- The Washington Times - Monday, July 10, 2000

Mr. Cub I thinks Mr. Cub II should stay put. So there.

Ernie Banks, in the District of Columbia recently to promote hypertension awareness, was saying he can't fathom why Sammy Sosa wants to blow out of the Windy City. Rumors have swirled for about a month that the Dominican slugger has asked to be traded. The operative theory is that Sosa doesn't feel appreciated, especially by rock-rumped manager Don Baylor.

"When I played [1953-71], getting to the World Series was the big thing because it meant all that extra money," Banks was saying in a downtown restaurant. "Now Sammy makes $4 million a year, so what difference does an extra couple hundred thousand make? Anyway, you know where all the money, rings and trophies eventually go, don't you? They go to the players' ex-wives [in divorce suits]."

Sosa is in his 11th major league season, most of them as a Cub, without sniffing a World Series. "People are so great to him he's treated like a god," said Banks, a very well-preserved 69. "He has a mansion, 20 cars … You can't take a guy like that who's hit all those homers [129 in 1998 and '99] and just say, 'We're gonna trade you.' "

The last time Hall of Famer Banks might have been in these parts was in 1993, when Cal Ripken surpassed his record of 277 home runs by a shortstop. Always an uncontroversial sort, Ernie refused to speculate whether Ripken will retire after going on the disabled list recently with back problems for the third time in two seasons.

"I do know that Cal has a passion for baseball," said Banks, who had a pretty good love affair with the game himself. "He was raised in the game, and he's always going to be in it as a coach, manager, general manager, owner something. If he should choose to go in another direction, his life would be up and down."

Oh, yes, hypertension. Banks, now a business executive, was diagnosed with the illness two years ago, and he urges everyone to be checked for it by a doctor.

Bob Gibson revisited

Back when he was knocking down hitters like so many bowling pins, Bob Gibson was considered an angry young man at least when guys with sticks in their hands tried to take the bread and butter out of his mouth, to use a baseball cliche of the day.

Now, at 64, Gibson clearly is an angry old man or, to put a positive spin on it, one who speaks his mind and lets the rips fall where they may. Consider these gems from a recent interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

• On changes in the game since he last fell off a mound while delivering a pitch: "Why on earth would they upset me? I don't have any control over it. After all, I haven't thrown a ball in 25 years."

• On today's abundance of homers: "I'd rather see a 2-1 game. Now it's just who hits the last home run."

• On batters objecting with their fists to pitches that hit their fists: "If that isn't childish … I guess I would have been rolling in the dirt every fourth day. I'd have more fights than Mike Tyson. I told my teammates, 'If a guy comes out there after me, let him come out. If it looks like he's winning, then you can jump in there.' "

• On his reputation for pitching, er, close: "It sounds like that's all I ever did. It gets pretty aggravating. I used to hit the corner pretty good, too. I didn't throw at many guys, but let me tell you something when I threw at you, I hit you."

• On baseball lowering the mound after the pitcher-dominated season of 1968, when he had an invisible 1.12 ERA: "I'm still mad about that… . Now the ERAs are all 4.00 and 5.00, and everyone's complaining. Isn't that what they wanted?"

• On the difference between salaries in the '60s and now: "One year [Cardinals general manager] Bob Howsam wanted to cut me a thousand dollars. I won 20 games. He said that was just one more than I won the year before."

• On being a baseball hero of days gone by: "I'm not an 'old-timer' I'm a 'former player.' "

The ol' Redhead

News item: Vin Scully, broadcaster of Dodgers' games for 51 years, is voted the No. 1 sportscaster of the 20th century by members of the American Sportscasters Association.

Comment: Haven't those folks ever heard of Scully's late mentor, Red Barber? And if you're questioning the validity of the poll, consider this: Howard Cosell, the mouth that roared until many of us snored, was voted second best.

Eminently quotable

Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, the longest-tenured coach in the NBA at 58, denying published reports that he plans to retire after next season: "When you start talking and thinking about retirement, that's when you get up under a shade tree and don't ever come out. I'm healthy and I still feel good." …

Two-time Olympic runner Craig Virgin, on the effects of a near-fatal car wreck three years ago: "It's given me empathy for the average runner. Whether you're at the front of the pack or the middle of the pack or the back of the pack, just be glad that you can run."

Braves manager Bobby Cox, on leading the National League team for tomorrow night's All-Star Game in Atlanta's Turner Field: "It's a dream come true managing in your home city. What are the odds on that happening? You only get an All-Star game every 30 years or so. It couldn't be any better." …

U.S. boxer Jermain Taylor, on being nervous as the Sydney Olympics approach: "I worry while I'm driving that someone might hit me and I might get hurt. Or I worry when I get up in the morning that I might fall down some steps and hurt myself. I'm so close to going that all I can think of are ways I can get hurt and have to stay home."

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