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Shadowy “Shawon-O-Meter” Recollections

By Dave Cihla

June 5, 2009, will mark the 20th anniversary of the Shawon-O-Meter. It seems like only yesterday. But the VHS cassette tape I've retrieved from the attic serves as a reminder of just how long ago it was. The video quality has dulled with age but you see enough to take you back to a different time. The big permed hairdos and the pink Izod shirts - some of the trademark looks of the eighties - are on display in the stands and in the broadcast booth.

Shawon Dunston and Dave CihlaWe first raised the Shawon-O-Meter in the left field bleachers of Wrigley Field, in a game against the New York Mets. The makeshift placard displayed the batting average of the Cubs shortstop, the rifle-armed Shawon Dunston, followed by the words "And rising!!!"

The Shawon-O-Meter followed Shawon through the nineties, as Shawon was traded to San Francisco in 1995 and then back to the Cubs for the 1996 season. His last season was 2002 with the Giants. We brought the Shawon-O-Meter to several games at Wrigley when Shawon was on opposing teams, usually to the grumblings of a few Cub fans.

There were so many great memories from these years, but one that stands out for me came in that same year the Shawon-0-Meter made its debut. It was at the end of that season, in the San Francisco Airport, during the 1989 National League Championship Series between the Cubs and the San Francisco Giants. Rick Reuschel, the big righty who had starred for the Cubs in the seventies and early eighties, was in the twilight of his career and pitching now for the other side. The ex-farmboy was walking through the concourse with a beautiful blond by his side when I approached him. Just a day earlier, the Cubs pummeled him in Game 2 of the NLCS, scoring five earned runs and chasing him off the mound before he could finish the first inning. It would have been understandable if he'd blown me off, but he didn't. Upon noticing the “Shawon-O-Meter” tucked under my arm, he asked, “Is that the Shawon-O-Meter?" I confirmed that it was, indeed, the real Shawon-O-Meter and he went on to ask me how I'd gotten out to San Francisco and if the Cubs had picked up the tab (they hadn't).

The more we talked the more it became apparent that Rick Reuschel was still a Cub at heart, if not in uniform. He knew our day would come, but not this year. He would go on to pitch and notch the win in Game 5 of the NLCS allowing no earned runs in eight innings pitched, sending the Giants to the World Series. It has taken almost twenty years and lots of heartache but I can’t help but think, Good for him.

Original versions of the Shawon-O-Meter are stored in the archives of the Smithsonian Institution, Baseball Hall of Fame and Chicago History Museum.

Dave Cihla, the inspiration behind the "Shawon-0-Meter," will be on hand for the Lovable Losers Literary Revue on Tuesday, August 5, 7:30 p.m., at El Jardin Restaurant, 3335 N. Clark St., Chicago.

Posted on Sunday, August 3, 2008 at 09:41PM by Registered CommenterLovable Losers Literary Revue | Comments14 Comments | References1 Reference

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