Former White Sox star Jose Conteras Still Pitching

Grandpa Jose ContrerasMany things went the White Sox way when the won the World Series ten years ago in 2005. Just about everyone on the team had an above average year. They combined power with speed, 4th in the league in home runs, and 3rd in stolen bases. They managed to get hits, steal bases and hit home runs when they needed them.

The hitting was good, but the pitching was great. As a team the Sox pitching staff led the league in ERA at .361, complete games – 9, Saves – 54, and innings pitched – 1475.2. John Garland led the staff with 18 wins, followed by Mark Buehrle’s 16, Jose Contreras’ 15. and Freddy Garcia’s 14. Dustin Hermanson led the team with 34 saves, but it was the 6 saves and late season heroics of Bobby Jenks that will most be remembered by Sox fans.

While everything fell into place for the White Sox that year, it fell into place as it never had before and never would again for Jose Contreras. He won more games, struck out more batters and had the second lowest ERA in any year of his 11 year major league career. Not only that but he capped off that year with three wins in the post season, including a victory in the first game of the World Series.

Maybe his year wasn’t the most important reason the Sox won 99 games that year, but it was an example of how everything fell into place for the Sox that year (as it must for any team that wins the World Series.

Nevertheless, it was with a mixture of surprise, admiration, and joy that I read this story about Jose Contreras. He is still pitching. It’s been a couple years since he last pitched in the major leagues, but he’s 43 years old, has two grand-kids and is pitching for the Tijuana Toros. He’s still able to throw 93 mph fastballs and had a 10 – 3 record in Mexico last year. You can read the rest of the story here: Former White Sox star Jose Conteras pitching as a grandpa | Chicago.

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St Patrick’s Day in Chicago

St Patrick's Cathedral and John Hancock BuildingMost people are aware that Chicagoans go crazy on St. Patrick’s Day. Everybody wears green, has green frosted donuts for breakfast, green frosted cookies and cup-cakes for snacks, corned beef and cabbage for dinner. They watch the St. Patrick’s Day parade, walk past the green-dyed Chicago River, then spend the night reveling, singing Irish songs and drinking green beer.

I never thought much of it when I was a kid. As far as I was concerned, St. Joseph’s Day was my day because I was Italian. Still I tried to remember to wear something green, and I enjoyed the green-frosted treats.

When I started working in Chicago I sometimes went to mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Of course, on St. Patrick’s Day the cathedral was crowded like as if it was a Sunday.

Then I married an Irish lass, who happened to have a brother named Patrick, and things began to change. I started finding reasons to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, but the kicker came along when I discovered a great, great, something grandmother of mine was Irish. Sure and begorrah, I was a bit Irish after all.

St Patrick's Blue shamrockNow, I’ve discovered that all those years when I preferred to wear blue rather than green, I may have been doing the right thing, because St. Patrick’s color was actually blue. Green came about when the Irish fighting for independence choose that as their color. So, if you see me wearing blue on March 17th you can be sure it’s because there is a little Irish in me.

For a Moment I’ll Miss Brandon Marshall

Brandon MarshallOn the one hand I’m sad to see Brandon Marshall leave the Bears. For two of three years he was a great receiver, perhaps the greatest the Bears have ever had. Last year he seemed to revert to the problem-child he became in Denver and was in Miami. In Chicago he overcame his problems, but for some reason – maybe it was due to his injuries, maybe it was due to the failure of last year’s Bears to improve, maybe it is just the way Brandon Marshall is.

Still, I like him. Still, I would have loved to see him in a Bears uniform again this year. I understand though. I’ve worked in places where there was a loud and negative voice, a sour apple in on otherwise good place to work, but it could have been even better without the bad apple. I guess that’s what Brandon Marshall became with the Bears and maybe the Bears have a better chance to improve without him rather than with him.

I’m going to miss him. I’ll miss the excitement he brought to the Bears, but I won’t miss the apparent dissension he created.

One last comment: it would have been nice if the Bears hadn’t wanted so badly to get Marshall out-of-town, because he’s still productive and probably worth more than just a fifth round pick.

Related Article: Bears agree to trade WR Brandon Marshall to the Jets | CSN Chicago.

No one meant more to White Sox than Minoso

Circa 1955, Portrait of Cuban-born Chicago White Sox baseball player Orestes 'Minnie' Minoso
Orestes ‘Minnie’ Minoso

The very first time I went to Comiskey Park, Minnie Minoso homered. It was also while I watching a  game at Comiskey park.

In a way I was new to baseball. Although I played it in elementary school, I was neither very good at the game, nor was I very interested in it. Then my family moved the week after I finished fourth grade and week later my best friend, Jack, moved in down the street. Of course, he wasn’t my best friend, but he was going to be. Jack was crazy about baseball, especially the White Sox: Nellie Fox, Sherm Lollar, Jungle Jim Rivera, and Minnie Minoso.

By the time that summer was over and I began Fifth grade, I had also become a baseball fanatic. Not only that, but because it was about all we did in our spare time – catch and hit and play sandlot games in the park across the street, I became fairly good at it. The other kids were surprised when I slapped a single through the infield my first time up because I had never gotten a hit before.

The next summer I also saw my first baseball game. Jack’s father was a Cubs fan so he took us to see the Cubs play Cincinnati. The Cubs had the lead 7 – 5 going into the ninth inning, but lost it 8 – 7.

A couple months later Jack and I made plans to take a train into Chicago so we could see the Sox play a double-header. Although there was a train that could get us to Union Station just a few minutes after 11, we didn’t know how long it would take us to walk over to where we would catch the ‘L’ or subway train to get to 35th St. Plus we thought it would be more fun to get there early so we could check out the ballpark.

Unfortunately for us we didn’t know that the trains did not run on Sundays. We figured it out when it when the train was late and we took a good look at the schedule. We should have gone back home then and watched the train on TV. Instead we hiked up to Irving Park. Somehow Jack knew there was a bus that ran almost all the way out to Bensenville. What we didn’t know was the ‘almost’ in a car was a lot closer than the ‘almost’ hitchhiking. By the time we caught a ride it was almost 9:30 and it was a little after ten when we climbed aboard the bus. Still we had left so early that we managed to get to Comiskey with at least a half hour to spare.

The first game was a scoreless duel until Minoso stepped to the plate and crushed the ball, giving the Sox all the runs they would need for a 2 – 0 win over the Detroit Tigers. The next game was even more fun even though we left at the end of the fourth inning because it was getting late. We felt pretty safe in leaving because the Sox had a 7 – 1 lead and would go on to win it 8 – 2. Minoso went 4 – 5 including a triple, although we didn’t see it because we were already on our way home.

That was the day I went from being a ‘maybe a Cubs fan’ to being a ‘100%’ White Sox fan. Maybe it was Minoso’s home run that did it, but more likely it was it was the fun of sitting in a ballpark and seeing the home team win not one, but two games. Not only that but the Sox were only a half game behind Yankees for first place. The Sox were hot and life was good.

Related story: No one meant more to White Sox than Minoso | whitesox.com.