Calling The Shots - Edition #47
Saturday, November 3rd, 2001
Note: George will be taking a well-deserved break from writing as he will
be on vacation for the next few weeks. Guest writers will keep things rolling
in his absence.
Gracing the World (Series) With His Presence
Mark Grace is one of those players you just seem to root for, no matter what
team he's on. A genuine good guy in a sport filled with the opposite. He's
a player's player and a manager's dream.
So to see him tour Yankee Stadium for the first time in his career before
Game 3 was nice. If there was ever a player who deserved it, Grace was it
for this generation.
He languished with the Chicago Cubs for 13 years, putting up great numbers
for sub par teams. A career .307 hitter with 2,343 hits and 1,082 RBIs, Grace
is to this generation of ballplayers what Ernie Banks was to the '50s and
'60s. The only difference, Grace left the Cubs to pursue his shot at a World
Series ring. Banks never had that chance.
Mr. Cub never had a taste of the postseason. As the Cub shortstop (1953-1971),
he finished with 512 homeruns and 2,583 hits, but zero playoff appearances.
The Cubs were the poster children for futility, finishing second twice (1969-70)
during Banks' career. They gave up a 13-game lead at the All-Star Break in
'69 to the New York Mets in the first year of divisional play, then proceeded
to finish five-games back of Pittsburgh in '70. That was as close as Banks
would get to postseason play.
For Grace, he had to go through free agency to play in the World Series.
When Arizona owner Jerry Colangelo offered $6 million for two years Grace
jumped at the chance. It was a veteran ball club that was focused on winning
now, how could he pass up the opportunity? He couldn't and by mid-December
the Diamondbacks had a new first baseman.
Who could blame Grace for taking the money and running?
He's playing in his first World Series and in the "House the Ruth Built."
Something he would never have the chance to do with the Cubs.
Chicago hasn't seen a World Series game within its city limits since the
White Sox met the Dodgers in '59. The North Side club hasn't seen a series
game since '45 when they lost to the Detroit Tigers in seven games. And if
you're looking for their last World Series title, you'll have to go back
to 1908 when they beat the Detroit Tigers. The Cubs were a dynasty back then,
they won back-to-back titles (defeating the Tigers in both series) and in
'06 the Cubs won a record 116 (tied this season by the Seattle Mariners).
Unlike Banks and Billy Williams, Grace had his chance to get the Cubs into
the World Series. In one of the most epic postseason duels, Grace and the
Cubs battled Will Clark and the San Francisco Giants in '89. The Giants won
the series in five games; however, the shootout between the two all-star
first basemen took center stage. Grace batted .647 in the playoffs with 11
hits, a homerun, and eight RBIs while Clark matched him with a .650 average,
13 hits, two homeruns and eight RBIs.
Grace didn't fare as well in his next postseason appearance. He went 1-for-12
with an RBI against the Atlanta Braves, who dumped the Cubs in three games.
It has been a fairly good postseason for Grace this year. Through Game 4
of the Series, the D-Back first baseman was batting .341 (10-for-39) with
two doubles and three RBIs. What's better, though, is that his club is just
two win shy of a World Series title.
There are other Diamondbacks who are making their first appearance in the
big show other than Grace. Luis Gonzalez (34), Randy Johnson (38), and Mike
Morgan (42), after years of near misses and bitter disappointments, are finally
in a position to earn their first rings, as well. What is shocking is that
for all the teams he's played for (13), Morgan hasn't been on a winner nor
has he been in a World Series game prior to this season.
It's great to see those players get a chance at a ring, as well, but to see
a former Cub get in there, that just seems to make it all a little more special.
While it's hard to root for a team devoid of tradition and has bought it's
way into baseball's most hallowed series, you still have to pull for Grace.
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