Prior engagement

5:08PM: The Cubs are in a rain delay, and they're showing the tail end of the Marlins-Giants game. Jeff Conine, leading off the bottom of the 11th, hits a lazy fly down the right field line. Thinking it will be caught or go foul or both, Conine just strolls down the 1B line holding his bat. And then Jose Cruz Jr. drops the ball. Oops. Conine wasn't hustling, though, and only gets to first base.
Is there any excuse for not hustling on every ball in the playoffs? You see major leaguers just trotting down to first base on grounders and it has to make you sick, that these professionals making millions of dollars hustle less than your average little league player. Pitchers that jog down to first like old ladies? Weak.
But the Marlins still make the Giants pay. Pudge punches a fastball away through the right side, and there's no way you get the speedy Pierre from 2nd with the winning run. Wow. Giants are up against it now.
5:40pm: Prior is off. The ball must be hard to grip, because Prior is missing Miller and his spots by a wide margin. Or is it nerves? This, from the man everyone is claiming has perfect pitching mechanics? But then he rips off a beauty of a curve to get Lopez.
Prior may be the new sports messiah of Chicago. Someone everyone feels absolutely confident in and yet still lives up to expectations. Not since Jordan has Chicago's faith been so rewarded.
6:04pm: Randall Sausage Simon pulls his hands in and fists a single! Before he rounds first he's already going for the gold, buried below four turtlenecks and jerseys. Rich, Dan, and I snort beer through our nose watching him pound his chest and hold up his necklace. Who the hell is he pointing to? Dusty Baker and his gold? Who cares, he's the man right now. You'd think Maddux would dominate a free-swinger like Simon, especially with two strikes.
6:40pm: Dan and I suddenly get an impulse to fly to Chicago for tomorrow's game. 4 tickets are going for $1025 on eBay right now. Hmmm. I start examining ticket prices on Southwest, Priceline, Expedia. The wheels are turning. "You'll make the money back, Weegie," says Rich. "You'll never recover your youth." His warning reverberates from the other side of marriage like a voice of doom. I'm shaken.
7:12pm: I'm high bidder on 4 tickets! Not the 4 tickets I mentioned before, which sold for $1025. Cheaper, and since the auction doesn't end until tomorrow morning, the seller says he'll close off the auction at 5pm CST. It's now past 5pm CST. Why isn't the seller responding to my e-mails? I'm high bidder.
Meanwhile, Wrigley Field is the Cubs 10th player tonight, its slick infield causing Braves fielders to slip and slide all over the place. Andruw Jones runs past an Alou single, and Sosa goes to third. But swing-be-free Simon tries to pull an outside sinker and the result is predictable: groundout to 2nd. Why isn't this seller contacting me?!?
7:20pm: Prior's fastball gets away and nails Sheffield on his left wrist. Not throwing at him, obviously, but the Braves lineup certainly looks a lot less intimidating with him out of it.
7:39pm: Ryno leading the 7th inning stretch! Is that a good omen? Must be. I had a poster of him on my wall growing up. I hope Bill Murray is singing tomorrow. Could the Cubs win the World Series and Bill Murray an Oscar within a half year? Could life be as beautiful as it is in a Victoria's Secret TV commercial?
Facing Prior on a cold, damp day like this has got to be brutal. Just throw the ball over the plate and let the hitters try to muscle the ball out of Wrigley or through that damp, tall infield grass. Just won't happen. If the Cubs grounds crew was smart, they let the grass grow real tall. Cubs want low, low scoring games.
8:00pm: Seller calls. The tix are mine! She wants cash, unmarked bills, delivered by my sister, no questions asked. But she has a question for me. Am I a Cub fan?
Lady, I'm flying out from Seattle for one game. Am I a fan?
She's happy. She wanted her tickets to go to a real fan.
I call my sister, tell her to pawn off some of her jewelry and to stuff the cash in a brown paper sack. I feed her the drop point coordinates.
8:24pm: Cubs Win! Cubs Win! And not only that, I've got my 4 tix from eBay for tomorrow's game, and I just used airlines miles to book flight to Chicago tomorrow morning. The guy on the phone hears why I'm going, and despite not being a Cub fan, books me first class.
I'm going to game 4!!!
12:00am: Packing up for my flight in a few hours. Dan and I took in The Rundown after the ballgame. Terrible movie, one of the worst I've seen. Ebert gave this turd of a movie 3.5 stars. Roger's a smart guy, sharp writer, but senility may be setting in. Even Christopher Walken in one of his wacky cameos can't save this one. But hey, nothing can dampen my spirits right now.
If you leave the Lost in Translation soundtrack on, after the last track Just Like Honey by Jesus and Mary Chain, after an eternity, the audio from Bill Murray singing More than This by Roxy Music at that Japanese karaoke bar comes on. One of those secret bonus tracks. Beautiful. I listen to it on loop, over and over.
Bill, see you at Wrigley tomorrow! Oh, I mean today!