Book Reviews and Products

Cubs, Where Have You Gone?
By Fred Mitchell (Sports Publishing LLC)

Reviewer: Marc Maturo,; Lifetime member of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) and sports copy editor for The Journal News, White Plains, N.Y.

Fred Mitchell, a sportswriter and columnist with the Chicago Tribune for the past 30 years, examines the baseball lives of 40 former Cubbies, some of them beloved, from Hall of Famer Ernie Banks to one of the game's icons, Don Zimmer.

The Cubbies, of course, and the team's failings are grist for the mill, and yet the Windy City has embraced the team in a way not unlike those fans in Boston have embraced their ball club, the Red Sox. Interestingly, all of the Cubbies addressed in Mitchell's work, even some of those who had a difficult or brief time with the team, have a deep feeling for the club, for the city and for their teammates. No one, it seems, has a wayward word for anyone.

Unfortunately, the players' careers and especially their post-life careers receive only a cursory examination and for a couple of players - i.e. Glenn Beckert and Jose Cardenal - there is no update at all regarding where they are living or what they are doing with their time.

The players' career statistics and accomplishments are there for the asking but are presented in a medical-textbook-like manner, lacking any nuance, but merely noting that so and so did this and so and so did that and so and so was released on such a date and so and so retired at such a time. But there is not enough reflective thought in this effort by Mitchell, the author of five other books, including the nationally acclaimed Playing Through with Earl and Tiger Woods.

But there are still enough anecdotes and interesting reportage to make Mitchell's latest effort a solid "double" in the mind of our ratings board. For example, we never knew that the well-known film star and comedian Bill Murray, a Chicago native and lifelong Cubs fan, names his son Homer Banks Murray in honor of his idol, the wonderfully expressive Ernie Banks of "Let's play two" fame. Nor did we know that Shawon Dunston once bemoaned the fact that former Cubs general manager Larry Himes, "didn't believe how bad my back injury was. The old regime thought I was taking too long to come back. That bothered me." This brings to mind the tragic end to the career of the big-time Houston Astros pitcher James Rodney Richard, who was also felt to be exaggerating an injury and wound up suffering a near-fatal seizure on the field. But Dunston, like other players explored in this book, quickly points out that he has nothing negative to say about the Cubs organization.

Mitchell would be remiss, but he's not, thankfully, in bringing back to life with a verbatim text, the April 29, 1983 rip-roaring rip job of the former manager Lee Elia, who lost his composure in a meeting with the press following an early season loss that dropped the Cubbies' record to 5-14. Elia's outburst goes down in baseball lore with Dodgers manager Tom Lasorda's tirade following a game in which David Arthur Kingman homered three times against his club; or the Mets' Bobby Bonilla, who once tauted a New York scribe with the threat, "I'll show you the Bronx."

Another interesting remembrance is that of the pitcher Ken Holtzman, who recalls when he and Fergie Jenkins, a Hall of Fame pitcher, would come in to relieve between starts. "I guess the game has changed, right?" ponders Holtzman.

Some of the other players in this book include Andre Dawson, Don Kessinger, Ed Lynch, Ryne Sandberg, Ron Santo, Rick Sutcliffe and Billy Williams.

Not a bad read but, as stated earlier, we feel compelled to stop Mitchell at second base with a "double."

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