Sunday, July 31, 2016

Top 10 Worst New York Baseball Trades

This week, the Yankees went from having the best bullpen in baseball, a bulwark against totally falling out of the Playoff race, to not even having that.

They have traded Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller for the already-failed-as-a-Yankee Adam Warren and seven guys who, at best, are 3 years away from making contributions at the major league level.

Not since the Philadelphia 76ers traded away Moses Malone and the top pick in the draft on June 15, 1986 has a sports team traded so much for so little so soon.

This is unacceptable. The Yankees had a chance at the Playoffs. It might not have been a good chance, but it was a chance. Now, they may not make the Playoffs again for years.

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So, with tomorrow being the trading deadline, I wondered: What are the worst trades in New York baseball history?

The trading deadline was instituted in 1923, and was set at June 15 until 1986, when it was moved to July 31, except for years when that date falls on a Sunday, as it does this year, in which case it's moved to August 1.

Note: These are player-for-player deals, not free agent signings (so no Moises Alou by the Mets), refusals to sign a free agent (no Alex Rodriguez by the Mets), refusals to re-sign a free agent (no Reggie Jackson by the Yankees), purchases or sales.

And before I list the Top 10, let me remind you (or introduce you, if you're a relatively new reader of this blog) that I debunked the myth of perhaps the worst Yankee trade of recent memory: The 1988 trade of Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps was not a particularly damaging trade. Think of it as more of trading Jay Buhner for Paul O'Neill, and it becomes one of the best Yankee trades.

I'm also not going to include the most infamous transaction in the history of New York sports: June 15, 1977, the Mets trading Tom Seaver to the Cincinnati Reds for Steve Henderson, Doug Flynn, Pat Zachry and Dan Norman. The Mets were horrible from 1977 to 1982, Seaver's time in Cincinnati, and having him would have made no difference. In contrast, Henderson was a good all-around player, Flynn a good-fielding 2nd baseman, and Zachry a decent pitcher. In the minds of Met fans (hold your jokes), it was devastating; in actual practice, it wasn't that big a deal, because the damage had already been done by previous trades.

I'm also not going to include the awful 1982 trade of Fred McGriff, Dave Collins and Mike Morgan from the Yankees to the Toronto Blue Jays for Dale Murray and Tom Dodd. Murray was awful in his 3 Yankee seasons, Collins rebounded away from The Bronx, Morgan was still pitching in the majors as late as 2002 -- including in the 2001 World Series for the Arizona Diamondbacks, against the Yankees -- and McGriff hit 493 home runs, as many as Lou Gehrig.

Why not include this trade? Because McGriff was 19. He wouldn't debut in the majors until 1986. He was a 1st baseman. The Yankees had Don Mattingly, and lots of guys who could DH. They didn't really have a place for McGriff. What, were they going to move him to the outfield? He played 19 seasons in the majors, and never played in the outfield. So while this was a bad trade, it was not one of the 10 worst in New York baseball history.

Nor will I include the deadline trade of June 15, 1976 with the Baltimore Orioles. It is true that the O's having Scott McGregor, Rudy May, Tippy Martinez and Rick Dempsey helped them a lot from 1977 to 1983. It is also true that the Yankees could have used them all, especially Dempsey, who could have succeeded Thurman Munson, from 1979 onward. But the Yankees got Ken Holtzman, Doyle Alexander, Grant Jackson and Elrod Hendricks, all of whom were crucial in winning the 1976 Pennant. Holtzman would also be key in the 1977 World Series triumph.

I couldn't find a trade that the Brooklyn Dodgers made that was bad enough to make the Top 10. I did find one for the New York Giants, though.

Top 10 Worst New York Baseball Trades

Dishonorable Mention. December 8, 1966: The Yankees trade Roger Maris to the St. Louis Cardinals for Charley Smith.

The Yankee brass had treated Maris badly. Now, they traded him for a nothing infielder who had already failed with 5 teams, including the Mets. In terms of decency, this one is right down there with the '77 Seaver trade for the worst in New York baseball history.

Free of Yankee management and the New York media, and happy to play for a team and a fan base that made him feel welcome, Maris helped the Cards win the 1967 World Series and the 1968 Pennant, then accepted Cardinal and Anheuser-Busch owner Gussie Busch's retirement gift of a beer distributorship in sunny Gainesville, Florida -- quite a prize for someone who grew up in Hibbing, Minnesota and Fargo, North Dakota.

As for Smith? In 2 seasons in The Bronx, he batted .224 with 10 homers and 45 RBIs. At age 30, the Yankees traded him, and after another year he had played his last big-league game.

I can't rank this trade any higher, because, while Maris won in St. Louis, keeping him in New York wouldn't have done him or the team much good.

Dishonorable Mention. August 27, 1992: The Mets trade David Cone to the Toronto Blue Jays for Jeff Kent and a player to be named later, who, 5 days later, turned out to be Ryan Thompson.

Cone was going to be a free agent after the season, and the Mets probably didn't think they could re-sign him, so they wanted to get something for him, and figured Kent and Thompson were good compensation.

It's easy to forget now that Cone wasn't yet a Met when they won the 1986 World Series. They got him from the Kansas City Royals during the following spring training. Well, with the Mets, he won the 1988 NL Eastern Division title... and that's it. Afterward, he reached the postseason 6 times, winning the World Series 5 times: With the Jays in 1992, and with the Yankees in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000 -- against the Mets. Indeed, he was so successful with the Yankees, it's almost easy to forget he ever was a Met. He was 81-51 with them, 113-75 with everybody else.

Thompson didn't do much as a Met. Kent had some power, but provided little in the way of either wins or excitement. So the Mets let him go when he was 28, just moving into his prime. More about that later.

Dishonorable Mention. December 20, 1926: The New York Giants trade their 2nd baseman and Captain, Frankie Frisch, and Jimmy Ring to the St. Louis Cardinals for Rogers Hornsby.

At first, this blockbuster deal looked great for the Giants. Frisch had quit the team after Giant manager John McGraw berated him in front of his teammates for missing a sign. Giants management refused to step in and straighten things out between the manager and his best player. And Ring was a mediocre pitcher nearing the end of the line. In exchange, the Giants got Hornsby, also a 2nd baseman, and the best hitter in the National League.

The trade was great -- for the Cardinals. Hornsby's attitude was considerably worse than Frisch's, and McGraw had enough of him that 1st season, trading him afterward. The Giants didn't win another Pennant until 1933, after McGraw retired. Frisch helped the Cardinals win Pennants in 1928, '30, '31 and, as player-manager of a team that became known as the Gashouse Gang, '34. This, on top of the Pennants he'd won as a Giant in '21, '22, '23 and '24.

Dishonable Mention. December 3, 1969: The Mets trade Amos Otis and Bob Johnson to the Kansas City Royals for Joe Foy.

Otis was a center fielder. The Mets had Tommie Agee in center. They didn't need another center fielder. What they did need, perennially, was a 3rd baseman. (This subject will come up again.) So they traded Otis, 22 and with 168 major league plate appearances under his belt, and Johnson (who you don't need to consider) for Foy, a 26-year-old New York native with power and speed, who'd helped the Boston Red Sox win the 1967 American League Pennant.

In Kansas City, Otis became a 5-time All-Star, a 3-time Gold Glove winner, a 2-time .300 hitter, an AL leader in doubles twice and in stolen bases once, and a 4-time postseason performer. In New York, Foy decreased his hitting and increased a drug problem that the Mets didn't know about before the trade. After the 1970 season, they left him unprotected in the Rule 5 draft. He was taken by the Washington Senators, played 1971 with them, and never played in the major leagues again.

If the Red Sox had finished the job in the 1986 World Series, as they very nearly did, we would now be talking about a 47-year title drought for the Mets and The Curse of Amos Otis.

Now, the Top 10. Or the Bottom 10, if you prefer.

10. January 22, 1918: The Yankees trade Urban Shocker, Fritz Maisel, Les Nunamaker, Nick Cullop, Joe Gedeon and $15,000 to the St. Louis Browns for Eddie Plank and Del Pratt.

Today, a man with a name like "Urban Shocker" would be welcomed with open arms in New York sports. (He was of French-Canadian descent, born Urbain Jacques Shockcor in Cleveland.) After the 1917 season, Shocker, a righthander, was 12-8, and didn't look like anything special.

Well, from 1918 to 1924, he went 126-80 for the Browns -- an average of 18-11. He won 27 games in 1921 and 24 in 1922. The Browns nearly beat the Yankees out for the Pennant in 1922, having probably the franchise's best team until they became the Baltimore Orioles and won their 1st World Series in 1966. Shocker's absence nearly cost the Yankees the Pennant in '22, and may have cost them the Pennant in '20 (20-10) and '24 (16-13). Never mind the other players the Yankees gave up: Getting rid of Shocker was a mistake.

What about what they got in return? Plank was a genuine Hall-of-Fame pitcher, with a career record of 326-194 before the trade. But he was 42 and never threw another professional pitch, retiring because the stress of the game had given him stomach problems. (The stress must have gotten worse: He died of a stroke in 1926, just 8 years after the trade.)

Pratt was a good 2nd baseman, and led the AL in RBIs in 1916. In 1920, he attained career highs for the Yankees in batting .314 with 108 RBIs. But the Yankees traded him anyway -- to the Red Sox for pitcher Waite Hoyt and catcher Wally Schang.

In his 1979 book This Date In New York Yankees History, Nathan Salant called trading Shocker away the worst trade in Yankee history to that point. But there are 2 reasons it isn't that bad: The fact that it was, essentially, Shocker from Hoyt (a Hall-of-Famer) and Schang (an All-Star had there been an All-Star Game back then); and the fact that they Yankees did get Shocker back from the Browns, sending them another star pitcher, Bullet Joe Bush, and 2 other guys.

Shocker helped them win the 1926 Pennant and the 1927 World Series, but had a bad heart, and died in 1928. He was only 38.

9. December 12, 1975: The Mets trade Rusty Staub and Bill Laxton to the Detroit Tigers for Mickey Lolich and Billy Baldwin.

Laxton and Baldwin (no relation to the Long Island acting family that includes a Billy Baldwin) are footnotes. The Mets needed pitching, and thought Lolich, a hero of 2 postseason runs for the Tigers, had something left, so they were willing to give up Le Grand Orange in his prime.

Lolich didn't have anything left. Maybe Rusty wouldn't have hit as well in Shea's dimensions and wind as he did toward Tiger Stadium's short right field porch. But the Mets missed his bat: He averaged 19 home runs and 106 RBIs over the next 3 seasons. This was one of the trades that made the Seaver trade a confirmation of the already-present collapse, not the start of one.

By the time the Mets got Staub back, he was fat and slow, and little more than an occasionally-good pinch hitter.

8. December 11, 1986: The Mets trade one left fielder for another, Kevin Mitchell to the San Diego Padres for Kevin McReynolds.

McReynolds got booed because the Mets weren't winning anymore, and, as someone who was not a member of their 1986 World Champions, he was a convenient target. His career stats and Mitchell's were very close, and he certainly didn't deserve the poor treatment he got. There were far worse players the Mets could have gotten.

But they shouldn't have gotten rid of Mitchell. The Padres soon traded him to the San Francisco Giants, and he became an All-Star, helping them reach the Playoffs in 1987 and the World Series in his MVP year of 1989. He batted .326 as a regular with the 1994 Cincinnati Reds, and was still productive as late as 1996. The Mets could have used him in their close-call seasons of 1987, '88, '89 and '90.

I have called the Mets' failure to win another World Series for almost 30 years now "The Curse of Kevin Mitchell." The trade isn't the biggest reason they didn't win another Pennant until 2000. (There were injuries, and there was substance abuse, and some guys just dropped off without a rational explanation.) But, like McReynolds, it is a convenient symbol.

7. December 27, 2001: The Mets trade pitcher Kevin Appier to the Anaheim Angels (as the team was then known) for 1st baseman Mo Vaughn.

With the Red Sox, Vaughn had been a good slugger and, despite his weight, a good fielder. But with the Angels, he was plagued with injuries, including missing the entire 2001 season. When the trade was made, the Angels' closer, Troy Percival, took an unnecessary shot at him: "We may miss Mo's bat, but we won't miss his leadership. Darin Erstad is our leader." Mo lost his cool, and launched a foul-mouthed fusillade against the Angels: "They ain't done shit in this game... They ain't got no flags hanging at friggin' Edison Field, so the hell with them."

Mo always hit well against the Yankees, and you'd think his game-winning home run against them in an Interleague game on June 16, 2002 would have endeared him to the Flushing Faithful. But his rising weight and his injuries kept him from being productive, and Met fans booed him. 2002 turned out to be the Mets' 1st losing season since 1996, and their never-finished Mike Piazza Era renaissance was over.

Vaughn last played for them, or for anybody else, on May 2, 2003. He was also later outed as a steroid user. However, he has done good work since retiring, rehabilitating urban housing in New York and Boston.

Appier? In his 1st season with the Angels, he helped them win the World Series. Now, there's a friggin' flag at Edison Field, or Angel Stadium of Anaheim as it's now known.

Just 16 days before this trade, the Mets made one with the Cleveland Indians to get Roberto Alomar. He got old in a hurry, and was terribly booed at Shea in 2002 and 2003. But the Mets weren't going anywhere anyway, and they didn't give much up to get him, so I can't put this trade on the list, even as a Dishonorable Mention.

6. December 2, 1971: The Yankees trade pitcher Stan Bahnsen to the Chicago White Sox for 3rd baseman Rich McKinney.

Bahnsen was the 1968 AL Rookie of the Year, and had won 14 games in 1970 and 1971. The Yankees sure could have used the 21 he won for the White Sox in 1972, as they finished just 6 1/2 games out of 1st place in the American League Eastern Division. Bahnsen also won 18 games in 1973, although the ChiSox fell apart and he also lost 21; the Yankees finished 17 back that season.

In contrast, McKinney, the man the Yankees hoped would be better at playing 3rd base and hitting than incumbent Jerry Kenney, proved even more inept: He batted .215 and made 8 errors in 33 games before manager Ralph Houk had enough and sent him down to the minors at the end of May. They dumped him off to the World Champion Oakland Athletics after the season, for an aging Matty Alou.


In Oakland, McKinney probably felt out of place among Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando, Joe Rudi, Bert Campaneris, Catfish Hunter and Vida Blue. He only played another 147 games in the majors, last appeared at age 30, and had a lifetime OPS+ of 48 -- meaning he was 52 percent beneath the average hitter of that time.

If the Yankees hadn't made the trade, and kept Bahnsen and continued to trust Kenney as their 3rd baseman, and won the AL East, they probably would have lost the AL Championship Series to the A's. But at least their postseason drought wouldn't have seemed so long by the time Chris Chambliss hit that Pennant-winning home run in 1976, and team president Mike Burke, about to talk CBS into selling the team to George Steinbrenner's group, would have salvaged his baseball reputation before George came in and wrote the myth that he saved the team.

In the aforementioned book This Date in New York Yankees History, Salant rated this trade as the 2nd-worst transaction in Yankee history up to its publication in 1979.


However, still needing a 3rd baseman, on November 27, 1972, 6 weeks before George & Co. bought the team -- and with Indians president Gabe Paul probably making this trade knowing that he'd be Yankee president under Steinbrenner -- the Yankees sent Kenney, John Ellis, Charlie Spikes and Rusty Torres to the Cleveland Indians for Jerry Moses and Graig Nettles.

Trading Bahnsen for McKinney was stupid. But trading Kenney, Ellis, Spikes and Torres -- and, effectively, Bahnsen -- for Nettles was good. So maybe it all worked out for the best.


Is this the worst trade in Yankee history? Such is the Mets' history that it wasn't even the worst trade by a New York baseball team that month.

5A. July 5, 2002: A 3-team deal. The Yankees trade Ted Lilly, John-Ford Griffin and Jason Arnold (a minor-leaguer who never made it) to the Oakland Athletics. The A's send Jeremy Bonderman, Carlos Pena and Franklyn German to the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers send the A's cash. And the Tigers send the Yankees Jeff Weaver. From the Yankee perspective, this was essentially a trade of pitchers: Lilly for Weaver.

Lilly was considered a great prospect. He did well after leaving the Yankees, and lots of people said the Yankees never should have gotten rid of him. Wrong: He was never going to handle the pressure of pitching in New York.

Weaver sure as hell didn't. As a Yankee, he was 12-12 with a 5.35 ERA and a WHIP of 1.492. A whopping WHIP. He should never have been on the 2003 World Series roster: He almost prevented the Yankees from making the Playoffs that season. But Joe Torre trusted him in extra innings in Game 4. With one pitch to Alex Gonzalez of the Florida Marlins, Weaver turned a good shot at being up 3 games to 1 to losing the Series 4 games to 2.

Weaver's middle name is Charles. Since the 2003 World Series, however, in the tradition of what Red Sox fans call Bucky Dent, I have continually referred to him as "Jeff Fucking Weaver." The Yankees wasted little time in getting rid of him.

When the Dodgers made their 1st trip to New York to play the Mets in 2004, I bought a ticket -- just to yell at Weaver. The Met fans, who apparently never watch the World Series unless their team is in it (in other words, hardly ever), were clueless. I mean, more so than usual.

Then again, maybe getting rid of him was an even worse idea:

5B. December 13, 2003: The Yankees trade Jeff Weaver, Yhency Brazoban and Brandon Weeden to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Kevin Brown.

Brown had won the World Series with the 1997 Marlins and the Pennant with the 1998 San Diego Padres. Before that, he had pitched well for the Texas Rangers, especially against the Yankees. (Having him to start in Games 1 and 4, and maybe 7 if it got that far, was a big reason Padre fans and Yankee Haters thought the Padres would win the 1998 World Series. Instead, the Yankees swept.) The Dodgers signed him to baseball's 1st $100 million contract for 1999, and he wasn't terrible: He won 18 games that year, and led the NL in ERA the next.

Although he would be 39 on Opening Day 2004, he was good the season before, and, having lost Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte to free agency, the Yankees thought he was worth a shot. But he only went 10-6. Late in the season, after a beating, he punched the dugout wall and broke his hand.

He wasn't out for the season. The Yankees might have been better off if he was: Torre looked at his exhausted staff, and decided that Brown was the best choice to start Game 7 of the 2004 AL Championship Series. My 78-year-old grandmother might have been a better choice: It was the single most embarrassing game in Yankee history.

He went 4-7 for the Yankees the next year, was not re-signed, and retired. He was 211-144 with a 127 ERA+ and a 1.222 WHIP, but his very decent career had a terribly indecent last year and change.

Meanwhile, Weaver helped the Dodgers win the NL Western Division in 2004 and 2009. In between, he was with the St. Louis Cardinals, and helped them win the 2006 World Series. Think about that for a moment: Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Ernie Banks, Carl Yastrzemski and Don Mattingly don't have a single World Series ring between them, but Jeff Weaver does. Jeff Weaver has as many World Series rings as Willie Mays, as many as Hank Aaron, as many as Tom Seaver, as many as Nolan Ryan, as many as Jackie Robinson.

The hell?

4. Joint Entry: The Javier Vazquez Chronicles. The Yankees made 3 trades involving the righthanded pitcher from Ponce, Puerto Rico -- and they got progressively worse.

On December 16, 2003, the Yankees traded Nick Johnson, Randy Choate and Juan Rivera to the Montreal Expos for Javier Vazquez. At first, this didn't look like a bad deal. Rivera was a nothing player. Choate was so bad out of the bullpen, I called him "Randy Choke." And Johnson was constantly injured and unable to live up to his promise. Vazquez went 14-10 for the Yankees in 2004, and made the All-Star Team.

But he gave up home runs. Some people thought he should have started Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS instead of Kevin Brown. Torre brought him in to relieve Brown when down 3-0. Instead, Vazquez gave up a grand slam to Johnny Damon that essentially ended the chance at a comeback, the game, the season, and the Curse of the Bambino. After that, he was nicknamed "Home Run Javy."

Before he could appear for the Yankees again, on January 11, 2005 he was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks with Dioner Navarro, Brad Halsey and cash for Randy Johnson. Johnson gave the Yankees the 2 most useless 17-win seasons any pitcher has ever had, choking in Game 3 of the AL Division Series in both 2005 and 2006, and then leaving. Navarro and Halsey never amounted to much, but Vazquez settled down a bit, bouncing around, at one point being traded for former Yankee Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez.

On December 22, 2009, the Yankees traded Melky Cabrera, Mike Dunn, Arodys Vizcaino and cash to the Atlanta Braves for Vazquez and Boone Logan. You don't need to consider Dunn or Vizcaino. Just note that Melky, for all his difficulties (including getting caught using PEDs), would have been a big help to the Yankees the last few years, while Logan might have been the worst reliever in Yankee history, and Vazquez went 10-10 with a 5.32 ERA in 2010.

His contract having run out at the end of the season, the Yankees didn't lift a finger to re-sign him, and he pitched 1 more season with the Marlins, and retired. He was 165-160 for his career. He had 4 good seasons, and only 1 really bad one, his rookie year with the Expos, 1998. His other 9 seasons, including his 2 with the Yankees, 2004 and 2010, were mediocre.

But that last trade, giving up the Melkman for Home Run Javy and Logan's Litany of Losing, oy vey.

3. October 21, 1981: The Yankees trade center fielder Willie McGee to the St. Louis Cardinals for pitcher Bob Sykes.

When the Yankees made this trade, Jerry Mumphrey, a decent player, was their center fielder, and McGee was about to turn 23 and had yet to make his major league debut. He was a prospect, but he was not being considered as the breakout star of 1982. Meanwhile, Sykes, a native of Neptune, New Jersey, was about to turn 27, but his career record was only 23-26. The Yankees thought he could be a good lefthanded complement to Goose Gossage in the bullpen.

Sykes was injured, got shelled in Triple-A ball in 1982, and never pitched again. In 1982, McGee helped the Cardinals win the World Series (including making a great catch therein), and finished 3rd in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. He would go on to win the 1985 NL batting title and MVP, win another batting title in 1990 (despite being traded to the AL at the deadline), bat .300 as late as 1997 (age 38), bat .295 lifetime, collect 2,254 hits (more than Joe DiMaggio), steal 352 bases, win 3 Gold Gloves, and appear in 6 postseasons including 4 World Series (though he only won the 1, in 1982).

The Cardinals have unofficially retired his Number 51, and there are people who think he belongs in the Hall of Fame. Certainly, the Yankees could have used him as their center fielder until Bernie Williams was ready, especially in the close-call years of 1985 to 1988. Awful trade by the Yankees.

2. December 10, 1971: The Mets trade Nolan Ryan, Leroy Stanton, Frank Estrada and Don Rose to the California Angels for Jim Fregosi.

Ryan showed a lot of promise, and pitched well for the Mets in the 1969 World Series, but had never found his control in Flushing Meadow. And they still needed a 3rd baseman: Ed Charles had retired, and Wayne Garrett was a placeholder at best. Fregosi was one of the best shortstops in the game, but the Mets already had Bud Harrelson, who couldn't hit to save his life, but was a very good fielder. So they figured they'd move Fregosi over to 3rd.

There was nothing wrong with wanting a healthy Jim Fregosi on your team: He was a very good all-around player. The problem was, by 1971, he was already dealing with the injuries that would curtail his career. He wasn't the answer for the Mets.

Estrada and Rose are footnotes. But Stanton became a good hitter in Anaheim. And Ryan? With the Mets, he was 29-38 with 493 strikeouts. After the trade, he was 295-254 with 5,221 strikeouts and 7 no-hitters. (It should be noted, though, that he made the postseason 4 times afterward and never won a Pennant, while he did win a ring with the Mets.)

Did not having Ryan make a difference? Met fans still complain that Yogi Berra, their manager in 1973, started Seaver on 3 days' rest in Game 6 of the World Series, instead of holding him back for a potential Game 7, and had to throw Jon Matlack in Game 7.

Presuming Ryan wouldn't have blown it for the Mets in the regular season or the NL Championship Series (that was the year he pitched 2 no-hitters and set a major league single-season record that still stands with 383 strikeouts), he would have been available for either Game 6 or Game 7. Maybe adding no Pennants and just 1 World Championship doesn't sound like much, but think of what having 3 World Championships, instead of 2, would have meant to Met fans. Unlike the trade of Seaver in '77, this one did hurt them.

But that's not the worst trade in Met, or New York baseball, history. The worst is one that tends to get forgotten. And we just passed the 20th Anniversary of it:

1. July 29, 1996: The Mets trade Jeff Kent and Jose Vizcaino to the Cleveland Indians for Carlos Baerga and Alvaro Espinoza.

At the time, this looked like a great trade for the Amazin's: Baerga was considered, along with Roberto Alomar, 1 of the 2 best 2nd basemen in baseball; Kent, the most disappointing player at that position. And Vizcaino was an old-style good-field-no-hit middle infielder. It seemed like a no-brainer.

It was, but not in the way the Mets or their fans expected: Baerga was a flop in Flushing, while former Yankee shortstop Espinoza was near the end of the line. Now, the Indians didn't benefit much from the trade, either: After the season, they traded Kent and Vizcaino to the San Francisco Giants for Matt Williams. (Each team also included another player that didn't matter much.) Williams helped the Tribe win a Pennant, while Kent helped the Jints win one, reached the postseason 8 times in his career, won the NL MVP in 2000, and finished with 377 home runs, 351 while playing 2nd base, still a record. (His personality wasn't much, but he could hit.)

The Mets needed to win 1 of their last 5 games in 1998 to get the NL's Wild Card berth. They won exactly none. They lost the 1999 NLCS to the hated Atlanta Braves. They lost the 2000 World Series to the even more hated Yankees. Kent could have made a big difference.

Oh yeah, about that 2000 World Series: It was essentially decided in the 12th inning of Game 1, on a game-winning single for the Yankees by... Jose Vizcaino.

So this might be an even more damaging trade than Ryan for Fregosi. Certainly, it was more damaging than the trade that brought Kent to the Mets.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

How Long It's Been: England Won a Major Soccer Tournament


July 30, 1966, 50 years ago today: England wins the World Cup, beating West Germany 4-2 after extra time, on home soil, at the original Wembley Stadium in London.

Geoff Hurst became the only man to score a hat trick in a World Cup Final -- the only person, until Carli Lloyd did so for America in the Women's World Cup Final against Japan last year.

The 2nd goal was controversial, in that some people think it didn't cross the goal line. The 3rd came in the 120th minute, the last  minute of extra time (not counting stoppage time), as fans ran onto the pitch to celebrate what seemed to be a 3-2 win. BBC announcer Kenneth Wolstenholme made the most famous call in the history of sportscasting -- yes, more famous than "The Giants win the Pennant!":

And here comes Hurst! He's got... Some people are on the pitch! They think it's all over! It is now! It's four!

Captain Bobby Moore led the England players up the famous Wembley steps, and received the World Cup trophy from his head of state, Queen Elizabeth II.

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Here's England's performance in major tournaments since then:

* Euro 1968: Semifinal.
* 1970 World Cup: Quarterfinal.
* Euro 1972: Did not qualify.
* 1974 World Cup: Did not qualify.
* Euro 1976: Did not qualify.
* 1978 World Cup: Did not qualify.
* Euro 1980: Eliminated after Group Stage.
* 1982 World Cup: Eliminated after 2nd Group Stage. (Effectively, Round of 16.)
* Euro 1984: Did not qualify.
* 1986 World Cup: Quarterfinal. (Cheated by Argentina's Diego Maradona.)
* Euro 1988: Eliminated after Group Stage.
* 1990 World Cup: Semifinal. (Went out to West Germany on penalties.)
* Euro 1992: Eliminated after Group Stage.
* 1994 World Cup: Did not qualify.
* Euro 1996, on home soil: Semifinal. (Went out to the reunited Germany on penalties.)
* 1998 World Cup: Quarterfinal.
* Euro 2000: Eliminated after Group Stage.
* 2002 World Cup: Quarterfinal.
* Euro 2004: Quarterfinal. (Went out to Portugal on penalties.)
* 2006 World Cup: Quarterfinal. (Went out to Portugal on penalties.)
* Euro 2008: Did not qualify.
* 2010 World Cup: Round of 16. (Went out to Germany in normal time.)
* Euro 2012: Quarterfinal. (Went out to Italy on penalties.)
* 2014 World Cup: Eliminated after Group Stage.
* Euro 2016: Round of 16. (Went out to Iceland. Iceland!)

50 years. 25 tournaments. No wins. No Finals. 2 Semifinals. 3 times eliminated by Ze Germans. 5 times (out of the last 14) eliminated on penalties. 7 outright failures to qualify.

For half a century, the English have been telling the world that they "invented football." They did not: The Greeks and the Chinese were playing it 500 years before the birth of Christ. Then they'll say they popularized it and brought it to the world. Well, you don't see Harvard (or, even more ridiculously, the school that played the first American football game, which was really a 25-a-side soccer game: Rutgers) talking about their role in popularizing that sport.

And when you point out that English "football" is terrible now, they say, "Has your country won the World Cup?"

No, not the men's version. And for 50 years, neither has yours. These same English who make fun of the Scots for still talking about the Battle of Bannockburn, over 700 years later, are clinging to the fact that England won the World Cup within the lifetimes of many people still alive today.

Including 17 of the 22 players on that England squad: Gordon Banks, George Cohen, Ray Wilson, Nobby Stiles, Jack Charlton, Jimmy Greaves, Bobby Charlton (Jack's brother), Hurst, Peter Bonetti, Jimmy Armfield, Martin Peters, Ron Flowers, Norman Hunter, Terry Paine, Ian Callaghan, Roger Hunt and George Eastham. Moore died in 1993. Manager Alf Ramsey died in 1999, Alan Ball in 2007, John Connelly in 2012, and Ron Springett and Gerry Byrne both died last year.

July 30, 1966. Exactly 50 years. How long has that been?

*

England hasn't won the World Cup since. Brazil and Germany have won it 3 times since. Argentina and Italy have won it twice, France and Spain have won it once.

The World Cup has since been held in Mexico twice, Germany twice, Argentina, Spain, Italy, America, France, Japan, Korea, South Africa and Brazil. The Olympics have since been held in America 4 times, Canada 3 times, France twice, Japan twice, Russia twice, Mexico, Germany, Austria, Bosnia, Korea, Spain, Norway, Australia, Greece, Italy, China and Britain. Next week, you can add Brazil to that list.

Since England last won it, the Football League and its successor the Premier League have been won by Manchester United 14 times, Liverpool 11 times, Arsenal 6 times, Chelsea 4 times; Everton, Leeds United and Manchester City 3 times each; twice each by Derby County; and once each by Nottingham Forest, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers and Leicester City.

Liverpool had just won the Football League, while Everton had just won the FA Cup. The defending World Champions in North American sports were the Los Angeles Dodgers in baseball, the Green Bay Packers in football, the Boston Celtics in basketball, and the Montreal Canadiens in hockey. Muhammad Ali was the Heavyweight Champion of the World.

Of the 8 stadiums used in that World Cup, 4 still stand: Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield (home of Sheffield Wednesday, now infamous for the disaster that killed 96 people there during the 1989 FA Cup Semifinal), Villa Park in Birmingham (home of Aston Villa), Old Trafford in Salford (home of Manchester United), Goodison Park in Liverpool (home of Everton),

Wembley has been demolished and replaced by a new stadium of the same name on the same site. The White City Stadium in London (built as the main stadium for the 1908 Olympics) is now the site of the BBC's (British Broadcasting Corporation) headquarters and main studios. Ayresome Park in Middlesbrough and Roker Park in Sunderland have both been demolished and replaced by low-cost housing, and their home clubs have built new stadiums.

Most English stadiums had "terraces" behind the goal, without seats, where people would stand. These were disasters waiting to happen, and Hillsborough 1989 was the last of a few incidents that killed people, or could have. Most stadiums had poor concession and restroom facilities, and the seated stands along the sidelines ("touchlines," they would say) had little legroom. Nearly every stadium in England would be either replaced entirely or seriously modernized in the 1990s and 2000s.

Of the 19 men (the role is currently vacant at Hull City) who are starting the 2016-17 season as managers of Premier League teams: Arsene Wenger of Arsenal was 16, Claudio Ranieri of Leicester City was 14, Francesco Guidolin of Swansea City was 10, Tony Pulis of West Bromwich Albion was 8, Alan Pardew of Crystal Palace was 5, Claude Puel of Southampton and Walter Mazzarri of Watford were 4; Ronald Koeman of Everton, Jose Mourinho of Manchester United and David Moyes of Sunderland were 3, Mark Hughes of Stoke City was 2; and Eddie Howe of Bournemouth, Sean Dyche of Burnley, Antonio Conte of Chelsea, Jurgen Klopp of Liverpool, Pep Guardiola of Manchester City, Aitor Karanka of Middlesbrough, Mauricio Pochettino of Tottenham Hotspur and Slavin Bilic of West Ham United weren't born yet.

In English football in 1966, if a player was said to be "foreign," that usually meant he was from Scotland, Wales, the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland. Occasionally, there would be a player from outside the British Isles, but not often.

Queen Elizabeth is still on the throne. Harold Wilson was the Prime Minister. He would lose the office to Edward Heath, then regain it from him. Counting the 2 tenures of this 1 person, Britain has had 9 Prime Ministers -- despite Wilson holding the job for a total of 8 years, Margaret Thatcher for 11 and Tony Blair for 10. Theresa May just became the country's 2nd female Prime Minister. America has had 9 Presidents, and will soon have a 10th. The Prime Minister of Canada was Lester Pearson. The holder of the Nobel Peace Prize was UNICEF.

The President of the United States was Lyndon Johnson. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Harry Truman, their wives, and the widow of John F. Kennedy were still alive. Richard Nixon was in political exile. Gerald Ford was the Minority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives. Jimmy Carter was in the State Senate in Georgia, and was embarking on his 1st campaign for Governor. So was former actor Ronald Reagan, in California. George H.W. Bush was running for the House of Representatives, and his son George W. was at Yale University. Bill Clinton was at Georgetown University, and his eventual wife Hillary Rodham was at Wellesley College. Donald Trump was at the University of Pennsylvania. Barack Obama was about to turn 5 years old, and his eventual wife Michelle Robinson was 2.

The Governor of the State of New York was Nelson Rockefeller. The Mayor of the City of New York was John Lindsay. The Governor of New Jersey was Richard J. Hughes. Andrew Cuomo was 8 years old, Bill de Blasio was 5, and Chris Christie was about to turn 4.

Major novels of the year included In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, The Magus by John Fowles, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein, Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (which was adapted into the Cliff Robertson movie Charly 2 years later), The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry, The Fixer by Bernard Malamud, The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon, Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, The Jewel in the Crown by Paul Scott, The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron, and the best-selling novel in America since World War II, Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann.

Major films of the Summer of 1966 included a film version of the new Batman TV series (released on the very day of England's World Cup win), Daleks -- Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. (the 1st film based on Doctor Who, starring Peter Cushing as The Doctor), The Glass Bottom Boat, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, How to Steal a Million, Fantastic Voyage, the Elvis Presley film Paradise, Hawaiian Style, Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N. (a modernized comedy version of Robinson Crusoe starring Dick Van Dyke), and a Steve McQueen film whose name would be appropriated for the 1st great soccer bar in America: Nevada Smith.

Rawhide, Mister Ed, The Donna Reed Show, Ben Casey, The Addams Family and its copy (or was it vice versa?) The Munsters, McHale's Navy, The Patty Duke Show, Perry Mason and The Dick Van Dyke Show had all closed their runs on network TV; The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and My Favorite Martian soon would. The iconic Westerns Gunsmoke and Bonanza were still clippity-clopping along nicely. So were the spy series The Man from U.N.C.L.E and the spy spoof Get Smart. Soon to premiere were Star Trek, Mission: Impossible, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., The Green Hornet, The Time Tunnel, The Monkees, That Girl, Family Affair, The Rat Patrol and The Hollywood Squares.

The Number 1 song in America was "Wild Thing" by The Troggs. Elvis, as I said, was in the doldrums of the movie phase of his career. Frank Sinatra was enjoying a renaissance as he approached his 50th birthday: "Strangers In the Night" had hit Number 1, his album September of My Years and his TV special Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music were both big hits, and his daughter Nancy had recently hit Number 1 with "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'." The day before England won the World Cup, Bob Dylan had a nasty motorcycle crash that kept him from doing anything in music for over a year. His absence from the public eye led many people to think that the crash had actually killed him.

A car crash later in the year did not injure Paul McCartney of The Beatles, but, eventually, rumors would abound that he had been killed, and replaced by a double. Having recently released their album Revolver, the band was in the middle of a world tour and about to arrive in America, where, for what turned out to be the only time in his public life, John Lennon apologized for something: Saying that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus now. (He was right.) After the tour ended in San Francisco on August 29, they decided never to tour again. They never did -- at least, not together.

That Summer, Bobby Fuller was murdered at what looked like the beginning of a great rock and roll career. Comedian Lenny Bruce was found dead of a drug overdose, but rumors that he was murdered would also persist. Frank Zappa and his band, The Mothers of Invention, released their album Freak Out! McCartney would later cite this, and The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, as inspirations for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Other albums released that Summer included Aretha Franklin's Soul Sister, The Supremes A' Go-Go, The Temptations' Gettin' Ready, The Byrds' Fifth Dimenson, And Then... Along Comes the Association, Dusty Springfield's You Don't Have to Say You Love Me, Tim Hardin 1, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, The Mamas & the Papas, The Exciting Wilson Pickett, and James Brown's It's a Man's Man's Man's World.

The U.S. space program was in the middle of Project Gemini, the middle stage of trying to get to the Moon. Most American TV shows had gone over to color broadcasts, but only about 1/3rd of U.S. households had color TV sets. There were no hand-held calculators, no video games, no digital watches, no cable televisions, no mobile telephones, no VCRs, no personal computers, and no Internet. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Tim Berners-Lee were all 11 years old.

In the Summer of 1966, the Vatican abolished their index of banned books. Prime Minister Wilson, President Charles de Gaulle of France, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of India and Secretary General U Thant of the United Nations each made visits to the Soviet Union. Mao Zedong announced his Great Leap Forward in China. A gang led by Harry Roberts killed 3 London police officers.

In America, race riots struck the West Side of Chicago, the East Side of Cleveland, and in the Michigan capital of Lansing. Martin Luther King led a civil rights march in Chicago, and was hit with a rock thrown by a white counter-demonstrator. The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) endorsed what it called "Black Power." The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that policemen must inform suspects of their rights before questioning them. The National Organization for Women (NOW) and the United Farm Workers of America (UFW) were founded. Richard Speck in Chicago and Charles Whitman in Austin, Texas became notorious murderers. The New York Herald Tribune ceased publication. Caesars Palace opened in Las Vegas. And ground was broken in New York for the original World Trade Center.

Delmore Schwartz, and Montgomery Clift, and Ed "Strangler" Lewis, the leading professional wrestler of the interwar years, died. Dikembo Mutombo, and Mike Tyson, and Gianfranco Zola were born.

July 30, 1966. England won the World Cup on home soil. It was the greatest moment in the history of British sport.

England have not won it since. They have not even been to a World Cup Final since. Only once since have they even made a World Cup Semifinal. And, based on their performances at the most recent editions of the World Cup and the European Championships, they're not getting appreciably close to doing it again.

I don't know what they're doing wrong. But they truly inspire a few rounds of that classic terrace chant: "You don't know what you're doing!"

Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame the Yankees for Firing Casey Stengel

July 30, 1890: Charles Dillon Stengel is born in Kansas City, Missouri -- hence, his nickname, "K.C.," which became "Casey."

October 12, 1948: The Yankees hire Casey as manager. He had just managed the Oakland Oaks to the Pacific Coast League Pennant, but his previous major league managing jobs, with the Brooklyn Dodgers and Boston Braves, had been busts.

For 12 seasons, he had won 10 American League Pennants and 7 World Series, including a record 5 straight World Championships from 1949 to 1953, another 4 straight Pennants from 1955 to 1958, played a zillion hunches, proved himself a master of the hunch, stood up for his players (most of the time), and alternately delighted and confounded the media with his reworking of the English language, a verbal twisting they labeled "Stengelese." He managed Hall-of-Famers: Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto, Johnny Mize, Enos Slaughter, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford. He managed Monument Park honorees DiMaggio, Rizzuto, Berra, Mantle, Ford, Allie Reynolds, Billy Martin and, in his final season, Roger Maris.

Some of the players he managed also became managers. Between them, Berra, Martin, Ralph Houk and Hank Bauer won 8 Pennants and 4 World Series.

October 18, 1960: Yankee co-owners Del Webb and Dan Topping, having hired Casey as manager 12 years earlier, fire him.

Webb and Topping called a press conference at which Casey was forced to read a resignation statement. When he was finished, he told the media, "I guess this means they fired me."

Why did they fire him? Because he was 70 years old, and in the past 2 years, he had finished 3rd in 1959 and lost a World Series he should have won in 1960.

The way they handled it, it was cold. It was cruel. It was impersonal. It was unprofessional.

But the actual decision to fire him: Was it right?

Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame the Yankees for Firing Casey Stengel After the 1960 World Series

5. Connie Mack. Mack owned the Philadelphia Athletics, so he knew he couldn't be fired as manager. But by the time World War II ended, he was 83 years old, and he was clearly senile, calling out the names of players long gone from the A's roster.
Finally, after the 1950 season, his 50th in charge, his sons, not willing to break the old man's heart by firing him during his Golden Anniversary season, decided they could wait no longer. They maneuvered the 88-year-old "Grand Old Man of Baseball" out of his controlling interest.

By the late 1950s, Casey was falling asleep on the Yankee bench, especially during night games. Yankee brass, remembering Mack's last 5 years in charge -- only a few years earlier -- may have gotten worried that the same fate awaited Casey.

From 1962 to 1965, Casey was the 1st manager of the Mets. They were lousy, but not because of his managing. At age 75, his mind was still sharp. He retired to due physical discomfort, not mental incapacity. Even when he died at 85, his mind wasn't the issue.
But with Mack in mind, it was understandable that it could have been.

4. Whitey Ford. His 1st full season in the major leagues, delayed somewhat by serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, was 1953. From that season until 1960, Casey did with Whitey what he did with most of his pitchers: Used him as a starter or a reliever, and, depending on who the upcoming opponent was, moved him forward or back in the rotation. He won 19 games once and 18 in 2 other seasons, but never won 20, the benchmark for a great starting pitcher at the time.

In the 1960 World Series, instead of using his best starter, Whitey, in Games 1, 4 and 7, he held him back for Games 3 and 6. The reason? He didn't want to use a lefthanded pitcher in Pittsburgh's Forbes Field twice. Except Forbes Field had dimensions that were, for all practical purposes, the same as those of the pre-renovation original Yankee Stadium.

Whitey pitched shutouts in Games 3 and 6, and could have done the same if he'd been pitched in Games 1, 4 and 7 instead. But because he'd pitched Game 6, Casey couldn't use him for Game 7 -- a game the Yankees lost 10-9. Had Whitey been on the mound even just for the bottom of the 9th, he might not have given up the walkoff home run to Bill Mazeroski like Ralph Terry did. Casey blew it.

When Ralph Houk became the manager for the next season, he asked Whitey, "How would you like to pitch every 4th day?" As in, no matter what? Whitey told him, "I'd love to!" Over the next 4 seasons, pitching every 4th day, Whitey went 83-25, including 25-4 in 1961 and 24-7 in 1963.
It was Houk, a former catcher, along with his teammates Yogi Berra and Elston Howard (also catchers), who made Whitey Ford the best starting pitcher in Yankee history; Casey not only had little to do with it, he damn near prevented it. (That it took Mariano Rivera to make the qualifier "starting" to the declaration of Whitey as the best pitcher in Yankee history possible should give you an idea of how good the Chairman of the Board was.)

3. Mickey Mantle. When the Mick came up as a 19-year-old rookie in 1951, Casey said that he would be Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio all rolled into one. He wasn't -- but he had the talent to be mentioned alongside those guys with neither exaggeration nor irony.

But Casey never knew how to treat him. Casey was 41 years older than Mickey, and never even tried to understand him. He treated Mickey like he was still a naive 19-year-old hick from Oklahoma even when he was a seasoned 28-year-old veteran of 10 major league seasons and many a night out on New York and many other towns.

In spring training in 1961, Houk hauled Mickey into his office, and said that Mickey was going to be the team leader. (Not the Captain: From Lou Gehrig in 1939 until Thurman Munson in 1976, that title was officially retired.) As such, Houk was expecting Mickey to take more responsibility. Houk, an Army officer in World War II whose nickname was his final rank, "The Major," decided it would be better to treat Mickey like a man.

It didn't work off the field, but on it, Mickey grew up. It worked the other way, too: His teammates always liked him, but now, they respected him, too.
2. Ralph Houk. With the usual amount of managerial turnover in Major League Baseball, plus 4 new expansion teams coming in the next year and a half (1961 and 1962), someone was likely to snap the Major up, unless the Yankees secured his managerial services first. And they didn't want to be stuck looking for somebody else.
Since Houk was promoted to general manager after 1963 and Yogi to field manager, it's possible Yogi could have been made a player-manager in '61 or '62.

1. It Worked. In his 1st season after taking Casey's place, 1961, Houk guided the Yankees to 109 wins and the World Championship. In 1962, he guided the Yankees to another. In 1963, he won 104 games and won another Pennant, although they lost the World Series. In 1964, with Houk in the front office and Yogi in the dugout, they won another Pennant, but lost the Series in 7 games.
Webb and Topping were very wrong in how they fired Casey. But they were very right in wanting to move on. Casey deserved a better fate, but it was time for him to go.

August 8, 1970: Five years after his last game as a manager, and the retirement of his Number 37 by the Mets, and a week after his 80th birthday, the Yankees also retire Number 37 for Casey during their annual Old-Timers Day ceremony. The team was now owned by CBS and operated by Michael Burke, so the old owners no longer had to save face and apologize to him.
September 29, 1975: Casey Stengel dies of cancer in the Los Angeles suburb of Glendale, California, his offseason home for most of his post-playing life. He was 85.

July 30, 1976: The Yankees dedicate a Plaque in Casey's memory in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium.
As the man himself said, "There's a time in every man's life, and I've had a lot of them."

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Yanks Can't Complete Sweep vs. Astros

When you take the 1st 2 games of a 3-game series, and you have Masahiro Tanaka going in the 3rd game, you figure you have a good chance of completing the sweep.

That was not the case for the Yankees against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park last night. Tanaka allowed 4 runs in the 1st 3 innings, and was gone after 5. Making their returns to the club, Adam Warren pitched a scoreless 6th, and the recalled Luis Severino pitched the 7th and the 8th while allowing only 1 baserunner, so that was good news.

This time, it was the bats that let the Yankees down. Brian McCann hit his 15th home run of the season in the 4th inning, off Astro starter Lance McCullers Jr. Other than that, the Yankees only got 4 singles: 2 by Didi Gregorius, and 1 each by Brett Gardner and Mark Teixeira.

Astros 4, Yankees 1. WP: McCullers (6-4 -- he may already be a better pitcher than his father was). SV: Will Harris (11). LP: Tanaka (7-3).

The Yankees have a travel day today. Tomorrow night, they begin a 3-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg. Here are the projected pitching matchups:

* Tomorrow, 7:10 PM: Ivan Nova vs. Jake Odorizzi.

* Saturday, 6:10 PM: Nathan Eovaldi vs. Drew Smyly.

* Sunday, 1:10 PM: Michael Pineda vs. Blake Snell.

Come on you Bombers!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

So Far, Since the Trade, So Good

The Yankees are now 3-0 since they made what I thought was a horrible trade: Aroldis Chapman for Adam Warren and 3 prospects.

In fact, they're on what Star Trek fans might call a Borg winning streak: Seven of Nine.

CC Sabathia took the hill for the Bronx Bombers against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park last night, and the Big Fella may well have his groove back. In fact, manager Joe Girardi yet again realized that having a pitching hole in the 7th inning could, indeed, be filled by -- brace yourself -- your starting pitcher. He let CC pitch into the 7th, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits and 2 walks.

CC got a lead because of a Didi Gregorius sacrifice fly and a Chase Headley single in the 2nd, a Starlin Castro single in the 3rd,and a Headley sac fly and an Aaron Hicks triple in the 5th. Anthony Swarzak was the 7th inning man again, and also pitched into the 8th, with Dellin Betances getting the last out. Andrew Miller pitched a scoreless 9th.

Yankees 6, Astros 3. WP: Sabathia (6-8). SV: Miller (9). LP: Doug Fister (10-7). The Yankees take the series.

The series concludes tonight. Masahiro Tanaka starts against Lance McCullers. You might remember his father, Lance Sr., pitching for the Yankees in 1989 and '90.

*

Hours until The Arsenal play as the opponents in the 2016 Major League Soccer All-Star Game: 25, tomorrow night, at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, California, home of the San Jose Earthquakes. Just 3 weeks. Three days later, The Arsenal will play C.D. Guadalajara (a.k.a. Chivas), one of the biggest clubs in Mexico, at the StubHub Center, home of the Los Angeles Galaxy, in suburban Carson, California. This will be just 2 years after The Arsenal came to America to play the Red Bulls in New Jersey. I was lucky enough to get a ticket and attend that match. I will not be going this time. And, because of the timing of these games, The Arsenal will not host the preseason Emirates Cup this year. (They'd held it every year since 2007, except for 2012, canceling it due to the Olympics causing havoc with London's infrastructure.)

Days until the New York Red Bulls play again: 4, this Sunday night at 7:00 PM Eastern Time, away to the Chicago Fire.

Days until the 2016 Olympics begin in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: 9, a week from this Friday, August 5.

Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series: 13, on Tuesday, August 9, at Fenway Park. Under 2 weeks.

Days until The Arsenal play another competitive match: 18, on Sunday, August 14, home to Liverpool.


Days until the Red Bulls next play a "derby" (after tonight's game, that is): 25, against D.C. United on Sunday night, August 21, at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington. The next game against the New England Revolution is on Sunday night, August 28, at Red Bull Arena. The next game against the Philadelphia Union is on Saturday night, October 1, at Red Bull Arena. There are no further games this regular season against New York City FC, although Metro could face them in the MLS Cup Playoffs.

Days until the U.S. national soccer team plays again: 37, on Friday, September 2, in a CONCACAF Qualifying Match for the 2018 World Cup, away to St. Vincent & the Grenadines. A little over 5 weeks. They should win, especially since they took on the best that Latin America had to offer in the Copa America, and reached the Semifinals before being knocked out by Argentina. This will be followed 4 days later by another Qualifier, at EverBank Field, home of the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars.

Days until Rutgers University plays football again: 38, on Saturday, September 3, away to the University of Washington, in Seattle.

Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: 44, on Friday, September 9, probably away, since, while the 2016 schedule hasn't been released yet, the Big Green opened last season at home. A little over 6 weeks.

Days until the New Jersey Devils play again: 78, on Thursday night, October 13, away to the Florida Panthers in the Miami suburb of Sunrise. Just 11 weeks. The home opener is 5 days later, on Tuesday night, October 18, against the Anaheim Ducks.

Days until the 2016 Presidential election: 104, on Tuesday, November 8. That's a little over 3 months. Make sure you are registered to vote, and then make sure you vote!

Days until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge Thanksgiving game: 120, on Thursday morning, November 24, at the purple shit pit on Route 9. Just 4 months.

Days until the New Jersey Devils play another local rival: 137. Their 1st game this season with the New York Rangers will be on Sunday night, December 11, at Madison Square Garden. Their 1st game this season with the Philadelphia Flyers will be on Thursday night, December 22, at the Prudential Center. By a quirk in the schedule, the New York Islanders, a team they usually play several times a season, don't show up on the slate until Saturday night, February 18, 2017, at the Prudential Center.

Days until The Contract From Hell runs out, and Alex Rodriguez' alleged retirement becomes official as far as the Yankees are concerned: 461, on October 31, 2017 -- or at the conclusion of the 2017 World Series, if the Yankees make it, whichever comes last. About 15 months, unless Yankee management finally decides that they've had enough of his sorry ass and buys him out.

Days until the next World Cup kicks off in Russia: 687, on June 14, 2018. A little under 23 months. The U.S. team will probably qualify for it, but with Jurgen Klinsmann as manager, particularly in competitive matches such as World Cup Qualifiers, rather than in friendlies, you never know.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Girardi Lets Starter Pitch 7 Innings, Yankees Win

Looks like I was wrong: Maybe Joe Girardi will let his starters pitch 7 innings after all.

The Yankees began a series away to the Houston Astros, the team that beat them in last year's American League Wild Card game, against the pitcher who won that game and the AL's Cy Young Award. (And, as I suggested last November, should have gotten the Most Valuable Player award as well.)

Michael Pineda, who'd been shaky this season, had his 2nd straight strong start. He was, indeed, allowed to go 7 innings, and throw 103 pitches, allowing 1 run -- a home run by George Springer in the 1st inning -- on 5 hits and 2 walks, striking out 8. This is in Minute Maid Park, formerly known as Enron Field, nicknamed Ten Run Field because it's such a good hitter's park.

With 2 outs in the top of the 5th, Didi Gregorius hit a double, and Chase Headley singled him home to tie the score. Headley led off the 8th with a single, and Austin Romine doubled him home to give the Yankees the lead.

Dellin Betances pitched a perfect 8th, striking out the side. Andrew Miller pitched a scoreless 9th. Yankees 2, Astros 1. WP: Pineda (5-9). SV: Miller (8). LP: Keuchel (6-10).

So the Yankees won without needed a reliever in the 7th inning. Maybe the stupid Aroldis Chapman trade wasn't so stupid after all.

But if Adam Warren ends up being the reason the Yankees don't make the Playoffs, I will remind everyone that I told you so.

But what I also told you so is that good things can happen if you trust your starting pitcher when he's pitching well.

The series continues tonight. CC Sabathia starts against Doug Fister. Come on you Bombers!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Yankees Trade Great Closer for a Failure and 3 Hunches

The Yankees beat the San Francisco Giants yesterday, taking 2 out of 3 from one of the best teams in baseball, but that pales in significance to the incredibly stupid trade they made today. I'll get to that later.

Carlos Beltran hit a home run in the 1st inning, his 21st of the season. Mark Teixeira hit one in the 2nd, his 9th. The Yankees picked up 3 more runs in the 6th inning.

That was all that Nathan Eovaldi needed, because he pitched maybe his best game of the season. He had to, since Joe Girardi said that he wasn't going to use any of No Runs DMC: Not Dellin Betances, not Andrew Miller, not Aroldis Chapman. He let Eovaldi pitch into the 7th inning, then sent in Chasen Shreve to, yes, pitch to only 1 batter, and then let Chad Green pitch the rest of the way.

Yankees 5, Giants 2. WP: Eovaldi (9-6). SV: Green (1). LP: Jeff Samardzija (9-6).

*

There are now 10 weeks left in the regular season. Here's how the American League Eastern Division stands, going into today's games: Team name, won-lost record, number of games behind, number of games behind in the loss column:

Baltimore Orioles 57-40, 0, 0
Boston Red Sox 55-41, 1, 1 1/2
Toronto Blue Jays 55-44, 3, 4
YANKEES 50-48, 7 1/2, 8
Tampa Bay Rays 38-60, 19 1/2, 20

The Yankees still have a chance to win the Division. It's not asking too much to be able to gain 1 game per week, so if there are more weeks remaining than you are games behind, you legitimately still have a chance to win the Division.

Nevertheless, the Wild Card seems more likely at this point. The Jays currently hold the 2nd Wild Card position. The Yankees are 4 1/2 games behind them, 4 in the loss column.

*

But the Yankees may have blown their chances at either the Division or the Wild Card with this stupid trade they made. They sent Aroldis Chapman to the Chicago Cubs, weakening their one real strength.

Now, we go back to what we had last year? Betances to pitch the 8th inning, and Miller to pitch the 9th. But who will pitch the 7th? The starting pitcher? Not as long as Girardi continues to let his damned binder manage for him! Who? Green? He was fine yesterday, but is he a long-term solution? Shreve? Don't make me laugh. Nick Goody? No goody. Richard Bleier? Forget it. Anthony Swarzak? I don't trust him yet. Somebody from the minors?

Luis Severino has been brought back up. Do we put him in the bullpen? Or move Eovaldi or Ivan Nova back there? No, because both Nate and Ivan have pitched well lately. Maybe Severino becomes the 7th inning guy, and the presumptive heir to the closer role?

Face it: Whoever the Yankees got from the Cubs had better be damn good, good enough to help us get through the 7th inning with a lead, because, as long as Girardi is managing, that's going to be an enormous hole in our staff.

So who did the Yankees get?

* Adam Warren. Yes, that Adam Warren, who has already failed as a Yankee relief pitcher. Maybe he's gotten better? No: His ERA this season is 5.91, his ERA+ is 68, and his WHIP is 1.429. That's right, boys and girls: Adam Warren has gotten worse. I don't want him pitching the 7th inning for the Yankees, or any other inning. Let him screw things up for some other team!

* Gleyber Torres, a 19-year-old Venezuelan shortstop. currently in A-ball-plus.

* Rashad Crawford, a 22-year-old outfielder currently in A-ball-plus. He and Torres are both at least 3 years away from being ready for the majors.

* And Billy McKinney, an outfielder about to turn 22, who is currently at Double-A, and missed the last quarter of last season with an injury. The odds of him ever becoming a major league contributor are slim.

Essentially, the Yankees traded the best closer in baseball for a proven failure and 3 hunches.

Even of all 3 eventually pay off, they've essentially thrown away a shot at the Playoffs this season.

Don't tell me they didn't have a shot: They did.

Now? It will require somebody to step up and be the 7th inning pitcher.

And we still haven't improved the offense. Maybe for 2019. But we have to get there first.

Brian Cashman, you blew it.

Cashman out. Girardi out. Bring Willie Randolph in as manager, and he'll let the starters pitch 7 innings. Bring Gene Michael back as general manager for the rest of the season, and let him make a trade for a good hitter and pick the next GM.

Otherwise, we're hoping against hope that the bats will pick up, and that the 7th inning won't be a nightmare for the rest of the season. Or that Girardi will burn the fucking binder, and use his eyes to manage.

It's going to be a long 10 weeks. Even if we make the Playoffs.

How to Be a Red Bulls Fan In Chicago -- 2016 Edition

This coming Sunday night, the New York Red Bulls, coming off yet another embarrassment of their alleged rivals New York City FC (4-1 at Red Bull Arena yesterday), head west (well, Midwest) to play away to the Chicago Fire.

Doesn't make a whole lot of sense, does it? Naming a team after the worst thing ever to happen to your city. Well, MLS also has the San Jose Earthquakes, and college sports has the Miami Hurricanes. But you don't see teams called the Detroit Riot, the Los Angeles Smog, or the New York Mets. (Wait a minute... )

Before You Go. This game will be played at the end of July. So ignore all the stories you've heard about Chicago being cold: You're going well into the suburbs to see the Red Bulls play the Fire, not to Soldier Field on the lakefront to see the Giants or Jets play the Bears. More likely than not, it's going to be hot, with no cold blast of air coming in off Lake Michigan producing "Bear Weather."

The Chicago Tribune is predicting temperatures to be in the high 80s during daylight, and the low 70s at night. Fortunately, they're not predicting rain for anytime during the weekend. The Chicago Sun-Times backs up its rivals' temperature predictions.

Wait until you cross into Illinois to change your clocks. Indiana used to be 1 of 2 States, Arizona being the other, where Daylight Savings Time was an issue; however, since 2006 -- 4 years after a West Wing episode lampooned this -- the State has used it throughout. Once you cross into Illinois, you'll be moving from Eastern to Central Daylight Time, going back 1 hour.

Tickets. The Fire averaged 16,003 fans per home game last year. They also averaged 16,003 per home game last year. This suggests that 16,003 is the capacity of Toyota Park. But it's officially listed as 20,000. So either they average a sellout, or they average 80 percent of capacity. So getting tickets might be a problem, or it might not.

Fortunately, this being soccer, they set aside a section of seats for away fans. In their case, Section 134, in the southeast corner of the stadium. Tickets are $32.

Getting There. Chicago is 789 land miles from New York, and Toyota Park is 787 miles from Red Bull Arena. Knowing this, your first reaction is going to be to fly out there.

Unlike some other Midwestern cities, this is a good idea if you can afford it. If you buy tickets online, you can get them for as little as under $300 round-trip. O'Hare International Airport (named for Lt. Cmdr. Edward "Butch" O'Hare, the U.S. Navy's 1st flying ace who was nevertheless shot down over the Pacific in World War II), at the northwestern edge of the city, is United Airlines' headquarters, so nearly every flight they have from the New York area's airports to there is nonstop, so it’ll be 3 hours, tarmac to tarmac, and about 2 hours going back.

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Blue Line train will take you from O’Hare to the downtown elevated (or "L") tracks that run in "The Loop" (the borders of which are Randolph, Wells, Van Buren and Wabash Streets) in 45 minutes. From Midway Airport, the Orange Line train can get you to the Loop.  Both should take about 45 minutes.

Bus? Greyhound’s run between the 2 cities, launched 5 times per day, is relatively easy, but long, averaging about 18 hours, and is $300 round-trip -- but can drop to as low as $112 on Advanced Purchase. Only 1 of the 5 runs goes straight there without requiring you to change buses: The one leaving Port Authority Bus Terminal at 10:15 PM (Eastern) and arriving at Chicago at 2:30 PM (Central). This includes half-hour rest stops at Milesburg, Pennsylvania and Elkhart, Indiana, and an hour-and-a-half stopover in Cleveland.

The station is at 630 W. Harrison Street at Des Plaines Street. (If you’ve seen one of my favorite movies, Midnight Run, this is a new station, not the one seen in that 1988 film.) The closest CTA stop is Clinton on the Blue Line, around the corner, underneath the elevated Dwight D. Eisenhower Expressway.
Greyhound station, with Sears/Willis Tower behind it.
It doesn't look like much, but it's very efficient.

Train? Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited (formerly known as the Twentieth Century Limited when the old New York Central Railroad ran it from Grand Central Terminal to Chicago's LaSalle Street Station) leaves New York's Penn Station at 3:40 every afternoon, and arrives at Union Station at 225 South Canal Street at Adams Street in Chicago at 9:45 every morning. It’s $309 round-trip.
The closest CTA stop is Quincy/Wells, in the Loop, but that’s 6 blocks away – counting the Chicago River as a block; Union Station is, literally, out of the Loop.
If you do decide to walk from Union Station to the Loop, don't look up at the big black thing you pass. That’s the Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, which, until the new World Trade Center was topped off, was the tallest building in North America, which it had officially been since it opened in 1974. If there's one thing being in New York should have taught you, it’s this: "Don't look up at the tall buildings, or you'll look like a tourist."

But since you've come all this way, it makes sense to get a hotel, so take a cab from Union Station or Greyhound to the hotel – unless you're flying in, in which case you can take the CTA train to within a block of a good hotel. There are also hotels near the airports.

If you decide to drive, it’s far enough that it will help to get someone to go with you and split the duties, and to trade off driving and sleeping. The directions are rather simple, down to (almost but not quite literally) the last mile. You'll need to get into New Jersey, and take Interstate 80 West. You'll be on I-80 for the vast majority of the trip, through New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio. In Ohio, in the western suburbs of Cleveland, I-80 will merge with Interstate 90. From this point onward, you won’t need to think about I-80 until you head home; I-90 is now the key.

Note that the dividing line between Eastern and Central Time on I-80/90, the Indiana Toll Road, is between Exits 39 (in LaPorte County) and 31 (in Lake County).

If you get a hotel near the stadium, and are driving there rather than to the city, while still on I-90 in Indiana, take Exit 17 to Interstate 65 South, then take Exit 259 to Interstate 94 West. Take I-94 into Illinois, to Exit 74 to Interstate 294 North, the Tri-State Tollway. Take that to Exit 17, to U.S. 12 & 20 East, and then turn onto Illinois Route 43 North. This is Harlem Avenue. The stadium will be 4 miles ahead, on your left.

If you do it right, you should spend about an hour and a half in New Jersey, 5 hours and 15 minutes in Pennsylvania, 4 hours in Ohio, 2 hours and 30 minutes in Indiana, and half an hour in Illinois before you reach your hotel. That’s 13 hours and 45 minutes. Counting rest stops, preferably halfway through Pennsylvania and just after you enter both Ohio and Indiana, and accounting for traffic in both New York and Chicago, it should be no more than 18 hours, which could save you time on both Greyhound and Amtrak, if not on flying.

Once In the City. A derivation of a Native American name, "Chikagu" was translated as "Place of the onion," as there were onion fields there before there was a white settlement. Some have suggested the translation is a little off, that it should be "Place of the skunk." Others have said, either way, it means "Place of the big stink."

Founded in 1831, so by Northeastern standards it's a young city, Chicago's long-ago nickname of "the Second City" is no longer true, as its population has dropped, and Los Angeles' has risen, to the point where L.A. has passed it, and Chicago is now the 3rd-largest city in America. But at 2.7 million within the city limits, and 9.5 million in the metropolitan area, it's still a huge city. And its legendary crime problem is still there, so whatever precautions you take when you're in New York, take them in Chicago as well.

The "Loop" is the connected part of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA)'s elevated railway (sometimes written as "El" or "L") downtown: Over Wells Street on the west, Van Buren Street on the south, Wabash Street on the east and State Street on the north. Inside the Loop, the east-west streets are Lake, Randolph, Washington, Madison, Monroe, Adams, Jackson and Van Buren; the north-south streets are Wells, LaSalle (Chicago's "Wall Street"), Clark, Dearborn, State and Wabash.

The city's street-address centerpoint is in the Loop, at State & Madison Streets. Madison separates North from South, while State separates East from West. The street grid is laid out so that every 800 on the house numbers is roughly 1 mile. As Wrigley is at 1060 West Addison Street, and on the 3600 block of North Sheffield Avenue, now you know it's a little more than a mile west of State, and 4 1/2 miles north of Madison.

The CTA's rapid-rail system is both underground (subway) and above-ground (elevated), although the El is better-known, standing as a Chicago icon alongside the Sears Tower, Wrigley Field, Michael Jordan, deep-dish pizza, and less savory things like municipal corruption, Mrs. O'Leary's cow and Al Capone. The single-ride fare is $2.25, a 1-day pass is $10, a 3-day pass (if you're going for an entire series) is $20, and a 7-day pass (if you're going for all 6 games) is $28.
(By the way, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 was more likely the result of Mr. O'Leary hosting a poker game in his barn, in which he, or one of his friends, dropped cigar ash, rather than Mrs. O'Leary's cow, knocking a lantern, onto some hay.)

I was actually in Chicago on the day they switched from tokens to farecards: June 1, 1999. It took me by surprised, as I had saved 10 tokens from my previous visit. I was able to use them all, because I'd gotten there 2 days before.

Illinois' State sales tax is 6.25 percent, but in the City of Chicago it's 9.25 percent -- higher than New York's. So don't be shocked when you see prices: Like New York, Boston and Washington, Chicago is an expensive city.

ZIP Codes in the Chicago area start with the digits 60. The Area Code is 312, with 708 and 847 in the suburbs.

Going In. The Fire (the names Rhythm, Blues and Wind were also suggested) play at Toyota Park -- not to be confused with Toyota Stadium, home of MLS' FC Dallas; or the Toyota Center, home of the NBA's Houston Rockets, all of whose naming rights were bought by the Japanese automaker.

Unlike Wrigley Field, U.S. Cellular Field, Soldier Field and the United Center, the home of the Chicago Fire, Toyota Park, is not within the city limits. It is in the town of Bridgeview, Illinois, 15 miles southwest of downtown, near Midway Airport. To get there by public transport, you'd take the Orange Line from the Loop to Midway, then transfer to Bus 386, and get dropped off on Harlem Avenue, across the parking lot. Total ride time, plus the walk across the parking lot, is a little under an hour.


If you were driving from the city, you'd take Interstate 55, the Stevenson Expressway, south to Exit 283, and take IL-43/Harlem Avenue South. The stadium will be 3 miles ahead on your right. The official address is 7000 Harlem Avenue South. Figure 30-45 minutes, depending on game traffic. Parking is $15.

The stadium opened in the middle of the 2006 MLS season. That year, it hosted the MLS All-Star Game, in which the MLS All-Stars defeated London club Chelsea; and the U.S. Open Cup Final, in which the Fire beat the Los Angeles Galaxy. The Fire have also hosted Everton of Liverpool, AC Milan, Mexican clubs Club America and Chivas Guadalajara, and other international teams in friendlies. The U.S. soccer team has played here once, a 2008 win over Trinidad & Tobago.

The field is natural grass, and is aligned north-to-south. The Fire share it with their female counterparts, the Chicago Red Stars of the National Women's Soccer League. The stadium has also hosted rugby and music festivals.
Food. As one of America's greatest food cities, in Big Ten Country where tailgate parties are practically a sacrament, you would expect the Chicago stadiums and arenas to have lots of good options. According to WrongSideOfThePond.com:

There are eleven concession stands around the stadium concourse. As is the growing trend around the country, the stadium serves up the usual American sporting event staples (hotdogs, popcorn, pizza, nachos, etc.) alongside the regional Chicago staples:


  • Stadium Fare (behind Sections 101 and 126, and the Miller Lite Party Deck)
  • Village Grill (behind Sections 106 and 134)
  • Burrito Grandes (behind Sections 108 and 132)
  • Fan Favorites (behind Section 112)
  • That’s Italian (behind Section 114)
  • Chicago Stop (behind Section 118)
  • Corner Kickin’ Chicken (behind Section 121)
  • Bobak’s Sausage (behind Section 123/124)
Section 8 recommendations? Give a try to Connie’s Pizza — said to be “vastly underrated in the great Chicago pizza debate” — or have a Chicago hot dog with all of the proper fixings — sweet relish, mustard, onion, tomato, cucumber, celery salt on a poppy seed bun and hold the ketchup. Check out Hot Time in Old Town‘s concession breakdown a look for a super in-depth rundown on stuffing your face at Toyota Park.
Team History Displays. The Fire won the MLS Cup in 1998 -- their 1st season of play -- and reached the Final in 2000 and 2003. They won the Supporters' Shield in 2003. They won the U.S. Open Cup in 1998 (meaning they won The Double), 2000, 2003 and 2006, and reached the Final in 2004 and 2011. So they do have some history. However, there appears to be no notation for these achievements in the fan-viewable areas of the stadium.

What they do have is the Ring of Fire, a team hall of fame on the east side of the stadium. Founded in 2003, it was the 1st of its kind in MLS. So far, all 8 members have been part of the 1998 MLS Cup & U.S. Open Cup Double: Midfielder Piotr Nowak, Number 10; forward Frank Klopa, 41; midfielder Luboš Kubík, 5; midfielder Chris Armas, 14 (a Bronx native); centreback C.J. Brown, 2; forward Ante Razov, 9, the club's all-time leading scorer; head coach Bob Bradley, the former Princeton University and U.S. national team coach (and father of current U.S. team star Michael Bradley); and the club's 1st general manager, Peter Wilt, also the 1st chairman of the Red Stars.
In addition, behind Sections 132 and 133, the stadium has an Illinois Soccer Hall of Fame.

Stuff. The Fire Fan Shop is located under the east stand of the stadium. The usual fan gear can be purchased there.

Despite being one of the more successful clubs in MLS, I could find no references to any books or DVD about the Chicago Fire.

During the Game. Chicago Fire fans do not have any particular hatred for Red Bulls fans. The Columbus Crew and Sporting Kansas City, yes, due to geography. The New England Revolution, FC Dallas and the Los Angeles Galaxy, yes, due to Playoff matchups. Team chairman Andrew Hauptmann, yes, due to an extended period of mediocrity. (The most popular hashtag among Fire fans is #HauptmannOut.) The Red Bulls, no. Despite the tendency of Chicago sports fans to enjoy beer and lots of it, your safety should not be an issue.

This game will be Pride Night, honoring Chicago's thriving gay community. While the New York Tri-State Area is among the leading cities in the world in the gay rights movement, some sensitivity should be shown. Certain sex-themed taunts should be left at home.


The Fire hold auditions for National Anthem singers, instead of having a regular. They have a mascot, and, in keeping with the Fire theme, he's a Dalmatian, and his name is Sparky.
Despite Chicago being the 3rd-largest city in America and one of the host cities for the 1994 World Cup, it didn't get a charter franchise in MLS. But when the Fire began play in 1998, they had the fan culture already in place, due to the multiethnic nature of the city. (This was a pattern that later expansion cities like Philadelphia and Seattle followed.)

The north end of Toyota Park, known as the Harlem End (even though Harlem Avenue is on the east side of the stadium), is the home of Section 8. It i
s a merger of original fan groups named the Barn Burners (after the 1871 fire) and the Fire Ultras (a mostly Polish group).

Section 8 was the section of Soldier Field, also in the north end zone, where the most ardent Fire fans sat when they played their first few seasons. They kept the name after the move. "Section 8," as fans of the M*A*S*H character Corporal Max Klinger will remember, is the American military designation for being psychologically unfit for service; crazy.

(It just so happens that Section 8 was also the section of Ebbets Field in Brooklyn where the Dodger Sym-Phony Band sat. Along with the Royal Rooters in Boston baseball, they were a precursor to today's U.S. sports fan groups.)


The north end at Toyota Park, where standing and singing is not only allowed by encouraged, is Sections 116, 117, 118 and 119. The Section 8 fan group uses Section 117.
Section 8 fans in Section 117, including one holding the city flag.
Note that the women's team, the Red Stars,
named themselves for the stars on this flag.

A Hispanic fans' group called Sector Latino sits in Section 101, in the southwest corner. Other groups sit in the Valspar Fire Pit in the south end, Sections 135 to 139.

Their songs include "A Hot Time In the Old Town Tonight," which you've surely heard, but may not be aware was written about the Great Chicago Fire of October 1871. They do the old "Vamos... " song that we sing as "Vamos Metro": "Vamos, La Maquina Roja... " (The Red Machine.) They do "I Just Can't Get Enough," "Blitzkrieg Bop" (surely, not a nod to the USFL team, the Chicago Blitz), "Seven Nation Army," and "You're going home in a Cook County Ambulance!"

After the Game. Fire fans do not have a reputation for bad behavior. On the other hand, Chicagoans do like to drink, so be on your guard. You probably won't have a problem, but don't try to create one.

There's a Circle K to the east of the stadium, at 7050 Harlem Avenue; and a Mexican restaurant, Taqueria Los Magueyes, across from it at 7101 Harlem Avenue. Other than that, there's not much within a short drive. You may have to go back to the city to get a decent postgame meal.

If you want to be around other New Yorkers, I found listings of 4 Chicago bars where New York Giants fans gather: Red Ivy, just south of Wrigley at 3519 N. Clark Street at Eddy Street; The Bad Dog Tavern, 4535 N. Lincoln Avenue at Wilson Avenue (Brown Line to Western); Racine Plumbing Bar and Grill, 2642 N. Lincoln Avenue at Kenmore; and Trinity, at 2721 N. Halsted Street at Diversey Parkway (Brown or Purple Line to Diversey for either Racine or Trinity).

And I found these 3 which show Jets games: Rebel Bar & Grill, also just south of Wrigley at 3462 N. Clark at Cornelia Avenue; Butch McGuire's, 20 W. Division Street at Dearborn Street (Red Line to Clark/Division); and Wabash Tap, at 1233 S. Wabash Avenue, at 12th Street. Red Line to Roosevelt.

If your visit to Chicago is during the European soccer season (which this is not), you can usually watch your favorite club at these locations:

* Arsenal and Manchester City: Globe Pub, 1934 W. Irving Park Rd., about 6 miles northwest of The Loop. Brown Line to Irving Park.

* Liverpool, Everton, Celtic, Real Madrid and Juventus: A.J. Hudson's, 3801 N. Ashland Ave. Bus 9 to Addison & Grace.

* Chelsea: Fado, 100 W. Grand Ave. Red Line to Grand.

* Manchester United: The PrivateBank Fire Pitch, 3626 N. Talman Ave. Blue Line to California Ave., then Bus 52 to Rockwell & Addison.

* Tottenham Hotspur: Atlantic Bar & Grill, 5062 N. Lincoln Ave. Brown Line to Western.

* Barcelona: Bar Sixty Three Pub & Pizza, 6341 N. Broadway. Red Line to Loyola.

* AC Milan and Bayern Munich: Cleos Bar & Grill, 1935 W. Chicago Ave. Blue Line to Chicago Ave., then Bus 66 to Damen & Chicago.

If you're a fan of an Italian team or a German team not mentioned on this list, Cleos (apparently, no apostrophe) is your best bet. Otherwise, try A.J. Hudson's or Fado.

Sidelights. Chicago is one of the best sports cities, not just in America, but on the planet. Check out the following – but do it in daylight, as the city's reputation for crime, while significantly reduced from its 1980s peak, is still there.

* U.S. Cellular Field and site of Comiskey Park. Comiskey, the longtime home of the White Sox, 1910 to 1990, was at 324 W. 35th Street at Shields Avenue (a.k.a. Bill Veeck Drive), and is now a parking lot, with its infield painted in.

This was the home field of Big Ed Walsh (the pitcher supposedly helped design it to be a pitchers' park), Eddie Collins, Shoeless Joe Jackson and the rest of the "Black Sox" that won the 1917 World Series but were accused of throwing the 1919 edition, Luke Appling, the great double-play combination of Luis Aparicio and Nellie Fox of the '59 "Go-Go White Sox," Dick Allen, the 1977 "South Side Hit Men" of Richie Zisk and Oscar Gamble, and the 1983 Division Champions of Carlton Fisk, Ron Kittle, LaMarr Hoyt and Harold Baines.

The NFL's Chicago Cardinals played there from 1922 to 1959, and the franchise, now the Arizona Cardinals, won what remains their only NFL Championship Game (they didn't call 'em Super Bowls back then) there in 1947. The Chicago Sting of the old North American Soccer League played there from 1980 to 1982, and won the league title in 1981.

And in 1979, during what was supposed to be intermission between games of a White Sox vs. Tigers doubleheader, was Disco Demolition Night. Today, it's called a fiasco, but the sentiment was right: Disco really did suck. But the biggest music event there was the Beatles' concert on August 20, 1965.

Unlike the Cubs, owned by the Wrigley family that put their chewing-gum fortune into keeping Wrigley Field in good shape, the White Sox' owners rarely had money for upkeep, so, for reasons of safety and comfort, Comiskey Park probably should have been replaced in the 1970s. Instead, it took until 1988 and a serious threat of moving to Tampa Bay (following those of moving to Seattle for 1976 and Milwaukee for 1970) to get a bill through the Illinois legislature to build a replacement for the last active ballpark where Cy Young pitched.

That ballpark opened in 1991, across the street at 333 W. 35th Street. It also named Comiskey Park until naming rights were bought in 2003, and it became U.S. Cellular Field. Designed and built right before Baltimore's Camden Yards rewrote the rules of stadium and arena construction, it was derided as "soulless," "antiseptic" and a "mallpark." Renovations have made it a bit more intimate, and comparative success -- the 2005 World Championship and a few other postseason berths -- have tamed these criticisms somewhat. Red Line to Sox-35th.

UPDATE: On November 1, 2016, the naming rights to this stadium were sold, and it became Guaranteed Rate Field. No more "The Cell," it's "The Rate" or "G-Rate." Yeah, I know, not the best thing to do when the Cubs have just won the World Series.

* Wrigley Field. Opened in 1914 as Weeghman Park for the Chicago Whales of the Federal League, the Cubs moved in for the 1916 season and have been here for a century. William Wrigley Jr. bought the team and the ballpark in 1925 and renamed it Wrigley Field.

It's known for its brick wall surrounding the field, the ivy covering the bricks in the outfield, the trapezoidal bleachers, the big hand-operated scoreboard on top, and famously refusing to add lights until 1988, playing all day games. The Cubs have won 6 Pennants here, but the last was in 1945. The Bears played here from 1921 to 1970, winning 8 NFL Championships in the pre-Super Bowl era. Wrigley (still known as Cubs Park) was also home of the Chicago Tigers, who played in the NFL only in its 1st season, 1920.

It is by far the oldest ballpark in the National League, and next to Fenway Park in Boston the 2nd-oldest in Major League Baseball. 1060 W. Addison Street. Red Line to Addison.

* Previous Chicago ballparks. The Cubs previously played at these parks:

State Street Grounds, also called 23rd Street Grounds, 1874-77, winning the NL's 1st Pennant in 1876, 23rd, State, and Federal Streets & Cermak Road (formerly 22nd Street), Red Line to Cermak-Chinatown.


Lakefront Park, also called Union Base-Ball Grounds and White-Stocking Park (the Cubs used the name "Chicago White Stockings" until 1900, and the AL entry then took the name), 1878-84, winning the 1880, '81 and '82 Pennants, Michigan Avenue & Randolph Street in the northwest corner of what’s now Millennium Park, with (appropriately) Wrigley Square built on the precise site. Randolph/Wabash or Madison/Wabash stops on the Loop.

West Side Park I, 1885-91, winning the 1885 and '86 Pennants. Congress, Loomis, Harrison & Throop Streets, now part of the campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), Blue Line to Racine.

South Side Park, 1891-93, just east of where the Comiskey Parks were built.

West Side Park II, 1893-1915, winning the 1906 and 1910 Pennants and the 1907 and 1908 World Series, the only World Series the Cubs have ever won. At Taylor, Wood and Polk Streets and Wolcott Avenue, now the site of a medical campus that includes the Cook County Hospital, the basis for the TV show ER, Pink Line to Polk. (Yes, the CTA has a Pink Line.)

Prior to the original Comiskey Park, the White Sox played at a different building called South Side Park, at 39th Street (now Pershing Road), 38th Street, & Wentworth and Princeton Avenues, a few blocks south of the Comiskey Parks.

* United Center and site of Chicago Stadium. From 1929 to 1994, the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks played at Chicago Stadium, "the Madhouse on Madison," at 1800 W. Madison Street at Wood Street. The NBA’s Bulls played there from 1967 to 1994. The United Center opened across the street at 1901 W. Madison at Honore Street.

At the old Stadium, the Blackhawks won Stanley Cups in 1934, '38 and '61, and the Bulls won NBA Titles in 1991, '92 and '93. At the United Center, the Bulls won in 1996, ’97 and ’98 and the Blackhawks have won the 2010, '13 and '15 Cups. The city's 1st NBA team, the Chicago Stags, played there from 1946 to 1950, and reached the 1st NBA Finals there in 1947. It will host the NCAA Frozen Four next year.

The Democrats had their Convention at Chicago Stadium in 1932, '40 and '44, nominating Franklin D. Roosevelt each time; the Republicans also had their Convention there in '32 and '44, nominating Herbert Hoover and Thomas E. Dewey, respectively. The Democrats held court (or rink) at the United Center in 1996, renominating Bill Clinton in their first Convention in Chicago since the disaster of 1968.


Elvis Presley gave concerts at Chicago Stadium on June 16 and 17, 1972; October 14 and 15, 1976; and May 1 and 2, 1977 -- meaning he was singing while burglars were breaking into the Watergate complex in Washington, and while Chris Chambliss as hitting a Pennant-winning home run for the Yankees.

Blue Line to Illinois Medical District (which can also be used to access the site of West Side Park II and ER), or Green or Pink Line to Ashland-Lake.

* Soldier Field. The original version of this legendary stadium opened in 1924, and for years was best known as the site of the Chicago College All-Star Game (a team of graduating seniors playing the defending NFL Champions) from 1934 to 1976.

It was the site of the 1927 heavyweight title fight between Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney, the famed "Long Count" fight, which may have had what remains the greatest attendance ever for a U.S. sporting event, with figures ranging from 104,000 to 130,000, depending on who you believe. It definitely was the site of the largest football crowd ever, 123,000 to see Notre Dame play USC a few weeks after the Long Count; in spite of various expansions, the universities of Michigan and Tennessee and Penn State still can't top this. The 1926 Army-Navy Game was played there, in front of over 100,000.

The Chicago Rockets of the All-America Football Conference played at Soldier Field in 1946, '47 and '48, changing their name to the Chicago Hornets in '49. They were not admitted into the NFL with their AAFC brethren in Cleveland, San Francisco and Baltimore.

Games of the 1994 World Cup and the 1999 Women's World Cup were also held at the old Soldier Field. MLS' Chicago Fire made it their 1st home ground, and 13 matches of the U.S. soccer team have been played on the site, most recently a 2013 win over Panama. The U.S. has won 6 of these games, lost 4 and tied 3. An NHL Stadium Series game was played there earlier this year, with the Blackhawks beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-1.
The old Soldier Field during the 1994 World Cup

Amazingly, the Bears played at Wrigley from 1921 to 1970, with the occasional single-game exception. The story I heard is that Bears founder-owner-coach George Halas was a good friend of both the Wrigley and Veeck families, and felt loyalty to them, and that's why he stayed at Wrigley even though it had just 47,000 seats for football.

But I heard another story that Halas was a Republican and didn't like Chicago's Democratic Mayor, Richard J. Daley (whose son Richard M. later broke his father's record for longest-serving Mayor), and didn't want to pay the city Parks Department a lot of rent. (This is believable, because Halas was known to be cheap: Mike Ditka, who nonetheless loved his old boss, said, "Halas throws nickels around like manhole covers.") The real reason the Bears moved to Soldier Field in 1971 was Monday Night Football: Halas wanted the revenue, and Wrigley didn't have lights until 1988.

The 1st team named the Chicago Fire, in the World Football League, played at Soldier Field in 1974, changing their name to the Chicago Winds in 1975, before the league folded. The Chicago Blitz of the USFL played there in 1983 and 1984, before folding. The NASL's Chicago Sting played there from 1974 to 1979, and again in 1983 and 1984.

A 2002-03 renovation demolished all but the iconic (if not Ionic, they're in the Doric style) Greek-style columns that used to hang over the stadium, and are now visible only from the outside. It doesn't look like "Soldier Field" anymore: One critic called it The Eyesore on the Lake Shore. Capacity is now roughly what it was in the last few years prior to the renovation, 61,500. And while the Bears won 8 Championships while playing at Wrigley (8 more titles than the Cubs have won there), they've only won 1 more at Soldier Field, the 1985 title capped by Super Bowl XX. The Monsters of the Midway have been tremendous underachievers since leaving Wrigley, having been to only 1 of the last 30 Super Bowls (and losing it).
The old columns and the new stadium

1410 S. Museum Campus Drive, at McFetridge and Lake Shore Drives, a bit of a walk from the closest station, Roosevelt station on the Green, Orange and Red Lines.


* Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium. For 2 seasons, 2002 and '03, while Soldier Field was being demolished and rebuilt, and Toyota Park hadn't yet been built, the Fire were forced to seek shelter elsewhere. Mayor Richard M. Daley offered them the use of the new Comiskey Park (now Guaranteed Rate Field), but White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf put the kibosh on the idea. Nor did the University of Illinois (which was letting the Bears play their 2002 season at Memorial Stadium), nor Northwestern, nor Northern Illinois allow them in.

Desperate, they turned to North Central College in the suburbs of Naperville. The Fire had previously played a 2000 U.S. Open Cup Quarterfinal there, due to a scheduling conflict with Soldier Field. Named Cardinal Stadium at the time, it is now named for a pair of university benefactors. It seats only 5,500 people, so it was no long-term solution. Toyota Park had to be built, so they were no longer at the mercy of Soldier Field's schedulers.
455 S. Brainard Street, about 31 miles southwest of the Loop. Burlington Northern Aurora Line from Union Station to Naperville, then a 15-minute walk south.


* Site of Chicago Coliseum. There were 2 buildings with this name that you should know about. One hosted the 1896 Democratic National Convention, where William Jennings Bryan began the process of turning the Democratic Party from the conservative party it had been since before the Civil War into the modern liberal party it became, a struggle that went through the Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt years before it finally lived up to its promise under John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.

It was here that Bryan gave the speech for which he is most remembered, calling for the free coinage of silver rather than sticking solely to the gold standard: "You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold."

Now a part of Jackson Park, at 63rd Street & Stony Island Avenue. 63rd Street Metra (commuter rail) station.

The other was home to every Republican Convention from 1904 to 1920. Here, they nominated Theodore Roosevelt in 1904, William Howard Taft in 1908 and 1912, Charles Evans Hughes in 1916 and Warren Harding in 1920. When TR was maneuvered out of the nomination to return to office at the 1912 Convention, he held his subsequent Progressive Party Convention was also held there.

It was also the original home of the Blackhawks, from 1926 to 1929 and briefly again in 1932. In 1935, roller derby was invented there. In 1961, an NBA expansion team, the Chicago Packers, played there, becoming the Zephyrs in 1962 and moving to become the Baltimore Bullets in 1963 (and the Washington Bullets in 1973, and the Washington Wizards in 1997).

The Coliseum hosted a few rock concerts before the Fire Department shut it down in 1971, and it was demolished in 1982. The Soka Gakkai USA Culture Center, a Buddhist institute, now occupies the site. East side of Wabash Avenue at 15th Street, with today's Coliseum Park across the street. Appropriately enough, the nearest CTA stop is at Roosevelt Avenue, on the Red, Yellow and Green Lines.

* Site of International Amphitheatre. Home to the Bulls in their first season, 1966-67, and to the World Hockey Association's Chicago Cougars from 1972 to 1975, this arena, built by the stockyards in 1934, was home to a lot of big pro wrestling cards. Elvis sang here on March 28, 1957. The Beatles played here on September 5, 1964 and August 12, 1966.

But it was best known as a site for political conventions. Both parties met there in 1952 (The Republicans nominating Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Democrats the man was then Governor of Illinois, Adlai Stevenson), the Democrats in 1956 (Stevenson again), the Republicans in 1960 (Richard Nixon), and, most infamously, the Democrats in 1968 (Hubert Humphrey), with all the protests. The main protests for that convention were in Grant Park and a few blocks away on Michigan Avenue in front of the Conrad Hilton Hotel, one of the convention headquarters (now the Chicago Hilton & Towers. 720 S. Michigan).

The Amphitheatre, torn down in 1999, was at 4220 S. Halsted Street, where an Aramark plant now stands. Red Line to 47th Street. This location is definitely not to be visited after dark; indeed, unless you’re really interested in political history, I'd say, if you have to drop one item from this list, this is the one.


Elvis also sang in Illinois at Assembly Hall at the University of Illinois in Champaign on October 22, 1976, and at Southern Illinois University Arena in Carbondale on October 27.

* Northwestern University. Chicago's Big Ten school is just north of the city, 16 miles from the Loop, in Evanston. Dyche Stadium/Ryan Field, and McGaw Hall/Welsh-Ryan Arena, are at 2705 Ashland Avenue between Central Street and Isabella Street. (Purple Line to Central.)

While Northwestern's athletic teams have traditionally been terrible, the school has a very important place in sports history: The 1st NCAA basketball tournament championship game was held there in 1939, at Patten Gymnasium, at 2145 Sheridan Road: Oregon defeated Ohio State. The original Patten Gym was torn down a year later, and the school's Technological Institute was built on the site. Sheridan Road, Noyes Street and Campus Drive. Purple Line to Noyes.

Welsh-Ryan, under the McGaw name, hosted the Final Four in 1956: Bill Russell and K.C. Jones, soon to be Boston Celtics stars, led the University of San Francisco past Iowa. These are the only 2 Final Fours ever to be held in the Chicago area, or in the State of Illinois.

* National Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame. Appropriately in Chicago's Little Italy, west of downtown, it includes a state uf Yankee legend Joe DiMaggio.  Other New York native or playing baseball players honored include Joe Torre, Yogi Berra, Phil Rizzuto, Billy Martin, Vic Raschi, Tony Lazzeri, Dave Righetti, Frank Crosetti, Roy Campanella, Sal Maglie, Mike Piazza, Bobby Valentine, John Franco, Carl Furillo, Frank Viola, Jim Fregosi, Ralph Branca, Rocky Colavito, broadcaster Joe Garagiola, and the last active player to have been a Brooklyn Dodger, Bob Aspromonte, and his brother Ken Aspromonte. 1431 W. Taylor Street at Loomis Street.  Pink Line to Polk.

* Museums. Chicago's got a bunch of good ones, as you would expect in a city of 3 million people. Their version of New York’s Museum of Natural History is the Field Museum, just north of Soldier Field. Adjacent is the Shedd Aquarium. On the other side of the Aquarium is their answer to the Hayden Planetarium, the Adler Planetarium. And they have a fantastic museum for which there is no real analogue in New York, though the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia is similar: The Museum of Science & Industry, at 57th Street & Cornell Drive, near the University of Chicago campus; 56th Street Metra station. The Art Institute of Chicago is their version of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, at 111 S. Michigan Avenue, just off the Loop.

* Ferris Bueller's Day OffIf you're a fan of that movie, as I am (see my 25th Anniversary retrospective, from June 2011), not only will you have taken in Wrigley Field, but you'll recognize the Art Institute as where Alan Ruck focused on Georges Seurat’s painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.

Other sites visited by Ferris, Cameron and Sloane were the Sears Tower, then the tallest building in the world, 1,454 feet, 233 S. Wacker Drive (yes, the name is Wacker), Quincy/Wells station in the Loop; and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, 335 S. La Salle Street, LaSalle/Van Buren station in the Loop. (That station is also where Steve Martin & John Candy finally reached Chicago in another John Hughes film, Planes, Trains and Automobiles). The Steuben Day Parade goes down Lincoln Avenue every September, on or close to the anniversary of Baron von Steuben's birth, not in the spring as in the film.

While the Bueller house was in Long Beach, California, the Frye house is in Highland Park, north of the city. Remember, it’s a private residence, and not open to the public, so I won't provide the address. And the restaurant, Chez Quis, did not and does not exist.

Nor did, nor does, Adam's Ribs, a barbecue joint made famous in a 1974 M*A*S*H episode of the same title. Today, there are 18 restaurants in America named Adam's Ribs, including two on Long Island, on Park Boulevard in Massapequa Park and on the Montauk Highway in Babylon; and another on Cookstown-Wrightstown Road outside South Jersey's Fort Dix and McGuire Air Force Base. But only one is anywhere near Chicago, in Buffalo Grove in the northwestern suburbs.

Not far from that, in the western suburbs, is Wheaton, home town of football legend Red Grange and the comedic Belushi Brothers, John and Jim. John and Dan Aykroyd used Wrigley Field in The Blues Brothers, and Jim played an obsessive Cubs fan in Taking Care of Business. Their father, an Albanian immigrant, ran a restaurant called The Olympia Cafe, which became half the basis for John's Saturday Night Live sketch of the same name, better known as the Cheeseburger Sketch: "No hamburger! Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger... No fries, chips!... No Coke, Pepsi!"

Don Novello, an SNL writer who played Father Guido Sarducci, said the other half of the inspiration was the Billy Goat Tavern, originally operated by Greek immigrant William "Billy Goat" Sianis, originator of the supposed Billy Goat Curse on the Cubs, across Madison Street from Chicago Stadium, from 1937 until 1963. At that point, Sianis moved to the lower deck of the double-decked Michigan Avenue, since it was near the headquarters of the city's three daily newspapers, the Tribune, the Sun-Times, and the now-defunct Daily News. Mike Royko, who wrote columns for each of these papers, made it his haunt and frequently mentioned it in his columns.

Novello and Bill Murray, Chicagoans, were regulars at the Billy Goat, but John Belushi later said he'd never set foot in the place, so while the others may have drawn inspiration from it, his came from his father's restaurant.

Sam Sianis, nephew of the original Billy, still serves up a fantastic cheeseburger (he was there when I visited in 1999), he deviates from the sketch: No Pepsi, Coke. It's open for breakfast, and serves regular breakfast food. It looks foreboding, being underneath the elevated part of Michigan Avenue, and a sign out front (and on their website) says, "Enter at your own risk." But another sign says, "Butt in anytime." 430 N. Michigan Avenue, lower deck, across from the Tribune Tower. Red Line to Grand. The original location near Chicago Stadium has effectively been replaced, at 1535 W. Madison Street.

The Tribune Tower is a work of art in itself. Its building, Tribune publisher "Colonel" Robert R. McCormick, had stones taken from various famous structures all over the world: The Palace of Westminster in London, the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, the Grand Canyon.  (He must've paid a lot of people off.) These can be seen at near ground level, but the building itself is so grand that it doesn't need it.

The building is also the headquarters of the TV and radio station that McCormick named for his paper: WGN, "The World's Greatest Newspaper," a line that has long since disappeared from the paper's masthead. 435 N. Michigan Avenue. Red Line to Grand.

The Wrigley Building is right across from it, at 400 N. Michigan. The block of North Michigan they're on is renamed Jack Brickhouse Way, and Brickhouse's statue is on the grounds of the Tribune Tower.

You may notice some other film landmarks. The Chicago Board of Trade Building was used as the Wayne Tower in Christopher Nolan’s Batman films. And Chicago stood in for Metropolis in the Superman-themed TV series Lois & Clark, with the Wrigley Building and the Tribune Tower as standout landmarks.

TV shows set in Chicago include The Untouchables, about Eliot Ness and his Depression-era crimebusters; Good Times, set in the infamous, now-demolished Cabrini-Green housing project; the related sitcoms Perfect Strangers and Family Matters (Great shows? Well, of course, they were, don't be ridiculous!); Married... with Children, Fox's longest-running non-cartoon (though the Bundy family was pretty darn cartoonish); the 1990s hospital dramas ER and Chicago HopeBoss, the current show with Kelsey Grammer as a corrupt Mayor; and The Bob Newhart Show, with Bob as psychiatrist Dr. Bob Hartley.

Nearly every one of these shows was actually filmed in Los Angeles, and the exterior shots were also mostly L.A. sites, so don't bother going to look for them. However, a statue of Newhart is at the Navy Pier, near its amusement rides, between Grand Avenue & Illinois Street at the lake.

* Quad Cities. Rock Island and Moline, Illinois, and Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa, are, together, known as the Quad Cities. Together, these cities and adjoining smaller towns have a population of about 475,000. (Davenport about 100,000, Moline 44,000, Rock Island 39,000 and Bettendorf 35,000). Not big enough to be major league -- but some people tried.

The 5,000-seat Douglas Park was the home of the Rock Island Independents from 1907 to 1925, including 1920 to 1925 in the NFL. In fact, it was the site of the 1st NFL game, on October 3, 1920, a 45-0 Indys win over the Indiana-based Muncie Flyers. It was also home to a minor-league baseball team, the Rock Island Islanders, from 1907 to 1937, winning Class D Pennants in 1907, 1909 and 1932. West side of 10th Street between 15th and 18th Avenues in Rock Island, 180 miles west of Chicago.

One of the oldest surviving pro basketball teams is the Atlanta Hawks. They began as the Tri-Cities Blackhawks (they dropped Bettendorf from the "Quad Cities" description) in 1946. They weren't very good, and moved to Milwaukee in 1951, St. Louis in 1955, and Atlanta in 1968. They played at the 6,000-seat Wharton Field House, which opened in 1928 and still stands. 1800 20th Avenue.

There is a minor-league baseball team in the Quad Cities, but it's been known by various names since its inception in 1879 as the Davenport Brown Stockings. They've won 10 Pennants, previously in Class B, and in what's now Class A: In 1914, 1933 and 1936 as the Davenport Blue Sox; in 1949 as the Davenport Pirates; in 1968 and 1971 as the Quad City Angels; In 1979 as the Quad City Cubs; in 1990 again as the Quad City Angels; and in 2011 and 2013 under their current name, the Quad Cities River Bandits.

Since 1931, they have played at a stadium right on the Mississippi River, which proved a problem during the 1993 flood. The 4,024-seat ballpark was known as Municipal Stadium until 1971, then as John O'Donnell Stadium until 2008, when it became Modern Woodmen Park, as the fraternal organization bought naming rights. 209 S. Gaines Street in Davenport.


No President has ever come from Chicago, and none has a Presidential Library anywhere near it -- Abraham Lincoln's is 200 miles away, in the State capital of Springfield -- although many have Presidential connections. Most notably, the 1st true Presidential Debate, between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, was held on September 26, 1960, at the old CBS Studio, home to WBBM, 780 on your AM dial and Channel 2 on your TV. 630 N. McClurg Street. The building is no longer there. Red Line to Grand, then an 8-minute walk.


In the early days of American politics, any temporary meeting structure was called a "Wigwam," which is a Native American word for a temporary dwelling. Chicago’s first Wigwam was at what is now 191 N. Upper Wacker Drive, right where the Chicago River splits into north and south branches. Abraham Lincoln was nominated there at their 1860 Convention. A modern office building is on the site today. Clark/Lake station in the Loop.

Another Wigwam stood at 205 East Randolph Street, in what was then called Lake Park, now Grant Park. The Democrats held their Convention there in 1892, nominating Grover Cleveland for the 3rd time. The Harris Theater is on the site today. Randolph/Wabash station in the Loop.

In 1864, the Democrats nominated General George B. McClellan at The Amphitheatre, 1100 South Michigan Avenue. A Best Western Hotel is on the site today. Red Line to Roosevelt. In 1868, the Republicans nominated Ulysses S. Grant at Crosby's Opera House, 1 West Washington Street. A modern office building is on the site today. Blue Line to Washington.

The Interstate Industrial Exposition Building, a.k.a. the Glass Palace, was where the Republicans met and nominated James Garfield in 1880, and both parties met in 1884, the Republicans nominating James G. Blaine and the Democrats nominating Cleveland for the 1st time. 111 South Michigan Avenue. The aforementioned Art Institute of Chicago is on the site today. Adams/Wabash station in the Loop. And in 1888, the Republicans met at the Auditorium Building, 430 South Michigan Avenue. It still stands. Harold Washington Library station, a.k.a. State-Van Buren station, in the Loop.

*

Every American should visit Chicago. And every American soccer fan should see a game at Toyota Park. Despite being a bit of a pain in the neck to get to from downtown, it provides the best MLS experience in the Midwest. And they won't treat Red Bull fans badly. Certainly, not as though you were arch-rivals.