<
>

Baker: It felt like it was Christmas

CHICAGO (AP) -- Dusty Baker felt the cold wind on his face and
saw the snow on the winter-brown ivy at Wrigley Field.

His Chicago debut as manager of the Cubs didn't seem like a home
opener, not on a 32-degree day with thousands of empty seats at one
of baseball's most popular parks.

What warmed Baker up Tuesday was the way his new team responded
to the elements and overcame them in a 6-1 win over the Montreal
Expos.

"It was very cold, the coldest I've ever been on a baseball
field, but you've got to eliminate those thoughts," said Baker,
who came to the Cubs after taking the San Francisco Giants to the
World Series six months ago.

"You got to try to put those elements out of your mind,
especially when people come and see you. Imagine how cold they are.
"They probably have the advantage of having a flask or two. I saw
a lot of people (reach) into their coats and I was like, 'They're
not going for popcorn.'"

The Cubs dealt with the conditions better than the Expos.

Matt Clement, whose back tightened up in his first start last
week, allowed three hits in 7 1/3 innings. Moises Alou drove in
three runs, Alex Gonzalez had three hits to continue his
early-season tear and the Cubs turned three double plays.

The game, played in a biting 14 mph wind that was blowing in,
was a makeup of Monday's snowout.

"I felt like singing 'Jingle Bells.' It felt like it was
Christmas," Baker said before the game. "That's the truth, it's
what I did. I started signing to my son. Kids love it. They don't
have to play in it like we do."

The announced attendance was 29,138, and some in the crowd booed
the Canadian national anthem when it was sung before the game.

"It was a little different because usually home openers are
packed," Baker said.

And how about being on the other side of Wrigley Field after a
decade in the visitors' dugout?

"It wasn't strange at all. Actually it was like I was never
almost on the other side, and I had been over there for years. I
felt comfortable over here," Baker said, admitting a couple of
times he envisioned former Cubs manager and good friend Don Baylor
standing in the dugout.

Among the bundled-up fans was Baker's 4-year-old son, Darren,
who can't be a bat boy anymore after a change in major league
rules. But Darren stood on a wall beside the Cubs dugout and gave
his dad a hug and kiss for good luck before the game.

Expos manager Frank Robinson, whose team will warm up at the end
of the week when it goes to Puerto Rico for a 10-game homestand,
insisted that Tuesday's game should not have been played.

But the Expos are making their only trip to Chicago, and another
postponement would have forced a doubleheader Wednesday.

"Why would I be happy to get in the game today?" Robinson
asked. "I was concerned about everybody. You can't play as well in
these conditions. I don't care what they say about the other team,
the one that went out and won in that weather. It's still not good
weather or a good climate to play the best type of baseball you can
play. It's not baseball weather. Period.

Clement (1-1) didn't allow a hit until Brad Wilkerson beat out a
single to start the fifth and didn't give up a run until Vladimir
Guerrero homered in the seventh.

Chicago went ahead in the first when Mark Grudzielanek singled,
Gonzalez walked, Sammy Sosa grounded into a double play and Zach
Day (1-1) threw a wild pitch.

Grudzielanek reached on an error and Gonzalez doubled before the
Cubs scored twice in the third on Sosa's RBI grounder and Alou's
sacrifice fly.

Alou hit an RBI double in the fifth to finish Day, moved to
third on a groundout and scored on Dan Smith's wild pitch for a 5-0
lead. Alou had an RBI grounder in the seventh.

Montreal loaded the bases in the eighth, but Joe Borowski struck
out Guerrero to end the threat.

Gonzalez was 3-for-3 with a walk and is batting .536
(15-for-28). Day allowed five runs -- three earned -- five hits and
four walks in 4 1-3 innings.

Gonzalez has been hot all season, despite the chilly weather.
His key? Hitting the ball with the right part of the bat.

"Once you hit in the sweet spot, it's about the same, there is
not that much of a difference," he said. "But I would stay away
from hitting it at the end of the bat. I did that the other day and
it took me an inning to get my hand back. It was completely
numb."

Game notes
Sosa was honored for his 500th homer. He was joined by
Ernie Banks -- the only other Cub with 500 homers -- to throw out the
ceremonial first pitch. Banks led the seventh innings of "Take Me
Out to the Ball Game." ... Gonzalez celebrated his 30th birthday.
... Montreal OF Jose Macias will end his two-game suspension
stemming from his role in an exhibition game altercation and rejoin
the team Wednesday.