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Tomato Power!

I've been growing a tomato plant on my deck, and yesterday -- right about on schedule, the first few days of August -- I had my very first ripe home-grown tomato to eat.

No, I didn't perform the tomato ceremony for last night's game -- I don't usually keep score while watching on TV -- but it was really tasty, and IF I'd have dropped a piece on a scorecard, no doubt it'd have landed in the second inning, the Cubs' five-run explosion in their efficient, quick 5-3 win over the Rockies, a game I managed to stay up and see the end of, despite the 8 pm CT starting time; it was the sixth-fastest game in Coors Field history, only two hours and fourteen minutes. With the win and the Padres' 5-2 loss to the Phillies, the Cubs are now tied for the wild-card lead. They even picked up a game on St. Louis -- the Cardinals blew a 6-2 lead over the Expos, of all teams, and lost 10-6 in 12 innings.

Here's a perfect example of how Cub fandom can seep into even those who are from other places and relatively new to this. Ernie, who is from Ohio and an Indians fan, now also a Cub fan, was at the game on Sunday and I was explaining the tomato ritual to him, and its beginnings in June when the Cubs had their ten-run inning against the Cardinals.

He said, "Did they win?"

Ouch. Yes, they won that day, June 10th, 12-3.

As it turned out, I could have gone to sleep after the Cubs' five-run second inning, punctuated by a massive home run from Derrek Lee, and then the eventual game-winning hit, a little flare off the bat of Nomar Garciaparra, who reclaimed his Boston #5 from Michael Barrett, who had a little fun with Nomar by asking him for a promise to consider returning to the Cubs next year, in exchange for the number. Barrett took over the #8 that Alex Gonzalez had worn, and that Nomar wore on Sunday, he says, in tribute to Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra, who wore that number for the Yankees.

You can see by this kind of banter that this acquisition has both energized the ballclub and has loosened up a clubhouse that seemed to have its pants on way too tight (yes, all of them, not just Dr. Tightpants) for most of the first half. You wondered if anyone was even laughing or smiling when they got to the ballpark.

The meaning of things like this cannot be underestimated. Think about how you felt when you heard about the Garciaparra trade. Now project that feeling, that excitement, onto the men who were going to meet him the next day, and welcome him to their team.

So far, at least, it seems like it's been a happy marriage.

About the game -- geez, on TV the Cub portion of the crowd sounded almost as loud as it did in Milwaukee. It might have been, too -- the 40,716 in attendance last night was 25% over the Rockies' average of 30,019. Jeff & Krista are there, having stopped in Denver on their drive to the West Coast, so perhaps I'll get an update from them before Friday. The ovation for Nomar in particular was amazingly loud and must have given him goosebumps. It sure would have for me in that situation.

Kerry Wood threw a terrific game after the first inning, when he gave up what looked like an ordinary popup to Todd Helton that turned into a typical Coors Field down-the-line homer in a three-run inning, that I knew wouldn't be enough to win the game, and it wasn't. Wood settled down and threw what for him was a fairly small number of pitches, 110 in eight innings, with no apparent discomfort. This is, obviously, very good news.

The lineup that Dusty has apparently settled on for the time being -- Patterson leading off, Nomar batting second, and whoever's playing 2B batting seventh, and the catcher eighth -- has been productive in the two days that it's been in effect, and though Corey is emphatically NOT a "prototype leadoff hitter", as Carrie Muskat wrote on cubs. com, if he can bunt his way on base more often, he might actually work in that role.

Mayor Daley made some more stupid comments and took some more potshots at Tribune Co. for the falling concrete incidents; among other things, he was quoted as saying:

My God. There must be an investigative reporter for the Tribune here. Where are they? We need a special prosecutor. We need a thorough investigation by the federal, state and local governments and United Nations.

... after it was revealed that some repair work had been done without the proper paperwork being filed.

My God is right. Our mayor is an idiot. He ought to be pleased that the Cubs have spent millions of dollars to keep a 90-year-old building in pretty good shape, despite the recent problems. I'm no apologist for the Tribune Company, but Daley seems to have a visceral hatred for that corporation and of course, the Cubs, having grown up a White Sox fan.

I have read the engineering study made by the Glenview-based company The Structural Shop, in which the engineers conclude about Wrigley Field:

Considering its age, exposure and the number of times it is in use, the park is in better condition than buildings half its age.

I wonder if the mayor has read this report. Sometimes I wonder if the mayor knows how to read at all.