Notes: Nomar in the swing of things

Notes: Nomar in the swing of things

PITTSBURGH -- Watching Nomar Garciaparra since he has come back from the disabled list is a little painful because the Chicago Cubs see what they were missing for the 3 1/2 months he was sidelined.

"You think about how unfortunate it is that we didn't have him all year," Cubs second baseman Todd Walker said.

Since being activated on Aug. 5, Garciaparra was batting .333 (24-for-72) in 21 games with five homers and 10 RBIs entering Saturday's action. Project that over a full season.

"Nomar can hit," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said of the two-time batting champion.

When the season began, Garciaparra was struggling and hitting .157 in 14 games. What's the difference now?

"Just swinging," he said. "It's like third base. You go out and work on it. It's a constant adjustment and I'm constantly working at it every day."

Third base is Garciaparra's new home since Aramis Ramirez was injured. The longtime shortstop made a dazzling backhanded stop in Friday's game against the Pittsburgh Pirates to end the seventh inning and strand two runners on base.

"That was the play of the night," Baker said.

"Different things come up and you can't simulate a game," Garciaparra said of his learning experience. "I've been practicing, taking ground balls, [but] different things come up in the game that you take home and learn from. You still have to adjust."

It wouldn't seem like shortstop and third are such different positions, but they are.

"I knew that going in," Garciaparra said. "I never said it was going to be easy, I never said it was an easier position. I said I'll try it, knowing how difficult it will be. There are a lot of guys on our team doing things to get the team where we want to be."

The Cubs began Saturday with a 64-70 record. They know what they have to do.

"There's a month here," Garciaparra said. "Do we realize what our fate kind of is? You do, but at the same time, it's not respectability for ourselves but respect for the game. There's a month left in the season. If you don't get [to the playoffs], fans are still coming out there watching you, and you respect the game because they coming out to watch."

Back in action: Derrek Lee was back in the Cubs lineup on Saturday after missing one day because of a sore left foot.

Lee, the National League's leading hitter at .344, had fouled a ball off the top of his foot on Wednesday. He's only missed four games this year.

Extra bases: Greg Maddux was so ill Friday that he was throwing up after the game. Yet, he held on to pitch five-plus innings for the win. ... Walker said if he had been dealt by the Aug. 31 deadline, it would have been a "win-win" situation for him. Said Walker, "If I got traded, it was going to be to a team in the playoffs. [As for] the fact that I didn't get traded and am still with the team I originally signed with and want to be with, I'm more relieved than not." ... The Cubs have won five in a row at Pittsburgh for the first time since June 20-Aug. 5, 1989. The last time they won six in a row in Pittsburgh was May 5-June 7, 1959. The last time they won seven in a row here, which is a club record, was June 15, 1896, to June 21, 1897.

Margaritaville: While the Cubs are away, Jimmy Buffett will play concerts at Wrigley Field on Sunday and Monday. According to baseball historian Ed Hartig, Wrigley has hosted several stand-alone concerts from 1915-23. A stand-alone means you didn't have to buy a baseball ticket to attend the concert.

Wrigley has hosted dozens of pre- and post-baseball game concerts from 1915-23 and in 1984. For those, you purchased a baseball ticket and the concert was a bonus.

In 1984, the postgame concert series started about 20 minutes after the last out and lasted about one hour. The talent that first year included Big Twist and the Mellow Fellows, Jump 'N The Saddle, ShaNaNa and Chuck Berry. In recent years, the concerts have almost exclusively been held pregame.

Concerts that took place at Wrigley from 1915-23 included "The Five Juggling Normans," on June 12, 1915, part of a hippodrome act. Admission ranged from 10 cents for a grandstand seat to 30 cents for a box seat. A military band concert featuring 20 selected musicians followed the headliners with open-air dancing from 10 p.m. until midnight.

On July 9, 1916, a patriotic concert and drill session was held at Wrigley to benefit the Tribune's soldier's fund. Proceeds from the concert went to the Red Cross.

On July 12, 1922, Wrigley hosted the first of a series of six operatic concerts. The series was under the auspices of Ramah lodge, Number 33 of the Independent Order of B'nai B'rith, and proceeds were given to various charities. Tickets were 75 cents for general admission and $1.25 for box seats. A platform was built over the baseball diamond, backed by a sounding board, with the conductor standing over the pitcher's mound. Lights were brought in to illuminate the event. The first concert featured Cyrena Van Gordon, mezzo-soprano of the Chicago Opera.

Minor matters: Raul Valdes gave up seven runs, six earned, on three hits over 5 1/3 innings in Iowa's 11-7 loss to New Orleans on Friday. Calvin Murray was 3-for-5 with two RBIs and David Kelton was 4-for-5 with two RBIs. ... Eric Patterson was 1-for-4 and scored the only run in West Tenn's 2-1 loss to Mobile. Ryan O'Malley threw 6 2/3 scoreless innings for West Tenn. ... Jesus Estrada gave up eight runs, five earned, on eight hits over six innings in Peoria's 14-1 loss to South Bend. ... Mark Pawelek gave up one unearned run on six hits over three innings in Boise's 3-2 win over Yakima. Brandon Taylor and John Defendis each had two hits.

On deck: Jerome Williams (4-7, 5.20 ERA) will close this series in Pittsburgh on Sunday against Kip Wells (7-14, 4.66 ERA). Williams took the loss in his last start against Los Angeles, lasting just 1 2/3 innings.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.