Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Where is our 'Billy Williams'?

I arrived at Wrigley last night just in time for the beginning of the Billy Williams statue ceremony. I wasn't that close to the “action” before the game, but I did get a few pictures.

As I listened to the speakers at the unveiling (Banks, Jenkins, Santo), I started to think how lucky people like my parents were to get to see four of the greatest Cubs in history all playing at the same time.

Yeah, they never won a World Series, or even an NL pennant, but these guys have been treasured by Cub fans for decades and have earned the respect of all in baseball with three of the four of them enshrined in Cooperstown. These four players, whose careers are immediately identified with the Cubs and the Cubs organization, have all been honored in some way by the Cubs.

My parents, as adults, got to see these guys play in a Cubs uniform.

And what am I stuck with as an adult?

Koyie Hill and Micah Hoffpauir.

What the hell did I do to deserve this?

My favorite Cubs player when I was growing up was Ryne Sandberg (much to my dad's dismay), and while I'm glad I got to see him play for most of his career, though I love the game as a kid, I wasn't old enough to fully appreciate everything Ryne Sandberg was.

I was old enough to appreciate Sammy Sosa, and I am glad I witness him at the plate quite often in my life as a Cubs fan. But we all know how that ended.

So I go back to Jenkins, Santo, Williams and Banks. These four guys are treasures. I'm so envious of the people who got to see these guys play. I suppose the closest thing we ever had to that was Sandberg, Dawson, Grace and Sutcliffe, but that's quite a departure from those stars of the '60s. Grace and Sandberg played a very large majority of their careers in Chicago...and Grace was really the only 'home-grown' player from that group. If you switch out Dawson for Dunston and Sutcliffe for Maddux, I suppose you might have something a little closer...but it's not the same.

And now, in this time of free agency, you have to think, will we ever see anything like Jenkins, Santo, Williams and Banks again? It's easy to say 'no' as the team has been destructed this season. Players like Castro, Colvin and Cashner all show potential. What are the chances that all three of these guys are on the team just 5 years from now? Probably pretty small.

And when we talk about rebuilding the it really around youth? No. We keep talking about bringing in a free agent first baseman, or another outfielder, or trading for a top of the line starting pitcher. The Cubs next superstar likely will not be identified with a Cubs uniform once he retires.

Have there been periods like this before? Well, in my lifetime, sure. The '70's and early '80's were full of journeymen all-stars for the Cubs...Kingman, Sutter, Matlock...and the closest we've had to that group from the 60's was the '84 through '89 teams, but that core was never stable except for Sandberg.

I looked around at the crowd the gathered by the statue last night and a majority of the people that were there appeared to be around my parents' age. I saw these people and thought, “how lucky you all are for having seen this guys play season after season.”

Banks was the superstar. Santo was the captain. Jenkins was the workhorse. And Williams was class. But how would I know? I know because all those people that had gathered saw it daily for years and they say that these things were true.

When my kids grow up, yeah, I can tell them about seeing Dawson and Sandberg when I was their age...but there is a void right now. I can't tell my two year old daughter 12 years from now that I took her to a game that Banks hit a homer in just before he retired or that she was at a game that Jenkins started has his career wound down or that Santo clicked his heals after a game she was at. No...I'll tell her of the time that I took her to a game and Soriano dropped a fly ball or Fukudome corkscrewed himself into the ground.

Where is our 'Ron Santo'?

Where is our 'Ernie Banks'?

Where is our 'Fergie Jenkins'?

And where is our 'Billy Williams'?


Here are few pictures from last night before the game.  They're not great, but well...

I love how the Cubs organization wheels these trumpeters
out of their crates every couple years.
Billy is covered with a tarp.  I hope he can breathe under there.

 The tarp is removed.

Billy is revealed!  (and yes, that's Jesse Jackson in the front row)

Sweet Swingin' Billy and a sweet swingin' statue.

  ok...everyone...time to go home. (no need to watch the game, right?)

Trying to get their money's worth with these trumpeters.

The Ricketts family loves having their picture taken.

Z catches Billy's pitch while the rest of the team watches 
and the trumpeters play...all in front of about 50 people in the stands.