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Chicago Cubs searching for new manager

It should come as no surprise to anyone that Chicago Cubs Manager Mike Quade will not be returning to manage the club next season. The announcement came from Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein.

In his statement Epstein said that he met all day Thursday with Quade at Wrigley Field and that he and Quade had also communicated via telephone. The new boss later flew to Florida to inform Quade in person that the Cubs have decided not to bring him back in 2012.

Epstein said he knew Quade had a “reputation as an outstanding baseball guy, as a tireless worker and as a first-rate human being”.

“While Mike is clearly an asset to any organization and any major league staff, [we] believe that the Cubs would benefit long-term from bringing in a manager for 2012 who can come in with a clean slate and offer new direction,” Epstein said.

So now that the process to find a new manager has begun, what type of manager are the Cubs looking for?

“We are looking for someone with whom and around whom we can build a foundation for sustained success,” Epstein said. “The next manager must have leadership and communication skills; he must place an emphasis on preparation and accountability; he must establish high standards and a winning culture; he must have integrity and an open mind; and he must have managerial or coaching experience at the major league level.”

Does this rule out fan favorite Ryne Sandberg?

Perhaps. But it may not rule him out as a bench coach to another choice unless another team approaches him about a managerial job; which appears to be the case.

Used with permission of the author.

Miriam Romain is a Chicago-based sportswriter and national columnist covering the Chicago Cubs for Examiner.com.  The Windy City native is also the Associate Editor for SBNation Chicago and has been published in the Maple Street Press Cubs annuals. In her free time, Romain is working on a book titled “Summers At Wrigley With My Dad.”

Copyright © 2011 Sports Climax, LLC

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Cubs’ Quade faces huge challenge

As the MLB season is gearing up, the biggest news coming into the Chicago Cubs spring training surrounds their new  manager, Mike Quade. Cubs players like and respect Quade as was evident when a group of them publically supported him over fan favorite Ryne Sandberg.

Quade realizes that the performance of the Cubs in the last six weeks of last season after he took the reins from Lou Piniella didn’t make a whole season and there’s a lot of work ahead of him and the team.

Unlike Piniella, Quade is showing he isn’t afraid to manipulate the roster especially if players are under performing, sick or injured. Last week, Carlos Zambrano had a sore wrist. Instead of taking Z out of the game, Quade kept him on the mound but inserted a DH and we all know how Z loves to bat.

As covered in an earlier article in my Examiner column, Quade is the 51st manager of the Cubs. He is home grown, born and raised in the Chicago area as a Cubs fan, so he knows the culture surrounding the team and has experienced the fans’ frustration when it comes to talking about the elusive World Series. These are things his predecessors Dusty Baker and Piniella couldn’t grasp but Quade lived it.

In addition to having the trust of his players, Quade has formed a solid pitching staff that includes starters Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano and Matt Garza and fan favorite Kerry Wood who is expected to be the set-up man for closer Carlos Marmol.  In addition to Marmol, Sean Marshall and John Grabow should help anchor the bullpen.

Chicago’s infield does have a huge hole at second base that needs to be addressed but for now that job likely will go to Darwin Barney. Third and first positions are all but locked with newcomer Carlos Pena looking to step into Derrek Lee’s spot at first and Aramis Ramirez filling the opposite side of the infield.

In the outfield Quade is expected to open the season with Kosuke Fukudome in right Marlon Byrd in center and Alfonso Soriano in left.

Although this year’s Cubs team isn’t projected to make it to the post season, being in a weak division with other teams losing their starting pitchers to injuries, the team, if they stay healthy, could contend. That would bring some relief to Cubs fans who are stuck in a record-setting drought for a World Series.

Used with permission of the author.

Miriam Romain is a Chicago-based sportswriter and national columnist covering the Chicago Cubs for Examiner.com. The Windy City native is also the Associate Editor for SBNation Chicago and has been published in the Maple Street Press Cubs annuals. In her free time, Romain is working on a book titled “Summers At Wrigley With My Dad.”

Copyright © 2011 Sports Climax, LLC

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Ron Santo an icon who left a mark

Ron Santo, a Chicago Cubs icon died overnight in his winter Arizona home due to complications from bladder cancer. The 70-year-old former Cubs player and longtime announcer was said to have slipped into a coma on Wednesday before passing on Thursday night.

Santo was a fan favorite and touched many Windy City lives during his time as a player and broadcaster. While playing for the Cubs, Santo was one of the best third basemen of his time and he accomplished that feat while battling diabetes. Playing under those adversities was a testament to the man he was so it is unfortunate he never received the one phone call he most wanted, the call welcoming to the Hall of Fame.

As a broadcaster, he spent many days with Pat Hughes in the radio booth, hanging onto every pitch, hit and error that was played and off the field used his celebrity status to help raise awareness and funds for juvenile diabetes.

Over recent years, Santo traveled up the Wrigley Field ramps via personnel driving motorized carts since diabetes had taken both of his legs. He always took the time to pay attention to swarming fans seeking autographs.

Santo’s son, Jeff, created a documentary in 2004 about his father titled “This Old Cub.”The film shows Santo from the time the 20-year-old came up to the Cubs to being a grandfather. It shows how Ron handled crises and how much he truly loved baseball and his Cubs. The year prior to the film, Ron’s No. 10 jersey was retired at Wrigley Field and to this day waves on the right field foul pole along with Ernie Banks’ famous No. 14.

As Cubs fans mourn the passing of an icon, some will remember when his hairpiece caught on fire at Shea Stadium, others his moans and groans in the radio booth.

Goodbye Ronnie. You were a gentleman and an inspiration to many including myself. May you find peace in that Heavenly Hall of Fame.

Used with permission of the author.

Miriam Romain is a Chicago-based sportswriter and national columnist covering the Chicago Cubs for Examiner.com. The Windy City native is also the Associate Editor for SBNation Chicago and has been published in the Maple Street Press Cubs annuals. In her free time, Romain is working on a book titled “Summers At Wrigley With My Dad.”

Copyright © 2010 Sports Climax, LLC

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History made at “Wrigleyville Classic”

History was made at historic Wrigley Field yesterday. First, the Northwestern University Wildcats hosted the

Photo: Miriam Romain

 University of Illinois Fighting Illini in the Allstate Wrigleyville Classic. It was the first time football had been played in Wrigley Field since the Bears left in 1970 and the first time college kicked off there since 1938.

But there was more history made in yesterday’s game. Illinois junior Mikel Leshoure rushed for 330 yards on 32 carries setting a school record for rushing yards and setting the all-time record for rushing yards at Wrigley Field. That performance led the Illini to a 48-27 win.

The week leading up to the game saw the famous red Wrigley Field Marquee painted Wildcat purple. The gridiron was laid out and given the green light for play by the two schools, Big Ten officials and the NCAA. Because the field ran east to west, the east end zone was so close to the outfield wall, thick padding was put over the hibernating ivy and that goal post was attached to the bleacher wall. The right corner, when looking at the east goal post, went all the way into the corner of the stadium, giving no room behind the end zone. Still, everyone signed off on it.

Then the rules started changing. Originally, the infamous Wrigley Ballhawks were looking to get a special souvenir – a football that was either kicked for an extra point or a field goal. Anyone who caught one of those balls was going to be allowed to keep it. Also, the Northwestern team was supposed to ride the “El” (train) on the existing Purple Line to the game and enter Wrigley from Sheffield Ave., renamed Wildcat Way, for the day. During the week it was decided for safety the team would not take the train. Then on Friday, the Big Ten changed its mind about the east end zone stating for player safety, all offensive plays would go toward the west end zone. The Cubs, who had worked hard to make this event happen were extremely unhappy about the situation. The Ballhawks were also upset. Fans were outraged stating they would not see any action in the east part of the field.

At first perhaps, there was a little confusion when the ball was in the east part of the field and had to be brought to the west part to continue play, but overall it did not affect the rhythm of the game, especially for Illinois. In fact, Northwestern intercepted a pass and ran it for a touchdown into the east end zone. The worries about player safety, the brick wall and the lack of room behind the end zone ended up being an afterthought.

Today’s Illinois win makes them Bowl eligible for the first time since 2007.

Used with permission of the author.

Miriam Romain is a Chicago-based sportswriter and national columnist covering the Chicago Cubs for Examiner.com. The Windy City native is also the Associate Editor for SBNation Chicago and has been published in the Maple Street Press Cubs annuals. In her free time, Romain is working on a book titled “Summers At Wrigley With My Dad.”

Copyright © 2010 Sports Climax, LLC

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Wrigley Field Allstate Classic

Photo: Miriam Romain

Wrigley Field turned purple this week with the help of several sports and company execs including Cubs board member Laura Ricketts, Valspar’s Senior VP Howard Heckes and Northwestern University DA Jim Phillips who threw the first few strokes of Wildcat Purple paint on the famed Wrigley Field Marquee.

The game will mark the first time football has been played there since the Chicago Bears finished their 1970 season and will also be the first college football kickoff at Wrigley since 1938.

“In our family, we’re not only big Cubs fans, but we’re also huge college football fans. So, it is just a complete thrill and a real honor to be hosting Northwestern and Illinois this weekend. . . and to bring football back to Wrigley for the first time since 1970,” said Ricketts.

After a few words from the sponsors, the execs were strapped into harnesses and after making their way into two cherry pickers were raised to the historic marquee and applied the first strokes of paint. Once the real workers got into place, the job moved fast and the transformation was complete to Wildcat Purple by 1 p.m.

During that same day, the members of the media were invited inside Wrigley Field to see the football gridiron. It was an amazing sight to see a football field and goalposts extend from behind home plate to the right field bleachers where the post was actually attached to the bleacher wall. To make room for the field, the pitcher’s mound and bullpens were removed. A thick padding was also attached to the outfield wall and the Cubs dugout.

The Chicago Bears called Wrigley Field home from 1921-1970 but the stadium was also used by the Chicago Tigers in 1920 and the Chicago Cardinals in 1920 and again from 1931-1939. Aside from Northwestern and Illinois, DePaul and Loyola have also kicked off at Wrigley.

In conjunction with Saturday’s game, Sheffield Avenue will be renamed Wildcat Way and fans who are lucky enough to catch field goals and extra points will be able to keep the balls.

ESPN College Gameday has also elected to air live from the stadium throughout the day.

Used with permission of the author.

Miriam Romain is a Chicago-based sportswriter and national columnist covering the Chicago Cubs for Examiner.com. The Windy City native is also the Associate Editor for SBNation Chicago and has been published in the Maple Street Press Cubs annuals. In her free time, Romain is working on a book titled “Summers At Wrigley With My Dad.”

Copyright © 2010 Sports Climax, LLC

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NFL goes across border to Toronto

The Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills moved their show north of the border yesterday to Canada as part of a five-year contract with the Rodgers Centre in Toronto. With the Bills playing host, the Bears came out of Canada with a 22-19 win, improving their record to 5-3 and dropping the Bills to a league-worst 0-8.

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler completed 17-of-30 passes for two touchdowns and Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick connected on 31-of-51 passes with two interceptions. In previous games the running game with Matt Forte had worked best for Chicago but coach Lovie Smith opted for more of a passing game and the offense struggled on Sunday.

In the end, it was a typical Bears win with the defense making the difference. Tim Jennings took an interception to the Buffalo 23-yard line setting up a Cutler to Earl Bennett three-yard score.

With 52 seconds remaining in the game, Bears defensive lineman Julius Peppers was injured and after being tended to for several minutes, exited the field under his own power.

The win moved the Bears to (5-3) one win behind the Green Bay Packers (6-3) in the NFC North Division standings. The Packers blew out the Dallas Cowboys 45-7 on SNF.

Perhaps Sunday’s Bears victory was an extension of the celebrating surrounding the ’85 team that won Super Bowl XX. On Friday night, many of the players from that “Monsters of the Midway” roster joined ex-coach Mike Ditka at Chicago’s Arie Crown Theater in the Allstate Glory Days Event.

Ditka was joined on stage by Richard Dent, Dave Duerson, Gary Fencik, Dan Hampton, Tyrone Keys, Dennis McKinnon, Jim McMahon, Steve McMichael, Emery Moorehead, Matt Suhey, Tom Thayer and Otis Wilson, among others to reminisce about that championship team.

Used with permission of the author.

Miriam Romain is a Chicago-based sportswriter and national columnist covering the Chicago Cubs for Examiner.com. The Windy City native is also the Associate Editor for SBNation Chicago and has been published in the Maple Street Press Cubs annuals. In her free time, Romain is working on a book titled “Summers At Wrigley With My Dad.”

Copyright © 2010 Sports Climax, LLC

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“Q” named manager of Cubs

Mike Quade will officially be taking over the reins for the Chicago Cubs. The 53-year-old who the players call “Q”, was officially named manager of the team and was introduced, or re-introduced, to the media this week.

Quade was first named manager of the Cubs on August 22 after Lou Piniella abruptly walked away from the team and Jim Hendry was sure to point out at the press conference that Quade was never “interim manager” always manager.

Speculation about who would end up in the position has been intense with the names most mentioned being Quade, Ryne Sandberg and Joe Girardi.

So let’s meet “Q.” Going into the search, Cubs owner Tom Ricketts made it clear he wanted his new manager to understand the unique pressures of being Cubs manager. In addition to being with the Cubs organization for eight years, Quade is also a Chicago area native hailing from Evanston and graduated from Prospect High School in Mount Prospect, IL. His tenure with the club, especially the past four years has given him a different perspective from the one he had as a youngster going to Cubs games as a fan. Quade has lived the pressures, anticipation and longing for a Cubs World Series from both perspectives.

So Quade becomes the 51st manager in Cubs history, promoted after serving as the Cubs third base coach for four years. According to a Cubs press release, he has 17 years and 2,378 games of experience as a manager at the minor league level. He has been a major league coach in the American and National Leagues, including three seasons with the Oakland A’s as first base coach from 2000-2002, and the four years as the Cubs’ third base coach.

In all, Quade has more than 25 years of pro coaching and managing experience, including a pair of minor league manager of the year awards with Double-A Harrisburg in 1991 and Triple-A Ottawa in 1993. As a winter ball manager, Quade led Aguilas Cibaenas to the 1996-97 Dominican Winter League Championship and Caribbean World Series Title.

In 1999, Quade led Vancouver to the Pacific Coast League championship and won the Triple-A World Series. A year later, Quade received his first major league coaching opportunity with Oakland. Quade has also served as a manager in the Montreal, Philadelphia, Oakland and Cubs farm systems.

“It’s absolutely the right thing to do,” said Ricketts. “Obviously he was a Cub fan his whole life. Eight years in the organization, four years sitting next to Lou. He knows what it’s like.”

Used with permission of the author.

Miriam Romain is a Chicago-based sportswriter and national columnist covering the Chicago Cubs for Examiner.com. The Windy City native is also the Associate Editor for SBNation Chicago and has been published in the Maple Street Press Cubs annuals. In her free time, Romain is working on a book titled “Summers At Wrigley With My Dad.”

Copyright © 2010 Sports Climax, LLC

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Sammy Sosa corked bat for sale

MLB and Cubs fans have an opportunity to add a classic Cubs-related piece of memorabilia to their collection, the barrel of Sammy Sosa’s corked bat.After his five best years in the majors between 1998 and 2002 when he hit a combined total of 293 home runs, Sosa entered the 2003 hoping to add to that total.

In a game on June 3, 2003 against the Tampa Bay Rays, it was discovered Sosa was using a corked bat when his lumber broke during a time at bat. So what exactly happened to the barrel of Sammy’s bat after he was ejected from the game and the cork was exposed on that fateful day in 2003?

While the umpires kept the shaft, someone else picked up the rest of the bat and that someone was Mike Remlinger, a pitcher on the Cubs roster. It turns out Remlinger found it in the passageway between the Cubs clubhouse and dugout. He picked it up and put it in his fishing rod case. Recently, Remlinger, who no longer pitches, attempted to contact Sosa to see if he wanted the barrel of the bat, but when he didn’t hear back, he decided to put it up for auction.

Schulte Auctions has the barrel up for auction until October 31. It is estimated that the bat could bring between $15,000 and $50,000. To date, the bid for the bat barrel is at $7,393.00. The reserve has not yet been met.

Used with permission of the author.

Miriam Romain is a Chicago-based sportswriter and national columnist covering the Chicago Cubs for Examiner.com. The Windy City native is also the Associate Editor for SBNation Chicago and has been published in the Maple Street Press Cubs annuals. In her free time, Romain is working on a book titled “Summers At Wrigley With My Dad.”

Copyright © 2010 Sports Climax, LLC

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Zambrano back with a vengeance

Carlos Zambrano appears to be back. Not with his Tasmanian Devil antics but with his ability to dominate from the mound.

Chicago Cubs fans who sat out a 70-minute rain delay on Tuesday, saw the grounds crew cover and uncover the field twice but also witnessed a much more effective, relaxed and focused Carlos Zambrano.

Earlier in the season after being suspended by the Cubs for a violent outburst, Zambrano was ordered to see MLB approved doctors for his anger issues.

Now months later, Z suddenly looks like a successful product of “anger management” therapy. On Tuesday, he was 10 strikeouts away from passing Charley Root on the Cubs all-time strikeout list before taking the mound. He went after that record pitching six scoreless innings and fanning 8, just two short of his goal.

The Cubs lost the game to the San Francisco Giants 1-0 but the old Z may have been visibly upset with that outcome. The new Z took it in stride and said all the right things following the game:

“The Cubs pay me to win and the fans want me to win and I only have nine wins. For me, it’s another disappointing season. The most important thing is I have my confidence back and I will be back next year with the same attitude and the same passion for the game and ready to do some damage.”

Manager Mike Quade couldn’t help but notice the calm demeanor calmness that Zambrano has exhibited since his return.

“He’s a guy who’s passionate about pitching and pitches with passion but maybe he’s channeling it a little differently,” Quade said. “Whether he’s doing that in his mind, I don’t know. When you see results like he’s given us the last five, six weeks, all you can do is speculate on why that’s happened and how important that is to him. From my point of view, it’s very important.

“I’m real happy with the guy I’ve seen and I have no reason to doubt that’s the guy I’ll continue to see.”

While Zambrano may have been put on some sort of medication to help with his anger issues, the good news from home may be helping cause the effect. According to Carrie Muskat, Zambrano’s nephew who had been in a coma in Venezuela celebrated his 12th birthday at home. In addition to that, Zambrano’s mother is said to have obtained her Visa to come to the states and see Z play. Zambrano expects to see her when he starts a game in Houston in the near future.

Now the question is. After much trade speculation, will Zambrano remain in a Cubs uniform next season?

Used with permission of the author.

Miriam Romain is a Chicago-based sportswriter and national columnist covering the Chicago Cubs for Examiner.com. The Windy City native is also the Associate Editor for SBNation Chicago and has been published in the Maple Street Press Cubs annuals. In her free time, Romain is working on a book titled “Summers At Wrigley With My Dad.”

Copyright © 2010 Sports Climax, LLC

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Lou Piniella abruptly resigns as Cubs manager

Chicago Cubs fans were to honor Atlanta Braves Manager Bobby Cox who was making his final appearance at Wrigley Field today. In surprise fashion, they also found themselves bidding fond farewell to their own manager, Lou Piniella.

Earlier today, Piniella informed the Cubs organization that today would be his last in the Cubs dugout as the manager. Piniella cited personal obligations as the reason for his abrupt departure.

After analyzing his mother’s condition, it became clear to Lou that his mind was not on baseball and the time had come for him to step aside, rather than wait until the end of the season.

“When Lou has been up here he has wanted to be with this mother. When he has been down in Florida with her, he has wanted to be with the club,” Cubs owner Tom Ricketts told some fans during the game.

“I wish we had known earlier so we could have done something more special for him.” – Cubs Owner Tom Ricketts.

The Cubs had already planned a tribute to Cox before today’s game and quickly added a tribute for Piniella to include this afternoon. The crowd gave Piniella a standing ovation, which he acknowledged, that perhaps overshadowed the tribute to Cox.

Piniella held two emotional press conferences – one before the game and one after the Cubs 16-5 loss to the Braves. In his post game press conference, he apologized to the media for being so emotional, and started to cry.

“This is the last time I’ll be putting on a uniform. It was a day to remember and a day to forget.”

Piniella said he will remember the good times he had at Wrigley. He will remember the players, the fans, and the staff. He wished Mike Quade, who now takes over as manager for the rest of the season, well, and he admitted that no one who hasn’t been part of the Cubs organization before could imagine what it was like to be part of it.

Piniella also said that he noticed things in and around Wrigley he hadn’t noticed before, though he wasn’t specific when asked what those things were. “I wasn’t daydreaming,” he said. “I was noticing things I hadn’t noticed before.”

Fans can’t help but wish Lou well in his retirement. While there were many Lou bashers the past year, all Cubs fans will remember that he did take the team to the playoffs two consecutive years.

“We’ve raised the bar here,” Piniella said. “The fans expect better.”

In a press release Piniella said, “As I said last month, I couldn’t be more appreciative of the Cubs organization for providing me the opportunity to be their manager. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything in the world and I consider this the ultimate way to end my managerial career.”

Used with permission of the author.

Miriam Romain is a Chicago-based sportswriter and national columnist covering the Chicago Cubs for Examiner.com. The Windy City native is also the Associate Editor for SBNation Chicago and has been published in the Maple Street Press Cubs annuals. In her free time, Romain is working on a book titled “Summers At Wrigley With My Dad.”

Copyright © 2010 Sports Climax, LLC

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