Saturday, February 25, 2012

Chicago Radio Spotlight: Carla Leonardo

This week's Chicago Radio Spotlight interview has been posted. I spoke with the Drive's Carla Leonardo.

You can read the interview here.

Cubs 365, February 25

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 1921, future Cub great Andy Pafko was born. Nicknamed "Handy Andy," because of his incredibly dependable hitting and fielding, Pafko was one of the most popular Cubs, and a star of their last World Series team of 1945.

"Handy Andy" was a five-time all-star during his Cubs career, the first three times as an outfielder. After legendary Cubs' third baseman Stan Hack retired after the 1947 season, Pafko replaced him on the hot corner long enough to be named an All-Star there too, making him one of the few people to achieve All-Star status in both the infield and outfield.

He was crushed when the Cubs traded him during the 1951 season, and it was a trade that Chicago would forever regret. The players they got in return had almost no impact with the Cubs, while Pafko would go on to play in the 1952 World Series with the Dodgers and the 1957 and 1958 World Series with the Braves.

He came back to his hometown of Chicago after his playing career was over, settling in the northwestern suburbs. As of 2012, he is last surviving member of the last Cubs World Series team.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Coming this weekend

My Chicago Radio Spotlight interview this weekend (Saturday) will be with WDRV's Carla Leonardo. She has seen and heard it all in the biz, and has some great stories.

My Father Knows Nothing column on Sunday will identify the thing I do that annoys my kids more than anything else, and why I do it as much as possible.

And Cubs 365 will feature two Cubs greats; Handy Andy and Ol' Pete.

Have a great weekend!

Cubs 365, February 24

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 1899, future Cub Pinky Pittenger was born. Pinky was a back up third baseman and shortstop for a Cubs team that made history--they were the first Cubs team to ever finish in last place. After that blip year of 1925, the Cubs didn't finish in last place again for another 23 years.

Pinky's real name was Clark Alonzo Pittenger, and he was one of the most educated players on the team…he had gone to dental school at Ohio State University. Of course, that didn't stop him from getting involved in an altercation along with his manager (the instigator) Rabbit Maranville, after which both of them wound up in jail. Pinky only played with the Cubs for one season (1925), and he hit .312 in limited action, but the Cubs released him after that season.

He played parts of 7 seasons in the majors (3 with the Red Sox, 3 with the Reds, and 1 with the Cubs) and in more than 1000 Major League plate appearances he managed to hit exactly one home run.

Brushes with Oscar

Sunday night is the Academy Awards. Every year at this time, I dig into my archives to retell a few stories about my personal brushes with Oscar winners and Oscar nominees.

If you're interested, here are two of my favorites...

Julie Andrews

John Travolta

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Beatle Ringtones

You can now purchase ring tones featuring thirty second snippets of Beatles songs for $1.29 at the Apple iTunes store.

Do I really need to be the one to point out that only one of the 27 songs has a theme that is remotely appropriate for this purpose? ("Hello Goodbye"). The rest are just big Beatles hits...although now that I'm thinking about it, "Let it Be" could work too.

I know I'm a Beatles nerd, but wouldn't "Anytime At All" be the best song to use for a ring tone? The words are: "Anytime at all. All you have to do is call. And I'll be there."

Just a thought.

Cubs 365, February 23

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 1979, the Cubs acquired Barry Foote, Ted Sizemore, and Jerry Martin from the Phillies in exchange for Manny Trillo, Greg Gross and Dave Rader. Trillo and Gross would go on to win a World Series ring in Philadelphia. The players the Cubs acquired, on the other hand, would go on to cause major headaches for manager Herman Franks (photo).

It all came to a head on August 1, 1979. The Cubs were playing against the Expos in Montreal. The game went very long that night, they played 12 innings and the game didn’t end until well after midnight, and the Cubs lost the game 6-4. To help the players get over the tough loss, the team treated them to dinner at a really fancy Montreal restaurant.

Management also, however, put a two bottles of wine limit at each table (although they were $40 bottles of wine.) That didn’t sit well with a few of the players, most notably second basemen Ted Sizemore and relief pitcher Dick Tidrow. They were so upset they stormed out of the restaurant.

Sizemore, in particular, remained incensed at this shoddy treatment. He continued to complain on the bus ride to the airport, and the flight back to Chicago. His complaining earned him a trade. Just two weeks later he was no longer a Cub.

By the end of the season, Herman Franks resigned too. The fifty year baseball man and former World War II soldier couldn’t take this combustible mix of crybabies. In his farewell address to the media he called the players selfish, coddled and uninspired. He said: “I’ve had it up to here,” pointing at his throat. “Some of these players are actually crazy. They don’t want to talk to the newspaper people, and they want separate buses for themselves and the reporters. It’s silly things like that get you fed up.”

He didn’t specifically mention the wine incident of August, but he did single out Ted Sizemore as one of the “biggest whiners.” (He also mentioned another guy the Cubs got in that same trade; catcher Barry Foote).

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Today is the first day of Lent. Last year, you might recall, I punished myself with something I dubbed 'Extreme Lent'. I gave up all alcohol, meat, and screaming at my children, plus I vowed to exercise every day. I pulled it off, too.

I've already gotten several people asking if I'm doing it again this year.

Quick answer: No.

That was insane. Never again.

As my buddy Tom said to me: "He's not asking you to carry the cross."

Green White History, 1961

One of my on-going writing projects is chronicling the history of Green White Soccer Club, a club co-founded by my father in 1956. Each month I write about a year in Green White history.

This month it's 1961.

Cubs 365, February 22

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 1937, Freddie Lindstrom was released by the Dodgers, officially ending his Hall of Fame playing career. That career did bring him to his home town of Chicago during the 1935 season.

The Cubs got him from the Pirates along with Larry French in exchange for Guy Bush, Babe Herman, and Jim Weaver that year. Freddie was obviously toward the end of his career by then, but the lifetime .311 hitter and Lane Tech grad played an important reserve role on the Cubs. That year they set a major league record of 21-straight wins in the month of September; a streak that led them all the way to the World Series.

Freddie batted third and started in centerfield the first four games of the 1935 series versus Detroit, but managed only 3 hits in his 15 at bats. He didn't play the last two games, even the heartbreaking bottom of the ninth series ending loss in Game 6.

The Cubs released him after the season. He played only one more year in Brooklyn.

Freddie Lindstrom was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1976 (voted in by the Veterans Committee), and passed away just five years later in Des Plaines, Illinois.

A Dad's Guide to Comedy for Boys

This week's Suburban Dad contribution to the City Mom blog has been posted. I provided my helpful guide to getting laughs from boys, depending on their ages. Sixteen years of experience wrapped up into one column.

You can read it here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Down at the Golden Coin

The second release by Eckhartz Press is being readied for release. It will officially come out on March 20th, but will be available for pre-order beginning March 1.

Here's more information about "Down at the Golden Coin" and it's author, Kim Strickland, at the Eckhartz Press website.

Cubs 365, February 21

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 1981, future Cub Adam Greenberg was born. His Cubs career was undeniably unique.

On July 9, 2005, the Chicago Cubs called him up to the big leagues. They were in Miami facing the Florida Marlins. Greenberg's entire family flew down to Florida from Connecticut to watch his first major league series. They could barely contain their excitement in the 7th inning of the game, when Adam was called on to pinch hit for Cubs pitcher Will Ohman. The pitcher was Valerio De Los Santos, a left-hander.

"I get in the box," Greenberg remembers, "and all of a sudden he throws it, and I'm thinking, 'Am I swinging?' and all of a sudden, bam." One pitch.

Here's the way New York Times reporter Ira Berkow described the only pitch of Greenberg's major league career: "No one imagined that the very first pitch the left-handed Greenberg faced in the major leagues would be a fastball that would crack him squarely in the head, smashing against his helmet and the part of his neck just under his right ear, making a sound so loud that it stunned the crowd of almost 23,000. His parents, his sister and two brothers had come to Dolphins Stadium from Guilford, Conn., near New Haven. His grandfather was watching at home on television. His mother, Wendy Greenberg, said she was horrified when she saw her son drop to the ground as Cubs Manager Dusty Baker and the trainer rushed to the plate."

Greenberg had to be removed from the game and was placed on the disabled list after the game. He never returned to the Cubs, and never returned to the majors, although he did recover from the injury.

1970s Spring Training

Awesome video from Cubs spring training, in the 1970s.

Brought back many memories...

Rick and Brendan on video

This is a video sample of our event a few weeks ago at the Catalyst Ranch. Brendan and I discuss how the book came to be...

Monday, February 20, 2012

Happy President's Day

I've got the boys home so I won't be blogging much today, but I did want to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Happy President's day.

As I like to do on President's Day, I'll be gathering my children round to listen to this historical masterpiece (from 1974) written and performed by the poet David Frank Stern.

It's entitled, Honest Abe He Was Called

Cubs 365, February 20

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 1943, Cubs owner Phillip K. Wrigley announced a brand new venture: The All-American Girls Baseball League.

He thought that World War II would dilute major league talent so much, that the women's league was a way to keep interest in the game, and give people another reason to come to the ballpark. It was also seen as a morale booster for the wartime American public.

Wrigley had hoped to convince the other major league owners to also offer women's teams to play in their ballparks on off-days, but no one else would follow. So, initial tryouts were held in Wrigley Field, and the league remained a Midwestern affair. Four teams played that first season; Rockford, South Bend, Racine and Kenosha.

Wrigley and his partner in the venture Arthur Meyerhoff marketed the game magnificently. (Meyerhoff was an advertising executive). The women played tough baseball, but they were always the picture of 1940s femininity. They were required to wear their hair long, wear makeup and skirts, and take a training course taught by beauty consultant Helena Rubenstein. She taught them how to walk, talk, and interact with their male fans. The girls always had chaperones on the road with them too. These chaperones kept an eye on the girls 24 hours a day to make sure they stayed out of trouble.

The baseball on the field was of surprisingly good quality. The managers were former major-league ballplayers like Jimmie Foxx (whom they based the Tom Hanks character on in the film "A League of their Own"), Max Carey, Bill Wambsganss, Johnny Rawlings, Bert Niehoff, Dave Bancroft and Leo Murphy. And although they initially played with a softball and a pitching mound only 40 feet from the plate, they slowly moved the mound back and eventually played with a regulation baseball.

The league dissolved in 1954 when the number of women coming out for baseball began to decrease. Many post-war women opted for marriage and families instead. Still, the league was considered a great success. In 1948, at the peak of the league, nearly a million fans came out to the ballpark to watch women's baseball. By the end of their eleven year run, the league had expanded to include teams in Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Grand Rapids, Fort Wayne, Springfield Illinois, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, Muskegon, Peoria, and even Chicago.

In fact, in a little known footnote to history, the All-American Girls League did something that men didn't do for another forty-five years at Wrigley Field. Temporary lights were installed in 1943, and the girl's played the first night game in Wrigley Field history.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Father Knows Nothing

My latest Father Knows Nothing has been posted. This week's is entitled "Turn that noise down!"

You can read it here.

Cubs 365, February 19

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 1987, Harry Caray was playing cards at a country club near his winter home in Palm Springs, California when he suddenly collapsed. He had suffered a serious stroke, and the doctors told him he would take months to recover. While the old broadcaster itched to return, his voice just wasn’t quite there. So, the Cubs brought in celebrity guest announcers to take his place alongside Steve Stone in the Cubs broadcast booth.

Among the people who took a turn in Harry’s place: George Wendt, Jim Belushi, Dan Ackroyd, Bob Costas, Ernie Harwell, Dick Enberg, Pat Summerall, Bryant Gumbel, Gary Bender, Jack Buck, Ernie Banks, Mike Royko, George Will, Bob Sirott, and even Stan Musial.

But without question, the most memorable fill in for Harry was Bill Murray.

People still talk about the way Murray took over that broadcast and provided the one ingredient that only Harry had been able to contribute before that: Fun.

Harry returned exactly three months after his stroke, on May 19, 1987. During that game he received a phone call from the most famous Cubs fan in the land; President Ronald Reagan.