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


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

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

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.

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 fangraphs.com.

“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.”