December 2010

12/21 Go on the road with Cubs

Here’s a great last-minute gift idea — give someone a road trip with the Cubs. The 2011 Cubs Destinations packages provide fans a behind the scenes, VIP experience. The 2011 Cubs Destinations road schedule includes:

* Fenway Park, Boston. The Cubs will play the Red Sox May 20-22 for the first time in Boston since the 1918 World Series.

* Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia, June 10-12.

* Busch Stadium, St. Louis, July 29-31.

All standard packages includes tickets to two Cubs games, first class hotel accommodations, a private pre-game reception with a current Cubs player, a VIP tour of the ballpark, a gift bag with Cubs merchandise, dedicated service from our on-site staff and more. You can also choose to include tickets to a third Cubs game, upgrade to a Majestic Replica Cubs jersey, or add additional discounted hotel nights. For more information, call 617-226-6550, e-mail or visit

* If you can’t wait for the regular season, Cubs Destinations can help you get to Mesa, AZ, for Spring Training. The package includes hotel accommodations, tickets to Cactus League games, and a special Cubs event with select players. There will be a new program for Cubs Seniors and the exclusive VIP Batting Practice which allows you to take the field. To make reservations or get more info, call Cubs Destinations at 800-892-7687 or go online at

— Carrie Muskat

12/21 Wood, Z, Pena at convention

Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano and new first baseman Carlos Pena will be among the players attending the 2011 Cubs Convention, Jan. 14-16 at the Hilton Chicago. Wood, who signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract last Friday to return to the Cubs, will be among the players attending the winter fan fest and will be joined by Zambrano, Aramis Ramirez, Marlon Byrd, Carlos Marmol, Tyler Colvin and Starlin Castro.

Cubs manager Mike Quade will answer fans questions, and attendees will get to meet prospects Chris Archer, Jay Jackson, Chris Carpenter and DJ LeMahieu.

A limited number of convention passes are available for purchase by visiting or by calling 1-800-THE-CUBS. Each weekend pass is $60 plus convenience fees, with proceeds to benefit Chicago Cubs Charities. Passes include access to all autograph/photo opportunities, question and answer sessions, memorabilia and vendor booths, as well as interactive areas for fans of all ages.

— Carrie Muskat

12/20 Hughes gets 5-year extension

WGN Radio announced Monday it has given Cubs play-by-play announcer Pat Hughes a five-year extension through the 2015 season. The 2011 season will be Hughes’ 16th with WGN Radio and the Cubs, and his 29th season of broadcasting in Major League Baseball.

Who will be Hughes’ partner in 2011 has yet to be determined. Ron Santo, who just completed his 21st season as the Cubs’ radio analyst and 15th with Hughes, died on Dec. 3. A replacement was not expected to be named until early next year.

Before joining WGN Radio and the Cubs, Hughes was the radio play-by-play announcer for the Brewers for 12 years. He has been named Illinois Sportscaster of the Year five times and Wisconsin Sportscaster of the year three times by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association, and he is a finalist for Illinois Sportscaster of the Year again in 2010.

— Carrie Muskat

12/20 Winter ball roundup

Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro went 1-for-4 with a walk in Escogido’s 8-7 win over Licey on Sunday. The shortstop is batting .286. Welington Castillo was 2-for-4 with two RBIs and Brad Snyder 1-for-3 for Licey. The Dominican Winter League regular season ends Tuesday.

— Carrie Muskat

12/20 Carlos Pena thanks Rays fans

Carlos Pena bid farewell to Rays fans in an ad in Monday’s Tampa Bay Tribune. Here’s the text of the ad:

Dear Fans of Tampa Bay,

Even though my words will never be able to express how special playing for you these past four years has been for me, I will make an attempt. I feel extremely grateful that I had the privilege of playing for the Tampa Bay Rays and to have grown along with the team. I was able to enjoy unbelievable thrills but not before enduring heartache and defeat. Now I know more than ever that anything is possible if I believe it to be with all my might. When I first became a Ray, we were the worst team in baseball. But what was about to happen next, not even the greatest fiction writer in the world would have been able to come up with it. I have never in my life seen a team come together in such a way, where everyone humbly but undeniably believed with all their strength that we could make it to the top. This is the story of the little engine that could. The underdog story. The story of a team in oblivion, that went on to become the American League East Champs twice, American League Champs once, and made a World Series appearance. I am so honored to be able to say that I was a RAY. Thanks for cheering for me when I performed well, but most importantly thanks for patting me on the back and encouraging me when it was difficult. Thanks for inspiring me to be the best I can be. I will keep on trying for I know that I will never be done, for the beauty of life is in the journey, not the destination. Thank you Tampa Bay Rays for believing in me when no one else did. Thank you to all my teammates for their friendship and for all the wonderful memories. Thank you to all the fans of Tampa Bay for pulling for me every night and day. I will be forever grateful.

May God bless you always,

Carlos Pena

— Carrie Muskat

12/19 Winter ball update

Starlin Castro went 0-for-4 in Escogido’s 5-0 loss to Los Toros del Este Saturday in Dominican Winter Ball. Castro is batting .289 this winter. Outfielder Brad Snyder also was 0-for-4 in Licey’s 5-1 loss to Los Gigantes. He’s batting .263.

— Carrie Muskat

12/19 Phillibuck

When I interviewed Phil Cavarretta for my book, “Banks to Sandberg to Grace,” I asked him if he still watches the Cubs. “I sit there and second-guess the hell out of them,” he said. Cavarretta died Saturday at the age of 94. At the age of 18 he homered in his first Major League at-bat and his best season was 1945 when he won MVP honors and helped the Cubs get to the World Series. Here’s an excerpt from the book:

I came to the Cubs right out of high school. I had just two and a half months experience in Class A and I was called up. I was blessed with ability. The good Lord says he’ll put you on earth to become a professional baseball player, and he says it’s going to be up to you to play hard and be successful. That’s the truth. That’s why I always gave 110 percent.

My parents were from Italy. They could hardly speak English. It was during the depression in ’35 and I made the Cubs, and my parents were happy about it but they didn’t understand baseball. When I was going to school, I played softball. I played in the yard and was sliding around and getting all dirty and my pants all torn up. I’d come home and my dad would look at me all filthy. He’d look at me and he’d say, “Philly, where you been?”

I said, “Dad, I’ve been out in the schoolyard playing baseball with my friends.”

He said, “Baseball? What the hell is baseball? Baseball, you forget. You go to school, learn your books.”

My dad became a good baseball fan and he came out to Wrigley Field with my mom. He’d go into the office before the game and he’d say, “My son, Phillip, he win the ballgame for the Cubs today, OK?”

— Carrie Muskat

12/17 Kerry Wood highlights

Here’s a list of five memorable Kerry Wood games with the Cubs. Have any additions to make?

1. 20-K game, May 6, 1998, at Wrigley Field

It was Wood’s fifth big league start, and a memorable one as he fanned 20 to tie a Major League record. He gave up one hit — a single by Ricky Gutierrez in the third inning — and did not walk a batter. It was a dominating performance. Wood had one other one-hitter, May 25, 2001, against the Brewers.

2. Wood vs. Clemens, June 7, 2003, at Wrigley Field

Roger Clemens was vying for his 300th career win in an Interleague game against the Cubs at Wrigley Field but Wood and the Cubs foiled his bid, winning 5-2. Wood gave up one run on three hits and struck out 11. Eric Karros, who subbed for Hee-Seop Choi, injured in a collision with Wood, hit a three-run homer for Chicago.

3. The 10,000th win, April 23, 2008, at Coors Field.

Wood was called on to close out the franchise’s 10,00th win against the Rockies but he gave up the game-tying run in the bottom of ninth on Ryan Spilborghs’ RBI triple. Wood ended up with the “W” as the Cubs rallied to score go-ahead run in 10th and post a 7-6 win. Carlos Marmol notched the save, his second of the year.

4. NL Division Series, Oct. 5, 2003, at Turner Field.

The Cubs had not won a playoff series since the 1908 World Series. But Wood picked up his second win of the NLDS in Game 5 as the Cubs beat the Braves, 5-1. He also won Game 1, combining with three others on a three-hitter. Wood became the first Cubs pitcher to win two postseason games since Hank Borowy in the 1945 World Series.

5. NL Championship Series, Oct. 15, 2003, at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs rallied from a 3-0 deficit to the Marlins to take a 5-3 lead, aided by Wood’s two-run homer. But Florida won the game and the series, spoiling the Cubs’ bid to reach the World Series for the first time since 1945. Wood took the loss.

— Carrie Muskat

12/17 Mets interested in Gorzelanny?

The New York Post reports the Mets have inquired about Cubs pitcher Tom
Gorzelanny. The lefty made $800,000 last year, and will receive a raise
through arbitration but would still be a fairly economical addition.
Gorzelanny was 7-9 with a 4.09 ERA in 29 games (23 starts) last season
with Chicago. You can never have enough pitching, but the Cubs do have a
surplus with Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Randy Wells, Carlos Silva,
plus up and coming youngsters such as Casey Coleman, Chris Carpenter,
Chris Archer and Thomas Diamond.

— Carrie Muskat

12/17 Breakfast with Mr. Cub

Hall of Famer Ernie Banks had breakfast Friday with Chicago mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel. The two met at Lou Mitchell’s restaurant in Chicago, a meeting Emanuel said fulfilled a life-long dream. Banks said he endorsed Emanuel for mayor and was on his “team.”

— Carrie Muskat