Can the Real Thing beat the Playoff Preview?

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In the first week of October, barring some highly unlikely event the Pirates and Cubs will meet in the NL wild card game. They will have to get up early in the morning to top the excitement of last night’s playoff preview at PNC Park. It went well into the night, making it likely that many locals will have tapped  their snooze alarms a few times before heading off to their daily toil, or golf game. There’s something special about baseball that other sports don’t provide. Can you imagine at a football or basketball game, a woman nearly old enough to join the AARP acting like a teenage girl  at a Justin Bieber concert? I can’t, but it happens in baseball. Hilda Chester was an elderly lady known for her bellowed exhortations to her beloved Dodgers at Ebbets Field. One Pirate fan I know, bedecked in Bucko shirt and hat, cheered her favorites on, singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh inning stretch and hoping, ever hoping Neil Walker, her “Neil baby,” would get it done. While he got two hits, they weren’t able to help the larger cause.

Nobody had much  to cheer about until the visiting sixth. With Anthony Rizzo aboard, Chris Bryant, one of the Cubs’ much heralded rookie hitters, doubled Rizzo home to break the ice. Moments later, Starlin Castro laid a bunt down to bring Bryant home from third. The Pirates were lucky to score their first run at all. In the home sixth, one of the game’s best pitchers Jake Arrieta, a cinch to start the wild card game airmailed a throw to first trying to retire Marte. In doing so, he allowed runner Gregory Polanco to cross the plate for the Pirates’ first run. The game tying run also scored in mild  fashion in the eighth. Sean Rodriguez scored from third on a grounder to second. The game was destined for extras when Josh Harrison was tagged out  at the plate in a rundown on the same play where the tying run scored.

Fast forward to the visiting 12th inning. Chris Denorfia led off with a single off new Pirates pitcher Vance Worley. He was run for by Quintin Barry. A Worley wild pitch advanced Barry to second, then a single by Austin Jackson put him 90 feet closer to his goal. The first out Worley got was a fly out to left by Rizzo, but the damage was done. It went deep enough to count as a scoring fly ball bringing Barry home with what would amount to the winning run. Hector Rondon who would get the win had no easy feat to perform in order to lock it down. Two of the Pirates’ better hitters, Marte and Andrew McCutchen awaited him. But Marte meekly hit a toy fly to second and McCutchen struck out swinging. The ex-Cub Aramis Ramirez, a veteran campaigner at 37 made one last despairing effort for the Pirates as he lined a whistling single to right. But Jung-Ho Kang (pronounced Gong,) whose mighty bat can turn a Pirate defecit into a Gong show victory, lined out to short ending the festivities for the evening. That’s 2 out of 3 for the Cubs in this series in the Steel City, with a matinee this afternoon to wrap it up. Neither team has an easy assignment this weekend. The Pirates fly west to face the Dodgers for 3 in Los Angeles, while the Cubs face the Cardinals, only the team with the best record in the game.

With This Ring, …

Rings have been a vital part of our culture denoting special achievements: graduation from high school, college, and supposedly the most sacred of all the wedding ring. They’ve been part of commercials, (Who can forget ring around the collar?) In music, Elvis sang “Won’t You Wear My Ring Around your Neck,” Johnny Cash sang of a ring of fire, and country music’s class couple in the category of  contention Tammy Wynette and George Jones sang “Golden Ring.” Baseball’s first World Series rings went to the New York Giants after they swept past Miller Huggins’  Yankees 4 games to none with one tie. One of those originals belonging to Casey Stengel later fetched $180,000 in an auction.  After the rings of 1922 the Yankees gave their men pocket watches when they dismantled John McGraw’s Yankees the following year. By the 1930’s the rings had become the standard reward to the team that won the World Series. They started off spare, but by 2003 the Marlins’ rings had over 200 diamonds in them. The next year, the Red Sox gave out rings of 18 carat white gold with a ruby B surrounded by diamonds. And that’s where this story gets strange.

Yesterday, while raiding the home of a suspected drug dealer near Quincy, Massachusetts, the police found one of these 2004 beauties along with pills and cash. 3 local men went to jail. While they face multiple drug charges, it wasn’t reported whether any of them had stolen the ring or when it had been filched. The police said the ring was restored to its rightful owner, who was a Red Sox office employee at the time, as opposed to one of the players or coaches. You have to wonder what any of the 3 thugs thought they’d do with the ring. It’s not surprising that they  are Red Sox fans. The Sox (or Sawx once you exit highway 84 and enter  highway 91,) draw fans from all over New England. They are fans of every kind-rich man, poor man, beggar man, drug dealer. But once they had the trophy, they couldn’t have peddled it on E-bay. The law would have had them in jail a long time ago. All they could do was admire it, and now they can’t even do that. The “dope ring” is back where it should be, and can again be treasured as a souvenir of the year the Red Sox broke the curse of the Bambino.

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