The Rundown: Wishing Pops Was Still Here, Chicago Cubs Baseball Is on the Air, A Good Book and Flick to Pick

As Pat Hughes will say later today, “Chicago Cubs baseball is on the air!” Weather permitting, of course. Has this not been the longest offseason ever? I’m with Jed Hoyer, I can’t wait for the season to start.

Whenever the exhibition games start, I always get in a Glen Campbell kinda mood. Campbell was one of my dad’s favorites, so the connection is easy to follow. Dad worked for the Cubs in the 1960’s and ’70’s, and spring training was always a big deal for him because he was so busy. So, I think about him a lot this time of year, and dad’s music is always kind of a staple in my household each February and March.

My father looked exactly like Robert Redford, and my mother had a bit of a Liz Taylor air about her (I’m not sure what happened to me, before you ask). Anyway, my parents were by no means a power couple, and in fact, they separated in the spring of 1971. I was seven years old at the time, and my father had just returned from his annual spring fishing trip when he laid the news on my siblings and me. My parents were separating and they were getting a divorce. Explaining divorce to children is never easy. I remember thinking a divorce was a new car. Boy, was I wrong.

Anyway, Dad hadn’t really gone fishing this time. He had actually moved in with his new roommate, this straight out of Three’s Company bachelor pad that his pal Tony Muser was renting near 159th & Central in Bremen Township. Tony played for the White Sox at the time and probably made the league minimum which I think was about $14,000 ($68,000 in today’s dollars) that year. That’s about $185,000 less than Manny Machado will make per game for the next 10 seasons.

Dad and Tony (my sister and I called him Uncle Tony) were great friends and after moving in together, my father, inspired by Muser, grew a Fu Manchu mustache, which was apparently quite popular at the time. Yup, newly single with a Fu Manchu. Oh, the humanity. Thanks for that, John Lennon.

Muser wore an awful lot of turtlenecks and velour pullovers, which is kind of a mock crushed velvet if you are unfamiliar, and both he and my dad sported those patchwork bell-bottom jeans a great deal. I spent every other weekend for about a year hanging with both of them, and sometimes Joey Pepitone would pop over. “Uncle Joey” was a client of my father’s and also a good friend. The three of them would head down to Jilly’s on Rush Street quite often, and they’d leave me with Carol the babysitter, who liked to play all my dad’s Chicago albums and sneak a Schlitz or two from the fridge.

To think about Pepitone, Muser, and the senior Canter all hanging out is one of my fondest memories. Eventually Uncle Tony got traded to Baltimore, Uncle Joey was traded to the Braves, and by 1975 my dad’s last athlete client was Randy Hundley, then with Padres. By the next year my father was out of baseball and selling life insurance for Prudential. Free agency meant players needed personal agents, which meant guys like my father — who handled player benefits and investments, insurance policies, and finding players offseason jobs — were no longer needed.

In March of 1974, my father and I were in Islamorada, FL when Ken Rudolph was traded by the Cubs to the Giants. Ken was a client, so we had to end our vacation early and head home. I loved Islamorada because it was the only place I had been where the sun rises and sets over water. To say it is stunning wouldn’t do it the justice it deserves. My dad and his friend Denny had just purchased a restaurant called The Lazy Dolphin and to me it was heaven. Key Lime Pie? Fuggetaboutit.

But business called and we jumped in the car and started driving back to Chicago, and I remember the song Wichita Lineman came on the radio. That was my dad’s favorite Glen Campbell song and I listened as he spoke over the music about how if he had to do it all over again, he would have been a state trooper.

Such great memories. Glen Campbell and spring training will forever be connected in my heart.

Cubs News & Notes

Rundown Rewind

This Week’s Baseball Read

Third Base for Life: A Memoir of Fathers, Sons, and Baseball by Joshua L. Berkowitz. The true story of 12 bungling and inept fourth grade boys from a small Jewish day school in Newton, Massachusetts who band together to challenge the top 10-year-old baseball talent in the country at Cooperstown Dreams Park, one of the nation’s most prestigious youth tournaments.

A Flick to Pick

61* – If you have HBO, you can stream this wonderful movie on-demand. Billy Crystal’s love affair with the 1961 Yankees and the pursuit of Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record is a pleasure. Thomas Jane and Barry Pepper are great as Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, and Michael Anthony Hall does well as staff ace and Mantle babysitter Whitey Ford. 61* is an endearing ode to a time when the press was the enemy of the everyday ballplayer, when salaries were in check, and breaking records with bat and glove took on Ruthian proportions. Mantle’s one-handed home run is an incredible cinematic moment.

Saturday Walk Up Song

Wichita Lineman by Glen Campbell.

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