The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

Shades of Blue: Revisiting Cubs v Brewers

with 2 comments

The nice folks at Lovable Losers Literary Revue published my piece “Shades of Blue” ten years ago (ten years?!?!  I was so young then…).  It was a timely piece in which I discussed my dual citizenship to Cubs and Brewers Nations as the teams vied against each other in a late-season playoff race.  I thought this would be a good time to revisit it given both teams are again thusly engaged.  I just now reread what I wrote so long ago—so many forgotten names!  But you’ll see Craig Counsell figures prominently into the results of the game that got me on-board with the Brewers, and he’s again making a difference in this race from a different perspective.

If you care to see the original piece, peep it here:

Shades of Blue:  Bleeding for the Cubbies…and the Brewers.

You can also comb through the rest of Lovable Losers, which has been stagnant for some time now.

Anyhow, the piece is pasted below.  If you want to dig all the dirty details of the game under consideration, here they are from Baseball Reference.

Shades of Blue: Bleeding for the Cubbies…and the Brewers

By Jeff Burd

I possess a dual baseball citizenship that triggers many sideways looks when I announce it. My fellow baseball junkies don’t understand how I can cheer for both the Cubs and the Brewers when they are division rivals. Some dismiss it as a result of living in Gurnee, which is almost the midpoint between Wrigley Field and Miller Park. The truth is that my burden can be traced back to a moment of transcendence I experienced in Milwaukee on July 5, 2004.

I was in my fourth season as a fan of baseball and of the Cubs as I settled into a seat behind home plate that day. I loved the Cubs, and had a pretty easy tenure with them up to that point. They had been a playoff hopeful my first season, a miserable mess the next, and then ran deep into the playoffs nine months previous.

Matt Clement was on the mound for the Cubs. He was one of the remaining starting pitchers saddled with keeping the team afloat until Kerry Wood and Mark Prior returned from their residencies on the DL. Ben Sheets was pitching for the Brewers. I was concerned about his status a Cub killer; he had compiled a 5-2 record against them in three seasons.

I blanched when “Jose Macias” flashed on the scoreboard as lineups were announced. He and his anemic .260 batting average would supplant Moises Alou in left field and bat second. Slugger Aramis Ramirez had been replaced by .262-hitting Ramon Martinez and the frustratingly inconsistent youngster Cory Patterson was batting fifth behind Derrek Lee. It wasn’t the first time that season I was questioning Dusty Baker’s judgment; in fact, it felt like it had become instinctual to do so since the Cubs’ failure in the NLCS.

The Brewers’ struck quickly when Craig Counsell unwound his corkscrew stance and popped a pitch over the fence in right center to grab a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. The Cubs missed their first chance to strike back by stranding Macias on third the next inning. The same happened with Todd Walker the next inning, and they managed an early-game hat trick of wasted chances by leaving Michael Barrett on second base in the 4th.

Nothing changed by the top of the 8th, courtesy of the twelve Ks Sheets hurled to help the Brewers hold on to their 1-0 advantage. Clement was lifted for a pinch hitter as the Cubs faced Sheets’ relief. Dusty put his faith in Tom Goodwin’s .214 BA instead of turning to Alou and his reputation as a feared clutch hitter who could deliver in critical situations.

As I watched Goodwin dig in, I thought about the game up to that point. The Brewers’ solid play impressed me. They did all the little things you need to do to win games. Ned Yost had his team playing like a highly disciplined squad in the mold of Arizona, Anaheim, and Florida– teams that had won World Series championships since I started following baseball. It was like they had planned this game as their coming out party to announce their legitimacy to the dismissive Cubs fans.

Goodwin struck out swinging. Walker did likewise. But then the Cubs rallied and had a runner on second base. Had Alou batted, it was likely that he too would have been on base or would have scored during the rally. When Lee struck out, wasting the Cubs’ fourth chance to score, Brewer Nation roared. I sank into my seat, shook my head, and sighed. Like all the other fans Cubs fans. Dusty leaned against the dugout rails throughout the inning, shifting his toothpick from one corner of his mouth to the other.

Dusty didn’t try to manufacture any more opportunities for the Cubs. He could have called on Alou with two outs in the ninth, but instead allowed Macias to hack futilely at the first three pitches he saw to become the seventeenth Cub to strike out.

I muttered a stream of profanities as I walked among jubilant Brewer fans in the parking lot. They were singing the praises of Ned Yost. His team played tough defense behind their pitchers. They made a single run stand up, despite striking out eleven times and managing only three hits. They were easily the best team on the field. It was all true; I realized that the Brewers were playing the type of ball I loved to watch. They had won my respect by doing so.

As for Dusty, he did nothing more than confirm what Chicago sports writers had been saying. He couldn’t manage tight games. He didn’t preach fundamentals. His players had no plate discipline. He wore out his pitchers. He couldn’t develop young talent. I had no respect for him, but could no more abandon the Cubbies than I could a close friend who had made some poor decisions. I decided that if I wanted to be happy watching baseball, I would have to do what most sports fans would consider unthinkable– especially Chicago fans in regard to Wisconsin teams– and adopt a division rival. Respect trumped my regional obligations, and that was enough for me to make my decision.

*

I’ve cheered for both teams with equal enthusiasm the past four years. The tension that would seem to naturally evolve because of my dual citizenship has been non-existent, probably because the teams have never slugged it out with something at stake late in the season. That is all going to end over the next two months. When the Brewers inked CC Sabathia as a summer rental, they elevated what had been a tepid regional conflict into an arms race in which the Cubs immediately fell behind, despite the addition of Rich Harden. If he is able to impact the Cubs the same way Sabathia already has the Brewers, then my teams will be engaged in a full-blown divisional war late this season that could rival the intensity of Bears-Packers.

My friends have grilled me about what I’m going to do since the Cubs and Brewers will play ten more games before all is said and done, including four this week and three the last weekend of September at Miller Park. They dream up scenarios involving bean balls and take-out slides and extra-inning grinds and the possibility of the rivals meeting in the playoffs. They press me for answers in emails and text messages and during phone conversations and at parties and over beers as we watch games. They don’t understand that there is room enough for me to love both teams, that I don’t consider my baseball allegiances to be a monogamous marriage from which I can never stray or even be divorced, that I never stopped loving the Cubs and that I’ve been as happy as every other Northsider to see them return to playing winning baseball. I know they won’t cease their assault until I tell them the truth: if it comes down to game seven of the NLCS, I’ll be cheering wholeheartedly for the Cubs. Of course. You never forget your first love.

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Written by seeker70

August 3, 2018 at 8:35 am

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. I have, for numerous decades now, been ecstatically grateful for those among us who can turn the mundane statistics of our national pastime into prose. You sir, are a newfound recipient of that gratitude. Along with my endearing respect for your skill as a wordsmith. Still, I can only respectfully disagree with the concept of multiple favorites. I am of the firm and ferocious belief that one must have a single favorite, and all others are on a distant, secondary list. I am sure much of this belief stems from age. Never the less, it remains. Having said all of this, I continue to look forward to reading more prose from “The Seeker”. Be well, Jeff.

    charles fouts

    August 3, 2018 at 8:08 pm

    • Hey Chuck. Thanks for checking out The Seeker yet again and posting a comment. Dunno if I ever shared with you another baseball piece I wrote. If I didn’t share it, I’m surprised because I tell EVERYBODY about this one: https://sabr.org/research/earl-weaver-strategy-innovation-and-ninety-four-meltdowns

      As far as dual-citizenship, my following of the Brewers has trailed off a bit in the past few years since the Cubs have been so strong. I was at the point, though, where I had to do something about the bungling Cubs, both as a team and the way the franchise was managed. I think I bottomed out when Pinella screwed up the playoffs two years in a row and the Cubs had tons of wasted money on the roster. I regarded them as the friend with a substance abuse problem. They always say “I’m getting better… I’m off the sauce…” and then they fall off the wagon. The fan base around Wrigleyville embraced the buffoonery, and it was more than I cared to deal with. All I ever did was get pissed off when I watched them. So I stopped watching them and went almost 3 years without even going to Wrigley. There was a franchise 45 miles north, however, and I could get in games there for $10 without much trouble. And they were playing good ball. So, I adopted them with the hopes that I could at least watch some quality baseball. I’ll end up at both stadiums this summer about the same amount and get my fill of good ball, especially since both teams are leading the NL.

      seeker70

      August 4, 2018 at 11:23 am


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