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Taking No Prisoners

SAN FRANCISCO -- While the Cubs were completing their methodical demolition of the Rockies, defeating them in Denver today 5-1 and sweeping a series for the first time ever in Coors Field (they did sweep one in July 1994 at Mile High Stadium, and that seems odd, considering 1994 was a really bad year for the Cubs), I was on a boat in San Francisco Bay heading for the National Park Service's tour of the former infamous federal prison, Alcatraz.

This is a really cool tour and if you are ever in the Bay Area, it's well worth an afternoon. The tours run every half hour, and almost all of them appeared to be sold out, and I could pick up snippets of many foreign languages among the people waiting in line.

The boat ride alone, with terrific views all around the bay, of the city of San Francisco, the Bay Bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the hills surrounding the bay, is spectacular. It was foggy this morning, as is customary this time of year, but by early afternoon the fog was beginning to clear, and if you see the bright sunshine, you're thinking, summer, warmth...

Nope. Particularly once you get to Alcatraz, which is only a mile or so offshore, the winds kick up and the temperature is only in the low 60's and at times you think you yourself are going to get blown right off the island. It's no wonder no one successfully escaped when it was a prison -- the only ones who might have were the three prisoners who managed to get out of their cells, through the ventilation system, and with homemade life vests, actually into the water. They were never heard from again, which suggests one of two scenarios:

1) they made it and started new lives;

2) they drowned.

Having seen how treacherous the water can be, I'm thinking the latter.

Anyway, there's a video and then guided audio tour showing you the main points of the prison, and they don't leave anything out, including the 19-month Native American occupation of the island from 1969-1971. During that occupation many of the original buildings were seriously damaged and had to be demolished, and you can see the ruins of others, including the warden's former house right off the main cellblock, which is now incongruously the home of quite a few lovely wildflowers.

Today, a couple of very enthusiastic young workers demonstrated how the guards could open and close the cell doors either individually or in groups (they claimed "Hey, we don't do this every day," but I bet they say that every day). They also said that several film directors had come there specifically to record the "CLANG" sound of the doors closing, even George Lucas for the Star Wars films.

So, I didn't get to see much of today's game, though I did follow it on the web cellphone (yes, there's a cellphone signal even on Alcatraz), and you know what?

I can't find a single bad thing to say about this ballclub right now. They really are clicking on all cylinders. They decided to play Solo-Homer again today (Derrek Lee and Corey Patterson), but with Mark Prior throwing his best game in over a month, it didn't matter. Nomar didn't do anything today (0-for-5), but it didn't matter. Things are going so well that two players hitting under .200 -- Paul Bako and Glendon Rusch -- drove in the other three runs. Bako, I presume, played today due to the length of last night's game. He will, obviously, get another start on Saturday, with Greg Maddux going.

Today's win, the fourth in a row, eighth of ten, and eleventh of the last fifteen, also put the Cubs a season-high 12 games over .500, made them the third team in the NL (and seventh in MLB) to reach the sixty-win plateau, and also assured them of coming into tomorrow night's game here in "The City" (as the natives here call it -- they even had that nickname as part of the NBA Warriors' jerseys back in the late 1960's), as the leader in the NL Wild Card race.

Meanwhile, the Giants have just finished being swept by the Reds, losing to them today 12-3, so they're likely to be a bit ornery when the Cubs arrive. According to today's San Francisco Chronicle, tomorrow's likely Giants starter is a rookie, Tyler Walker, who's started exactly one game in his career, on Sept. 7, 2002 when he was with the Mets.

I do have one bone to pick about today's game. With one strike to go, Rusch gave up a triple to Kit Pellow, who then scored when Sammy Sosa made an error trying to pick up the ball.

Yes, this isn't that important since the Cubs won, but had this run not scored, it would have been the Cubs' first-EVER shutout of the Rockies in Denver. They have shut them out five times since Colorado entered the league in 1993, but all five have been in Wrigley Field.

Isn't it nice to have this be our biggest problem?