Thursday, May 31, 2007

Pardon the interruption

OK, I realize that I should not appear to endorse violence as a means of stopping inappropriate or illegal behavior.

However, I will admit that I mentally applauded when i saw this clip from an interrupted soccer match in Israel.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Things some people worry about

I am a member of the Society for American Baseball Research. It includes people with all sorts of interests in the sport: history, statistics, trends, stadiums, trivia, unusual occurrences, extra-inning games, and on and on.

SABR members are a great resource -- they helped me numerous times with my Red Faber biography. They are extremely generous with their time and expertise -- but I must say that I don't understand (or appreciate) some of the minutiae in which some of them delve. Or things they worry about.

For example, here is a recent post on a SABR discussion group:

When announcers wrap up a scoreless top of
the first, they always
acknowledge that
the visiting team has nothing and the home
team is
coming to bat. They do this, of
course, to acknowledge that the home
team has
yet to have a chance to tally anything. And
they are right to
do it.

But it strikes me that what they are
doing, in a game that
preferences statistics
to an
inordinate degree and uses those
to define the parameters of the
sport’s benefit, is creating a different

definition of “nothingness” — or, perhaps,
they are doing something
non-statistical. The visiting team has
no runs. The home
team also has no
runs. But since they haven’t been given
the opportunity
to create runs, that
version of nothingness is deemed
by the
announcers. They are assigning
two different values to the number zero.

Different values to zero? It still means nothing to me.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Catching up with old friends

Sunday was a beautiful day, and a great afternoon to visit the Dubuque Soccer Complex, where son Greg played his first Adult League game of the season. It was a clean, laid-back contest; the players on both teams did not seem too "up" or "down" about the proceedings, which turned out to be pretty one-sided.

It was one of those virtually perfect days (in terms of weather and flow of the game) that had me reflecting on my decision to retire from soccer officiating. After 5-6 summers as a volunteer referee in the American Youth Soccer Organization, I began calling club, high school and eventually college games starting in the mid-1990s. I kept a pretty full schedule. After 7-8 years of that, including some administrative tasks, I throttled back for 2-3 seasons. Then I decided against working games in 2007.

I don't particularly regret that decision -- at least not enough to rush out and recertify -- but I came close to it when seeing that two of the guys with whom I worked so many games were officiating Greg's contest.

If Tom Weidemann (left), Merlin Leick and I worked one game together, we worked a hundred during those years. We came to know each other's style as a referee. We came to know about jobs and families (we all have kids who have become referees). Over the years, we offered each other critique, advice and (especially after a difficult game) encouragement.

None of us ever claimed to get all the calls right. But I know that Tom and Merlin are dedicated men who try -- each and every game -- to call the game to the best of their abilities and with the respect due players, coaches and fans.

They are the kind of guys who make that retirement decision a little tougher.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Bob L. Head (of Iowa) out to huge lead

Tuesday's Telegraph Herald carried a feature story reporting that a Maquoketa man, Robert L. Head, was one of three finalists to win a promotion sponsored by the Portland (Ore.) Beavers minor league baseball team.

The promotion featuring Robert L. Head is, of course, a bobblehead event.

Men whose actual names are Bob L. Head are vying for the chance to be feted, all expenses paid, at a Beavers ball game in August. (The other candidates are from California and Indiana.) The winner will be determined by the number of votes registered on the team's web site.

As of 8 p.m. CDT, Iowa's nominee -- no doubt propelled by the TH article -- has jumped to a huge lead. He had 70% of the vote. California's Bob L. Head had 17% while Indiana's had 13%.

However, this is no time to let down your guard! Go to the Beavers' web site and vote -- and vote often! Balloting continues until 7 p.m. CDT on May 31.

Let's send "our" Bob L. Head to Portland!

(Baseball card image: Portland Beavers)

Time in the Tetons remembered

Like millions of other folks, our family has switched from a film camera to a digital camera. The Canon ftb 35 mm camera, a college graduation gift from my parents (1976!), had served us well for nearly three decades. Not coincidentally, the first digital we bought was also a Canon.

I came across the old Canon the other day and noticed that half a roll of exposed film was inside. What could be on that roll? I asked the folks in the Hartig Drug photo department (newest store) to get me the answers.

Turns out that the shots were the last (of a few dozen) taken during the trip son Greg and I took to the Tetons Science Schools near Jackson Hole, Wyo. A coupe of dozen students in the Wahlert High School science program attends the school each November. I took a week's vacation and served as a chaperone. Then, Greg was a senior and I was, well, younger. It was the week before Thanksgiving 2004.

Coming across this picture and others -- after 2½ years -- was a fun and unanticipated reminder of a great trip. (However, I will confess that eating a sack lunch outdoors on a snowy mountainside did get a little old by the second or third day).

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Four years in fast forward

May 12, 2007: Ellen Cooper with niece Claire.

I know that is cliche for parents to comment on how quickly time flies. Sorry, but I must make that observation after attending daughter Ellen's commencement ceremony Saturday morning at Drake University in Des Moines.

Wasn't it just a year or so ago when her mother and I helped her move into her dormitory the day before freshman orientation? We remember the day well: The temperature reached triple-digits (with nearly triple-digit humidity, or so it seemed) as we hauled Ellen's belongings to the fourth floor of her non-air-conditioned dorm room. (Thankfully, student volunteers helped out.)

Yet, the calendar doesn't lie: Freshman move-in was Aug. 20, 2003.

Fast-forward (really fast) to May 12, 2007. Ellen becomes a Drake graduate. In between those dates, she studied hard, excelled in the classroom, forged wonderful friendships, challenged herself through the Mock Trial program and (last but not least) accepted the offer of a full-time job. Whew!

Yes, time flies. (Especially when you're not the one doing all the homework!)

As a proud Dad reflects on those four years between freshman move-in and senior move-out, he notes that Ellen advanced to an air-conditioned dorm, the weather on depature day was much more pleasant, and moving down five flights of stairs is easier than moving up four.

Most importantly, during those four years, Ellen continued to prepare herself well for whatever life challenges await.

Congratulatons, Ellen!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Central Illinois sojourn

My work on the biography of the late Ray Schalk, Hall of Fame catcher for the White Sox, took me to Central Illinois on Sunday and Monday.

I had a three-hour interview with the widow of Schalk's nephew in Farmersville, Ill., on Sunday. I learned a good deal of personal, anecdotal information about "Cracker," including the fact that he was a "terrible" driver. Not scintillating stuff, but a small fact that can help give a reader a bit of insight of who he was. Later, I had a pleasant visit with the editor of the daily paper in Litchfield, where the Schalk family lived for many years before he joined the White Sox at age 20.

Monday, I spent the virtually its entire service day -- 9:15 to 4:15 -- at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield. Most of those hours were spent trolling through microfilm of the Litchfield paper, trying to piece together facts of Schalk's early baseball career in his old stomping grounds.

All that was helpful toward the biography project, but just as importantly, I was able to secure names and phone numbers of additional sources. The newspaper articles are vital -- all told, I have several hundred so far -- but the interviews with people who knew Schalk really can round out a biography.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Second verse same as the first

Earlier this week I was the guest of the Maquoketa (Iowa) Rotary Club, which heard my presentation on Red Faber. It was a fun, community-oriented and attentive group.

Most impressive to me, however, was the members' singing. Well, not exactly their vocal ability. What impressed was their recall.

This club sings the second verse of "America (My Country 'Tis of Thee)."

I'd forgotten there even was a second verse.

In case you, too, have forgotten, click the link for the lyrics.

Thanks for a fun meeting, Maquoketa Rotarians!