The best job I ever had in journalism was covering the Chicago Cubs. In August when the Cubs had no chance of winning anything, the sports writers at The Associated Press in Chicago moved on to college and professional football.
As the rookie on the staff, I got to go to Wrigley Field in the afternoon–no night games happened back then in 1974-75–and get free beer, free food and a wonderful time in the most beautiful field in baseball. Harry Caray had the call and sang during the seventh-inning stretch. If you don’t know who Caray was, you don’t know nuthin’ about baseball!
I have to pull for the Cubs to get to and to win the World Series since the Phillies finished in last place in the entire standings. Fortunately, the Phils lost only one shy of 100 games. I would love to see a KC-Cubs matchup!
That time at the ballpark–in addition to covering the end of the season of the Chicago White Sox–gave me an opportunity to understand baseball. It isn’t fast enough for any people now. But it is a game of strength and strategy. I met some incredible players like “Goose” Gossage, who was a closer for the White Sox and then the New York Yankees. That was before closers had become an important part of the game, and Gossage often pitched two or three innings. He went into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008.
I also got to meet a number of managers, including Chuck Tanner, who coached the White Sox back then and went on to other jobs, such as the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Tanner was a really good guy! I remember asking a stupid question to Frank Robinson, a Hall of Fame player and then the manager of the Cleveland Indians. Robinson’s team lost the game. As a sports writer, you almost always had to go to the losers’ dressing room first because they cleared out quickly even after away games.
Robinson was right. I asked a really stupid question about a pitching change. I then went to talk to Tanner, who asked me what was wrong. I told him.
Tanner, who won a World Series in 1979, had a great line. Robinson would be in the Hall of Fame by only getting one hit out of three times at bat during his career. You made one mistake; you’ve got one more left before you get one hit. I always remembered what a good pick-me-up that was.
I apologize for technical problems, which prevented yesterday’s column from reaching you!
Christopher Harper is a longtime journalist, who reported in Europe and the Middle East. He teaches media law and international journalism. Send suggestions and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.