Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Researching Ray

I spent a good chunk of the weekend after Thanksgiving poring through old newspapers (via the Internet) to research the likely subject of my next book, the late Ray Schalk.

There was plenty to be found, including:
  • Appearances in two World Series, including the tainted 1919 (Black Sox) affair.
  • The tributes from some of the game's greats, including Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and John McGraw, who rated Schalk the game's top catcher.
  • Catching a baseball dropped from the top of Tribune Tower.
  • His retirement activities as a college coach and bowling alley proprietor.
And more.

There is plenty of information available for a full biography of this Hall-of-Famer. Full speed ahead!

Favorable review

When I saw the envelope, with the return address of Richard Lindberg, I knew what it was about. Lindberg is the unofficial historian of the Chicago White Sox and author of several books, including the authoratative "Chicago White Sox Encyclopedia."

Lindberg was good enough to give me a "dust jacket blurb" for my Red Faber biography. As is common in these sorts of projects, his comments were prepared after reading a handful of chapters, before the entire manuscript was final.

What would he think about the finished product?

With your indulgence, I would like to share his critique:

"I received the book in the mail this weekend, and wanted to commend you for the engaging and thought-provoking narrative. It is a fine book, well-written and thoroughly researched. It appears that you have solved the Mostil-Faber riddle nicely, although new questions are are raised about Barrett and Mostil!

"McFarland did a nice job of design and layout, and the picures enhance the strength of the text. A biography of the old Redhead was long overdue, and you have succeeded in filling an important gap in the historiography of the White Sox, as well as Iowa baseball.

"My congratulations to you, and all the best!"

Whew! After working on such an extensive project, and becoming immersed in it, it's hard to know whether others will be interested or whether it will be accepted. It's exciting (for me at least) to receive this affirmation from an author and a leading expert on White Sox history.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Thanksgiving 2006

Thanksgiving 2006 was a special day for our family. Claire (3 weeks old today) crossed state lines for the first time, and she met her great-grandparents (who went to extra effort to get to Dubuque, since Great-Grandpa's accident a couple of months ago). That made it possible for a memorable four-generation photo. Claire also met Aunt Ellen and Uncle Greg, who are home on college break, for the first time.

And, for the past decade, no Thanksgiving in the Cooper family is complete without entries in the Turkey Trot. Our numbers were down significantly this year, with only Madame X (above) and Greg competing. Ellen was still not 100 percent after a minor traffic accident on Saturday, and yours truly is resting a bum left knee. Claire's parents also sat this one out (though we're not sure about her Dad's excuse!).

Another highlight of the day was receiving a phone call from our Thai friend Chai, who happens to be in the US on a journalist's tour. He was in San Francisco, and not close enough to join us for Thanksgiving. However, it was great to speak with him and catch up on family events.

It sounds cliche, I know, but it's true: We have many reasons to give thanks.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Hitting the wall

Instead of heating a microwave meal, I started my lunch hour Monday at the riverfront, where the America's River Partnership staged the dedication and ribbon-cutting for the Port of Dubuque Recognition Wall.

The wall is pretty impressive. It features a color photo of the river and bluffs, with names of the many donors overprinted in white type. The wall served as the backdrop for the program. (In the photo above, Greater Dubuque Development Corp. executive Rick Dickinson speaking). Mother Nature provided an above-average November day.

And, by the way, I didn't go hungry. After the ceremony, donors and other guests adjourned to enjoy a light lunch (courtesy of Hy-Vee) in the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Two weeks

I've been a Grandfather two weeks now, and I think I'm holding up well despite the responsibilities.

Grandma last week spent a few days with Claire and her Mom, who is generally doing well -- despite not sleeping consistently. Her Dad had to get back to classes and work. I provided chauffeur services.

Already we're looking forward to Thanksgiving, when Claire will visit Dubuque for the first time in her whole life.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Good night at River Lights

I was gratified by the healthy turnout at River Lights on Friday night, when co-workers, friends and baseball fans stopped by for my booksigning. I don't know how many books I autographed, but there was only a lull of five minutes during the two hours I was "on duty."

Thanks to all of you who stopped by, and others who couldn't make it but left books for me to sign.

Some folks asked when else I would be available to sign. Here are a couple of opportunities, one here in Dubuque and the other in Chicago.

Thursday, Dec. 7 -- Carnegie-Stout Public Library, 11th and Locust, Dubuque. 7 p.m. I will give a presentation about Faber and the biography project in the Auditorium, on the third floor.

Saturday, Jan. 6 -- Emile Roth chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research (Chicago). Chicago Public Library Roden Branch, 6083 Northwest Highway, Chicago, Ill. 60631. 1 p.m.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Book 'opens' in Cascade

The first book-signing for Red Faber: A Biography of the Hall of Fame Spitball Pitcher took place Monday evening in Cascade, Iowa, Faber's hometown.

The occasion was the annual meeting of the Tri-County Historical Society, the organization that first stepped up to support and encourage my pursuit of the biography project. The group made its archives available to me, and generously granted permission for publication of several historic Faber photos from its files.

Monday night, I presented a slide show on Faber's life, answered questions, signed a few books -- and experienced a sense of closure. My three-year-plus project started in Cascade, and I was pleased to bring it home to that community.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Grandparenthood puts other events in perspective

For most (all?) American voters, today could not have come soon enough. The accusations, recriminations and allegations have been more than a little too much.

So, in the interest of public service on Election Day 2006, today's column will deal not with the nastiness, negativity and conspiracy theories associated with the campaign. Folks who want to read or hear more about that won't have to work hard to find that elsewhere.

Instead, I will address something much more important and fascinating: My first grandchild.

For several months now, when folks learned that our daughter and son-in-law were expecting, the grandparents among them raved about grandparenthood. Invariably, they said it would be a life-altering experience.

Also, it seemed that every grandparent I spoke to had the world's most beautiful grandchild. And I'm sure they were right - until Friday evening, of course.

Since Saturday afternoon, when I met Claire Ann, I have tried to get used to this new role of Grandfather. Wasn't this assignment to have come later in life?

I'm too young for this.

When I was introduced to Claire, she was just in her teens - in hours, not years - and so we didn't have much of a conversation. She seemed more interested in eating and sleeping. We'll catch up on things another time.

Anyway, while pondering these new responsibilities, I surfed the Web and came across some quotes to put this grandparenthood deal into perspective. There is the Welsh proverb that states, "Perfect love sometimes does not come until the first grandchild."

Some other examples:

"A grandmother pretends she doesn't know who you are on Halloween." - Erma Bombeck.

"What a bargain grandchildren are! I give them my loose change, and they give me a million dollars' worth of pleasure." - Humorist Gene Perret.

"Being grandparents sufficiently removes us from the responsibilities so that we can be friends." - Psychologist Allan Fromme.

"It's funny what happens when you become a grandparent. You start to act all goofy and do things you never thought you'd do. It's terrific." - Basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski.

I can hear some readers say, "You were goofy before grandparenthood. Now you'll be worse?" Anyway, if you read this far, thanks for indulging me.

Monday, November 06, 2006


The book is here!

The UPS truck on Monday delivered the first copies of my Red Faber biography to the house today. I'm not sure what that means for deliveries of online orders or the shipment to River Lights Bookstore, but they can't be far behind.

My first book-signing event will be in Faber's native Cascade, at the annual meeting of the Tri-County Historical Society. The program starts at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 13, at the Knights of Columbus Hall.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Meet the (grand)parents

We had the opportunity to meet our first grandchild, day-old Claire Ann, on Saturday afternoon. She wasn't too talkative, but entertaining nonetheless.

Joining us at the hospital were and Uncle Andy and Aunt Josie, while Aunt Ellen and Uncle Greg checked in from distant precincts by telephone.

Another visit is planned for next weekend, when Grandma Cooper will spend nearly a week helping out the new parents. How lucky we are to have the most beautiful granddaughter in the whole world!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Welcome, Claire Ann!

I had Chinese for lunch today, and my fortune cookie read: "Good news is on its way."

It didn't take long for that prediction to come true.

A few hours later, at 5:43 p.m., our first grandchild, Claire Ann, entered this world. Mother and daughter are doing well, and Dad survived the ordeal as well.

Tale of the tape: 8 pounds, 5 ounces and 19.5 inches.

Claire will meet Grandma and Grandpa Cooper on Saturday, after which her photo will appear on NewsConference.

Faber biography events set (11/3 update)

Release of the Red Faber biography is just a couple of weeks away, and some associated events are hitting my calendar.

Monday, Nov. 13 -- Tri-County Historical Society annual meeting. Knights of Columbus Hall, Cascade, Iowa. 7:30 p.m. I will give a presentation on Faber, followed by a book-signing. This will be my first signing event, and I'm pleased that it will be with the organization that was so cooperative and supportive during my project.

Friday, Nov. 17 -- River Lights Book Store, Wacker Plaza, Dubuque. Book signing. (5-7 p.m.)

Thursday, Dec. 7 -- Carnegie-Stout Public Library, 11th and Locust, Dubuque. 7 p.m. I will give a presentation about Faber and the biography project in the Auditorium, on the third floor.

Saturday, Jan. 6 -- Emile Roth chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research (Chicago). Chicago Public Library Roden Branch, 6083 Northwest Highway, Chicago, Ill. 60631. 1 p.m.

There are other events pending. When those are confirmed, I'll post an update.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The rest of the editorial

I returned home from a two-day business meeting today to see a flier from congressional candidate Bruce Braley. This mailing in particular caught my eye because it showed the Telegraph Herald masthead. The flier reprinted Sunday's TH editorial, which endorsed Braley by a slight margin over Republican Mike Whalen.

That's OK. Candidates have long touted their newspaper endorsements. Braley's web site announces endorsements by the TH and The Des Moines Register. Whalen's site does the same with the Quad-City Times (Davenport) and The Gazette (Cedar Rapids). It is somewhat flattering that the candidates consider endorsements important.

However, I am unhappy. The flier conveniently omits the portion of the editorial that takes issue with Braley on health care.

When I receive the courtesy of a request to reprint something we published, I stipulate that the piece must be reprinted "as is," without alterations, unless we give specific approval. The reason: We don’t want others misrepresenting our work. I feel that is exactly what happened here.

No one from the Braley campaign contacted me, and I would not have OK'd the way our editorial was manipulated. As the flier depicts it, a reader might erroneously conclude that our editorial had nothing good to say about Whalen (except general reference to both candidates being "solid" and "capable"). That was not the case.

I’m sure the Braley camp will point to the disclaimer. In tiny type -- not even a capital letter is used – the flier states, editorial excerpted.

Here is the portion of our editorial the Braley camp did not share with voters:

However, Whalen scores more points than Braley on the issue of health care. Both candidates acknowledge that the current system needs repair. However, Braley would move toward universal health care to help the 47 million Americans without coverage. Turning over all health care to the federal government is not a good idea. What assurance do citizens have that government is up to the task, and could provide for quality and timely care at an affordable cost? The recent implementation of a Medicare prescription plan surely won't inspire a vote of confidence. Whalen's suggestion that health care be more consumer-driven, with his "private, personal, portable" plan, is more realistic.

Both candidates have good ideas and, if elected, would challenge the problems. Unfortunately, voters might not realize that about them. Both Braley and Whalen allowed a partisan free-for-all advertising campaign of wild accusations and misstatements about their opponents. Unfortunately, neither had the political courage to call on their respective parties to take down ads that clearly misrepresent (if not out-and-out lie) about their opponents' positions, and there were some they personally approved. That is the biggest disappointment of this campaign.

On the positive side, the Braley web site does carry the entire editorial, including the section above, without alteration.

In any case, I do not appreciate how Braley manipulated and misrepresented our endorsement.