Saturday, March 03, 2012

Chicago Radio Spotlight: Jonathan Hansen

This week's Chicago Radio Spotlight has been posted. I interviewed a young broadcaster who is just getting his feet wet in Chicago radio--Jonathan Hansen.

You can read it here.

Cubs 365, March 3

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, the Cubs arrived at their Spring Training facility on Catalina Island in California. They were the defending National League champions. During the time the Cubs trained in California, in the years before a big league team had moved out west, the Cubs were the toast of Hollywood.

Every year they were sure to get a visit from one big movie or radio star. In spring training of 1939, their visitor was the biggest dummy in America, Charlie McCarthy, along with his ventriloquist Edgar Bergen. There are three Cubs Hall of Famers in the picture. Can you spot them? Gabby Hartnett, Billy Herman, and Dizzy Dean. (Dizzy is the one right behind Charlie looking down on him)

(Photo: Acme file photo)

Friday, March 02, 2012

Coming this weekend

My Chicago Radio Spotlight interview will be posted on Saturday, and this week I interviewed a young broadcaster, just getting started in the business. It's a little different than my previous interviews, but I think you'll like it.

On Sunday I'll be posting my Father Knows Nothing column, which will feature my thoughts on the upcoming "Father & Mother of the Year" awards in New York.

Cubs 365 also doesn't take the weekend off (It's 365, right?). This weekend we'll have a story about a celebrity visiting Cubs spring training in 1939, and an interview with a very young Ernie Banks.

Have a great weekend!

Countdown to "Down at the Golden Coin"

The pre-orders are starting to come in for "Down at the Golden Coin" by Kim Strickland. Eckhartz Press will be shipping out those orders on March 20th.

What can you expect from a Kim Strickland book?

Here are some reviews for her first novel "Wish Club"...

"Wish Club is a zany and witty story that you are sure to love. Kim Strickland has developed her characters so well and they are so believable and charming and funny. I can find no faults with this novel. I am recommending it for our reading group. The story is funny, smart and so intriguing. This is a perfect book club read. I give it an outstanding 5 stars." - Terry South, Quality Book Reviews

"Hot Read for Summer" - Chicago Tribune

"City Plays Major Role in Bewitching First Novel by Airline Pilot" - Chicago Sun Times (feature article on Wish Club)

"Wonderful. Funny. Chilling. Everything a book should be." - Rick Kogan, WGN Radio. Listen to the Interview - WGN Sunday Papers with Rick Kogan.

"Strickland, who pilots a Boeing 767 for a living, gives her five passengers a naivety of witchcraft and strength of character that charms." - Publisher's Weekly

"A fast, fun beach read." - Sharon Broom, Armchair Interviews

Her second novel, and first for Eckhartz Press, is entitled "Down at the Golden Coin". It's guaranteed to make you think. Pre-order your copy today. The first one hundred orders will receive a thematically appropriate golden dollar coin (which may or may not feature the face of the one-month president William Henry Harrison).

Cubs 365, March 2

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 1950, future Cubs pitcher Pete Broberg was born. He was a first round pick of the Washington Senators in 1971, but could never quite harness his control. He led the American league in hit batsmen in two different seasons before the Cubs acquired him.

Broberg pitched only 36 innings for the Cubs in 1977. He was a little wild for the Cubs too (18 walks in 36 innings) and a little hittable (8 home runs allowed in 36 innings) but his mustache helped anchor an impressively mustachioed bullpen. The Cubs traded him to the A's the following year, Broberg's last season in the majors.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Countdown to "Down at the Golden Coin"

Starting today Eckhartz Press is taking pre-orders for Kim Strickland's latest novel, "Down at the Golden Coin". It officially starts shipping on March 20th.

Who is Kim Strickland?

She's the attractive lady on the left here (shown in her natural laundromat habitat, the location of "Down at the Golden Coin"). Kim is a previously published author ("Wish Club"), and a blogger for ChicagoNow ("A City Mom"), but her day job is flying. She's a pilot for a major airline, and flies 767s to places like Paris, Amsterdam, and Buenes Aires.

She's also a mom (two boys and a girl), a wife, a runner, a former journalist/broadcaster, and makes a mean pea-salad.

Luckily for us at Eckhartz Press, she's a gifted writer too. Her book "Down at the Golden Coin" is guaranteed to make you think. Pre-order your copy today. The first one hundred orders will receive a thematically appropriate golden dollar coin (which may or may not feature the face of the most obscure president of all-time, Millard Filmore).

It's just one click away.

Cubs 365, March 1

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 1918, future Cubs pitcher Hank "Hooks" Wyse was born. They called him Hooks because his best pitch was a devastating curveball. Hank Wyse was an important part of the Cubs starting rotation during the war years. In 1944 he won 16 games for the Cubs.

But Wyse had his best season in the Cubs pennant winning year of 1945. He won 22 games, posted a 2.68 ERA, and was named to the All-Star team. His results in the World Series, however, did not quite live up to the rest of his outstanding year. He lost the game he started (Game 2), and relieved in two other losses. Nevertheless, unless the Cubs ever manage to return to the World Series, Hank Wyse will remain the last Cubs player to throw a pitch in the Fall Classic. He recorded the final Detroit Tigers out in the top of the 9th inning in Game 7 at Wrigley Field.

Unlike many war players that never duplicated their success after all the stars returned, Wyse did have one more good year, but in 1947 his famous curveball lost its bite, and Wyse lost his spot in the Cubs rotation.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My So-Called Fictional Life

I just posted this week's contribution to the City Mom blog at ChicagoNow. It's called "My So Called Fictional Life" and it's about the weird convergence between this week's fact and fiction. You can read it here.

Cubs 365, February 29

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 Leap day in 1944, Cub fan Dennis Farina was born.

He was a Chicago cop, working as a consultant on cop movies, when he got the acting bug. His first major role: playing a Chicago cop.

He has since gone on to have a distinguished acting career with some classic films and television series among his credits, including "Midnight Run", "Get Shorty", "Saving Private Ryan", "The Mod Squad", "Police Story" and "Law and Order."

But he's also made no secret of his love for the Chicago Cubs. He didn't just play an avid fan alongside Dennis Franz in the play "The Bleacher Bums" for a few years. He lived it.

In 2006, he narrated the Cubs documentary "Wait Til Next Year" for HBO. He also contributed to the film "This Old Cub" in 2004.

And when he comes back to his hometown of Chicago, he makes the pilgrimage to that shrine on the North Side.

Because Dennis Farina is a Cubs fan.


I was interviewed by Margaret Larkin, proprietor of the blog Metrolingua, about my first novel "$everance".

You can read the interview here.

Thanks for the opportunity, Margaret!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


On this day in 1983, the final episode of M*A*S*H aired, and 125 million people tuned in. At the time, it was the biggest audience in television history. I was doing the very first remote broadcast of my career that night at WPGU--from a M*A*S*H viewing party in a dorm in Champaign. I don't remember a word I said, but I do know that it wasn't nearly as appropriate as this incredibly insightful report by Channel 7's Joel Daly.

You have to remember, Joel was with a competing network. M*A*S*H was a CBS show. This report was filed on ABC in Chicago.

Cubs 365, February 28

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, the Cubs traded away their best slugger, Dave Kingman.

All the elements had been in place for a wonderful long term marriage between the Cubs and Dave Kingman when they acquired him a few years earlier. He was a prodigious slugger; his home runs were already the stuff of legend. The Cubs were having trouble drawing fans, and he was the kind of player that brought people to the ballpark. In addition to that, he was a local boy (Prospect High School) returning to play in front of his home town fans. He even lived up to his billing; slugging home runs onto Waveland Avenue with regularity.

Yet, by the time Kingman left Chicago, he might have been one of the most hated players in Cubs history.

How did things go so horribly wrong?

His first year with the Cubs (1978) he hit 28 homers, and some of them were dramatic, but his personality was already rubbing people the wrong way. His 1979 season was one of the best in Cubs history (he hit 48 homers), so his teammates and fans looked the other way as he said and did things that irritated one and all.

It wasn't 1980 that things really got ugly, and they got ugly in a hurry. In April Kingman caused a stir when he threw a bucket of ice water on a newspaper reporter for the Daily Herald. This unprovoked attack (the reporter was interviewing someone else--Lenny Randle) led to a reprimand from the league office, but not much else.

In June, Kingman didn't show up for a game. He had been given the previous day off to fly to San Diego after his home was burglarized, but he didn't make it back in time for the next day's game. The Cubs fined him for that. When he finally did show up the next day he showed up with a sore shoulder and had to be put on the disabled list. He was out for two months.

During that time on the DL, the Cubs scheduled "Dave Kingman Day" at the ballpark. They gave away 15,000 Dave Kingman t-shirts, and even though he was in town that day, he didn't show up at the ballpark. He did a paid gig promoting Jet Skis instead.

By the end of that season people hated him. Mike Royko, who had been a Cubs fan for forty years, publicly switched his allegiance to the White Sox because he despised Kingman so much. (He called him Ding Dong instead of his previous nickname King Kong).

In the off season the Cubs did what they had to do; they traded Kingman back to the Mets. After news of Kingman's trade became public, his teammates all expressed relief that he was gone. Royko even became a Cubs fan again.

And though Dave Kingman continued to slug homers (he hit another 172 in his career), and retired with the most career homers of any player not in the Hall of Fame, he never even got a sniff from Hall of Fame voters.

It's hard to get votes from baseball writers when you're remembered for throwing ice cold water at one of their colleagues.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Cubs 365, February 27

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 1998, Harry Caray was laid to rest. His funeral was held at Holy Name Cathedral, and it's fair to say that very few funerals in Holy Name history were like this one. It turned out to be almost a celebrity roast, as friends of Harry told story after hilarious story about their dear departed friend.

Cubs manager Jim Riggleman attended the service. Among the Cub players in attendance were Mark Grace, Sammy Sosa and Scott Servais and the retired second baseman Ryne Sandberg. Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago, Gov. Jim Edgar of Illinois and another famous Chicago figure, the football coach Mike Ditka, were also at the service.

When the 1998 season began, the Cubs started the tradition of bringing in celebrities to sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame"; Harry's old job. The first person to do it was his widow, Dutchie.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Father Knows Nothing

I just posted this week's Father Knows Nothing column. It's about the best way to annoy my children. I call it "Life is a Highway"

You can read it here.

Cubs 365, February 26

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 1887, future Hall of Famer Grover Cleveland Alexander was born.

His 373 wins are the third most in baseball history. And yes, he was a Cub. He won 128 games in his years with the Cubs, and had one of the best seasons in baseball history in 1920, when he led the league in wins, ERA and strikeouts.

But Alexander was troubled during his Cubs years. The only reason they got him at all was because the owner of the Phillies didn't want to get stuck paying the contract of his star pitcher (a three-time 30 game winner) if he got drafted into World War I. He did get drafted, and he came back from the war a changed man.

Old Pete, as he was known, became one of the biggest drinkers in the league--during Prohibition. He showed up drunk to games. He fell asleep in the clubhouse and passed out drunk in the dugout. He smoked like a chimney before every game. He ignored his manager, and openly challenged his authority. The Cubs were understanding up to a point. After all, the man was suffering through medical, physical and mental problems.

He was an epileptic, and was prone to seizures. His arm started hurting during his Cubs career, and he had the ligament "snapped back into place" by a man named James "Bonesetter" Smith. And throughout it all he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after his horrific war experience.

Somehow, against all odds, he continued to pitch well. In 1923, he pitched 305 innings and walked only 30 men. In 1924, he won his 300th game. But in 1926, after his catcher and best friend Bill Killefer went to the Cardinals, Alexander fell apart. In his last ten games with the Cubs, Old Pete showed up drunk six times, and missed two games altogether.

The Cubs released him and the Cardinals picked him up on waivers. Back with his best friend Killefer, he regained his pitching touch and led the Cardinals to the World Series championship, winning Game 6, and saving Game 7 of the 1926 series.

Two years after his 1950 death, his story was told in the film "The Winning Team," starring Ronald Reagan. Grover Cleveland Alexander remains the only player in baseball history to be named after a president, and portrayed in a movie by a president.