When he ran into Ozzie Smith at the Hall of Fame ceremony July 27, Ernie Banks stopped in his tracks. Smith wanted to talk about the Chicago Cubs — the first-place Cubs — and Mr. Cub was happy to listen.

“He said, ‘Man, Lake Michigan must be upside down. You got the league upside down, man. You ain’t supposed to be in first place,’ ” Banks said.

Banks, 77, has been waiting a long time for his beloved Cubs to reach the World Series, which they last did in 1945. Their second — and last — Series title was in 1908.

Banks says this year is different — it’s the Cubs’ year.

“It’s time,” he said. “They’re bringing signs to Wrigley Field and they say, ‘It’s Gonna Happen.’ “

All the bad stuff that has been keeping the Cubs out, well, Banks is doing a study.

“Voodoo and hoo-doo,” he said. “We got to get on top of that.”

Banks says he is hatching a plan to be included on the Cubs’ World Series roster so he can be the most senior player to play in the Fall Classic.

Meantime, Banks said part of him isn’t going anywhere. That would be the statue of him outside Wrigley.

“When I’m not here, I’m going to be here,” he said.

• MCCAIN SHOWS SMARTS — What’s this, a politician who won’t comment? At a town hall meeting in Wisconsin this past week, the first question John McCain fielded was whether he could settle the Brett Favre-Packers issue.

“I’m not so dumb that I’m going to jump into that one,” McCain said.

Along those lines, Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia was surprised to learn that the Packers reportedly offered Favre $20 million if he chose retirement.

“That is the definition of leverage, somebody offering you $20 million not to play,” Scioscia said.

• BARRY BEING BARRY — So Barry Switzer is playing himself in an episode of “Amazing Grace.” Who else could? Yes, it’s hard to imagine a stand-in for Switzer, unless it’s Will Ferrell or John C. Reilly, who are in everything else.

• CC GIVES THANKS — That was a nice gesture by Milwaukee Brewers pitcher CC Sabathia, thanking Cleveland fans for their support in a full-page ad in the Plain Dealer. It cost $12,870.

Sounds like a lot, but with an $11 million annual salary, Sabathia can afford it. He probably could buy the entire paper.

• CAN’T RUN A SKINNY POST — The Tennessee Titans have released pass-catcher Mike Williams, a one-time top-10 draft pick whose offseason weight had ballooned as high as 270 pounds.

Guess that wasn’t the definition of wide receiver the Titans had in mind.

• COUGHIN’ CORNER — Canadian racewalker Tim Berrett, training for his fifth Olympic Games, says it’s not easy simulating Beijing’s smoggy conditions.

“Other than pulling my treadmill into the garage, starting the car and hoping I come out two hours later,” he told the Kingston (Ontario) Whig-Standard, “there isn’t really a lot I can do to get ready for it.”


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