Posts Tagged ‘strike’

by: Mauricio Rubio Jr.
email: mr@99sportsproblems.com
twitter: @MRubio52

“Well, I’ve been afraid of changing
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Children get older
I’m getting older too”

-Stevie Nicks

This is part II of IV in a mini-series about growing up Chicago, baseball style. Pt. I can be found here.

There are some great Chicago sports myths out there. MJ would’ve won 8 if he never retired, easy. Bear weather. Ruth called his shot to spite the Cubs. Ozzie ball. My favorite of all time is the eventual crowning of the 1994 Chicago White Sox as World Series champions. Nothing would’ve stood in their way en route to title #3 as they would’ve eventually done battle with the Montreal Expos.

There’s a lot of would’ves in that previous paragraph. Very few things are certain in a baseball season. The White Sox were 1 game up on a young Indians team at the time of the strike, and who knows what happens in the playoffs. What I do know of that season is that the 1994 team is one of my favorite teams in baseball history. That lineup was disgusting and Frank Thomas was living up to his moniker, “The Big Hurt.” The man was mashing at a historic level. He was carrying a 1.217 OPS through 113 games, with 38 HR’s, 109 bb’s and only 61 k’s. During the first phase of his career he was on track to perhaps becoming one of the best hitters in baseball history. He was walking with Ruth, Williams, Gehrig, Hornsby, Greenberg, Foxx, and a host of other legends, both living and dead. As a young baseball fan he was the bond that connected the current with the past.

That team was perfect for a little kid. You had the fast guys like Raines who ran everywhere, you had the mashers like Thomas for the HR insta-gratification, you had the good pitching in Fernandez, McDowell, and Alvarez, you had a little dash of everything with them. All the previous White Sox teams seemed to be building to this moment, to this season, all of it pointed to 1994 as the moment that the White Sox would shine.

I bought in, and I do think they win that division in retrospect, but it would have been a great pennant chase down the stretch (remember when Thome was a 3B? Jeez). Tony Gwynn was hitting .390 and he was chasing Teddy Ballgame. Matt Williams was on pace to surpass Ruth and Maris as the single season HR king. The Expos were kicking ass. Randy Johnson was just starting his enlightenment.

And then it was gone on August 12, 1994.

All of it, all that baseball, all that love and family ties, all that had been built up in my baseball heart, was shattered as Bud Selig announced that there would be no World Series played that year.

There are a few traditions that I still honor from the early days of my baseball fan youth, I don’t drink at Chicago home games. I watch the All-Star game, and I always watch at least one World Series game with my pops. As a family, we would watch the World Series together, and if I was lucky, my grandfather would be there too. Well, all I heard that season was how the White Sox might make it to the playoffs. Which meant I would get to see my hometown heroes play in a World Series game with the paternal figures in my life. That was going to be heaven right there.

I first read about the strike in Sports Illustrated for Kids (and yes, I did have a subscription until I was in 6th grade. Then it was plain ole SI for me), and I didn’t think anything of it. There’s no way they would cancel the season.

Well, the commish said no mas, and I said “Fuck you, baseball,” for a while. I flirted with coming back in 1997, but it definitely wasn’t as a White Sox fan. A funny thing happened after the strike, the White Sox got worse, gone were the hopes of a World Series title, and I was bitter about it. I didn’t turn to the Cubs immediately either. If anything, I was just an observer of baseball at that point. I wasn’t all in with it, but the Cal Ripken streak did help a lot.

My friend Sebastian lived on my block in Cicero. His family was full of Cubs fans, around April of 1998 he started telling me about this kid the Cubs had that was a Texan with a power arm like Nolan Ryan. Now, my favorite pitchers during the Sox years were Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens, and Black Jack McDowell. Two of those guys have a lot in common, and anytime the good name of Nolan Ryan is invoked, I’m intrigued in the message. I figured I’d watch his next game and see what was up.

I got to stay home on a Wednesday to watch a Cubs game. I forget the excuse I had, I think it was a weak cough.

The date of that game was May 6, 1998.

Pt. III will be out next week

The SaniTERRYum XII: An Essay for Asterisks

The asterisk remains a mysterious mistress in sports. She only shows up on stats and achievements if something out of the ordinary is determined to be by the powers that be. Late game not included. Steroid Era. Pete Rose. Strikes, lockouts and the like. LeBron’s first title? Oh, definitely an asterisk next to that shortened season Miami championship.

This isn’t even coming from the Heat hater, die-hard Bulls fan in me. This is just me keeping it 100. A 66 game season culminating in a ‘chip does not a champion make. Well, technically it does, but with an asterisk next to it in the books…a permanent asterisk. As much as I admire the Spurs, their run in ’99 falls into the same asterisk-ridden category. It’s just not the same if 82 games aren’t played. Hence, the permanence of the ever-lingering, ever-annoying asterisk. You can debate the asterisk all you want, but it’s not going anywhere. It’s as much a part of legitimizing an accomplishment as it is from taking away its legs to stand on in a world of amputees.

Everything LeBron has done in the L has been legitimate. We don’t need to talk about anyone taking their talents anywhere. We don’t need to talk about the receding hairline. We don’t need to discuss the 4th quarter meltdowns of yesteryear. The man is the best player on the planet right now, possessing a skill set mashed with athleticism the NBA has never seen. But I’m sorry, asterisk applied to his first championship. I can hear the so-called Miami Heat fans now:  “It took him so long to get here, and now this fucking jerk off writer from Chicago who’s still bitter about the Derrick Rose injury wants to diminish what LeBron and Co. have worked so hard for?” Hey, don’t hate the player. Hate the game. Asterisk stands.

The LeBron-imposed asterisk would have gone to whomever the NBA crowned champion this year. That comes with the territory of any sports’ lockout, strike, holdout, or any other new way greedy players and owners can find to prevent us, the fans, from enjoying a full, asterisk-free season. And you can bet your bottom dollar, us fans would love to live in an asterisk-free sports world.

On the topic of betting bottom dollars: Pete Rose, in many ways, personifies the asterisk, a walking asterisk, if you will. He has become the victim of an opinionated asterisk, possibly the worst kind of typographical symbol there is. Bud Selig has sort of made it his life mission to keep Charlie Hustle out of The Hall, which makes me wonder: “Does Bud have a running bet with someone somewhere on an over/under for years it’ll take to get the all-time hits leader (among many other records) into Cooperstown?”

“Dive in head first. Like Pete Rose.”

Although Bud’s not alone: On February 4, 1991, the Hall of Fame voted formally to exclude individuals on the permanently ineligible list from being inducted into the Hall of Fame by way of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Rose is the only living member of the ineligible list. Players who were not selected by the BWAA could be considered by the Veterans Committee in the first year after they would have lost their place on the Baseball Writers’ ballot. Under the Hall’s rules, players may appear on the ballot for only fifteen years, beginning five years after they retire. Had he not been banned from baseball, Rose’s name could have been on the writers’ ballot beginning in 1992 and ending in 2006. He would have been eligible for consideration by the Veterans Committee in 2007, but did not appear on the ballot. In 2008 the Veterans Committee barred players and managers on the ineligible list from consideration.

What’s the BFD here? It’s not like he was betting against his team and then throwing shit intentionally. “I bet on my team every night. I didn’t bet on my team four nights a week. I bet on my team to win every night because I loved my team, I believed in my team.” Those sound like the words of a competitor, someone who truly cares about winning, a real gamer. Why shouldn’t he make a little dough on the side? I mean, MLB players’ salaries barely allow one to scrape by, so by all means…

“Do you wanna know the terrifying truth or do you wanna watch me sock a few  dingers?”
-Mark McGwire to Bart Simpson

We are all tired of performance enhancing drugs taking over the sport we love, hijacking the headlines. When I look at the list of baseball players I grew up watching who are now all but blackballed from ever receiving the slightest bit of consideration to top anyone’s HOF ballot, let alone make it in,  it brings a heaping pile of bullshit on fire to my front door. Absolute flaming bullshit. I’ll always have Ken Griffey, Jr. and Frank Thomas though…

Guys have been cheating the game for ages, but now that we’ve evolved into drug-taking, performance enhancers, now you want to blow the whistle? The eligible players on this year’s ballot is mind-blowing when you step away and realize that most, if not all, will remain Cooperstown outsiders…possibly forever. Bonds. Sosa. The Rocket. Piazza. Big names, and that’s leaving out perennial snubs McGwire, Palmeiro, and the rest of the renounced hardball heroes turned ‘roid ragers. Barry Bonds has more to worry about than asterisks, though. By the way, can someone explain to me how the fuck Royce Clayton found himself onto the ballot?

The steroid and human growth hormone, performance enhancing goes far beyond baseball and stretches into the world of track and field, football, the Olympics, and the, wait for it, Tour de France.

Lance Armstrong: what a let-down after so much build up and feel-goodery. The man beats cancer like 200 times, takes over a French-dominated, absolutely enduring event and hope is restored to the humanity of sports. Then it all comes crashing down amongst allegations of PED peddling. Really, Lance? You? Say it ain’t so! Marion Jones gets an asterisk, jail time, AND community service. She was dubbed the fastest woman alive, but she has been stripped of her medals won at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. I’m sure she would have been just fine with an asterisk next to her name in history, but the asterisk only has so much power. We could all learn a thing or two from LeBron James and Pete Rose: just hustle and work hard to get where you’re going. You don’t need to shoot steroids in your butt.

*Late Game Not Included