If you hadn’t been thinking it already, you wouldn’t have gotten Fox Sports announcer Joe Buck’s allusion and it certainly wouldn’t have bothered you.
Buck resisted the temptation to spell it out more clearly, though it’s still enough of a sore spot that Cubs fans might not have appreciated his restraint as much as they should have.
The Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig came to the plate in the eighth inning with one out, the bases loaded and the Cubs clinging to a lead in the eighth inning of the National League Championship Series opener Saturday night.
Puig swatted away the first pitch from reliever Aroldis Chapman. Cubs’ first baseman Anthony Rizzo tried to make the play and, for some including Buck himself, there was a bit of looking glass déjà vu.
“That’s a popup, right side, Rizzo can’t make the catch,” Buck said. “And here we are in an NLCS with a ball down the line, albeit the other side of Wrigley, where a catch, a ball, in this case went in and out of the glove of Anthony Rizzo, and he overreached, it hit him in the heel of the glove.”
There were the fans in blue hats, the reflexively outstretched hands of a few. For anyone with even a passing acquaintance with Cubs hard-luck lore, all Buck needed to say was “here we are in an NLCS with a ball down the line” to recall 2003.
In fact, that’s really all he did say.
“He’s made that play a few times, standing on the tarp,” analyst John Smoltz added, reminding viewers of Rizzo’s highlight reel plays in similar situations, adding other replays to the one already running in their heads.
If you were inclined to criticize Buck for going there, he was there. But the FS1 crew didn’t pull out the 13-year-old video or mention anyone by name.
It helps that Chapman wound up striking out Puig, only gave up two runs in the eighth and then the Cubs rebounded in spectacular fashion in the bottom of the inning en route to an 8-4 victory.
But it’s silly to think FS1 can avoid the Cubs history, which is as much a part of the ballclub’s identity as bricks and ivy and home runs when the wind is blowing out at Wrigley.
Buck said in a Friday night interview with the Tribune that he was conscious of not overdoing references to curses, 108 years since the Cubs’ last World Series title, 71 years since their last World Series appearance and all the close calls.
But he also said he knew he couldn’t avoid it altogether. He acknowledged as much during the Game 1 telecast when Javier Baez became the first Cubs player to steal home in the postseason since the 1907 World Series.
“Obviously it was all World Series in the postseason back then, their last championship coming in 1908,” Buck said. “There, I’ve said it. I got it out there and I’m sure we’ll be wearing you out with that as this series goes on.”
It’s notable, at least through Game 1, he and FS1 haven’t yet.
Trivia note: That 1907 World Series Cubs steal of home was by Jimmy Slagle in the seventh inning of Game 4 against the Detroit Tigers. At last check, the box score on baseball-reference.com didn’t include it, but it shows up in the site’s play-by-play account. Player-manager Frank Chance was caught on the basepaths for the inning’s third out, but not before Slagle scored.
Hard chopper: One problem with using a helicopter rather than a blimp for overhead shots was evident during Game 1. Helicopters are very noisy. At times during the telecast it sounded as if preparations were underway for an airlift of some kind.
As promised, in response to viewer complaints, Fox Sports traded the high center-field shot it used in the Cubs-Giants series, with its head-on shot of home plate, for a more traditional camera position that was lower and off-center. But because the higher, straight-ahead camera angle offers a true sense of where the strike zone is, it was used Saturday in replays with Pitchcast graphics.
Existential question: When Comcast SportsNet Chicago’s “Cubs Postseason Live” is on tape, what is it really?
If this mope still fears he’s missing Harper do something in the postseason, maybe his mobile carrier’s data plan shouldn’t get the blame for him being out of touch with what’s going on in the real world.
Another ad thought: How do Chicagoans plan to vote on California’s Proposition 61? How often?
Crystal balls or shattered glass: On FS1’s pregame show, Alex Rodriguez predicted the Cubs would take the NLCS but lose to the Dodgers in Game 1. So he’s batting .500.
Pete Rose said he expected a Cubs sweep while former White Sox slugger Frank Thomas said the Cubs will advance in six games and win the World Series.
Game 1 quote of the night: “The Dodgers are a gritty team. What does that mean? I don’t know. But announcers seem to say that a lot.”—Joe Buck.