Frankie O blog: A place in my heart

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Frankie O blog: A place in my heart

Life has a way of cruising along. We get to places and wonder how we got there. You know, like being behind a bar for the last 18 years. It was never part of the plan.

Then when reality hits you in the face, especially when you reach a certain age, you get reflective on the influences that have shaped the circumstance in which you exist. Among my many issues is the sports affliction that has guided me on this path that Im just along for the ride on.

From an early age sports were the driving force behind everything I did. Be it playing, watching or reading about them. Thats just how life was. A large part of that I attribute to my Philadelphia upbringing. Very few places are as psychotic towards their sports as Philly, so I guess I never really had a chance. This point has really been driven home to me from the conversations I have on a daily basis with people from around the country. For some reason my Philly influences really stand out and they always seem to get a reaction. Go figure.

Among the many questions that Im frequently asked is how I would rank my interests in the four pro teams from my hometown.

The easiest answer would be: Whos playing now? Since that team would likely get most of my attention. But like most people in this country, if I really had to put them in an official order, football and baseball would be at the top, followed by hockey and basketball. This is not to discount hockey and basketball, and remember for me, all Im really talking about is level of psychosis anyway.

But If I was asked which one provided my favorite memories, or which one started all this for me, it would have to be hockey and my beloved Philadelphia Flyers.

For someone my age, where I grew up, the Flyers where the first team that loved me back. They did this by winning. Twice! That was a team that forged a love affair with a community that was dying to be in love. That they were a team that did it with incredible flair and a us-versus-the-world mentality only made it better. That was Philly.

My entire family caught Flyers fever. We went to a lot of games and Flyer conversation was a constant. As was the No. 6 Moose DuPont jersey that I always wore. The first jersey I ever owned. But my fondest memory was Saturday night, the best night of the week.

At that time home games werent on TV, just the road ones. The Flyer schedule seemed to be dominated by Saturday road games followed by a Sunday home one.

Saturday night was a time for my family to get together, a lot of the time it was at our house or, mostly we went on my favorite road trip, an hour away to my Aunt Pegs. No school. No homework. It was just family fun and a Flyers game. Oh, and dont forget the snacks! I know I never did.

Like any young kid, it was fun watching the adults in the family interact. My family was full of personalities that were larger-than-life and very influential on someone in their formative years. The things I remember the most were the teasing and the laughter. Those who know me at all Im sure are not surprised to hear that. Im a product of my upbringing -- still!

This is also where my love of cards -- or should I say, playing poker for money -- started. Invariably the whole family would eventually gather around the kitchen table, talking about the game, snacking and telling stories, sometimes about each other. The smiles and laughs were always in abundance. Even as a young teen, the most awkward of ages, I never felt uncomfortable. It was always about having fun. If you cant goof on the people you love, or better yet, if the people that love you most cant goof on you, who can? It was really a cool time for me, that time right before all you wanted to do was hang out with your friends. At that time, all I wanted to do was hang out with my family. And laugh.

Then around 11:00 p.m. or so, the cards would come out: Penny ante, dealers choice. Me, my folks, aunts and uncles, my grandmother and my great-grandmother would be around the table. The exact group would change once in a while, not everyone was always there, but the spirit always was. The games were always very competitive, but the banter is what you always remember. I remember being ultra-competitive, and being brought down to earth on more than one occasion.

Speaking of my competitive issue, two other things that come to mind, and both happened at picnics at Aunt Pegs: Once, while playing in a volleyball game in which I was probably the youngest one on my side, I took out one of my Aunts while trying to return a ball that was definitely her play. Oops. My bad! Afterwards I felt awful. I guess it really is just a game.

Then, and I cant remember if it was the same year, wouldnt surprise me though if it was, the softball incident occurred. My aunts house was in the country and down the street was a camp that had a baseball field that we would use. So were having a friendly game. On the other team was my younger sister. Shes playing near shortstop and not paying attention to the game. Shes talking to everyone within earshot without a care in the world. I dont know why, but I found this extremely annoying. When I stepped up to the plate, I politely reminded her that it was not safe to stand in the field that close to the plate and not pay attention. Just because my decibel level increased to ten times normal doesnt mean it wasnt polite. Just a big brother looking out for his little sister. Of course what happened next was as predictable as the Eagles blowing a fourth-quarter lead. Thats right. I promptly lined one off the side of her head. Blood. Tears. Drama. And worse yet, the end of the game! Honestly? Pay attention! And in case youre wondering, it was accidental. I mean nobody can hit a softball where they want, can they?

The other fun of the poker games was when they ended. It was so cool staying up late when you were a kid, especially if you had a bunch of hard earned change in your pocket. And more than one time I can remember going to 6:00 a.m. mass after the ride home. Look at that nice family, getting up so early for church! You got that right, Sister.

I think about those times a lot as a father. Just like a lot of things in life, they dont make as much sense or mean as much, until you look back on them. Right now Im having a great time in my own home because my kids, for the first time, are getting into watching the baseball playoffs. It doesnt matter that a team that they, or I, root for is playing. They are getting a kick out of how fun watching playoff baseball can be and I just get a kick out of watching them. In the end its about sharing an experience, a way to connect.

Of course watching your team win really adds to the connection. Like I wrote here a couple of years ago, the thing that really stung about watching the Flyers loss in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final to the Blackhawks was that I didnt get to share the experience of winning and I had to watch it all around me. The fact that the Hawks hadnt won in forever created a bond among those who had suffered with them, and they got to share it and tell the youngsters how cool what they were experiencing was.

So when people ask which team is my favorite, they kinda all are. But that first time I went through the winning part of being a fan was with the Flyers so that always has a special place in my heart. And I cant remember those teams without thinking about my family and how much following the team during those magical years brought us all together.

Sitting around that kitchen table was like yesterday and I can still see it and hear it.

Goodbye Aunt Peg, your laugh is going to be missed.

Kyle Schwarber goes ‘Star Trek,’ launching home run out of Wrigley Field and onto Sheffield Avenue

Kyle Schwarber goes ‘Star Trek,’ launching home run out of Wrigley Field and onto Sheffield Avenue

Where the Cubs needed a Javier Baez basket shot to beat Johnny Cueto last October – the swing that might have changed the entire direction of their World Series run – Kyle Schwarber left no doubt with this one.

Schwarber launched Cueto’s 91-mph fastball out of Wrigley Field and onto Sheffield Avenue on Tuesday night, setting the tone in the first inning of a 4-1 win over the San Francisco Giants with a mammoth home run that Statcast measured at 470 feet.

“Whoa, it got small fast,” manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s almost like when you used to watch ‘Star Trek’ when it came on and the Enterprise would just fly by the screen and get really small. It kind of had that Enterprise-esque look to it. It was there – and then it was gone.”
 
Cueto, the funky right-hander with the dreadlocks, rocker steps and quick pitches, is now dealing with blisters on his middle and index fingers, which may partially explain his 4.64 ERA and San Francisco’s 20-27 record.  

Jason Heyward and Anthony Rizzo jumped Cueto first pitches in the second and fourth innings, with balls landing in the right-field basket and right-field bleachers as the Cubs (23-21) played perhaps their most complete game this season.

Schwarber’s batting average will read .186 on the big video board the next time he steps into the box at Wrigley Field. But Ben Zobrist’s production as a leadoff hitter could make Schwarber more comfortable and settled in the No. 2 spot. And teams still have to account for Schwarber’s thunderous left-handed power (seven homers) and overall patience (25 walks and 4.22 pitches per plate appearance).

“It’s a continuous process,” Schwarber said. “I’m still going to work every day and trying to figure this thing out. I’m going to go up there every day and be confident.”

Dylan Covey injured as White Sox fall to Diamondbacks

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USA TODAY

Dylan Covey injured as White Sox fall to Diamondbacks

PHOENIX — Dylan Covey exited Tuesday’s loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks with left oblique soreness.

The short-handed White Sox won’t know until Wednesday at the earliest how long they might be without their Rule 5 starting pitcher. Covey sustained the injury in the third inning of a 5-4 loss to Arizona in front of 17,865 at Chase Field. The Diamondbacks homered twice off the right-hander, scoring four times in 2 1/3 innings. The bullpen pitched well enough to allow the White Sox to rally back but they fell just short despite the 100th home run of Jose Abreu’s career and loading the bases in the eighth inning.

Though both James Shields and Carlos Rodon are on the mend, the White Sox are already down two starting pitchers. Rodon is further along having thrown off a mound four times, including 60 pitches in a simulated game on Monday. But the White Sox don’t have a lot of depth in the farm system as they’re not willing to forgo development to fill a need in Chicago.

Covey exited the game after he recorded the first out of the third inning. He induced a ground ball and signaled the bench, which brought out manager Rick Renteria and trainer Herm Schneider. Covey, who allowed two more home runs on Tuesday, didn’t attempt to throw any warmup pitches before he exited.

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The right-hander brought an 0-3 mark and a 7.64 ERA into the contest. Paul Goldschmidt tripled in a run off Covey with one out in the first inning ahead of a two-run home run by Jake Lamb. Chris Herrmann also blasted a solo homer to left to start the second inning. Covey, who had made only six starts above Single-A before the White Sox selected him in the Rule 5 draft last December, has allowed 13 home runs in 37 2/3 innings this season.

The White Sox bullpen picked up the slack as Chris Beck, Gregory Infante, David Holmberg and Tommy Kahnle combined to allow one run over the final 5 2/3 innings.

That allowed the White Sox to work their way back into the contest. Melky Cabrera homered in the second inning to make it a two-run game. After Arizona scored in the bottom of the second, Todd Frazier’s two-run homer made it a 4-3 game in the third inning.

Abreu blasted a solo shot off Jorge De La Rosa in the eighth to get the White Sox within a run. They loaded the bases with one out but J.J. Hoover struck out Omar Narvaez and Yolmer Sanchez to maintain the one-run lead for Arizona.