Freel fallen


At this time last year, former big league ballplayer Ryan Freel was probably hanging on by a thread. He had played in the major leagues, but had been injured many times and suffered several concussions.

We’re only just beginning to learn of the dangers of head trauma, and its role in bringing about a condition known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalophathy (CTE). Freel lived with it after he left the game, and didn’t get the help he needed in coping with it. Drinking didn’t help, either, but the damage had been done. Baseball had ground him up and spat him out. And if he had never played for the Cubs, I doubt I would have noticed it at all.

But he did play for the Cubs, briefly, and so I noticed after he took his own life last December 28. His family will be reliving it all over again, I’m sure, and they always will every time the holidays roll around.

I wrote two pieces about Freel for ChicagosideSports, one early in 2013, and the other just a few days ago, after his CTE diagnosis had been confirmed. The decision to ban collisions at home plate probably would not have helped Freel specifically, but it’s an acknowledgement that where contact can be avoided in baseball, it should be avoided. And that’s definitely a legacy worth celebrating.


Submitted for the Cubs’ consideration


Dear Chicago Cubs,

I welcome the news that you will be turning away from random celebrities, in favor of giving the seventh-inning stretch more of a Chicago feel. To honor your decision, I want to kick off a campaign to secure myself an invite for one of the celebrity-vacated spots, for the 2013 season or whenever you see your way clear to inviting me.

To set forth some credentials, I offer the following: I’ve been a Cubs fan since I was seven years old. I wrote about my Cubs conversion, and have chronicled many other Cubs-related memories in this space, as well.

In addition, I also write about the Cubs for ThroughTheFenceBaseball, and would be happy to relate my experiences to that site and its readers. I also write for ChicagoSideSports, and what a story that would be for them, as well. I have several ideas to write about for them, but I promise that no other piece would matter until that story is told.

I feel, on some level, that I’ve helped to diagnose one of the problems plaguing the Cubs in the quest to win at Wrigley Field. Last year,  I wrote a piece about how Bruce Springsteen has brought success to the Bears, Blackhawks, and White Sox, after he played a concert in their home stadium. That piece ran in TimeOutChicago, and I was very glad to see it. But I also took it one step further on my blog.

I pointed out that Bruce Springsteen’s 2003 concerts at Fenway Park seemed to clear the way for the Red Sox to finally break their curse/drought/whatever in 2004. I looked at the playlists for those shows, and identified The Promised Land as a song that speaks of faith in someplace that hasn’t yet been seen. I theorized that if Bruce could play The Promised Land at Wrigley Field last summer, perhaps that would be enough to break whatever’s been afflicting the Cubs for so long. Nobody can say that Boston won for that reason in 2004, but nobody can say that they didn’t, either.

I went to the first Springsteen show at Wrigley last year, and even though I didn’t hear the Promised Land, it was a phenomenal show. I also picked up on a hidden Ron Santo tribute during the show, wrote about it, and sent it off to Jon Eig, the editor at ChicagoSideSports. He got the piece up on the site in time for others to read about it before the second Springsteen show, and this time, when My City of Ruins was played, I have to believe at least some at the show knew what was going on. Bruce even called the fans’ attention to it, in a way that he didn’t do at the first show. I can’t say I had a role in any of that, but again, I put the story out there and events played out as they did.

The second Springsteen show led off with The Promised Land, and I took to my blog the next morning and declared victory. I’m not foolish enough to take credit for the song actually being played. But I did lay down a marker that if anything good comes from it, I want it known that I pointed this out before the fact.

In the wake of the Ron Santo piece, I also wrote a Kerry Wood piece for ChicagoSide, and a Ryan Freel piece, and the Pete Rose piece that took off in ways I never imagined, and has helped lead to an evaluation of whether Rose has suffered enough for what he did. All of which has been very gratifying, and has put my words and ideas into the minds and on the tongues of many people.

I’m no celebrity, and I never will be, either. I’m just a dedicated Chicagoan who loves the Cubs like nothing else, short of my own family. My Twitter page, my blog site, my Tumblr page, and my Pinterest account all verify my devotion to the team, and my Facebook banner leaves no doubt as to my thoughts about baseball itself. And if that doesn’t merit even a bit of consideration for a singing gig at Wrigley Field, so be it. Just having the chance to type all of this up was interesting enough.

Thanks for the consideration.

Rob Harris

Link to a piece on ChicagoSideSports


Ryan Freel’s tragic suicide in December of 2012 might not matter to me if he had never played for the Cubs. I’m very provincial that way. Most fans probably are when it comes to their team.

The brevity of Freel’s career as a Cub does not mean that he was unimportant; It’s actually quite the opposite. Here’s a link to the story so you can find out more. But be aware that there was no happy beginning, middle, or end for him in Chicago.

Freel gave everything he had, and more than he probably should have given, and that alone deserves to be recognized. There are questions to be asked, and lessons to be learned, and if I’ll be very pleased if I can help to move this process along in any way.

Don’t try suicide, nobody cares

Back in 1980, I could count the number of vinyl albums I owned on one hand. I was 12 years old, and the only way I had of listening to music was an ancient turntable in the corner of my family’s living room. I had a number of 45s at the time, but only a handful of vinyl albums: The Grease soundtrack, Billy Joel’s Glass Houses, Queen’s The Game, and Steve Martin’s Wild and Crazy Guy. If you wanted a window into my life as a pre-teenager, there it is.

On the Queen album, I liked “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “Another One Bites the Dust” and rather than buy two singles from the same album, I went ahead and bought the entire album. And I’m ever so glad that I did, because one of the songs on side B just may have saved my life.

The song in question is “Don’t try Suicide,” and I thought of it when I learned that former big leaguer and Cubs player Ryan Freel killed himself at the age of 36. Anytime somebody ends his own life it’s a tragic situation, because that person throws away any chance of having good things happen to them ever again.

As the Most Awkward Kid who Ever Lived, I had thoughts about doing myself in. But after listening to Freddie Mercury’s counsel, I decided against it, and I’m glad that I did. Missing out on high school, college, and everything after would have been a real shame.

It’s too bad that Ryan Freel, and everyone else who lets these thoughts get the better of them, didn’t have a Queen song, or an REM song, or anything else that can act as a deterrent. That’s what a person in that situation needs to find, and then hang onto as a metaphorical life saver, because that’s exactly what it is.

Freddie Mercury isn’t around anymore to offer my thanks to, so I’m going to do the next best thing. Consider this an invitation to listen to the song, in all of its cattiness. It carries a serious message, but is delivered in a nonchalant, off-handed way. I think that’s what worked for me, all those years ago. Listen to the song, think about its message, and then get on with your life, because it’s the only one you’ll ever get. And the gawky 12 year-old that’s helping me write this thanks you.