Random News: It's a wonderful...sports town

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Random News: It's a wonderful...sports town

Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010
10:10 AM
By Joe Collins
CSNChicago.com

Guys will stop at nothing to quote lines from movies. If you get a couple of them together at a bar, you can count on them flashing back to films of yesteryear. It's like clockwork. With my group of friends, the quotes usually start with Back To The Future, Ghostbusters and Goodfellas. That usually segues into The Blues Brothers, Airplane, The Naked Gun and The Godfather. One night, thanks to some free beverages and a friendly bartender, we even started quoting lines from Uncle Buck. Hey, it happens.

But it's nothing like how we quote "It's A Wonderful Life."

Despite the heavy Norman Rockwell'ish feeling and extra syrupy ending, we always seem to make reference to this 1946 Frank Capra classic at some point of the night. It's probably a slight man card violation...but we don't care. Some movies just need to be quoted. We'll even compare bar patrons to characters in the movie. For instance, the guy that is celebrating his 21st birthday always seems to get the "Mr. Gower" tag. The bouncer is always Mr. Potter. The clueless server that gives you the wrong burrito at 4am gets pegged as Uncle Billy. And so on.

I caught the annual mid-December airing of this movie on Saturday. I figured it was time to take the references one step further: if the legends of Chicago sports could star in "It's A Wonderful Life," who would get the key roles? I can't bring myself to compare Mary Bailey to a Chicago sports figure and I won't dare do the same with Mr. Gower. But even still, there are far too many connections between the Chicago sports world and the characters in "It's A Wonderful Life." Let's meet a few of them, shall we?
Nick The Bartender Kenny Williams
Tough. Aggressive. In charge. (especially the Pottersville version of Nick). In the movie, George and Clarence were not able to hang with the crowd at Nicks. In baseball, no general manager can hang with Kenny Williams. The Sox GM has repeatedly tossed other GMs into the snow with his persistently clutch way of signing free agents and making improvements.

Martini Ozzie Guillen
Lovable, loyal and funnywith an effervescent personality. Has a temper too, but he is better known for his good vibes.

Mr. Welch (guy that punches George at Martinis) Bill Laimbeer
Enough said.

Ma Bailey - Virginia McCaskey
The matriarch of the biggest sports family in Chicago, much in the same capacity that Ma Bailey oversaw one of the biggest families in Bedford Falls.

Pa Bailey - George Halas
Yeah, I know that Virginia is George's daughter. We're going to have to look past a few of the anachronisms to make this work! But again, this role just seemed too obvious.
Sam Wainwright - Dennis Rodman
He was annoying, unpredictable and a complete goofball. But you can't deny the fact that he was successful everywhere he went. He made others frustrated and some were a little jealous of his stardom-- but hey, he took complete advantage of the opportunities that were given to him.
Violet Bick - Cade McNown
Nothing more than a big tease.

320 SycamoreThe Bailey House - Wrigley Field
Some would want to live there. Others wouldn't live there if they were a ghost. Regardless, it's a landmark with sentimental value.

Bert The Cop - Dick Butkus
No other guy could lay down the law like Dick Butkus. He was the ultimate enforcer. If you were stupid enough to punch Dick Butkus in a game, you had to be sure you could outrun him to avoid the wrath. George decked Bert while leaving a club and was lucky to escape Pottersville alive.

Ernie The Cab Driver - Scottie Pippen
Both were always comfortable playing the sidekick. Ernie was happy to assist drivers getting from point A to point B in Bedford Falls. Pippen, second on the all-time Bulls assists leaderboard, was always happy to find Jordan for a wide-open three or baseline jam.

Mr. Potter - The New York Yankees
Henry F. Potter was the evil empire and dark cloud that hung ominously over Bedford Falls: "The richest...and meanest man in town." Chicago sports fans, along with most fans west of Jersey City, despise the evil Yankee empire. I bet if Potter was running the show in Gotham, he would already be trying to lure Cliff Lee away from the Phillies.
Harry Bailey - Jonathan Toews
The ultimate hero. Harry got the Congressional Medal of Honor for saving lives in World War II. Toews won a gold medal in the 2010 Olympics and was the Conn Smythe Trophy winner for the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. Both were honored with grand homecoming ceremonies after their respective victories.

Clarence - Ron Santo
I was originally going to put Santo in the George Bailey spot, but after watching the movie on Saturday--and given the recent news of Santo's death-- I couldn't think of a better guy to play the guardian angel of Chicago sports. Yes...yes, I know I'm tip-toeing on being cheesy here (psssh....like the rest of this column hasn't been cheesy), but there are too many mannerisms that Clarence and Ron both shared. Both had great stories to tell and were full of life.

George Bailey - A Cast Of Characters
Try limiting this to just one character. No shot. It's impossible. You can call Michael Jordan George Bailey for being "the richest man in town." Derrick Rose could get a similar nod for being successful in his own backyard. Paul Konerko could relate to George's victory too. Patrick Kane sprinted down the ice after his Cup-winning goal just like Mr. Bailey did down main street towards the end of the movie. Mike Ditka saw the highs and the lows of Chicago sports just like George did with the ups and downs of Bedford Falls. Bobby Hull, Ray Meyer and Johnny Red Kerr could tell you the same thing. George Bailey never conquered the world as he had hoped, just like Ernie Banks and Billy Williams found out with not being able to bring a World Series to Wrigley, but they found they could still change people's lives forever just the same. These George Baileys did the big things and little things right and the people have Chicago would stand in line for hours to thank them for all that they've given the city.

Just imagine if all of these George Baileys were never born.

Or something like that.

The learning curve for Ian Happ and how long Cubs will stick with the rookie

The learning curve for Ian Happ and how long Cubs will stick with the rookie

LOS ANGELES – The Cubs tried to downplay expectations at first with a top prospect, framing Ian Happ’s promotion from Triple-A Iowa as a short-term solution for a roster facing multiple injury issues.  

And then Happ blasted a two-run homer off Carlos Martinez – an All-Star/Opening Day starter for the Cardinals – in his big-league debut on May 13 and kept hitting to the point where he made it an easy decision for the Cubs to keep him around.

After the initial burst – seven extra-base hits in his first eight games – the Cubs have watched Happ go 2-for-16 with eight strikeouts in his last five games against the pitching-rich Giants and Dodgers.

How much patience will the Cubs have with a rookie learning on the job? And what is manager Joe Maddon looking to see now?

“How he reacts to bad moments,” Maddon said before Sunday’s game at Dodger Stadium, where the Cubs had been held scoreless for 18 straight innings. “If a guy starts kind of losing his mind a little bit, then you might have to back off of him. But if he’s able to handle the adversity well, then you kind of stay with it.

“I expect them all to struggle at different times. He’s probably done as good of a job adjusting over the last couple days to the way we’ve been pitched at as well as anybody.

“I have no preconceived notions of how long to stick with somebody or not. I think it’s up to the player and how you react to the bad moments.

“Because everybody looks good when they’re going good. How do you look when you’re going badly? That’s what really sets a guy apart. So far, I think he’s handled it really well, and he looked good at second base, too. The arm strength really plays there.”

This hasn’t changed Happ’s stone-faced expression or stopped him from making an impression with his athleticism on the bases and that ability to move between the infield and multiple outfield spots.  

[MORE: With Ben Zobrist sidelined by sore wrist, Cubs move Ian Happ to second base]

Happ is also a good student who analyzes video and notices how teams have gone from challenging him with off-speed stuff during his first week in The Show to firing more elevated fastballs in the second week.  

“With all the information that’s disseminated these days, the league adjusts to you quickly, and it’s your job to adjust back,” Happ said. “It’s just always being on top of the way that you’re being pitched and constantly making adjustments to continue improving.”

As Maddon likes to say, all the shiny new toys and Big Data breakthroughs have favored pitching and defense, making it harder than ever for young hitters. 

“Obviously, the ability to scout the other team and break him down is much greater than it ever was,” Maddon said. “Back in the day, it was like a dude back there with a chew goes back to his room tonight and he recaps his notes that he took during the course of the day: ‘Down and away, up and in. Play him with a step to the pull side.’ That was the advance scouting reports. Now it’s broken down to the point where you actually have pertinent information.

“My point is Happ shows up on the scene. They start jumping in there and they probably could gather some intel from the past. And all of a sudden, they got a much better game plan. Now it’s up to him to adjust.”

Miguel Gonzalez throws six perfect innings as White Sox take series against Tigers

Miguel Gonzalez throws six perfect innings as White Sox take series against Tigers

For six innings Sunday, Miguel Gonzalez was perfect.

The White Sox right-hander put the baseball world on perfect-game alert and conjured memories of Mark Buehrle and Philip Humber with his dazzling work through six innings. Gonzalez lost his bids for a perfect game, no hitter and shutout in the span of three batters to lead off the seventh inning, but that didn’t take away much from how good he was in a 7-3 win for the South Siders at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“He was dominant,” shortstop Tim Anderson said, providing an accurate if brief summation of the day’s proceedings.

Gonzalez, who entered with a 3-5 record and a 4.55 ERA in nine previous starts this season, set down the first 18 hitters he faced in order, with the visiting Detroit Tigers rarely even coming close to reaching base. That streak of 18 straight hitters retired to start the game was the longest by a White Sox starter since Chris Sale sat down the first 19 he faced back in May 2013.

Of course, whenever a performance nears no-hitter territory, players know it and stay away from the pitcher in the dugout, afraid of jinxing things. And the White Sox weren’t immune to that baseball tradition on Sunday.

“It was getting quiet,” Gonzalez said. “I was just trying to do my thing. Just go out there and make pitches, let them make the plays and that’s how things went.”

The Tigers — who trailed big after the White Sox gave Gonzalez a 7-0 lead — finally broke through to start the seventh. Austin Romine reached on an infield single, Alex Avila singled through the right side of the infield, and Miguel Cabrera dumped an RBI base hit into right field.

Detroit added two more runs on three extra-base hits in the eighth, but Gonzalez still finished with a great line, yielding just three runs on six hits in 7.2 innings of work.

Gonzalez’s gem snapped a streak of rough outings that started, coincidentally enough, against this Tigers team, when he was crushed for seven runs on 14 hits in an April 30 loss in Detroit. Entering Sunday’s game, Gonzalez was a nasty 0-5 with a 6.99 ERA in his previous five starts. He hadn’t made it out of the sixth inning in any of his previous three starts.

“I started off really good. I was struggling for a couple outings, and all you can do is keep working hard and things are going to happen,” Gonzalez said. “I think if you work hard in between your starts you have a pretty good chance of getting back on track and that’s how I felt today.”

[WHITE SOX TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

That seventh-inning blip by the Tigers ended the day’s only drama, as the White Sox offense put the result of the game out of question earlier, tagging opposing starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann for seven runs in his five innings of work.

Zimmermann entered the day struggling on the 2017 campaign, and that didn’t change Sunday. Willy Garcia tripled in Omar Narvaez for the game’s first run in the third and scored on the same play thanks to a throwing error. Two hitters later, Melky Cabrera hit a solo home run to make it 3-0.

Matt Davidson led off the bottom of the fourth with his 10th home run of the season, and Narvaez drove in Yolmer Sanchez to make it 5-0. Todd Frazier tacked on two more in the fifth with a two-run shot that also scored Jose Abreu.

“As an offense, we’re trying to give that (big cushion) every night. That’d be nice,” Davidson said. “And it really relaxes them. And you can see what happens when they’ve got a lead and you let them do their thing.”

The White Sox took three of four from the Tigers in this weekend series that featured a doubleheader split Saturday. It’s a positive start to this home stand — which continues with a three-game series against the Boston Red Sox — after going 3-7 on a recent 10-game road trip.

“I'm very happy with it, but again I'm not surprised by it, simply because I think they come out every single day to try to play good baseball and do what they need to help each other out and win ballgames,” manager Rick Renteria said. “It's just their character, the way they're put together. They keep battling.”