April 1, 2004

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

With fishing season getting underway and the prospects of Spring turkey hunting in the not to distant future, itís easy to see why Iím excited about writing this column over the next few weeks.

But I would be amiss if I didnít share a little of the newsprint with my favorite professional sport, Major League Baseball. By the time this hits the newsstand, the first game of the 2004 regular season will have been played in Japan where the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Devil Rays are facing off.

While Iím excited for every opening day of the baseball season, this one in particular is of great interest to me as my favorite Chicago Cubs look poised to go all the way. Granted that is 162 games away, but right now the Cubbies appear ready to end the jinx.

They even held a special ceremony to blow up the now infamous foul ball caught by super scapegoat Steve Bartman back in the playoff games. If you donít remember the incident, Bartman was the guy who reached into the playing field and grabbed the ball just out of the grips of Cubs outfielder Moises Alou. That left the inning open for Florida to rally and go on to the World Series and secured the curse for another year.

Now the ball is gone, the Cubs look great on paper and we Chicago fans can get excited, right?

But that good old curse isnít going away without a fight.

Chicagoís best pitcher, Mark Prior, may miss the first month of the year because of a mysterious Achilles problem. If the injuries continue theyíll be crying for the team to bring back the goat (a good luck charm from the last time the team won the World Series some 100 years ago Ė obviously not the same goat though).

With Prior on the DL, Iím surely not the only one getting concerned. I suspect the players are looking over their shoulders to see who is the next victim of the jinx.

But is there really a curse? How else could an off season during which the Cubs brought back former ace and future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux to solidify the best young pitching staff in baseball be back page news? Leave it to league rival Houston to steal the thunder by signing former Yankee Andy Pettitte which in turn landed the team his best friend, another future Hall of Famer, Roger Clemens, who came out of retirement to pitch alongside Andy in his home state of Texas.

Unfortunately for most local readers (except me and fellow Cub diehard Jamie Parker) this is not good news for the Cardinals.

The Redbirds simply didnít get any better this off season. The St. Louis team has the thunder to score plenty of runs, but that pitching staff definitely takes a back seat to both the Cubs and the Astros, and may not even be the third best list of hurlers in the National League Central Division?

Okay, Iíll stop short of a full MLB spring preview here, but hopefully come October the Cubs will be back in this column and it wonít be because of any curse.

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