Thursday, October 15, 2009

A fun tour to Montgomery County

Folks in Montgomery County, Ill., were hospitable, friendly and enthusiastic during my mini-tour promoting my biography of the late Chicago White Sox star Ray Schalk. I gave a slideshow and autographed books on three occasions -- Saturday morning, Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. (In between the first and second events, I traveled to Chicago for research on another book. But I'll save stories about that for the next post.)

Schalk was born in Harvel and raised in Litchfield, both Montgomery County communities.

The first event was at the Bottomley-Ruffing-Schalk Baseball Museum in Nokomis, where my hosts were Jim Eisenbarth (left) and Steve Johnson. More than 40 folks attended, making it a standing-room-only affair.

Tuesday night about 15 people squeezed into the Litchfield Public Library; my hostess was library director Sara Zumwalt. Then, at 7 Wednesday morning I was the guest of the Litchfield Rotary Club, whose member Bill Dees provided encouragement and assistance with the biography and with arrangements this week.

Dees and some other baseball supporters in Litchfield are working on a project to re-dedicate Ray Schalk Fields in the spring of 2010. Seems that many folks know of the ballfields but not of the man for whom they were named. I hope that book will help raise local awareness.

Thanks to all who made it such a fun experience.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Booksigning venue featured on front page

In just a few days -- at 10 Saturday morning, to be exact -- I will present a slide show and sign copies of my Ray Schalk biography at the Bottomley-Ruffing-Schalk Baseball Museum in Nokomis, Ill.

Coincidentally, and conveniently, The State Journal-Register in Springfield featured the museum today in a front-page story. Unfortunately, the article didn't mention my upcoming appearance. But the article certainly can't hurt.

Monday, October 05, 2009

When Berwanger made the grade

On my most recent trip to Chicago, I continued to research the first Heisman Trophy winner, Jay Berwanger, for the biography I will write. I went through more documents in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Papers stored in the University of Chicago Library.

I found a nugget that certainly will find its way into the book. It is a letter dated February 19, 1933. Stagg (pictured) was on his way out as University of Chicago football coach and athletic director. After four decades in the positions, Stagg was forced out by university officials, who invoked the rule requiring faculty members to retire at age 70.

Stagg's letter was to his successor as football coach, Clark Shaughnessy, then coach of Loyola (New Orleans). Stagg offered Shaughnessy his congratulations and best wishes, and then presented his analysis of what Shaughnessy would inherit in the way of a football team.

Berwanger was a freshman year at UC; at the time, players could not join the varsity until their sophomore seasons.

"If Berwanger is eligible," Stagg wrote, "you will inherit the fastest and the best set of backs that have ever represented the University of Chicago." Stagg, who was about to begin a 14-season stint as coach at the University of the Pacific, cited Berwanger, Pete Zimmer and Ed Cullen as being big (all over 180 pounds) and "exceptionally fast." He added that Zimmer and Berwanger were "exceptionally clever."

Apparently the only question in Stagg's mind was whether Berwanger would pass his UC comprehensive exams and stay eligible. No one, including Dubuque native Berwanger, ever claimed he was Rhodes Scholar material. Five months later, in mid-July, when Berwanger and most of his teammates passed their exams, the achievement made the Chicago papers.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Getting to the Point

Brewery Pottery, on the outskirts of Mineral Point, Wis.,
was built as a brewery in the 1850s.

Josie, Madame X and Andy outside Brewery Pottery.

Lots of the original (or extremely old) features
are still in use on the Brewery Pottery building.

Does anyone know? Is this a genuine Wisconsin badger?

Our Sunday activity centered on an outing to Mineral Point, Wis. We met our son and daughter-in-law, Andy and Josie, for lunch and stops in a dozen or so art galleries and shops.

It had been a long time since I spent any time in Mineral Point -- 20 years, I'd guess -- and the small community has evolved into quite the arts community. Lots of galleries, arts shops (including textiles) and working studios.

Highlights included Longbranch Gallery, an extensive tour of the Bruce Howdle studio, lunch at Cafe Four and finally the Brewery Pottery (where I finally remembered to pull out the camera).

On the Brewery Pottery campus we spied in an empty building a creature peering back at us. Was it one of those Wisconsin badgers? None of us knew for sure.

Anyway, Mineral Point will be among the Southwest Wisconsin communities participating in the Fall Arts Tour, Oct. 16-18. Consider checking it out!

Friday, October 02, 2009

You can say that again, Paul

Chicago Tribune sportswriter Paul Sullivan had an astute comment in his dispatch the other day, after the underachieving Chicago Cubs lost both games of a doubleheader to the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates.

Sullivan noted that, despite the Cubs' fade in their quest for a third straight season with a playoff berth, the team topped 3 million in attendance for the sixth consecutive season.

Said Sullivan: Seldom have so many paid so much and received so little in return.