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Late Night With The Cubs

PEORIA, Arizona -- My friends Howard, Jon and I will occasionally get on a roll with jokes, puns and other things that have nothing to do with baseball, and tonight was one of those nights.

First, a little baseball. Ladies and gentlemen, I have found a baseball team worse than the Milwaukee Brewers. It is the San Diego Padres, who really have only one major league quality starter, and that's Rondell White. And he's not that good either, and he is, as we Cub fans know, injury-prone, though he managed to play the first six innings of the Cubs' 4-2 win over the Padres, or as the PA announcer at Peoria Stadium called them last Thursday, the Chargers, and perhaps the Chargers could play better baseball than these guys.

Carlos Zambrano was most of the show today -- he survived a rocky first inning to pitch into the seventh; I think Dusty wanted him to finish the inning, but he ran out of gas, and Rod Beck, making a very serious bid for the Opening Day roster, shut the door. Zambrano was also the hitting star -- he's a switch-hitter, by the way -- and had three hits, including a really nice looking double down the line, and scored a run. Moises Alou hit his first spring HR and also doubled. Bobby Hill, healthy again, at least hit the ball, though into outs, and walked once, before being lifted along with the rest of the starters, who delighted some of the kids in the crowd by signing baseballs after they did their running in the outfield.

I spent a good deal of the game leafing through the Cubs' media guide, which I acquired yesterday, and which is a very impressive work this year. There are no fewer than sixteen pages on Sammy Sosa's career accomplishments. Did you know that he has homered off 303 different pitchers? Or that his favorite month to homer is August? Or that his first ML homer was off Roger Clemens in Fenway Park? Did you know that Moises Alou's wife is named Austria and he has a son named Kirby? Did you know that the uniform number 22 was worn by someone for 57 consecutive years, 1932-1988, the longest such streak, and that the only number lower than 52 that is not assigned (or retired) this spring is -- 10, Ron Santo's number? Gee, with all this info at his fingertips, you'd think Santo would say "I don't know" a bit less on the radio. But I digress.

After Beck disposed of the last of the seventh, a Cubs lefty came in wearing #75, and we swore that the PA announcer said he was "Frank Zoolander", and we thought maybe we'd see a Ben Stiller look-alike out there. In reality, this pitcher, who snapped off a couple of nice curveballs and threw hard, turned out to be Ferenc Jongejan, a 24-year-old native of the Netherlands who pitched for the Dutch National team during the 2000 Olympics, and threw well at West Tenn last year. Mark Guthrie closed out the game, and perhaps this is Dusty's idea, closer by committee, while Alfonseca is out.

Bad Pun of the Night goes to my friend Jon, who when noticing the Padres' replacement CF, Shane Victorino, letting a double by Mark Grudzielanek fly over his head, said that he must have been on his way to Iraq, because Saddam Hussein had said a couple of days ago that "Victorino is near". Anyway, by the seventh inning stretch we figured the war must have been over because they didn't play "God Bless America" like they'd been doing for the last week.

This is only the tip of the iceberg, folks. Wait till we all get warmed up once the regular season starts.