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Category Archives: Not wine related

Ernie Banks, 1931-2015

ernie banks

ernie banksNot that long ago, I was talking to a baseball fan who didn’t understand why New York Yankees fans were so cranky. “Their best player can make an error in the first inning, and they’ll start booing and won’t let up,” he said. “They take all of the fun out of the game.”

“That’s because Yankees fans are used to players like Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle and Derek Jeter,” I told him. “When you’ve watched them, it’s hard to give anyone else the benefit of the doubt.”

I mention this on the death of perhaps the greatest Chicago Cubs player ever, Ernie Banks. The Cubs, for most of my lifetime, have not had players like Ruth, DiMaggio, Mantle, and Jeter. They have had Joe Wallis and Carmen Fanzone and Dick Nen. But as long as the Cubs had Ernie, that always seemed to be enough.

Banks’ death is about more than baseball and being a Cubs’ fan, and it’s about more than the part he played for those of us who came of age with the Cubs in the 1960s. It’s about what baseball says about our lives; as George Carlin wrote: “Baseball begins in the spring, the season of new life. Football begins in the fall, when everything’s dying.”

Banks was a Hall of Fame ballplayer, one of the greatest shortstops in the history of the game. But what he will be remembered for, and what his New York Times obituary did not fail to mention, was the record he holds for most games played without ever making the playoffs, 2,528. It’s a most Cubs-like record, befitting the franchise’s reputation for futility.

But it reminds us that life is not about winning. We can’t all be the Yankees. Life is about getting up every morning and doing the best you can, because otherwise, what’s the point? It’s about understanding that you’re lucky enough to do something that you love, and that doing anything other than the best you can would be wrong. You can’t hit a home run every day, but you can try. And that’s enough.

Todd Hollandsworth, who played a couple of seasons for the Cubs at the beginning of the last decade (and yet another of those players who weren’t Babe Ruth) told the Chicago Sun-Times that Banks “taught me to let the game go and start over the next day. Each day was unto itself. `You can’t change yesterday,’ he told me. I don’t think I could fully understand what he was teaching me at the time. Still haven’t.”

There is no better epitaph than that.

Memorial Day 2014

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The blog is mostly off today for the Memorial Day holiday, but will be back tomorrow with our usual features. Until then, John Fogerty in a 2005 live performance of “Lodi” (courtesy of Mi NaNi at YouTube) — maybe the best song ever written about rock ‘n roll as a job: “If I only had a dollar, for every song I’ve sung/And every time I’ve had to play/While people sat there drunk.” Takes a lot of the shine off the sex and drugs bit, doesn’t it?

And who knew Lodi would one day come to mean wine country?

Happy Holidays 2013

Screenshot - 12262013 - 06:10:01 AM

Bruce Springsteen’s “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” is a holiday tradition on the blog, and it never fails to amaze me how many terrific versions are available. This video, courtesy of s1buy at YouTube, is a little grainy, but features The Boss, Clarence Clemons, and the E Street Band in its best Santy Claus form. Enjoy the holiday with people you care about and your favorite wine.

The Wine Curmudgeon will return tomorrow with New Year’s sparkling wine suggestions, and more wine for the New Year on Monday. The 2014 $10 Hall of Fame will be announced on Jan. 6.

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