Saturday, April 28, 2012

Chicago Radio Spotlight: Dick Orkin

This week's Chicago Radio Spotlight interview has been posted. I interviewed radio advertising legend Dick Orkin.

You can read it here.

Cubs 365, April 28

On this day in 1975, the San Diego Padres released Glenn Beckert, ending his big league career at the age of 34. They had acquired him from the Cubs the previous season (for Jerry Morales), but Beckert was no longer the player he had once been in Chicago.

While with the Cubs, Glenn was a 4-time All-Star, a gold glove Second Baseman (1968), and for four seasons in a row, the toughest man to strike out in all of baseball. In 1971 he hit .342. Another season (1968), he led the league in runs scored. His scrappy play and willingness to do whatever it took to get on base is the reason he became a favorite of his manager, Leo Durocher.

In his book Nice Guys Finish Last, Durocher, a man who rarely praised his players, said this about his second baseman: "I got a guy over here, Beckert, bustin' his rear end. He works on his hitting. He works on his fielding. He works on all of his weaknesses. He's made himself into a hell of a player."

That's probably why Cub fans loved him too.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Coming this Weekend

I'm super excited about this week's Chicago Radio Spotlight. I just got off the phone with the legendary Dick Orkin. I'll be posting that interview in the morning.

This week's Father Knows Nothing will examine the most unlikely thing my oldest son ever said to me.

And of course, we'll travel back in time to this week in 1908 and 1945 at Just One Bad Century, and hear a few more stories from this day in history on Cubs 365 at the Just One Bad Century blog.

Have a great weekend!

Cheeseland, the website and facebook page

Eckhartz Press author Randy Richardson has created his own website for his book "Cheeseland". You can check it out here.

He also has a "Cheeseland" Facebook page, which he'd love you to "like".

The book itself is coming out on May 29, and will be available for pre-order beginning May 8. Keep checking the Eckhartz Press blog for more information about this excellent new book. We're very proud to be publishing it.

Cubs 365, April 27

On this day in 1897, Cubs Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby was born. It's hard to imagine that one of the greatest players in history was not popular in Chicago--but Hornsby clearly was not.

Hornsby had one great season for the Cubs, their World Series year of 1929, and he became the manager at the very end of the following year. Despite managing a notoriously rowdy team, he ruled with an iron fist. He didn't just ban drinking (which, of course, was illegal at the time), he banned reading, movies, soda pop, smoking, and eating in the club house. He was so hated by his players that when the 1932 team won the pennant (after he was fired), the players voted to give him zero cents of a playoff share, even though he had been with the team for 4 months.

Their hatred of him went much deeper than his strict rules. He was in deep debt to many of the players on the team. The Commissioner of Baseball, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, became so alarmed by the reports he was getting about Hornsby, that he sent letters warning the team and the players about him. He also sent one to the NL President demanding any and all information he had about Hornsby's gambling.

Hornsby was defiant about it until the very end: "Gambling's legal," he would say. He never bet on baseball, only the horses. Probably influenced by Hornsby's star power, Landis chose not to punish him. But his letters to the club led to an internal Cubs investigation. Team owner William Wrigley and team president William Veeck discovered that Hornsby had borrowed $11,000 from his own players.

That's when they fired him and replaced him with Charlie Grimm. Grimm led the 1932 team to the World Series. Hornsby never experienced the playoffs again.

Later in life he was hired by Wrigley's son Phillip to become the teams first minor league batting instructor. The same prickly personality and inability to understand why people couldn't naturally hit as well as he did, however, made him as lousy at that job as he was as a manager.

As a player Rogers Hornsby had very few peers. His lifetime batting average is .358. He hit .400 three different times. He narrowly missed it a fourth time (.397). He won two MVP awards, two triple crowns, and seven batting titles.

And he did all that while gambling away nearly every dime he earned.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Rick on the Radio

The MP3 of the Ed Tyll show is now available on the internet, if you'd like to hear our interview from Tuesday night. Go to the April 24th show. My interview with Ed begins at about the 32 minute mark and goes until the 45 minute mark. We talk about writing in general, how characters are created, and specifically how we wrote the book "The Living Wills".

First Look at the cover for "Cheeseland"

Coming out on Eckhartz Press May 29th.

Brendan Joins a Cash Mob

What is a Cash Mob?

A Cash Mob is when a community descends on a local business on a particular night, and then they all go out for drinks afterwards.

Sounds like fun.

My co-author Brendan Sullivan ("The Living Wills") will be one of the authors on hand at Bookie's in Beverly tonight (Thursday). It starts at 6pm and goes until whenever. There will be copies of "The Living Wills" available there if you haven't purchased yours yet.

Come and meet some super talented local people (17 local authors and artists). Bring your friends! The Bookie's Paperbacks & More, 2419 W 103rd, Chicago, Illinois 60655 (773-239-1110)

Cubs 365, April 26

On this day in 1900, one of the most famous Cubs players of all-time was born. His name was Hack Wilson. Hack is remembered for his still record 1930 season when he drove in 191 runs, but during his Cubs days Hack was also known as something else: A hellraiser.

He had several run-ins with the law, his teammates, opposing players, and even fans. For instance...

*In his first season with the Cubs (1926), Hack Wilson was arrested and charged with drinking beer in violation of the Prohibition Act. Four cops arrived at his friend's house, and he tried to escape out the side door. While he was attempting to escape, his friend (a woman named Lottie Frain) threw a bookend at the cops. Wilson was caught and arrested.

*One night Wilson and his teammate Pat Malone were walking down the hallway of their hotel, and Wilson laughed. Someone in a hotel room mimicked his laugh. Wilson and Malone broke into the room and beat the hell out of four men, until all of them were out cold. One of the men was still standing and Malone kept punching. Wilson pointed out that he was already knocked out. "Move the lamp and he'll fall." Malone moved the lamp, and the man fell to the ground.

*In 1928, Wilson charged into the stands to fight a milkman who had been heckling him throughout the game. 5000 fans stormed the field during the melee. Gabby Hartnett and Joe Kelly had to physically pull Wilson off the milkman. Hack was fined $100 for that.

*In 1929, Wilson got into two fistfights with players on the Reds, and was suspended for three games. In the first fight, he charged into the Red's dugout to punch Red's pitcher Ray Kolp...after he had just gotten a single. He was tagged out in the dugout. The second fight happened that same night at the train station with Red's pitcher Pete Donohue—who was trying to stop Wilson from attacking Kolp again. Hack punched Donohue in the face twice.

*Joe McCarthy knew how to handle Hack Wilson and keep him functioning. He once took a worm and dropped it in a glass of whiskey. The worm quickly died. "Now what does that prove?" asked Joe. Wilson thought about it for a while and replied, "It proves that if you drink whiskey, you won't get worms!"

Near the end of his Wilson's life he appeared on a network radio show where he spoke about the effects of "Demon Rum." This was just a few months before his death from an internal hemorrhage on November 23, 1948. He was only 48. His body was unclaimed for three days before National League president Ford Frick paid for the funeral.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

My Brush with Sam Kinison

In this week's contribution to the City Mom blog at ChicagoNow, I tell the story of my brush with comedian Sam Kinison. Sam died exactly twenty years ago this month.

You can read it here.

Cubs 365, April 25

On this day in 1911, Cub fan Jacob Rubenstein was born in Chicago. He was one of eight children of Jewish parents who had immigrated from Poland. He didn't have a happy childhood. His parents divorced when he was 11. By the time he was 14, his mother was committed to a mental institution, and he was on his own.

Despite his hardscrabble life, Jacob followed the Cubs. In fact, they brought him his first real chance at earning a living. Jack made it through eighth grade, then "found himself on Chicago streets attempting to provide for himself and other members of his family," as a famous government report put it. He earned money by scalping tickets to sporting events and by selling sports-related novelties, such as Cubs banners. He remained in Chicago until 1947. During his years as a Cubs fan/entrepreneur, the Cubs appeared in six World Series.

But Jacob isn't really known for his days in Chicago. He's better known for his days in Dallas, Texas, and for one particular day at that; the day after John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

That famous government report was called "The Warren Commission Report" and by the time he was mentioned in it, Jacob Rubenstein was known the world over by the name he adopted in adulthood; Jack Ruby.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Green White History

One of my on-going writing projects is chronicling the history of the soccer club Green White. My dad was one of the founders of the club in 1956, and each month I write about one year in Green White history.

This month it's about 1963. And it features the birth of this Green White baby.

Richard something or other.

John Lennon

Forty years ago today, John Lennon released a very controversial record. Bob Dearborn tells the story at The Olde Disc Jockey's almanac, including how this led to Bob interviewing John & Yoko...

"April 24, 1972…John Lennon's controversial single, "Woman Is the Nigger of the World" was released in the U.S. The song reached #57 on the Billboard Hot 100, even though only two major radio stations – KDAY in Los Angeles and WCFL in Chicago – aired it. Yoko Ono originally uttered the phrase during a magazine interview in 1967 and John explained that he was making a point that women deserved higher status in society. In conjunction with the record's release and my station's decision to air it, your editor enjoyed a 20-minute interview on WCFL with John & Yoko regarding the new song, his thoughts on current music, why it was important for them to reach out to Mike Douglas' audience, and his post-Beatle life in New York. They couldn't have been more interesting, charming, engaging and compelling. It was a thrill for me and remains a highly cherished memory."

Dick Cavett also interviewed John & Yoko about the song, before they performed it live...

Cubs 365, April 24

On this day in 1957, the Cubs set a big league record. It's not exactly one that they advertise.

The Cubs were playing the Reds in Cincinnati on a cold day in front of only 7212 fans at Crosley Field. On the mound for the Cubs; their young right hander from Poland, Moe Drabowsky. Moe had cruised through the Reds order in the first four innings, making only one mistake--a ball that was hit out of the park by Reds left fielder Bob Thurman.

The Cubs were leading the game 2-1 when the Reds came up in the bottom of the fifth. Moe was facing the bottom of the order for the Reds. He got the number 6 hitter, catcher Ed Bailey, on a routine fly. That's when the Polish Prince fell apart. He walked the #7 hitter, third baseman Don Hoak. He walked the #8 hitter, shortstop Roy McMillan. And then he walked the pitcher Joe Nuxhall to load the bases.

Cubs manager Bob Scheffing didn't see this collapse coming, so he got his bullpen up a little late, and was forced to let Moe work to another hitter. The lead-off man Alex Grammas was replaced by pinch hitter Jerry Lynch. Moe walked him too...tying the game at 2.

Scheffing had seen enough. The next hitter was Bob Thurman who had hit a home run his last time up to bat. He couldn't risk giving up a grand slam, so he pulled Drabowsky from the game and brought in reliever Jackie Collum.

In one way, it worked out. Collum didn't give up a grand slam. He did, however, give up another walk, the fifth of the inning, making the score 3-2. The next batter, centerfielder Gus Bell, should have been taking all the way, but he helped out Collum by grounding out to first for the second out.

With first base open, and two outs, the Cubs opted to intentionally walk cleanup hitter Wally Post to reload the bases, the sixth walk of the inning. All Collum needed was a simple ground ball and the Cubs would have escaped with minimal damage. On the bright side, he got that ground ball. But in true Cubs fashion, it went through the infield, and scored two more runs.

After Collum reloaded the bases by walking another batter for the seventh walk of the inning, he was replaced by reliever Jim Brosnan. Brosnan only needed to get one batter, and with the bases loaded, there was a force at any base.

Naturally, Brosnan walked the same batter Drabowsky walked to start the onslaught--the #7 hitter, Don Hoak. And he walked the 8th hitter in the lineup, Roy McMillan too, for the ninth walk of the inning.

Finally, and mercifully, with the bases still loaded, Brosnan struck out the pitcher Joe Nuxhall for the third out.

By the time the inning was over, a one run lead had turned into a six run deficit. In one inning the Reds managed to score seven runs on one hit, thanks to a still-record nine walks in one inning.

On the other hand, that loss (9-5) didn't exactly cost the Cubs the pennant in 1957. They finished tied for last place with the Pirates, 33 games behind the eventual World Series champion Milwaukee Braves.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Misconceptions About History

I mistakenly believed all five of these...

Cubs 365, April 23

On this day in 1914, one day after the Cubs drew the smallest Opening Day crowd in their history, a new ballpark opened on Addison & Clark. At the time, it was called "Weeghman Park", and the team that played there was in the Federal League.

This is how the Chicago Tribune described that first game: "Chicago took the Federal League to its bosom and claimed it as a mother would claim a long lost child. With more more frills and enthusiasm than had prevailed at a baseball opening here Joe Tinker and his Chifeds made their debut before a throng of fans that filled the new north side park to capacity...It may not have been the largest crowd that ever saw an opening game in Chicago, but conservative estimators placed the attendance at about 21,000. The new park is said to have a seating capacity of 18,000...every seat in the place was taken, a great many were standing up in the back of the grandstand, and more than 2,000 were on the field in the circus seats placed there for the occasion."

Weeghman Park didn't have a second deck yet. That wouldn't come for fifteen years. But it did have one feature that is quite common today...

"The windows and roofs of flat buildings across the way from the park were crowded with spectators. The surface and elevated trains leading to the north side were overhanging with people in the early afternoon and three or four separate and distinct automobile parades unloaded several thousand gaily decked rooters at the gates."

And the Federal League Whales even had a number of players with Cub roots, and a few players that would later play for the Cubs.

Joe Tinker (photo), as the Tribune mentioned, was the manager of the team. He was also the starting shortstop. Tinker was still revered in Chicago for being one third of the Tinker to Evers to Chance double play combination.

The starting pitcher was Claude Hendrix. Hendrix would later pitch for the Cubs in the 1918 World Series, and would then be quietly banned from baseball for allegedly betting on a game in the 1920 season. The investigation of that game would unearth the Black Sox scandal.

Rollie Zeider, the ChiFeds third baseman, would later play for the Cubs too. He has the distinction of having played for three different Chicago teams (he also played for the Sox).

Catcher Art Wilson, and outfielders Dutch Zwilling and Max Flack also played for the Cubs in later seasons. In fact, Flack was the goat in the 1918 World Series against the Red Sox when he dropped an easy fly ball in the ninth inning to lose the game and the series.

But maybe the most important person with Cubs connections was Charles G. Williams. He had served more than twenty-five years in the front office of the Cubs. Williams, and owner Weeghman, had a pretty ingenious plan to attract fans. They went after an audience that heretofore hadn't been so openly courted. They went after the ladies.

The Tribune piece even pointed that out...

“The significant part of the affair to the new owners was the large number of women present."

That remained a marketing quest even after Weeghman bought the Cubs, which he did in 1916

Sunday, April 22, 2012