Chicago • Maybe it was race driver Jeff Gordon's shout out to the fans at "Wrigley Stadium." Or Ozzy Osbourne, who decided the lyrics of "Take Me Out to The Ball Game" were not nearly as interesting as the mostly unintelligible words he'd picked out for himself. Or perhaps it was actress Denise Richards, who brought along a little cheat sheet in case she forgot the words.
Whatever the reason, the Chicago Cubs have decided to make the broadcast booth at Wrigley Field, and more importantly, the microphone, off limits to the likes of Vanna White, Erik Estrada and Mickey Rooney. Marion Ross will apparently be the last member of the "Happy Days" cast to sing during the seventh-inning stretch. No more Kid Rock, who, as the story goes, knew it was customary to say something at the end of the song, but went with "Let's get some lunch!" instead of the more traditional "Let's get some runs."
"I think the last couple of years we had gotten away to a couple of people who weren't tied to Chicago," said Jim Oboikowitch, the Cubs in-game programming director in what might be a bit of understatement after more than a decade of Peter Frampton, David Cassidy, Barbara Eden and Frank Sinatra (Junior) leading the Wrigley faithful in song.
Actor Joe Mantegna, a Chicago native and lifelong Cubs fan who has led the singing at Wrigley at least four times, said he agrees with the change. The co-author of play "Bleacher Bums" said there is something wrong with some "Jose Schmo who won an Oscar, is from Canada and hates baseball" donning a Cubs jersey and singing the song. Wrong in many ways, too: See YouTube for the evidence and bring your ear plugs.
At the same time, as a fan of a team that hasn't won the World Series since 1908, Mantegna won't rule out bringing in someone anyone if it can somehow help the Cubs break the most infamous drought in American sports.
"If it takes bringing a Martian to sing to get into the World Series, I'd advocate for that," he said.
Around the majors
Rangers • Lance Berkman is set to make his spring training debut for the Texas Rangers on Thursday.
Berkman had been bothered by a mild right calf strain.
Yankees • Count union head Michael Weiner among those skeptical of the New York Yankees' stated plan to reduce payroll next year.
Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner says the team wants to get under the $189 million luxury tax threshold in 2014. Says Weiner: "I imagine that Mr. Steinbrenner is sincere when he says that, but like a lot of things, I'll believe it when I see it."
O Sunday, March 31
Texas at Houston