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Freaky Friday

So with the count 1-0 on Moises Alou in the 9th, I turned to Brian's brother Kevin (sitting in Mike's seat today) and said, "How about he hits the next pitch on the street and let's go home."

No, seriously. Just ask him, I really did say that, and darned if Alou didn't do just that, ending perhaps the wackiest day I've ever spent at Wrigley Field with an 11-10 Cub win in front of yet another sellout, 40,173, on a ridiculously warm and windy April day, 76 degrees at game time. In fact, with the temperature and the full house, and the shadows encroaching on the field by the late innings, it felt really September-like.

But here, I'm starting at the end.

The wackiness started before we even got in the park. After three days of not ripping tickets after the barcodes were scanned, security told us they were ripping stubs today. And why is this?

Because they discovered that unscrupulous people were handing the unripped tickets back through the gate to be re-sold by scalpers to people who didn't know that they couldn't be used to enter. This is sound reasoning, and from now on, tickets will be ripped as normal. As season ticket holders, we got back the small portion of the ticket, because that is the only part with the barcode on it.

Then Jeff and I spotted a woman sitting across the aisle who was almost doubled over. She seemed sick or something, but then we realized she had been drinking. Security was called and she and her friend were escorted out. Why? Well, security told us that apparently this woman doesn't drink, but her friend was egging her on, and that she wasn't willing to just sit and drink some water, so they told her she had to go, as they're not babysitters. And this after these two apparently paid $55 each on the street for their tickets. Too bad, so sad.

At one point during BP, Jeff looked up and saw Reds reliever Todd Jones, in full uniform, sitting a few rows in front of us. He has done this before, a couple of years ago when he was with the Rockies.

And it's only the fourth game of the season, and this was all before the game even started!

Once it did start, Sergio Mitre picked up where he left off in spring training, that is, not throwing strikes and giving up line-drive hits to every Red in sight. Somehow he muddled through five innings with only four runs allowed, and Alou and Aramis Ramirez homered back-to-back in the Cub third, so Mitre's 93-pitch outing ended in a 4-4 tie after five.

That's when Brian showed up, having been stuck working at his firehouse late, and promptly, the Reds scored five runs off Mike Wuertz in the sixth, so we were ready to blame Brian. Better we should have blamed Wuertz, who after a great spring and decent start is pitching his way back to Des Moines. Really, the Cubs have to think really hard about the last two spots in the bullpen, because Wuertz and Francis Beltran have been awful, there's only one lefty out there (Kent Mercker) and you simply cannot win every game like this.

It's fun, though, isn't it? Kevin showed up today with his head shaved, and between the two of us we thought we could convince Jeff and Howard to join us. What I should have done was suggest to them that they do it if the Cubs came back and won, darnitall.

And come back they did, even after a goofy lineup snafu, where Dusty did a real obvious double-switch with Ramon Martinez and Kent Mercker, only to discover later that home plate umpire C. B. Bucknor either didn't hear him or ignored him, and Martinez, who had doubled leading off the seventh, was ruled out for batting out of order, because Jerry Narron, managing the Reds after their manager Dave Miley was tossed for arguing a called third strike on Sean Casey in the 4th.

This umpiring crew, which has been in Chicago all week (having worked the White Sox-Royals series earlier), has always had it in for the Cubs, particularly Bucknor, and I know umpires aren't supposed to do this, but some of them do. Bruce Froemming and Joe West are also inveterate Cub-haters. Bucknor did a lousy job of calling balls and strikes today, too, on both sides.

Anyway, this -- whatever it was, mistake or oversight, got Dusty Baker to win this year's cap-toss contest in a landslide; he tossed it almost the entire length of the dugout. I don't think I've ever seen him that angry!

About that time, Mike sent me an e-mail that read, in its entirety:

Now, you HAVE seen #@$!ing everything.

Turned out we hadn't.

Even with this, the Cubs managed a two-run rally in that 7th, and then another two in the 8th on yet another clutch pinch-hit home run by Todd Hollandsworth, who is on pace to hit 48 home runs and have no other hits at all this year. And we have our bleacher buddy Todd Jones to thank for that homer; he singlehandedly kept the Cubs in the game. That set the stage for another sloppy 9th inning by Joe Borowski. To be fair, he should have been out of it with only a walk, because Aramis Ramirez threw a ball away, though I thought the error on that play should have been charged to Todd Walker, who dropped a throw that was right there. After that Joe walked the bases full before getting Ryan Freel to pop up, setting up the heroics in the bottom of the 9th.

That's when Mike sent his second e-mail:

And I sent that first message BEFORE the ninth inning.

Which was completely true, based on the time-stamp on each e-mail.

Lost in the excitement over Alou's walk-off homer was the fact that Sammy Sosa's game-tying homer also tied him with Ernie Banks for the club record, his 512th HR as a Cub, and it didn't miss us by too much, the section over and about 5 or 6 rows down. We hardly even had time to sit down -- in fact, I actually missed ball 1 to Alou, and then made my prescient call to Kevin after glancing at the scoreboard.

A nice 30-ish couple sat down in front of us for the ballgame and after the game-winner, we told them they could come back any time.

And the final word today goes to my devoted reader Stuart Teadley, watching via the web in the UK at nearly midnight UK time, who wrote:

...gimme gimme gimme ...a season of this!...Un-Be-Lievable!!

what a game!...this is the very stuff of baseball, don't you think?...the Reds must be sick, too..imagine scoring 10 at Wrigley..and losing!! it too early to say "believe"?


I know what a series full of games like this, last September against the Cardinals, did to me. If we've got a full year of this type of thing, better keep the defibrillators handy.

Postscript: just got another e-mail from Mike, explaining further the batting-out-of-order play (and it's a good thing, too, because neither the scoreboards nor Wayne Messmer told us a thing):

That at-bat in the seventh is charged against Mercker, not Martinez. If Martinez' at-bat had not been challenged, technically the next proper batter would have been Mercker; had Walker followed Martinez, he'd have been improper.

And then he continued...

Wish I'd seen it.

He may have missed this one, but I imagine there will be plenty more excitement and weirdness to see this season.

Bring it on.