Sunday, February 25, 2007

The (well, some) reviews are in

In the few months since the Faber biography was released, I have received some nice comments from some tri-state folks and Faber relatives and acquaintances. However, what about other readers? I heard that some reviews had been posted on, so I held my breath and looked them up.


The three reviews were quite favorable. (You didn't think I'd mention this if they weren't, did you?) That scorecard could change, of course, but for now the early comments have been quite gratifying.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Red whited-out

My Red Faber presentation and book-signing was dealt an icy blow this afternoon. Wintry weather – with a blizzard warning issued – doomed my appearance at the Borders bookstore in Dubuque.

The only thing that could have made it worse would have been having no one show up while the weather was perfect.

Anyway, I scraped the thin layer of ice off the windshield, drove the few blocks to Borders and faced the expected – zero attendance. Actually, it wasn’t a total shutout. Gary Gansemer, an acquaintance of many years and a White Sox fan, showed up to have me sign the book he bought at Borders a few days earlier. We ended up talking about Faber, the White Sox and baseball research for the balance of the hour. A fun way to spend a snowy afternoon.

The folks at Borders want to have me back – probably in April. The weather will be better then – won’t it?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

You'd better believe it!

I came inside this morning after a three-mile run -- I'm still taking it slow and easy after three months on the shelf with a bum knee -- and opened a Web article I saved the other day.

It reported on a study that found that people who believed that they were getting a good workout experienced greater benefits from their exercise than those who do the same work but don't think about the benefits.

That's right: Same exercise, different benefits. Those who believed showed improvement in weight loss, blood pressure and body fat.

Is it really all in our heads?

"These results support the idea that the benefits of exercise may involve a placebo effect," stated the Reuters article posted on the MSNBC web site.

The article continued: "Hotel cleaners who were told that their work of cleaning roughly 15 rooms each day was enough physical activity to maintain a healthy lifestyle were more trim and fit four weeks later than their peers who weren't given this message, Dr. Ellen Langer and her student Alia J. Crum report in the February issue of Psychological Science."

Now, if only we can figure out a way to convince ourselves that we are engaging in beneficial exercise -- even when we're not -- but nonetheless experience the benefits. Maybe I could keep the workout at three miles, instead of my pre-injury average of four or five. That could mean a little more snooze time for yours truly. I believe!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

A matinee 'blast'

Sunday afternoon found Madame X and I in the small Illinois community of Princeton, where our niece Eliza was performing in a community theater production.

I know what you're thinking: No-Doz. Not at all. It was a lively and entertaining two hours, especially for fans of "oldies" music.

"The November Ten" presented "A Blast from the Past!" in its tiny (120-seat) theater in a former church building. The matinee, the last of eight shows, attracted another full house. The production featured a half-dozen performers -- four professionals, Eliza and another high school girl -- singing and dancing their way through 38 hits from the '50s and '60s.

Weaving those songs together was an original but simple plot line: The geeky soda jerk somehow progresses from laughingstock to winner of the heart of the beautiful girl.

Eliza is at far left in this photo snapped during the curtain call. Actually, if a theater doesn't have a curtain, is it still a curtain call?

Whatever, it was light and entertaining and worth the trip.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

I could wait another 30 years

Tonight, Turner Classic Movies is showing a film I had seen only once previously -- and that viewing was more than 30 years ago.

I guess this film adaptation of the rock opera "Tommy" qualifies as a classic, since it did produce a Golden Globe and an Academy Award nomination for Ann-Margret (shown above with The Who's Roger Daltrey, who played Tommy).

But, aside from Ann-Margret, "Tommy" didn't do much for me in 1975, when I first saw it. And it does even less for me now. It struck me as a strange movie then, and it seems even stranger now.

Wonder what's on ESPN.

Another book on the market

It is not that I am a prolific writer. Far from it! However, it has happened that for the second time in four months, I have a new book on the market.

Actually, this time I am just one of many authors who contributed to Deadball Stars of the American League, a compilation of mini-biographies of standouts in the first two decades of the so-called "junior circuit."

I contributed the condensed biography of Urban "Red" Faber, who is the subject of my full biography released in November by McFarland & Co.

The title refers to the period in baseball prior to 1920, when the composition of the baseball, the rules and, not coincidentally, the transition from "small-ball" to "long-ball" strategy changed the nature of the game.

Edited by David Jones, the AL Deadball book is the companion to Deadball Stars of the National League, which was released three years ago.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Grandchild deprivation

Our first (and only) grandchild, Claire, turns 15 weeks on Friday. Due to various schedule conflicts and commitments, we won't see her next until the last weekend of February. I calculated that it will have been six weeks since we last saw her. That is one-third of her lifetime between visits from Grandpa Cooper! Far too long!

Until then, Claire's mom posted this photo of her story time with Claire and Teaser. (Teaser is the one trying to eat the book rather than read it.)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Crossing the Borders

The folks at Borders have invited me to give a slide show on Red Faber's life and career and to participate in a book-signing.

It starts 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24, at the Dubuque store in Kennedy Mall. I'll have a show of 30 minutes or so featuring old photos of Faber and other White Sox notables.

For several months, my Faber biography was not carried in the local Borders because my publisher and bookstore chain officials were percentage points apart over discounts. Now they have reached an agreement, at least as it links to a program/booksigning event.

Meanwhile, the books remains available at River Lights Bookstore, in Wacker Plaza, where owner Martha Fuerste has been supportive from the start.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Early riser

In an apparent incident of groggy confusion, I rolled out of bed 90 minutes earlier than I had planned or realized -- a few minutes after 4 a.m. What to do? try to go back to sleep, or get an earlier start to what promised to be a very full day?

Anyway, I ended up taking my earliest run in 10 years -- perhaps ever. At 4:30 a.m., it was just me, four or five inches of snow and a half-dozen snowplow operators working parking lots and streets.

Running on the unshoveled sidewalks along Kennedy Road -- at a decent hour, it is one of Dubuque's busiest thoroughfares -- it was a kick to put down the first set of footprints along the route. But the novelty of that ended all too soon. It was extra work to try to negotiate that snow -- especially in my out-of-shape condition.

Tonight, I'm double-checking the setting on that alarm.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Mini-biography on the web

A month or so ago, I volunteered to write a short biography of a baseball player who was unknown to me. Considering that he played less than 100 games in the majors, and his best season was more than a century ago, I hope that I can be forgiven.

However, I was intrigued by the fact that I had as a source the player's son.

The story is about pitcher Jack Sutthoff, who recorded his best big-league season in 1903, when he went 16-9 for his hometown Cincinnati Reds.

I did the story, mostly during vacations in December, with the assistance of his son, retired FBI agent Bob Sutthoff. Bob had contacted the Society for American Baseball Research, asking if someone would write his dad's story. After seeing the offer on the SABR web site, and not having any immediate projects at the time, I volunteered.

Bob is a friendly 90-something who shared clippings from his dad's scrapbook and assisted me with a couple of telephone interviews.

SABR has posted hundreds of biographies on its BioProject web site. The project has the lofty goal of doing one of these stories on every man who ever played an inning of major league baseball.

It was a fun project, and I was reminded that a person does not need to be a superstar to have an interesting story.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Too much Des Moines

I haven't been in the office since Wednesday afternoon, but that doesn't mean I haven't been "on duty."

Wednesday afternoon involved a tour of facilities at Northeast Iowa Community College's Peosta Campus, which is one of the facilities to benefit if a bond issue is approved by voters Feb. 20, and then the balance of the same ol' 200-mile drive to Des Moines.

My schedule Thursday and Friday were jammed with responsibilities and activities for the Iowa Newspaper Association and its Iowa Newspaper Foundation: Board meeting, annual meeting, convention seminars, college-student luncheon and election of foundation officers. I continued on a four-year cycle as an officer of the foundation, moving up another chair to First Vice President. That means that, barring impeachment, my one-year term as foundation President starts in February 2008.

On Saturday, I attended the annual meeting and awards program of the Iowa Associated Press Managing Editors. I volunteered the Telegraph Herald to host a regional training seminar in the coming year. Besides recognizing that it was our turn to host, I think it is beneficial when we can bring other reporters and editors to Dubuque. They just might see enough they like to consider Dubuque and the TH as a future place to call home.

The highlight of the week was reconnecting with a former college roommate, Ken Paulson, who accepted my invitation to be the INA convention's keynote speaker. Ken and I have known each other since we ran track at our respective high schools. Ken, who some folks might remember as the creator and moderator of the Freedom Forum's production, which in Dubuque enjoyed its biggest audience ever. That was in April 2004. Within a week of Ken's visit to Dubuque, he was named editor of USA TODAY. Anyway, Ken gave a great speech on journalistic responsibility and heroism that the audience -- yes, even publishers -- gave him a standing ovation.

This might seem inconsistent, but I'll say this: While my time in the capital city passed relatively quickly, by mid-afternoon Saturday I was more than glad to see Des Moines in my rearview mirror.