When you see two Cubs stumble and fall rounding first in the same game and the bottom dropping out of an already-lost season, it's time to sharpen the sarcasm and pile on.
Like who is the next greatest Cubs Killer?
The all-time champ is locked in. Michael Jack Schmidt has no equal. With 50 homers in Wrigley Field in 200 fewer at-bats than it took Henry Aaron to belt 50 at the Friendliest Confines, Schmidt is off in his own universe.
I can rightfully say I was there on April 16, 1976, when Schmidt (or Smit, as Lou Boudreau called him on the air) blasted four homers in as many at-bats as the Phillies rallied from a 13-2, fourth-inning deficit to beat the Cubs 18-16 in 10 on, of course, Schmidt's (or Smit's) final homer off the immortal Paul Reuschel. More details forthcoming in my new book, "When the Game Changed: An Oral History of Baseball's True Golden Age 1969-79." Schmidt's (or Smit's) big day is recounted by Reuschel and others, while my scorecard from that 80-degree Saturday afternoon will be reprinted on the inside jacket cover.
Only a very few strongman are even in position to challenge Schmidt (or Smit). Most prominent is Adam (The Big Donkey) Dunn with 26 Wrigley Field homers in a less than a decade. Of course, he'll go off the books if the Nats don't swing a waiver deal in the next three weeks and Dunn becomes Derrek Lee's successor at first base. The Cubs, Lou Piniella or not, crave left-handed power and you'll find fewer available producers of that commodity than Dunn.
Less hyped, more in the Joe Torre relentless category of keeping his destruction under the fences at Wrigley Field is Ryan Braun. He came into this week's three-game Brewers series at Wrigley Field with a stellar lifetime average of .357 at Clark and Addison. By the time he got an infield hit in the fourth inning Wednesday, he had raised that mark to a George Brett-style .390 via five hits Monday and three on Tuesday. Braun adds four homers and 28 RBIs to that number.
It's not bad pitching or a good hitting background or day games that spurs Braun's already capable bat to an even higher plane at Wrigley Field. He soaks up the atmosphere of playing the Cubs in a nearly full ballpark as his motivation.
"I think more than anything else I enjoy the atmosphere," Braun said. "The environment is incredible, the crowd's always into it. I think it helps you increase your intensity and focus a little bit. It's a place I've always enjoyed playing."
Braun, tall, dark and handsome enough to go into movies or TV (he's from southern California, anyway), is at least consistent in his views. In 2008, as the Cubs and Brewers battled for the NL Central title, he said he was juiced up by the big-market team from down the interstate.
“They’re certainly more than just another team,” he said. “We enjoy the atmosphere and intensity of the games we play against them more than another opponent. We’re going to know year-in and year-out we’re going to have to compete with them for the post-season. We look forward to the challenge.”
Good sightlines? Braun's best environmental factor at Wrigley is a rush of hot wind from St. Louis blowing by him in the batter's box.
"I think it's easier to see the ball when the wind's blowing out," he said with a knowing chuckle. "When the wind's blowing out, you always feel pretty good about your swing. You got to play the elements. I don't have a preference of day or night. I think the biggest factor is the environment."
Oh, the environment is really good for a reason Braun never expected this year. He's facing some green Cubs kids and a team going down the drain. As good of an atmosphere as any to reach for the cool .400 lifetime Wrigley Field average.