Lenny Puddock writes of his experiences as a Chicago Cub during the 2011 baseball season. Puddock is a 32-year-old physical therapist for the Indianapolis National Institute of Fitness and Health who attended Randy Hundley’s Fantasy Camp. Part of the Fantasy Camp experience is his developing friendship with Gertrude Castellano, a waitress who becomes a singing star. They romance at a distance. Puddock is invited to the Cubs’ Spring Training after an outstanding performance at the Camp. The Cubs offer him a contract with the Daytona Class A team and he accepts. Puddock is moved up to Class AA Tennessee in mid-May and is called up to the Cubs in mid-July. He was batting .378. In mid-August Mike Quade resigns as manager. Ryne Sandberg, who had an escape clause in his contract with a Phillies Minor League team, becomes the Cubs manager. When Puddock joined the parent club, the Cubs were 10 ½ games out of first place. By the end of August they are four from the Wild Card spot. In the waning days of August the roster was two short due to injuries. Sandberg did not want to disrupt the Iowa or Tennessee playoff-bound teams, so he activated Greg Maddux and himself, thinking the roster had to contain the maximum 25 players. Plans were to activate two players before the August 31 midnight deadline but due to an intern’s goof not recognizing the difference in Eastern Standard Time and Central Standard Time, the move came too late. In essence the Cubs would have only a 23-player Post-Season roster. The Cubs win their Division and League playoffs and enter World Series for the first time in 76 years. In an amazing ninth inning of the seventh game, the Cubs win the Series.
Puddock’s Visit To Rip At Phoenix Hospital Friday, August 26 Really bad news. Gertie called and Rip’s in the hospital maybe near death. I never mentioned but he is diabetic and Gertie said his blood sugar went up to 625. In addition, and maybe more serious, he has a bad case of pneumonia. As I understand diabetics, the figure should be around 100 so 625 must be really bad. I don’t know Rip very well but from our trip to Old Tucson and a few other times, especially one day when we talked a lot of baseball, he struck me as a good kid with a good head. Maybe I should call him when I get a chance. Tuesday, August 30 Thursday’s an off day and Sandberg said he would rest me tomorrow. Thus after tonight’s game here in Frisco I don’t play ‘til Friday afternoon in Chicago.. I have an early morning reservation for a flight to Phoenix and will join Gertie at the Phoenix Children’s Hospital. I understand Rip’s been asking for me, hope my visit with him does some good, Hope also it alleviates Gertie’s pain somewhat. Don’t know where I’ll stay tomorrow night, Gertie invited me but I don’t know, bad, bad. I think of that swimming pool scene. Maybe I shouldn’t go to Phoenix. Wednesday, August 31 Arrived in Phoenix in time for breakfast at Gertie’s but of course she was at the hospital. I ate a slow breakfast mainly about five cups of coffee, at the airport while trying to decide my move--- check in at the Crowne Plaza Hotel or go directly to the Phoenix Children’s Hospital and let matters take their course. I chose the hotel. I shaved, tried to wake up but couldn’t shake a drowsiness and finally about mid-morning went to the hospital. Gertie was sitting at bedside reading a book. Rip was asleep. When she saw me Gertrude burst into tears, her body shaking uncontrollably as I held her tightly for several minutes. I think a tear or two came from my eyes. Gertie and I moved to the cafeteria as a bevy of technicians, and doctors took over the room. For some reason as we sipped at our mochas, I mentioned meeting her cousin just before I left Tennessee. “Good thing you got moved up,” Gertie said. “Maribeth likes to tell people she’s a reporter. She worked as a motel maid before getting some hefty hush money from some poor sucker trying to save his marriage. She’s really a mankiller. Broke up two marriages that I know of. ” I refrained from comment. Those were almost the exact words Maribeth used in describing Gertrude. We returned to Rip’s room and received good news. His blood sugar level was down to 290, still way high but out of the immediate danger zone. Main concern now was the pneumonia. I had come to Phoenix to boost Rip’s spirits. Instead I was comforting his mother simply by my presence as he drowsed from medicines most of the day. Despite what appeared to be grogginess, we had a nice talk about the Cubs, school and his ball playing. He was downcast when talking about his team and that he was done for the year. We parted company about 10 Wednesday night, she to stay in the hospital room overnight and me to return to the hotel. Except I didn’t. I got a cab (pretty expensive) to the Dobson just to see if there was hopefully someone, bartender or anyone, that I knew from the Fantasy Camp days. Strike out. I think unconsciously I wanted to hear praise for going from the Camp to the big leagues, something that never had been done. Got back to the Crowne Plaza around 1 and had three messages on my phone from Gertie, at 11:15, 12 and 12:30. She asked if she could come spend the night with me. What would you have done? Been a Good Samaritan (defined as a compassionate person who unselfishly helps others)? Two o’ clock arrived and I still hadn’t decided. It was almost three when I made my decision. Gertie belonged with her son, not me. Thursday, September 1 Awakened by the ringing of the bedside telephone, half awake I slurred into the earpiece, thinking it was Randy Wells, “Whadda ya want?” I heard a soft voice, realized who it was and where I am. “Lenny, sorry to wake you but I had to let you know,” Gertrude said. “Rip’s suffered a relapse. A half hour ago his reading was 257, a couple minutes ago it’s 308. He’s getting worse.” Gertie began sobbing uncontrollably. “Gertie, what’s being done for him,” I asked as I began pulling on a pair of pants. I sleep in my shorts. “The nurses are with him, they’ve called a doctor, Lenny, I don’t know. What have I done?” “Listen, Gertrude. Listen to me. I’ll be there as quick as I can. Stay out of the way of the medics. Sit in that chair across the room. Don’t move ‘til I get there.” Understand?” “Hurry. I need you . . . need you to.” When I got to the hospital Rip’s blood sugar reading had leveled off at 410 and quit climbing There were two doctors and three nurses hovering over the bed and Rip was not conscious. I more or less dragged Gertie to the cafeteria. It was 9:30 and my flight to Chicago was at 4. That meant I should leave the hospital by 2. What have I gotten myself into, I thought. The day dragged on. The minutes were hours long, it seemed, just like back in the third grade when Rick Gloverman and I were kept after school for some now forgotten prank. Gertie and I had returned to the room around 10:30 and shortly before I had to leave Rip stirred, opened his eyes and cried out, “Len, you came. I knew you would.” I stood at bedside, grasping his arm and holding his hand. “Rip, listen to me. You’ll be okay in a few days. You’ll face some tough times and I’ll try to ease them by calling you on the phone every day. You’ll be back in school and ready for another season before you know it’” He looked at me with a look I’ll never forget, His eyes seemed to be miles deep into his skull. They got misty and his voice was unsteady. “Len, sometime when the Cubs are up against it, and the breaks are beating the boys, tell them to go out there with all they got and win just one for the Ripper. “I don’t know where I’ll be then, Len, but I’ll know about it, and I’ll be happy. “I don’t think I ever will play again. I got no energy. But you know what, Len? I’ll play through you. Every home run you hit, well I will have hit it, too. Len, hit one for me in the World Series, bottom of the ninth, winning run. Hit it for me so then we will be the winning run, cross home plate together. Do that for me.” I squeezed his hand as he drifted off. “Rip, we’re together,” I said. “You cross home plate in front of me.” Gertrude had tears in her eyes but she wasn’t crying. She wasn’t sobbing. She looked at me, knowing time was short and I had to catch a cab for the airport. Thanks,” she managed as I held her tightly. “Lenny, I needed you, I need you. I need you to love me. I’m yours whenever you want.” “Enough,” I said. “You’re distraught, Gertie. Listen. Listen to me. Rip will be okay, he’ll get fine treatment here. Don’t get yourself ill. If we, Gertie honey, if we get into the Series, I’ll have front row tickets for both of you. Look forward to that. Just look forward.” I released her and strode from the room. I wanted to look back, to go back but I didn’t. Had I gone back, I never would have left. My Cub days would have been over. I knew I would have a lot of thinking to do during the four hours from Phoenix to Chicago.
R. Rathbone Leonard began his journalism career at age 16 as sports editor of the school paper at Culver Military Academy. As late as mid-summer of 2006 at age 79 he was an active journalist, writing a sports column for an Indianapolis suburban newspaper. In between he worked for a Cass County (Ind.) weekly on the G. I. Bill, owned a weekly in Wabash County (Ind.), was sports editor of the Frankfort (Ind.) Times, and was a reporter, sportswriter, assistant Sunday editor, assistant state editor and photo editor during a 23-year stint at The Indianapolis Star. Leonard attended the University of Chicago before serving in the U. S. Navy V-5 program (pilot training) during World War II. He attended St. Ambrose College (Iowa), Colorado College, Indiana University and Ball State University where he attained a bachelor’s degree in communications. For three years he moderated a television program on WTTV (Indianapolis) and from 1961 through 1965 published Big Time Wrestling magazine. He was interim Sports Information Director one year at Indiana Central University and Publicity Director two years for Citizens Forum of Indianapolis. This is his third book, second about the Chicago Cubs.. About The Illustrator Kelsey Bigelow aspired to be an artist since childhood, and art has been her main focus throughout her education. A “chipess” off the old block, she is the daughter of the late John Merritt Bigelow, longtime artist for The Indianapolis Star. In 2007 she earned her Bachelor's Degree in Fine Art from Herron School of Art and Design in Indianapolis. She contributed to Cubbing written by Russ Leonard, as well as numerous private commissions. Ms. Bigelow currently resides in Indianapolis with her husband and freelances as an artist and illustrator.