October 2005

Anything you can do …

Chalk it up to a case of nerves, playing on the center stage nationally in the American League Championship Series opener. Maybe it?s a credit to starters Jose Contreras and Paul Byrd, who  threw strikes and attacked the opposing hitters.

Then again, maybe the White Sox and Angels? hitters had 10 p.m. Figgins200_1reservations at Gibson?s Steakhouse and didn?t want to lose their table. For whatever reason, neither team was very patient through the first six innings Tuesday.

Take the sixth inning, as an example. Contreras threw two pitches to Orlando Cabrera, and he grounded out to shortstop Juan Uribe. Vladimir Guerrero hit the next offering to Uribe for out No. 2, and Garret Anderson struck out swinging on three pitches.

But Contreras didn?t have much time in the dugout. Jermaine Dye popped up a bunt attempt to Byrd on the first pitch in the bottom of the sixth, Paul Konerko flew out deep to Steve Finley in center on pitch No. 3, and two pitches later, Carl Everett ended the frame with a long fly ball to center.

Patience is a virtue but was not a requirement on this night.
Scott Merkin/MLB.com

A Windy wager

Once again, the mayors of the two cities involved in a significant sporting event are at it, so we?re subjected to
the completely tired ?friendly wager,? which jumped the shark when
?
Battle of the
Network Stars? was a TV phenomenon and Andy Gibb was dating Victoria Principal.

Here?s the official press release
hype: ?If the Angels defeat the White Sox,
Chicago will be
sending delicacies that are enjoyed by people throughout the
Chicago area
and, in many cases, throughout the nation.?

These delicacies include:

  • Lou
    Malnati’s Pizza Loupizza
  • BJ’s Market and Bakery’s Fried Lake Michigan
    Perch
  • Kasia’s Polish Deli’s Pierogies
  • Comfort Cake’s Pound
    Cake
  • Ferrara Pan Candy Companies’ Lemonheads and Fireballs
  • Gibson’s
    Steakhouse USDA Prime Aged
    Midwest
    Steaks
  • La Preferida Mexican Specialties
  • Tuscany‘s
    Italian Beef and Sauces
  • Jay’s Potato Chips
  • Peking Duck from Lao Sze
    Chuan in
    Chicago‘s
    Chinatown.

And
if the Angels beat the White Sox, Anaheim mayor Curt Pringle will send Chicago
mayor Richard M. Daley ?items that reflect the true spirit of Anaheim and Orange
County,? such as:

  • A crate of Anaheim chile peppers
  • A crate of Sunkist
    California oranges Ocedit
  • Merchandise from Disneyland’s 50th Anniversary, including
    a pair of golden Mickey Mouse ears
  • An autographed script from Fox
    Broadcasting Co.’s hit show "The OC" 
  • A surfboard from Huntington Beach-based
    Jack’s Surfboards
  • A Halo Hybrid Utility Club from Cleveland Golf in
    Huntington Beach
  • $50 in gift certificates from Anaheim-based Pacific
    Sunwear
  • Surf apparel from Newport Beach-based Toes on the
    Nose
  • Sunglasses from San Juan Capistrano-based Hoven Sunglasses
  • Swimwear
    from Newport Beach-based Tyler Rose Swimwear
  • A gift basket from Orange
    County-based Diedrich’s Coffee
  • A case of boysenberry jam and a bucket of
    Mrs. Knott’s chicken from Knott’s Berry Farm

Since when did this get so
corporate and product-placement-happy? It used to be simple, like one food item
per city. Like, ?
Anaheim will get
20 deep-dish pizzas and a pat on the back and
Chicago will get
40 fish tacos and an ?Attaboy.?? Now, sadly, even the age-old ?friendly wager?
has sold its soul.

If these guys want to bet, how
about a real wager, male ego vs. male ego, with no corporate
ties?

If the Angels win, Daley has to
bungee jump off the
Sears Tower in a
kilt.

If the White Sox win, Pringle has
to get in a Mickey Mouse costume and sing a set of Ashlee Simpson songs at the
House of Blues.

THAT will determine a true
champion.
Doug Miller/MLB.com

Educated opinion

If you truly want to know the outcome of the American League Championship Series, forget about all the expert prognosticators on television, on the radio, on-line and in the newspapers. Listen to Chris, one of the valets in the garage where I park my car.

After the White Sox destroyed Boston in Game 1 of the Division Series, Chris informed me that the White Sox had this one ?in the bag? and that a sweep was a pretty good likelihood. One week later, as I went to retrieve my car before today?s game, he reminded me again of the prediction.Merk_plate_1

?I told you they would do it, Merk,? he said to me. I?m not really sure if Chris knows my first name. He knows me only by the MERK on my license plate and that I cover the White Sox for a living.

?Now, they are going to take care of the Angels,? he added.

Not one to pass up such sharp insight two times in a row, I asked him how many games it would take. He thought for a minute and said five or six.

By the way, one of my cab drivers in Boston, Michelet, told me that if the White Sox topped the Red Sox, they would win the World Series. So, there you have it Chicago — the title drought appears to be over.
Scott Merkin/MLB.com

La familia

The feeling behind the batting cages before Game 1 of the ALCS was that of a family reunion. In one corner Ozzie Guillen joked around with Vladimir Guerrero and a large group of Angels playersGarret200_1 and in the other corner Dodgers Hall of Fame Spanish broadcaster Jaime Jarrin and former Major Leaguer Cookie Rojas, who does Spanish television for the Marlins, were laughing it up with Angels owner Arte Moreno.

Players intermingled like it was the first game of Spring Training — not like the first game of the ALCS. The only thing missing was a barbecue pit and picnic tables. A swimming pool, a few umbrellas, and a stereo would have worked as well. Oh yeah, if you did not speak Spanish, you were in trouble. I don’t think I heard one word of English, except for an occasional "hello" or "brother." There is a definite brotherhood these guys have as baseball players. They are all on basically the same team, they just wear different uniforms. The Latin (Spanish) connection only reinforced their strong bond.
Jesse Sanchez/MLB.com

Cabbin’ with Chubby

Leaving the hotel and making hot tracks to U.S. Cellular Field, I hopped into a cab.

My driver turned out to be The Amazing Kreskin. Well, it wasn?t really the mind reader who used to be a regular on ?The Tonight Show.? It was someone even better.

Cabby200He turns around, takes one quick look at me, turns back to grab the wheel and says over his shoulder, ?From Jersey, right??

I am from New Jersey, and I am floored. True, I?d already mentioned our destination. But the teams playing in the ALCS were the Los Angeles Angels and the Chicago White Sox. The Yankees are nowhere to be seen.

Where?d Jersey come in? There was no mention of being part of the media on the way to cover the game, but even if there had been …
?It?s my job. I know people,? Ellis ?Chubby? Harris said. ?Been doing this for 28 years. Here?s my card.?

The card says ?Coffee & Donuts.? Seems Chubby is a local legend for the personalized services he provides travelers, picking them up for their rides to the airport with freshly-brewed coffee and donuts waiting in the back seat.

I kept the card, and I?m going to use it. But the next time I get into Chubby?s cab, I?m not telling him where we?re headed.

If he?s so smart, let him figure it out.
Tom Singer/MLB.com

Sleep in November

Watched the news around noon today and there they were. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, also known as the California Angels to Ozzie Guillen, being interviewed as they checked into the Chicago hotel around 6:30 a.m. I heard Brendan Donnelly they got into town around 6 a.m., and by the look on the face of Angels reliever Brendan Donnelly as he walked into the Angels clubhouse around 3 p.m., what I heard was correct. He was tired. The Angels are tired. But then again, who is not tired at this point of the season?

Yes, the White Sox had a few days of rest, but the season was long and they could be just as fatigued as the Angels are. As Ozzie told me the other day, "The Angels and Yankees are built to play to November. We were built to play into October. We’ll see what happens."

Truth is, I’m not so sure the travel will play such a factor in Game 1 of the ALCS. Playing baseball and traveling is what these guys do for a living. Jet lag or being tired is an easy excuse. I just don’t think it’s the right one, and nobody is going to use it. Having a tired pitching staff is something else altogether, and that could be the biggest factor working against the Angels. Sleep? These guys can sleep anytime during the offseason. The Angels will be wide awake. The question is how awake will the tired arms be. — Jesse Sanchez / MLB.com