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Belushi isn't a Dodger blue brother

BASEBALL PLAYOFFS

October 01, 2008|T.J. SIMERS

CHICAGO -- I'm waiting for luggage at O'Hare with Jim Belushi. We're both going to be at Wrigley Field tonight.

He will be the Cubs' guest, singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the seventh-inning stretch. I hope they have a seat in the press box. We played together as kids in our hometown of Wheaton, Ill., climbing the same tree.

Obviously Belushi is a much better climber.

According to Jim, the Cubs are going to win this series. He's wearing a Cubs cap, and he's going to be the emcee at a downtown rally.

It's late. He knows I work for The Times, and so he understands the difficulty of hitchhiking. He offers a ride in his car.

Right away I recall he was arrested for stealing a car in Wheaton. But what the heck.

On the ride to the hotel, we're talking about Bob Woodward, you know, Woodward & Bernstein, Watergate, and Woodward is another Wheaton youngster. We're also talking Cubs and Dodgers, and Belushi is going on about the goat, the black cat and Bartman, but now, he says, this is the Cubs' year.

He's even written new lyrics for the song fans sing after every victory. And you can imagine what a chore it must have been to come up with lyrics for a song that goes, "Go, Cubs, Go. Go, Cubs, Go."

Now I don't know how to explain it, but as much as I loved the Cubs, taking the Northwestern from Wheaton and then the El to sit in the bleachers as a youngster, catching home runs hit by Donn Clendenon and Curt Flood, and later being out there with an idol, Bill Veeck, I hear myself telling Belushi, "I think the Dodgers can win this."

No one says anything for a minute, as if allowing time for a retraction, or word to get to Sam Zell.

Zell owns The Times and the Cubs, and I have no idea the penalty for rooting against Sam's team, but he's sure gotten rid of people around here for less cause.

I really don't know what happened. I loved the Cubs. I remember insisting the wife memorize the Cubs' starting lineup. I modeled my pitching form after Ted Abernathy. I recall telling people, "I can't die until they win it all."

Maybe that explains why I'm suddenly rooting for the Dodgers -- I've got a chance to live longer following them.

But no, I really do see Derek Lowe winning Game 1 in what should be a wild, wild setting, winning one of the next two in a slugfest and Lowe closing out the Cubs on Sunday. All this leads to a wager.

That's right, I'm betting $50 on the Dodgers to continue the Cubs' misery, the Choking Dogs to beat my boyhood heroes, the money going to the John Belushi Memorial Scholarship fund at the College of DuPage, should the Cubs prevail.

And Belushi agrees to donate $50 to Mattel Children's Hospital at UCLA if the Dodgers advance. For some reason, Belushi seems pretty excited about the sick kids never seeing that money.

We part Monday night only to meet again Tuesday at Wrigley. I'm there to motivate the guys. Belushi must think they're serving food.

"T.J., you're going to die," says Jeff Kent while sitting in the visitors' dugout. "A blood clot from your knee is going to kill you."

And I'm rooting for the Dodgers? I'm hoping the Dodgers keep playing so I can spend some more time with Kent before he leaves town for good?

I run into Manager Joe Torre, who is hugging Belushi. Never hugged me. In fact, he's urged me to take time off and get away from the ballpark. As far as possible.

Belushi is telling Torre, "I'll be in the second row for the game in Dodger Stadium Saturday. I'm there for you."

"The guy's a Cubs fan," I tell Torre.

"He's loyal," says Torre, the former Yankees manager. "What do you know about loyalty?"

I'm beginning to understand why it's so hard for some folks to be Dodgers fans.

I limp over to Russell Martin. I mention what it's like to be a long-suffering fan, and tell him a Dodgers win will rip the heart out of the people of Chicago.

"That would be great," says Martin with the same kind of glee one sees in horror films after a slaughter.

He goes on to say he's dreamed about this since being a kid. He grows up in Canada, hockey, the Stanley Cup, and a few minutes later he's talking about the time figure skater Elvis Stojko beat up hockey player Eric Lindros in a bar-room fight.

How about dreaming of two Dodgers playoff wins? Aren't you nervous to face the favored Cubs?

"Can't you see how nervous I am?" he says, and I can't imagine our guys being any looser for an exhibition game. But I was here in '84 for the playoffs, Cubs fans in a frenzy, the Padres becoming unglued, losing 13-0 and that's my $50 on the line.

I'm explaining this to Matt Kemp to better prepare him for the scene, before I realize he was like 13 days old when the ball was rolling under Leon Durham's glove, the Cubs collapsing again.

"I think there's a hex on the Cubs," says Larry Bowa, the difference between the Cubs and Dodgers the last 20 years, the Cubs were jinxed and the Dodgers were just no good.

Maybe the Dodgers are better now, as if it really matters, because the Cubs are cursed. More money for the kids at Mattel.

"You're with us, aren't you?" says Kemp, and right now is no time to jump off the bandwagon.

One bad knee is enough.

--

T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com. To read previous columns by Simers, go to latimes.com/simers

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