This Week’s Promotions (8/31–9/6)

Last week I attended three of the promotions on the list. The first was the Blackhawks appearance at the Gary Railcats game. Stan Mikita and Ben Eager were the two players who showed up. The second was the Tom Henke appearance at the Cardinals game on August 28th. The next day at Busch Stadium they held picture day on the field. If you are a fan of the Cardinals, or you just want to walk on a Major League Field this is the kind of promotion you are looking for. Since the minor leagues are for the most part done with scheduled promotions this will be the last week for this feature this year. Next year when things start to green up I will start it back up. Lets see what this last week has in store.

Monday 8/31
Great Lake Loons – Garage Sale night. Everything is for sale. Don’t try and show up early though.
Chicago Cubs – Billy Williams bobble to the first 10,000 fans.
Detroit Tigers – John Cena will throw out the first pitch before the throwdown with the Rays.
Gary Railcats – Football night less than a week after hockey night. Former Bears Otis Wilson and Bobby Douglas will be on hand signing autographs.

Tuesday 9/1
Birmingham Barons – 25 cent hot dog night and team photo giveaway

Wednesday 9/2
Nothing of note.

Thursday 9/3
Peoria Chiefs – Throwback Thursday…What Could Have Been. That is the title. I can only imagine that they will be reliving the 1969 collapse? It could be anything in the past 100+ years though. Hell, it could even be this season.
Toledo Mud Hens – Jake Tyler chia bobble to the first 2,500 fans. Seeds included.

Friday 9/4
Lansing Lugnuts – Carlos Marmol Bobblehead giveaway.
Gary Railcats – Championship hats given out on the night of the first playoff game.

Saturday 9/5
Akron Aeros – Cap giveaway to the 1st 1,000
Beloit Snappers – Packers/Bears day. The team celebrates the rivalry as football season grows near.
Iowa Cubs – Bobby Scales jersey shirts
West Michigan Whitecaps – The Famous Chicken will make an appearance. Is this one of the last?

Sunday 9/6
Iowa Cubs – As a ball collector this might be the best promotion of the week if not the year. The team has 3,000 signed balls to give away. Some of them might be from Hall of Fame players or superstars. Names like Ryne Sandberg, Andre Dawson, and Pete Rose have been thrown around. On the other hand you might get a ball signed by a player who just made it to Iowa and no further. It is a real crapshoot, but it would be exciting to see how it all plays out. This might be worth the trip.
Update: I also just saw a link that listed Willie Mays, Gaylord Perry, and Greg Maddux on the list.
Chicago White Sox – 1959 White Sox jersey to the first 10,000 kids

Monday 9/7
Memphis Redbirds – Colby Rasmus bobble to the 1st 1,500.

Thursday 9/10
West Michigan Whitecaps – Jeremy Bonderman bobble to the first 1,000 fans. This is their first playoff game as well.

Holliday and Rasmus Send Me Off with a Win

Last night I was at the Cardinals game for the second night in a row. On Friday Albert ended the game in dramatic fashion. Such heroics were not needed last night. Matt Holliday hit a three run homer in the third to put the Cardinals up, and they kept going after that. The picture to the left was taken just before contact on the homer. They put up four more in the 5th thanks to an error followed by a Colby Rasmus three run homer. Mitchell Boggs was effective in getting the win, but I don’t think that they will be able to ride this guy in the playoffs. He was up and down, and was close to letting the game get away from him a couple of times. Once again Albert did not disappoint. He went 2-3 on the night with two walks and two runs scored. He hit two doubles, the second of which was off the wall in straightaway center that scored a run. If I was the manager of the other team I would walk him every time. The road trip ended with two Cardinal wins. Both games were very exciting to be at. It is nice to be at a stadium when a team is performing as they should. I had great seats just behind home plate, and I had good people around me. Two Cubs fans that sat directly behind me were even decent. When he started giving the Cardinals season ticket holders flack because the Cubs sell out every game and the Cardinals don’t, she simply pointed to the eleven championships and said “I’d rather have those.” That seemed to do the trick. The new Busch Stadium was simply beautiful, and I see no reason why I will not make my way back soon. Hopefully the Sox will get to have a series there soon. I would love to spend three more days in St. Louis. During the two games that I saw I was able to see every Cardinal position player as well as all but two of the Nationals players. I also saw the three main powers hitters (Pujols, Holliday, and Adam Dunn) all hit one out. Pujols of course hit the most dramatic dinger. The only thing that would have made the trip even better was seeing Smoltz get a win. It was still cool seeing him pitch though.

Neither team took batting practice yesterday because it was photo day. When I got into the stadium I was initially bummed because fans were on the field, and the players were not. That quickly subsided when I made my way onto the field. I will save that story for another post though. I also was able to see Ernie Banks play the first game of a doubleheader yesterday. That story too will have to wait.

Pujols is the Man!

I already knew this coming into the stadium today, but he just added to his lore by smacking a home run way out of the park to win the game for the Cardinals in the ninth inning tonight. For a while I thought that this game might be going into extras once the Nationals went down in the top of the ninth. I thought that it would be fitting to see an extra inning game on my birthday. Albert decided against it though smacking a ball deep into the left field seats to win the game. From the moment that it left the bat you knew that it was gone. I had my camera put away already, but grabbed it out quickly to get a shot of the celebration at home plate. This team knows that it is close to something special. The Cubs won today so the lead stays at 9 in the central. That would not have been possible except for the heroics of Khalil Greene. He pinch hit in the eighth inning and hit a line drive out of the park to tie the game up. When Greene stepped into the box I thought “Why him?” I guess you don’t question the moves by Tony Larussa.
I was really excited to see the start of the game tonight to see John Smoltz pitch. He has 213 wins and 154 saves in his Major League career. He also won his first start in a Cardinal uniform on the road last week. What did the St. Louis fans do to greet Smoltz? Well he was cheered every time that the crowd thought that they could. They cheered him when he was warming up. They cheered when he came out from the bullpen before the start of the game. They cheered when he took the mound. They went ballistic when he came to bat the first time. They also gave him two send offs. They were not sure if he was coming out or not after he pitched the fifth inning so they gave him an ovation. They repeated the feat after the sixth. These fans really like Smoltz. He pitched six innings of four hit ball only giving up one run on a sacrifice fly. This was the pitcher that I came to watch tonight. He was worth every dime that I spent on my seat. I don’t know how much longer he will be around, but now I can say that I have seen him play. Tomorrow’s matchup is not quite as good. I guess you can’t get everything. It was fun to watch a team that wants to go to the postseason unlike the South Side team I normally watch.

Two Nights in August

Earlier this year I read the book “Three Nights in August” about the August 28-30 Cubs and Cardinals series in 2003. I was at the opening game of that series on my birthday that Friday. I was able to see lots of cool things that night. For one I got my first ball at a big league park during batting practice. I have a little more on the game here from a previous post. I have seen four Cardinals games in my life, and they all came during the summer of 2003. I also have had tickets a couple of times to the third incarnation of Busch Stadium, but have never made it for one reason or another. This was a great series that I will always remember. I am looking to recreate a little of that magic this weekend when I head down for my birthday again. As an added bonus John Smoltz will be pitching on my birthday. What more could you ask for? Dry weather. That is what we can ask for. Just for fun I decided to do a where are they now from that game. Here is a look at what has transpired for all 23 players and two managers that were involved with that game.

Kenny Lofton – Ever the journeyman Lofton played for five teams after the 2003 season. He only played in 55 games for the Cubs that season. He played for the Yankees, Phillies, Dodgers, Rangers, and finally the Cleveland Indians before hanging up his spikes after the 2007 season. After growing up in East Chicago it must have been a thrill for him to have played for both Chicago teams.
Ramon Martinez – Martinez played 102 games for the Cubs in 2004 as well as two playoff games in 2003. From there he bounced around between the Tigers, Phillies, Dodgers, and Yankees.
Sammy Sosa – 2003 might have been the last great season for Sosa. He hit 35 dingers in 2004, but a bad sneeze along with a corked bat, and a early departure from the team have marred that season. Sammy played for the Orioles in 2005, but was never the same. He came back with the Rangers in 2007 after sitting out 2006, but never really captured the magic that he once possessed. He sort of announced his retirement this season, but it was overshadowed by reports of his name being on the steroid list.
Moises Alou – Moises may most be remembered in baseball history for his reaction to the Bartman play. We all know that the play did not cause the Cubs the series, but it was sure a good excuse for a while. Alou played the 2004 season for the Cubs before leaving for the Giants and the Mets. He only played 15 games in 2008 before he retired. He did play for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic this spring though. He was a fun player to watch who unlike the guy above played the game the right way.
Randall Simon – Simon went back to the Pirates after the 2003 season. He apparently was just a loaner. He never could square up a baseball like he could a sausage, and was out of the game by 2006.
Aramis Ramirez – Has become the third baseman that the Cubs were searching for since Cey left the team. He was injured much of this season, but is an important piece of the puzzle for the Cubs. Watching him lately though I have started wondering about his weight loss. He looks much the same way that Sosa looked in 2004. I told myself then that Sosa was not on the juice, and I was proven wrong. I am a little more cynical now though.
Alex Gonzalez – Here is the real reason that the Cubs did not go to the Series in 2003. His booting of a routine ground ball should be played just as much as the Bartman play if not more. Alex is currently playing for the Boston Red Sox.
Paul BakoBako played the 2004 season for the Cubs before moving on to the Dodgers, Royals, Orioles, Reds, and finally the Phillies this season. This seems to be a trend with this team. Most of these players bounced around a lot after the 2003 season. Teams didn’t want the curse to rub off I guess.
Carlos Zambrano – Has surpassed expectations and become the ace of the Cubs staff. He has not been himself this season because of injuries, but that is not uncommon for a Cubs pitcher is it?
Doug Glanville – Doug played in 87 games for the Phillies in 2004 before hanging up his spikes for good.
Mike Remlinger – Mike was the unlucky guy to give up the game winning home run to Robinson. I always enjoyed watching this lefty pitch. Mike stayed with the Cubs until he was traded in August of 2005. He was released by the Red Sox exactly two years to the date after he gave up that home run. He signed with the Braves in 2006, but was released in June.
Dusty Baker – Dusty stayed with the Cubs until Lou Pinella replaced him for the 2007 season. He was hired by the Reds for the 2008 season, and is still their manager. Where you find Dusty you will find players like Neifi Perez. He does not believe in on base percentage according to many reports. He does however believe in Santa Claus.

Kerry Robinson – According to the book about the series Robinson was a cancer on the team. He had average talent, but thought that he could be a star if he could play everyday. He was in LaRussa’s doghouse much of the time so it was no surprise when he was not with the team in 2004. He played in 80 games for the Padres in 2004, and 18 games for the Royals in 2006 before a started a superstar retirement.
Bo Hart – Bo was the story of the year in St. Louis. Who was this scrappy young player? Bo had the heart (no pun intended), but not quite enough talent. He bounced around until 2007 between the triple A affiliates of the Cardinals, Rockies, Cubs, and the Orioles. After being released by the Orioles in 2007 he joined the Lancaster Independant League Team. In 2008 he played for the Schaumburg Flyers and the Kansas City T-Bones of the Northern League.
Albert Pujols – Since 2003 Albert has become the man. He is the measuring stick for every player that comes up.
Jim Edmonds – Jim played with the Cards until 2007. He then spent the 2008 season between the Padres and the Cubs. He will always be remembered for that beautiful glove in center. Even when he was supposedly washed up he flashed a great glove in the field. Just try and hit it over his head.
Scott RolenRolen has continued to be a force at third. He was traded just before the deadline this season to the Reds.
Tino Martinez – Tino spent 2004 with Tampa Bay, and 2005 with the Yankees before hanging up his spikes.
Mike DeJean – Played until 2006 with the Yankees, Orioles, and Rockies.
Edgar Renteria – Currently playing for the Giants after stops at Boston, Atlanta, and Detroit.
Mike Matheny – Matheny was a thinking catcher that handled a staff well. He played for the Cards in 2004 before playing his final two seasons in San Francisco.
Matt Morris – Left to join Matheny in San Francisco where he played for two years. He then played a season plus for the Pirates before they released him in April of 2008.
Steve Kline – Also played in San Francisco after a brief stop in Baltimore. Is this luck or team cohesivness?
So TaguchiTaguchi is currently playing for the Iowa Cubs in the Pacific Coast league. Taguchi won a ring in 2006 with the Cards, and last season with the Phillies.
Tony LaRussa – Tony is still the manager of the Cardinals. With his intensity it is a wonder that he has stayed in the managing capacity every year since the White Sox hired him. He was the losing manager in the World Series in 2004 during the Red Sox dream season. He got his revenge though in 2006 when he won another title against the Tigers.

Flyers Check the Railcats on Hockey Night

On a night where I was more concerned about seeing former Irish pitcher Tom Thornton and former major leaguer Felix Jose another player sprung up to steal the show. Former South Bend Silverhawk Richard Mercado got on base four out of five times last night, and really stole the show. I was focused on Jose in the on deck circle when I heard his name. It sounded familiar, and when I saw him I realized he was the former Hawk. Fitting that he would steal the show on the night the Hawks of the hockey world were featured. He is shown to the left rapping out his first inning RBI single. He has a nice swing, and was a pleasure to watch again. One player that I had never seen play before was Felix Jose. Felix played eleven years in the big leagues for the Athletics, Cardinals, Yankees, Royals, and the Diamondbacks. He also spent some time playing in South Korea. This man has had a good run. Why would he be riding buses in the Northern League playing for the Schaumburg Flyers? At tender age of 44 no less? Your answer is as good as mine. He was batting fifth, but swung the bat like a ninth place hitter. Let me take that back. He made contact like a ninth place hitter. He swung hard, but was off much of the time. He went 0-5 on the night. His first two at bats were not only strikeouts, but strikeouts that made him look very bad. He did reach on an error in the fifth inning. The picture to the right shows him striking out in the first. He just seemed a little slow on the fastball. Who am I to judge. I am 12 years his junior, and I couldn’t catch up to the high heat.

The Railcats lost the game 5-2, and much of the blame for that loss falls squarely on the shoulders of Tom Thornton. Tom was the ace of the 2006 Notre Dame pitching staff that featured Jeff Samardzija and Jeff Manship. It was looking into where he ended up that started the minor league update feature on this blog. I was excited when I saw that he would be starting for the Railcats. He got off to a slow start by giving up three runs in the first two innings. It could have been much worse. He gave up seven hits in the first three innings. He seemed to settle down though pitching a good fourth inning, and pitching out of a jam in the fifth. He gave up two more runs in the sixth, and the former Irish star was pulled from the game with two outs in the seventh. It was still nice to see him pitch, and I hope that he works out whatever he is going through right now. He had the stuff to make some hitters look silly, and then he would just leave a pitch over the plate to the next hitter. He will get to pitch in the Northern League Playoffs this year though thanks to the turnaround the team made since the beginning of the season.

Stan is the Man

Tonight as promised I was at the Gary Railcats game. Going to the game it was a downpour, and standing in line to get in the rain never let up. As they opened the gates though the skies cleared. They even got the game in. I will talk about the game more tomorrow. What is important is that I was able to meet Blackhawks legend Stan Mikita. He was at the game with Ben Eager who is one of the current enforcers on the Hawks. Both players were very gracious, and Ben even helped me out when I came back to get a picture with the two of them. Stan was very busy as you can see trying to keep up with the flood of people who wanted his autograph. I even saw a few people skip Ben altogether. I may have thrown a curveball into the mix. Everyone I saw in line had a puck, a sweater, or something else hockey related for the players to sign. I don’t collect any of those things. I collect baseballs. So I had both of these players sign a baseball for me. Stan looked as if he has done this before. He gave me a great ball for my collection. He is shown signing the ball in the upper left. Ben on the other hand looked at me funny when I handed him the ball. When an enforcer from the NHL looks at you funny you start looking for the exits. He signed the ball though, and it looks great as well. Ben is shown signing to the right. Both men did much better than many baseball players I have had sign. I went back to my seat after getting the autographs and realized that I should have a picture taken with the two athletes. I grabbed my things and went back only to be thwarted by the Blackhawks security man. A very nice woman who is a Railcats photographer took my camera for me so that I could get a guerilla shot in. Ben was even gracious enough to look up for the shot. That is the picture at the top of the post. The security man was not happy with me, but I got my picture. This was a great night with the Hawks that really makes me want to go back to the stadium and see a Hawks game. With any luck tomorrow I may be able to add a Bo Jackson autograph to my collection. That would be great.

Once I got through the line to get the two Hawks players I jumped in a very short line to get a few Railcat autographs. Manager Greg Tagert, outfielder Steve Haake, and Vlad’s cousin Christian Guerrero were all signing. I got them all to sign a ball, the promotional pictures handed out along with the Hoosier bat that was given away. The two players seemed as if they really did not want to be there. Greg on the other hand was very nice. He is shown to the left handing a signed bat back to a fan. I imagine that it gets old signing your name over and over again. I on the other hand collect baseballs with names on them so I am glad that they do it.