A Cup of Coffee

If you follow baseball,–or have you’ve seen enough baseball movies–you might be familiar with the term “a cup of coffee.”

In baseball parlance, a cup of coffee refers to situations where a player has an especially short stint with a Major League Baseball team.

An example might be that a team calls a player up from its minor league farm system, and adds the player to its roster; however the player might only appear in only a few games, or no games at all.

In many cases they might never return to Major League Baseball again.

On baseball’s Opening Day a few weeks ago, I had a fond recollection (a “misty, water-colored memory”  Barbara Streisand might say) of my own cup of coffee in the big leagues, with the team in my adopted hometown.

The Call

I will never, ever, forget the thrill of checking my voicemail to hear a message from the Chicago Cubs. My first reflex was to call back immediately. Though I paused a few minutes to allow my quickened pulse and respiration rates to calm down.

When I returned the call, I was asked if I could report to Wrigley Field the following day! I was given instructions on which door to enter and how to get their personnel offices.

Their personnel offices! My only experience on the inside of Wrigley was for fan seating, concession stands, and bathrooms. Now, I was being invited into their offices, though what sounded like a secret entrance.

Photograph of scoreboard at Wrigley Field. In descending order:Three flagpoles showing various national league teams. The analogue clock, main board showing scores of other games, top of centerfield bleachers.

The Friendly Confines


This might be an appropriate time to clarify that “the call” from the Cubs was to schedule an interview for a graphic designer position where I would be working on their print publication (or “magazine” as the kids used to say), which I believe was called “Vineland.”

The interview was early on a chill morning, thus when offered a beverage, I chose the hot and caffeinated option. Regardless of the outcome of the meeting I knew I could truthfully say that I was called up by the Cubs for a cup of coffee.


The conversations that I had with HR, and one of the designers, went really well. At that point in my life, I had already logged many thousands of hours on Macintosh computers; and Quark XPress, then the industry’s dominant computer, and design software, respectively. I also offered experience in management, and had done a bit of copywriting.

Though, most of my work been had with a real estate publisher, followed by some freelance jobs making truck parts mailings. My portfolio was a bit of a yawner. I did not expect to get a job offer.

Still, I left the interview feeling great. When I got home, I wrote up notes of thanks to the people who interviewed me. Then I worked on some other opportunities I was pursuing.

Early the next day, I picked up some stamps and mailed the letters. I literally got my rejection in the mail moments later. It was as if the Cubs had thrown me a high, inside, fastball (“chin music” is the appropriate baseball term in this case).

I was mildly impressed by the speed of the rejection. I realized later, that they had some candidates in mind when I interviewed.

I hope they had at least waited until I was out of the building before generating their form-rejection letter.

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It’s a curious thing that, for the majority of my life, Super Bowl weekend has caused me to wonder about the health of a person whom I’ve never met, and likely won’t ever meet.

This all began at the age of 16. That year, as a high school junior, I took Anatomy with a teacher, Mary Cabell,  who was something of a school legend, largely because of her knowledge of the subject, coupled with her wry (and occasionally caustic) sense of humor.

She made every topic instantly relatable with a one-line “case study” of any injury, illness, or treatment, to which she attached a familiar name of someone ( often a celebrity, fellow faculty member, or one of my teammates  who tore an ACL under the “Friday Night Lights.”) of someone who was, in her words, “ill and afflicted” with that condition.

One day, I don’t remember if we were talking about the lymphatic system, or the digestive system, or something else, but I was anticipating the name-drop of the ill-and-afflicted human subject.

She surprised us by  revealing  that years earlier–when she had  taught in Ohio–one of her students was (then future) Hall of Fame running back, Larry Csonka, a member of the Miami Dolphins teams that won two Super Bowl championships. This included one season in which they were 17-0, still the  only undefeated team in NFL history.

I assumed that Csonka was that day’s ill and afflicted subject. Though Csonka was still playing at the time, I couldn’t think of any illness that he’d had.

Then she told us that when Csonka was in her class, his sister was the victim of a violent knife attack from which she would lose her spleen and her pancreas. There were a few gasps in the room. I mouthed the words “Holy shit.”

Actually, I said the words….a  bit louder than I intended.

Thus, from the time I was 16, I’ve periodically wondered about Csonka’s sister. Was she still alive? If so, was she in good health?

Because of that one undefeated season, it seemed there was always a few moments of  highlight footage featuring  Csonka, during Super Bowl pregame shows. So, at least once a year, I flashed back to that long-ago anatomy lecture.

After a years-long waning of my interest, and steady increase in my disdain for the NFL, and the NCAA,  I stopped watching football, over a decade ago.

Though I still  wondered about the health of Csonka’s sister due to occasional reminders that were not football-related.

A few months ago, I stumbled upon some news.

I entered a bookstore, and on the shelf of new releases I saw  Csonka’s recent memoir “Head On.” Though I don’t watch football now, its past history has quite a nostalgic allure.

I thumbed through the book for a few moments. Looking for mentions of Csonka’s teammates, Bob Griese, Mercury Morris, Jim Kiick, Bob Kuechenberg, Larry Little…. I was about to close the book and reshelve it when I spotted this (paraphrased)  family update in the epilogue:

“My sister completely recovered from the stabbing, and to this day is still a horse nut.”

I smiled as if I’d received good news of a health update about family member, or close friend.

It was great to learn that she remains undefeated. I hope that her streak continues for many years to come.

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Chilled Out

Many Januaries ago, I landed at Midway Airport around 12:00 am after my flight had been delayed several hours due to a winter storm.  It was pretty cold, and windy, (which I expected,) but the snow was surprisingly gloppy (which I hadn’t expected), and was rapidly falling in teaspoonful-sized portions and sticking to everything made of asphalt, concrete, metal, glass, or anything else. I guess gloppy is easier to manage than icy, which might have explained why the flight wasn’t cancelled.

I cursed myself for having scheduled an early-morning interview for the following day. Thinking that a taxi would not make great progress in this weather, I boarded the (then) new Midway (Orange) Line north to Chicago’s Loop where I would transfer to the Ravenswood (Brown) train.

En route to the Jackson Street station, I remembered that the Brown line didn’t go north to my neighborhood after midnight (more cursing ensued).  I got off the train at the Jackson Street and was surprised that I was able to hail a taxi after only a few moments. The driver who was especially chatty, had a thick (almost caricature-level) Chicago accent and sported the obligatory Ditka mustache.

My pulse quickened a bit, when he entered Lakeshore Drive, the always-busy expressway that follows a serpentine course along the coast of Lake Michigan. I would have welcomed some stop-and-go traffic. Though the driver seemed remarkably at ease under the conditions, and talked  about growing up in Chicago and offered commentary on the local sports teams, while periodically reaching out of his open window to give the driver-side wiper a snap to dislodge the accumulating snow.

As cars blew past us, my driver became increasing agitated by others’ reckless habits  especially with SUVs that zoomed past us at speeds that were well above the safety threshold under these (or even dry, sunny)  conditions.

When one vehicle, came close to colliding with us–first from the rear and then from the right side–as it roared by the driver shouted his disapproval, while deftly injected a physics lesson–that covered friction, inertia, and maybe conservation of angular momentum–before pivoting back to his assessment of the baseball team from Chicago’s Northside:

After a few more moments I directed the driver to get off of Lakeshore Drive. He advised me that it he did that it would “take forever” to travel north because of stoplights and slow traffic. The thought that slow-paced traffic, on a straight-line road, seemed rather comforting. I told him that I had an interview in a few hours, so it would give me an opportunity to nap, so I was cool with “forever.”

“Wake me up if you get stuck so I can push you out,” were my last words before nodding off.

Seemingly moments later, the driver called out “Sir, I’m on Lawrence, near da Sears and Roebuck’s, which way am I turnin’?” Forever had arrived more quickly than I’d anticipated.

Minutes later I was in my apartment where I changed clothes, plopped onto my futon and crawled beneath the comforter. I closed my eyes momentarily and jumped up remembering I had an interview in a few hours. I anticipated a hellish morning commute to the West Loop, and set my alarm for four hours later.

Still more cursing…and a modicum of slumber ensued.

(Oh, about the video. I don’t have a mustache, and thus recording the video in Zoom, so make a digital one. It didn’t stay on very well, next time I’ll grow one, or glue one on.)

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Ice Breaker

Prior to moving to Grand Rapids, Michigan in the late 20th century, I worked in Central and North Florida, the DC area, and Chicago. 

I don’t remember ever being asked in any of the those places “What church do you go to?” or “Are you a believer?” as an ice-breaker, or small-talk, in a work situation. 

These questions have been posed to me by colleagues, clients, etc. with a sporadic amount of frequency since my relocation to Grand Rapids.

Though it seems to have been happening more often in the past couple of years. 

I don’t mind those two questions being asked, but I wish that people would recognize that my answers to those questions: “None,” and “No,” respectively, are not an invitation for them to continue the line of questioning.

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