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Richard Pennington (리처드 패닝턴)

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The Chicago Cubs: 500 Fascinating Facts

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This book, my 17th, was begun in Daegu in the fall of 2008 but not completed and published until April 2010. I got about 1/5 of the way through it before my move to Seoul, by which time I was immersed in such a different life and setting that I found it hard to focus and write. What prompted me to return to this project, knowing that so much extra work awaited me? Surely I could have devoted my time and energy in ways more profitable. On the other hand, my job paid well enough that I could so indulge myself if I really wanted. Believe me, I often questioned the wisdom of that choice. I had already laid a solid foundation for this book about the Chicago Cubs and could hardly bear—no pun intended—to see that go to waste. Getting back into the swing of things after a long layoff was not easy, so it was done gradually. I knew, however, that I would soon be up to my eyeballs once again in this subject. I savor the learning process involved in researching and writing books but not as much as conveying information (combined with a little authorial attitude) to the reader.

Three issues in particular brought me back to the story of the Cubs. The first pertains to Adrian “Cap” Anson. This native of Iowa played a record 27 seasons (1871-1897) of major league baseball, all but five of them for the team in Chicago then known as the White Stockings. The greatest 19th century ball player, Anson was the first man to reach 3,000 hits. That legacy is seemingly forgotten in light of his role in solidifying the sport’s color bar, which persisted until the mid-1940s. Why Anson, so highly regarded by his peers, fans and the sporting press, felt threatened by the specter of interracial competition is a question about which we can only speculate. As I said in the book, Anson was a flawed man and a relic of his times.

Our second item involves the famous poem penned by Franklin Pierce Adams of the New York Evening Mail in 1910. I refer, of course, to “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon,” told from the perspective of a rueful New York Giants fan witnessing the double-play combination of shortstop Joe Tinker, second baseman Johnny Evers and first baseman Frank Chance. Those men had been part of the Cubs’ 1907 and 1908 World Series winners. Adams’ masterpiece went like this: “These are the saddest of possible words / Tinker to Evers to Chance / Trio of bear cubs and fleeter than birds / Tinker and Evers and Chance / Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble / Making a Giant hit into a double [play] / Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble / Tinker to Evers to Chance.” The poem was immediately and widely popular, and other sportswriters copied or parodied it.

Finally, there is the matter of Wrigley Field—built in 1914 for a rival team in a rival league that lasted just two seasons. Who might have known that it would still be in use almost a century later or that it would be so well-loved? The ivy on the outfield fence, the intimacy of the ballpark with the Chicago skyline in the background, the people who watch games from the other side of Waveland and Sheffield avenues—Wrigley Field and the Red Sox’ Fenway Park are the last of their kinds.

There were many other people and issues to address, including Gabby Hartnett’s 1938 “Homer in the Gloamin’,” Ernie Banks, the team’s late-season collapse in 1969 and Sammy Sosa’s steroid-fueled home run race with the Cardinals’ Mark McGwire in 1998, for example. The Cubs have not been on top for a very long time, but they are one of baseball’s most popular teams. They made for a rich story.

One final point. Its title notwithstanding, the book contains more than 600 Q&As. I always like to give the reader his or her money’s worth.