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Monday, March 18, 2002
Mark Grace

Page 2 staff

Mark Grace played the first 13 seasons of his major-league career for the Cubs, becoming a fixture at first base and the bars outside Wrigley Field. As all Cubs must, however, he finally reached the World Series by leaving Chicago, after signing with the Diamondbacks last year.

Mark Grace
Mark Grace's search for a World Series ring finally ended in the desert.
His ninth-inning leadoff single against Mariano Rivera began Arizona's dramatic comeback in Game 7 and helped the Diamondbacks to the world championship.

Grace had a much shorter winter than normal, but he was well-rested and ready to hit when Page 2's Jim Caple caught up to him with 10 Burning Questions this spring.

1. Page 2: How many times have you seen the tape of Game 7?

Mark Grace: The whole game? I haven't seen it. But highlights? Probably 100 times. I still get nervous watching my at-bat.

2. A player once said that losing feels worse than winning feels good. But did the World Series make up for the years of losing?

Grace: It's worth every loss, it's worth every injury, it's worth every disappointing moment in my career. Every error you've made. Every time you've struck out with the bases loaded. All those moments of dejections. It's all worth it now, because I'll wear that ring. A lot of guys don't, but I will. Because I waited too long for it.

3. Chili Davis said that after winning the World Series for the first time, he worried all winter that he would die before getting his championship ring. After playing with the Cubs so long and waiting so long for a World Series, did you worry about that, too?

Grace: Yeah, that thought crossed my mind a couple times. It really did. I would think, what if I die before the season starts and I don't get my ring? I thought about that more than once. You want it so bad. I mean, sooooo bad, you just wish you could get it. Then if they put you in that box, at least you'll have that ring on.

Mark Grace
Even in an opposing uniform, Grace is a popular figure at Wrigley.
4. What's the difference between going to work at Wrigley Field and the stadium in Arizona?

Grace: Going to Wrigley Field is like going to a regular 9-to-5 job. I got there at nine for day games, and I was home by 5. It allowed you more time with the wife and kid.

Speaking of that, does playing a lot of day games when everyone else plays night games have an affect on the Cubs?

Grace: It does in the dog days of summer when it's real hot. I remember games when it was so hot, day in day out, you would lose 10 pounds a game in sweat weight, especially the catchers. I think it definitely affects that team. It isn't such a big deal as an opponent, because you're only in there three days. But when you're there for a homestand and it never gets below 95, that's rough.

5. Who's better looking, Wrigley Field's bleacher bums or the women in the swimming pool in Arizona?

Grace: There are so many more bleacher bums, and there are some good-looking ones. There are also some real filthy ones. As a whole, I'll take the bleachers bums.

Wrigley fans
After he retires, Grace plans to catch a few games with the Bleacher Bums.
Were you ever tempted to go sit in the bleachers during a game?

Grace: Yeah, and I'll do it some day. When I'm retired, I'll go out and sit in the bleachers.

6. You're from Winston-Salem, N.C., home of RJ Reynolds and Krispy Kreme. Which company has had a worse impact on American health?

Grace: They have both done a pretty good job of poisoning me. I like donuts. I like Krispy Kreme donuts a lot. Too much.

7. Which superpower would you choose, the strength of 100 men, ability to fly or ability to turn invisible?

Grace: Invisible ... it's much more practical. Flying, you can fly any time you want by just getting in a plane. Strength of 100 men, there's only so much you can do with that.

Mark Grace
Grace played more than his share of day games during his 13 seasons with the Cubbies.
It's unlimited.

Grace: What could you do if you had the strength of 100 men that would be so wonderful?

You could hit a home run every time up.

Grace: No you couldn't. What happens if you swung and missed? Invisible is better. With invisibility, you could go into women's locker room, and you could be a great spy.

8. Which three people, living or dead, would you invite to dinner?

Grace: Bobby Knight, Harry Caray and Vince Lombardi. Think of the stories you would hear at that table.

Did you see "Season on the Brink," and what did you think of Brian Dennehy compared to the real person?

Grace: Well, you're talking about a writer who probably isn't for Bobby that much, so you'll just get that one side of the story. But I've met the guy, and he's just tremendous. He's awesome.

Bobby Knight
Grace wouldn't hesitate to send his son off to play for Bob Knight.
Would you want to play for him?

Grace: I have a son, who if he grows up and likes basketball, I would love to have him play for him. I know he's going to get educated first, and I know he will learn to be a respectable man first, before he becomes a great basketball player.

9. If you could know in advance the day you would die, would you want to know it?

Grace: No. If I had the ability to see the future, I wouldn't want to do it. I'd rather react to situations than know the outcome in advance. I wouldn't want to go to the ballpark and know I was going to have a big day, just like I wouldn't want to know I was going to have a lousy day.

10. What's your funniest baseball story?

Grace: One day Rick Sutcliffe gave up back-to-back home runs in Cincinnati. And in Cincinnati, they shoot off fireworks after a Red hits a home run. And Sutcliffe was pretty intense on the day he pitched. So Eric Davis takes him deep and Paul O'Neill takes him deep right after that. So Sutcliffe is all pissed off, and Billy Connors comes out to the mound and Sutcliffe yells at him, "I know I gave up f---ing back-to-back home runs and get your f---ing ass back in the dugout and tell Zimmer to f---ing settle down there, too."

Billy looks at him and says, "I know you have everything under control, Rick. I just wanted to give that guy running the fireworks a little time to reload." I blew a snot bubble on the mound I was laughing so hard.