Cubs stuck with curse, Vegas with Cashman

The best thing about the Cubs-White Sox game Wednesday night was that the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association didn’t have any of its schools involved, meaning there was little chance of a forfeit or some NIAA official trying to remake the schedule in a way that would make sense only to stupid people.

The next best thing was Oscar Goodman throwing out a first pitch that traveled maybe 15 feet. It would be easy to assume either his standard showgirl sidekicks or the tugboat of a martini glass one was holding for him distracted Goodman, but I’ll go with the theory that it was his best effort and perhaps a few feet farther than expected.

Or maybe the mayor was just preoccupied with thoughts of the professional franchise Las Vegas is going to land before he departs office.

Russ Langer said the Cubs could play on the moon and draw a crowd, and by the number of blue jerseys packing Cashman Field for the first of two exhibition games here, the 51s play-by-play announcer wasn’t stretching things.

It’s the kind of major league experience that local baseball fans need, this being the lone opportunity for many to witness the game’s highest level live and also because the odds of any of them naming one member of Toronto’s Triple-A team that will reside here this year rivals that of White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen lasting an entire season without cursing.

“People have become accustomed to us having these (exhibitions),” 51s president Don Logan said. “It gets baseball in front of people and lets them know it’s that time of year again. It’s good for the community. We’re an event city. We’re obligated to do this.

“The concept started because back when UNLV basketball was one of the top programs in the country, we’d be an afterthought this time of the year. We still can’t get in your paper.”

What’s this, the classifieds?

The atmosphere was terrific Wednesday, sort of like $1 beer night with 11,459 fans that cheered and jeered and taunted as if it was a mid-July game rather than a spring training demonstration.

Dean White, director of marketing and promotion for the R-J and your typical Cubs fanatic, offered this prediction:

“We’ve waited 101 years, but the first 90 were the hardest,” White said. “This is it. We have everything we need to win it all.

“We have Milton Bradley.”

So they’re going to break a 101-year-old curse with a guy who has a tendency to act like he’s 3?

There is the theory about how for years people from cold-weather states made their way west, first filling up California and then Phoenix and then Las Vegas. Logan points to it as one reason so many Cubs fans live here.

I like his other idea better.

“Remember, there were once some very nefarious characters with ties to Chicago who got things going here,” Logan said. “It’s sort of like the friends-and-family plan.”

Maybe that’s why Goodman couldn’t throw — he was too emotional thinking about all those Cubs fans he used to defend in court.

It was hard not to look at the turnout, at the excitement, at the genuine interest in baseball here and not again think how much better the product would be locally with a new ballpark.

Logan, when introducing the Blue Jays as the city’s new affiliation, estimated the time his ownership group and any community support they could extract needed to finalize plans on a ballpark at three to six months. But then the economy crashed like the Cubs in late September and, well, it suddenly appears watching baseball in the lovable landfill that is Cashman won’t end for years.

“There couldn’t be a worse time than now, both privately and publicly,” Logan said. “No one is lending money. Nobody is doing anything. We knew we would still be (in Cashman) through 2010, anyway, but that will probably have to get extended a little bit.

“There really is no dialogue. We’ve been told to see what happens at the state legislature level. Once all that gets worked out, we’ll get back together.”

One person he shouldn’t bring to any such meeting is Guillen. He played his only year with the Las Vegas Stars in 1984, which means he was around when things such as metal bleachers and undersized locker rooms and not enough restrooms were considered fashionable.

“I don’t think they need a new ballpark,” Guillen said, somehow with a straight face. “They’ve done a tremendous job over the years keeping this ballpark up. They’ve made a lot of great changes.”

At this point, it was required we look for signs of Guillen being in possession of Goodman’s martini glass. You know, the one you could take a bath in.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at 702-383-4618 or

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