Friday, December 04, 2020

Free Kicks--Tribute to a Legend

Christmas Gift Suggestion

 Thanks so much to Tabby's Pantry ( for listing the Eckhartz Press Book "Grace's Rockin Roll Adventure" as one of their Christmas Picks for 2020. Here's the write up:

Grace’s Rockin’ Roll Adventure, starring Steven Van Zandt, follows the adventure of Grace and friends as her class wins a prize to attend a concert where Little Steven Van Zandt’s band is playing. At the end of the concert, Little Steven Van Zandt gives her an electric guitar which inspires her and her friends to learn about rock and roll and to become a Rock and Soul musician herself.

Len Kasper

 Shocking news leaked out last night and was confirmed by Robert Feder this morning...

Len Kasper, who’s been the TV play-by-play announcer for the Chicago Cubs for 16 years, will become radio voice of the Chicago White Sox this spring, according to multiple sources.

The surprise announcement expected today follows the move of White Sox baseball broadcasts to WMVP 1000-AM, the Good Karma Brands ESPN sports/talk station, under a multiyear agreement finalized last month.

Kasper replaces Andy Masur in the radio booth alongside Darrin Jackson, who continues in the role of analyst he has held since 2000. The White Sox most recently aired on Nexstar Media Group news/talk WGN 720-AM.

I've interviewed Len several times. This one was coming off the World Series win, during spring training in 2017.

The following year Len contributed to the Eckhartz Press book "Cubsessions" written by Becky Sarwate Maxwell and Randy Richardson.

Dave and I also interviewed him this year right after the news leaked that he had signed a one-year deal with the Marquee network. If you listen closely to this interview, you can hear that he wasn't exactly thrilled with the prospect. In addition, we talked about the White Sox, and he seemed excited about their prospects.

And finally, of course Len is mentioned in EveryCubEver. Here is his entry...

~Len Kasper 1971-- (Cubs announcer 2005-2020)
Len has been the TV play-by-play man for the Cubs since 2005. He replaced Chip Caray. Len does a great job on the broadcasts, often spicing them up by appealing to the stats geeks (with an occasional SABR-metric) and the rock and roll generation (with music references). He also hosts an occasional rock and roll show on WXRT radio. When Bob Brenley was his color man, Len & Bob would even rock out every year the night before the Cubs Convention

Sorry to hear about Andy Masur. He was also interviewed for the Illinois Entertainer shortly before the COVID-shortened 2020 season.

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Fox News Discovers Masks

Mark Cuban

What he said

This is pretty powerful. Time for this nonsense to end. Forever.

The Santa Threat

 15 years ago today a new magazine debuted in NW Indiana. It was called SHORE magazine, and the editor was Pat Colander. She had come from Lake Magazine to start it, and she brought me along as a writer. This piece launched my column “Father Knows Nothing”.

You may not know the name Haven Gillespie, but if you’re a parent, he has given you the gift that keeps on giving. Since 1934, American parents have quoted this wise Kentucky philosopher on a regular basis; especially during the months between September and December. J. Fred Coots may have written the music that makes Gillespie’s words more memorable, but it’s the words themselves that have resonated with parents.

Haven Gillespie wrote the lyrics for “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

While it’s certain that parents used the Santa threat well before Gillespie wrote the lyrics for that song, he gave the threat credibility. I think that’s the secret to the song’s longevity—a reason why it has become a standard; a beloved holiday song. The music may be warm and comforting, but the lyrics are a none-too-subtle threat.

You better watch out,
You better not cry,
You better not pout,
I’m telling you why,
Santa Claus is coming to town

If you’re a parent that hasn’t quoted that song at one time or another, then you’re a saint. The temptation is simply too strong. When the little darlings are acting up, crying, or whining, and it’s during those glorious months between September and December, a simple humming of this song will often stop them in their tracks. It’s the Santa threat.

Sure, Santa brings presents, but he’s a little scary.

You better watch out!

Sure, Santa brings presents, but he hates whiners.

You better not cry
You better not pout

Parents may have told their kids this before 1934, but when the words are in a song, they have gravitas. Keep in mind this song was written during the Great Depression when children already knew they weren’t going to get much. The 1934 Santa had a much smaller bag, and he wasn’t going to bother putting toys in that bag for whiners or complainers. That must have been pretty obvious to kids in 1934, but I’m still glad Gillespie put it in the song. It’s not obvious to my kids. As a matter of fact, between January and September, I tell them not to whine, cry, and pout all the time—and it’s like I’m saying ‘blah, blah, blah.’ But during the autumn months, I simply sing Gillespie’s wonderful lyrics. It gives my words power and meaning, because…

Santa Claus is coming to town.

While the first verse is great for handling simple whining and crying problems, the second verse of the song is positively visionary. This is the verse that lets my kids know that the entire matter is out of my hands. I’d love to help them out, but I’m not the one keeping the list; Santa is. Take it up with the bald fat man at the North Pole. He’s the one that controls the presents, and he’s not around, so you’re wasting your breath begging me. What is the kindly old man doing right now?

He’s making a list,
He’s checking it twice.

I have probably said those words a thousand times in my ten years of parenthood. My oldest son Tommy nods knowingly when I sing it. Don’t question Santa. The man is a stickler for detail. Dad forgets things all the time, but he’s not keeping a list. That Santa character is the real deal. I once heard Tommy explaining to his little brother that Santa has people everywhere—a network of spies that rivals the KGB. You may run, but you can’t hide. Don’t believe me? Listen to the words…

He’s going to find out who’s naughty and nice.

I know I’m speaking for most parents in this country when I say: Thank you Haven Gillespie. Thank you for the crying, thank you for the pouting, thank you for the list, and thank you for making him check it twice, and thank you for not mincing words. It’s the “N” word, kids. It’s naughty. Case closed. You probably just made the list, and Santa isn’t the kind of guy who fools around. He’s a stalker.

He sees you when you’re sleeping,

That’s probably the scariest line in the song. I like to sing it in a sinister voice.

He knows when you’re awake.

I’m betting that not many parents use that line, but I have two boys who share a room. I’ve opened the door on school nights more than a few times to sing that line. It silences the boys instantly—like magic. I love that line, but not as much as I love the refrain. It’s what gives the song a happy ending—a course of action.

He knows if you’ve been bad or good,
So be good for goodness sake.

Now that’s just the Santa threat in the most direct terms possible, but it comes with a positive message, even if it’s said through a forced smile. When a child is pouting, or whining, or wailing, or fighting, or doing anything at all other than what Mom and Dad want them to do, the solution is right there.

Be good for goodness sake.

Got it? Good. Now go to your room.

Most kids don’t even know the rest of the song. The next few verses are full of boys and girls having a jubilee, and kiddie cars and curly head dolls…but kids have a very hard time remembering those verses. The message of the first two verses and the refrain are still ringing in their darling little ears.

And for that, we should all thank Haven Gillespie.

If he hadn’t passed away in 1975, we would be calling him right now to commission another song. By ten in the morning on December 25th, if you try the Santa threat again, even if you sing the most powerful holiday song of all time, you will probably get a reaction something like this:

“Santa’s already been here. Look at all these presents! He loves me!”

I know I speak for most parents when I say it’s time for a new song to cover the time from December 25th to September 1st. That’s a long time to parent without such a powerful threat. Consider this a plea to the Haven Gillespie of the 21st century. I don’t want to be greedy, but if the words could say something about video games being taken away forever, that would be great.

Ryan Trembath

 Eckhartz Press author (Signature Shoes) Ryan Trembath...

Illinois Entertainer column--In Memorium 2020


My year end Illinois Entertainer column pays tribute to the broadcasting greats we lost this year. I focus on three men I knew pretty well--Clark Weber, Ron Britain, and Joel Daly. All of them told me stories about their brushes with the Beatles. I thought I would share them with you.

You can read it here.

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Vicki Quade

 Thank you to the Comedians Defying Gravity blog at Chicago Now for the shout-out to Eckhartz Press author Vicki Quade...

Vicki Quade's Nuns4Fun has released Christmas Bingo: It's a Ho-Ho-Holy Night. Vicki's shows are a celebration of laughter for all denominations! The show is available for streaming through December 27. Tickets are $20 and support the retirement fund of the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago. Tickets and streaming information at

Vicki's new book Close Encounters of a Chicago Kind will be published by Eckhartz Press in time to make a great holiday gift. If you follow her on social media, you know that the award-winning playwright has a gift for inspiring strangers on the street to divulge their most interesting stories and secrets. The book promises to reveal true Chicago encounters from "the bizarre to the dangerous." Vicki has a knack for connecting with everyone she meets and for highlighting our shared humanity even in the most unlikely circumstances. Purchase the book here.

John Dempsey Retires

From this morning's Robert Feder column...

You won’t find a more solid and reliable newsman in all of Chicago radio than John Dempsey. Now he’s voluntarily stepping down as news director and afternoon news anchor at WLS 890-AM. Dempsey, 60, announced Monday he’s retiring after 38 years in broadcast journalism, including the last 13 at the Cumulus Media news/talk station. His final day on the air with afternoon host Big John Howell will be December 23. “My career in news has been one of the highlights of my life, one that has allowed me to cover thousands of stories and meet people from every walk of life,” Dempsey wrote in an email to colleagues. “The entire experience has made me a better person and enriched my life beyond anything I could have imagined, but now I want to step aside to give myself more time to think about my next chapter.” A Chicago native and Southern Illinois University graduate, Dempsey joined WLS in 2007 after stints at WBEZ 91.5-FM, WBBM 780-AM and the former WMAQ as well as WFLD-Channel 32. “John brought his love for journalism to work every day and we are all more informed because of it,” said Stephanie Tichenor, program director of WLS. “We will miss his news judgment, knowledge and most importantly, we will miss him.”

I interviewed John a few years ago for the Illinois Entertainer. You can read that interview here.

Monday, November 30, 2020


The Living Wills

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is The-Living-Wills-cover.jpg

On this day in 2011, Eckhartz Press released our very first book, The Living Wills by Brendan Sullivan and Rick Kaempfer.

Here are a few of the reader reviews...

"I downloaded a copy of the book on my e-reader (NOOK), and I just finished reading it. This is one of the best books I read in an awfully long time. I lived 1/2 block from Waveland Bowling Alley. I bowled in 4 leagues every week for about 3 years and traveled that neighborhood for 11 years. It brought back so many memories, people I bowled with, things that happen after bowling, having coffee in their coffee shop, etc. You did a great job in taking us around the northwest side of the city via the various street names. The way the individual stories came together and, of course, the last chapter. My only regret is that I bought it as an e-book and therefore can't get it autographed."
--John S.

"I absolutely loved this book! I enjoyed everything about it - the characters, the storylines, and how it all fits together in the end. It took a few chapters for me to really get into it, and then I didn't want to put it down. I cried when I finished it, but mostly because it was over. The story illustrates how connected our lives really are to so many other people, and in ways that we may not even realize. I read Rick Kaempfer's first novel, "$everance", and I liked that one too, but this one was even better! I would love to see more books from this team of authors - keep it up, guys!!"
--Chocoholic mom

""The Living Wills" is a wonderful story of the meaning of family and friendship in life. This book especially strikes a chord if you're from Chicago, but I would think that any reader would identify with at least one of the main characters, their problems, joys and relationships. Highly recommended!"
--Dina S.

"I am an avid reader across many genre. I enjoy taking diverse ideas and rubbing them together to see how I might surprise myself and learn something new, feel something different. The Living Wills is a terrific story that does the same thing between its covers. I laughed, I cried, I thought deeply, and I have taken action based on the wonderful and realistic story. This is a magnificent book for adults and particularly those of us who are into the second half of our lives or who know someone who is. It gives new insights into how to measure the meaning of one's life - whether in its entirety or just two seconds."
--Gil H.

"I absolutely loved this book! I loved the characters, the storylines, and especially how the stories all came together at the end. I also laughed and cried, and was sad when I finished the book. I would love to read more books by these two authors. Keep writing, guys!!!"
--Carol R.

Some Sanity for Trump and his Wack-a-doodle Followers

Every Cub Ever--Updated Edition Now Available!

2021 Updated Edition EveryCubEver 

Need a great holiday gift for the Cub fan in your life? Save $5 bucks on the 2021 updated edition of EveryCubEver. Use promo code "Go Cubs 2021".

Review: Signature Shoes

 This 4-star review of the Eckhartz Press book "Signature Shoes" appeared on the website, The Guy Who Reviews Sports Books...

While most people have either heard of or owned a pair of Air Jordan’s, many may not know that that was far from the first shoe that was the signature shoe of a well-known athlete. That distinction went back a couple decades and the history of signature shoes for athletes is described in this interesting book by Ryan Trembath.

The practice of attaching an athlete’s name to a shoe began well before Nike did this for Michael Jordan.  It wasn’t an uncommon practice for tennis players (Stan Smith, Ille Natase and Billie Jean King, for example) or soccer players, especially the great Pele, to have signature shoes.  At that time, the two major shoe companies doing so were Adidas and Puma. Trembath gives the reader a brief but informative history of those two rivals and others who soon joined in the business such as Nike, Reebok and PONY.

By the 1990’s the market for such shoes became oversaturated and that is about where the history lesson in the book ends, but there is more to read than just shoes. There are also interesting facts about many of the athletes whose names were attached to the shoes as well as some pop culture tidbits tossed in at various points in the book.

At a quick 154 pages, this book is not an exhaustive history of shoes or sports, but does give the reader a very interesting and entertaining look at the industry of the signature shoe and is worth a look for any reader interested in this topic.

I wish to thank Mr. Trembath for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

You can buy it here.