Frankie O's Blog: Harry and Me

Frankie O's Blog: Harry and Me

Friday, March 4, 2011
10:12 a.m.
By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

Theres a lot going on in the world of sports right now, but one thing was mostly on my mind this week. On Tuesday (3-1-11) we celebrated the life of Harry Caray (and Ron Santo) with the 13th annual world-wide toast in his honor. For me, it was actually number 14. Coming into work on the 18th of February 1998, I already knew that Harry was in the hospital in California and the prospects were not good, still, when you receive the news, its a jolt. Not only that. I was told that I was to stand on top of the bar, and lead everyone in a toast in his honor at 7:30. It was one of those out-of body experiences: Cameras everywhere, and a room thick with emotion. Everyone raised their glasses and then there was nothing but silence until the bagpipers started playing Amazing Grace, after which you could hear the sniffling and see most in the room wiping their eyes. Death is never easy to deal with, ever. The family was great in saying that we should not be sad, Harry wouldnt want that, and that we should celebrate the long, remarkable life that he lived. For thirteen years now, weve been doing that every day.

Having a celebrity name on a restaurant means that youre going to have to answer questions about that person every ten minutes. When Harry was alive, most of the time it was pretty easy. Yes. Hes in the dining room right now! People would light-up like Christmas trees when they found that out. Unlike another downtown eatery that had an iconic name on it, that was pretty cool.

People always ask my favorite story, but I dont really have one in particular. What I like to tell them about is the vibe that he created. As a bartender, Im a natural observer of human behavior. There are two things in particular: How people act, and, how do they treat others? Those things have a huge influence on my job and surroundings. Harry was off-the-charts positive in both. To see the affect he had on others was amazing to watch. It was so easy and effortless you wonder why everyone couldnt do it. But that was his genius. He did not have to try, it was who he was. He had a showmans impeccable timing when he came into the bar, never staying for too little or too long, the whole room beaming when he left.

So now, the questions, and stories, have been in the past tense for quite a while. For me behind the bar, they never get old. In many ways, being a guy from Philly, I didnt quite know what I was getting into when I walked in the doors for a job back in95. It was an exciting and dynamic place to walk into, so who wouldnt want to work there? Especially, if you were a baseball nut like myself and seeing Hall-of-Famers every day.

The Cubs fan pilgrimage thing was in full force then, they all had to come to 33 W. Kinzie. I always teased, calling the restaurant the Cubs fans Graceland. (I always love hearing Harrys story about meeting Elvis and imagining what that night was like. I mean, honestly, those two together? The mind boggles!) Those experiences changed, obviously, after his passing. People coming in would share the most touching stories with me. Mostly theyre of baseball, their family and Harry. For a lot of us, baseball is the soundtrack of the summer, and if it was Harrys voice you were hearing, that soundtrack resulted in more shared smiles and laughs than you can count. Its hard to imagine, just by being himself, someone who created more good will.

As I go to work now, Im reminded of that almost daily. Oh, sure, I once in a while get the Whos Harry? question. Time moves on and those darn drinkers keep getting younger! But I never get tired of sharing his story with a new generation for them to enjoy. The longer Im behind the bar the more I realize how important that is. Its as though those of us that work in his namesake restaurants are in charge of caretaking his legacy. And if it cant be in a ballpark, where better than in an environment where people can eat, drink, laugh and share good times. I dont think he would have it any other way.

So as I think of Harry, he reminds me of others that I have known who have passed. Even though they are gone, its still possible for them to live on in our hearts and thoughts, and still bring a smile to our face every day. Who wouldnt raise a glass to that? Heres to you, Harry!

White Sox crush four homers to support Jose Quintana in win over Mariners

White Sox crush four homers to support Jose Quintana in win over Mariners

Fireworks Night started early for the White Sox on Saturday night.

The White Sox homered four times to support Jose Quintana in their 9-3 win over the Seattle Mariners at U.S. Cellular Field in front of 27,318 fans. Quintana, who set a career high in season wins last week, notched his 11th victory of the season.

"This year is special for me," Quintana said. "Now we have momentum. (We have to) try to keep (it) going to get more for my team. It’s really good. I’m trying to do my job."

Quintana was on point again right from the get-go. After allowing a double to the first batter of the game, the 27-year-old southpaw retired the next 11 batters.

Quintana pitched 7.2 innings with eight strikeouts and two runs on five hits and a walk. He lowered his ERA to 2.77 on the year.

"He's pretty consistent," said manager Robin Ventura. "I think that's the biggest thing for him. Mentality wise and just focus, just his attitude and everything that goes with him is pretty consistent. You're never going to really tell what's going on with him on the game.

"He's had so many games that were close or tied or even behind that he never changes. I think that's what endears him to a lot of guys. He's consistent."

While Quintana has been consistent all year, the offense hasn't been. But on Saturday, the team gave their starter a healthy dose of run support.

"What was really impressive was the offense tonight was really good for us and for me," Quintana said. "It’s fun when you’re throwing when a lot of runs are scored."

The Mariners opened up the scoring with a sac fly from Robinson Cano in the first. But the White Sox answered back right away.

Melky Cabrera drove in Tim Anderson, who tripled in the previous at-bat, with a sac fly. The next batter, Jose Abreu, crushed his 18th homer of the year to put the White Sox in front. Cabrera was the only White Sox who didn’t record a hit in the game.

The White Sox offense began to heat up in the fourth after a quiet second and third from both sides.

After the first two batters of the inning were retired, the next four White Sox got on. It cleared the path for Tyler Saladino’s RBI single, which put the Sox up 3-1. Saladino finished the night with one homer and three RBI.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

The White Sox added four more in the fifth inning.

The scoring started with an RBI triple from Justin Morneau — the team’s second three-bagger of the night.

Back-to-back homers from Avisail Garcia and Alex Avila made it 7-1. It was the fifth time the White Sox hit two consecutive homers this season.

"I think Q's probably the happiest guy of anybody. He was great," Ventura said. "Any time you swing the bat as well as we did tonight and you get some add ons with the homers, you like seeing that kind of offense and you like seeing balls over the fence.

"Guys had a good night of just being patient and being able to cash in."

The Mariners added a run in the sixth from an RBI single by Guillermo Heredia and a sac-fly Franklin Gutierrez in the ninth.

Avila went 1-for-3 with a solo homer and walk in his first game since July 5.

Garcia, who had five extra base hits in June and July, had three on Friday night.

Preview: Cubs-Dodgers Sunday on CSN

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Preview: Cubs-Dodgers Sunday on CSN

The Cubs take on the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 2:30 p.m. Then catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

CSN will also carry the live audio call of Los Angeles Dodgers broadcasting legend Vin Scully during Sunday's game as the SportsNet LA audio feed will be featured during the third inning.

Sunday’s starting pitching matchup: Jon Lester vs. Kenta Maeda

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the Cubs: All of the most recent news and notes.

— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with Cubs Pulse.

Defensive mistakes, red card cost Fire in ugly loss at D.C.

Defensive mistakes, red card cost Fire in ugly loss at D.C.

RFK Stadium hosted one of the stranger games of the Chicago Fire’s season on Saturday.

It also may end up being a killer blow to the Fire’s playoff hopes.

The Fire lost 6-2 to the host D.C. United, falling nine points out of the playoffs with nine matches remaining.

Patrick Mullins had a hat trick and former Fire midfielder Patrick Nyarko played a role in three of D.C.’s goals. The six goals were the most the Fire have allowed this season.

Fire midfielder Khaly Thiam received a red card in the 34th minute in a match-changing moment. Thiam fouled Nyarko then argued with the ref and dropped the ball on Nyarko’s face while Nyarko was still on the ground.

Nyarko keyed the opening goal in the 25th minute with a backheel in the box to Marcelo, whose low cross was finished off by Mullins.

Michael de Leeuw answered for the Fire (5-12-8, 23 points) by tucking away a big rebound from goalkeeper Bill Hamid after Matt Polster hit a half-volley at Hamid. The relief was short-lived for the Fire because Thiam was sent off a few minutes later.

Nyarko set up Mullins for a goal in the 40th minute and then Luciano Acosta did the same for Mullins in first half added time to make it 3-1 D.C. (7-8-11, 32 points). Razvan Cocis got the Fire back within one on the final kick of the half with a long shot that took a big deflection, lofting the ball perfectly over Hamid and into the net.

However, Nyarko quickly restored D.C.’s two-goal lead out of halftime with a goal in the 51st minute. Mullins finished off his hat trick in the 76th minute and Nick DeLeon finished the scoring in the 89th.

David Accam, who was favoring and icing his left leg after Wednesday’s draw with LA, did not start the match. He subbed on at halftime. He and David Arshakyan, who made his Fire debut off the bench, will both leave for international duty and miss next weekend’s match against Philadelphia.