Tag: Ernie Banks

Ernie Banks’ Spirit Welcomes World Series Visitors Just Blocks from Wrigley

CHICAGO — All around this city, there is noise. Beautiful and joyful, chaotic and urgent.

It is loud. It is majestic and inspiring; the din stretching all the way from Wrigleyville to Michigan Avenue and back, snaking through the neighborhoods, awakening babies, washing over grandmothers, rolling down the city streets and up the sidewalks, closing the bars and then opening them all over again. From the roar of the crowds to the last strains of “Go, Cubs, Go,” silence is yesterday’s companion and tomorrow’s friend. Today, it is but a stranger.

But not here. From inside the brick walls surrounding these 119 acres that comprise this beautiful and historic cemetery, with a World Series on deck for the first time since 1945, this must be the most peaceful place in all of Chicago.

Founded in 1860, Graceland Cemetery is a mere Kris Bryant pop fly away from Wrigley Field. Half-a-mile, to be precise.

How appropriate that Ernie Banks, Mr. Cub, rests for all eternity so close to his beloved cathedral.

How touching that, because of this location, the Chicago Cubs, in all their 2016 splendor, roll on by each road trip—their bus rumbling up North Clark Street to West Irving Park Road, hugging a corner of this cemetery, where it turns and heads for the highway and another charter flight.

“There’s no distinguishing between Ernie and the Cubs,” Cubs owner Tom Ricketts says. “He was a special guy.”

That pilgrims—festooned in Cubs gear from head to toe—persist in flocking here with reverence nearly two years after his death, continues to reaffirm the bond.

“We were planning to go for a walk, and I brought it up last week that I wanted to come here and give Ernie a hello,” says Nick Boyd, 33, who, with his wife Katie, lives just on the other side of one of the cemetery walls. “If they win tonight, I may have to come back tomorrow, too.”

It is the Saturday afternoon before Game 1 of the National League Championship Series. The Cubs will face the Los Angeles Dodgers and, as usual, all is peaceful on these cemetery grounds. Katie, 34, is pregnant and due within the week. The Boyds were at Wrigley Field for Game 2 of the division series against the San Francisco Giants, which was their baby’s first Cubs game—a celebration that just happened to occur on the date of their five-year anniversary.

“I’m a little slower this summer,” says Katie, whose pregnancy limited her to five games (Nick made it to 18). “But I pay more attention and I drink less beer this way.”

The Boyds didn’t know what to anticipate when they visited Ernie, but they’ve felt his call for much of the summer. With the calendar reading October and the stakes increasing in importance, they figured they’d better scoot on over.

“I was expecting to see a hat or a ball at the grave,” Nick says. “I thought there might be something that stood out a little more. But it’s very simple.”

Indeed, the headstone is modest, and the surroundings are bare. It is by design, says Jensen Allen, a Graceland Cemetery administrator. Visitors have left Cubs caps at the grave in the past. And baseballs. And a mitt. And once, a toy bat.

“But our groundskeeper had to clean it off because we have to keep it maintained,” Allen says. “Something could get caught in a mower.”

It is standard operating procedure at cemeteries throughout the land, Allen says. People leave pennies and rocks and balloons and stuffed animals, but they don’t last long because they can cause damage or, perhaps, look junky. So here, the groundskeeper scoops them up and respectfully stores items in the garage in case a person who left something phones to ask for it back.

The headstone is temporary for reasons that are entirely disconcerting. When Banks died at 83 in January 2015, his estate had little money. According to one estimate, per the Daily Mail’s Mia De Graaf, it was only $16,000 in assets. And it turned messy. Per his will, Banks left his entire estate to his caretaker, Regina Rice.

His estranged fourth wife, Elizabeth Banks, sued, alleging that he had been diagnosed with moderate to severe dementia just days before Rice arranged for him to sign his last will, which is why his family, including his three children, was cut out of the estate (per Jason Meisner of the Chicago Tribune).

To stand here quietly at Banks’ grave, with Lake Willowmere serenely glistening just beyond in the afternoon sun, is to be a million miles removed from the ugliness. Here, those who visit are either unaware or simply do not care. They have come to see the Ernie who continues to live in their hearts: the warm man with the perpetual smile and the boyish enthusiasm who made the phrase “Let’s play two!” his signature line.

“I watched this guy play when my grandfather took me to my first Cubs game in the 1960s,” says Lori Loquercio, 50, of Chicago, who estimates she’s attended more than 100 games at Wrigley Field. “Seriously, [my grandfather] knew everybody in the bleachers. He bought me whatever I wanted while he drank beer with all of his friends.

“He took me out of school that day. I was in kindergarten. We walked down Clark Street after the game and stopped in all the bars.”

It was a different time. Loquercio‘s family became close in the 1980s with Manny Trillo, a Cubs infielder from 1975-78, and again from 1986-88, and four-time All-Star. She was in attendance at what was to be the first night game in the history of Wrigley Field (“8-8-88,” she says, proudly ticking off the numbers as if the owner of a winning lottery ticket). Then the rain came in the fourth inning and washed it out until the next night.

“Mr. Cub,” Loquercio says emphatically. “Besides being one of the best African-American players of his time, it was going to watch him go for his 500th home run. Glenn Beckert, Don Kessinger…the games were at 3:30, and I’d run home from school every day to watch the Cubs game.”

She reaches over and gives the headstone a good rub. She will be bowling in her league when tonight’s game begins in another six hours or so (“We’ll be hooting and hollering at the TVs!”), but her heart will be at Wrigley Field.

“Bring ’em luck tonight, Ernie,” Loquercio says reverently as she runs her fingers across the words “Ernie Banks” and the years “1931-2015” and the number “14.”

A permanent monument is on order to replace the temporary headstone and, according to Allen, the cemetery administrator, it is expected to be installed sometime within the next year. Because of the family squabble, she and the Cubs will offer very little information for public consumption. Both the burial here and exact location of the grave, in fact, were kept secret until earlier this year.

The Cubs quietly paid not only for the entire funeral, but also for the burial plot, the temporary headstone and the permanent monument, according to B/R sources. Officially, the donor of the monument is listed as “Anonymous.”

Creators of all the noise just a few blocks away, the Cubs themselves have been so focused and so consumed with their responsibilities that none have had the chance to stop by for a visit. At least not yet. Not as far as anybody around the team or the cemetery knows.

In fact, even though Banks spent so much of his life with and around the club until his health began to fail, most of these Cubs never got much of a chance to spend significant time with him. Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who attended Banks’ funeral, is one of the few who did. Addison Russell, Banks’ direct spiritual heir as the shortstop, didn’t even debut with the Cubs until after Banks had died.

“I heard he was a great, great fans’ person,” Russell says. “The fans, they loved him. The organization loved him. Just looking at him, he seemed like a very happy guy. Always smiling, always wanting to have a good time.”

Russell, just 22, already has played 293 regular-season games over two summers, smashing 34 homers and collecting 149 RBI.

At the same age, Banks had played only 10 major league games.

“Obviously, ‘Let’s play two’ is something that he stood by, something that he liked,” Russell says.

Oh, how Banks would have savored these October days. For all his accomplishments—Hall of Famer (inducted in 1977), 512 career home runs, Presidential Medal of Freedom (awarded in 2013), iconic hero to so many over the generations in Chicago—Banks also holds a spot of ignominy in the game: He played in more regular-season games, 2,528, than anybody in baseball history without ever setting foot in the postseason.

His Cubs came close a couple of times, in 1969 and again in 1970, but Banks never made it to the postseason. He was still active with the club on a few other near-miss World Series occasions in 1984, 1989, 2003 and 2008. Disappointment…all of it.

“He lived and breathed Cubbie blue,” says former Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster, now a special assistant to club president Theo Epstein, of Banks’ permanent residence just a few blocks from Wrigley. “I think it’s great.”

Here, in repose, Banks is surrounded by a dizzying cast of Chicago immortals. Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight boxing champion of the world, is buried at Graceland. George Pullman, renowned for luxury sleeping train cars. William Kimball, the piano and pipe organ manufacturer. Marshall Field, the retail store maven. William Hulbert, co-founder—along with Albert Spalding—of the National League and, in 1870, one of the early partners in the Chicago White Stockings, who later became, yes, the Chicago Cubs. Philip Armour, whose enormous meatpacking company in the 1800s led to Chicago being dubbed “Hog Butcher for the World.”

Across the acres at Graceland, squirrels frolic in the lush grass. Willow trees weep over the deceased’s remains.

Twice a day, tours led by the Chicago Architecture Foundation wind their way through the grounds. Notably, these tours do not formally stop at the gravesite of perhaps the most well-known resident.

“Because it’s so new,” Allen says. “We don’t order 10 or 20 maps at a time. We order thousands. Ernie will be on our next edition. We may wait to put the picture in until he gets an official stone.”

While it isn’t as if the grounds are overrun by Cubs fans, Allen says “a pretty steady” flow of them come through. Banks’ grave is nearly all the way in the back, in the northeast quadrant, by the cemetery’s West Montrose Avenue border. It’s a pretty good hike from the entrance, so that discourages a few visitors—at least some who arrive on foot and not by vehicle.

The cemetery is so close to Wrigley Field that it has hosted its share of Cubs fans over the years, even before Ernie, and sometimes unwillingly. Tour buses line up on West Irving Park Road, depositing fans for an afternoon at the ballpark or pub-crawling in Wrigleyville.

“They can get a little rowdy,” Allen says. “Even before Ernie was here, they’d line up for the tour buses, and some Cubs fans would come past them and try to scale the [cemetery] fence.”

Most Cubs fans, though, are perfectly well-behaved. And on this Saturday afternoon, those with whom I visit are passing through simply to pay their respects and honor a piece of their family’s heritage and their city’s history.

“He epitomizes the history of the Cubs,” Nick Boyd says. “He was a fantastic player for 18, 19 years. Never quit. Always positive and hopeful. The guy never gave up that spirit of There’s always next year, right?

Right. Except this year, a riotous journey has carried the Cubs and their fans to a storied destination that they have not visited since one month after the end of World War II. The World Series opens in Cleveland on Tuesday and arrives here in Chicago on Friday for Game 3, and if there were any doubt that spirits will be stirring, well, look at Loquercio rubbing that headstone or stop for a chat with Nick and Katie Boyd.

Forget next year. For the first time since 1908, next year might really be this year. And so the cacophony of sound thunders through this city, louder than all the L trains and O’Hare Airport jets combined.

David Phelps, 24, guides his girlfriend Emily along a cemetery sidewalk. They’re in from Brooklyn for the weekend. Emily is interviewing for medical school.

“I’ve been getting a Chicago history lesson these last couple of days,” Emily says of her Kentucky-born boyfriend, who fell for the Cubs in the 1998 days of Sammy Sosa, as they walk toward the back of the cemetery and Ernie.

It is living history, breathing history, history that is being re-written by a new band of Cubs who every home game walk right past the very old words—”Let’s Play Two”—that are painted on the wall in the tunnel leading from their clubhouse to the field.

Included in that history is Billy Williams, Hall of Famer, teammate and friend of Banks’, who emotionally invoked his name while standing on the Wrigley Field grass on Saturday night as the celebration roared on around him. And so many others.

“Maybe in the offseason I’ll get a chance to go there,” Dempster says.

No doubt, Ernie would cherish the company. He may be departed, but to those who make the sacred journey here, he remains a source of inspiration and comfort, his spirit alive and well.

Meanwhile, Nick and Katie Boyd now are the proud parents of a healthy baby girl, Lyla Belle, born Thursday morning. On Sunday afternoon, they took Lyla for her first walk, right through Graceland Cemetery, with a stop to say another hello to Ernie.

Says Nick enthusiastically: “She’s 2-0 as a Cubs fan.”


Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Farewell to ‘Mr. Cub’ Ernie Banks, an Elegant Ambassador and All-Time Great

To spend time with Ernie Banks was to gain entrance into an endless summer.

He was employed by the Chicago Cubs, but he belonged to all of us. Nobody, anywhere, could possibly represent either his profession or his calling with any more joy and grace than Banks did during 83 marvelous Hall of Fame years on this baseball diamond of an earth.

The Cubs announced Banks died Friday night but didn’t include a cause.

His smile was effervescent, his soul was the warmth of a June afternoon, and his cackle was the sound of the rare man who has life figured out and isn‘t quite sure why the rest of us could be troubled, even for a second.

And now on a sad day in January, it turns out that Wrigley Field isn‘t truly timeless. It only seems that way.

What a dirty trick.

Where does that time go? Where do the days disappear?

One moment, a young Banks is smiling warmly from a black-and-white photo, in the prime of his career, wrapped inside a Cubs warmup jacket and standing in front of that oh-so-gorgeous Wrigley Field ivy.

Then there he is, in the familiar pinstriped No. 14 jersey, retired and now upstairs in the broadcast booth for a stretch, leading the Wrigley crowd in “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

Then there he is, an old man in a suit wearing a snazzy red-striped tie and wire glasses, looking frail as President Obama hangs the Presidential Medal of Freedom around his neck.

He was one of the greatest players ever, the first black Cub (1953), a shortstop with uncommon power, a two-time National League Most Valuable Player (1958-1959), a Hall of Famer (1977), a smasher of 512 career home runs and a provider of beautifully memorable Chicago afternoons at the ballpark for, conservatively, more than several million customers over the decades.

But numbers alone explained Ernie Banks about as fully as a seating chart gives life to his beloved Wrigley Field.

He was not about the numbers.

He was about the humanity, and the joy.

“Words cannot express how important Ernie Banks will always be to the Chicago Cubs, the city of Chicago. He was one of the greatest players of all time,” Tom Ricketts, chairman of the Cubs, said in a statement Friday night. “He was a pioneer in the major leagues. And more importantly, he was the warmest and most sincere person I’ve ever known.

“Approachable, ever optimistic and kind-hearted, Ernie Banks is and always will be Mr. Cub.”

Banks came from the black-and-white era of Ladies’ Day, flannel uniforms and civility. But he was for every era, forever. Perhaps his greatest feat was his relentless optimism into the teeth of 2,528 career games without ever playing in the postseason, most of any major leaguer, ever.

Banks’ famous and timeless response?

“Let’s play two!”

Undoubtedly, wise guys throughout the land figured he only wanted to play two because the Cubs would lose the first one, and thus gain a second chance.

Undoubtedly, Banks would have a smile for those guys, too.

Each spring, he famously predicted a Cubs’ pennant. Yet now, even after Banks’ passing, wait til next year continues on the North Side of Chicago, where the Cubs haven’t won a pennant since 1945, and where they haven’t won a World Series since 1908.

With tremendous dignity and joy, Banks nonetheless soldiered on, as a player from 1953-1971, and as a goodwill ambassador in the years since.

Spend time with Banks, as several generations of Cubs and baseball fans were blessed to have done, and he wrapped you in his smile and, man, good luck finding something to complain about from there.

Even grumpy manager Leo Durocher, his skipper from 1966 until he retired in ’71, couldn‘t cloud his relentless sunshine. In Sports Illustrated‘s “Where Are They Now?” issue last summer, Banks talked about Leo the Lip.

“I went to my mother with that one,” Banks said. “She said, ‘Ernie, kill ’em with kindness.’ And that’s what I did.”

It’s what he did with Durocher, and at all points beyond over many, many years.

Every now and again in life, you come across someone whom you know is special from the moment you shake his or her hand. Could be baseball. Could be politics. Could be insurance, in school or at church. Whatever, and wherever, you know. You want to spend time around that person. Your day is always brightened when you do.

This was Ernie Banks, who came to Chicago by way of Dallas and rounded every single base, and more, in an incredibly rich life.

On that day Obama hung the Medal of Freedom around his neck in 2013, the president and fellow Chicagoan praised Banks‘ “cheer and his optimism and his eternal faith that someday the Cubs would go all the way.”

“And that’s serious belief,” the president quipped, to a roomful of laughter. “That is something that even a White Sox fan like me can respect.”

It is something every baseball fan of every color, logo and persuasion can respect, from here to eternity. Light a candle in Wrigley Field tonight. We’ll play two tomorrow. Today, we’re mourning a legend.

But please, smile when you think of him. Because you know Mr. Cub would not want it any other way.


Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. He has over two decades of experience covering MLB, including 14 years as a national baseball columnist at CBSSports.com.

Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball @ScottMillerBbl.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

A Cubs Fan’s Tribute to the Legendary Ernie Banks

To some people, being a dedicated fan of the Chicago Cubs can seem like a struggle at times. Years—even generations—have come and gone without experiencing the long-coveted celebration of a Cubs World Series championship.

For Ernie Banks, there was never a bad moment in being a Cubs fan. It was always wonderful. He realized to the fullest that being a Cubs fan was a privilege and a joy every single day. Sure, there were difficult times, but all of those struggles would make that inevitable World Series championship that much sweeter.

Most Cubs fans have been waiting ’til next year. Ernie always believed this was the year.

Born to Eddie and Essie Banks on January 31, 1931, Banks grew up in Dallas as the second-oldest of 12 children. It was clear even from his youth that he was a talented athlete, as he was a three-letter athlete in high school—although none of those sports included baseball.

It wasn’t until he was discovered in a church softball league that Banks’ baseball career would finally begin. However, it didn’t take long for it to really take off.

Just three years after Jackie Robinson left the Negro Leagues and took off the Kansas City Monarchs uniform to break the color barrier in baseball, Ernie began playing with the Monarchs before signing with the Chicago Cubs and breaking the color barrier on the North Side of Chicago.

Twenty years later, he broke another barrier by becoming the first black man to manage a major league game.

Ernie was an inspiration to millions of fans regardless of their race, beliefs or even who they cheered for. Perhaps no other ballplayer played the game with such appreciation and respect. Even more importantly, he showed just as much appreciation and respect to every single person he encountered.

Despite the 512 home runs, the Gold Glove and the MVP Awards, Ernie Banks saw himself as just a normal human being until the day he passed. He never gloated about his accomplishments on the field, nor did he boast about his off-the-field accomplishments.

In 2013, Ernie was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor bestowed upon an American citizen. After finding out that he would be receiving the honor, he gave us perhaps the best advice that anyone can give: “Do something with your life.”

Boy, did Ernie do something with his life, and it wasn’t just playing baseball. He served in the U.S. Army, played for the Harlem Globetrotters and broke color barriers. In a world and game where true heroes can seem hard to come by, Ernie never failed to be a good example of how to live one’s life. 

Go ahead and Google “Ernie Banks.” Take a look at the images of him. Notice anything? 

He’s smiling in just about every picture—even in action shots during a game.

It’s a shame that Ernie never got to see his beloved Cubs win the World Series, but he’ll still be with all of us Cubs fans when they finally do win it all. He will certainly never be forgotten in the world of baseball and the world as a whole.

Many of us Cubs fans reading this never got to see Ernie play, but we all know his highlights and career. We’ve all heard the legendary Jack Brickhouse yelling from excitement as Ernie rounded the bases for the 500th time in his career. Most of us have walked by and admired the statue of Ernie with a bat in his hands and a smile on his face in front of Wrigley Field, a fitting tribute to Mr. Cub.

That alone is a perfect example of just how great a person is; even 45 years after his career ended, Ernie Banks was still in our daily lives. Every time we would walk into Wrigley Field or turn a Cubs game on WGN, we were reminded of just how much Ernie contributed to the team, game and our lives.

Take Ernie’s advice: Do something with your life. And while you do it, make sure there is a smile on your face and a Cubs hat on your head. Take joy in being a Cubs fan and being on this earth.

No one had more joy in being alive than Ernie Banks. Though he may be gone, his No. 14 will forever fly at Wrigley Field, and his accomplishments and examples will never be forgotten. The world lost the greatest Cub on January 23 and an even greater person.

Thank you for teaching all of us how to live, play and smile every day, Ernie. Now put on those blue pinstripes; it’s time to play two.

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Cubs Legend Ernie Banks Dies at Age 83

Legendary Chicago Cubs player and Baseball Hall of Famer Ernie Banks has died at the age of 83. 

According to Fred Mitchell of the Chicago Tribune, Banks’ wife Liz confirmed the news of her husband’s passing.

“Ernie Banks, one of baseball’s most ebullient and optimistic ambassadors, died Friday, his wife, Liz, confirmed,” Mitchell wrote.

NBC Nightly News tweeted out this statement from Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts about Banks’ legacy:

MLB released a graphic of Ron Santo and Harry Caray greeting Banks in heaven:

Few players in professional sports are as synonymous with one franchise as Banks is with the Cubs. His nickname is “Mr. Cub” after spending all 19 of his MLB seasons with the Chicago franchise. He held the franchise record for home runs when he retired (512), though the mark was broken by Sammy Sosa in 2004. 

Banks, who posted a career .274/.330/.500 slash line, was named National League MVP in 1958 and 1959, while finishing in the top 10 on three other occasions. He also made 11 All-Star teams but holds the distinction of having the most games played without a playoff appearance. 

After retiring, Banks was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977 and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2013. The video embedded below includes Banks talking about receiving the honor, via the White House:

President Obama, who famously roots for the Chicago White Sox, said this about Banks upon bestowing him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, via Carrie Muskat of MLB.com:

That’s Mr. Cub — the man who came up through the Negro Leagues, making $7 a day, and became the first black player to suit up for the Cubs and one of the greatest hitters of all time. In the process, Ernie became known as much for his 512 home runs as for his cheer and his optimism, and his eternal faith that someday the Cubs would go all the way.

Obama released the following statement on Saturday regarding Banks’ passing, according to SportsCenter’s Twitter feed:

The list of accomplishments from Banks’ career are too vast to list here. He was without a doubt one of the best players in baseball history, on the short list of best and most important players in Cubs history. The man who came up with “Let’s play two!” left an indelible impression on anyone who watched him play. 

Even in his post-playing days, Banks remained a fixture at Wrigley Field during the season. The Cubs have lost an icon, and the world has lost a great man. 

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Chicago Cubs: The Chicago Cubs’ All-Time Team

When composing this lineup, there were some selections that caused some second-guessing and hesitation before the final decisions were made—not just whom to include, but where to place them in the field for those who played multiple positions.

There was some internal debate on where to play Ernie Banks on the Chicago Cubs’ All-Time Team.  He played parts of nine seasons at shortstop and 11 at first base, with some time at third base and in the outfield sprinkled in.

The team is ordered as the positions are numbered on the field, except for the outfield positions, with a single starting pitcher to round out the squad.

You may agree or disagree with some, all or none of the selected players, but please enjoy the slideshow and engage in civil debate.

Now, without further ado…

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Chicago Cubs Ticket Prices Are out of Whack for the Quality of the Team

Anyone want to see the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox battle this weekend at Wrigley Field? If you want to sit in the Budweiser Bleachers, this “marquee” game will set you back $280 for a pair.

Does anyone think a matchup between the Cubs, with a 20-40 record and last place in the NL Central, and the last place Red Sox in the East at 29-32 is a premium game that should be priced that way?

It’s all part of the pricing structure for the Cubs. There are bronze, silver, gold, and platinum games in addition to the top of the line marquee level.

According to the Cubs online website, the pricing in the Budweiser Bleachers are set through dynamic pricing. It says the Cubs adjust ticket prices on changing market factors such as team performance.

Stop right there!

Is there anything about the Cubs performance so far this year that should require you to go to a Payday loan store to be able to sit in the bleachers?

I remember going to the game as a kid when it cost a dollar to sit there. The view is still the same. So is the distance. They’re not any closer to the field.

And look at what you’re watching—a team on pace for the worst record in franchise history. That’s the Cubs who haven’t won since 1908, so you know how bad this team is.

At least when I spent my buck, I was watching players like Ernie Banks and Ron Santo.

How can they justify the prices they are charging to watch this team?

According to Time Moneyland on the web, the Cubs have the second highest average ticket price in baseball at $108.70.

Is it right to gouge the fans for premium prices when the product on the field is anything but premium?

The organization is moving in the right direction, and for that I applaud them.

But that doesn’t change the fact they haven’t won for 104 years? It also doesn’t alter the likelihood of them winning anytime soon.

Given that, it’s time they pay their fans back for the loyalty the organization has received for so many years when it wasn’t warranted.

If they’re really going to base pricing on performance, shouldn’t Cubs tickets be among the lowest in baseball?



Is any Cubs game a marquee game with what is performing on the field?

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New York Mets: Pitchers Who Have Come Closest to the Team’s First No-Hitter

The Mets reached a dubious milestone on Friday night against the Miami Marlins. A first-inning triple by Jose Reyes thwarted the possibility of a no-hitter for the 8,000th time in Mets history.

The no no-no’s streak is surprising not just for its 50-year span. The Mets have had any number of pitchers capable of blanking an opponent for nine innings.

In fact, seven pitchers have thrown no-hitters after leaving the Mets, according to NoNoHitters.com, a website that keeps a running update of the Mets’ futility. Another 10 came to the Mets with no-hitters under their belts.

Nolan Ryan, of course, posted seven no-hitters in his post-Mets career. Tom Seaver threw one for the Cincinnati Reds in 1978, the season following his departure from New York. Dwight Gooden and David Cone added further insult by pitching no-hitters for the Yankees.

Hideo Nomo and Mike Scott also chalked up no-hitters after leaving the Mets. The most recent Mets alum on the list is Philip Humber, who pitched the 21st perfect game in major league history for the Chicago White Sox last month.

The Mets have come close to breaking into the no-hit club. There have been 35 one-hitters in team history. In some of them, an early inning hit was followed by pitching perfection.

Many others were denied in the late innings. Here are six that were stopped in the eighth and ninth innings.

Begin Slideshow

A Baseball Trivia Question and an Homage to the Larry King Radio Show

Once upon a time, before CNN was born, Larry King hosted an all-night radio talk show. The show originated in Washington, D.C., and was syndicated across the USA. As far as over-night radio on the AM dial, Larry was the king of the airwaves.

The Larry King back then was not the kind and gentle, heart-healthy Larry King who we see on television today. The radio version of Larry was a curmudgeonly, sarcastic man who ate lots of pastrami and corned beef at Duke’s Deli (a D.C. legend) daily, while seemingly divorcing wives annually. 

Larry did not hesitate to blow off a caller who tried to get cute on the air. For that matter, he would diss callers whose agenda was too slow-paced for his liking. King was also known to take an occasional catnap on the air. This was not the show for lonely people with who loved kittens.

One early morn, I was searching for the light switch while my alarm radio was broadcasting the Larry King show. A caller announced that he had the greatest baseball trivia question of all time. Larry grunted and told the called to let it rip.

One area that Larry did not trifle was his appreciation of America’s pastime. Larry is a true-blue Dodger fan. 

I heard the question and not trusting my foggy head, I scrambled to find a pencil so I could record this when the rest of the world was up and about.

NOTE: This question to follow was posed in 1991. Three players have accomplished this feat since this question was broadcast. For the sake of this story, I will acknowledge the three newest members of this story on the next slide.  The trivia question is …

Nine baseball players have won consecutive MVP awards in Major League Baseball. Consequently, each of these ballplayers played a different defensive position. Name these players.

(Your hint is that each consecutive MVP’er played one of the nine infield/outfield positions in their award winning seasons.)


1)  Pitcher:  ____________________

2)  Catcher:  _____________________

3)  1st base:  _____________________

4)  2nd base:  ____________________

5)  3rd base:  ____________________

6)  Shortstop:  ______________________

7)  OF:  ____________________

8)  OF:  ____________________

9)  OF:  ____________________

Begin Slideshow

MLB All-Stars at Each Position by the Letter ‘B’

This is the second article in a twenty-some volume series selecting players at each position by the beginning letter of their last name. Some letters such as I, O, Q, U, Y and Z will probably not field a time. I haven’t researched them yet so I can’t say for sure. It is a fun list, a conversation starter and I hope I can get it finished. I was actually inspired to do this list from author Sue Grafton’s Mystery Alphabet Series.

I decided to us a modified 1961 Topps look for this particular letter. I hope you enjoy it.

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Albert Pujols Will Sign with the Chicago Cubs: The End of the World Is Near‏

As everyone knows Albert Pujols did not sign a contract extension with the Saint Louis Cardinals by the deadline that was put in place by Pujols.  As a result Pujols will become a free agent after the 2011 Major League Baseball season.  At the Winter Meetings, Pujols will sign the largest contract in the history of baseball, 10 years for $300 million, with the Chicago Cubs.  Immediately afterwards the world will start its decline into the apocalypse.
At his press conference Pujols will sacrifice a live billy goat on stage at Wrigley Field.  He will drink its blood and exclaim, “I have ended the Billy Goat Curse.  There is only room for one GOAT in Chicago, and it is I Albert Pujols who is the Greatest Of All Time!”  Michael Jordan will instantly take this as a slight to his Chicago GOAT status and attempt a baseball comeback with the Chicago White Sox.  He goes 0-23 in Spring Training and concedes that Pujols is indeed the GOAT in Chicago and ends his comeback bid.
On Opening Day Pujols hits three home runs, two of which land on Waveland Avenue.  The “W” flag is flown above Wrigley Field, and it remains there for the rest of the season.
At the All Star break the Cubs will have a perfect record, Pujols will be leading the Triple Crown race with a .666 batting average, 45 home runs, and 153 RBI.  The National League will lose the All Star game because manager Charlie Manuel removed Pujols so that Ryan Howard could get into the game at first base.  Unsettled by even an exhibition game loss Pujols decrees that all black cats in the state of Illinois be euthanized so that none of them can cross his path.  He said the late great Ron Santo would have wanted it that way.  The citizens of Illinois follow his edict since they are still scared of him after watching him butcher and devour an entire live billy goat on stage just a few months earlier.
Shortly after clinching the division (in early August), Pujols tracks down Steve Bartman from the witness protection agency location he is hiding out at on one of his off days.  He has a press conference to announce that he has forgiven Bartman and that if someone has an issue with Bartman, they have an issue with him.  Bartman is immediately given a key to the city and is a regular at Cubs games again.
The Cubs finish the season 162-0.  Pujols breaks every major single season hitting record in the history of baseball.  He then informs Ernie Banks that he will be now known as Mr. Cub, and that Banks needs to find a new nickname.  Banks dies less then a week later from a broken heart.  Pujols delivers the eulogy at Banks funeral and lets everyone know that Banks was the second greatest Cub of all time after himself.
The Cubs sweep the Marlins in the Division Series.  Afterwards Pujols tells everyone, “I took my talents to South Beach, and it will never be the same.”  The Miami Heat immediately trade LeBron James to open up a spot on the roster for their new starting small forward, Albert Pujols.
In the NLCS the Cubs sweep the Phillies despite Pujols being intentionally walked in every at bat of the series.  Charlie Manuel defended the move by saying he knew Pujols wanted revenge from the All Star game and feared he would hit a home run in every at bat.  Even more amazingly the Phillies lose every game despite Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee both throwing no-hitters in the first two games of the series.
The Cubs then go on to embarrass the Red Sox in the World Series.  Pujols not only wins the World Series MVP, but also becomes the first player to hit a ball through the Green Monster.
The Cubs had gone 104 straight years without winning the World Series.  Not a single Cubs fan was alive the last time they won it all.  The streak had reached such a depressing level that even Cleveland sports fans felt sorry for Cubs fans.  Little did we all know that the Cubs were not meant to win another World Series and that by doing so they triggered the end of the world. 
Natural disasters started to occur at an alarming rate.  Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and hurricanes became commonplace.  A quarter of the world’s population was wiped out by the time the Cubs held their victory parade.  Archaeologists soon discovered that the Mayan prediction that the world would end on 12/21/2012 had some validity after the words “Pujols” and “Cubs” were decoded on a newly discovered artifact.
On the fateful day of 12/21/2012 an asteroid the size of Alaska hit the earth.  Everything was destroyed with the exception of cockroaches, Twinkies, and Albert Pujols.  Cardinals fans would now get their wish.  Albert Pujols would have to go screw himself for the rest of eternity.
DISCLAIMER:  This article does not endorse the sacrificing of live billy goats, the euthanization of black cats, and I hope Mr. Cub Ernie Banks lives to be older then Methuselah.

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