Friday, November 28, 2008

50 years before Jackie Robinson ...

Who was the first non-white baseball player in the major leagues?

No, it was not Jackie Robinson (1947), who actually was not even the first black in big-league baseball. (Robinson was the first after the so-called color line was drawn.)

The man holding the distinction was Louis "Chief" Sockalexis, who played for Cleveland in the 19th century. The troubled man, whose alcoholism ruined his sports career and his life, might have been the inspiration for the nickname of Cleveland's team, the Indians.

Baseball historian has written an interesting biography of Sockalexis for the Society for American Baseball Research.

What recession?

It's Black Friday, the name assigned to the day after Thanksgiving, when retailers open extra-early and hope to fill their ledgers with black ink on Christmas gift sales.

On my regular drive to meet up with my running partner(s) at 5:15 this morning, I took note of the parking lots at several retail locations. My eyewitness report:

Kennedy Mall: Full.
Shopko: Full.
Staples: Full.

I'm not saying it was hard for shoppers to find a parking place. I'm saying full, as in the last space in the farthest reaches of the lot was occupied. (The photo above is just a representation -- if it were daylight and if I had a helicopter.)

Mind you, I did not enter any of those stores; shopping on Black Friday is for professional shoppers only.

The headline on today could be "Recession takes a holiday."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Birthday, Ellen!

Ellen was in town for Thanksgiving, and that gave us a chance to celebrate her birthday here.

We calculated that one big candle was worth a couple dozen of those puny ones. For those of you keeping score, Ellen managed to extinguish the flame on her second first puff.

Happy birthday, Ellen!

Turkey Trot 2008

For the past dozen years or so, Thanksgiving for the Cooper Family starts with the annual Turkey Trot at Wahlert Catholic High School. A low-key event with races of 2½ and 7½ miles, the Wahlert Turkey Trot has continued to increase in participation. It's sort of a reunion for the running community. Word was that today's race attracted a record 1,200 runners.

After sitting out the previous two Thanksgiving races due to injuries, and battling a pesky leg problem this fall, my goals for today's race were simple:
1) Run the 2½ miler.
2) Finish said 2½ miler.

Mission accomplished! I didn't run much harder than I do in my morning workouts -- partly because of the shuffling mass of runners the first mile -- but I was able to pick up the pace in the last 1½ miles and finished. My card said I was the 85th male finisher, and I was somewhere around 8th-12th in my age group.

The top finisher in our contingent (there were seven of us, including Ellen's boyfriend) was son-in-law Will, who finished around sixth in the 7½-miler. Talk about running in fast company!

I was a better runner than photographer today. But I did get these shots:

I probably could win a photojournalism award someplace for the mood,
symbolism, use of light and shadow, etc. In actuality, the camera hesitated to focus
while I tried to get a shot of Madame X finishing her race,
and this is what was there when the shutter activated.

The under-dressed Greg ran the 7½-mile event
with a friend and had plenty left at the finish.

With Claire (not shown) cheering her Mom on, Kate (and ?) finish the 2½-miler.

Next Turkey Trot: Thursday, November 26, 2009!

Monday, November 24, 2008


Cathy, Mike and Steve

Jamie and Cindi

For many years, the Friday before Thanksgiving is when Telegraph Herald employees ring the kettle bell for the Salvation Army.

Bell-ringing 2008 featured cool but manageable weather outside the "old" Hy-Vee on Dodge Street.

Here are a couple of photos featuring colleagues who preceded and followed my shift at the kettle.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Going Dutch

In my baseball biography research, I spend hour after hour poring over digitized newspaper pages. They are accessed and searched via the Internet.

Some of the more interesting stuff I see is not information I was seeking.

For example, while trying to piece together information about Ray Schalk's Buffalo Bisons of 1936, I bumped the article appeared. It appeared in The Sporting News of Oct. 1, 1936.

OK, let's guess how many people predicted that the young broadcaster in Des Moines would one day be U.S. president. That's right: Exactly the number of World Series won by the Cubs the past 100 years.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Shake those sillies out

Claire is attending to a kids program at Carnegie-Stout Public Library, where she is learning some games, including the dance steps to the Raffi song, "Shake My Sillies Out."

On Saturday, she gave Ma and Pop a demonstration. And, of course, no games are complete without Ring Around the Rosie.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Wine lovers tout Dubuque area vintners

Two Dubuque area wineries, Park Farm and Stone Cliff, have received nice mentions in Dan and Krista Stockman's wine column in the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Journal Gazette.

Turns out that the authors came to Iowa for a wedding, and they decided to make a mini-vacation out of it. They found their way to Park Farm and Stone Cliff, and made them the centerpiece of their weekly column for the Indiana newspaper.

Businesses and communities can go all-out with big promotional and advertising budgets, but I'm of the opinion that unsolicited testimonials and mentions such as these provide invaluable, albeit incremental, boosts to local tourism.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Happy birthday, Claire!

Claire's second birthday is today, but the celebration took place on Saturday. Ellen and her boyfriend Adam visited from Des Moines and took part in the celebration.

Coming the day after Halloween, the celebration had Claire pretty wound up. Apologies in advance for the background music. I know it's over-done, but my music library is limited.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Vintage baseball video

Fellow members of the Society for American Baseball Research called my attention to a film montage posted on YouTube showing various scenes from the game's Deadball Era.

It included a short clip of the subject of my next biography, the Chicago White Sox' Ray Schalk, successfully executing a squeeze bunt during the 1919 World Series. (This, of course, was the Black Sox series, after which eight White Sox players were banned for life for conspiring to lose the series to the Cincinnati Reds. Schalk was probably the first honest player to suspect the fix was occurring.)

This is a video you might want to watch several times. Each time, you might note another little aspect of the game. Compare the condition of the fields, even in a World Series, to today's manicured diamonds. The uniforms. The attire and enthusiasm of the fans. The advertisements on the outfield walls. And on and on.

Thanks to InitialNoticeBlack for posting this and other rare baseball film clips.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Scenes from Halloween 2008

Granddaughter Claire, wondering what this holiday is all about.

No, that is not a real dragon. It is Claire in costume. Originally, she thought she was a cat.

Below, visitors to the Coopers' front door. The unseasonably warm and pleasant evening had trick-or-treaters out in such numbers that a dash to the supermarket was necessary to replenish the "treats" basket. However, in the interim, after the candy ran out, the kids didn't seem to mind receiving quarters.