Wednesday, April 15, 2015

THE JOY OF SIX: The Masters, the presidential race and the return of the Sons of Pitches

6. How 'bout that Jordan Spieth, huh? Every time Phil Mickelson or Justin Rose or anybody else drew within a few strokes of him at the Masters, the 21-year-old Texan would birdie the next couple of holes and re-open a commanding lead. He ended up breaking a bunch of records and tying Tiger Woods' mark for best Masters score ever. Pretty impressive.

I know that I'm looking forward to many years of him dueling with Rory McIlroy, the reigning king who is only 25 himself. Then again, I remember Tiger and Sergio Garcia going toe-to-toe as youngsters in the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah and thinking, "Wow, it's gonna be fun watching these guys go at each other for the next decade or two."

How has that worked out?


5. At one point, CBS showed a list of the last 10 Masters champions -- reminding me that the one and only Masters I ever covered (or ever will cover) was won by the "least good" (to borrow a phrase from former Bears coach Dick Jauron) champion in decades. Maybe ever.

Despite shooting a 75 in the final round, Trevor Immelman beat a field that never really showed up. Woods tried to rally but got no closer than 3 strokes. Immelman hasn't won since and, since 2012, he has missed the cut more than he has made it. In 10 starts so far this year, he has made the cut twice.

Trevor Freakin' Immelman won "my" Masters. But hey, at least the weather was perfect and I got to see a golf course that actually exceeded my very lofty expectations.


4. It seems almost impossible that the race for the GOP presidential nomination could top 2012 for sheer craziness, but the candidates are off to a running start.

Ted Cruz is an absolute loony, which is fitting because he was born in Canada (unlike our current Kenya-born president). Rand Paul is supposed to be a Libertarian but he already is sucking up to the far right. Chris Christie just came out with Social Security reform that looks suspiciously like a liberal re-distribution plan. Marco Rubio is backtracking from his compassionate immigration policy because to the party base, there is no room for compassion in an immigration policy.

I already miss Herman "9-9-9" Cain, Rick "Oops" Perry, Mitt "47 Percent" Romney and Newt "I Guarantee $2.50 Gas" Gingrich.

And isn't there anything anybody can do to get Michele Bachmann to run again? She just predicted that Barack Obama's Iran policy would result in the End Times and usher in Jesus' return to earth, saying: "I believe the Bible is true. And believe what the Bible says is  that our nation and the people of our nation will reap a whirlwind, and we could see economic disasters, natural disasters."

I don't remember any mention of the U.S. of A. in either testament, but I admit I'm no biblical scholar.


3. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton finally stopped delaying the inevitable and announced online that she would be running for the Democratic nomination.

She's a piece of work, too. She actually might be a bigger liar storyteller than her hubby.

It's gonna be a fun 17 months until November 2016.


2. The Cubs paid $155 million to a left-hander who gets the yips every time he thinks about throwing to first to hold the runner. In Jon Lester's last start, he threw one so far over the first baseman's head it almost landed in the stands. It's the damnedest thing. So Cubbie.

Fortunately for the Cubs, the right fielder chased down the baseball and gunned the runner out at third base.

Obviously, it was a set play orchestrated by Joe Maddon, the latest Savior Skipper who for sure will take the Cubbies to the pennant.


1. My over-50 softball league's season has begun and I'm thrilled to be back with the Sons of Pitches. Our manager/pitcher, Pat, traded for me because he knows I'm the ultimate softball stud. Either that or he just wanted to be sure he had somebody to drink with after games. (OK, I guarantee it's not the "stud" thing.)

Pat and I entered the league as teammates in 2012 and played one season with the Blue Thunder. He decided to become a manager the following year and traded for me. The Sons of Pitches capped a very nice two-year run by winning the '14 fall championship, but then in accordance with league rules, we (and all other teams) were broken up for the league-wide re-draft.

For the SoP's latest incarnation, Pat did a nice job of getting 5 of us back together, as Pat and I are joined by Bob, Spike (the other Mike) and Wayne. Our 8 teammates seem like great guys and fine players. Definitely a fun group. I'd list 'em all here by name but I'm still getting to know them.

Our season started Tuesday and we promptly gave up the maximum 5 runs in the top of the first inning. It was a delightful combination of booted grounders, errant throws, walks and other assorted miscues. We only managed one run ourselves and gave up a couple more runs over the next 3 innings to fall behind 7-1 going into the bottom of the 4th.

Pat, who fancies himself as quite the motivator, yelled, "Do you guys wanna win or what?" Duly inspired, we scratched out 3 runs to make it a 7-4 game. We held our opponent scoreless in the fifth and I led off the bottom of the inning.

While coaching third base earlier in the game, I had a brief conversation with the opposing third baseman. He had a great glove and a gun for an arm, but he told me he was having knee problems and wouldn't be able to move very well. I joked that I was going to lay down a bunt.

Now, bunting isn't allowed in slow-pitch softball ... but swinging bunts are another story. I took a mighty cut and the ball traveled all of about 15 feet down the third-base line. Using my cheetah-like speed -- I mean, there's nothing faster than a bald, slightly chunky, 50-something Jewboy -- I beat out the infield hit.

"Real" hits -- the kind that actually leave the infield -- followed, one after the other, and by the time the 5th inning was over, we had an 8-7 lead. The umpire's timer went off during the inning, meaning the 6th would be the last. Pat retired the first two batters before giving up a hit, but he stranded the tying run by inducing a come-backer. After he threw to first, it was time to head to the bar.

There's nothing wrong with winning ugly, because there's no such thing as losing pretty.

The Sons of Pitches are back, baby!