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Cub Tracks Uncovers The Naked Truth

The wayback-back-back machine, Happ to it, the Big Dead Machine, and other bullets

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Selective-aggressive. Schwarbird in the bush.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports


Tim, Brrr.

In our last epistle, Cub Tracks went station to station, looking to score on the long ball. Aceness, Grandpahood, and Russell’s hustle were discussed by the scribes, and the editorial we were forced at gunpoint to agree with noted baseball prognosticator John Madden. Anthony Bemboom’s monicker remains magnificent. Ian Happ looks like he belongs in a major-league ballpark. It’ll be interesting to see how he is dealt with in terms of personnel placement. That swing is shore purty and the glove looks steady enough at his newish position.

I‘m listening to former Joliet Catholic Hilltopper Mark Grant as the Cubs don’t have an video feed. It reminds me of the one time I was on the opposite side from him (I went to Joliet Central for a year), and how great the used bookstore and pool hall across the street from Grant’s school were, and how there were a few excellent players on that field (Jesse Barfield, with whom I share a birthday, was in the Central outfield). Grant was a really good pitcher, on the varsity in his freshman year, and (I think) the number two behind Senior Bill Gullickson. Senior Barfield hit the ball a ton and carried a Dunstonian batting average. I was a utility reliever, the position I have almost always held on a baseball field (except when I managed a Little League team in Bolingbrook), and didn’t pitch that day. I don’t remember the score. Those three guys are on the All-Time Chicago-area baseball team. A few others on the list were playing at that time as well...Scott Jones was at Hinsdale South while I was there (I didn’t play for that school). It’s a cool list to look at and think about.

I guess Grant’s broadcasting skills are not so bad, but he and his partner are kinda meh overall. Not compelling, and I would have drifted off if there weren’t compelling reasons not to, like Ian Happ and that really interesting third inning...let’s see what’s in the news, shall we?

As always * means autoplay on™ (directions to remove for Firefox and Chrome).

Today in baseball history:

  • 1932 - Catcher Ernie Lombardi comes to the Reds along with outfielder Babe Herman and third baseman Wally Gilbert, while infielders Joe Stripp and Tony Cuccinello and catcher Clyde Sukeforth are sent to the Dodgers. Herman bats .324 in one season in Cincinnati following the trade (he will later return to the club for two seasons), but Lombardi makes the trade a steal. Lombardi bats .311 in 10 seasons in Cincinnati, winning a batting title and MVP Award in 1938.
  • 1954 - Hank Aaron homers in his first start with the Braves in an exhibition game against the Boston Red Sox. The noise of the contact is so loud that Ted Williams runs out of the clubhouse to see who can make that sound with a bat.
  • 1956 - Satchel Paige signs with the Birmingham Black Barons (Negro League) at age 50 to both play and manage.
  • 1961 - George Weiss is lured from retirement to become president of the New York Mets.
  • 1993 - The Reds announce the St. Bernard owned by Reds president Marge Schott is being prohibited access to the Riverfront Stadium field for the season. The edict to ban Schottzie 02 comes from the MLB's Executive Council, who have received numerous complaints from the players about dogs running on the field.
  • 1995 - The players' union makes it clear that the strike will not be settled if replacement players are used in regular season games‚ and if results are not voided. The NLRB also announces it will be charging MLB owners with two counts of unfair labor practices.
  • 2003 - Bob Uecker, the Brewers' TV/radio play-by-play announcer, is chosen for induction into the broadcasters' wing of the Hall of Fame as the recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award. The 68 year-old former back-up catcher, who joined the Milwaukee broadcast crew in 1971, is best known for the humor he has brought to the game through his starring role in the cult movie Major League and the beer commercial in which the phrase 'Must be in the front row!' has become a familiar cry in ballparks around the country.
  • 2008 - Randy Wolf, the Padres’ new left-handed starter, struggled in a 6-2 spring training loss to the Brewers in Peoria, Arizona. The pitcher's brother, Jim, wasn't much help as the home plate umpire, an occurrence which isn’t allowed during a regular-season game. It is the only time it has ever happened, and the San Diego hurler gave up three runs in four innings.

News you can use:

  • Mark Gonzales (Chicago Tribune* {$}): Javier Baez vaults Puerto Rico to 2-0 in WBC play. Dramatic three-run home run in the ninth propels Puerto Rico forward.
  • James Neveau (NBC Chicago): Javier Baez, John Andreoli thriving in World Baseball Classic. Both of them are driving their respective teams and will meet Sunday.
  • Bruce Miles (Daily Herald {$}): As a student of the game, Chicago Cubs' Addison Russell at top of the class. Champion understatement: “...the Cubs got themselves a keeper when they obtained Russell.”
  • Steve Greenberg (Chicago Sun-Times*): Former No. 1 pick Ian Happ, sizzling at plate, learning Cubs ways. “Yeah, I’m feeling really good at the plate,” the 22-year-old switch-hitting second baseman said.
  • Bruce Levine (CBS Chicago): Ian Happ leads next crop of Cubs prospects. “He has had a nice camp,” Maddon said of Happ.
  • Mark Gonzales (Chicago Tribune): Kris Bryant gaining an outside edge at the plate. Bryant controlled the outside corner in college and in his minor-league career. He’s getting back to it.
  • Jeff Sullivan (ESPN Insider {$}): Can anyone have a better year than Mike Trout? He gives Kris Bryant a 20 percent chance.
  • Michael James (Press of Atlantic City {$}): Matt Szczur off to hot start at Cubs' spring training. Szczur and Mike Trout are from the area.
  • Jesse Rogers (ESPN*): Kyle Schwarber on leading off: 'I'm selective aggressive'. In other words, he picks his target, and then murders the ball.
  • Off the Bench: Significant mechanical changes in Jason Heyward’s new swing. Deeper analysis than usual.
  • Zach Bernard (Wrigleyville-Baseball Prospectus): The Candelario conundrum. Jeimer Candelario has traveled a long road, and he isn’t at the end yet.
  • Michael Ernst (Cubs Den): John Andreoli and the makeup of the modern MLB bench. “...why hasn’t John Andreoli received even a cup of coffee at the MLB level?”
  • ESPN*: Jon Lester with David Kaplan and Jordan Cornette [AUDIO].

Food for thought:

  • Simon Usborne (The Guardian): Why do we think we’re nicer than we are? “...98% of us consider ourselves to be among the nicest 50% of the population.”
  • Aaron Stern (The New Yorker): The science of tipping. “In 1760, if your server took more than twenty minutes to bring your food, you were within your legal rights to “wallop him smartly on his person with a blackjack or billy club.””
  • Emily Conover (Science News): Quantum counterfeiters might succeed. Physicists find a loophole in money encoded by photons.

** information derived from today in baseball history and the national pastime.

See you Thursday for more fun and frolic. Thanks for reading.