Saturday, February 11, 2012

Chicago Radio Spotlight: Steve Bertrand

This weekend's Chicago Radio Spotlight interview is with WGN morning news anchor Steve Bertrand. Steve has been at WGN Radio since the mid-80s and shares some great stories about times past and present.

Read the interview here.

Cubs 365, February 11

Every day in 2012, the Just One Bad Century blog will feature a story about this day in Cubs history. We're calling it Cubs 365.

On this day in 1939, future Cub Willie Smith was born. His greatest day as a Cub happened just over 30 years later. On April 8, 1969, Willie hit a pinch-hit 2-run walk off home run to win the game on Opening Day. That began a year long love affair between the Cubs and their fans.

On September 4, 1969, with the Cubs still holding onto a 5-game lead over the Mets, Willie and teammate Nate Oliver released a parody of the Righteous Brothers hit "You've Lost that Lovin' Feeling" called "That pennant feeling".

Unfortunately for Willie, Nate and Cubs nation, they weren't "going, going, going, all the way" like the song predicted.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Coming this weekend

A quick preview of what you'll find on this blog this weekend...

The Chicago Radio Spotlight interview will be with WGN Newsman Steve Bertrand. He has a few good juicy behind the scenes stories to share. I post CRS on Saturday mornings.

Father Knows Nothing will be posted on Sunday morning, and this week I'll share one of the rarest moments of parenthood.

Also, Cubs 365 will feature stories about a singing Cub (Saturday) and a man they called Sweetbreads (Sunday).

Cubs 365, February 10

Every day in 2012, the Just One Bad Century blog will feature a story about this day in Cubs history. We're calling it Cubs 365.

On this day in 1926, future Cubs third-sacker Randy Jackson was born. His real first name was Ransom, and gosh darnit, he was kind of handsome, so his teammates began calling him Handsome Ransom (His teammates thought he looked like Gregory Peck). "Handsome Ransom" Jackson was one of the best players on the Cubs in the early 50s; a National League all-star third-baseman in 1954 and 1955. He hit 19, 19, and 21 homers in 1953-55 (his three seasons on the Cubs), and was a pretty good fielder too. (In 1955 he led NL third basemen in double plays.)

His greatest day in a Cubs uniform was April 17, 1954 against St. Louis. Jackson had four hits - including a home run that hit an apartment building on Waveland Avenue. With the wind blowing out at Wrigley Field, the Cubs beat the Cardinals 23–13 in a National League record (at the time) three hour and 43 minute game. The two teams combined for 35 hits — including five homers.

The Dodgers traded Walt Moryn, Don Hoak, and Russ Meyer to the Cubs for Jackson and pitcher Don Elston after the 1955 season with the expectation that the slugger would succeed Jackie Robinson at third base. Unfortunately for Jackson and the Dodgers, he suffered a serious knee injury in 1957, and Handsome Ransom never played regularly again.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

More Reader Reviews for "The Living Wills"

These first two were from amazon, where the e-book is available. It now has 5 ratings and an average of 5 stars out of 5...

Do not over think your decision to read this book - make the modest investment and read it now! It will not disappoint you; it will delight you on several fronts. I could go on about the many benefits of reading this book (highly entertaining, wildly thought provoking, blah, blah, blah) but that would take precious time away from you actually clicking the "buy" button and sinking your teeth into this fabulous read. What are you waiting for? Go, now, press the button! Seriously.
--Cheryl Joy

The engaging characters captured my interest immediately, as did the plot. I love books that have seemingly unrelated storylines that keep you wondering how they will intersect. The characters and their lives were very real. One of the best qualities of the novel is the attention that the authors give to the everyday details that seem unimportant, such as the familiarity of your favorite coffee shop or those quirky neighbors we all have. At times comedic, at times heartbreaking, the story kept me interested from the first page to the last. Of course, being a Chicagoan, I appreciated all the local references. I would love to see another novel by these authors!
--Sarah Diaz

This one was from GoodReads, where there are now 19 ratings, and an average score of 4.95 out of 5

I was surprised by how much I liked this book. The story of its creation--two authors alternating the writing of chapters of a book with multiple themes which ultimately converge--is interesting, but the book was so engaging that I couldn't stop until I knew how it all ended. In practice, this meant that my original intention to read about the first fifty pages or so went out the window and I read the entire thing on a Saturday. Very clever, and additional fun for Chicagoans with the many local references. Unusual book, unusually good!
--Marty Berg

E-mails, we get e-mails...

I got this e-mail from "KG" yesterday in my Just One Bad Century e-mail box...

"Hello Rick, I just came across your website today as I was wondering about Darcy Rae Fast. Another ex-Cub from about the same time comes to mind; Sterling Slaughter. Do you have any idea what this man is up to these days? Thanks."

I love getting this kind of e-mail, because it sent me on a quest.

Here's the latest on Darcy. He has a book out: The Missing Cub

I couldn't find anything recent on Sterling Slaughter other than this: Profile, Sterling Slaughter

If anyone else knows anything about what Sterling is up to these days, please let me know. All I know is that he is from Danville and he is about 70 years old right now.

Cubs 365, February 9

Every day in 2012, the Just One Bad Century blog will feature a story about this day in Cubs history. We're calling it Cubs 365.

On this day in 1914, William Veeck Jr. was born. His father (Bill Veeck Sr.) was the President of the Chicago Cubs, and Bill Jr. idolized his dad. The elder Veeck was probably the greatest innovator of his time. He was the first man to bring Ladies Day to the big leagues, and was the first to realize how important it was to broadcast the games on the radio (The Cubs were the first team to do so). While other teams were afraid of giving away the product for free--Veeck Sr. saw it for what is was--a free 3 hour commercial for the team and the ballpark.

At the age of 11, young Bill started helping out his dad at the ballpark. He worked on the grounds crew, as an office boy, and a vendor. (Photo: Bill with manager Joe McCarthy) As a fifteen year old kid, he was taking care of the Ladies' Day passes at Wrigley Field by day, and was tagging along with baseball hero Hack Wilson to the speakeasies in Cicero by night.

"With a father who ran a ball club, my boyhood was the kind most kids dream about," Veeck says in his autobiography. It's no wonder that Wrigley Field meant so much to him. Young Bill wasn't only hanging out with famous ballplayers like Wilson, Grover Cleveland Alexander, and Charlie Grimm, he really felt like he was part of the team.

After his father died in 1933, Veeck quit college to work for the Cubs full-time. He eventually rose to the job of Treasurer, but when he wasn't given the job of President a few years later, he moved on (in 1941). His most lasting accomplishment at Wrigley Field is something that still draws fans into the ballpark seventy years later...the ivy on the walls. Veeck was the one that planted the ivy in 1937.

In his final years Veeck re-adopted the Chicago Cubs. He was a frequent sight at Wrigley Field, often found sitting in the bleachers without a shirt. He had owned several different teams in his long baseball career (The Browns, the Sox, the Indians, and the Brewers), but when he could go to any ballpark in the big leagues in any town in America, there was only one ballpark he came to again and again as a fan. He came home to his favorite place; the place of his childhood dreams, Wrigley Field.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Yet Another Reason I'll Never Be Father of the Year

This week's Suburban Dad contribution to the City Mom blog includes a humiliating admission...

You can read it here.

Some more pub for "The Living Wills"

The Center Square Journal, a local Chicago publication, has another nice piece about "The Living Wills" in their most recent issue.

You can read it here.

The article features several pictures of co-author Brendan Sullivan in his natural habitat; including one in front of the Waveland Bowl.

Cubs 365, February 8

Every day in 2012, the Just One Bad Century blog will feature a story about this day in Cubs history. We're calling it Cubs 365.

On this day in 1951, future Cub second baseman Steve Dillard was born. Dillard may have only been a backup infielder for the Cubs from 1979-1981, and he may have only hit .225 and .218 in two of those years, but Steve Dillard's mustache didn't take a back seat to anyone. He once pulled the hidden ball trick by hiding it in his mustache.

Not really, but he could have.

His mustache was that spectacular.

Adrian Cardenas

When I heard the Cubs had acquired a minor league infielder named Adrian Cardenas I wondered if he just might be the son or nephew of former big league shortstop Leo Cardenas. (Like Derrek Lee is the nephew of former Cardinals outfielder Leron Lee).

Leo Cardenas played for a bunch of teams including the Reds, the Rangers, the Angels, and the Twins. I have several of his baseball cards, including this one from 1970. I looked up Adrian to see if there was any information about his heritage and couldn't find anything. But this morning, I did find a picture of him.

I'm guessing there's no relation...

(In case you're wondering, he hit .314 with five home runs, scored 70 times, drove in 51 runs and finished eighth in the Pacific Coast League (AAA) with 154 hits, and he plays left field, 1B, SS, and 3B. Not sure why Billy Beane left him unprotected.)

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Rick & Brendan at the Book Cellar

Next Wednesday, February 15th, Brendan Sullivan and I will be appearing at Local Author Night at the Book Cellar in Chicago.

It's our last scheduled book signing, so if you've been putting off coming out to see us, and/or you'd like to get an autographed copy of the book, this may be your last chance.

All of the details are here at the Book Cellar website.

For my German-American friends, I don't even need to give you the address of the Book Cellar. All I need to say is this: It's next door to the Brauhaus. Come out and have a schnitzel and Spaten for dinner, then stop by the book store afterwards. Or, come out to the book store first, and then go to the Brauhaus for a schnitzel and Spaten.

I'll join you.

Cubs 365, February 7

Every day in 2012, the Just One Bad Century blog will feature a story about this day in Cubs history. We're calling it Cubs 365.

On this day in 1966, Coleman Griffith died. Who was Coleman Griffith, you ask?

He was a psychology professor at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign). In 1938 Griffith was asked by PK Wrigley to do a complete psychological analysis of the Cubs for a project he called “Experimental Laboratories of the Chicago National League Ball Club.” Naturally, his first target was manager Charlie Grimm, a man that was so much a part of the fabric of the Chicago Cubs that he would have his ashes spread on Wrigley Field after this death. There was no way of knowing that this baseball lifer wouldn’t respond well to being told what to do by a “headshrinker” from Urbana, but shockingly, even “Jolly Cholly” Grimm wasn’t exactly receptive.

When Grimm was replaced in July by player Gabby Hartnett, a man later declared as the winner of the “Drizzlepus Derby” as grumpiest manager in baseball by one Chicago paper, Griffith could have folded up his tent and quit, but he didn’t. He wrote a paper explaining “pepper” to the future Hall of Famer Hartnett. He pointed out in another paper that there was no such thing as “instinct.”

Somehow, and this is also going to be a big shock, his information was not exactly embraced by the players. The 1938 Cubs were a veteran team (average age: nearly 30), and with future Hall of Famers like Dizzy Dean and Tony Lazzeri on the roster, they were not exactly the prototypical audience for experimental psychological research. Griffith also didn't help his cause with his analysis of the players. For instance, he used a very complex statistical model to show that Phil Cavaretta should be traded because he would never amount to anything.

People made fun of Wrigley for using Griffith that year, but on the other hand, the Cubs did go to the World Series in 1938. Wrigley really wanted him to come back full-time for the 1939 season, but Griffith wanted to spend more time with his family in Urbana.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Frankie Laine

Five years ago today famous singer Frankie Laine passed away at the age of 93. I always loved his "Theme from Rawhide", but my favorite Frankie song will always be this one...

Brendan Sullivan at the iO

Not sure what you're doing tonight, but I'll be heading to Wrigleyville's iO for their 8:30 show. My co-author Brendan Sullivan will be doing a monologue about "The Living Wills" at the iO (formerly Improv Olympic) at the Del Close Theater (3541 N. Clark St.) as part of their on-going "Armando Diaz Experience".

So, what is "The Armando Diaz Experience"? According to iO's website:
"The Armando Diaz Experience is long-form improvisation in which a monologist tells personal stories that provides the inspiration for the resulting scenes. The cast is a group of iO’s most accomplished performers and alumni, making this show a Monday-night smash for years! “The Armando Diaz Experience” is frequently joined by guests from MADtv, Saturday Night Live, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, The Second City and more!

Founded by Adam McKay (SNL, Anchorman, Talladega Nights), Dave Koechner (Anchorman, Thank You For Smoking, SNL) and Armando Diaz (iO alumnus & founder of The Magnet Theater in New York), The Armando Diaz Experience is iO’s longest running show and landmark of comedy in Chicago.
Brendan is also an iO alumnus, having been part of their famous "Blue Velveeta" group in the late 1980s.

If you want to go, call (773) 880-0199 for tickets.

Cubs 365, February 6

Every day in 2012, the Just One Bad Century blog will feature a story about this day in Cubs history. We're calling it Cubs 365.

On this day in 1911 the most famous Cubs fan in history was born. His name was Ronald Reagan. Reagan didn't just grow up a Chicago Cubs fan. He owes much of his success to the team.

Following college graduation, Reagan landed a job as a radio announcer at WOC in Davenport, Iowa and later at WHO in Des Moines. Radio was a brand new medium in those days and he discovered quickly that getting in on the ground floor was his ticket to the top.

He began broadcasting Chicago Cubs baseball games he had never seen. His descriptions were largely improvised, and were based solely on telegraph accounts of games in progress. On June 7th, 1934, something dramatic happened. The telegraph went out. This is how Reagan described what happened next.

"There were several other stations broadcasting that game and I knew I’d lose my audience if I told them we’d lost our telegraph connections so I took a chance. I had (Billy) Jurges hit another foul. Then I had him foul one that only missed being a home run by a foot. I had him foul one back in the stands and took up some time describing the two lads that got in a fight over the ball. I kept on having him foul balls until I was setting a record for a ballplayer hitting successive foul balls and I was getting more than a little scared. Just then my operator started typing. When he passed me the paper I started to giggle - it said: ‘Jurges popped out on the first ball pitched.’”

Despite working in Iowa, he was voted as one of the top ten most popular baseball announcers in America. In 1937 his radio station sent him out to California to cover the Cubs in spring training. At that time they trained at Catalina Island. Reagan parlayed that trip into a screen test...and the rest, as they say, is history.

Reagan made one last stop at Wrigley Field the last year of his presidency (1988). He threw out the first pitch, and spent some time in the broadcast booth alongside Harry Caray.

(By the way, I was out of town this weekend, but Cubs 365 did update everyday. Click here to read Feb 5, Feb 4, and Feb 3)