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.