Saturday, May 19, 2012

Green White

One of my on-going writing projects is writing the history of Green White Soccer Club, a club co-founded by my father in 1956. Each month I write about one year in Green White history. The goal is to have a completed book by 2016, the year of the club's 60th anniversary.

This month it's 1964.

Chicago Radio Spotlight: Justin Kaufmann

This week's Chicago Radio Spotlight is an interview with Justin Kaufmann, the executive producer of midday programming for Chicago's NPR station, WBEZ.

You can read it here.

Cubs 365, May 19

On this day in 1929, future Cub pitcher Curt Simmons was born. He was a three time all-star that led his team to a World Series title, but of course, that team was not the Cubs.

Curt Simmons was only two seasons removed from taking the Cardinals to the 1964 World Series when the Cubs acquired him in 1966. They hoped they were getting the pitcher that started two games in that memorable '64 series against the Yankees, after winning 18 games in the regular season.

They weren't. They were getting a 37-year-old pitcher at the end of a very nice career.

Simmons won 193 games during his 20-year baseball career, but only seven of those came with the Cubs. He started 24 games for the Cubs in 1966 and 1967, but the man who had a 3.54 career ERA, never sniffed an ERA south of 4 for the Cubs. He also allowed 17 home runs in those starts, prompting the team to sell him to the Angels. He retired shortly thereafter.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Down at the Golden Coin e-book

It takes awhile for e-books to work their way through the pipeline at each individual retailer, but Barnes & Noble has now added another Eckhartz Press book to their e-shelf. (If that's not a word yet, I'll take credit for creating it.)

Kim Strickland's "Down at the Golden Coin" is now available for the Nook reader.

You can purchase it here.

Kerry Wood is retiring

And it looks like it's happening today.

Details are here.

Thanks for everything, Kerry.

Cubs 365, May 18

On this day in 1947, Jackie Robinson made his first career appearance in Chicago, in front of a sold out Wrigley Field crowd. (Among the people in the crowd: a young Ronnie Woo Woo attending his first Cubs game). The Dodgers beat the Cubs 4-2, but that doesn't even begin to tell the story of that day.

A few months earlier, when the Dodgers had announced that Jackie Robinson would be playing for them that season, Cubs players held a closed door vote about whether or not they would take the field when they played against the Dodgers. The final vote tally was not released, but the Cubs voted no. Their owner, Phillip Wrigley, also voted no. He was afraid that the white North Side neighborhood surrounding Wrigley Field would rebel and take it out on the Cubs. The players and owners were overruled by Commissioner Happy Chandler, who forced everyone to accept Robinson or be barred from the game.

Needless to say, they went along reluctantly. The Cubs were a team that featured many Southerners like catchers Clyde McCollough and Dewey Williams, and pitchers Claude Passeau, Bill Lee, and Hank Wyse. This was not a good combination for Jackie Robinson when he stepped to the plate. Hank Wyse, an Oklahoman, explained what happened in the book "Wrigleyville."

"I remember the first game against him (in Brooklyn). I don't remember who started (It was Wyse himself), but every time he come up, we knocked him down four times. The pitcher would stay in there until it was his turn to come up, and they'd knock Robinson down four more times. When it come time for the pitcher to come up, we'd take him out and let somebody else in, 'cause you knew darn well that the Dodgers were goin to knock him down. So we changed pitchers during the ball game. Paul Erickson was the last pitcher, and the last time he came up, Erickson throwed it at his head, and he went down. He got back up, and he stuck one in his ribs. All four times he got up they knocked him down. All four pitches. He didn't say nothin. He just got up and trotted down to first."

By the time Robinson came to Chicago on May 18, Cubs pitchers were no longer throwing at him. Jackie faced a tough pitcher that day (Johnny Schmitz) and only put the ball in play one time, but every move he made was cheered by the African Americans in the crowd--people that had rarely attended games at Wrigley Field before.

The crowd numbered 46,572; still the largest paid attendance in the ballpark's history.

(A young Mike Royko was also in attendance that day, and wrote a great column about it on the day that Jackie Robinson passed away--you can read it here.)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

RIP Donna Summer

According to TMZ, Donna Summer has passed away at the age of 63.

Countdown to "Cheeseland"

The latest release from Eckhartz Press, Cheeseland by Randy Richardson, is officially coming out on May 29th. It is, however, already available for pre-order at the Eckhartz Press website.

What is Cheeseland about? The first half of the book takes place thirty years ago in the south suburbs of Chicago, and across the border into "Cheeseland". Chicago-area youth often made the pilgrimage to Wisconsin in those days because the drinking age was only 18 at the time. Cheeseland chronicles one of those pilgrimages; a road-trip that doesn't exactly go as planned.

The late 70s/early 80s leap from the page and come back to life in this novel. Cheeseland will make you long for your big stack of 8-track tapes. Cheeseland will rekindle your memories of a time when going to a rock concert was the ultimate experience. And if you're not careful, it will also remind your taste buds of the foul lingering taste of Southern Comfort.

But more importantly, Cheeseland explores how our adolescence can forever impact who we are and what we become.

Robert W. Walker, author of Titanic 2012, Bismarck 2013, and Children of Salem, describes it this way: "Cheesland is a novel that touches the reader, a novel about life, death, and how we choose to live our we want the dash between the dates on our tombstone to resonate."

Christine Sneed, author of Portraits of a Few of the People I've Made Cry and the forthcoming Little Known Facts, describes it like this: "In Cheeseland, Randy Richardson reminds us that adolescence can be a land of thrilling self-discovery and of serious danger."

Pre-order your copy today.

Cheeseland ships on May 29th.

The Cubs & Politics

This incredibly disturbing article in today's New York Times is about the Ricketts family, and their plans to destroy Barack Obama.

The main culprit is the father, Joe. He is a rabid foaming at the mouth conservative who wants to spend ten million dollars on a campaign to use comments made by Obama's former pastor Reverend Wright to paint Obama as a radical black man. In fairness to the Ricketts family, daughter Laura is a major contributor to Obama.

They must have some fun discussions at the Thanksgiving table.

Cubs 365, May 17

On this day in 1979, the Cubs and Phillies played one of the wildest games in Wrigley Field history.

Fox 32 reporter Dane Placko was there that day, and recalls his memories for us...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Meet the Eckhartz Press Authors

If you live in Chicagoland, you'll have several chances to meet our Eckhartz Press authors in June.

*In fact, you can meet them all in one night, if you come out to "The Chicago Way" at the Hidden Shamrock (2723 N. Halsted) in Chicago on June 3rd, from 7-8:30pm. The Chicago Way literary series launches the newest title from Eckhartz Press, "Cheeseland" by Randy Richardson. Joining this special Eckhartz Press Night celebration for readings and discussion will be Eckhartz authors Kim Strickland ("Down at the Golden Coin"), and Rick Kaempfer (hey, that's me!) and Brendan Sullivan ("The Living Wills"). All authors will have books available for sale.

*If you're going to the Printer's Row Lit Fest on June 9th, you'll have a chance to meet "Down at the Golden Coin" author Kim Strickland. She'll be selling and autographing copies of her book. Look for her in the Society of Midland Authors tent from 2-4pm.

*That same day (June 9), "Cheeseland" author Randy Richardson will be appearing at Barnes & Noble in Woodfield Plaza Shopping Center, 590 East Golf Road in Schaumburg, from 1-3pm.

*On June 10th, Randy will be manning the Chicago Writer's Association booth at the Printer's Row Lit Fest.

*For our south side friends, Kim Strickland will be at the Beverly Arts Center for a special evening on June 14th. "Author Afternoons" host Penny Golden is convening a special Thursday night version of her book chats for Kim. Come one, come all.

*On June 23rd, Randy Richardson will be at the Glen Ellyn Book Fest. He'll be doing a breakfast talk at the Glen Ellyn Public Library (8am), and then move over to the author tent on Duane Street (a block east of the library) from 10-1.

Remember Chicagoans, the Eckhartz Press stable is also available to appear at your book club. "The Living Wills" co-author Brendan Sullivan (photo) has been appearing at many of them over the past few weeks. I've done a few too. "The Living Wills" has led to lively discussions all over town. Kim's and Randy's novels are sure to do the same. If you'd like to book any of them to appear at your book club party (schedule permitting) for free, you can e-mail me

German Chicago

My weekly contribution to ChicagoNow's City mom blog is entitled "German Chicago"

You can read it here.

Cubs 365, May 16

On this day in 2000, Dodgers backup catcher Chad Kreuter was sitting in the visitors bullpen at Wrigley Field, down the right field line, up against the stands. What happened to him that day can be recited with tremendous precision by any White Sox fan, because it was one of the incidents that began to poke a hole in the Friendly Confines mystique of Wrigley Field.

A (presumably) drunken fan smacked Kreuter in the back, and took his hat. The amazing thing is that something like that had never happened before. The players in the bullpen are literally sitting with their backs to the audience, right up against the first row of the stands. It was incredibly easy to reach over and take Kreuter’s hat.

But Kreuter didn’t take too kindly to that kind of behavior. He jumped into the stands and went after the fan to get his hat back. That started a melee unlike any seen in Wrigley Field before or since. The fight wasn’t fan on fan. It wasn’t Dodger on Cub. It was Dodger and Cub against the fans.

Before it was over, Kreuter had his hat back, the Friendly Confines (and probably the idiot with the hat) had a black eye, and more fans were kicked out of Wrigley Field in one game than in any other game in the stadium’s long and storied history.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Countdown to "Cheeseland"

Randy Richardson's "Cheeseland" is officially coming out on May 29, and until then the Eckhartz Press blog is counting down the days by telling you more about it and it's author. Today, a little more about Randy. We're thrilled he is part of the Eckhartz Press family.

Randy is the president of the Chicago Writer's Association, which boasts a membership of more than 300 established Chicago writers, including the entire Eckhartz Press stable.

"Cheesland" is not Randy's first novel. His mystery "Lost in the Ivy" was a "Fresh Voices of 2006" Book Award winner. Here's a brief synopsis of that great novel: "Against the backdrop of Chicago's storied Wrigley Field, a baseball shrine cursed by a billy goat, Charley is caught in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse that plays out in two seasons--one of futility and the other of hope. Only by unlocking the mysteries of his past and opening his heart again will he be able to find if hope truly does spring eternal." If you'd like to find out more about it, here's a great Q&A with Randy discussing the book.

I became aware of Randy when we worked together on the 2008 book "Cubbie Blues: 100 Years of Waiting 'Til Next Year". "Cubbie Blues" was edited by Chicago Literary Hall of Fame founder Don Evans, and featured essays from the likes of Rick Kogan, Sara Paretsky, James Finn Garner, Dave Hoekstra, Robert Goldsborough, Christine Sneed, Jonathon Eig, Scott Simon, radio personalities Lin Brehmer and Mike Murphy, and several other Chicago writers including Randy and me. In this Q&A, Randy revealed his Cubs street cred. (He must have had a rough childhood growing up in Chicago's southern suburbs).

And that's just the tip of Randy's writing iceberg. I'll get a pick ax and chop off more of his bio from the iceberg in the coming days.

In the meantime, "Cheeseland" is available for pre-order now. It has gone to press. We'll begin shipping on May 29th.

Cubs 365, May 15

On this day in 1960, in his first start since being acquired from the Phillies, Cubs pitcher Don Cardwell had the most miraculous debut in Cubs history.

He was facing the St. Louis Cardinals in the second game of a double header at Wrigley Field. Stan Musial was given the game off, but the Cardinals lineup still boasted big hitters like first baseman Bill White, third baseman Ken Boyer, and centerfielder Curt Flood.

In the first inning, Alex Grammas coaxed a walk and reached base. After that, Cardwell mowed down all comers, including Stan Musial who came off the bench to pinch hit in the 8th. Stan the Man became one of Cardwell's seven strike out victims.

The Cubs got all the offense they needed in the bottom of the fifth when backup second baseman Jerry Kindall knocked in Lee Thomas on a groundout. They later added a few more runs in the 6th (thanks to an Ernie Banks home run), and another in the 7th.

Cardwell entered the ninth inning with a four run lead. The first two hitters he faced were pinch hitters. Carl Sawatski lined out and George Crowe flied out. That brought up lead off man Joe Cunningham. When Cunnignham hit the ball to left field it looked like it was going to ruin Cardwell's no-hitter, but Cubs left fielder Moose Moryn made a great running catch, allowing Don Cardwell to achieve immortality.

(Watch it here)

Unfortunately for Don, it was all downhill from there. He went 7-14 the rest of the year. Two years later he was traded to the Cardinals. Among the players the Cubs got in return: Cardwell's No-hitter opposing pitcher, Lindy McDaniel.

Duck Dunn

From this morning's RAMP Newsletter...

Legendary bass player Donald "Duck" Dunn, a longtime member of Booker T. & The MGs and a key ingredient in the Stax/Volt sound emanating from his hometown of Memphis, has died at the age of 70. According to, Dunn's son Jeff told CNN that his father died in his sleep in Tokyo after performing some makeup shows that had been postponed after last year's earthquake and tsunami. "They were over there doing five shows in a row, two shows every night -- and for a 70-year-old guy, that was quite a bit of work," Jeff Dunn said. During his illustrious career, Dunn, with his trademark pipe clenched between his teeth, played on such classics as Otis Redding's "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay," Wilson Pickett's "In the Midnight Hour" and Sam & Dave's "Soul Man." In the late '70s, Dunn, along with fellow MGs member Steve Cropper, also played with The Blues Brothers Band featuring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. "Duck Dunn was the backbone of the Stax/Volt era," Aykroyd said in a statement. "He was and will remain universally loved by all that knew him. His talent, knowledge, warmth and especially his humor will be greatly missed."

Monday, May 14, 2012

Happy Together

45 years ago today, from Bob Dearborn's The Olde Disc Jockey's Almanac...

May 14, 1967…The Turtles performed "Happy Together" and "She'd Rather Be With Me" on CBS-TV's "The Ed Sullivan Show."

Thank you Daily Herald

I must say, it was a nice surprise yesterday to open the Daily Herald (which comes to my driveway every morning), and see this article about me, my book, and my publishing company.

It was a wonderful Mother's Day present for my mom, who also gets the paper.

Thanks so much, Daily Herald.

Countdown to "Cheeseland"

Randy Richardson's "Cheeseland" is officially coming out on May 29, and until then we're counting down the days by telling you more about it.

In the opening pages of "Cheeseland", the main characters are dealing with the suicide of a good friend. This is a subject that "Cheeseland" author Randy Richardson takes very seriously.

Randy is donating $1 from every soft cover sale of this book to the Elyssa's Mission, a Northbrook, Illinois-based not-for-profit foundation that provides help, support and suicide prevention programs to prevent teen suicide. Donations will help to fund the Mission's Signs of Suicide Program, which they currently provide to junior and high schools in Illinois.

You can find out more about Elyssa's Mission at their website. In addition to purchasing "Cheeseland" (available for pre-order here), you can donate directly to this great cause. Elyssa's Mission accepts donations here. Please give generously. They do wonderful work.

Cubs 365, May 14

On this day in 1947, future Cubs reliever Dick Tidrow was born. His teammates called him "Dirt".

His odd nickname reflected his basic, simple approach to the game. His real name was Richard William Tidrow, and he was the setup man for the Cubs (for Bruce Sutter) in the late 70s and early 80s. The Cubs got him from the Yankees for Ray Burris, one of the rare trades they never regretted.

Tidrow had two great years ('79 and '80), one terrible year ('81), and one average year ('82) for the Cubs, before he went to the White Sox in the Steve Trout trade, and pitched in the playoffs for the Sox that year. That turned out to be another good trade for the Cubs. Trout started for the Cubs the next five years (and won Game 2 of the '84 playoffs), and Tidrow was out of baseball after the '84 season.

The Cubs should have signed him after his playing career ended. He went into scouting, eventually becoming the Scouting Director for the San Francisco Giants. Among the pitchers he nurtured through their farm system: Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Father Knows Nothing

This week's Father Knows Nothing is called "Mother's Day Shows End Their Twelve Year Run"

You can read it here.

Cubs 365, May 13

On this day in 1991, history was made when three generations of Carays were in the booth together. Harry, Skip, and Chip Caray all did the Cubs-Braves game at Wrigley Field.

Tom Glavine pitched a complete game that day, and the Braves beat the Cubs 5-3. The Cubs did make it interesting in the 9th inning, thanks to a 2-run homer by Andre Dawson that cut the lead to two runs. Chico Walker doubled after that to bring up the potential tying run in the person of Shawon Dunston.

You can be sure there was disdain in Harry's voice on the call of Dunston's at bat: "He popped it up."

Over the next few years, Harry and Skip continued to share time together in the booth whenever the Braves and Cubs played, but 1998 was supposed to be the year that Harry and his grandson Chip shared the booth the whole season for the Cubs. Unfortunately, Harry passed away before the season started. Instead of working with him, Chip replaced his grandfather.

In 2007, Chip Caray signed with TBS, hoping to broadcast some games with his dad. They did have a little bit of time together, but not much. Skip Caray passed away in 2008. The following year, Chip was hired to be the full-time voice of the Atlanta Braves on Fox Sports South, essentially replacing his father too.