The Cubs have all those good young players, a really cool manager, and No. 14 on their jerseys.
This is Ernie Banks’ team.
He died in January. (See Rich Goldstein’s lovely obituary.)
This is where I came in, boy reporter for Newsday, first swing into Chicago in 1962. It was cold.
During batting practice, Ernie Banks wandered over to greet the Youngs and Langs and Kremenkos he knew from the old eight-team National League.
He spotted some new boys and launched the old soft-shoe:
“Welcome to Wrigley Field, the friendly confines, the only ball park in the majors with no night games. This evening on the six o’clock news, they’ll say, ‘In the only game in the majors this afternoon….’ Look at the ivy on the wall. Baseball. It’s a lovely day for a ball game. Let’s play two.”
I can recall it pretty much verbatim because I would hear it many times in that decade. It was Ernie’s brand. He came out of the Negro Leagues, helped blaze the trail, learned to live in this crazy world -- warm smile, informed patter, who knew what behind the alert survivor eyes.
He remembered names and faces. Every time I landed a Wrigley run – day games, evenings on Rush Street – he would wander over and I would request a helping of “Let’s Play Two.” He would never fail. I cannot imagine prodding any other major-leaguer to perform shtick for me.
The Mets and Cubs were joined at the hip, one an expansion franchise, one a bumbler by habit.
The Mets would win 40 and lose 120, the Worst Team in the History of Baseball.
The Cubs could screw up anything. That kid Brock in left field would never make it.
One night in the rusty old Polo Grounds, the Cubs and Mets were staggering into extra innings. I heard a fan announce to his friends, “I hate to go – but I hate to stay.” That pretty much sums up both teams.
In 1964, on a glorious afternoon in Wrigley, the young reporters were taking the sun behind the Mets’ dugout. (There was no freaking tweeting in those Good Old Days; you watched a game and you wrote about it.)
My buddy Joe Christopher – we’re still in touch -- spotted us in the stands and wiggled his ears prodigiously every time he jogged in from right field.
Hot Rod Kanehl emerged from the dugout and spotted us. When the Mets went ahead, 13-1, in the seventh, we asked Rod if the game was a laugher. Not yet, Rod proclaimed.
However, when they scored six in the ninth, Rod popped out again and gave it the Casey Stengel wink and proclaimed, “It’s a laugher.”
After the game, reporters took the team bus back to the hotel. By some bizarre circumstance, Ernie Banks got stuck in traffic right next to me. I opened the window and posed the question: “Let’s play two?”
Ernie smiled and said – sweetly -- “Aw, shut up.” Traffic cleared. He drove on.
Bill Wakefield, who spent the afternoon taking the rays in the bullpen (Jack Fisher went nine) recalled the other day:
“At a restaurant afterwards. ‘We scored 19 runs in the sun today.’ Return question: ‘Did you win?’”
I don’t care about the Cubs’ complexes. Don’t care about no 1908 or weenie billy-goat curse or black cat or Durocher absence from the dugout or Durham bobble or Bartman interference. Mets’ fans have our own mishegoss. Then again, the Mets have won four pennants and two World Series. Just saying.
These Cubs are wearing Ernie Banks’s No. 14.
Let’s play two.
"Among the things that have long fascinated people about Jesus and explain his enduring appeal is his method of dialogue and teaching. "He asked a lot of questions and told a lot of stories in the form of parables. In fact, parables form about a third of Jesus’ recorded teachings. The Gospels were written decades after he died, so his questions and parables clearly left a deep impression on those who bore testimony to him....
"Some of Jesus’ questions were rhetorical; others were meant to challenge or even provoke. In some cases, Jesus used questions to parry attacks by religious authorities who set traps for him. In others, he used questions to enter more fully into the lives of others and to help people look at the state of their hearts. He asked people about their fears and their faith. Jesus used questions to free a woman caught in adultery from condemnation and to inquire whether people considered him to be the Messiah. He probed deeply into questions not many had asked before him, like “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
---(Peter Wehner, long-time White House consultant and writer, in the NYT last week about Jesus Christ’s method of teaching by asking questions.)
"Would that I could mention all the illuminating details in this biography, for example, why Wells praised Black Americans so highly, saying, 'I took a mighty liking to these gentle, human, dark-skinned people,' and 'Whatever America has to show in heroic living today, I doubt if she can show anything finer than the quality of the resolve, the steadfast efforts hundreds of black and colored men are making today to live blamelessly, honorably and patiently, getting by themselves what scraps of refinement, beauty and learning they may, keeping their hold on a civilization they are grudged and denied.''
-- "How H.G. Wells Predicted the 20th Century," Charles Johnson, NYT Book Review, Nov. 19, 2021. ***".
...the monsters arrive."
"They come in a deafening, surging swarm, blasting from lawn to lawn and filling the air with the stench of gasoline and death. I would call them mechanical locusts, descending upon every patch of gold in the neighborhood the way the grasshoppers of old would arrive, in numbers so great they darkened the sky, to lay bare a cornfield in minutes. But that comparison is unfair to locusts.
"Grasshoppers belong here. Gasoline-powered leaf blowers are invaders, the most maddening of all the maddening, environment-destroying tools of the American lawn-care industry."
---The great Margaret Renkl, from Nashville, one of my favorite NYT bylines, Oct. 26, 2021.
(She describes our Long Island enclave to every decibel, every stink.)