Cubs’ relief auction sandbagging it

At the team’s official Web site, the Chicago Cubs are urging fans to: Bid now on a Felix Pie autographed baseball, and you can help towns in Iowa, where the Cubs’ Triple-A club resides, recently ravaged by the floods.”

Eight All-Stars on the Big League club, and the best John Hancock the Cubs can come up with for charity is Felix’s, huh.

What, did Sam Fuld have writer’s cramp?

That said, while Felix’s baseball is currently going for only $140 (or, the price of a pile of sandbags), if you want yet another measure of the Cubs’ incomparable popularity, get a load of this:

The total number of Iowa Relief Auction bids for baseballs, bats or jerseys signed or worn by Major League All-Stars Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer or Billy Wagner as of lunchtime Monday?

Two.

The total number of bids for a baseball signed by Big League bust Felix Pie (again, Felix Pie) as of lunchtime Monday?

Four.

Cubs Fever: Catch it.

Or not.

Oh, Felix.

Sigh.

Dog Day Morning

Like catchers, M. Night Shyamalan and lame pick-up artists, I like signs.

Funny ones, at least.

And it seems like there are no shortage of those in Chicago.

This morning, while walking through Wrigleyville, I spotted another one — several, actually — plastered on the front doors of apartment buildings.

In one line of hand-written scrawl accompanied by a phone number, it read:

“Do you need someone to walk your dog and get paid?”

Apparently, busy cheapskate dog owners look elsewhere.

Or, this guy will pay for the chance to walk your dog.

Devin Hester’s playbook is ridiculous

On Wednesday — when he should have been at training camp – the Chicago Bears’ kick-returner-extraordinaire-slash-wide-receiver-in-training Devin Hester was instead on the horn with the Chicago Tribune, telling reporter Vaughn McClure, “I can’t go out and play this year making $445,000.

“Come on, man.”

After all, that would be … ahemridiculous.

Now, while I think most people can eke out a living on $445K (I’m pretty sure I could), I also do think that Hester is underpaid by current NFL standards.

Then again, if you get paid by the plays you memorize, maybe not …

Because, also in today’s Trib, Bears writer David Haugh writes that, ”Offensive coordinator Ron Turner revealed Wednesday the Bears only asked Hester to learn four routes last season because of his multiple duties.”

That bit of news prompted my buddy Ryan (a Bears season ticket holder, not the architect of the “46″ defense) to react this morning by firing off the following e-mail :

Four Routes??? How hard can this position be???

I’d imagine his four routes were …

1.) Devin — Go Deep

2.) Devin — Run 15 yards and turn around

3.) Devin — Run 10 yards and turn left

4.) Devin — Run 10 yards and turn right

To which, I’d add …

Yeah, but he also had to remember which end zone the Bears were facing.

I mean, come on, man.

My visit to see “The Dean”

In October 2005, the White Sox were rolling through the Major League Baseball playoffs.

And I was, well, rolling my eyes at it all while working the late shift at the Tribune Tower.

Manning the phone for the paper’s Metro desk, my chief duty from 5 to midnight each night was to keep tabs on murder and mayhem in Chicago.

On one evening, however, as it became apparent that the Sox were almost certainly going to win the World Series, I did a bit of moonlighting for the Trib’s sports department.

And it left me with one of my more memorable Tribune experiences.

That evening, the sports staff was simultaneously covering the Series and putting together a commemorative book for the Sox’s impending championship, so things were hectic.

As a result, around 11 p.m., I was plucked from Metro, ordered to hustle down to the parking lot behind the Tower and take a company car up to Evanston.

My mission was to pick up and deliver back to Chicago the foreword for the commemorative White Sox book that was written by a retired sports reporter who wasn’t too keen on e-mail.

That reporter?

None other than Jerome Holtzman, the longtime Tribune and Sun-Times baseball writer, who passed away Monday at the age of 81.

Known as “The Dean” in baseball circles, Holtzman was a sportswriting titan who invented the “save” statistic, earned a spot in Cooperstown and was named by Bud Selig as Major League Baseball’s first official historian after retiring from the newspaper biz in 1998.

On Tuesday, Holtzman’s remarkable career — and his troubles with those pesky computers — were detailed in the Trib through a collection of his colleagues memories.

As a former sportswriter myself and lifelong admirer of Holtzman, whose stories I’d read at the breakfast table while growing up in Bourbonnais, I was thrilled with the little assignment.

And as I weaved my way along Sheridan Road in Evanston, looking for Holtzman’s home in the dark and the rain, I remember thinking how every time I had ever seen the man on TV or in a photograph he was always wearing suspenders.

Finally, once I found Holtzman’s darkened home and knocked quietly on the door, the Hall of Famer appeared, type-written foreword in hand and clad in a pair of dark slacks, a white T-shirt …

And suspenders.

I loved it.

Still do.

Rest in peace, Jerome.

And, you know, if you get a chance to bend God’s ear, ask if he could maybe cut the Cubs a break this year.

Lord knows, they need it.

Batman, Hockey and The Price of a Hot Dog

It got plenty Dark at Navy Pier IMAX last Knight.

And I enjoyed every minute of the new Batman flick.

All 150 of them.

Smacking his lips and screwing with the mind, Heath Ledger was creepy-funny-incredible as the Joker. Gotham District Attorney Harvey Dent was “Believable.” And the rest of the film’s cast — along with its deft script and deeper-than-you’d-think dialogue — was utterly captivating.

Not to mention, haunting.

“The Dark Knight” is one of those few movies that lingers, and leaves you still thinking about it the next day.

And, really, what more can you ask from any form of entertainment?

Gotham: My Kind of Town

As great as the actors were in the “The Dark Knight” — and they were great, indeed — no role in the film stood out more than the Windy City’s turn as Gotham City.

The majesty of Chicago — the city I consider to be the best in the world (yeah I’m biased, so what?) — was played up to the hilt throughout the movie, especially when viewed on the IMAX’s sprawling 58-foot-tall screen.

And making things even more enjoyable for me were the many shots of “Gotham” taken along the stretch of Wacker Drive in Chicago’s Loop where I work each day.

I look forward to “The Dark Knight” coming out on DVD just so I can hit pause on the Chicago city scenes and get an even fuller appreciation of its gorgeous streetscapes and skyline.

Chicago rocks.

As a result, Gotham does too.

Hockey’s New Year’s Daze

When I first heard the rumor months ago that the Chicago Blackhawks were hoping to play a regular-season hockey game outdoors at Wrigley Field, I thought it was a stroke of genius.

After all, for a city that often doesn’t seem to remember the Blackhawks even exist, what better way to jog the memory than to play a game at the ballpark no Chicagoan can ever forget?

(Don’t deny it, White Sox fans.)

The siren song of Wrigley is the ideal bait for the NHL to attract that casual fan (such as myself) it so desperately needs if pro hockey ever hopes to grow.

And get its games off the Versus network.

(Sheesh.)

Last week, the NHL officially announced that at noon on Jan. 1, 2009, the Blackhawks will indeed host the defending NHL champion Detroit Red Wings at the Friendly Confines. The news prompted sports columnists far and wide to gush about how wonderful the whole thing will be.

And, sure, it could have been. It should have been.

But, in my opinion, the Blackhawks and the NHL pucked this one up.

Big-time.

Because, why — really, why? — would you ever schedule a juicy hockey game such as this one for noon on New Year’s Day, a date on the calendar that’s eternally owned, lock, stock and barrel, by college football?

It just makes no sense. None at all.

The simple fact is, all the people who the NHL wants to convince that hockey is just as cool as football will, you know, already be watching football that day.

Or actually off at a football game in Florida or California.

Sure, the hockey game at Wrigley will sell out (most likely with a vast majority of die-hard hockey fans who don’t need to be sold on the sport). And, I don’t doubt that the atmosphere at the ballpark will be electric (how could it not be?).

But by foolishly attempting to compete with New Year’s Day bowl games (a fight that hockey couldn’t win with an army of goons), the Blackhawks and the NHL really dropped the puck on this one.

What should have been a wonderfully unique opportunity to promote hockey to all of America will instead end up being relegated to a diversion most people flip on for a few minutes during a football game’s halftime and TV timeouts.

Honestly, what was wrong with scheduling Wrigley on Ice for Saturday, Jan. 3 — a date that’s bowl game-free?

Suggested 2009 New Year’s Resolution for the NHL:

Don’t schedule marquee games on New Year’s Day.

The Price of a Hot Dog

Last week, I posted a blog entry about a humorous sign I saw a homeless man holding in as he sat with a cardboard box containing a handful of pennies. It read:

“Senator Obama is campaigning for change … So am I.”

Several Wisch List readers contacted me about the amusing placard, which got me thinking about the many encounters that I’ve had with Chicago panhandlers over the years.

As you can probably imagine, working in the Loop, I’m asked for money more times each day than a loan shark.

When I go to lunch, four guys ask me for change. When I come back from lunch, the same four guys ask me for change.

Most of the requests are mundane, but occasionally they’re clever. And my general rule of thumb is that if a panhandler can make me smile or laugh, I’ll pony up a little bit.

To me, a chuckle is worth something.

It certainly was about 9 years ago when my buddy Ryan and I were out in Wrigleyville late one night when Ryan was approached by a charismatic homeless gent with an intriguing proposition.

“I’ll bet you the price of a hot dog,” the man said to Ryan as he sidled up alongside us, “that I can tell you how many kids your daddy had.”

“Okay,” Ryan said, his curiosity piqued. “You’re on.”

The man proceeded to look Ryan up, look him down and then shout out:

“None! Your momma had all the kids!”

Ryan paid up.

Spellbound

Forwarded by my mother (a retired English teacher) to me (a “semi-retired” journalist) …

Spell Chequer

Eye halve a spelling chequer,
It came with my pea sea,
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.

Eye strike a key and type a word
And weight four it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.

As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite
Its rarely ever wrong.

Eye have run this po em threw it
I’m shore your pleased two no
Its letter perfect in it’s weigh,
My chequer tolled me sew.