Adult version of the Grand Prize Game?


Adult version of the Grand Prize Game?

Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2010
10:55 AM
By Joe Collins

There are a few dates that stand out in Chicago's sports history: January 26, 1986. Or October 26, 2005. And of course, June 9, 2010. Even the novice Windy City sports fan could tell you that those dates represent the Bears Super Bowl XX win, the White Sox World Series championship and the day the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, respectively. And I bet if you really thought about it, you could recall the day when you went to your first baseball game. Or the day when you scored a touchdown for your high school football team. Or the day your parents let you stay up late to watch Michael Jordan hang 50 on the Pistons.

October 12, 1988 was my first sports memory...and I use the term sports loosely. On that day, I went to see a taping of The Bozo Show at WGN's studios. And if you recall watching that show growing up, the centerpiece of that hour was always the Grand Prize Game. No question. It blew the rest of the show out of the water because it contained so many current sports or sports-like associations. And what's not to like about sports, right? It had: physical ability (throwing), accuracy, not choking under pressure, a live audience, TV cameras and rewards for good play.

A boy seated just in front of us was one of the kids picked. He easily made bucket one. And two. Then three. By the time he made bucket four, a strange hush fell over the studio. You know how when there's a perfect game going in baseball, a hushed giddiness overtakes the room? That's what the WGN studio was like: "Wow...he's perfect through four!" After he made bucket five, the scene was probably tantamount to what U.S. Cellular Field was like after the 8th inning of Mark Buehrle's perfect game: "This kid just might make history today!"

Then...he made bucket six. 2501 West Bradley Place went up for grabs. Lots of screaming. A standing ovation. It was like one of our own won a national championship. A bucket six win was extremely rare on The Grand Prize Game. I'm surprised that the audience didn't rush the stage and flip Cuddly Dudley's house over. The kid "pitched" a perfect game and now got the chance to dominate his block with his prizes: a new bicycle, 50 and a ransom of Archway cookies.

Of course, it's all a memory now. The closest that most adults (myself included) could ever come to reliving that kind of glory would be playing beer pong at 2am in some dank apartment. The 'bucket six' win would include generous cab fare and a steak burrito. But the 22nd anniversary of my Bozo Show trip got me thinking a little. What if there was a Grand Prize Game made specifically for adults? Or...a Grand Prize Game based on the real world? What would be in bucket one? Or two? Heck...what would be in bucket six? An adult wouldn't be satisfied with a kid's red wagon and Yahtzee, you know? So I came up with a few things that should be in life's version of the Grand Prize Game:
1. The Ability To Afford Something At The Mall - Unless you throw like Mariah Carey, life's version of bucket one should be a breeze. It's the easiest bucket in the game to make. A "trip to the mall" means you're, well, pretty much like everyone else in society: you can hang out at the mall and have disposable income. To me, bucket one represents the ability to make basic consumer purchases. Virtually anybody can do it. Metaphorically speaking, some people walk out of life's mall with a new 52-inch hi-def TV, or a pretzel from Auntie Anne's. Congratulations.

2. The Car - Owning a car means freedom. It's our first major purchase. It's manifest destiny on four tires. It's making the trip to the mall on your own (see bucket one) and parking the car yourself...not having Mommy drop you off. Many people take pride in the cars they drive. But still, owning a car doesn't mean all that much. Just look at all the cars on the inbound Dan Ryan at 8:00 on a weekday morning. Owning a car is nice, but it just means that you've "graduated" from hanging out in front of Hot Topic or Cinnabon for hours on end. (I should note that some people --city dwellers especially-- blatantly skip bucket two because either they don't have room for a car or are one of those air quality preachers who use "green" in every other word of their vocabulary. Which is fine, I guess.)

3. The EducationJob - Bucket two and three could theoretically be interchangeable. But I feel that a killer job and a nice education are harder to get. Thing is, without a killer income, you can't really walk into a dealership and get a 2011 Corvette either (unless you were wearing a ski mask, of course). But if you nail bucket three, people start taking you seriously. Think back to the first serious "congratulations" that you received. It wasn't from buying a jacket from Sears, was it? Or from leasing your first beat-up 1993 Chrysler LeBaron...right? I bet it was from somebody saying, " have a diploma from (fill-in-the-blank party school)...nice!" or, "Hey...congratulations on the new job! You're buying us drinks next time!" Bucket three could serve as a nice springboard to the rest of your life.

4. The House - OK. You have the gift certificate from Foot Locker. You have keys to a car-- your own car. You're getting a steady income. Now it's time to get the house. Depending on where you are in life, bucket four could mean the move from Mom's basement to an apartment. Or a townhouse. Or a condo. Or to Oak Park. Maybe even Kenilworth, depending on who you know. Bucket four is "making the move" to bigger and better. (Note: if you are as cool and as humble as LeBron James, you get to start at bucket four).
5. The Girl - I'm not sure why, but on the TV version of The Grand Prize Game, it always seemed like people would clank bucket five. Was the pressure getting to them? Did they try to be too creative with their (ahem) pitch? It's the same in life. You might have the biggest house in the world and a diploma from Yale, but if you can't talk to girls (even if it's at a 4am bar in Uptown), there's a problem. Focus on bucket five, folks. You're almost there. Concentrate. And if your girl can go to football games, eat nachos and watch "Animal House" with you...sprint down to bucket five and hug it. You're already a winner. Don't let anyone steal that prize. And to clarify, bucket five doesn't represent the girl, it represents the girl. If things were that easy, this would be the prize in bucket two.

6. Everything You've Always Wanted - Fired up yet? You should be. I've painted a very Leave It To Beaver'ish picture of life. And I bet a lot of people don't think materialism should have any part on life's "bucket list" to guarantee happiness. Heck, I'm sure that some Grand Prize Games would have gone like this:

(1) Become college sports hero, (2) Ivy League education, (3) Kegstand champion, Panama City Spring Break 2007, (4) A girl, any girl (5) A kid, (6) Beach house in Malibu.


(1) Bachelor pad, (2) Miss February, (3) PowerBall win, (4) Cubs World Series win, (5) Streaking down Clark Street, (6) Telling stories with other streakers in jail later that night.

You get the point. I think bucket six should represent everything you ever wanted. It's what you make it to be. It's your own personal "championship" moment. Maybe it's your first kid being born. Maybe it's fame and fortune. Or heck, maybe it really is a Cubs championship--and not a Central Division one, either. Regardless, your bucket six moment should be everything that TV's bucket six was like-- crazy happiness.

Hopefully you get to bucket six someday.

And pardon the sappiness. Don't worry...I have a Die Hard DVD from bucket one.

Or something like that.

In Game 1, Jon Lester doesn't quite live up to his World Series reputation: 'We got a long ways to go'

In Game 1, Jon Lester doesn't quite live up to his World Series reputation: 'We got a long ways to go'

CLEVELAND – While the Cubs came into this World Series as the heavy favorites, the team with the global following and baseball’s best roster on paper, Jon Lester understood the challenge ahead. The Cleveland Indians would counter with their own Game 1 ace, a dynamic reliever changing the way we think about bullpens and a future Hall of Fame manager.

That’s how it played out in a 6-0 game that felt a lot closer, Corey Kluber pitching like a Cy Young Award winner, Andrew Miller handling the seventh and eighth innings and Terry Francona improving his record to 9-0 in World Series games.     

Welcome to “Believeland,” where the Fourth Street bars on Tuesday were buzzing more than seven hours before first pitch. That night, LeBron James and the Cavaliers would get their championship rings and watch the banner-raising ceremony at Quicken Loans Arena, just up the street from Progressive Field.

By the first inning – when pitching coach Chris Bosio had to walk out to the mound to talk to Lester – the red video ribbons lining the stadium said: “CLEVELAND AGAINST THE WORLD.” With the bases loaded, Lester had just drilled Brandon Guyer with a pitch, forcing in a second run, a sequence set in motion by walks to Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana and Jose Ramirez’s soft infield single up the third-base line.

It didn’t matter that Lester would eventually settle down and pretty much control this Cleveland lineup. (Except for that rocket Roberto Perez launched off the left-field railing for a solo homer and a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning.) Or that the Indians didn’t run all over the bases, with Francisco Lindor going 1-for-2 in stolen bases. (“Whatever, it’s happened all year," Lester said.)

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This is Cleveland’s blueprint for October, maybe its only chance to win its first World Series since 1948.

“It’s always important (to get a lead), no matter what time of year it is,” Lester said. “It makes a manager’s job a lot easier. It makes your job a lot easier. When you give a guy like Kluber – who’s locked in from pitch one – two runs in the first, it makes his job a lot easier. I know the feeling on the other side. You’re just able to attack differently.

“With the bullpens and all that stuff that they’re setting up nowadays, all you got to do is get through six.”

Lester kept it a 3-0 game, but didn’t finish the sixth inning, a rare October night where he didn’t seem to be automatic. Until Tuesday night, he had gone 3-0 in three World Series starts, allowing only one earned run in 21 innings.

Lester won his two World Series rings with the Boston Red Sox, overlapping with Francona and Miller at different points. This is why the Cubs gave Lester a $155 million contract, to set the tone on the mound and within the clubhouse.

Near the end of a 103-win regular season – and even after winning the franchise’s first pennant in 71 years – Lester has offered colorful versions of: We haven’t done anything yet.

But Lester – the National League Championship Series co-MVP after putting up a 1.38 ERA against the Los Angeles Dodgers and watching the Cubs win both of those starts – also doesn’t do overreactions to losses.

“We got a long ways to go,” Lester said. “If we win tomorrow, we’re right back in it. Just like LA – everybody counted us out after Game 3. They said we were the worst best team in baseball. We’re here. We’re not giving up.

“I know my guys. I know my team. And I know that nobody in this clubhouse is giving anything up.”

Andrew Miller's outstanding postseason continues with escape to beat Cubs

Andrew Miller's outstanding postseason continues with escape to beat Cubs

CLEVELAND — Andrew Miller added another impressive chapter to an already legendary postseason performance on Tuesday night.

The Cleveland Indians reliever pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the seventh inning to preserve a three-run lead and help his team achieve a 6-0 victory over the Cubs in Game 1 of the World Series in front of 38,091 at Progressive Field.

Despite putting four men on base, Miller added two more scoreless innings to his 2016 playoff résumé. Miller also struck out more three batters, giving him 24 in 13 2/3 innings this postseason, the second most by any reliever in playoff history. Critical to the effort was the strikeout of Cubs veteran David Ross with a checked swing on a 3-2 slider to strand the bases loaded in the seventh.

“You’re just trying to see the ball as long as you can and stay up the middle,” Ross said. “The 3-1, that’s the one that kinda messed me up. It didn’t break as much, so now you’re like ‘OK, let’s protect and just battle.’ ... Looking back at it, I wish I just stood there and not swung at all. If I could rewind. If it were that easy. I wish it was. And then he’d throw one right down the middle and America hates me.”

Ross has had his share of success against Miller before, though it all came when the left-hander was still a struggling starting pitcher. The veteran catcher is 3-for-5 with a walk against Miller in his career. But that wasn’t the reason Cubs manager Joe Maddon opted to stay with Ross instead of pinch hit for him with either Jorge Soler or Albert Almora Jr. with two outs in the seventh inning and Miller struggling for the first time all postseason.

With a man on and nobody out, Miller took over for Corey Kluber and walked Kyle Schwarber — only Miller’s third free pass of the postseason. Javy Baez followed with a single to load the bases.

But Miller rebounded quickly and retired Willson Contreras on a fly out to shallow center before he struck out Addison Russell. Based on his experience, Maddon thought Ross was the right man for the spot.

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“I thought David could hit him or David would accept his walk more than the other guys,” Maddon said. “David works good at-bats in that moment. So I felt good about him, actually. I felt better about him.

“I think with Soler coming off the bench or Albert they had less of a chance than David because I thought there was a two-fold opportunity to either get the hit or draw the walk.”

Ross worked the count to his favor quickly as he took a fastball for a ball, and after swinging and missing a slider, took two more balls to get ahead 3-1. But Miller dropped a slider in for a called strike and then turned to it once again, getting Ross to commit just enough for the third strike. The strikeout improved the Indians’ chances of winning by 26.5 percent, up to 94.7, according to

“I was trying to throw a really good one because if he hits it, it goes a long way,” Miller said. “That’s David Ross. I think even he would say, you can pitch to him, but if you throw something in his wheelhouse it’s going to go a long way and do some damage. Fortunate that it worked out. I threw a good one that was in a spot that he went after in the situation.”

Miller struggled again in the eighth inning as he walked Kris Bryant and allowed a Ben Zobrist single with two outs. But Miller — who allowed two hits and two walks for the first time all season in 77 appearances — struck out Kyle Schwarber to strand the pair.

The Indians’ key acquisition before the July 31 trade deadline threw 46 pitches, the most he’s thrown in a game since Sept. 8, 2011, when he was still a starter.

Indians manager Terry Francona wouldn’t commit to whether or not he’d use Miller in Game 2 on Wednesday. Francona cited how Miller bounced back after throwing 40 pitches in a Game 1 victory over Boston in the American League Division Series and would have been ready if needed. But any number of factors could keep Miller from pitching, and Francona is happy to have a 1-0 series lead in his pocket.

“I don’t know,” Francona said. “He was ready to come back and pitch the next night. I just think there’s a lot that can happen.

“But we won tonight. I think when you have a lead, you try to win.”