Curtis Granderson

Chicagoland native Curtis Granderson honors Larry Doby on Jackie Robinson Day

The Sole Revival

Chicagoland native Curtis Granderson honors Larry Doby on Jackie Robinson Day

For the last four years, Chicagoland native Curtis Granderson has hired local shoe designer Ross Sider of The Sole Revival to customize a pair of cleats to pay homage to Jackie Robinson on Jackie Robinson Day. 

This year, the Blue Jays’ Granderson asked for something different. 

He requested cleats that not only honor Robinson in graphic form, but also Larry Doby, the first African-American player in the American League. 

Doby played for the Newark Eagles, the Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers and Chunichi Dragons in Japan before he later managed the White Sox in 1978. A veteran of the armed forces, he also served in the Navy in WWII.  

After Granderson dons the cleats for Sunday’s game against the Indians, they’re headed to Cooperstown. Granderson’s public relations manager told Sider they are going to the Baseball Hall of Fame. 

In past years, the cleats have been auctioned off, with the proceeds going to the Jackie Robinson foundation.

The Blue Jays play the Indians on Sunday at 12:10 p.m.

Anthony Rizzo keeps building impressive legacy with Roberto Clemente Award

Anthony Rizzo keeps building impressive legacy with Roberto Clemente Award

The same competitive nature and unique leadership qualities that made Anthony Rizzo a World Series champion drove the Cubs first baseman toward winning the Roberto Clemente Award.  

Rizzo does so much publicly with this stage, and quietly behind the scenes, that it felt like a matter of time, a face of the franchise getting Major League Baseball’s prestigious award that recognizes sportsmanship, community involvement and positive contributions on and off the field.

The formal presentation happened Friday at Minute Maid Park, before a World Series Game 3 between the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers that Rizzo would obviously rather be playing in now. But this is a well-deserved honor for someone who is remarkably comfortable around sick children, with sharing his experience as a cancer survivor and the idea of building a legacy in Chicago and South Florida.

“This is amazing,” Rizzo said. “It’s the greatest award you can win, and I will be forever appreciative of this. This will go front and center (with) anything I’ve ever done on the baseball field.”

The Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation has raised more than $4 million since its inception in 2012. This year, the foundation made a $3.5 million commitment to Lurie Children’s Hospital, the downtown Chicago facility where Rizzo makes regular appearances, with or without the cameras.

Rizzo also recently granted $250,000 to the University of Miami Health System and the hometown cancer center where he received treatment while battling Hodgkin's lymphoma. Those physical, mental and emotional tests as a Boston Red Sox prospect shaped the superstar he would become years later in Chicago.  

“It means a lot to me when I go into a hospital room and say hello to a kid and they light up like a Christmas tree for five minutes,” Rizzo said, “escaping the reality, because they’re going through treatment. They’re battling for their lives, and I’m just grateful to be able to go in there and say hello to them and make them escape reality for a second.

“It’s not easy to go and see a lot of kids, but we really enjoy it. And the work that we do, hopefully we’re just scratching the surface.”

Clemente, a Hall of Fame outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates, died on New Year's Eve 1972 during a relief mission to earthquake-damaged Nicaragua, when a plane delivering relief supplies exploded shortly after takeoff and crashed in the Atlantic Ocean. 

Rizzo made a side trip to The Clemente Museum while the Cubs played in Pittsburgh this season. Previous Clemente Award winners within the last 10 years include Albert Pujols, Derek Jeter, David Ortiz, Clayton Kershaw, Carlos Beltran, Paul Konerko and Curtis Granderson.

“Don't get me wrong, I want to be known as a great baseball player when it's all said and done,” Rizzo said, “but I also want to be known as someone who was fortunate to have a big platform and do things with it in a good way."

How Joe Maddon's Game 4 freak out could've been even crazier: 'I might come running out of the clubhouse in my jockstrap'


How Joe Maddon's Game 4 freak out could've been even crazier: 'I might come running out of the clubhouse in my jockstrap'

Don’t make Joe Maddon angry. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.

This NLCS umpiring crew found that out the hard way Wednesday night.

The Cubs’ skipper didn’t turn green or smash anything, but he came about as close as one can to turning into the Hulk in real life, losing his mind over an egregious blown call in a pivotal moment in the eighth inning of his team’s 3-2 win in Game 4 at Wrigley Field.

As more than 40,000 people rained boos down on the umpires and started chanting about bovine excrement — and as the Wrigley Field video board showed repeated evidence of how wrong the umpires had gotten Curtis Granderson’s third-strike whiff — Maddon was going off on any and all umpires he could set his eyes on.

It’s perhaps the angriest and most argumentative fans have seen him during his tenure on the North Side. Perhaps it’s the most nuts he’s ever gone in a game.

But there’s a way it could’ve been even worse.

“If Granderson hits the next pitch out, I might come running out of the clubhouse in my jockstrap,” Maddon said.

Now that would have added a whole extra level of insanity to what had already been the new bar-setter for insanity in this roller-coaster Cubs postseason.

To make a long story short for anyone who missed the sequence of events, Wade Davis got Granderson to strike out in a big moment in the eighth inning. The Cubs’ closer had already surrendered a homer to Justin Turner to start the inning and had a man on first with one out in a one-run game when Granderson came to bat.

You didn’t need to have eagle vision or an in-depth understanding of the rulebook to know Granderson missed Davis’ pitch for the third strike. And the initial call was just that, as Granderson was ordered back to his dugout alongside Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who came out to get his own explanation of the play. But then came a lengthy infield conference featuring all six of these NLCS umpires, and the call was reversed. No video review, just an on-field conference. Granderson had new life after supposedly foul-tipping the pitch.

Maddon did not like that decision. More so, though, he didn’t like how it was reached.

“It was not a good explanation,” Maddon said, still hot after the game ended and his team won. “Listen, I'm all about the umpires, first of all. I'm not going to sit here and bang on umpires, and I love a lot of guys on this crew. I've known them for a long time. But that can't happen.

“The process was horrible. To have that changed and if Granderson hits the next pitch out, I might come running out of the clubhouse in my jockstrap. That was really that bad. So you can't permit that to happen. The process was wrong. The explanation, eventually it turned into hearing two sounds. Not one of them saw a foul tip or thought it was a foul tip. It was based on two sounds, which I totally cannot agree with that process whatsoever.

“When you have 40-some thousand people, it's late in the game. The other sound could have come from some lady screaming in the first row. I have no idea. I can't buy that process.

“Could have been a guy, too. I don't want to bang on a lady.”

Certainly most if not all of Cubs fandom and really anyone watching in the stadium or at home had to agree with Maddon. Even home-plate umpire Jim Wolf said he blew the call after the game, going as far as saying he was "dead wrong" and that he "talked himself into" switching the call. Granderson got an extra strike and could have changed the dynamic of a one-run game with it. Maddon had reason to be upset.

But it was the way he got upset that was really something to see. Take your pick of a famously short-tempered cartoon character — Donald Duck, Yosemite Sam, the Tasmanian Devil — Maddon was doing his best impersonation of all of them, spinning around, walking around, confronting every umpire on the field and screaming right in their faces.

It earned him his second ejection of this postseason.

“I was yelling at everybody, man,” Maddon said. “That was bad process. … That's what I'm yelling at. I know Wolfy for a hundred years, I know Mike (Winters, the crew chief) for a hundred years, I know a lot of these dudes for a hundred years. But I can't accept that under those circumstances. If that next pitch goes out of the ballpark, obviously, on a wrong call, I am really not a good guy at that point.

“And there is no way, no way I'm not getting ejected at that point. I've got to make my point. Just being honest.

“I mean, I was upset. I mean, listen, this is an elimination game, man. This isn't just another one. This isn't June 23, this is an elimination game. … With all due respect, under those circumstances, that can't happen. It can't happen. If Granderson hits the next pitch out of the ballpark, that can't happen. The process was not good. That's my argument. The process was a bad process. That's my argument.

“If I don't do that, what do my players think if I don't stand up for our guys like that? What do they think in that moment?”

Everything ended up fine for the Cubs, of course, with Granderson completing his strikeout once again on Davis’ very next pitch. Davis worked his way out of the inning and then batted in the bottom of the eighth, an interesting decision that Maddon watched from the clubhouse, and then got a game-ending double play to seal the game and stave off elimination for at least one more night.

But Maddon gave fans a highlight for the ages with his on-field antics. And he showed his players he wasn’t going to take that potential game-changing situation lying down.

“He's got to do his job, you know?” Javy Baez said. “Obviously turning a play like that that could have turned the game around, he was just trying his best to get that out because it was obviously out. The umpires didn't really see it, but you can't do nothing about it.”

As for the end result?

“I don't know why they overturned the call,” Willson Contreras said, “but the ball never lies.”