Saturday, September 27, 2008

Rivers to the sea

Claire and her dad check out the rattlesnakes

Madame X with First Mate Claire aboard the dredge Wm. M. Black

Claire at the helm of the Black: A reluctant pilot.

Museum director Jerry Enzler views the monitor linked to the kiosk

Saturday morning, the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium unveiled a new kiosk exhibit dedicated to oceans. I was pleased to attend the opening.

Wait a minute! What do rivers have to do with oceans? Everything, it turns out. Billions of gallons of the Mississippi flow into the Gulf of Mexico every hour. Other rivers and streams flow into the Mississippi. Well, you get the idea.

The river museum in Dubuque, which opened five years ago, is an affiliate of the Smithsonian.
The touch-screen video kiosk opened simultaneously (actually, an hour or so before) the opening of the Sant Ocean Hall at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History.

Madame X and I were joined by Claire and her parents. After the breakfast program and unveiling of the kiosk, we toured the museum, where the current featured exhibit is Venom, featuring venomous (not poisonous!) creatures, including the chance to get up close and personal with rattlesnakes.

The museum plans bigger and better things in the next couple of years, nearly doubling its size. Hard to imagine an experience that is twice as good as what Dubuque now offers.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Anybody got tickets?

I'm shocked -- yes, shocked -- that my entry was not drawn at random to buy playoff tickets for Chicago Cubs home games next month.

I entered online for the chance to purchase tickets for one of the first-round games at Wrigley Field. The Cubs sent me an e-mail stating I didn't win; I think they were shocked, too.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Faber and Schalk contribute in '17 clincher

Boston Globe, Sept. 22, 1917

The blog White Sox Journal reminds us that 91 years ago today, the Chicagoans wrapped up the American League pennant in dramatic fashion.

Key players for the victors were the subjects of my past and future books.

Ray Schalk, whose biography I am currently writing, hit a double and scored the go-ahead run in the 10th inning in Boston.

Red Faber, the subject of my first book, pitched all 10 innings and ended the game by inducing Babe Ruth to hit into a double play.

Go Cubs Go!

The Chicago Cubs have won the National League Central division title for the second straight year. This is the first time they won back-to-back anything in, well, a century.

One of the Cubs' youngest fans is Claire, who, her mother pointed out, has only known the Cubs as winners. Claire arrived after the 2006 season, and has been around for the division titles of 2007 and now 2008.

She must be their good-luck charm.

Art and music in the Warehouse

William Elliott Whitmore

David Zollo

Saturday night's activity was Voices from the Warehouse District the annual art exhibit in a huge, vacant warehouse at 10th and Jackson. (The facility was last occupied by Eagle Window and Door. )

This is the fourth autumn the exhibit has been presented as an off-site exhibition of the Dubuque Museum of Art. The title of this year's show is Metamorphosis.

As usual, there was artwork I enjoyed and some that I couldn't figure out. Interesting. (Interesting how some of it is considered art.)

The evening also featured Iowa musicians William Elliott Whitmore and David Zollo, playing solo and also collaborating on many numbers. Talented and entertaining.

The exhibition continues through October 5.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Dick Locher: One of the nice guys

The highlight of my Friday (or week, or month) was spending a couple of hours with Dick Locher, Dubuque native and winner of the1983 Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartoons. Locher also writes and draws the comic serial Dick Tracy. Locher has been with the Chicago Tribune for 39 years -- not bad for a second career.

For someone in his late 70s -- or anyone, for that matter --Locher maintains an incredible schedule, cranking out cartoons and enough Dick Tracy episodes to cover 365 days a year. And he still loves it!

Here is a link to a gallery of his recent editorial cartoons.

We visited over lunch at Star, the restaurant along the riverfront, and talked about our favorite subject, newspapers.

Friday night was the artist's reception at the Dubuque Museum of Art for Dick's exhibition, "Politics as Usual: Political Cartoons by Dick Locher." It continues through November 9. There, Madame X and I met Dick's lovely wife, Mary, who is also a native of Dubuque. (She revealed they met on a blind date while she was attending Clarke College.)

I've written this before and I'll do it again here: In a business where people seem to become more arrogant and aloof the larger their newspaper's circulation, Dick Locher remains as friendly, supportive and genuine as they come. We're proud that he is from Dubuque.

Monday, September 15, 2008

History repeated -- nearly! (Corrected)

Ernie Koob -- May 5, 1917

Bob Groom -- May 6, 1917

Update/correction to what is posted below: Groom's no-hitter came in the second game of a doubleheader on May 6. So, there was one game (an 8-4 Browns victory) between the tainted no-hitter by Koob and the gem by Groom. So, the no-hitters came on consecutive days but not consecutive games. (An added note: Groom pitched two hitless innings to close that first contest of May 6, so he had 11 no-hit innings that day.) I have it right in the Red Faber biography; I just didn't read it carefully enough! Apologies!


The Chicago Cubs nearly made baseball history today by having a pitcher throw a no-hitter one game after a teammate tossed a no-no.

Sunday night, Carlos Zambrano no-hit the Astros in Milwaukee (where the teams were sent after Hurricane Ike prevented their series from being played in Houston).

This afternoon, Ted Lilly almost did it himself. He didn't surrender a hit until the start of the seventh inning, giving the Cub fans in Wrigley Field North plenty of time to consider the stunning possibilities. Then the Chicago relief corps held the Astros hitless, sending Houston on their way with a single hit in 18 innings of baseball.

Shortly after the game, someone at our Page One meeting asked whether a team ever had no-hitters in consecutive games.

My hours of research on Deadball Era baseball finally paid off. I told them about two members of the St. Louis Browns, who stymied the Chicago White Sox on consecutive days. I also mentioned the unusual feature of the first game, where the official scorer after the game changed a hit to an error, thus creating a belated no-hitter. The change occurred so late that morning newspapers across the U.S. reported it as a one-hitter. (I recalled that it was in the 1920s, but it occurred May 5 and May 6, 1917.) Ernie Koob was the beneficiary of the hometown scorer, 1-0, while Bob Groom the next day blanked the White Sox, 3-0.

No other team has ever had no-hitters in back-to-back games. Keep in mind, however, that this was during the Deadball Era, when low-scoring games were the norm. Koob and Groom were the third and fourth pitchers to throw no-hitters in a three-week period on 1917.

There was another no-hitter the following month -- where Babe Ruth issued a disputed walk, got himself immediately ejected by the umpire and watched Ernie Shore retire the next 27 batters in order for a no-hitter (and nearly a perfect game).

Until Zambrano on Sunday night, the last Cubs no-hitter occurred in September 2, 1972. Milt Pappas lost a perfect game on the 27th batter when umpire Bruce Froemming called Ball Four on a 3-2 pitch! Pappas settled down and retired the next hitter to "salvage" a no-hitter.

Wonder what the next Cubs starter, Ryan Dempster, will do Tuesday against the Brewers.

Photos: Bain Collection, Library of Congress

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Spokes4Folks II

After attending a couple of Iowa Newspaper Association-related events Thursday and Friday in Des Moines, I continued heading west, to Omaha, home of my siblings and (during springs and summers) my Dad.

The visit coincided with the second annual Spokes4Folks charity bike ride. It is headed by my brother-in-law Shawn Ovenden, with an able and dedicated assist from his wife, my sister Nancy. The official sponsor is the Men's Club at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Elkhorn (formerly west of Omaha but recently annexed into the Big City.)

The event was not a race (thank goodness) but just a ride. Fortunately, Friday's rain gave way to partly cloudy by the start of the ride (after a pancake breakfast) at 9 Saturday morning.

My brother Kevin and I rode the event together as a "team." We intended to ride the 26-mile route, but out on the road Kevin talked me into following the 32-mile route instead. After all, with a strong headwind blowing at you, why not add on six miles.

Proceeds from Saturday's event will go the Siena/Francis House, Christian Outreach Program - Elkhorn, and the St. Patrick's Men's Club.

Last year's beneficiary of Spokes4Folks was Kathy Sprague, who broke her neck in an April 2007 auto accident. During her initials months of rehab, her doctors held out no hope that she would ever leave her wheelchair. Shawn organized Spokes4Folks to help raise money for her physical therapy. Well, it turns out that Kathy's doctors were wrong. Not only did she regain her ability to walk, she attended Saturday's event. Not only did she attend -- she even rode a short distance! Truly inspiring.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Claire and Monty

Madame X and I were Sunday dinner guests at Claire's new house in Dubuque. (They have lived there a week.) While her parents were preparing the meal, we went for a walk in the neighborhood, where Claire made the acquaintance of Monty the Cat.

Friday, September 05, 2008

(Assistant) Professor Kate

This morning, on the final day of my staycation, I visited daughter Kate at her office and lab at Loras College, where she is a new member of the Biology faculty. It was my first visit since she arrived on campus.

I found her between lectures, charting her students' performance on their first quiz of the semester. I think everyone passed.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Hit or error?

It's not enough that the Milwaukee Brewers acquired one of baseball's most dominating pitchers, CC Sabathia, and may well ride his talented left arm to the playoffs. Now they want to rewrite history.

The Brewers have appealed the official scorer's decision to credit Pittsburgh's Andy LaRoche with a fifth-inning hit in Saturday's victory over the Pirates. LaRoche topped the ball in the vicinity of Sabathia and the third-base line. Sabathia hustled over and, in an effort to save time, snatched the ball with his bare hand. He dropped the ball, and LaRoche reached first.

Here is the video of the play. What do you think? Take the poll at upper right.

Those plays happen all the time, and rarely is a fielder tagged with an error -- especially midway through the game. It's not surprising to me that the scorer ruled it a hit. With two outs in the ninth and a no-hitter on the line, OK, it would have been a shocker. That late in the contest, the first hit needs to be a "clean" one. As it turned out, Sabathia never gave up another hit -- clean or otherwise.

My only problem with the Brewers wanting a do-over -- to have the game now ruled a no-hitter -- is that Sabathia pitched the final four-plus innings without the pressure of having a no-hitter on the line. No pressure. No opponents trying to bunt their way on. No fan excitement.

However, the Brewers are within their rights. Baseball researcher Stew Thornley cited MLB Rule 10.01 (a):

"The League President, after considering the evidence submitted and any other evidence he wishes to consider, may request that the official scorer change a judgment call or, if the League President concludes that the judgment of the official scorer had been clearly erroneous, may order a change in a judgment call."By the way, the American League president was not involved in 1917, when the Chicago White Sox were belatedly tagged with being the victims of a no-hitter.

I referred to it in my Red Faber biography:

On May 5, Ernie Koob of the Browns was belatedly credited with a questionable no-hitter in his 1-0 win. The feat was tainted: The hometown scorer awarded the 24-year-old the no-hitter by switching Buck Weaver’s first-inning infield chopper from a hit into an error. The scoring change was so late, morning newspapers around the country reported the game as a one-hitter.
Look at the video and take the poll.

Benefit Classic 2008

A leg injury recently put me on the DL, forcing me to skip my running season's final exam, the Mississippi Valley Running Association's annual Benefit Classic. It's a Labor Day tradition. I run the 5K, though the event also features a half-marathon (13.1 miles).

Thus, instead of running, I helped a bit at the finish line and took a few pictures and video clips.

You might see some familiar faces here.

Meanwhile, the doctor says I am to ease back into the running routine. Whether that will allow me a race before Thanksgiving (which I missed in '07 due to back spasms) remains to be seen. It's heck getting old!