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2005-04-20 - 11:17 a.m.

Some Odds & Ends

-On the bus the other day, I was reading my book and suddenly heard this massive CRASH -- like someone had broken a window. I looked around and turns out? It was a mostly empty 40 hitting a metal bar. Of Colt 45. Lovely. It was still rolling around up near the front when a little old lady picked it up and set it in the farecard disposal receptacle by the bus driver. It looked like the driver was getting good use of the World's Biggest Cup Holder, and the mental picture has since given me a few laughs.

-Some days I wish I could carry a sign around that says, "Emotionally fragile. Please interact gently with me."

-Ahh, the trials and tribulations of homebrewing. We usually bottle our beer, and are in the process of getting a few Corny kegs because the Wisconsin cottage has a bar with a kegerator. (yes, the in-laws are very cool...). We tried to use mini-kegs (I think some liquor stores have Heineken ones) that are 5 liters/about 1 1/3 gallons. They are the most difficult things EVER. The bottling sugar has to be precisely calculated and it has to be FAR less than one would use while bottling. The last time we had an incident, the bottom had dented out.

So I mopped yesterday (the kitchen floor was beyond disgusting) and noticed a mini-keg with a dented out bottom. I set it on the table and mentioned it to my husband who said, "Uh oh. We'll have to have some people over and open it in the backyard." I mopped the floor (it was BEAUTIFUL! I wanted to eat off of it), forgot about the mini-keg on the table, and we headed off to our hombrewing club meeting. We had fun, drank plenty of beer, wine, and mead, were both a little tipsy when we walked back in and saw a small pond of brown liquid on our kitchen floor. That's right, the rubber stopper had finally given out. And another beer geyser had erupted, leaving a round circle of altbier on our ceiling and the aforementioned small pond on the floor. My first thought was, "My poor dog! It must have been so scary when that exploded!" My second thought was, "I JUST FREAKING MOPPED." The dog was fine. My floor is still covered with sticky drying beer as I COULD NOT deal with it at 11:45pm on a work night.

-A Lesson In Sidewalk Etiquette:
We all generally know that walking is like driving. Slower or stopped people should be on the far right. Faster people walk more toward the middle, and people going in the other direction follow the same rules. I was walking a little towards the center, but no one was walking in the other direction. It was also one of those sidewalk sections that has probably a good 20 feet of space between the street and the building -- it's practically a plaza! I had the heavy briefcase with the heavy laptop on my left shoulder, so I was listing a little to the left (YARRR! Listing to port said she... -- What, no one gets my pirate jokes? Back to the story...), but I wasn't in the way. Especially on such a large sidewalk. And a tall man in a business suite behind me said (very stridently), "EXCUSE ME," and walked past VERY close on my left side. I think he might have missed the Sidewalk Etiquette lesson in which people walk AROUND when there is plenty of room. It didn't translate into writing well, I guess, but it bothered me.

All, this is a LONG entry. Those of your who are not at all interested in baseball might want to just stop reading. Or continue reading and let your mind wander. The next part may, however, shed some light on your favorite (or least favorite) Chicago baseball fan.

Baseball for Casual Fans: Installment #3

A Brief History of Chicago Baseball*:

The National League was founded in 1876, with the Chicago White Stockings as a charter member. This franchise evolved into the Chicago Cubs after a few different name changes (even though their original name would lead one to believe they became the White Sox, the American League was founded years later). The (eventual) Cubs were the sport's first dynasty, winning 6 of the first 11 championships.

The 1900s brought the White Sox to Chicago, as well as another dominant period in Cubs history. The all time record for wins in a season is still held by the 1906 Cubs, who went on to lose the World Series to the White Sox in the only Chicago vs. Chicago championship. The Cubs won the next two championships (which, incidentally, was the first time in baseball history that any team won back-to-back World Series) behind the pitching of Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown and with the double play combination (immortalized in poetry) of Tinker to Evers to Chance. The last time the Cubs won a championship was the 1908 World Series.

The White Sox last won a world series in 1917. This was followed by the darkest period in Chicago baseball history -- the Black Sox scandal of 1919. Eight players were accused of throwing the World Series for money from gambling big shots. (Watch the movie "Eight Men Out" for a fascinating look at this scandal -- plus, John Cusak!) A lot of people wonder if this incident is the curse that all losing teams seem to attract. Whether or not you believe in these curses, the Red Sox were saddled with the Curse of the Bambino, the Cubs have the goat, and the White Sox are often said to be the losing team without a curse. I'm not so sure that people aren't overlooking this scandal when they're hunting for curses to affix to teams that haven't won in a long time.

The 20s and 30s saw baseball as usual in Chicago. Lots of great players (Hack Wilson comes to mind), Babe Ruth's famous called shot at Wrigley in 1932, the first All-Star Game in 1933, Bill Veeck planted the ivy at Wrigley in 1937. (If you're interested in the history of baseball at all, read his book)

The last time the Cubs were in the World Series was 1945 versus the Detroit Tigers. They lost, and the mythical Curse of the Billy Goat was born. Sam Sianis, owner of the Billy Goat Tavern, supposedly tried to bring his goat into a World Series game (apparently he brought it EVERYWHERE with him -- don't ask me why...), was turned away, and somehow cursed the Cubs. Whatever. Screw curses.

The Cubs weren't good in the 50s. Ernie Banks (Mr. Cub) joined the club -- that's about it. In 1958, Bill Veeck gained control of the White Sox after a long court battle with the heirs to the team. He started doing things like fireworks after home runs and promotional giveaways that hadn't been done much in Chicago.

In 1969, the Cubs suffered one of the most heartbreaking collapses in team history. The team was far out in first place near the end of the summer -- they were considered a lock to win the pennant. Ron Santo (best third baseman ever, by the way) was in the on deck circle, and a black cat came out of nowhere and walked around him. The Cubs (which also included Billy Williams and Ernie Banks) went on a massive losing streak and the Mets couldn't lose at all. The "Miracle Mets" won the division and went on to win the World Series.

Ron Santo was traded to the White Sox for the last season of his career in 1974 (his career was cut short by his diabetes). The '77 Southside Hitmen are still one of the most popular teams in Chicago -- despite the fact that the White Sox finished in third place that season and therefore didn't make the playoffs. And in 1979, Disco Demolition Night caused a huge riot at Comiskey Park.

Minnie Minoso played for the White Sox from 1949 until 1980. He was 57 when he retired and is Mr. White Sox. Seriously -- did you read that? Fifty-freaking-seven. Wow. The Cubs got to the playoffs in 1984 and were ahead 2 games to none in a best of 5 series. All they had to do was win one game. One. Did they? No. Don't discuss it with Cubs fans. They might cry.

We all know what happened in 2003. Most of us (the less-beer-soaked, lucid ones) realize that poor Steve Bartman had absolutely nothing to do with it, Moises Alou would NEVER have made that catch even if he had a clear shot (he's just not that good of an outfielder), and Alex Gonzalez muffed the easy double-play ball that would have gotten them out of that inning. But, that many bad things happening at once was very umm... historical. Cubs fans have an optimism that you wouldn't expect considering the emotional rollercoaster the team has been over the years.

*This subject is massive. I'm skipping over a lot of fascinating information that you may want to look into if you find it interesting. Email me if you would like book recommendations beyond those I mention here. And yes, there's a Cubs slant to this information. I apologize for the bias, but at least I never claimed to be impartial!

Rules for Being a Chicago Baseball Fan:

-White Sox fans assume that as a Cubs fan you only want to get drunk and don't care about the game. Please don't do this. If you're going to get drunk at the game (and if you can afford to, donate some money to me! I could make a 5 gallon batch of homebrew for the amount of warm, nasty, Lite beer it would take to get me drunk at a game!), don't stop paying attention. Maybe you could keep score (more on that in a later installment) or at least know what the score IS for crying out loud. And if you're in the middle of the row, don't drink so much that you have to get up to pee every inning. Because I will most likely have the aisle seat and I will start thinking about things I can do to trip you without getting caught.

-Know some things about the other team. It doesn't have to be much --it could be that the White Sox are in the AL Central and which teams are their rivals (mainly the Twins, but it's been kinda up in the air lately) or that Kerry Wood struck out 20 batters for the Cubs in 1998. But it'll settle down the discourse if people think that you care about baseball and not exclusively a specific team. Or drinking at Wrigley.

-U.S. Cellular Field (where the White Sox play) is just too damn long of a name. And it's silly. Most people still call it Comiskey (and do NOT pronounce it "ComiNskey" because you'll sound like you can't read), but some nicknames are catching on. The Cell and The Joan (because Joan Cusack does the commercials for U.S. Cellular) are the two I've heard the most. And please don't listen to people who talk about how "the area around Comiskey is really dangerous!" because I will find you, kidnap you, and bring you to Bridgeport so you can see just how NOT dangerous it is. You should be more worried in Lakeview. The difference is that on the South Side, neighborhoods change from good to bad in a much shorter distance. So don't go wandering for blocks unless you have some idea of where the nice areas are (ask me if you're curious!).

-Don't be wussy about your baseball team. Nothing pisses off native Chicagoans like someone who says, "I just want a Chicago baseball team to win. I don't care who." NO. We save that kind of brotherly love for football, hockey, and basketball season. You love one baseball team, you hate the other. You can still be friendly, but pick one and stick with it. The Sox have a lot to offer (I live 6 blocks from their park!), but my team is the Cubs. That means that if I go to a Sox game, I'm there to root for the other team. But Sox games are cheaper, less crowded, and have better food at the consessions.**

-If you're a Cubs fan, you hate the St. Louis Cardinals, the White Sox, and the New York Mets. But mainly the Cardinals.

**The jury is still out on this one -- the company running the consessions at Comiskey just got the contract at Wrigley. Maybe the consessions will improve there (not that they were ever BAD, but by comparison they weren't great). But if you want some AMAZING food? Get the ribs at Comiskey. Now I'm hungry. Dammit.

Next up in the series: "Understanding the Infield Fly Rule," or, "Wait - Who's Out? Why?"

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