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SportsMonday: The Cup at Wrigley

And to cap it all off, Patrick Sharp slid into second and Duncan Keith called him safe.

At least that could have been what happened as the last of the Blackhawks left the infield Sunday. I saw them over by the bag out of the corner of my eye after I'd been watching Paul Konerko shaking all the Blackhawks' hands as well as the hands of anyone else wearing red who filed past him down the right field line as the organ-i-zation exited the field.

It all capped off a glorious pre-game ceremony at Wrigley that I had the great good fortune to view from my customary perch in the upper deck reserved.

It must be said the Joel Quenneville's first pitch arched high in the air and came up well short - in other words, it was lame. And so was Jonathan Toews giving the ball to Quenneville for the pitch rather than just heaving it himself.

On the other hand, it was perfect that the Cubs' leading hockey fan, British Columbia native Ryan Dempster, caught the one-hop toss, took the ball out to the mound and traded it for his chance to hoist the Stanley Cup. A few minutes earlier, man did that Cup look cool when the Hawks put it in the middle of the pitcher's mound.

The Hawk coach had been in fine form a few minutes earlier when he carried the Cup from one dugout to another and gave it to Ozzie Guillen for his chance to thrust it skyward. The best trophy ever is just so perfect for grabbing by both ends and pressing it as high as you can over your head.

Surely there were plenty of other folks in the stands who would have joined me in being okay with canceling the baseball game at that point and just having as many people in the crowd as was possible before, say, midnight file past it on the field and just give it tens of thousands of nice little pats.

Later a few players and the Cup returned to prominence (in the press box) for the seventh inning stretch. The singing wasn't anything to write home about but did TV viewers see Toews and Kane and their mates in the booth take off their beautiful red Blackhawk sweaters and throw them down into the upper deck after they finished singing? It was unbelievable. And two of those sweaters made it down to the first row of the balcony. They were close to floating all the way down to the seats behind home plate.

Could a team be more generous? We know there is a tradition of NHL champs taking the Cup to as many fans as they can, but surely no team has been more accessible than the Hawks during their incredible four-day party since their mid-week triumph. One of the many wonderful things about this championship has been so many fans, old and new alike, being reminded of how determinedly gregarious so many hockey players are. These are the guys who never forget how much good fortune comes into play in terms of making it to the NHL and then even more so in terms of having success in the NHL.

And the Cup helps, of course. It is nice and shiny but it is substantial . . . it doesn't need to always be carried with kid gloves and therefore league officials aren't too nervous about it being damaged. And so the champs take it hither and yon and so many people have a chance the share in the great feelings this championship has produced.

One small quibble: Couldn't we have heard "Here come the Hawks, the migh-ty Blaaaackhawks . . . " a time or two? It could have replaced the fourth rendition of that ever-so-familiar Chelsea Dagger bouncefest without anyone having been too unhappy.

And then they did play a baseball game and I suppose a few things should be said about it, what with it being a double no-hitter and all . . . into the bottom of the seventh, that is, but still, it was quite memorable.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Lou, for not asking Ted Lilly if he wanted to stay on the mound after Juan Pierre broke up the no-no leading off the ninth. Or perhaps Piniella did ask Lilly if he wanted to stay in and then ignored the answer. Because if I am sure about anything about any single player on the Cubs it is that Ted Lilly doesn't ask out of games.

Either way, managers who ask pitchers if they want to stay in, leave them in if they say yes and then make sure the media knows about it afterward when it goes wrong - that is the worst kind of leadership copout. It was always one of Dusty's favorites.

As for specifics about Lilly's masterpiece, well, it is tough to draw any conclusions about pitching from down the right-field line in the upper deck. You obviously don't have a great vantage point. Lilly was his usual fly-ball inducing self and the flags above the centerfield wall stayed absolutely limp throughout. The faintest of breezes would have blown several deep flies right on out of Wrigley on an average summer night.

But this night at Wrigley was anything but average.

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It came.

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It saw.

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It conquered.

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The Cub Factor: Piniella Outclassed.

The White Sox Report: Kenny Hendry.

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Jim Coffman rounds up the sports weekend every Monday in this space. He welcomes your comments.

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