Let's go, Railers! At least that's my
rally cry for the gridders, volleyballers and all other athletes as
seasons are either under way or upcoming in the days ahead. I am
really hopeful that this is the year football gets its due!
Pulaski and all other area schools should be back at it as well, and
we're all anticipating a huge sports year.
Area colleges LC and LCC are also back in session, so we should
be hearing from them soon as well.
Cardinals continue to win… on the field and in pre-game
fights. Well. Gerald Perry might have gotten away with a sucker
punch to St. Louis pitching coach Dave Duncan, BUT did Pittsburg get
the decision? I think not! Five -- count 'em -- first-inning runs
Wednesday night in Steel City left the Bucos reeling… and it
could've been a lot worse. And did you see the bomb that Pujols
corked on Jose Mesa? That thing had a higher and longer flight plan
than the latest space shuttle!
You can't say enough about the St. Louis utility players. So
Taguchi has not only been great for the Cards, he's been one of the
best players in baseball in August. Abe Nunez has been fantastic
filling in for Scott Rolen, who will have surgery and is lost for
the year. Jon Mabry continues to do everything but direct traffic
before games, and he may be doing that for all we know. John
Rodriguez, since his call-up, has been a solid replacement for
Reggie Sanders, who is supposed to be back on Sept. 1 (though color
me skeptical about that return date). Einar Diaz was effective
filling in for Yadier Molina on his recent IR stint.
Others have shined since the All-Star break, including pitcher
Anthony Reyes, but none brighter than manager Tony LaRussa, who may
vault into third place on MLB's all-time win list (just passing his
own hero, Sparky Anderson) by the time this article posts. What an
accomplishment that is! And I think Tony deserves it.
Now he certainly has been around a lot of great teams, but you
still have to do something with them when you've got 'em. Speaking
from experience, I believe I was a lot better coach when I had great
talent, too… but I digress. Just look at how much more aggressive
Tony has become over the last two seasons. Take this one, for
example. Tony has called for 13 suicide squeeze bunts -- not in this
decade… in this season!!! And St. Louis has been successful on 11 of
them -- that is an amazing stat to me.
I'm also amazed when I see that the starting pitchers have won 65
or so of the 80 wins and have even more quality starts. Incredible!
If the pitching staff stays healthy and the Cardinals' patchwork
lineup can at least get a few timely hits to stake those pitchers to
some cushions, the Redbirds could be chasing a ring again. In some
ways I feel better about this year's chances because of that staff,
but when we get nightly injuries I envision the season going up in
smoke. It's nice to see, barring a meltdown, the Cards will win the
Central Division in their final season in Busch Stadium.
Speaking of Busch Stadium… I didn't lay eyes on it until
about 1970. My dad brought me up a Cards fan growing up in
California. In fact, he and my mom got into it when I was in sixth
grade and he announced that he was letting me stay home from school
to watch Gibby pitch a day game in the 1967 World Series. Life never
got better than that, nor is it possible that it could, since I
can't return that favor to my own son, thanks to TV, Madison Avenue
and Bud Selig! (In fact, he'll be asleep before the first pitch of
all seven games… From sharp minds come ???)
Anyway we moved out here to the Midwest during the snowy winter
of 1970 (it's just a bit fuzzy to me 'cause we had to live in a
hotel for a month, as our moving 18-wheeler was delayed in the
Rockies for several days). All winter and spring I bugged my dad
about taking us to St. Louis and to a game (man, was I pest; or
should that read, man, am I a pest?). He obliged, and we saw the
Birds take on the Reds when Cincy was good and the Redbirds were
not. I didn't care… Feasting my eyes on Busch Stadium for the first
time was a sight to behold… and when one of my all-time favorite
Redbirds, Ted Simmons, hit a game-winning homer, I knew it was my
Going to the ballpark with my dad was a treasure. I have never
heard, seen or been with anyone more knowledgeable about the game
than he was. I thought I studied it a lot through the years; he
breathed it… he understood its ebb and flow…he was a lot like the
recently deceased Hank Stram. He would tell us what was going to
happen on the next pitch, and he was right the majority of the time.
He truly missed his sports calling in life and was just born too
He also instructed us to fall in love with the game, not with its
trappings. Not because he was cheap
-- he still bought us souvenirs after we bugged him incessantly --
but because he knew we might miss the most important play of the
game IF we HAD to go buy a snack or an item we didn't need at the
wrong moment. To this day, I don't like to get up from my seat
except when we're up big (my boy's in trouble!).
Anyway, as we Cardinal fans say goodbye to Busch (the only
stadium for St. Louis I have ever known), it gives me yet another
opportunity to bask in the fond memories of my childhood, especially
with my dad. If you have memories about your visits to Busch Stadium
that you'd like to share, send them to us at
firstname.lastname@example.org, and we'll
post as many as we have room for.
Cubs went the other direction… and I have to tell you that
I really don't understand why. My only explanation is that they had
major injuries to key players at a critical juncture in the season
and never really recovered. Now seven games back in the wild card
race, they are more than a long shot. If you're the Cubs management,
what do you do now? Hold a fire sale? Keep what you've got, add a
pitcher and a couple of bats in the offseason, and hope this season
was just an anomaly? Write us and tell us your plan… and if Jim
Hendry is reading, maybe you can fix their ills from what they call
Sox holding on… but they have looked more vulnerable the
last two to three weeks than they have all season. In fact, NO team
looks dominant to me -- not even the Birds! The nice thing about
Chicago is that they have some nice arms that can bail them out when
they get into a funk. And if they can get some quality starts and
the bullpen doesn't melt down, they might surprise a few folks in
the playoffs. It's nice to see them having some nice crowds this
[to top of second column in this article]
Ron Zook's Illini about to be unveiled… and I have
absolutely NO idea what to expect. I'm only going to predict two or
three victories so I can just sit back and watch the whole thing
unfold. I don't think we are overly talented, but I would love to be
surprised. Word on the street is that Tim Brasic will be the
starting QB. We are pretty stout at RB, IF the line can open some
holes for them. The defense will have to carry us and keep games
within reach while the young offense learns what Zook wants. I spoke
to the coach in St. Louis at the Final Four, and he was exceedingly
optimistic. I like that in a coach, but you pay me to be realistic
-- there's just too many good teams in the Big Ten. But, give Zook
and Illinois two or three years… I smell good things down the road…
Anybody got any roses???
And speaking of the Illini faithful… I'm glad to see how
well local banker Bill Hull is doing. Don't know if his doctors made
him do a mandatory eight-count but he sure looks good to us. Long a
favorite of the LDN crew, Bill has many insights on Illini football
and basketball, and frankly we would be lost without him and we're
glad he's doing better!
Denver Johnson's ISU Redbirds... will also be opening up
their campaign soon with a tough date at Iowa State. The 'Birds lost
key players to graduation, so I have no idea what ISU will do this
season. IF you don't want to spend the big bucks at UI, ISU has some
great family plans available, and it's always a good time in Normal!
I told you that Tiger was lurking... Not only did he win
the NEC last weekend, but when he was left for dead in the PGA the
week before, he staged one of the wildest comebacks I have ever
seen. As a matter of fact, I think few, if any, golfers could miss
the cut by a stroke and come all the way back to be the leader in
the clubhouse the final day?! Had he not shot himself in the foot on
a couple of putts, he probably would've won. If you don't think he's
the best, you probably haven't played or watched much golf.
Non-sports item… There's been a lot of talk lately on
whether the U.S. should even be in Afghanistan or in Iraq. I've
never worked in a foreign policy office nor at the Pentagon, but you
tell me: IF you're a terrorist, what do you like better -- having
major countries of the world ignore you, let you move freely doing
what you want, when you want, where you want; OR… being hunted down
like the dog or coward that you are, forced to live in caves and
basically being cut off from the world in so many ways, being
watched and monitored constantly, having your accounts scrutinized
and dealings with your family and friends consistently covered? It
seems like a NO-brainer to me.
There will always be thugs, terrorists, bullies and so on in the
world because evil exists. I don't care how much intelligence you
have and how good your soldiers and security personnel are. If
someone wishes to do you, your family or your country harm, they
will find a way to do so. While it certainly makes sense to try to
win the world with peaceful strategies (meeting social, economic,
educational needs and implementing faith-based strategies), does it
hurt to be wise and prudent at the same time?
It seems to me that a solid offensive strategy puts the enemy on
its heels and keeps it on the run. Maybe it does cost a lot in
dollars and in lives (I certainly would struggle in sending my son
to the field, and I hope I never have to), but what's the
alternative? The 8 million Iraqis who recently voted and who are
enjoying freedoms they never dreamed about should be allowed to
weigh in on this subject. If the roles were reversed, I'd sure want
them to come and help my family and friends taste freedom.
I'm happy to hear other opinions on this subject, but before you
write, keep in mind that my dad spilled blood on Korean soil and my
uncles spilled blood during World War II to give you and me the
freedoms we enjoy. There were detractors in all of those wars too,
and history seems to prove that those detractors were wrong. My
relatives and their fellow soldiers are among the biggest heroes I
have ever known because they stood in the gap for you and me. They
were even more adamant about my response on this subject than I am
-- and they were the ones dodging the bullets!
Area recreation or event… This weekend marks the return of
the annual balloon and art festival -- and this time, out at the
airport. Get out and support this event. Invite your co-workers,
your families and your friends. Volunteer to help out in some way
(call the chamber of commerce at 735-2385). This festival brings
vital dollars into our community and is a showcase to potential
companies who may be contemplating bringing jobs and tax dollars to
our county. It is also a time to celebrate what's great about
Lincoln and Logan County -- our people, our lifestyle and our way of
life. I have yet to bring somebody in here who was disappointed with
the whole experience (OK, they cried a little if the balloons didn't
go up). See you out there!
There's probably lots of other stuff I should be writing about,
but I'm quite rusty after a long layoff.
Just to warn you in advance… My column has gone more to a
"blog" format, where I will be getting back to you on a non-regular
basis, just as I can scratch out some time to touch base with you
great and loyal readers. So, if ANY of you have any sports news to
report or pictures to share, send them to the
email@example.com, and I'm sure if our editors have
time and space, they'll make sure your stuff finds a place!
In conclusion... I want to say congratulations to my
little buddy for making his purple belt at Little Ninjas, for
passing his swimming test this summer (thanks to Katie Muck) and for
starting his educational career next week (thanks to Carrie Taylor
and Ren Anweiler at the Lincoln Christian Church Nursery School).
Also, congrats to Mommy for completing five classes towards her
master's this summer (that was a boatload, people)! Good luck to you
and the entire county educational gang in 2005-06, and a special
welcome to new District 27 Superintendent Kirby Rodgers (I think
he's going to do great here but has a tough act to follow in Bob
Kidd and Les Plotner before him)!
I also want to thank Dennis Graue, Mike Rohrer and their entire
Graue Pharmacy staff for the many great years of service they gave
our community through the years. I STILL don't think I understand
what recently happened to them, but I know I loved the professional
service they ALWAYS provided, and I will miss doing business with
them on a regular basis. I can only pray that something even better
lies on the horizon for all of you.
Have a great month, everybody… I'm out!