Signing off from TTFB

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When I started writing this blog in the summer of 2011, I did it because I had things I wanted to say, and no outlet for saying them. I sent a couple of things I wrote to other blogs, but in the end I wanted my words to go someplace that I got to direct. The result was this blog, and starting it was a decision I’m very happy about.

For the first few months, this blog was a spigot that gushed forth with thoughts I had kept locked inside my brain for a long time. Nothing seemed too trivial to write about, because it was all stuff that I wanted to share with somebody–anybody–and finally I could do exactly that.

And then I started to wonder if some of my ideas wouldn’t be suited for wider consumption someplace else. The 2011 World Series between the Rangers and Cardinals was amazing, but my thoughts and writings about it came here to sit. I’d rather write something than let the thoughts die inside my brain–and that’s the feeling that still keeps me doing this, 500,000 words or so later. But there should be something else I could do with this stuff, too.

So the following spring, I began sending things into a website called ThroughTheFenceBaseball. I think I learned about them on a Craigslist ad or something like that. From the start, I wanted a place to send some of my baseball-related thoughts, while keeping the blog for everything else. And it worked out pretty well, because I sent them 215 pieces over the past four years, ending with a farewell piece that was published yesterday. I even got in a reference to Boston in my parting shot, which made me happy.

The number of outside websites I write for has varied through the years, but my four-year run at TTFB will always be my first one, and probably my longest one, too. I had hundreds of thousands of page views there, which means somebody might have read something they liked.  It was something I enjoyed doing, and I left a body of work that will live on for as long as the site does. And who really knows how long that will be, anyway?

 

What I do for fun

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Now that baseball season is finally here, I find myself directing much of my attention to writing about the Cubs. I don’t get all the sleep I want, but that’s all right because this is fun for me.

Sportswriters get paid to tell me–and everyone else–what they think about the game and my team, and we’re then expected to internalize it and make their thoughts our own. But I’m not playing that game this year. I write what I think, and then look around to see what others might think. But I’m doing the thinking myself, and the writing is a manifestation of this. It feels like liberation, on some level.

Three pieces that I wrote about the Cubs and the first two games of the season are here (for ThroughTheFenceBaseball), here (for FiveWideSports) and here (for WrigleyvilleNation). I’m sure this is just the tip of the iceberg now that the season is underway. It feels like making up for lost time.

Two baseball pieces as the offseason winds down

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I’ve been doing some thinking about why baseball matters so much to me. It’s one of the few constants in my life, dating all the way back to when I saw my first live baseball game in 1975. Things change–for better and for worse–but baseball is always there. The game changes, too, but it’s always going to be so much more interesting than anything else I’ve come into contact with.

With this in mind, I wrote one piece for Wrigleyville Nation about a Pie-in-the-sky reason why the Cubs will win this year (a lifetime of deprivation will do funny things to the mind) , and another for ThroughTheFenceBaseball based on a picture I took outside of Wrigley Field.

It’s almost time to strap in for another season, and I can’t wait for it to arrive.

Some writings from this month

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Yesterday was the first time that I’ve had a piece published on ChicagoSideSports this year, but I’ve also been active on ThroughTheFenceBaseball and on FiveWideSports. I haven’t promoted them the  way that I would like to here, but I’m grateful to have a chance to share some of my thoughts with those in the online community.

All this could be such a dream

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Nothing like quoting from an old Night Ranger song to start a post, is there? I actually like their song “Goodbye” because it has a wistful, reminiscent air about it. Which is just how I feel about Mark Prior and the Chicago Cubs.

It’s now been a decade since he pitched the Cubs to the edge of the World Series, and almost that long since he did anything worth noticing on a baseball diamond. He got hurt, like many athletes do, and his physical gifts couldn’t survive that process. I wish it hadn’t happened like that, but life is full of such disappointments.

But there was always a hope for a Hollywood ending, or another shot at making it in the big leagues again. I really wanted that to happen for him, to show that the past can sometimes be just a prologue. But it seems that it couldn’t, at least not in this case.

Mark Prior recently retired from baseball, and the memories–good ones as well as bad–will now be retired along with him. I wrote a piece for ThroughTheFenceBaseball, putting my thoughts into a little more focus. But the guitar strumming at the beginning of Night Ranger’s song is always going to accompany any thoughts about his career.

It’s sad that what once looked like a great career has reached its end, but all things have to end sometime, and the true end in this case came many years ago. Now that end has to be reckoned with, and it’s on to the next thing. So shall it always be in life.

Thoughts on Papi and Alou

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Today was quite a day. Not only did I spend the day on a field trip with my daughter’s Girl Scout troop (more on that later, some day), but I had a variety of pieces running in different places. The I-still-can’t-quite-believe-it-happened comeback by the Red Sox in the ALDS–keyed by a grand slam by David Ortiz–gave rise to two different pieces, one at ThroughTheFenceBaseball and the other at FiveWideSports.

Writing for two different blogs in the same general vein can be time-intensive, but it allows me to take something in two different directions, as I did with yesterday’s Red Sox game. There were dozens of ways to go with it, and I was happy to have multiple options.

As if to counterbalance the stories about joy in Boston, I later cranked out a piece about my own lingering heartbreak–and that isn’t too strong a word–over the way the 2003 NLCS turned out in Chicago. I already had an alternate history piece on ChicagoSideSports, but I added one more bit of perspective about Moises Alou.

Would he have caught that ball that was hit down the third base side by Luis Castillo in the eighth inning of Game six? We’ll never know for certain. One day it will be an ancient memory, but that day hasn’t arrived yet.

Writing about it helps a little bit, if only to bear witness to how it all came apart so suddenly. Here’s hoping the next ten years will be better than the first ten were.

Baseball’s hold on me

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Over the past 24 hours, three baseball-themed pieces that I wrote have appeared online. The deal between Pearl Jam and Fox Sports for the upcoming World Series was discussed in a piece on ThroughTheFenceBaseball, a memory from the 2003 Cubs season appeared on FiveWideSports, and a vision of how 2003 might have ended differently appeared on ChicagoSideSports. Writing about baseball is something of an elixir for me, even when the subjects are difficult to relive sometimes.

There were also two amazing, 1-0 games in the playoffs yesterday. My TV-less ways meant that I didn’t see either one, but I’m still aglow this morning with the power this game has to captivate us. And rather than get it to it any more than that, I’ll just sit back and wait for the next game to begin. What a great time of year this is.

An apt metaphor

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I’ve not been writing much in this space lately, as I’m sending off pieces to other websites instead. But I can always link to them here, so here’s a Five Wide piece I wrote, and here’s a TTFB piece. Another piece should run on FiveWide soon, but the Cubs stuff has pretty much come to an end for a while. Or at least I say that now….

The picture above shows a black container and a blue container, sitting side by side in an alley in Chicago. Neither one is any bigger than the other, or newer than the other, and they appear to co-exist with each other pretty well. The Cubs wear blue, and the White Sox wear black (I can’t claim to understand why, but that’s what they do).

But when you consider that their purpose is to collect all of the refuse that builds up inside a house or an apartment, the metaphor of these two receptacles becomes even more fitting.

Both the Cubs and the White Sox were fit for trash collection this year, but nothing more than that. So I’ll put this picture up as my way of saying good riddance to a very trying baseball season on both sides of town.

The season’s winding down

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On Sunday the baseball season officially comes to an end. It’s been over for the Cubs since sometime in May, probably, but at least come Sunday the lights will go out on yet another losing season.

I plan to watch the playoffs, and I’ve adopted the Dodgers as my team after they angered John McCain by invading the Diamondbacks’ pool. I loved that move, and I hope they go all the way to the World Series this year. But mostly I just want something compelling to hold my interest this October.

My writing pace has picked up over the past few days, between pieces at TTFB and at FiveWide Sports. I love to write, and so that’s what I do whenever I have a moment to spare. Hopefully one day I’ll write about the Cubs in a good way. But I can’t see those days coming anytime soon.

A new outlet

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I’m happy that FiveWideSports will be carrying some of my thoughts and writings, beginning with this piece that appeared on their site today. I’m still writing for ThroughTheFenceBaseball, and I have a piece appearing there today, as well. The writing is all Cubs and baseball-related, and a week from now their season will be done. Thankfully.

FiveWide is going to give me a chance to write about Northwestern Football and other sports-related things that interest me. I went into a winter’s hibernation of sorts at TTFB last year, and this new site will give me a chance to wander off the baseball subject from time to time. I doubt I’ll ever stray too far from it, though.

And then, as always, there’s this blog. That’s going to remain as my go-to for anything else that pops into my head and inspires me to write a few words. After almost 1100 posts over the course of two years plus, I’m pretty sure that well will continue flowing into the foreseeable future.

Another lost season

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I wish that I had more productive creative muses than the Chicago Cubs. It’s such a draining and aggravating experience following this team. But baseball is my game and Chicago is my home and I  would rather eat my keyboard than become a White Sox fan. So here I am.

I ruminated again about how bad the Cubs have been this year on ThroughTheFenceBaseball. It’s like that old poem about gathering rosebuds: Bash your baseball team while ye may. Winter’s coming soon.

I’m bringing 50 back

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When I was a kid–from 1975 until about 1981– I was into baseball. I still am, really, but it mattered to me then like nothing else did.

I played it on the field in Khoury League, and I thought about it when I was wasn’t playing. I read Baseball Digest, which came out once a month and was something I looked forward to. I watched Cubs games on TV, but most teams weren’t televised back then.  I didn’t know how good I had it, in this sense.

That all changed once I started shoveling my quarters into video games, and spending my free time in arcades. And when ESPN came along, it seemed like baseball was available all the time. But since I had come of age in a different time, I tried to hold baseball in the same way that I always had, even as the game changed and I changed, too.

Hitting 50 home runs in one season was something that rarely happened back then. And in this Steroid/PED Era, it has been devalued greatly because of how often it has happened. But this year, I’d like to think it’s different.

A piece I wrote about why that is was published yesterday on TTFB. Feel free to have a look, if you’re so inclined.

Writings about Sandberg and Monday

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It’s been hard to find some time to write lately, but there are a few baseball things happening. And to feed my new column (I do like the way that sounds), I sent them in to ThroughTheFenceBaseball.

The first was a piece about a Rick Monday bobblehead that was given away at Dodger Stadium the week. You have to be of a certain age to know about Rick Monday and the flag incident back in 1976. But it’s a great story, and one that I’ve retold in this space already. If these bobbleheads can help to memorialize it and call attention to it, that’s a good thing. I certainly wanted to do my part, too.

The Ryne Sandberg piece that I wrote last night was a hard one to get together. I loved Sandberg as a player–more than I realized at the time–and it will be difficult to consider him as a part of another organization besides the Cubs.

The piece also takes Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer to task for not choosing Sandberg to manage the Cubs. Sandberg meant a lot to many, and Sveum meant nothing to no one. So of course we ended up with Sveum. If that makes any sense, please leave me a comment explaining it below.

Perhaps other topics will emerge besides baseball in the days ahead. But the winding down of the baseball season means that a long offseason isn’t far in the distance, either. So it’s best to enjoy it while it lasts.