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Reed WHO?

TORONTO -- I pride myself in following baseball enough so that I know most every player. But I have to say, I'd never heard of Toronto rookie RF Reed Johnson, who was called up earlier this season when Shannon Stewart went down with an injury, and frankly, I wish I still had never heard of him.

Johnson led off today's game with a home run, and then finished it in the 10th with another one, as the Blue Jays won a thriller (for their fans anyway) 5-4 over the Cubs today, to win the interleague series.

I really have to question Dusty Baker's lineup selections again. Sure, today was his birthday. Maybe his thoughts were elsewhere. But batting Lenny Harris second? Playing 3B? He did make one nice play in the field (and the Cubs turned 5 DP's, or the game wouldn't have been that close), but also waved at a few other balls going by. I still don't understand why Mark Bellhorn played in only one of the six games I saw on this trip. Yeah, he's not hitting -- but how are you going to hit if you don't play? I saw a woman at Skydome today who I swear we've seen at Wrigley Field often -- Jeff & I have dubbed her "Mrs. Bellhorn", a young woman who wears a jersey with his name and number.

So between Harris, Paul Bako, Tom Goodwin and Troy O'Leary, the Cubs had four starters today who were hitting under .220. Amazingly, they managed 8 hits, one of which was a well-timed first career grand slam for O'Leary. The bullpen also did a pretty good job, until Mark Guthrie surrendered the game-winner to Johnson.

A couple of statistical notes: the grand slam was the Cubs' first since August 11, 2002 (Sammy Sosa), and the loss was the Cubs' first in extra innings this year after six wins.

I can't say enough about the Toronto fans and people here in general -- they're friendly and helpful; today we sat in front of one very knowledgeable baseball fan, who rooted hard for his team but seemed to know quite a bit about the Cubs as well. We both wished each other luck as we left the stadium (I can't really call the huge Skydome a "ballpark"); if the Blue Jays had any decent pitching, they'd be way out in front in the AL East, because everyone up and down their lineup can hit. Carlos Delgado, who the Cubs pretty well neutralized (except for yesterday's HR), is probably the AL MVP to date. I also finally met Bing, a nice young Toronto fan who I'd originally started corresponding with from the Blue Jays' newsgroup; he's a real autograph seeker who got Corey Patterson, Dusty Baker and Moises Alou to sign this weekend.

The only annoying things at Skydome, which resembles Yankee Stadium and New Comiskey (I refuse to use the corporate name) in its size and waves of blue seats, are the fact that they missed a few lineup changes (and don't keep a lineup posted despite having multiple scoreboards), and they have an annoying DJ-type announcer (host of a local morning TV showwho does between-inning stuff and contests. They had a guy like this at White Sox games a couple years ago and the reaction was so negative that they had to get rid of him. Toronto ought to do the same. Baseball's interesting enough, without having to resort to constant noise.

Reflections on the trip: if you haven't been to the ballparks in Baltimore and Toronto, you should see them. Camden Yards is the prototype for virtually all the new "retro" parks, and has many Wrigley Field-like features, including the Wrigley Field ivy growing on the hitters' background. I really can't understand the opposition that Peter Angelos has to putting a team in Washington, because the Orioles and the regional transit people sure don't make it very easy to get back to DC on public transit, as we learned during the incessant rain the last two days there. On the other hand, once you get there, there are tons of food choices, either in the park or on the closed-off Eutaw Street outside, and the Oriole employees have a well-deserved reputation for being among the friendliest in the game.

Toronto, on the other hand, has excellent public transit, though it's pricey ($2.25 Canadian, about $1.75 US), and doesn't let you off right at the stadium (it's about a 10-minute walk to the nearest station, though you can walk in a "skywalk" from there right to Skydome, so in bad weather, you never have to go outside. Toronto's a great town, with tons of live Broadway shows, restaurants, and a lakefront much like Chicago's. Skydome is a huge edifice, probably the largest of any of the current retractable-dome stadiums, and it never feels "intimate" like some of the newer parks do. Yet, even with artificial turf, on a nice summer sunny day like today, it's still a good place to watch a game; the seats in the lower deck all have great sightlines. Food is typical ballpark fare, and even accounting for the difference in the dollar, it's expensive.

It'll be strange to see a Cubs game on TV tomorrow -- this'll be the first game I've missed since I was at my Colgate reunion on May 31, that's 13 consecutive games. And even with the loss, the Cubs go on to Cincinnati at no worse than a first-place tie (at this moment, the Red Sox and Astros are tied 2-2; you can click here for an updated/final score.

Catch you all from Chicago tomorrow!