Friday, April 26, 2013

April 26- Chicago Cubs

It had been a little over a year since I last saw Edwin Jackson; April 10, 2012 to be exact. We had met during his visit to the MLB Fan Cave along with Ross Detwiler and Gio Gonzalez as a member of the Washington Nationals. For a full recap on that day’s events I highly suggest reading my posts from April 17 and March 13. From first introduction I learned quickly that Edwin and I are a lot alike; big kids in grown-up bodies. I had the privilege of giving the three a grand tour of the Fan Cave as I was all decked out in Nationals gear. The first stop we made was the RC-car track which Gio and Edwin tore up for a solid five minutes. We then moved on to the skee-ball machine and pool table before ending the tour in front of the stage which had guitars and a drum set affixed. I could see in Edwin’s eyes that he wanted to jump up on stage and knock some beats out as the production guys tried to go over the script with him and Gio. After the two shot their introduction scenes Edwin broke loose and jumped up on stage with sticks in hand.

He crushed it. Honestly, I never wanted anything more in that moment than to know how to play the guitar so I could jam on stage with him; however, Ricardo Marquez did know how. I walked over to him and casually asked him if he was going to play. He told me he wanted to, but was too afraid to. At which I then told him, “If I could play, I would. Now get your fucking ass up on the stage.” This was a common occurrence between the two of us in that I had to motivate him to do certain things from time-to-time. What can I say? I know when people have potential and don’t like to see them piss it away due to fear. Fear gets you nowhere in life. Anyway, Ricardo finally got up on stage, picked up a guitar and rocked out with Edwin. There was another little thing that Ricardo had set up for fellow Cave Dweller, and Atlanta Braves fan, Shaun Kippins (@Skippins) in which anytime anyone said “Skips on the dance floor” he would have to do the robot dance like the random character did on “The Chappelle Show.” This:

So, sure enough, Skips got involved as well and I just sat back and took photos. It was random, off the cuff stuff like this that I felt made the Fan Cave an enjoyable place, but not everyone shared my vision.

I knew Edwin had a Twitter account and have been following him since that day, but I hardly ever saw him on. I wouldn’t be until the end of December that we would talk to one another again, and I have Gio Gonzalez’s Instagram account to thank for that. Gio had started his Instagram account somewhere between October and November and so I figured why not follow him. What I wasn’t expecting was a follow immediately back. I posted a few photos that I took of him from my time on the road and one of him and Edwin playing with the RC-car track. Not too long after that Edwin’s user name popped up and he started following me as well. The only just thing to do after that was follow him back and post the photo I had of him on the drums. Our dialogue rekindled from that moment.

It was the offseason , and the last thing I wanted to talk about was baseball. We caught up as best we could, mostly through the photos we were taking and posting. When Edwin got signed to a multi-year contract with the Chicago Cubs over the winter I congratulated him, but nothing really more than that. Most compliments I prefer to give in person so they mean more, but sometimes you have to make due with what you have in front of you.

My girlfriend, Angie Kinderman (@sconnieangie) and I had been for me to get back see her in Florida since February, the time when she came to visit me in Eugene, Oregon. One of the things we wanted to do together was catch as many baseball games as possible. We all ready had our trip to Tampa set up to watch my Oakland Athletics play, but we didn’t have anything in Miami ready to go. I checked out the schedules and saw that the Nationals were playing the final game of their series with the Miami Marlins on the day that I was flying in. After looking a bit closer I then noticed that the Cubs were playing two games against the Marlins on the nights leading up to my original departure date back to Oregon. At the time I didn’t know who would be pitching, but I figured that if we got to any of the games early enough we could catch Edwin during batting practice. What I wasn’t expecting was that Edwin was slated to start on the night that Angie and I had tickets for the Florida Panthers final home game of the NHL season against my favorite team, the Toronto Maple Leafs. I had never been to a NHL game in my life so we opted for that. Edwin went on to have a decent outing in which the Cubs won 4-3. I felt a little bad for not being there, but at the same time I have seen Edwin pitch in the past. Angie and I, along with 10 of her friends, had tickets to last night’s game, so the two of us went to Marlins Park early to try and spot Edwin during BP as originally planned. It too a little while for him to come out, but I spotted him going out to left field during the last 15 minutes of their session. Angie suggested that we go over to the section of the park to try and see him, so we did. I made sure to wait until everything was done, but within five minutes I broke two cardinal sins in my own personal ballpark etiquette.

1. I never yell at players.

I’ve touched on this issue a few times in past posts, but I’m one of those few people that goes to games to watch the game. I’ll take a few pictures of the action and my friends, but I rarely ever engage with the players unless they initiate it. A few days prior I had hit Edwin up and let him know I was going to be there, but I still felt incredibly weird when I shouted his name as things were wrapping up. But sure enough, he spotted me and came jogging over for a handshake and a hug. Not to be a complete jerk I made sure to introduce him to Angie before we caught up. We mostly talked about beard growth and how the last year has treated us, but he was all smiles, as was I.

2. I never ask players for photos.

What’s most interesting about meeting in the Fan Cave is that we never took a group shot when the Nationals came to visit. I always thought this was weird and asked him if he wouldn’t mind a photo. As the words left my mouth I was cursing myself on the inside for breaking this rule; even more so when I popped “The Shark,” with the wrong hand and failed to turn my cap around so that you can clearly see that I’m wearing a Cubs hat. I suppose I’m being too hard on myself, and he would tell me to not worry about it. I think that is one of the biggest things I respect about the guy; he gets it. When we met in the Fan Cave, he had fun. When we saw each other on the field, he had fun. And anytime we’ve chatted he genuinely means what he says; something I truly respect, as do a lot of other fans and players throughout the league.

I bought this hat a few days before I left Oregon for Florida and had it delivered to Angie’s house so I would have it for the game. It’s one that I’ve been holding off on buying for the last year or so as it is one of the few Cubs hats I didn’t all ready won. In fact, very few people outside of the Cubs fan base know it exists. The Cubbies only wore it for one season in 1957. There isn’t much of a difference between it and the classic Cubs hat the team has worn for decades, except of course for the white piping going up-and-down the panel seams. The fact that the team only used it for the one season kept things a bit limited as far as what I could write about, but I’m pretty sure you’ll all agree with where I went with it.

#14-’57: Ernie “Mr. Cub” Banks signed with Chicago as a free agent back in 1953 and made his Major League debut that same season on September 10 for the last 10 games of the regular season. For 19 years Banks donned the Cubbie pinstripes and went down in history as one of the greatest-hitting shortstops in MLB history hitting .274.512/1636 for his career. What very few people remember is that he only played shortstop from 1953-1961 and played first base predominantly throughout the rest of his career which ended at the end of the 1971 season. 1954 was his first full season which saw the budding prospect finishing the season number two on the National League Rookie of the Year campaign after going .275/19/79 on the year. St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Wally Moon took home the award that season; a season which also found Hank Aaron finishing in fourth place on the list. In ’54 Banks also finished in 16th place for the NL MVP award, the first four consecutive years in which he would be a nominee: third in 1955, 28th in 1956 and sixth in 1957. It’s kind of funny when you look at Banks’ numbers in comparison to his finish for the NL MVP as he more-than-likely should have won in 1955 after hitting 44 home runs and 114 RBI on the year; however, Brooklyn Dodgers Hall of Famers Roy Campanella and Duke Snyder felt the exact opposite as they finished one-two respectively.

1957 was an especially bad year for the Cubs as the team went 62-92 on the year under then skipper Bob Scheffing, a reign of losing seasons the team would see under the manager from 1956-1959. The only other notable player on the team that season was first baseman Dale Long, whose only claim to fame was during his years with the Pittsburgh Pirates when he became the first player in MLB history to hit a home run in eight consecutive games in 1956. For Banks, even though he had four solid full seasons under his belt, including ’57, this would be his final season finishing as a runner-up.

In 1958 and 1959 Banks became the first ever shortstop to win the NL MVP in back-to-back seasons, let alone the fifth person in MLB history (first in the NL), to pull of the feat. In ’58 he went .313/47/129 and in ’59 he went .304/45/143; he led the league in games played and RBI those two seasons. In 1960 Banks would win his one, and only Gold Glove award for his career and be named to 11 All-Star games throughout his career. Like any player who got played with the Cubs after 1908, he never won a World Series ring, as he stayed loyal to Chicago was never moved, nor did he sign with anyone else. He was elected to the National Baseball in 1977 and is one of six players to have their jersey retired by the Cubs.

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