General

I’m Cooperstown-bound and Down

Today’s column from the Kankakee Daily Journal and The (Ottawa, Ill.) Times

I’m Cooperstown-bound and Down

The WISCH LIST

July 24, 2010

On this date in 1960, Lou Piniella was 16 years old, Andre Dawson six and Charlie Grimm 61.

And this weekend, I have all three on my mind.

Let me tell you why.

Adieu, Sweet Lou

On Tuesday afternoon, when the news broke that Cubs manager Lou Piniella was calling it quits, “The Heckler” – Wrigleyville’s version of “The Onion” – posted a spoof story online featuring the headline: “Piniella coming out of retirement to manage remainder of 2010 season.”

Say what you will about Lou’s fading fire, he will be missed.

The big question now burning in Chicago, of course, is who will succeed him. No candidate intrigues more than Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, who has morphed into an unlikely firebrand as the manager of the Triple-A Iowa Cubs.

But does Sandberg have the chops for Wrigley? Or does he not?

According to my sources, there isn’t a clear consensus either way in the Cubs front office.

If the franchise opts to focus on marketing as it transitions from veterans to kids, then Sandberg is a lock. And, undoubtedly, Ryno is the fans’ sentimental choice, which means that anyone hired who isn’t him will be under a particularly intense microscope.

However, one veteran Chicago baseball scribe I know told me last month that Cubs broadcaster Bob Brenly, who managed the Arizona Diamondbacks to a World Series championship in 2001, would be his preference to replace Piniella.

“He’s got the chops, and he’s strong enough and personable enough to deal with anything,” he said of Brenly.

HOF: Hawk of Fame

Of all sports, none captures my imagination quite like baseball.

That said, this season it’s barely been able to even capture my attention.

The Cubs stink, which is a state of summertime affairs that impacts my daily mood as much as the sunshine.

And, yes, White Sox and Cardinals fans, your teams are at the top of your divisions.

I know. I’ve heard.

This weekend, though, everything changes. Baseball moves back to my forefront, as right now – like, this very minute – I’m on the road to Cooperstown, N.Y., with my dad and brother. On Sunday afternoon, we’ll be in attendance when former Cubs MVP Andre Dawson is inducted into the Hall of Fame.

For us, the trip to Cooperstown is a celebration of The Hawk (one of my all-time favorites), baseball (our family’s No. 1 sport) and life, as my father, Joe – who has been fighting non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma since March – learned two weeks ago that he’s in complete remission.

Actually, never mind the Cubs. That victory was the only one I needed this summer.

Grimm Reality

ABC has that ridiculous Reality TV show, “Wife Swap.” But did you know that 50 years ago the Cubs tested out the managerial version?

It was no less ridiculous.

As the 1960 season approached, former Cubs skipper Charlie Grimm – 11 years removed from managing at Wrigley – was coaxed out of retirement for one last shot at guiding the team to the World Series.

It misfired.

Less than a month in, the Cubs were a meager 6-11, prompting owner P.K. Wrigley to make the novel move of removing Grimm and replacing him with Lou Boudreau, the team’s play-by-play radio announcer. Grimm, who had broadcasting experience, then took Boudreau’s place in the booth.

Really.

That experiment didn’t work, either, as the Cubs went 54-83 the rest of the season, after which Boudreau headed back to radio and Grimm into the sunset.

Considering the backgrounds of both Brenly (former manager) and Piniella (former TV analyst), the Cubs could have done the same thing in 2010.

Imagine that.