Friday, May 04, 2012

Coming This Weekend

I'm not doing a Chicago Radio Spotlight interview this weekend because of my son's math meet in Champaign (Go nerds!), but I'm not quite ready for my summer hiatus yet. I've got a few more scheduled for later this month.

I will, however, be posting a new Father Knows Nothing column on Sunday. I've been ridiculously ill this week, and will provide a report card of the care I received from my family members. (Warning, at least one "care taker" will not be receiving a passing grade).

Cubs 365 will also continue with two more great stories from this day in history, and the Just One Bad Century website will go back to This Week in 1908 and 1945 as always. (The sun always shines brightly there).

Have a great weekend!

WGN-TV Morning Show

Sorry I'm late posting today. I spent the entire morning observing the WGN-TV Morning show in action for an article I'm writing for Shore Magazine. They really do a great job on that show, and they gave me some great quotes for the article.

It will be in the August issue of Shore.

Cubs 365, May 4

On this day in 1960, the Cubs made one of the most unusual trades in their history. Cubs icon Charley Grimm had been asked to come back to manage the Cubs (for the third time) at the beginning of the 1960 season. The 62-year-old Grimm was always a team player, and this was no exception. He agreed to give it another try, but it didn't take too long for Charley to realize that the game was passing him by. After only 17 games, he told P.K. Wrigley that he wasn't interested in doing it anymore.

Without a natural replacement on staff, Wrigley asked Charlie who he should name to the position. Grimm pointed out that radio announcer Lou Boudreau had won a World Series for the Indians. "Why don't you give it to him?"

"But then we would need a radio announcer," Wrigley replied.

"I'll do it," Charley offered.

And he did. Just like that, the Cubs announced one of the most unusual trades in history. They traded their manager for their radio announcer.

They both did admirable jobs in their new roles, but after the season was over, Boudreau wanted a two-year contract to stay in the job. Wrigley refused give any manager a two-year contract, so Boudreau did exactly what his predecessor Charley Grimm had done.

He asked for the radio job back...and he got it.

Ever the good soldier, Charley Grimm retreated to a comfortable semi-retirement in the front office.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Joke for a Thursday morning

"RN" sent me this. It made me chuckle...

Q: How many record executives does it take to change a light bulb?

A: First of all, before we change anything, is the light bulb really burned out? Maybe we just need to breathe some life into it; repackage it, maybe the light bulb could do a duet with somebody (Sheryl Crow? Tim McGraw?) in hopes of getting some crossover appeal, maybe it could be in a beer commercial, maybe we could get it out on the road with a brighter light bulb. The other thing to think about is that this summer, Honda is rolling out a 100 Million dollar campaign for a new car aimed at thirty-somethings who consider themselves adventurous/spontaneous but can't really afford something like a luxury S.U.V. and it might be a perfect campaign to tie this light bulb into, at least it would be the perfect demographic, in terms of age.

Also, and this is just an idea: what if we found out what video games are being released in the third quarter and maybe pitched the idea of having our light bulb make an appearance in the video game at some certain level of completion; like, you get to a dark cave, let's say, if it's an adventure game, and if you have enough points you can get the light bulb - and it would be our light bulb, obviously - and then it's easier to see in the cave. The other thing is this: worst-case scenario the light bulb is, in fact, burned out. Is that really the end of the world? I mean, maybe that's actually of more value to us in the long run: Picture this for voice over: "The light bulb is dead. . . but the legend lives on. . . re-released, re-mastered, revealed. . . the light bulb. . . IN STORES NOW."

It almost makes more sense than taking the time changing it, plus, if it's dead we can sell it without dealing with it, you know what I mean? No demands from it, no hotels, no road expense, no delays in the project from its end, etc. But, like I said, I'm just thinking off the top of my head here, just brainstorming, and none of this is written in stone. But the first thing we should do is figure out how we want to handle this, because the light bulb's manager is a total nightmare and we're going to have to take a meeting and listen to him sooner or later, and we should know what our plan is before we sit down with him. And let me tell you right now that the first thing out of his mouth is going to be, "This light bulb should be the brightest light bulb in the world, and it could be the brightest light bulb in the world, but you need to support the light bulb, you need to give the light bulb TV ads, you need to be more active in giving the light bulb tour support, we need to have some promotion from your end!" and on and on.

And in that meeting, if you're in it, the only answer from our side should be that we're obviously very excited to be working with the light bulb, that we don't think it needs to be changed, that the only problem is people haven't seen how bright the light bulb could be, and our plan is to do everything we can to make this light bulb happen.

I'll send out an email to everyone before the meeting to remind people of our position on this, but the bottom line is we don't have the budgets right now, and basically we need to see something happening with the light bulb before we go throwing good money after bad, but obviously we can't have the light bulb's manager hearing that. I can tell you all that I'm personally very excited to be working with the light bulb, I think it will light up very brightly, and we're not going to stop working the light bulb, in whatever ways budgets will permit, until it does, in fact, light up very brightly. . . the light bulb is a very big priority for us from the top of the company to the bottom. Period. We can talk more about this when I am back from Barbados next week, and I'm going to need everybody's help on this. I know we can do it, but we need everybody working hard.

Cubs 365, May 3

On this day in 1966, the Cubs played their first game on Astroturf. The game was at the Houston Astrodome, and to say that the Astros enjoyed a home-field advantage that season is to understate the case. The Astros were an awful team on the road that year, but were better than .500 at home. Many National League teams took a few games to get used to the Astroturf's unique bounciness.

The Cubs were no exception. In that first game, they made four errors. Ron Santo, Don Kessinger, Randy Hundley, and Bill Hands all succumbed. Those errors led to five unearned runs, and before the Cubs knew it, they had lost the game 10-2.

It certainly wasn't their only loss in 1966. Despite having four future Hall of Famers on the roster, the Cubs finished the 1966 season 44 games under .500, 36 games out of first, in the basement of the National League.

Book Club Discussion Questions

We've been busy beavers at Eckhartz Press readying our next book for publication ("Cheeseland" by Randy Richardson), but we're also in the midst of putting together "book club packages". Look for more details about that in the coming weeks.

Until those are ready for release, however, we've been asked by fans of our first two books to put together some discussion questions for book clubs. We know there are several book clubs currently reading both "The Living Wills" and "Down at the Golden Coin". Hopefully these questions prepared by our authors will spur discussion and debate.


1) The Living Wills is a very "Chicago" book. Does the location add/subtract to your enjoyment of the story?

2) The three story lines all eventually intersect. Did it throw you off before the story lines came together?

3) Were you surprised by the way any of these story lines intersected with each other?

4) Which of the three story lines did you relate to the most, and why?

5) How does Peter's journey to find the video parallel the reader's journey to understanding Henry?

6) How does the funeral at the beginning of the novel differ from the funeral at the end of the novel?

7) What role does spirituality play in the plot? Is that something you can relate to?

8) How does the comic element serve to balance the dramatic element of the story?

9) How does the theme of "everything is connected" reveal itself in the plot as well as in the actual structure of the novel?

10) What events in your own lives have happened in "two seconds" and changed everything?

11) Can you tell that two different authors wrote this? Did you detect two different styles of writing?


1) How do you think you would react if you met someone claiming to be God at the laundromat, or anywhere else for that matter? Would you believe right away or would you, like Annie, demand a lot of proof? Is this something you would like to have happen, or would you prefer to never meet a Messiah in person?

2) Do you think Violet is who she says she is? Why do you think the author chose to have her be so young? Female? Pierced and tatted?

3) Why do you think Violet makes Annie go through all the “work” to come to her realizations and epiphanies, as opposed to just doing what Annie refers to as using her “little Messiah magic tricks?”

4) If you suspected your spouse was having an affair, would you, like Annie, choose to ignore the elephant in the room or would you initiate a confrontation right away? Do you think Annie and Jack’s marriage will survive his infidelity? Why or why not?

5) Have you ever learned something from your children that made you feel like the parenting tables had been turned? Have you ever found out your children knew a secret you’d thought you’d successfully kept from them?

6) Do you think God, (or a Higher Force or your Soul or whatever you want to call it) communicates with you? Do you have any examples from your own life?

7) Symbolism is prevalent throughout the story. Give some examples and describe what you think they mean.

8) Do you live in the moment, the Now, or do your find yourself, like Annie, worrying about the future or dwelling in the past?

9) The author draws on her belief that we all create our own realities. Do you think you have the ability to create your own reality? Do you have any examples from your own life that demonstrate this ability to be true or not true? Did you read The Secret and try its techniques? If so, what were your results and why do you believe you were successful or not successful?

10) How do you think the “Great Recession” has impacted how we as a society view wealth and money? Has it changed your personal view? Annie is a pretty materialistic person. How do you think she’ll do going forward with her new “enough is enough” philosophy?

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Cheering for Mathletes

This week's Suburban Dad contribution to the City Mom blog at ChicagoNow has been posted. It's called "Cheering for Mathletes".

Click here for 6 new cheers, a fundraising idea, and a preview of my cheering outfit.

Cubs 365, May 2

Only one pitcher in Major League history has lost a no-hitter to another pitcher throwing a no-hitter. Of course, that player was a Cub: Hippo Vaughn. He did it on this day in 1917.

Only 3500 fans were in the stands at Weeghman Park (now known as Wrigley Field). Fred Toney was pitching for the Reds. Vaughn was the ace of the Cubs staff--a real workhorse. He was on his way to winning twenty games for the third time in the past four years, and would win 19 or more every year until 1921.

On May 2, 1917, Vaughn was feeling particularly good, but he had no idea he was even pitching a no-hitter until someone brought it up in the dugout during the 8th inning. A teammate pointed out that "We haven't even got a hit off of Toney," and another teammate countered with "And they ain't got a hit off Vaughn neither." Mentioning a no-hitter in the dugout was a big no-no (and remains so to this day), but it didn't affect Vaughn or Toney.

If either man was flustered, it didn't show in the 9th inning. Both men retired the side in order, and the game went to the 10th.

With one out in the tenth inning, Larry Kopf got a single, ending the no-hitter for Vaughn. The next batter hit an easy fly ball to Cubs right fielder Cy Williams, who dropped it, putting runners on second and third. That brought up Jim Thorpe, the Olympian. He hit a swinging bunt, but because Thorpe was so fast, Vaughn tossed the ball to the catcher to get the guy at home plate instead of throwing it to first. Cubs catcher Art Wilson wasn't expecting the throw and the ball bounced harmlessly off his chest protector, allowing Kopf to score the only run of the game. It was the first run the Reds had scored in 34 innings.

In the bottom of the tenth, Toney had no trouble getting the Cubs. They went down in order. But Cubs pitcher Hippo Vaughn also went down in history as the only pitcher to lose a no-hitter to another pitcher pitching a no-hitter.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

A Fine Mess

The name of my regular column for Shore Magazine is "A Fine Mess". In the current issue of the magazine (available at newsstands now), A Fine Mess is about my WORST VACATION EVER.

It's entitled "Down the River Without a Clue"

Cubs 365, May 1

On this day in 1893, the Columbian Exposition opened in Chicago. It was the biggest World's Fair the world had ever seen, scheduled to begin on the 400th anniversary of Columbus' discovery of the new world.

It covered 600 acres, featured 200 or so brand new structures and buildings (many designed by Daniel Burnham), and attracted more than 27 million spectators to the city. It was located in Jackson Park and the Midway Plaisance, in the neighborhoods of Jackson Park Highlands, South Shore, Hyde Park and Woodlawn. This was more than a World's Fair. It was Chicago's coming out party--it's chance to prove to the world that it had recovered and thrived after the disastrous Chicago Fire of 1871.

Dedication ceremonies for the fair were held on October 21, 1892, but the fairgrounds were not actually opened to the public until May 1, 1893. President Grover Cleveland was on hand that day. The fair continued until October 30, 1893.

The big draw was the world debut of the Ferris Wheel, but there were many other notable moments of the fair. Scott Joplin performed there, and introduced Ragtime music to a wider audience. A dancer named Little Egypt introduced the Middle Eastern culture to many Americans for the very first time.

Several foods that have become American icons were also introduced there: Hamburgers, Quaker Oats, Cream of Wheat, Shredded Wheat, Aunt Jemima pancake mix, Juicy Fruit gum, and a food that would soon become associated with baseball forever--Cracker Jacks.

And yes, a certain baseball team was already playing in Chicago at the time.

1893 was the Chicago Colts (which is what they were known as in 1893) first season at West Side Grounds (photo), the ballpark that would be their home for both of their World Series triumphs (1907, 1908). It was built slightly west and north of the Columbian Exposition in a year which must have set records for construction in Chicago.

The Colts only played their Sunday games at the new ballpark however, because South Side Park (their home from 1891-1893) was closer to the Columbian Exposition and they hoped to draw fans from there.

It was a pretty uneventful season for the Colts, aside for a few moments. On August 8th the team was involved in a train crash between Cleveland and Louisville. Jimmy Ryan was cut badly in his face and neck, and a piece of glass had to be removed from his leg. He missed the rest of the season.

Cap Anson (41 years old) made history by becoming the first pinch hitter in team history. He pinch hit in the tenth inning and got a single as the Cubs won in extra innings.

As the Exposition ended in October of 1893, so did the season for the Chicago Colts.

They finished in 9th place in a 12 team league.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Joke for a Monday Morning

Thanks to "KR" for this one...

A pirate walks into a bar with a steering wheel in his pants.

The bartender says, "Hey, buddy, do you know there's a steering wheel in your pants?"

And the pirate says, "Argh, it's driving me nuts!"

Cubs 365, April 30

On this day in 1939, future Cubs pitcher Bob Hendley was born. His most memorable game in a Cubs uniform came on September 9th, 1965 at Dodgers Stadium.

The score was 0-0 in the bottom of the fifth and neither pitcher had allowed a single base runner. That ended when Hendley walked Dodgers outfielder Lou Johnson to lead off the inning. The next batter, Ron Fairly, bunted the ball a little too hard--right to the pitcher. Hendley was prepared to whirl toward second and throw out the lead runner, but he took his eye off the ball for a second, dropped it, and had no choice but to throw to first. While the next hitter was up to bat, Jim Lefevbre, Johnson took off for third. Cubs catcher Chris Krug threw to Santo, but the Cubs great couldn't handle the throw, and Johnson ran home with the first and only run of the game. The Dodgers had scored without the benefit of a hit.

Hendley didn't give up a hit until the 7th inning, and that harmless double was the only hit he allowed all game. It was a truly incredible pitching performance by Hendley, but it wasn't good enough. The other pitcher was just a little more incredible.

His name was Sandy Koufax, and all he did was pitch a perfect game.

Casey Kasem

Casey Kasem is 80 years old today. Casey, of course, is the former host of "America's Top 40", and has been the voice of Shaggy on "Scooby Doo" since it came out in the late 60s.

Seems like a good time to listen to this classic Kasem clip about a dog dying.

Always one of my favorite moments.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Father Knows Nothing

This week's Father Knows Nothing, "A First Time for Everything", is about an unexpected question asked by my oldest son.

You can read it here.

Cubs 365, April 29

On this day in 1983, Lee Elia unleashed the most famous tirade in Cubs history.

It's captured here in all it's audio splendor, with bleeps.