Was yesterday Monday or Mehday? After a weekend chock full of upsets, heading into work in the morning was likely an even less fulfilling exercise than usual. But you made it, and now I'm here with the results of the opening round of March (Meh)dness, the quest to determine the all-time greatest Chicago Cubs player.
As of press time, I'll still be combing the Vegas Strip to see about getting proper lines on the remaining matchups. But in the event that this thing doesn't go legit, I'm sure you'll still be able to patronize your local bookie.
So without further ado, I bring to you: the So-What 16...
PK Wrigley Region
1 Ryne Sandberg vs. 9
Let's be honest, this matchup was decided nearly 30 years ago. Sutter was hoping to finally get vengeance for Ryno's dual bombs, but this duel didn't go his way either. Of course, his '82 World Series title with the Cards might help him to sleep at night.
12 Henry Rowengartner vs. 13
Though Thomas Ian Nicholas would later fall prey to the American Pie† curse (wherein no actor from the franchise was ever able to secure a "meaningful" role in another movie*), his portrayal of 12-year-old Henry Rowengartner remains a symbol of baseless Cubs optimism in perpetuity. Plus, Ramirez is still active, with a division rival, no less.
3 Andre Dawson vs. 6
Smith strolled lazily to the mound and had 2 strikes on Dawson before tossing a pitch that Hawk launched over a Tru-Link fence. He had taken the previous pitch for a ball, so it's a darn good thing Joe West wasn't behind the plate...
Oh, man, I remember that. My brother and I just stared at the screen incredulously as Dawson WENT OFF. It's probably a good thing Eric Show wasn't a part of this matchup (I've got this cover framed as well), though the only video evidence of that event seems to exist at the 1:45 mark of this brief retrospective of Show's life and career.
2 Three Finger Brown vs. 10
Many Cubs fans are familiar with Koyie Hill, the (light) switch-hitting backup catcher who nearly severed the thumb and all four fingers of his right hand in a lopsided fight with a table saw. He was able to get the digits reattached and went on to play again.
Brown, on the other hand, lost most of his index finger and mangled his bird-flipper in a childhood accident on his uncle's Indiana farm. And he went on to win 239 games and 2 World Series titles. To put that in perspective, Al Fonseca [sic] only managed 129 saves and 35 wins, and he had 6 fingers.
Albert Spalding Region
1 Billy Williams vs. 9
I always feel bad for people who have the same first and last names, but since Williams goes by Billy, he never received my sympathy. But seriously, William Williams? I'd be sour over that. But in this case, Williams is simply over Sauer.
5 Rogers Hornsby vs. 13
How can you not win where there's more than one of you? It's like Christian Bale's character from The Prestige.
3 Mark Grace vs. 6
I have no doubt there were days when Gracie came to the ballpark with a splitting headache, resigned to just swinging at the one in the middle. He'd turn triples into doubles, nearly blowing his hammies in the process, and would retire to the dugout to suck back a Marlboro or three. No batting gloves for Mark Grace, no, sir. He was a throwback in a ballpark and franchise that prized antiquity.
Kerry Wood was Kid K, the phenom who came to the Cubs with a pudgy face still sporting a healthy dose of acne and a right arm that buckled the knees of grown-ass hitters. But alas, he was a strip of magnesium, burning bright and hot enough to melt through metal, not to mention ulnar collateral ligaments, rotator cuffs, and various muscles. His lack of durability is what cost Wood in this match, just as Grace's consistent performance won it.
10 Rick Sutcliffe vs. 15
Both players spent some time with the Cubs and the Dodgers, but while Monday had a phenomenal play as a Cub, Sut was a phenomenal player.
Charles Weeghman Region
1 Ernie Banks vs. 8
Grover Cleveland Alexander
If only we had Bert and Oscar here too, it'd be a regular Sesame Street reunion. Mr. Cub moves on easily.
Greg Maddux vs. 5 Sammy Sosa
This is one I'm not particularly happy about, but it's true. Maddux did his best work in Hotlanta, and regardless of whether Sosa got his strength from needles, bottles, and corked bats, there's no denying the impact he had on the team and the city. The Cubs were destination television with Sosa at the forefront, and all of baseball climbed aboard he and McGwire's artificially-broadened backs as they erased the stigma of the MLB strike.
3 Gabby Harnett vs. 6
In a battle of two men with feminine names, does anyone really win? If for no other reason, the Homer in the Gloamin' helps Gabby to advance.
2 Fergie Jenkins vs. 7
This is yet another laugher, as Fergie breezes through to the So-What 16 with one of his patented complete-game victories.
Tribune Company Region
1 Ron Santo vs.
Frank Chance never even had one in falling to this region's #1 seed.
Hippo Vaughn vs. 5 Bill Buckner
First he slew a Bull, now he goes on safari and takes out a Hippo. If he can keep his glove from getting another Gatorade bath, Billy Buck might continue to make noise in this tourney yet.
3 Joe Tinker vs. 5
This was a tougher battler than what you might have initially thought. Already worn out from earlier tilts, Tinker cried out: "Riggs! I'm gettin' too old for this shit." But in an effort belying his age and fatigue, Tinker engineered a victory.
2 Hack Wilson vs. 10
Dunston's kid just got a hit in a Spring Training game for the Cubs, so the Shawon-O-Meter is reading 1.000 at the moment. But even with his sons exploits factored in, the Cinderella run ends here. Hack Wilson is like a force of nature, and neither Dunston's arm nor his swag can stand in the way.
Can you feel that? That the excitement of drawing another step closer to Eh-lite 8, which will come later in the week. Try to keep your mind from being too blown.
*Tara Reid, who played Nicholas's girlfriend in American Pie, did go on to star in the phenomenal(ly bad) SyFy Origninal movie "Sharknado."
†In the interest of full disclosure, I've see all of the AP movies; even Naked Mile, Band Camp, and Beta House. What can I say, it's a guilty pleasure. The latter, however, stands out in stark contrast to the others. I was watching American Pie: Beta House and saw that one of my former neighbors and schoolmates was in the move. Doing a nude scene. The most frustrating thing about it was that it was midnight and I wasn't able to actually call anyone who would care.
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