Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Return of "Leo the Lip"

Good news yesterday-- the Cubs signed Lou Pinella as manager of the Cubs.

Ever since the movie Bull Durham, it's been all the rage to have retired catchers as managers-- Joe Torre, Bob Brenly, Joe Girardi are examples of this. Lou was a catcher too.

But this isn't why I'm excited. I'm not even excited any foolish notion that this may signal a reversal in the Cubs' fortunes. No, I've been a fan far too long to be fooled again. What I'm excited about is the return of fun to Northside Chicago baseball. I'm talking about the return of "Leo the Lip."

I was living on the North Side of Chicago in 1969, when the Cubs were going in to August 13 games into first heading straight for the World Series. One black cat and a horrendous August and September later, the New York Mets were on their to the World Series. Somehow that did not deter me from being a lifelong Cub fan, a trait my son has unfortunately inherited from me.

But with the Cubs, it was not about winning. In fact, after 1969, they proceeded to put together a series of laughable teams, filled with forgettable players like Steve Swisher, Ken Rudolph and Steve Ontiveros.

What made the Cubs fun was their fiery manager, Leo "The Lip" Durocher.

Durocher had been a legendary player. He continued that legend into his old age, but not with his skills as a winning manager. Cub fans looked forward to a disputed play like hockey fans look forward to a fight. It meant Durocher would saunter out on to the field to argue with the umpire. My brothers and I would sometimes take bets on whether he was going to get thrown out.

Spark plug Lou Pinella has the modern record for being thrown out of games. He's a proper heir to the Durocher legacy. With a three year contract, he'll lead the Cubs in to their 100th year without a World Series victory. I bear no naive fantasies that they'll break their curse; at least watching the Cubs will be fun again.


Chris said...

Remember Steve Ontiveros in those Hair Club For Men adds in the Tribune's TV Guide? Ouch.

Johnny Yen said...

Oh my god-- I'd forgotten those.

My friend Dan can rattle off like 50 mediocre Cub players from the last thirty years off the top of his head. It's amazing.