Saturday, May 31, 2008

Leo's called shot

I was in Des Moines this week for two days of committee meetings for the Iowa Newspaper Association and its Iowa Newspaper Foundation.

Not coincidentally, the meetings occurred during an Iowa Cubs homestand, and on Thursday the Chicago Cubs' Triple-A affiliate hosted the Memphis Redbirds.

I was able to pre-arrange a couple of interviews with the I-Cubs radio announcer
Deene Ehlis on the subject of my Red Faber biography. Faber's last two seasons before entering the major leagues were in Des Moines (1912-13). Ehlis, who visited with me during the second inning and also recorded a pre-game show to be played at a future date, was complimentary about my book. (Yes, he actually read it.)

Leaving the radio booth after the pre-game interview, I bumped into Michael Gartner, journalist and principal owner of the I-Cubs. After some conversation about his team and my book, he asked the location of our group's seats. After inspecting my ticket stub -- box seats down the left field line -- he said, "Let's get you something better." We went to his baseball memorabilia-laden office, where he pulled out four tickets. Handing them to me, he said, "You will be closer to home plate than the pitcher."

He was right. (He later said our seats were 55 feet from the plate, compared to the pitcher's 60½ feet.) Our foursome sat in the first row, just to the left of home plate (facing the field). We were spoiled.

Now, to recap the game. It was close throughout, but Memphis took a 4-2 lead in the seventh. However, in the bottom of the eighth, Jason Dubois, a former Cub prospect now back with the organization after not quite making it in the majors with the Cubs, Indians, Orioles and Nationals, slammed a majestic two-run homer over the skyboxes in left field. Tie game.

Later, as the bottom of the ninth was to start and as rain began to fall, a member of our group, Leo, started calling out to the inning's first batter, Casey McGehee (pictured). "Send us home now, Casey!" Leo hollered, though from where we were sitting he about could have reached over and touched him in the on-deck circle. "Send us home!" Meanwhile, I'm thinking, "Casey, just get on base and let your teammates bring you around." Talk about low expectations.

With Casey at the bat, he proved Leo prophetic. McGehee lined the first pitch out of the ballpark, just inside the left-field foul pole. He sent us home with a 5-4 I-Cubs victory.

Nice call, Leo!