Archive for Sunday, October 12, 2003

KU’s Self sings praises of long-suffering Cubs

October 12, 2003


"Bill Self roots, roots, roots for the Cubbies.If they don't win it's a shame.For it's one, two, three strikes you're out at the ol' ballgame."

Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self, guest conductor for the song, "Take Me out to the Ballgame" during the seventh-inning stretch of a midsummer contest two seasons ago at Wrigley Field, is a Chicago Cubs fan -- and proud of it.

"Absolutely. Yes, the Cubs can win it," declared Self, who became a Cubs booster in 1982 as a student at Oklahoma State University "because of WGN. You could get every game on television.

"The Cubs can win it because they've got two guys who can get them four wins in a long series," said Self, who followed the Cubs closely from 2000-03 during his three years as University of Illinois basketball coach in Champaign, Ill.

Those 'two guys', who this baseball postseason are trying to propel the Cubs to their first World Series appearance since 1945 and first Series crown since 1908, are power pitchers Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, who have been called the "Koufax and Drysdale" of this era.

"I think it's great what's going on in the series," Self said of the Cubs-Florida Marlins NLCS. "If only the Giants were playing, it'd be perfect."

Self is a not a Giants fan, but an admirer of San Francisco slugger Barry Bonds, who has belted 658 home runs in 18 years in the big leagues.

"I think he changes the sport," Self said. "Nobody else changes the sport. It's like Shaq changes basketball or like Wilt changed the rules of basketball," he said of dominant centers Shaquille O'Neal and Wilt Chamberlain.

"Bonds has taken conventional baseball and whenever he's at the plate thrown it out the window because there are things they do to him or try to do to him that don't make any sense from a baseball purist standpoint."

The Cubs have a similar game-breaker in Sammy Sosa, who has bashed 539 homers in 15 seasons.

"I think he's a good player," said Self, "but with all due respect to Sammy, there's only one guy in the National League you intentionally walk on four pitches when there's a runner on base."

That would be Bonds.

Self played college basketball, but he knows his baseball, having played the sport as a youngster in Edmond, Okla.

He admits it was a thrill two summers ago throwing out the first pitch at a Cubs game, then singing in the seventh inning with three of his U of I players who also were "Cubs guys."

Self and his Illini players became part of an illustrious group to have sung at Wrigley Field since the death of broadcaster Harry Caray in 1998. Those following in Caray's footsteps as conductor in the seventh include actors such as Tom Arnold, James Belushi, John Cusack and Mel Gibson, talk show host Jay Leno, and other celebrities such as Dick Clark, Mike Ditka, Donald Trump and Jimmy Buffett.

"When I threw out the first pitch, I actually threw it to Prior," Self said of the young Cubs' pitching sensation. "He was just called up. I was nervous throwing it to him. I thought I was going to throw one in the dirt, he is going to catch it and split his fingernail or something."

Self, by the way, will answer questions about the Cubs and/or any other topics during a chat at at 10 a.m. Monday.

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