Cubs

Brooks, Mirer reflect on '92 Snow Bowl (7 p.m., CSN)

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Brooks, Mirer reflect on '92 Snow Bowl (7 p.m., CSN)

Comcast SportsNet will air a Notre Dame Football Classic tonight at 7 p.m., with 1992's Penn State-Notre Dame "Snow Bowl" being replayed. CSN caught up with quarterback Rick Mirer and running back Reggie Brooks -- who linked up on the game-winning two-point conversion -- about their experiences from that game 20 years ago.

Twenty years before conference realignment tore apart plenty of heated rivalries, Notre Dame's 1992 tilt against Penn State looked like the end of an era. The two teams met for the 10th consecutive year in 1992, but with the Nittany Lions scheduled to join the Big Ten in 1993, it was the last scheduled meetings of a series that grew competitive over the previous decade.

"It was a good rivalry," quarterback Rick Mirer recalled in an interview with Comcast SportsNet. "We were very much alike, and it was two good teams, usually. We had a lot of respect those guys, but it was our last chance to play on our home field, and thats the way we looked at it."

For Mirer and the rest of Notre Dame's seniors, it was their final game at Notre Dame Stadium, and stands as one of their more memorable contests in South Bend. Snow hit midway through the game and kept scoring low, with the two teams tied at 9 going into the fourth.

After Penn State got in the end zone with under five minutes left, Mirer, Jerome Bettis and Reggie Brooks steered one of the more memorable drives in team history. It culminated with a fourth-and-goal from the three, with Mirer floating a touchdown pass to Bettis that brought Notre Dame within one.

From there, Notre Dame went for two. Mirer explains: "in those days, we had ties. We had already tied Michigan and it didn't feel very good. We didn't want to go through that again."

So Lou Holtz and Notre Dame decided to go for two, with one play deciding whether the Irish would win or lose. But the Irish already used their go-to two-point conversion play on fourth down.

Mirer would up improvising on the play -- he referred to it as kind of like "streetball" -- rolling to his right and spotting an open Brooks in the end zone.

"It was kind of surreal. Everything slows down," Brooks said. "The play broke down, and things were kind of hectic, if you will. But as I watched the ball coming in, it seemed like it was coming in slow motion. And for a minute there, I didnt think I was going to get to it because it was so far outside. I just reached out, laid out and made the play that was there to be made."

Brooks' diving catch secured a win for Notre Dame over then-No. 22 Penn State, and his already-heroic grab was even more impressive given it was only his second catch of the entire season.

"I definitely didnt think it was coming to me," Brooks explained. "In practice, I didnt wear my contacts, so I didnt catch a lot of balls. But I did wear them in the game -- what happens in practice is whats relayed in the game, so I was not a very reliable receiver at the time."

"What a great time to catch the one that mattered," Mirer added.

A Hobbled Hero: Baez, Cubs keep finding wild ways to win

A Hobbled Hero: Baez, Cubs keep finding wild ways to win

Javy Baez has only seen one pitch in the Cubs-Phillies series, but that's all he needs to make a major impact.

"El Mago" notched his first walk-off RBI since May 8, 2016 in the bottom of the ninth inning Tuesday night, lacing the only pitch he saw from Juan Nicasio down the right-field line. Baez had missed the entire series to that point due to a heel injury he suffered Sunday in Washington D.C. and actually underwent an MRI before Tuesday's game to make sure there was no other damage.

Baez's single put the finishing touches on the Cubs' first win this season when trailing after eight innings. They now lead the majors with five walk-off victories.

After another blown lead by the bullpen (the third in the last week), the Cubs entered the bottom of the ninth down 2-1, but Kris Bryant led off with a walk and then Anthony Rizzo doubled. After a Willson Contreras flyout, Jason Heyward was intentionally walked and then Albert Almora Jr. hit a tapper in front of home plate that Bryant just barely beat out at home to tie the game.

Then came Baez, as Joe Maddon opted to go to the hobbled star in place of Daniel Descalso, who was 0-for-4 on the evening to that point.

Prior to the ninth inning, Maddon wasn't sure if Baez would even be available to pinch hit in the game, but trainer P.J. Mainville taped up Javy's foot/ankle at the start of the inning and gave the Cubs skipper the all-clear.

"Just give PJ some credit on the tape job," Maddon joked. "This is right out of the Lombardi era kind of stuff. Tape and aspirin — go ahead and play. That's what everybody's football coach said."

If Baez hadn't delivered the walk-off hit and the Cubs wound up in extra innings, Maddon said he didn't know if Baez would be able to even play the field on his injured heel and the only player left on the bench was backup catcher Victor Caratini.

"In moments like that, you can only think it so far," Maddon said. "And then at some point, you gotta throw it at the wall and see what happens."

Maddon doesn't know if Baez will be able to play Wednesday night, but plans to make two lineups and then check with the shortstop to see about his status when he arrives at the field.

Baez's Cubs teammates are no longer surprised at the ridiculous things he does or how easy he makes some very difficult tasks look. Bryant joked he was actually upset Baez didn't hit it over the fence for a walk-off grand slam.

"I don't even know what's going on with him half the time anyway," Bryant said. "It's like, 'oh, Javy's pinch-hitting. And then I was debating like, 'don't swing at the first pitch," but I was like, 'no, it's Javy.' 

"It was awesome. He just like goes up there and swings the bat. If he didn't have to run to first base, he wouldn't. It's just like, 'I'm so good, I'm just gonna get this hit and then we're gonna go home.'"

However awe-inspiring Baez's Kirk Gibson impression was, the only reason the Cubs were even in the spot to win the game at that moment was because of the hustle and aggressive baserunning from Bryant. 

His game-tying run on Almora's tapper in front of the plate was huge, but his first trip around the bases was even more impressive. 

With Bryant on second base and Rizzo on first in the first inning, both runners were off on the full-count pitch to Contreras, who hit a routine grounder to Phillies shortstop Jean Segura. As Segura made the throw to first to retire Contreras, Bryant never hesitated around third base and scored on some heads-up, aggressive baserunning that looked like a page right out of the El Mago Playbook.

Bryant said as he was running, he thought about what it's like to play the left side of the infield on such a routine play and felt like he could catch the Phillies by surprise.

"I saw [third base coach Brian Butterfield] holding me up, too, and I just kept going," Bryant said. "I almost felt like I had eyes in the back of my head. It was kind of like one of those experiences that it's hard to explain, but I just kept going."

That run was all Jose Quintana and the Cubs needed for six innings, until Carl Edwards Jr. came on in relief for the seventh. Edwards allowed a leadoff single and then a double two batters later, giving way to Brandon Kintzler with two outs.

Kintzler gave up a groundball single up the middle to Andrew McCutchen and just like that, the Cubs' thin 1-0 lead had evaporated in the blink of an eye. And with the offensive issues (they were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position before Baez's hit), that looked to be enough to send the Cubs to their second straight defeat in frustrating fashion.

But the magic of El Mago and Bryant allowed the Cubs to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and send fans home happy and with a little more belief that this just might be a special summer on Chicago's North Side.

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Cubs Talk Podcast: Jake Arrieta discusses his return & Mark DeRosa talks the leadoff spot

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Jake Arrieta discusses his return & Mark DeRosa talks the leadoff spot

Hear from Jake Arrieta after his first start as a visitor at Wrigley Field, including his thoughts on facing his former teammates and the standing ovation he received during his first at-bat (1:30). Then, Luke Stuckmeyer is joined by MLB Network's Mark DeRosa to discuss the Cubs' leadoff spot, the team outperforming expectations so far, and much more (8:15).

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Cubs Talk Podcast

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