Pasta sauce transforms unlucky Cubs baseball into tasty charm

Jason B. Gumer

With Sammy Sosa leaving, the Chicago Cubs have turned to a new superstar to break the curse of the Billy Goat and secure a World Series Championship — Northwestern chemistry lecturer Eberhard E. Zwergel.

Zwergel, affectionately known by students and peers as “Eberhard,” was asked to break a major baseball curse by calling upon his years of scientific research to prepare tomato sauce a la baseball.

The challenge involved creating a sauce out of the infamous baseball, which was knocked by a zealous fan from the hands of a Cubs player as he was about to catch it. Many believe the event cost the Cubs the 2003 World Championship.

The sauce was prepared in the kitchen of Chicago’s Harry Caray’s Restaurant, 33 West Kinzie St., Monday morning and will be served over pasta to patrons for $11.95 until Thursday. All proceeds will benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund in honor of Cubs legend Ron Santo.

“Eberhard was amazing, his contribution was huge,” said Grant DePorter, managing partner of Harry Caray’s Restaurant and coordinator for the project. “I told him the Cubs are gonna win it all because of him. He will be responsible for the Cubs breaking the curse and winning the World Series for the first time in some 97 years.”

DePorter made headlines last year when he paid $113,824 for the ball.

DePorter invited fans to send suggestions on how to use the ball to break the curse. He decided to follow the advice of a 9-year-old boy and blow up the ball. Despite the execution of this action, the curse was not broken, and DePorter realized more drastic measures were needed.

Three other suggestions were grouped together in what DePorter believes is a “foolproof” recipe for breaking the curse. The ball had to be soaked in Budweiser, then burned with a laser beam shined through Harry Caray’s glasses, and finally, its remains needed to be made into a spaghetti sauce for Cubs fans to eat.

When the health department raised concerns that consuming a baseball would possibly be harmful to people. So DePorter decided to assemble a team of experts, including Zwergel, to make sure it wasn’t.

As a Cubs fan, Zwergel said he was very excited about the project and spent time developing a process to distill the sauce.

“It was a major operation in the kitchen. They wanted to get the essence, the spirit, of their ball in the sauce and get rid of the curse so the Cubs can win the World Series,” Zwergel said.

“The health department stopped them, as apparently it is illegal to put strange particles and baseball in sauces,” he continued. “So we came up with the idea to distill parts of the ball.

“The safest part of the ball is the wool strings. We took the wool strings, cleaned them and put them in a four-gallon vessel to distill them with water, vodka and beer,” he said.

Zwergel assured that the sauce was not only 100 percent safe to eat, but also delicious.

“I drank some and it tasted excellent, I really thought it was good,” he added. “We put some herbs in the distillation vessel and a fantastic fragrance came out. I think I can cook very well.”

Dietician Krista Wennerstrom of Chicago participated in the project to make sure proper sanitation practices were followed and to assess the nutritional safety of the sauce.

“It was awesome to hear him explain the entire process to us,” she said, adding that if the Cubs win, everyone should thank Zwergel.

Reach Jason B. Gumer at j-gumer@northwestern.edu.

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