Early Christmas on the North Side of Chicago

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You would have a tough time convincing Cubs fans that Christmas hasn’t already come. People who don’t like the Cubs know it’s still 13 days until TBS starts running “A Christmas Story,” the funniest Christmas movie ever made if not the best one. They know Santa is still at the North Pole making sure the reindeer and his sleigh are set to roll. But Cubs fans think he already showed up and dropped a terrific present under their Christmas tree. Yes, Jason Heyward is a Cub.

Heyward, 26 hails from Ridgewood, New Jersey. He has six  seasons in the majors under his belt at that young age. He was an All-Star as a rookie in 2010, and has 3 gold gloves for his outfield  play. He’s a giant of a man, at six-five and 245, big enough to play Santa if he wanted to, and  all the teams looking for an outfielder had him on their Christmas list. Earlier on, he passed up UCLA, Clemson and Georgia Tech to go pro, as the Braves took him in round 1 in 2007. In his MLB debut, he homered on the first pitch he saw, which was against his new team the Cubs. Coincidentally his first grand slam was also against the North Siders.  He would have been Rookie of the Year except for Buster  Posey, whom he had faced in high school. both 2011 and 2013 were marred by injuries.  2012, 2014 and 2015 were his 3 Gold Glove seasons. Atlanta sent him and pitcher Jordan Walden to the Cardinals after 2014 to get Shelby Miller, who lost 17 games and has since been dealt to Arizona. 2015 was Atlanta’s worst year since General Sherman’s road show came through the city. Meantime with Heyward in the lineup the Cardinals won 100 games, although they lost the NLDS to the Cubs. As good as he’s already been, fans on the shores of old Lake Michigan expect him to launch even more home runs in their hitter-friendly little ball park.

The Mets’ Michael Cuddyer has called it a career with a year left on his contract. Michael Brent Cuddyer, of Norfolk, VA will be 37 during spring training 2016. Mets fans who saw him play this year may be surprised he’s got a .277 lifetime average as he leaves the game. He was an All-Star twice, in 2011 and 2013. The Twins took him in round 1 in 1997 out of high school. He was a September call-up in 2001.

He signed with the Rockies after the 2011 season.  Taken in by his .331 average in Colorado in 2013, the Mets signed him when he became available after 2014. They weren’t the first team hoodwinked by inflated Colorado numbers. In pitcher-friendly Citi Field he hit .259 with only 10 home runs and 41 RBIS and became a real liability in the field-one of many the Mets had. Watching him day to day it seemed he played worse than the numbers, bad enough to make one of my sources nickname him “The Cadaver.”

Steve Farr is 59 today.

The problem with great closers is, all but the very  best  of them have the shelf life of a gallon of milk. Remember Mitch Williams? Bruce Sutter?(Pronounced Suitor)

In his time Farr was one of the best. Now, after Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman he’s all but forgotten except in Kansas City. Steven Michael Farr, of La Plata Maryland was the closer when the Royals won their first World Series in 1985. He was with them through 1990, then had the bad luck to be on the Yankees during 3 of their worst years, 1991-93. He was with the Indians and Red Sox after that.

Gorman Thomas is 65 today. James Gorman Thomas III hailed from Charleston, SC. While he only hit .225 he lead his league in home runs twice, was an All-Star and was one of Harvey Kuenn’s Wallbangers in 1982. That team went 7 games in the World Series against the Cardinals before bowing to them. He had been the first draftee of the 1969 Seattle Pilots before they left for Milwaukee the following spring.

Allan Lewis is 74 today. He and Herb Washington were two men Charles O. Finley employed who made a farce of the rules of baseball. Rather than giving an opportunity to  a player with all the skills required, Finley employed Lewis and Washington as pinch-runners. Lewis had all of 6 hits in 7 seasons between 1967 and 1973. But he had 44 steals and won two World Series.

And although this man  never played the game, I’m off base if I don’t recognize the 100th anniversary of the birth of Francis Albert Sinatra. He passed on in May of 1998, the year the Yankees had a very good year, to say the least. After every Yankee win you hear his 1980 hit “New York, New York,” roaring through the Yankee Stadium P.A. system.    Happy Birthday to all.

 

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