How do you spell it, anyway?

chanukah 3rd

The other day, I wrote a post referencing the start of the eight-day celebration that is observed by those of the Jewish faith. It was suggested to me that my spelling of the holiday–Hanukka–was incorrect. Since the word is a phonetic spelling of a word that doesn’t come from English (and what word does, really?), I decided to do some research to find out how others spell it. And the answers are a bit confusing.

I went to a local Target (not exactly a bastion of Judaica, but at least they had the Chex cereal that I needed) and found a tiny section of one aisle devoted to items that are related to the holiday. Note that I’m avoiding spelling out the word, until I share the findings of my research.

I found three items that could help me in this regard:

Candles for lighting from a company called Rokeach. Their spelling is CHANUKA.

Chocolate coins from Palmer Chocolates. Their spelling is HANUKKAH.

A big oversized dreidel from a company called BBM Chocolate. Their spelling is CHANUKAH.

So that’s three companies, all with different spellings. It reinforces my contention that there is no one correct way to spell the word. It seems that there are four major points of variation:

Two of the three items began the spelling with a “CH” while I used an “H” for mine. So I’m 0-for-1 so far.

All three spellings agreed that there is only one “N” so I’m up to 1-for-2 so far.

Two of the three spellings used a single “K” and I used two. I’m down to 1-for-3.

Two of the three spellings used an “H” at the end of the word, and I did not. So I wind up with a rather sad 1-for-4 average on the word overall.

Using the majority rule on all four areas of variance, I find that the word should be spelled CHANUKAH, which is the way that BBM Chocolate spelled it. Rokeach only missed one of the four points, Palmer Chocolates missed two, and I missed three. So a pretty dismal showing on my part, but at least now I know.

And now that I know the proper spelling, Happy Chanukah to you and yours.

Hanu-Cubs, Night 8

Tonight’s festivities begin, as always, with Steve Goodman. The song is a repeat from a previous evening, but it’s a different version (played in front of a live audience, apparently) and the accompanying slide show is clearly someone’s labor of love. That’s good enough for me.

Reading from right to left, and in the order that they have appeared in the candlelight, are Dave Roberts, Sam Fuld, Ken Holtzman, Jason Marquis, Steve Stone, Adam Greenberg, and Andrew Lorraine. For this final evening’s post, we’ll look at the most recent Jewish player on the Cubs’ roster, John Grabow. His picture is a bit hard to see, but it’s there on the end, underneath the red candle on the end. Grabow pitched for Pittsburgh for a number of years, and was traded with Tom Gorzelanny to the Cubs for three players in the middle of the 2009 season.

There’s a baseball metric called WAR (it stands for Wins Against Replacement) that can measure how valuable a player is to his team. A positive number is good, and anything at or above a 2 is respectable. Grabow’s best year with Pittsburgh–the year before he was traded to the Cubs–was a 1.4. In his two full seasons with Cubs, he posted a -0.9 in 2010, and a -0.6 in 2011. Needless to say, he won’t be returning to the Cubs next season. He will be at spring training with the Dodgers, fighting to earn a spot on their pitching staff. Whether or not he makes it is still to be seen.

My thanks to Jewishmajorleaguers.org for maintaining the roster of players that inspired me to do this. There were some other Jewish Cubs players I was not familiar with because they played before my time, and I only wanted to do this with eight players from the past 30 to 35 years. Once I found out there were at least this many players, it was a matter of taking some photographs and doing some research on each player. It’s been enjoyable for me, and my thanks to you for reading.

Hanu-Cubs, Night 7

Once again, we begin with the music of Steve Goodman. This one isn’t Cubs-related, but I like it anyway. And there’s a picture about 40 seconds in with him wearing a Cubs jacket and a cap. Close enough.

The lineup so far–reading from right to left in the picture above–is Dave Roberts, Sam Fuld, Ken Holtzman, Jason Marquis, Steve Stone, and Adam Greenberg. Please feel free to check them out if you’re so inclined. Tonight’s player–Andrew Lorraine–has no Cubs baseball card that I’ve ever found, but he was a member of the Cubs under Jim Riggleman in 1999, and Don Baylor in 2000. His first Cubs outing was by far his best, when he pitched a three-hit shutout against the Houston Astros in Wrigley Field on August 6, 1999. He faced only 29 batters, two over the minimum, and took a 6-0 victory to salvage a doubleheader split. And it was all downhill from there.

Lorraine lost his next five decisions, and won a meaningless game in St. Louis on the final weekend of the season to finish at 2-5, with a 5.55 ERA. He won his first decision of the 2000 season, but dropped his next two decisions and pitched sporadically out of the bullpen before being released in late May. He pitched again with Cleveland that season, and made a handful of appearances for the Brewers at the end of the 2002 season. He pitched for seven big league organizations, and finished with a 6-11 record for his career. The complete game shutout appears to have been the highlight of his career, and it came in a Cubs uniform. So that’s something to remember here.

There’s only one night left in this exercise, so come back tomorrow and we’ll wrap this thing up. See you then.

Hanu-Cubs, Night 6

We begin, as always, with the music of Steve Goodman. This is actually a remembrance piece about him, but it’s still worth a watch:

The rotation so far (and with so many pitchers, that word seems appropriate) has been Dave Roberts, Sam Fuld (the only non-pitcher), Ken Holtzman, Jason Marquis, and Steve Stone. The only other non-pitcher in this series is featured tonight. And if there’s a sadder tale than Adam Greenberg’s, I don’t know what it is.

Cubs fans probably know all about the story I’m about to revisit, but others might not. When I came upon an Adam Greenberg card a few weeks ago, I was suprised to see it, and glad to have one at the same time. On some level, these things can memorialize a player’s career, however briefly it may have lasted. And briefly is an all too fitting word in this case.

Adam Greenberg was drafted by the Cubs in 2002, and played for the Lansing Lugnuts in single-A that year. I went to a couple of Lugnuts games that season, but I can’t recall whether or not Greenberg played in any of the games I was at. At that level, I don’t really look at the names too closely. So I can’t say that I saw him play with any certainty, but it’s possible. He made his way up to the Cubs’ double-A affiliate, and then to triple-A, during the 2004 season, and then–midway through the 2005 season–he was called up to the majors. At the age of 24, Greenberg seemed to be on his way.

His major league debut came in a Sunday night ESPN telecast. The Cubs had begun their descent in the final half of Dusty Baker’s term as manager, but that night they were ahead 4-2 going into the ninth inning. After a groundout to begin the top of the ninth, and with the pitcher’s spot due up, Baker tried to get the offense going by calling Greenberg’s number (which, for the record, was 17. I still think of it as Mark Grace’s old number).

Greenberg hadn’t yet taken the field, or come in as a pinch-runner, so this was truly his major league debut. He came to the plate and stood in against Valerio de los Santos, who was probably best known for surrendering Sammy Sosa’s 60th homer as a rookie in 1998. De los Santos went into his windup and fired a pitch that came up and in and made a sickening collision with Greenberg’s head.

It was the first and only pitch Greenberg ever saw in the majors, and he probably saw almost none of it. The immediate concern, for Greenberg’s family, de los Santos, and everyone watching in the ballpark and on TV was “is he going to survive this?” A 90+ mile-an-hour fastball is scary enough if it hits the arm or the leg. But in the face? I can’t imagine that.

Greenberg did survive, and Carlos Zambrano was summoned to run in Greenberg’s place. Greenberg suffered severe headaches afterward, and the Cubs–in what might have been a good baseball decision, but seems very cold-hearted otherwise–released Greenberg at the end of the season. He came back in the Cubs’ system in 2006, but was released in the middle of the season. He was subsequently signed by the Dodgers, Royals, and Angels organizations, and for the past three seasons he has played–and played well–for the Bridgeport Bluefish in the independent Atlantic League. Greenberg also received a single at-bat during the 2012 campaign, at the culmination of a campaign by filmmaker Matt Liston. He struck out on three pitches, but received a standing ovation for doing so.

I’m glad to have an Adam Greenberg baseball card. The picture of him in the Cubs hat and jersey, against a sky blue backdrop, seems almost heroic in some way. Here’s the All-American guy, playing the All-American sport, so what could go possibly wrong? But we can’t take anything for granted in life, and what happened to Adam Greenberg is an extreme example of how true that really is.

I’ve reached the limit of my Cubs players in baseball card form, but I do have two more players lined up (both pitchers, if you’re curious) to bring this to its conclusion. I hope you’ll join me over the next two nights. And the full Greenberg card is below:

Hanu-Cubs, Night 5

We begin, as always, with Steve Goodman’s music. Every Cubs fan needs to know about this song:

The first night was devoted to Dave Roberts, the second night to Sam Fuld, the third night to Ken Holtzman, and last night was for Jason Marquis. Tonight the candlelight shines on another pitcher, Steve Stone. Stoney, as we fans call him, is well known on both sides of Chicago, as he has played for the White Sox (1973 and 1977-78) and the Cubs (1974-1976).

I don’t remember him that well as a player, but after his playing days were over (which included a Cy Young award with the Baltimore Orioles in 1980), he was in the broadcast booth with the late Harry Caray for 13 seasons on WGN. He has also worked on White Sox broadcasts with “Hawk” Harrelson in recent years. From this fan’s perspective, he knows the game as well as anyone else, and better than most. Thanks for all the memories over the years!

Tomorrow night will be another position player, and perhaps the most compelling personal story of all. I hope you’ll come back to read it. And the Stone card appears below:

Hanu-Cubs, Night 4

As with the previous nights of this festival of Jewish Cubs players, we begin with the music of Steve Goodman. For more about this song, and Steve Goodman generally, click here.

The profile of Dave Roberts is here. Sam Fuld is here, and Ken Holtzman is here. Tonight’s post will focus on the winningest active Jewish pitcher in the majors, Jason Marquis. He wasn’t drafted by the Cubs, and isn’t with them anymore, (he’ll be with the Minnesota Twins next season, if you’re curious) but he spent two seasons with the Cubs in 2007 and 2008.

The thing I’ll always remember about Jason Marquis is that he wore number 21, which Sammy Sosa also wore during his heyday in Chicago. Sosa left after the 2004 season, and his number (which he wore because it was Roberto Clemente’s number) lay unused for a couple of seasons thereafter. But like the big dirt spot out in right field at Wrigley Field–which, it was said, was there to tell Sammy where to stand during the game–the stigma of  “Sammy’s number” was eventually papered over, and Marquis was the first to wear it post-Sosa. Others to wear #21 since have included Milton Bradley and Tyler Colvin.

There’s an irony to the number that Marquis wore, as there so often is. When Sammy Sosa left the game, he was within reach of 600 career home runs. The situation with the Cubs fans–which was fueled by his walking out on the final day of the 2004 season–was such that the milestone would not come in a Cubs uniform. After a season in Baltimore, and another season out of the game, Sosa came back with the Texas Rangers in 2007. He did hit his 600th homer, in an interleague game against the Cubs, off of Marquis, who was wearing his old number at the time. You can’t make this stuff up.

Marquis was signed for three years with the Cubs, but was traded away to the Rockies after only two seasons on the North Side. The Cubs were but one stop on Marquis’ major league journey, and I wish him well in the years to come (especially when he’s in the American League).

There are four nights left in this series, and another pitcher will be profiled tomorrow night. The full Marquis appears below:

As always, thanks for reading. See you tomorrow night.

Hanu-Cubs, Night 2

As with last night, and every night during this festival of Jewish Cubs players, the shamash is the vocal stylings of the late Steve Goodman (with some help from others this time):

Last night’s honoree, the late Dave Roberts, is profiled here.

Tonight I’ll be discussing Sam Fuld, who was drafted by the Cubs and with them for many years before being traded to the Tampa Bay Rays earlier this year. I have discussed that trade here. The short version of the trade is that the Cubs gave up a number of good young prospects–Fuld being the primary one–so that the Rays could dump Matt Garza, a talented pitcher who they could no longer afford. And now there’s talk that Garza himself could be traded this offseason.

Former Cubs GM Jim Hendry really rolled the dice with this deal, and although Garza’s ERA was solid–and his underlying stats were also very good–he had just 10 wins to show for his efforts last season. The more that Fuld and the other prospects accomplish in the big leagues, the worse this trade will look over time, especially if Garza is traded away by the Cubs.

Like the late Ron Santo, Sam Fuld is a Type I, insulin-dependent diabetic. Unlike Santo, though, Fuld is open about his condition, and this is likely the result of Santo’s results on the field. Santo hid his diabetes, out of his fear that he would be forced to retire if his condition became known. Managing this condition is a difficult task, and I’m glad that Fuld is able to do this in the light of day.

Fuld is also a stats guy, or should I say a STATS guy. He once served as an intern for STATS, Inc., charting pitches as they were thrown during baseball games. He is also working on an advanced statistics degree in his offseasons. As someone who barely scraped by in a basic stats course, I am   in awe that he can do this in what amounts to his spare time.

Sam Fuld never really had a chance to break in with the Cubs at the major league level, and that’s unfortunate. After his initial call-up late in 2007, Fuld was odd man out in an outfield that was stocked with Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome (two Jim Hendry signings that were being paid big money), Milton Bradley (what a disaster that move was), Reed Johnson (who is apparently coming back for another year), and Tyler Colvin (who turned out to be a one-season wonder in 2010). Marlon Byrd was the third Cubs outfielder in 2010, and he was a multi-million dollar free agent who was also an All-Star that year. Unfortunately, there never was any room for Sam Fuld in the Cubs outfield, as long as Jim Hendry’s projects were still around.

Had the Cubs just held onto Fuld for the 2011 season, they could have immediately slotted him into right field once Fukudome was traded away to the Indians. And the Cubs would have had a right fielder who is still several years away from free agency, and can make plays like this (and I love how the White Sox fan gives Fuld grief as he’s laying on the warning track. I doubt he could have made a play like that). Instead, the Cubs had to go out and spend millions to get David DeJesus instead.

I wish Sam Fuld all the best in his career–both in baseball and in statdom–but I also recognize that he could (and should) still be in a Cubs uniform for 2012, but for a short-sighted move made by Jim Hendry almost a year ago. And the full ramifications (or should I say, the Sam-ifications) of that deal will not be known for several more seasons.

And here’s the full version of the Fuld card:

I’ll see you again tomorrow night.

Hanu-Cubs, Night 1

Hanukah begins tonight, and I wanted to put my collection of Cubs baseball cards to work to commemorate the season. In order to do this, I have brought out a ceramic menorah that was purchased at a garage sale many years ago. If I was actually Jewish, I’d probably have a better one to use for this purpose. But you have to play the hand you’re given in life.

The first candle, the one that is used for lighting all of the others, is going to be Steve Goodman, who was not a Cubs’ player, but he did write and sing songs about the Cubs. This is one you’ve heard before:

So on the first night of this celebration, I’ll highlight (no pun intended) the late Dave Roberts. No, not the Dave Roberts who is known for “The Steal” but the journeyman pitcher who pitched for eleven different organizations in his thirteen-year career. His salad days were with the Detroit Tigers in the mid-1970s, and the Cubs purchased his contract from the Tigers at the end of July in 1977. This was also around the time that the Cubs brought Dave Giusti in from Pittsburgh, as the Cubs were hoping to stave off a second-half collapse that saw them go from 25 games above .500 to finishing 20 games out of first place. Clearly, the Roberts/Giusti combo wasn’t enough to save their season that year.

Roberts spent the next full season with the Cubs, splitting his time between the starting rotation and the bullpen. The 1978 Cubs were an awful team, managed by Herman Franks, but they were enough to keep a nine-year-old boy in Springfield, Illinois occupied all summer long. I don’t have any specific recollections about anything Roberts did that summer, but I can tick off the guys that he played with: Reuschel and Sutter, Kingman and Buckner, DeJesus and Trillo. And there can’t be too many people who remember Mick Kelleher, but I’m one of them.

To give perhaps the strangest analogy you will ever hear on the subject, if my allegiance to the Cubs is concrete, it was poured in late 1975, hardened in 1976 and 1977, and by 1978 it was set for good. I couldn’t break it now if I wanted to (and believe me, there have been some times I have thought about this). Roberts is a part of my Cubs history, and so he gets the honor of leading off the Hanu-Cub festival of Jewish Cubs players, all of whom have come and gone in the past 35 years. More will follow over the next few evenings.

The 1978 Topps card for Dave Roberts showed him as clean-shaven, but I liked the 1979 version better, and I included it above. However, it was obsolete by the time it was printed, as Roberts signed with the San Francisco Giants in late February, probably in time for spring training that year. He played with two teams in 1979, two teams in 1980, and ended his career in early 1981 after a short stint with the New York Mets.

Roberts supplemented is baseball income by working as a boilermaker in the off-season, where he was exposed to materials that gave him lung cancer. He died in 2009 at the age of 64. His service, both to the Cubs and to baseball in general, is remembered here.