It is too easy to poke fun here.
Way, way too easy.
When Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury and her clerk Jane Quinlan volunteered to coach third base at Saturday’s first Battle of the Burbs charity softball game and one of their decisions almost maimed another mayor, the columnist in me had jokes filling throughout my head.
There was plenty of fodder for comparing that decision to the decisions they make to run their town. All in good fun, of course.
But then I started thinking about the one time I had to coach third base for my son’s Orland Youth Association game and some of the conversations I’ve had in 2003 and 2004 with Cub third base coach Wendell Kim (who some Cubs fans will say was the worst third base coach ever) and all jokes are off.
Setting the Saturday night scene, the Battle of the Burbs was a 16-inch softball game between area mayors (they called themselves the BigHitters) and area police and fire chiefs (they called themselves GunSmoke) at Standard Bank Stadium in Crestwood. The chiefs won, 26-12.
Bury and Quinlan, citing that they weren’t the best athletes around, volunteered to coach third base and if enthusiasm were the criteria, these two could be in the hall of fame.
With runners at first and second in the first inning, one of the mayors got a clean hit and the runners were off to the races.
The dynamic duo in the third base box windmilled their arms and cheered as Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin raced home with a run.
Then the dangerous duo waved home Harvey mayor Eric Kellogg.
The ball came in to the catcher while Kellogg was trapped between third and home. He put on the brakes to retreat back to third and slipped and fell. He got up and ran out of the base path to avoid a tag and was ruled out.
This is a guy who was more athletic than most of the mayors as evidenced by him doing a bunch of pushups near the third base dugout the following inning. A tough guy.
Lucky for the third base coaches that it wasn’t one of the other brittle-boned bosses who took the tumble or there could have been an ambulance called in. Broken hips were waiting to happen.
What some people fail to realize is that the job of a third base coach can be pretty stressful.
Many years ago, I was called into duty for my son’s Orland Youth Association playoff game and let me tell you that it’s a lot easier to coach third base from the press box or the stands than it is from the third base box. I don’t remember making any big mistakes because I always assumed correctly that these kids were not good enough to throw and catch the ball so I was safe there.
But when I did hold up a stop sign and a kid ran through it and was easily safe at home, I felt bad that a kid who hadn’t turned 10 had better sense than I did.
That brings us to the man known as “Wavin’ Wendell Kim. He may not be as unpopular to Cubs fans as Steve Bartman in that era, but he’s right up there.
Kim used to tell me about how much homework and research he had to do on opposing outfielders and knowing his own players’ health to make a bang-bang, split-second decision. And yes, sometimes he would get it wrong for all the world to see.
“Certain things you can’t control,” he said during a one-on-one interview with me for a feature for what was once known as the Daily Southtown in 2004. “If a runner makes a wide turn and I’ve already sent him from second base — it’s too late. If he makes a sharp turn, he makes it by two steps. It’s not all up to me. I can just send him because I know the speed of the guy. But if he makes a wide turn, that’s tough. You’re losing two or three steps. That could cost you the game.’’
You need thick skin to be a third base coach.
“I’ve already had a .38 (caliber gun) to my head,’’ the 53-year-old Kim told the media after he gaffed during a game against the White Sox and referring to an incident when he was in his 20s and a group of thugs thought he had given them up to the police. “That’s worse than anything I’ve ever known. This is still a game.’’
So, Bury and Quinlan deserve a salute for their work at third base and let’s give thanks that Kellogg’s bones didn’t turn into Rice Krispies.
Better Battle ahead
Battle in the Burbs raised about $4,000 for Special Olympics and the event drew roughly 300 people.
Officials were happy with those numbers because they admitted they hastily put this event together in three weeks. They said that next year, with better planning, there should be more participants, more fans and, more important, more dough going into the charity coffers.
Jiggles and Jerry
My favorite excerpt from a press release this week comes from our pals at Advocate Children’s Hospital. Complete with fun puns:
“Witches, goblins and ghouls will invade the Zhou B. Art Center in Chicago at 6 p.m. Saturday when Advocate Children’s Hospital hosts its 15th annual Hearts for Hope Halloween Bash.
In fact, the ‘spooktacular’ night will be anything but ‘bash’ful as guests arrive decked out in their most creative costumes and evening attire to raise funds for the growth and expansion of Advocate Children’s Hospital — Oak Lawn. The event promises to be a scream, organizers say.
The evening of tricks-and-treats will include special guest emcee Jerry Taft, meteorologist for ABC-7 Chicago.
Partygoers will glide, bump and jiggle throughout the night to music by the Ron Bedel Orchestra, which guarantees to get guests on the dance floor, grooving to the variety of musical genres the band performs…”
It’s been awhile — maybe even never — since I saw anyone gliding, bumping and jiggling all night. But tickets for this bad boy are 225 bones (see, I can do the Halloween puns, too) apiece so there better be a lot of jiggling going on for that kind of scratch.
Visit advocatehealth.com/halloweenbash for more of the gory details.