Cubs

Frankie O: Conclusion to Moneyblog quartet

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Frankie O: Conclusion to Moneyblog quartet

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

Every journey has its moment and, hopefully, mine would soon be at hand. The fascination with mega-celebrity is such that a red-bow-tie-wearing TV bartender was now waiting, operative word, to interview Brad Pitt. Can you imagine? I still cant. I, in fact, find quite a bit of humor in it. One of the questions I hear most at the bar is: Have you ever waited on anyone famous? I especially hear that on the weekends but thats another story for another day! Famous people are where its at!

Anyway, I was about to meet one of the most famous people in the world. Or at least I hoped. As he and Billy Beane were being led in and out of the area for sports press interviews for other commitments, I couldnt help but notice how slowly and quickly my watch was moving at the same time. In our original itinerary, our interviews were to be over by 1 p.m., then, in a revised one they would be done by noon.

Well noon had come and gone as did the two stars of the show. We were told to not worry that they were having lunch and would be back shortly. I was only a little jealous as I said goodbye to a bunch of my counterparts as they departed on the shuttle for the airport, while thinking that getting to the airport this early would have enabled me to move to a non-stop flight on the way home. As I looked around I had the sense that a few others were nervous as well and it had nothing to do with flights.

The process were all involved in is kind of like when we were choosing sides for a team as a kid. While never saying anything out loud, you notice who is chosen first and who hasnt been chosen at all. Im also reminded of when they have the cameras at the professional drafts in the staging areas for the first-rounders, or even worse yet, at the homes of prospective draft picks. Everything is cool as long as 'Joe Stud' goes where hes expected to, the fun starts when the picks keep coming and his name hasnt been called yet. But almost every time its called.

What happens if nobody calls? Weve seen that happen and it can get very uncomfortable, although it does make for great TV! Its not hard to notice anything since were in this giant stadium concourse and its starting to look pretty empty. Im trying to play it cool by reading the paper, but my head is going to explode. Of course I could ALSO eat lunch at the fabulous buffet they had provided for us, if I could eat! And lets not forget that with my luck, if I did enjoy some barbeque chicken, with macaroni and cheese and cornbread, what are the odds that something makes its way on to my lovely white shirt? Thats a risk I cant take because you and I both know those odds!

Finally, I had to say something, to someone (I heard that!). Not wanting to sound too anxious, remember, these are laid-back Hollywood types, not to mention its not nice to complain, I went to the main desk that was set up and inquired about when the last shuttle was leaving for the airport. At this time I was informed by Katie, not to worry, that a car would be waiting to take me there when I was done (a car!). She said she understood that how long everything was taking was wreaking havoc with travel and she would do whatever it took to take care of me. Then Veronica, who was coordinating the interviews, walked by and said that the guys would be starting back up shortly. I promptly told both of them that if either was ever in Chicago there would be many drinks there waiting for them. And bring a friend!

Sure enough, it was soon after that my name was called. That meant it was time to wait in the entrance way to the upper-deck seats where the interviews were taking place. My buddy Kevin from Vegas and I couldnt help but notice that we would be the last two.

Can you imagine, I asked, Youre doing this all day and think youre done, then, I show up? Besides sarcasm, it doesnt get much better than self-deprecating humor!

Then it was time. They tell you to go, then they announce your name, then all eyes are on you as you enter the lions den. To say my head was spinning, well, you get the idea. One of the first things I learned in this TV biz is that when you approach cameras, or an area where they are taping, there are a ton of hazards on the ground: Namely wires, sound equipment, lights, light deflectors, coolers (yeah baby!) and million other things that you are not expecting. You need to look out! Nothing says tourist more than a pratfall. It would make a funny story though.

So, unlike the bar, where I can make eye contact as someone approaches for an initial greeting, Im trying not to make a fool of myself (I heard that, too!) as I try to maneuver to the chair that is waiting for me. In this case, on a ledge in the upper-deck of a baseball stadium, its a little extra tight. I was Fred Flinstone on his twinkle-toes. The shame of this was I couldnt get their full reaction as I walked up.

Who is this guy (or, should I say, Who is, 'This Guy?'). My approach also includes handing out some Harry-wear" and a brief explanation of who I am (who I am or who am I? Who I am is ... is ... is ... a question for the ages! That is Billy Crystals best scene ever! Jelly!). No need wasting precious tape time with tales of Frankie O. This all takes about twenty seconds from beginning to my butt being in the seat. I cant say that I didnt feel some sense of accomplishment as I took that seat. How did I not fall?

Then you hear those words: OK Frank, youre at speed.

I imagine at this time, the crew are checking their phones, filing their nails or wondering: How did a guy that large get to that chair without knocking anything over? Hes a regular Fred Flinstone.

It doesnt matter to me since I cant sense anything else around me. Once I hear those words I know I only have three minutes to get a job done. I hope that made you laugh, since if you have read any of these, you know that brevity is not exactly my strong suit (or, heaven forbid, youre stuck on a bar stool in front of me!).

I do realize however, the time constraints that Im up against. I can remember a time when I used to watch TV with someone doing an interview and not notice the camera angles; I do now. I love watching the wide-shot so I can see the reaction of the person asking the question. Are they listening? Are they thinking about their next question? Not to denigrate, mind you, its because its not as easy as it looks. Was that answer too long? Can I fit in two more? Or one? Which one? Wheres my ending? Its the reason I sound like a coach when people ask me how it went right afterward.

Not sure. Im going to have to go look at the tape.

But one thing you do know for sure, and thats the vibe. We all experience it when we meet someone new. Are they interested? Are they nice? Are they not? A persons eyes and body language will give it away every time, regardless of the fact that they are talking to you or shaking your hand.

And the vibe I got from Brad and Billy was very cool. They were engaged from the time I sat down. It was as, almost, I was talking to them at the bar. They were thoughtful, friendly and funny (check out the video). It was very easy for me to understand why they both are achievers.

Looking back, they gave me a lot in a very short, for me, amount of time. Like Ive said over and over, I liked the book and movie very much and could talk about them all day (whatever!). But my trip was made at the end of the interview. My goal there was to get Billy to say something about the Cubs GM vacancy and hopefully not be too obvious about it. So when I brought up using sabermetric principles in Chicago to Billy, Brad jumped in saying, Dont step in that one! For someone who says he doesnt know much about baseball, that was funny.

They were just as nice saying goodbye, as I thanked them and invited them to come see me at the bar. I remember thinking, Well, thats something that you dont get to do every day, as I walked back out, trying not to knock Kevin over as he entered. Then comes the release. Whew. Its an adrenaline rush. I feel like I did after every big test I took in college, only better since I dont have to go to three more classes, then work eight hours. I only have to fly back to Chicago and go to work tomorrow.

I only have time for two bowls of mac and cheese before my tapes are ready and I have to get to the car. And then I saw something I wont forget. I sometimes wonder what the celebrities do with the Harry stuff that I give them. Two in particular, Tom Arnold and Carl Weathers, went crazy over the shirts. Arnold made his whole entourage wait while I dug out some extras from my luggage and Weathers had his assistant leave to go FedEx his shirt to his house, right in front of me. I will take credit for the Harry face T that Will Ferrell was pictured wearing in PEOPLE magazine, since I gave him enough of them in the three times I sat with him. But Im sure others dont care or get it.

As I was stuffing my face, I looked up to see Brad Pitt and Billy Beane leaving the interview area and headed to the cars that would take them to their next stop before the movies premiere that evening. They were engaged in a casual conversation as they ambled across the main corridor of the Coliseum surrounded by their peeps. What got me was that they each were carrying their own Harry Carays bag with the shirts inside that I had just given them, Harrys likeness smiling for all to see.

Ive gotta ask the boss for a raise for that one!

I was so relieved that everything went well, that my further travel adventures did nothing more than amuse me. Youve got to realize your place, since someone is always there to show it to you. I missed the last non-stop home by, oh, I dont know, since the lady in front of me at the counter took 10 minutes discussing seating, on SOUTHWEST, as the gangway door closed.

Oh, well.

Hey look! My flight to Vegas is delayed! Do they sell beer here? And I can tell you about the new construction at the Las Vegas airport, since I had just enough time to walk from one side of the airport to the other during my layover. At least I had a number in the 30s. That enabled me to get the only seat on the plane with ultimate leg room since it has no seat in front of it: the window on the right side of the plane in the emergency aisle. Thank goodness since the flight was full. A young couple asked me if the two seats next to me were available and since they also have more room I responded: Welcome to Southwests first class!

They had just spent five days in Vegas for a wedding and the dude looked it. He was out before we were in the air. Again, what happens there, stays there, so you wont get any info out of me. But from what the young Iowa lass told me, they had quite the time.

Good for you, I said, looking at her boy, Hes got the right idea. Leave it all on the field. Thats how Id want to leave! To which she responds, Well, youre not sleeping. What did you do? She never had a chance!

In wake of Astros cheating scandal, Cubs proud they've won the right way

In wake of Astros cheating scandal, Cubs proud they've won the right way

The Cubs and Astros often are compared as franchises that rebuilt from the ground up before winning historic World Series titles. The Cubs snapped their 108-year championship drought in 2016, whereas the Astros won their first ever title a year later.

Both clubs reached baseball’s mountaintop behind young, talented position players — Kris Bryant, Javier Báez, Anthony Rizzo; George Springer, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa — and acquired an ace, veteran starting pitcher — Jon Lester; Justin Verlander — to help cook up the right recipe for winning.

Only now, Houston’s success has been tainted by their cheating scandal; the Astros used a camera located in center field at home games during the 2017 season to steal opposing teams’ signs. 

The scandal resulted in the Astros firing general manager Jeff Luhnow and A.J. Hinch — who both received year-long suspensions from MLB beforehand. The Red Sox and manager Alex Cora — Houston’s bench coach in 2017 — have parted ways, as have the Mets and manager Carlos Beltran, who played for the Astros in 2017. 

While other clubs are in a whirlwind, the Cubs have made one thing 100 percent clear: they play the game the right way.

“We’re really clear about what the rules are. They’re posted for everybody. We talk every spring training about playing with integrity and expecting our players to play fair,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said Friday at Cubs Convention. “And they’ve done a great job of that. I was proud of Anthony Rizzo when he said yesterday that he can say with 100 percent certainty that we play within the rules. And I echo those thoughts, I know that.” 

New layers in the Astros scandal unearth seemingly by the day. Thursday, videos and images surfaced on Twitter possibly showing Houston players wearing wired buzzers under their jerseys. MLB said they found no such evidence in their investigation, however.

Sign-stealing in baseball is as old as the game itself but using technology to do so is problematic, as it goes from looking for a competitive advantage to downright cheating. Houston not only stole signs, but they did so in a way where their hitters knew the exact pitch coming their way.

“It’s unfortunate. It’s definitely surprising too,” Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber said Friday. “For me personally, this is the only organization I’ve been in and the way we go about our business is pretty straightforward, cut through. We go with the rules, we go out there and play baseball.

“To hear this is definitely upsetting. I can’t imagine how some of the teams feel that played them in that playoff series, knowing that this is a real thing and knowing that it was an advantage. For that to happen, it’s a shame.”

For the Cubs, their hubris is so strong they don’t feel the need to steal signs, according to right fielder Jason Heyward.

“Even when [former hitting coach] Chili Davis got to our team, he kind of mentioned to us about how teams in Boston,” Heyward said, “how they got together — and this is no pun intended on what just happened with the manager — but he would just say ‘Hey guys, just pay attention. If you’re on second base, look in and see if we can find a way to get a little bit of an edge late in the game.’

“We were all kind of like to ourselves ‘Well, we don’t really do that here. We never really needed it.’ That’s not being cocky or anything, but we never really needed it.”

“I got nothing against any team or any players, but I think we should play the game right and let your talent the competition decide who’s the best,” shortstop Javier Báez said. 

The Cubs maintain they’ve been playing the game the right way, and they’re extremely proud of that. This current era of Cubs baseball has netted four postseason appearances in five seasons, three trips to the NLCS and that one famous championship.

“Definitely feels good, the ways we did it, especially stepping on top in ’16,” Schwarber said. “I think it’s a better satisfying taste too, now that you can look back on it. I think it’s a little thing that you can say you’re proud of. 

“You hear people back in the steroid era say that they’re proud they didn’t take part in that. I think we can say the same thing too.”

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Blackhawks star Patrick Kane’s legacy will live on forever in London after jersey retirement

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Bolt London

Blackhawks star Patrick Kane’s legacy will live on forever in London after jersey retirement

LONDON, Ont. — Patrick Kane will forever be linked to the London Knights after having his No. 88 jersey retired on Friday in a special pregame ceremony. And it was an emotional moment for the Blackhawks superstar, which doesn’t happen often.

“I didn’t really expect that,” Kane told NBC Sports Chicago. “I didn’t know what to expect, to be honest with you. I spent one year here. It was a great year. It felt like more than one year with all the memories I made here and all the friends and relationships I have today.

"The video was pretty special. Obviously with the things that happened in London but even more-so maybe the things that happened in Chicago and everything coming together. You’re just standing there and that’s your career over 13 years, so I think that started hitting me.”



Kane became the ninth player in Knights history to have his number retired, but the first to receive the honor after playing just one season. It’s because it was a historic one.

As a 17-year-old, Kane registered 62 goals and 83 assists for a league-leading 145 points in 58 games during the 2006-07 campaign and was named the Canadian Hockey League’s Rookie of the Year. He went on to post 31 points (10 goals, 21 assists) in 16 playoff games before falling short in the Conference finals.

But before he committed to the Knights, Kane wasn't drawing as much attention as he would've thought. Draft experts projected him to go in the third round and Kane wasn't buying it.

“I couldn't believe it to be honest with you,” Kane said. “I thought I was a lot better than that."

Did he ever prove them wrong.

Kane quickly started to separate himself from the pack in London, and after a strong performance at the 2007 IIHF World Junior Championship, his name was now being discussed for No. 1 overall. And that's exactly what happened.

“Just coming here, not really worrying about that stuff,” Kane said of the draft hype. “I mean, obviously there's outside noise when it's your draft year but I always said the ice rink is my sanctuary out there. That's what I love to do the most and feel the most comfortable, is being on the ice and playing hockey, making plays and trying to score goals.”

Back in London, Kane got a chance to reflect on how far he's come since his days with the Knights. He's a three-time Stanley Cup champion and a former Hart Trophy winner who's still at the top of his game at age 31.

But touring his old locker room — which he said "looks the exact same" — was a reminder for Kane on how quickly his hockey career has flown by.

"It's crazy to think I'm in my 13th year now," Kane said. "We were just looking for our team picture in the room and I was way too far from the recent teams to where I should've been looking. A little bit of time has passed."

A lot of time has passed, but Kane's impact on the organization and community is everlasting.

Screaming young fans in No. 88 Blackhawks jerseys were in awe that Kane was within reaching distance. He signed autographs, took pictures with as many as he could, shook the hand of longtime faculty members and arena workers that he recognized from his playing days in London and smiled his way around the Budweiser Gardens — which Kane knows as The John Labatt Centre.

Kane even gave the Knights a pep talk in the locker room before the game. Even though he didn't play in London very long, it says something about your legacy when aspiring players are choosing to play for the Knights because they look up to No. 88.

“That’s what it’s all about right there,” Kane said. “I remember being a little kid and looking up to certain hockey players too and wanting to be just like them, so if that’s the way this younger generation looks at me, that’s what it’s all about for me. I enjoy that. That excites me, that makes me happy.”

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