Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Sportsmanship: Not dead yet

As someone who has played, "parented" and officiated athletics, I've seen examples of poor sportsmanship. Not the sort that makes national headlines -- though, come to think of it, in the 1960s, one of my youth baseball coaches was written up in Sports Illustrated for punching out another dad after a youth football league meeting -- but bad sportsmanship nonetheless.

Today I came across a story that tells me the integrity and sportsmanship have not disappeared from the sports scene.

It happened the other day in the Northwest, at a pivotal small-college softball game. It involved one of the league's top players and a reserve who nearly lost the only home run of her college career. The importance of the game did not get in the way of doing what's right.'s Graham Hayes tells the story in a compelling way. The New York Times has picked up on the story as well (with a nod to Hayes and WCBS-AM).

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Another step toward the grave

They have been after me for more than three years, sending me enticing mailings and espousing the benefits, and I finally gave in. I joined AARP.

I became eligible at age 50, but resisted until now. But now that I'm a grandpa, and the word "retirement" sounds sweeter, I figured to take the plunge. For less than $10 a year, can you go wrong? Heck, I'll make up the dues fee in hotel discounts.

By the way, what time does the Earlybird special end?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Mini-bio of Schalk online

A chapter-length biography of Ray Schalk, the subject of my next book, has been posted on the Society for American Baseball Research's Baseball Biography Project site.

Here is the link to the article.

The author, Brian Stevens, originally wrote the piece a few years ago for the SABR book, Deadball Stars of the American League. I proceeded with my idea for a full-length Schalk book only after confirming that Stevens did not have similar plans. (No need for two books on the subject!) In fact, he was kind enough to send me all his notes and newspaper clips used in his research. A resident of the Northeast, Stevens visits the National Baseball Hall of Fame annually and before each trip has asked me if there is additional information he can look up on my behalf. That has been a nice assist in my efforts.

Stevens did a solid job with his article. Check it out.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Future skyscraper engineer

I "borrowed" this photo of my granddaughter Claire, building a tower under her mother's careful supervision, from their family's blog.
I think that Claire shows promise as a skyscraper engineer, don't you?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Where is my autograph pen?

The National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium has invited me to participate in its second annual local authors event on Wednesday evening, April 23. I'll sign copies of my Red Faber biography for anyone who happens by with a copy. (I guess I'd sign somebody else's book, too, if asked.)

This second event, which runs from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., features more authors than last year. It will have live entertainment, free wine and free admission.

I hope to see you there. Even if you already own a copy of my book -- or don't have one and have no interest in the book, for that matter -- please stop by and say hello.

Meantime, just in case, I need to track down my autograph pen.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Windy City weekend

Madame X and I enjoyed a weekend getaway in Chicago. Since she is not much on my posting details about her activities on the web, I'll say that she behaved herself and leave it at that.

Oh, and we visited Millennium Park -- as did a few hundred others -- on a sunny but cool Sunday morning. One of the unique features of the park is the mirror-encased sculpture Cloud Gate.

We stayed just a few steps from the Tribune Tower. From the sidewalk, I gazed up and could only wonder how Ray Schalk, the Chicago White Sox catcher, managed to catch a baseball dropped from the top of the 460-foot structure in 1925. It's one thing to read about the feat -- conducted as a publicity stunt during a lunch hour -- and quite another to see the distance involved.

In any case, we're looking forward to our next visit.

Guest visitor: Mark Twain

Also going with us to Chicago this weekend was Mark Twain.

Well, not actually the writer, but the Associated Press award presented to the Telegraph Herald a couple of months ago. In the tradition of hockey's Stanley Cup, TH staffers are borrowing "Mark" and showing him various parts of the world. His adventures are part of a blog maintained by Erik Hogstrom.

This weekend, Mark was with us in Chicago.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Earthquake? Was it or wasn't it?

An earthquake rattled the Midwest this morning. Officials say it occurred at 4:37 a.m., and was based in downstate Illinois. No reports of injury or damage thus far.

I was awake -- sort of -- at that hour. In my groggy state, I thought a heavy vehicle of some sort was rumbling up our street. Instead of the vibrations of a truck, was it this earthquake? Madame X says she now recalls noticing something about that time. But neither of us is sure.

How about you? Did you -- for sure, or probably or perhaps -- feel this morning's temblor? Share your account here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Hats off

Part of my Tuesday morning was spent at St. Anthony School and Holy Family Catholic Schools' Spanish Immersion school, which is housed on the St. Anthony campus.

I was invited to read to kindergartners at St. Anthony and then first-graders at the Spanish Immersion school. Fortunately for all concerned, both readings were delivered in English.

This was part of a Dr. Seuss event of some sort.

The reading of Green Eggs and Ham for the younger group went fine. At the Spanish Immersion, sorting through the Seuss books with me, the principal suggested I read The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins. Unlike other the Seuss classics, which are short and in rhyming verse, Batholomew Cubbins is a regular story, in prose -- and long. Eventually, with the teacher's assent, I "edited" a few scenes so that I wouldn't still be there when it was time for afternoon recess.

And by the way, I wore the hat voluntarily -- and even brought it from home.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Under contract

Ray Schalk, 1914
Bain Collection, Library of Congress

It was no surprise -- we've communicated off and on over the past year -- but today I received a publishing contract for my next book, the biography of Ray Schalk.

The book about Schalk, the Hall of Fame catcher for the Chicago White Sox (1912-28), will be published by McFarland & Co., Inc., of Jefferson, N.C.

McFarland also published my Red Faber biography.

Even knowing that a contract was likely, I felt some relief when it arrived. It represents an important step in the process. Having an "outside publisher" lends credibility to the effort.

My self-selected deadline is January 31, 2009. That seems a long ways off, but there is much to be done!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Next on the Safety Committee's agenda ...

My friend Bob doesn't blog, but he does e-mail jokes and funny pictures that come his way. Here is one he sent out this weekend.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Dubuque's connection to Hollywood

One of those all-movie TV channels on Saturday night showed "Jezebel," a 1938 film starring Bette Davis and Henry Fonda.

Watching the last hour of the movie, I wondered whether "Jezebel" was a rip-off of "Gone With the Wind." After all, the setting was the American South in the run-up to the Civil War. It featured a conniving woman trying to win back a man.

However, for the record, the play upon which "Jezebel" was based was on Broadway in 1933 -- three years before Margaret Mitchell's "Gone With the Wind" was released as a novel. The movie followed in 1939. So, Jezebel came first.

There was a connection between the two movies: The lead in "Jezebel" was offered to Davis as a make-up for her not being selected for "Gone With the Wind."

Actually, "Jezebel" was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar in 1938. Davis and supporting actress Fay Bainter each did take home Oscars for their performances.

As the credits rolled, I recognized another name: supporting actress Margaret Lindsay (pictured).

I recognized Lindsay as a Dubuque native. She was an accomplished actress, with some 88 movies to her credit, mostly in the 1930s and 40s.

Among the leading men with whom she shared the silver screen were Ronald Reagan, Erroll Flynn, John Wayne, Tom Mix, William Powell and Humphrey Bogart.

Perhaps her biggest success was in "House of Seven Gables" (1940).

However, what I found most interesting about Margaret Lindsay (born Margaret Kies) was this: After receiving her early education in Dubuque, she studied acting in New York and then landed parts in several plays in London.

When she returned from England a short time later, guess what? She spoke with an English accent. A Hollywood producer, led to believe she was English (not a Dubuquer), gave her several bit parts until she started landing bigger roles.

Lindsay died in Hollywood in 1981. She was 79.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Need an April Fool's prank?

Looking for a prank to pull for April Fool's Day? Try the one shown here.
All you need are a couple of hundred accomplices and a busy public setting.