI-Cey

Game One:
RED SOX 6-8-0, at ROYALS 3-8-0
Splittorff is outpitched by Rick Wise, of all people, and Boston puts it away with four in the 7th. Stanley, Spaceman and Bill Campbell are the tag team bullpen.

W-Wise L- Splittorff SV-Campbell HRS: Scott, McRae GWRBI-Hobson

Game Two:
at ROYALS 13-20-0, RED SOX 6-17-1
Sox murder Doug Bird for six runs in the first three innings (every hit on his card), but Paxton can’t hold a 6-3 lead and K.C. scores ten unanswered times. Gura and Mingori silence the Boston bats the last six innings and the series now stands at 6-6, with nothing but wonderful battles.
W-Gura L-Willoughby SV-Mingori HR: McRae GWRBI-Poquette

Game One:
YANKEES 8-12-1, at TWINS 4-11-3
New York does to Thormodsgard what they couldn’t even dream about doing at Yankee Stadium, namely, bash his brains in. Three more errors by the Twin infield doesn’t help the situation.

W-Hunter L-Thormodsgard SV-Clay HRS: Alston, Piniella, Stanley, Bostock GWRBI-Alston

Game Two:
YANKEES 13-16-1, at TWINS 2-7-1
Uh-oh. Somebody’s pissed. Tidrow with the CG, three more Yankee taters, and Friendly Fred’s favorites are six games over .500 for the first time. Carew has hit in five straight and no one cares. Highlight is when Gary Serum plunks Bucky Dent after a Nettles homer and the benches are warned.

W-Tidrow L-D. Johnson HRS: White, Piniella, Nettles, Hisle GWRBI-Munson

Game One:
ORIOLES 5-8-0, at WHITE SOX 2-10-2
Singleton goes bonkers with a homer and game-winning double to break an 8th inning tie to avenge their drubbing yesterday.

W-Grimsley L-Barrios SV-D. Martinez HR: Singleton GWRBI-Singleton

Game Two:
at WHITE SOX 7-13-1, ORIOLES 6-11-1 (12 innings)
An out and out thriller gives Chicago the series win. Chisox are up 5-1 when Frost gives up lead. Lamar Johnson triples ties it 6-6 in the 5th and nobody scores the next six innings, three Chicago pitchers holding the Birds hitless. In the 12th, Soderholm leads with a walk off Dennis Martinez, first game hero Singleton drops a Garr fly for a 2-base error, and two outs later, Orta rips a winning single to right.

W-LaGrow L-D. Martinez GWRBI-Orta

Game One:
at RANGERS 9-15-1, INDIANS 1-5-0
Dennis “Suffering Bastard” Eckersley gets to rebound from his shoulda-been no-hitter by facing Bert Blyleven in 100-degree heart. How’d it turn out for you, Dennis?

W-Blyleven L-Eck HRS: Bell, Washington-2 (one a grand slam), Hargrove, GWRBI-Washington

Game Two:
at RANGERS 12-12-0, INDIANS 7-10-0
Yeah, maybe that one-game Tribe win streak was a big old mirage. Since May 25 they are 4-17.

W-Devine L-Fitzmorris HRS: Fosse, Beniquez, Henderson GWRBI-Harrah

American League through Sunday, June 15

Boston 36 24 .600
Kansas City 36 25 .590 0.5
New York 33 27 .550 3
Baltimore 32 28 .533 4
Texas 32 30 .516 5
Minnesota 27 34 .443 9.5
Chicago 25 34 .424 10.5
Cleveland 21 40 .344 15.5

National League through Sunday, June 15

St. Louis 36 25 .590
Pittsburgh 36 28 .563 1.5
Philadelphia 34 27 .557 2
Los Angeles 33 28 .541 3
Cincinnati 32 30 .516 4.5
Houston 29 33 .468 7.5
Montreal 24 34 .414 11
Chicago 21 40 .344 15.5


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3 responses to “Can’t Beat Suffering at the Old Ballpark

  1. Okay, now I’m starting to get a little angry with my Cubs. Seriously considering having a closed door meeting with the boys, see if we can work some stuff out. But first….dinner at the Sizzler! mmmm.

  2. Happy 201st birthday, America!

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