Friday, December 31, 2010

On the run in 2010

Here's a post that will interest no one, but will put me "on the record" for 2011.

Though I have the day off work today, and I stayed up way too late last night watching Washington exact revenge on Nebraska in the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl, I answered the 5 a.m. alarm to participate in our small running group's final jaunt of 2010.

Some 4½ miles later, I closed the book on my running for the year with 938 miles. I've had better years, but those a becoming a distant memory. That mileage total was my highest in at least four years. (640.2 miles in 2009, 759 miles in 2008 and 742 in 2007.)

I lost several days due to back soreness or injury (including my first-ever hamstring pull), but, as a mid-50-something, I need to expect aches and pains to go with the activity. I also noted that I took off both weekend days way too often.

Another mark on the positive side is that in mid-2010 I started a modest weight-training routine, thanks to the encouragement of my older daughter. I logged 49 visits.

My running log also noted other events:
  • A squirrel grazed my foot while scrambling down a tree (the squirrel, not me) (May 28)
  • I tripped when a wire on my Yak Trax shoe covering caught the cuff of my sweat pants. Shoulder pain. Twisted an ankle on the same run (Feb. 8)
  • Longest run: 8 miles -- above elevation of 10,000 feet, no less. (Aug. 1).
  • Shortest run: 1.5 miles, when my hamstring pull flared again (June 16)
  • Coldest weather for a run (not including wind chill): Minus-8 (Jan. 2)
  • Hottest run: 80 (afternoon of June 27 -- what was I thinking?!)
Anyway, for those of you needing to settle bets, here is my tale of the tape for 2010:
  • Days of running -- 229 (60%)
  • Miles covered -- 938
  • Average distance per run -- 4.1 miles
  • Weight workouts -- 49 (since June 30)
Goals for 2011:
  • Days of running -- 273 (75%)
  • Miles covered -- 1,100
  • Weight workouts -- 100
  • Complete the Turkey Trot 7½-miler without the big fade experienced in 2010
A year from today, we'll see how this panned out.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Early Christmas morning

Christmas 2010 is a slowly developing celebration for us, with part of the family having to delay departure from Des Moines until today due to Friday's snowstorm. But we are having fun with our youngest granddaughter, Elsie.

Things will pick up soon, with more family, including a couple of other granddaughters, due to arrive by late morning.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The shortest days

When you get up at 5 a.m. to go for a run outside, you notice certain things. Like darkness, for example. There is a lot of it during the fall, as our hours of daylight steadily decrease. According to my running log, I've been carrying a flashlight on my morning jaunts since Aug. 10. And I'll be running with one through at least mid-April, when our group starts our run in darkness and finishes in daylight.

Anyway, if there is anything good to be said about our recent blasts of wintry weather, it is this: The days now start getting longer. Sunrise today was 7:29 am, and sunset was 4:33 pm. The change is just seconds a day at first, but I'll take them. In six months, sunrise will be 5:25 am and sunset 8:43 pm. I can't wait!

Friday, December 10, 2010

It was 75 years ago today

Seventy-five years ago today -- Dec. 10, 1935 -- Jay Berwanger, son of a Dubuque blacksmith, received the first Downtown Athletic Club Trophy. By the next year, it was renamed the Heisman Trophy. Berwanger was flown to New York to receive the trophy.

The photo caption noted that Berwanger, of the University of Chicago, was the only player to be named to all of the various All-America teams in 1935.

Image © Bettmann/CORBIS

Thursday, December 09, 2010

To the airwaves

My Dec. 5 article in the Telegraph Herald about Jay Berwanger was on the Web, and it resulted in several nice comments -- and a request to be part of a sports radio program.

The station is KIIC, based in the southeastern Iowa community of Albia. From 1982 to 1986, we lived in Ottumwa, just east of Albia.

I should be on the air about 9:30 am Saturday with Mark Felderman, who has Bellevue ties. The interview should last 10-15 minutes.

The station has live streaming, so if you are having a boring Saturday morning, click this link and listen in.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What was the question again?

Note to self: Don't do TV interviews on four hours of sleep. The Telegraph Herald's broadcast news coverage partner, KWWL, asked to come over from Waterloo to do this interview the morning after the election.
I was more than a little sleep-deprived, and I had to be at a meeting anyway, so I got through it on the only take without any injuries.
Take a look.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Clip joint

As part of our company's United Way campaign, organizers ran a special event in which employees could pay a dollar and clip a half-inch off the department directors' neckties.

Folks were pretty generous, and it was all in good fun for a good cause.

My last "customer" was the young daughter of one of our photographers, Jeremy. He reported, "When we got home she ran in the door and shouted, "I went to work with Poppa and cut one of the bosses of everyone there's tie." Her mother didn't know what to say.

No need to buy a vowel

I rarely watch "Wheel of Fortune," but this caught my interest.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Happy birthday!

Our oldest granddaughter turned 4 during the week, and the celebration on Saturday was the highlight of my weekend.

The experience of opening presents just isn't complete without an assistance from one's younger sister. Actually, the girls did a great job of cooperating!

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Happy (belated) Halloween!

The election and other matters kept me from posting these photos of a few of our Halloween visitors -- until now.

Two little girls -- one a clown and the other a dinosaur -- and someone dressed as a college professor started the festivities. Below are a few random shots of our visitors.

Despite favorable weather, we had fewer trick-or-treaters than we expected -- no more than 50.

Meanwhile, a friend who lives on Dubuque's South Grandview Avenue reported 600 visitors. Residents from rural areas -- even across the river in Wisconsin and Illinois -- drive their kids to Grandview and turn them loose!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Early Christmas shopping

When Oct. 31 rolls around, everybody thinks of which holiday?

That's right: Christmas.

Actually, it was just coincidental that Halloween was the day we picked out and reserved our Christmas tree. Over the last few years, we learned that an extra trip to the tree farm saves time and frostbitten digits. Sure, we miss out on slogging through snow to try to select a tree, but we are willing to forgo that experience.

Madame X and I were accompanied by our two oldest granddaughters (and their parents).

Now, all we have to do is return whenever we choose and claim the tree we tagged. It usually still involves a walk on the snow-covered grounds, but the process moves along much more quickly when you can go directly to "your" tree. Plus, the selection is better at this time of year.

Psi Upsilon honors Berwanger

On Saturday, the Omega chapter of Psi Upsilon, of which Jay Berwanger was a brother, commemorated the 75th anniversary of Berwanger's selection for the first Heisman Trophy.

The fraternity was kind enough to invite me to the brunch and ceremony, which was attended by about 20 members of the Berwanger family, including two of his three children. The alumni members marked the occasion by presenting a plaque for display in the fraternity house that Berwanger called home for three years.

It was at the fraternity house that a telegram arrived for Berwanger. It was early December 1935. The message was from the Downtown Athletic Club of New York City inviting Berwanger to New York, all expenses paid, to receive the Downtown Athletic Club Trophy, honoring him as the best college football player east of the Mississippi.

The award was renamed the John Heisman Memorial Trophy the next year, and the sponsors eventually dropped the geographic limits on nominees.

The Heisman did not always enjoy the status it does today. Berwanger's biggest thrill in winning the award involved taking his first-ever airplane ride. He didn't have a place for the trophy, and for years it resided in the home of an aunt, who used what is today the most recognized of U.S. sports awards as a doorstop.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Quoted in article about Berwanger

University of Chicago alum Martin Northway had an article about Jay Berwanger, subject of my next book, published in the latest Newcity Magazine.

Northway was nice enough to contact me for an e-mail "interview" for the article. As it turned out, I got the last word.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Congratulations, Ellen and Adam

Saturday marked my second and final opportunity to be the Father of the Bride. Ellen and Adam tied the knot in a beautiful Mass at Resurrection Church.

The reception at Loras College, largely planned by Ellen (and Adam), was a great time. (Early in the evening, there was a medical situation involving one of Adam's relatives, but that turned out well, too.) Through it all, my role was to write checks and stay out of the way.

IMHO, they are an intelligent, mature couple. They have their feet on the ground. The only deficiency in my new son-in-law is that he is a Packers fan. However, he is also a Cubs fan -- thus I gave my consent to the nuptials.

(Photo credit: Cousin Jamie)

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Schalk honored by Litchfield

While researching my Ray Schalk biography, I observed to Litchfield civic leader Bill Dees that Litchfield is the boyhood home of a major league Hall of Famer but has nothing to inform visitors of this.

As local awareness of Schalk increased with release of my book, Dees was able to raise money to have a sign erected at the Litchfield city limits.

Dees today sent me this photo and this caption information:

Almost 95 years to the day after the first Ray Schalk Day in Litchfield (October 15, 1915) City of Litchfield Street Department workers Curt Evans, Jerry Hull and J.R. Beckham put the finishing touches on the installation of a sign recognizing the impact Ray Shalk had on future baseball players in Litchfield.

On May 8th 2010 a rededication plaque was unveiled at Ray Schalk Field. During this event a number of people indicated that the City needed a sign at the West edge of the City marking Mr. Schalk's entrance into Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame. Volunteer funds were received from the BRS Baseball Museum in Nokomis with the assistance of Steve Johnson, Litchfield Baseball, Litchfield Rotary, Litchfield Park District, Contemporary Service, Ben Schwab, Mike and Paula Hall, the Todd Neuhaus family, other anonymous donors along with the Author of the Ray Schalk biography, Brian Cooper.

Litchfield tourism director Carol Burke reviewed the graphic and local sign artist Jerry Dever produced the paint on aluminum sign with the assistance of the George Press Inc. and MD Designs by Metal D├ęcor.

It was nice of Dees to mention me, and to credit others involved, but this would not have happened without former Mayor Dees taking the lead.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Alpaca Day

Madame X and I went to Alpaca Day 2010 at Irish Meadows Alpaca Farm, near LaMotte, Iowa, about 15 minutes from Dubuque Regional Airport. We took along our oldest granddaughter.

We were somewhat familiar with alpacas. Madame X attended this event last fall (when the Telegraph Herald produced this video), and in the summer of 2009 we visited an alpaca farm in Maine. Alpaca fiber is incredibly soft.

Co-owners Mike and Julie Delaney were friendly and accommodating hosts at their open house. We walked the grounds, poking in various barns, including one built in 1860. And Mike brought out a baby alpaca for our granddaughter to meet.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

An author to behold

My Sunday afternoon included taking part in a local authors book fair at the newly renovated Carnegie-Stout Public Library in Dubuque.

Sales for me were nonexistent slow, so I had time to catch up with Telegraph Herald freelance columnist and full-time writer Robert Byrne, compiler of a book of quotations, "The 2,548 Best Things Anybody Ever Said," and the collection of his brief essays from the TH, "Behold My Shorts."

That's Bob on the left.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Berwanger name crops up amid Reggie Bush controversy

The name of Jay Berwanger, subject of my current biography project, is hitting the papers and Internet a little more than usual lately, thanks to the the current Reggie Bush controversy. Should Bush return his Heisman trophy -- or should the Heisman committee rescind the award?

Gordon White, writing in The Pilot, of Southern Pines, N.C., tells some Berwanger history in light of It's largely accurate, though the "coward" reference is a bit out of context. Berwanger was usually the most hard-nosed player on the field.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Running with the senator

Trophy winners: Madame X and Sen. Grassley

Three members of our family competed in the Mississippi Valley Running Association's 33rd annual Dubuque Benefit Classic on Labor Day morning.

We all ran the the 5-kilometer race (3.1 miles). The morning's festivities included a half-marathon (13.1 miles).

Among the several hundred runners was U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley. He turns 77 next week, and finished third in the men's 70-and-older division of the 5k.

For those of you keeping score at home, the Coopers collected three trophies: Madame X, first; Older Daughter, first; and yours truly, second.

Next race? Probably on Thanksgiving at the Turkey Trot -- 80 days away.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Brisk end to 'Jazz' season

The "Dubuque ... And All That Jazz" series suffered its worst summer ever weather-wise in 2010. One of its four Friday evenings of live music, food and adult beverages was effectively washed out, and a couple others went on as scheduled but under less-than-ideal conditions.

Gray, cool and breezy weather marked the final session Friday night. Attendance was off by at least half (maybe two-thirds), but Madame X and I enjoyed the evening nonetheless, catching up with friends and acquaintances and enjoying Andrew Jr. Boy Jones. (We even bought one of his CDs, "Gettin' Real.")

Another highlight was spending some time there with our oldest two granddaughters (and their parents, of course).

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Checking in on Elsie (and others)

Discovering that we had an open weekend on the calendar, Madame X and I made the 90-minute drive to check in on our youngest granddaughter, 2-month-old (plus) Elsie. Coincidentally, her parents were home, too.

On top of that, we visited our younger son (not pictured). It's been less than a month since he relocated to the same city where Elsie and her parents live.

Pop even squeezed in a nap before the drive home. It was a fun, relaxing day.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

And add a week

Stolen from her parents' blog: Here's granddaughter Elsie at 8 weeks.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Picture perfect

I was going to blog about a strange radio commercial I heard today. It was encouraging people to donate their old cars to the blind. Now, why would a blind person need a car -- even an old one?

Instead of going into all that here, I'm posting a photo of my youngest granddaughter, Elsie Rose, who a few days ago turned 7 weeks old. (I lifted the photo from her parents' blog.)

And, yes, I know that people donate they cars to an organization that uses money from the cars to help the blind. But the commercial struck me as odd just the same.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Time of the season

Entry in running log for Aug. 10: "Used flashlight 1st time this season."

Yes, our supply of daylight is getting shorter, and at 5:25 am today there was not quite enough of it for me to feel safe. Runner-tripping sidewalk cracks have a way of sneaking up on you in pre-dawn Dubuque.

So, barring any significant realignment of the solar system, my flashlight will be my companion on these early jaunts until sometime in mid-April 2011.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Two concerts in three nights

As mentioned here a couple of days ago, we vacationed in Leadville, Colo., where we happened to take in two concerts to benefit the Community Outreach Program of a local church, St. George's Episcopal.

Legendary Judy Collins played the historic Tabor Opera House on Friday night (July 30). She opened the first of two sets with "Both Sides Now," closed the second set with "Send in the Clowns," and for her final encore number chose the classic "Over the Rainbow."

I didn't try to capture video with my point-and-shoot camera from the second row of the balcony. So here's a recent video of her opening number with the arrangement she played in Leadville.

The Tabor was built in 1880 (as the local mining boom was taking off), making it 10 years older than Dubuque's Grand Opera House. Unfortunately, the Tabor is not in such good repair, especially compared to the recently restored Grand.

Two nights later, on Sunday (Aug. 1) Madame X and I were at St. George's, where we heard an all-woman (except for the bassist) San Francisco-based band, Blame Sally, play to a full house (er, church) of about 100. The women of Blame Sally have a soft spot for Leadville, and they did the Sunday night gig on their way to larger venues in Colorado. Here's one of their videos.

When it was all said and done, and meaning no disrespect to a music legend, I think I enjoyed the Blame Sally evening better.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Vacationing -- at minus-600 feet

One of the more interesting events on my summer vacation was touring the Hopemore Mine, just outside the former boom town of Leadville, Colo.

Leadville is 10,124 feet above sea level, making it the highest incorporated community in North America. It's our favorite vacation spot. I've lost track of how many times we've vacationed there the past 20-plus years; my best guess is eight.

Since our previous visit, Bob Calder, owner of the gold (and other precious metals) mine, received permits to allow tours. The excursion took us 600 feet below the earth's surface. I'm not a fan of tight spaces, but I felt less worried about being 60 stories down than I thought I would. I guess there is a certain point where you just have to leave it in the hands of the Higher Being.

My brother-in-law, his three boys, my son-in-law and yours truly survived what was a fascinating experience.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Stormy Thursday

This was the scene just one house up the street late Thursday during a series of powerful thunderstorms.

High wind and heavy rain teamed up to topple a large curbside tree. It fell across the bed of a parked pick-up truck, whose bed crashed to the pavement. The street was blocked for a few hours. I didn't know it at the time, but down the street a few houses, a huge limb blocked the road.

What you see to the right of the truck bed is the earth uprooted in the crash.

However, city crews worked through the night, even while lightning was present, and removed the section of tree blocking our street. The trunk was actually pushed back up until crews could return to remove the rest of it. The truck was hauled away.

We were more fortunate than most. The area, saturated by record rainfall totals, is experiencing flash flooding.

Time to move to higher ground.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Something's fishy

We had several relatives in town this weekend for a wedding shower. Saturday evening, we thought, "What better way to show off Dubuque than to take a twilight walk along the Mississippi River Walk."

Bad idea.

The setting was beautiful, of course, and we're proud of the development along the city's riverfront. The weather was even manageable at that hour.

What we hadn't counted on was another hatching of mayflies, or, as people in these parts call them, fishflies. Fishfly season is usually brief, and I thought the annual infestation was over.


I had never seen anything like the black swarms of fishflies hovering over the trees along the riverbank. (See someone else's video from a year ago, and visualize an even denser swarm.)

By the time we started the return walk to our cars, the fishflies had moved farther inland, causing our guests, including my 80-year-old mother-in-law, to nearly break into a run for the cars, constantly waving their arms to ward off the flying insects.

Fishflies (or mayflies) are not unique to Dubuque or even the Mississippi River. They can be so thick that they show up on weather radar (example below is just upriver from Dubuque at some unspecified year). But they are a rare experience for many folks. Unfortunately, I'm thinking they may wind up being the most vivid memory of the weekend for our guests.

Friday, July 16, 2010

You meet the most interesting people

After the first "Dubuque ... and all that Jazz" was stormed out last month, Madame X and I were especially looking forward to attending tonight's event.

It was a beautiful night ... made better because our older two granddaughters were on hand (with their parents, of course).

I know what you are thinking, but no, I will not make a crack about seeing people in the gutter.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

So long, St. Louis

Photo: Marla Jordon. National Parks Service contest.

In May, Madame X and I took a trip to St. Louis, figuring that it would be our last occasion to visit the Gateway City in some time because, after five years of college and work in the city, our youngest, Greg, planned to move away later in the summer.

Then fate interceded. Greg suffered a serious knee injury in a pick-up basketball game and a few days ago underwent surgery to repair his ACL. So Mom and Dad made another trip to STL to be there for the procedure and to look after him for a couple of days. The surgery was successful, and the long rehab process is under way (to be continued as Greg starts his new job near Madison, Wis.).

While we wished the circumstances behind the extra trip were different, we do enjoy St. Louis. Though much of our time was spent in the hotel, checking on Greg's ice supply and medication schedule, the trip did allow me to call on all three of my sets of aunts and uncles who live in the area. By the third night, Greg was feeling well enough to go out for dinner at the Schlafly Brewery Tap Room.

The patient demonstrates his progress!

On my final morning in St. Louis, I went for a run that took me to the Gateway Arch. Touching the stainless steel landmark and craning my neck to see the top, I wondered when my next opportunity to repeat the experience will be. I'm sure we'll be back someday.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mid-year assessment

Entering this morning's run into my running log, I noted that we're at the midway point of 2010. Time to take stock.

Despite a couple of periods when I didn't run due to injury -- including nearly two weeks this month -- I see that I ran 109 times in the first half of 2010 and covered 463 miles. That's an average jaunt of 4¼ miles. Not bad, but there's not much speed behind those miles, either.

My mid-new-year's resolution is to work on overall conditioning. Thus, this evening I will give weight training a try under the careful supervision of my daughter and coach Dr. Cooper.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

River museum addition not to be missed

Time to dust off the thesaurus. I need the right words to describe the National River Center, the soon-to-open addition to the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque.
Those are just a few of the words that come to mind after the Telegraph Herald Editorial Board a week ago toured the facility, which at the time was as much a construction site as a showpiece museum.
Still, it was clear that the place will have every bit of the “Wow” factor of the original river museum, which opened seven years ago.
Calling the new facility, in the former Diamond Jo building, an “addition” does not do it justice. It will double the square footage of the museum, and it has features and exhibitions that will take an already first-class museum to a higher level.
In fact, there is so much to see, admission tickets will be good for two consecutive days.
Folks sometimes take for granted treasures in their own back yard. Perhaps you visited the river museum a time or two the past seven years and think you have “seen it already.” “Been there, done that” just doesn’t cut it.
Resolve to make a return visit during or soon after this “preview” weekend to see what is new at this jewel right on Dubuque’s shoreline.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Meet Elsie Rose

Introducing my third grandchild -- and third granddaughter -- Elsie Rose Cooper.
The details:
Born 7:37 pm June 16, 2010
8 lbs 2 oz
19 inches long
Elsie and her first-time parents, Josie and Andy, are doing just fine.
Welcome to the world, Elsie!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Schalk book no bargain in South Africa

Google Alerts alerted me that my Ray Schalk: A Baseball Biography is listed on a marketplace search engine site named Jump. The book sells for 344 to 376.

That's 344 what? And where?

Turns out that Jump is based in South Africa, where the currency is the rand.

A currency converter tells me that 357 rand, the current asking price on Loot, are worth $46.03. You're better off buying the book here in the US.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Running in tribute -- times 2

I started off my holiday weekend by participating in the Grey Ribbon Crusade Walk/Run-A-Thon, a 5-kilometer race to honor the late Dubuque Senior High coach Jim Boughton and to help others in their fight against brain cancer.

Coach Boughton, 56, lost his six-month battle to brain cancer earlier this month. His death is a loss not only to his family and the Senior High community, but to the Dubuque running community overall.According to Jim Leitner's story in Sunday's TH, the event drew 496 runners, and that could make it the largest field for an inaugural race in Dubuque. That's a great tribute to Coach Boughton and everyone involved in organizing this race on relatively short notice.

The race started in the Mystique Casino parking lot and took runners along the Dubuque floodwall and back. I ran -- raced would not be the word for it -- the event with friend Dennis Healy, Jim's long-time colleague and friend. Dennis, immensely popular around Senior -- he was commencement speaker for the umpteenth time on Sunday -- had to expend extra energy acknowledging all the greetings directed his way during the event.

Dennis' retirement, just a few days away, means the loss of two popular distance running coaches and teachers from the Senior community.

That the race occurred one day before the 13th anniversary of my mother's death -- to brain cancer -- had me running in tribute to two special people.

Oil Spill Cam

Watch live streaming video from wkrg_oil_spill at

Oil spill cam from the Gulf of Mexico.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Streak of perfection

For only the second time ever, Major League Baseball has had two perfect games in the same season. And, like the other occasion, in 1880, they occurred in the same month.

May 2010 is when Oakland's Dallas Braden and Philadelphia's Roy Halladay (pictured) recorded 27 consecutive outs to notch only the 19th and 20th perfect games in major league history. Some 130 years ago, Lee Richmond of Worcester and Providence's Monte Ward threw perfect games just five days apart in June 1880.

The subject of my latest published biography, Ray Schalk, was the catcher the fifth perfect game ever. On April 30, 1922, Charlie Robertson, making only his fourth major league start, blanked Ty Cobb and the Detroit Tigers.

MLB, which has gone years and even decades between perfect games, has now seen three perfect games in less than a year. Mark Buehrle of the White Sox had one last July. Note that after Robertson (with Schalk's help) threw a perfect game in 1922, the next perfecto did not come until Don Larsen's historic performance in the World Series of 1956 -- a span of 34 years. This span was less than 34 days.

Here is the list of perfect games, and a list naming the catchers with a hand in history.

Photo: Associated Press

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Video evidence

To refute any doubts that I did participate as a contestant in the "Dancing with the Stars: Dubuque Style," here is video evidence from the evening of May 22, 2010. (Video by Mediacom Channel 22.)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Raising the stakes

I learned on Thursday that my employer will match donations ('votes") for my participation in Dancing with the Stars: Dubuque Style, dollar for dollar, up to $1,000.

All vote donations for me go to Riverview Center -- plus I don't have to dance as well to "win!"

Send the pledge to me or visit Don't delay. The event Saturday night, May 22, at the Grand River Center.

Thanks Jim and Telegraph Herald.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Higher than face value

Thanks to Google Alerts, I receive e-mail notices and web links to mentions of the subjects of my past and future books, Red Faber, Ray Schalk and Jay Berwanger.

Some alerts tag blog references. Many of those are comments by supposed experts categorizing Schalk as a terrible pick for the Hall of Fame because of his .253 career batting average -- ignoring, apparently, that he was a long-time star because of his defense.

Anyway, the alerts also notify me when memorabilia or, occasionally, my Faber or Schalk biographies hit ebay or a blog.

Today I learned that someone is trying to sell copies my Schalk biography for $33.36 (plus $4 for shipping). Thing is, the book lists for $29.95 (plus $4 shipping) from the publisher's web site.

Quite the bargain. I'd autograph and ship the book for less than $37.36.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ray Schalk Field re-dedicated

On a bitterly cold and windy Saturday morning, Litchfield (Ill.) staged its annual Little League parade to open the 2010 season.

Ceremonies included re-dedication of Ray Schalk Fields, named after the Hall of Famer who grew up in Litchfield (and was the subject of my latest biography). I was listed as the "keynote" speaker, and I had to ad lib somewhat. I couldn't hold my script and the microphone without having one or the other blow away. (Yes, it was THAT windy.)

The ceremony brought to Litchfield about 18 members of the Schalk family. The baseball star's grandson Jim Schalk (pictured), with his wife, Laura, drove all the way from Florida to be there. Other Schalks traveled the 250 miles from the Chicago area.

After the unveiling of the plaque to honor Ray Schalk, we adjourned to the new Maverick restaurant, where I presented my slideshow and visited with family members and folks from the Litchfield community. Some of the relatives had lost track of each other through the years, so they had some catching up to do.

Despite the February-like weather, it was a great day.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Pizza and ribs in 2-mile-high city

Going to Colorado this summer (as we are)? Check out Leadville and my brother-in-law's family's pizza restaurant, High Mountain Pies. Best pizza (and ribs) anywhere! Leadville, the highest municipality in North America (its elevation is above 10,000 feet), is an old mining area that's now a great place for visitors.

Their place just received a great write-up in the Denver Post.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Play Ball! And read the fine print

The Major League Baseball season is entering its second month, so I am remiss in not posting this cautionary note earlier.

See the ad above? Major League Baseball posts this -- and others like it -- on team pages. "Watch Every Regular Season Cubs Game Online." Sounds like a pretty good deal, right? Especially for folks who travel or might choose to not have cable or satellite TV.

Look at the ad again. Toward the bottom, take note: "Blackout and other restrictions apply." Those are critical words, especially when you learn -- as I did, the hard way -- just how expansive the MLB blackout zones are.

Here in Iowa, all six Midwest teams are blacked out: both Chicago teams, St. Louis, Kansas City, Milwaukee and Minnesota.

Last winter, I signed up for the service. Yes, I didn't read the fine print, figuring the blackouts were probably just when the Cubs were involved in a national game. Mistake. I even saw a couple of Cubs spring training games online. But once the regular season started, so did the blackouts.

It took a lot of effort -- and not giving up when MLB said, "Sorry, no refunds" -- before I finally got my money back.

This online service could be great if you live far -- very, very far -- from the home city of your favorite team. However, even if you are a state or two away, you could be blacked out and ripped off.

Baseball fans, beware!

2-for-1 opportunity

I received a dinner invitation Saturday evening, which presented a couple of opportunities:
1) To get out my bicycle and try to prepare for Dubuque's Bike to Work Week (May 17-21),
2) To spend time with the cutest granddaughters in the world.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sands of time

You know how it seems that little kids receiving presents often seem more enthralled with the box and packaging than with the gift itself?

That thought came to mind today, when we celebrated granddaughter Lise's first birthday.

Madame X and I gave Lise a little plastic sandbox in the shape of a turtle. But, because today's weather was cool and rainy, we carried the sandbox inside. The bags of sand will be poured into the sandbox on a better day.

However, as this photo shows, the absence of sand didn't seem to bother Lise and her older sister Claire in the least.

Happy birthday, Lise!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It's a gas

The highlight of our weekend -- and our spring -- was a family gathering involving all four of our children, their significant others, plus two granddaughters.

The older granddaughter likes to entertain as only a 3-year-old can do. She also is pretty forthright about what is going on with her -- as the video shows.

Truth and fiction of NFL's first pick

With the National Football League draft going prime time, sportswriters and bloggers are reflecting on the history of the draft.

If they go all the way back to the first draft, in 1936, they invariably mention Jay Berwanger, the subject of my next biography.

Berwanger was the first pick in the first NFL draft, selected by the Philadelphia Eagles, who immediately traded their rights to the University of Chicago star to the Chicago Bears. The legend is that Berwanger demanded $1,000 a game (actually, $20,000 for two years of service with a guaranteed contract) – roughly 10 times the going rate at the time – and that Bears owner George Halas refused. Embroiled in a contract dispute, Berwanger never played a down of professional football.

Reality is that Berwanger stated a salary figure that he knew was astronomical, especially during the Depression, not as a demand as much as a statement that he was not interested in playing pro football. The only “negotiation” in which Berwanger and Halas engaged was a brief exchange when they bumped into each other in a hotel lobby. There was no dispute, no holdout -- and no contract.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Nice to have been in the running

I received word today that my book Ray Schalk: A Baseball Biography was not selected for the 2010 Larry Ritter Award of the Society for American Baseball Research. The award goes to the year's best book focusing on the Deadball Era (1900-1919).

The honor went to Robert Peyton Wiggins for The Federal League of Base Ball Clubs, which was published by McFarland (publisher of my Schalk and Red Faber biographies).

The Schalk biography was among the 10 or so finalists did not advance to the top three in the judging. Congratulations to Mr. Wiggins.

Though it would have been great, obviously, to have a book rank higher, it was nice to have a book nominated for the award.

I doubt that my next book will even be considered for this award. After all, it's a football biography.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

What have I gotten myself into?

The rumors are true: I am participating in the Dubuque Area Chamber of Commerce's first Dancing with the Stars -- Dubuque Style.

On May 22, about 10 "celebrities" will dance with professional instructors (or their top students) in a charity event. Folks may "vote" for a contestant by donating money toward his or her selected charity. (My choice is Riverview Center.)

Being a contestant doesn't mean I can dance. Madame X and I took lessons about 20 years ago, but most of that is forgotten. I'm essentially starting from scratch.

Fortunately for me, my instructor is Jennifer Mulcahey, of Ballroom by Jennifer in Dubuque. She and her crew are donating their services toward this charitable event. I've had two lessons, and I'll just say that Jennifer is a very patient instructor.

Don't look for moves like those you see on the TV version of this event. I'm just hoping not to injure anyone.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Birthday observance

Friday marked what would have been the 96th birthday of the subject of my current biography project, Jay Berwanger (1914-2002), winner of college football's first Heisman Trophy.

John Jacob Berwanger was born in Dubuque, Iowa. His mother Pauline was born in Germany and his father, John, the son of German immigrants, was born in Dubuque just a few weeks after his parents' arrival in the U.S.