The Rundown: Thankful for Rick Monday and Cubs Baseball, Castellanos Still on Cubs’ Radar, Brewers Acquire Shortstop Prospect

Happy Thanksgiving, Cubs fans!

Do you give thanks for baseball? Do you remember the game that turned you from a casual fan with a passing interest in the sport into the die-hard you are now? I remember mine, though it was really an unremarkable event as far as Cubs baseball was concerned. That day, the Cubs and Mets split a doubleheader at Shea Stadium.

But there was so much going on. The White Sox played a doubleheader at Comiskey Park that day, too, splitting their set against the Rangers. I was 12 years old and I met my first crush that day in the alley behind my grandparents’ house at 63rd & Troy, just north of Marquette Park. I experimented with explosives — M80’s and Silver Salutes — for the first time in my life, and watched my dad get arrested later that evening for lighting off skyrockets behind his brother’s house near Ashburn Baptist Church on Southwest Highway. The pastor, who was one of my dad’s best friends for nearly 25 years, called the police on him.

Oh yeah, our nation was celebrating its bicentennial in an election year that saw the country’s first real shift to the left, thanks to Jimmy Carter.

Before I get to the Cubs game, I have to tell you about my grandparents, since we spent most of the afternoon at their house thanks to a huge party thrown by Mayor Richard J. Daley. My grandfather was a Cook County tax assessor and advisor to Daley, which automatically made him a White Sox fan. Additionally, my grandparents used to manage the polls for the 18th Ward on election day, and my grandmother used to make cookies for everyone who stopped by to vote.

My grandfather was a big dude whose first job was running numbers and delivering liquor to south suburban speakeasies for Al Capone during the 1920’s, so he could be intimidating. He welcomed all voters, no matter their preferred political party, but he only conversed with the people he knew would vote for Daley. During the 1975 mayoral election, I got paid $2 by our mayor for helping my grandfather clean up after voting closed.

As the polls were closing that day, there was a fight outside in the alley so I went to see what was going on. During the course of the wrestling match, a garbage can spilled over and its contents started blowing all over the place. As I was cleaning up, I noticed that they were completed ballots, and, in thinking that they were thrown out by mistake, I picked them up, put them in a box, and carried them back in to give to my grandfather.

“Hey gramps,” I said. “I found all these ballots in the garbage. Don’t you have to bring these down to City Hall?”

“Put them back where you found them,” he replied sternly. “Those are Republican votes. They don’t count.”

Oof.

Spring forward to the Bicentennial celebration. One of the guys who was fighting in the alley on that 1975 election day lived across the street from my grandparents, and he was at the block party with his daughter Madonna, who was the only Cubs fan at the barbecue besides me. It was the first time I had seen a girl wearing a Cubs hat, and wow, I started hearing Partridge Family songs in my head. After playing with fireworks while listening to my cassette tape of “Dreamboat Annie” by Heart, we grabbed a small black and white TV from her house and sat on her porch drinking black cherry sodas and watching the Cubs-Mets twin bill.

The Cubs lost the first game 9-4, but Rick Monday, one of the most underrated players in the history of baseball, hit a two-run homer in the loss. The Cubs won the nightcap 4-2 thanks to a complete game masterpiece by “Smokin'” Ray Burris. Monday and Burris instantly became my favorite Cubs players though the Cubs’ center fielder was pretty much everyone’s favorite thanks to a patriotic moment of his own in Los Angeles a few months earlier.

That summer turned me into the “bleed Cubbie blue” fan that I am today, thanks to a pretty girl in a Cubs hat, Monday, Burris, and the party Mayor Daley held in honor of my grandfather for a lifetime of support. Daley passed away later that year, right before Christmas, and the Cubs finished fourth in the NL East with a record of 75-87. They fired manager Jim Marshall and reassigned GM Salty Saltwell after the season, ushering in the Herman Franks/Bob Kennedy era. My grandfather gave up his post as advisor to the new Mayor, Michael Bilandic, whom he vehemently opposed as Daley’s successor.

I spent the rest of the summer hanging out with Madonna, but her family eventually moved to Duluth and I never saw her again. Still, it was a fantastic few months, a time I’ll never forget and a summer for which I am truly thankful.

Cubs News & Notes

Thanksgiving Stove

Why turkey, giblet gravy, stuffing and mashed potatoes, of course! Actually I’m just having a bone-in ribeye with a baked potato this year, thanks for asking. Can’t wait to see all the turkey and fixins pictures on Facebook, though.

The Padres and Brewers made a big trade yesterdayand I am failing to see how either team actually helped themselves.

San Diego signed free agent reliever Drew Pomeranz, who also played for Milwaukee last season.

The Orioles are/were allegedly close to dealing starting pitcher Dylan Bundy. If I had to guess which team would have to most interest in the right hander, it would be the Brewers.

The Pirates named former Twins bench coach Derek Shelton as their new manager.

White Sox right-hander Kelvin Herrera has reportedly been accused of punching a man several times at a cockfight in the Dominican Republic.

Extra Innings

How do we feel about Tom Ricketts these days? His approval ratings are trending downward since last winter, but he did bring the Cubs their first World Series championship in 108 years.

They Said It

  • “Man, I love everything about Nick Castellanos. What a job he did coming in. I don’t think you can ask more of an in-season trade acquisition than what he did. The production, the consistency, the dynamic at-bats that he had and then the way he went about it — just with a lot of passion, a lot of professionalism, a lot of hard work, a team-oriented approach. Really became invested in the Cubs and his teammates in a short period of time.” – Theo Epstein

Thursday Walk Up Song

Let’s Turkey Trot by Little Eva. A Thanksgiving staple for families across the nation since 1963. Wait – you’ve never heard it before?

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