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Rachel's Bat Mitzvah Day

You'll forgive me for a few paragraphs devoted to something other than baseball today.

There's no dad who could be prouder of his daughter than I was of Rachel today, the day she "became a woman", in Jewish tradition.

OK, so she's not even technically there yet -- she won't be thirteen till next month (you take whatever date they give you, closest to your thirteenth birthday) -- and believe me, I can wait till I'm the parent of a teenager -- but the day was one of grand celebration for her and for our entire family.

Her readings and leading of the service were perfect -- even the rabbi commented on how well she read, and this isn't just a parent boasting, because we attended a Bat Mitzvah several weeks ago to see how the service was conducted, and he didn't say so then.

I'm just very, very, very (how many times can I say "very"?) proud to have her as my daughter.

Afterwards family and friends shared a lunch/DJ affair, and my dad spoke to the traditions of family by telling everyone of his trip to Ellis Island a month ago, on July 25 -- 100 years to the day when his mother, my grandmother, then four years old, her sister and mother, arrived in this country in a journey that was repeated by literally millions of people from (mostly) Europe, in the first decade of the previous century.

It's hard to remember at times that 100 years ago, my ancestors, yours, those of many millions of people who live in the USA now, were living in difficult-to-impossible conditions that they couldn't wait to escape to live in the country where they'd heard the "streets were paved with gold."

That wasn't literally true, of course, but many of them, my family included, came here to make a better life for themselves, and for large part succeeded, helping build this country into what it is, and allowing people like me to have a celebration as we did today.

Soapbox over, I can also happily report to you that the Cubs won their second in a row over the Pirates today, 9-5, and as Howard, one of the celebrants with us today, said, "They'll probably sweep them now that the pressure is off."

Isn't that the way it always seems to go?

Carlos Zambrano pitched well enough, allowing five runs in seven innings, only a few days after his probably ill-advised stint in goal for the soccer Chicago Fire in an invited-guest role in an exhibition game played by the MLS team. Z also had an RBI double and his OPS is up to .706 -- compare that to Neifi's .701 or Corey Patterson's .622.

Seriously -- I'd use Z as a pinch-hitter in a pinch. Tony LaRussa does that with his good-hitting pitcher, Jason Marquis. Sometimes you have to think outside the box. Dusty Baker rarely does.

Matt Murton (2) and Henry Blanco (5) homered today; Blanco raised his average to .250 and has 21 RBI in 128 AB. He is under contract for next season, and we all know his defensive abilities (which include pitch-calling as well as blocking balls in the dirt and throwing out potential basestealers) are far superior to Michael Barrett's. I would recommend giving Blanco even more starts in 2006 than he's had so far this year, and I think the pitching staff would second that endorsement.

Jeff & Krista were at both the Friday and Saturday games, and I hope to get a first-hand report from them when they return to Chicago next week.

Till then, small celebrations and large -- large for Rachel's accomplishment, small for two consecutive Cub wins, which is nice no matter what they mean in the larger scheme of things.

Finally, Mike was also among the celebrants today. He reminded me that yesterday was the 33rd anniversary of the last Cub no-hitter, Milt Pappas' 8-0 no-no over the Padres that would have been a perfect game if Bruce Froemming had called a borderline 3-2, 2-out pitch a strike in the ninth inning.

And, next Friday is the 40th anniversary of the last time anyone no-hit the Cubs -- Sandy Koufax' perfect game, a 1-0 gem which, since Cub pitcher Bob Hendley only allowed the Dodgers one hit, ranks as the lowest-hit game in major league history.

Mike's point was that interesting, weird historic things seem to happen to the Cubs in Septembers when they are out of postseason contention.

So hang on. It could be a fun ride anyway the rest of this season.