The Chicago Cub fans have been criticized in this column before for the practice of throwing opposition home run balls back onto the playing field. Most of my criticism has really been at the Arizona Diamondback fans for imitating them. This is in no way a retraction of that opinion. Throwing away what should be a valuable souvenir is not the act of a rational person. It does nothing to build up the team you are rooting for and will probably result in future regrets. In other words, it is a stupid tradition.
Cub fans showed this week, though, that they have some class and do understand the game of baseball. The way they handled the return of Mark Grace for his first series in Chicago as a Diamondback could not have been better. The Cubs organization went out of its way to honor the man who gave them 13 years of top quality baseball. His former teammates treated him as the friend he was and still is. The media treated him with honor as well and printed only good things about the man. The fans rooted for him nearly as loudly and as much as they did for their beloved Cubs.
Grace, in return, was generous in his comments about the Cub fans and the city of Chicago. He wears a Diamondback uniform and gives his new team his best effort every time out of the chute. He did the same thing for the Cubs for every one of those 13 years. He will probably finish his career as a Diamondback and hopefully, will reach the World Series he never saw as a Cub. Make no mistake, though, Mark Grace will always be remembered as a Cub. He just finished his career as a Diamondback. When he enters the Baseball Hall of Fame, which is almost surely in his future, it should be as a Chicago Cub, no matter what he does as a Diamondback.
Turning briefly to another sports, a recent news article told of the New Orleans Saints releasing former Arizona State Sun Devil receiver Keith Poole. Poole was the favorite target of Arizona Cardinal quarterback Jake Plummer when the two were in college together. The Cardinals might be well advised to pursue signing Poole and reuniting the combination that took the Sun Devils to the Rose Bowl and to within seconds of a National Collegiate Championship.
The Cardinals had pretty good luck with Pat Tillman, who was a linebacker at Arizona State but converted to safety at the professional level. Based on what was expected of them coming out of college, Poole seems a better gamble than Tillman did at the time of his signing. It probably would not be a terribly expensive move to make and it holds the possibility of paying great dividends.
Plummer has had his moments, but some of the luster has started to fade. He did not have a memorable season the last couple of years. Perhaps the adding of his old buddy and teammate Keith Poole might be just the catalyst Jake needs to become “the Snake” again.