Cubs can’t remove sting of Cardinals sweep with costume party
BY GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com July 22, 2012 10:06PM
Chicago Cubs v St. Louis Cardinals
Updated: August 24, 2012 6:17AM
ST. LOUIS — This was one of those rare days that summed up a century of Cubs baseball.
A day of best intentions, rotten timing and wrong symbolism culminating with players and staff dressed as comic-book superheroes after getting beat up for three days by their arch enemies.
You can’t make this stuff up.
A long-planned, team-building, superhero-themed trip from St. Louis to Pittsburgh probably couldn’t have come at a worse time, considering the events leading up to the getaway Sunday, only the least of which was a three-game sweep in which the Cubs were outscored 23-1 by the St. Louis Cardinals.
“I have to do it,’’ Alfonso Soriano said of the commitment to put on his costume after a 7-0 loss. “I don’t want to do it now, but everybody else is doing it, so I think I have to do it.’’
Though some other staff and players also seemed reluctant, nearly everyone complied with the event, which had been planned, and once postponed, since spring training, including Ryan “Captain America” Dempster, Anthony “Buzz Lightyear” Rizzo, Carlos “Zorro” Marmol and manager Dale “Hellboy” Sveum.
By far the best costumes belonged to Jeff Baker and Reed Johnson, who donned khakis, polo shirts, doctored club ID badges (and in Johnson’s case a wig) to impersonate Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. They even stopped outside the clubhouse to pose with cellphones for Twitpic-ing reporters.
Obviously, it’s not lost on Baker and Johnson that they’re near the top of the list of possible Cubs to be traded in the coming weeks, if not days.
These were the kind of light moments behind pitcher Matt Garza’s idea when he pitched it in March.
But nobody could have anticipated these kind of results, never mind the kind of timing that would have a half-dozen Cubs, including Garza and Soriano, dressed as Batman three days after the horrific Colorado theater shootings.
“Obviously, that’s a horrible situation in Colorado that happened,” said Sveum, acknowledging the club’s sensitivity to the unfortunate timing. “Our hearts go out to all the families and the city [of Aurora].”
Even within the trivial, insulated world of a baseball team, the Cubs’ timing whiffed as the events of the day unfolded against the backdrop of Ron Santo’s long-awaited, bittersweet induction into the Hall of Fame.
As a tribute, the Cubs wore patches recognizing Santo, and Sveum instructed his starters to honor Santo’s day and memory with a heel-click as they took the field in the bottom of the first, a request that also served as a history-teaching moment for some of the younger players unfamiliar with Santo’s 1969 practice.
After the starting battery took the field, the seven other starters leaped across the third-base line in unison and clicked their heels.
“It thought it was kind of a nice touch for the start,” Sveum said, “and then it went downhill after that.”
By the time the players were back in the clubhouse staring at the costumes in their lockers, they had been shut out in back-to-back games for the first time since 2006, when the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres did it to them during a 1-9 road trip.
“I’m just not really sure what happened,” said starting pitcher Travis Wood, who gave up four first-inning runs and after the game braced for an evening of being Kick-Ass, the character who spends much of the movie by the same name getting beaten up. “Their series, I guess.”
The ultimate, bitter irony might be the fact that Santo hated team dress-up events, those who knew him best said, and he would have seethed over a day such as Sunday.
“I hope we forget this weekend,” Soriano said, “and start again tomorrow.”