Goodbye, Gracie

Mark Grace announced his retirement the other day. He was, for years, my favorite Cub. He didn’t have all the tools (power and speed being his primary deficiencies), but the tools he did possess he employed just about as well as anyone.

He had a good eye at the plate and seemingly never wasted an at-bat. Even if a pitcher got him out, it was always a headache. He fouled off pitch after pitch after pitch … after pitch and then took one an inch outside on the corner. Grace could go the other way and could turn on a ball inside. The man was a doubles machine — 510 in all.

In the field he was just as great, digging countless balls out of the dirt. Who knows how many errors he saved Cubs shortstops over the years, winning four gold gloves. He didn’t have the power you expect from a first baseman, but he left the home run hitting to Sosa.

I’ll always remember his performance in the 1989 playoffs on the Cubs’ last division-winning team. He went 11-for-17 with one home run, three doubles, a triple, eight RBI and four walks. Amazing stuff.

It’s a shame he wasn’t surrounded with better players during his years with the Cubs. He and Sosa were the constants. Which is why it was so wonderful to see him win the World Series with the Diamondbacks, which was (just about) the most gratifying sporting event I’ve ever seen. Hopefully it will soon be complemented by a Cubs’ World Series win. And a Red Sox championship … next year.

In his retirement announcement Grace said, “Chicago, thank you for 13 fabulous years. If we’re not going to be in it this year, believe me, I’m pullin’ for you guys.”

Thanks, Gracie. It was always easy to pull for you.