His 85th birthday is today. This is one of my favorite Elvis tunes...
Musings, observations, and written works from the publisher of Eckhartz Press, the media critic for the Illinois Entertainer, co-host of Minutia Men, Minutia Men Celebrity Interview and Free Kicks, and the author of "Back in the D.D.R", "EveryCubEver", "The Living Wills", "$everance," "Father Knows Nothing," "The Radio Producer's Handbook," "Records Truly Is My Middle Name", and "Gruen Weiss Vor".
Friday, January 08, 2021
Thursday, January 07, 2021
This week's Free Kicks episode includes my tribute to Gerry Marsden, the singer of the Liverpool anthem "You'll Never Walk Alone" https://t.co/ig3j4DkcYp— Rick Kaempfer (@RickKaempfer) January 7, 2021
Atta Boy, JRL
In Robert Feder's column today he highlights two reader comments from the day before. I love the second one from my old pal John...
Wednesday’s comments of the day: Mark Goldsmith: No disrespect sir but who in their rite mind listens to John “records” Landecker. You must b the only one.
John Landecker: I’m not looking for people who are in their “rite” mind. Just everybody else. And get those fucking quotation marks off my mother’s maiden name.
Yes, they are talking about it. Some of them are even on the record. That's how bad this is.
A new feature on the Eckhartz Press website, The Studio Walls...
Eckhartz Press co-publisher Rick Kaempfer is a former radio producer and host and still writes about the media regularly as the media columnist for Illinois Entertainer. He has written about more than 200 current and former Chicago radio stars, including the following people who are celebrating birthdays this week...
WSCR and WBBM Radio’s Mark Grote (interviewed in 2015) is the sideline reporter during Chicago Bears radio broadcasts. At the time of the interview he was the third man in the booth for Cubs radio broadcasts with Pat Hughes and Ron Coomer. Rick asked him about his broadcasting partner, former Cub Ron Coomer…
“Everyone in baseball knows and likes Ron. He’s one of those legitimately good guys. He’s been absolutely great to me here in my rookie season. He introduces me to the people I need to know, and makes sure I don’t make a fool of myself by telling me the little etiquette issues involved in the broadcast booth and the clubhouse. Coomer has been the most important person for me, to get me through this year.”
(Mark’s birthday is January 9th. To read the entire interview, click here.)
WGN Radio’s Mary Van De Velde (interviewed in 2009) has been the morning and afternoon traffic reporter at WGN. Rick asked her about some of her favorite moments in that role.
“Working with Bob Collins was a great experience. He was hard to get to know at first, but I found him to be a very compassionate and generous man. Whenever he went out-of-the country, his wife Christine would pick us out very thoughtful gifts. I once got a silk jewelry case from China, which I cherish to this day. I’d have to say though… my all-time favorite memories are the early morning “meetings” with (host) Spike O’Dell, (news anchor) Andrea Darlas, and (producer) Jim Wiser. We rarely discussed what we were going to do on the show because Spike always had us cracking-up about something he usually found on YouTube or Sky-Cam….or he had some new gadget to try out on us. His homemade beef jerky helped us wake up in the morning!”
(Mary’s birthday is January 5th. To read the entire interview, click here.)
Judd Sirott (interviewed in 2011) is currently the radio voice for the Boston Bruins. At the time of the interview Judd was with WGN Radio doing pre and post-game shows for the Blackhawks and the Cubs, and did a one-inning stint every Cubs game, filling in for Pat Hughes. Rick asked him how he prepared for that.
“Do it accurately, descriptively, and provide some banter. Every game is different. I used to joke that nobody could call three up and three down like me, but then all of a sudden it would go the other way, with an eight run inning and three pitching changes. I think the key is that I always prepare myself as if I am doing the entire game. Sitting shotgun, watching Pat Hughes do his thing has been an incredible help. Ron used to call him the professor, but to me that’s really what he was. I watched and listened to him, how prepared, how quick, how descriptive, how mellifluous he is. He’s got the whole package–his timing, his wit, his description. Every day it really was like watching the professor. I watched every lecture. Every game was a learning experience.”
(Judd’s birthday is January 6th. To read the entire interview, click here.)
Eckhartz Press note: Both Grote and Sirott are also featured in Kaempfer’s book “EveryCubEver”
Great piece in The Reader about Eckhartz Press author Vicki Quade. Here's a short excerpt...
She's authored a book: Close Encounters of a Chicago Kind, published last month by Eckhartz Press. Quade (who started out as a journalist and was a Reader contributor) has been posting brief stories on Facebook for about ten years. She met Eckhartz's owners, Rick Kaempfer and David Stern, in February, when they interviewed her about the Easter Bunny show for a podcast they also hosted. It occurred to her to ask if they'd be interested in a book that would be a selection of these posts. They were.
The result is a brisk walk with Quade through daily life in Chicago, presented in bite-size chunks addictive as a sack of Garrett popcorn. We're on her arm as she perambulates (or drives), often around the north side—think Reza's, Dinkel's, the Dunkin' Donuts at Wilson and Broadway—without letting the driver who calls her a "stupid bitch" or the "low life" who steals her cane out of a grocery cart when she turns her back at the Jewel cramp her style.
She also takes us into the theater, where she deals with audience members who turn surly, and hands out Infant of Prague cards as a combination bingo prize and fertility charm. The major encounter, of course, is with Quade herself, a shameless people watcher, celebrant of the small moment, and exposer of the selfish and willfully ignorant.
On the other hand, if you're a kid who's zipping a gun into your backpack but dreaming of being on stage, or—like the couple she watched score a free meal at Manny's—either totally hapless or a very talented scammer, she's fascinated.
Quade's planning to adapt some of these stories for the theater after live performances resume, possibly as soon as Labor Day, "if enough people get vaccinated; my arm is ready."
After dispensing the only financial assistance she's received so far—a grant that allowed her to pay employees into May—she had to furlough stage managers, actors, and office help. But she expects to survive the shutdown because, unlike many of the midsize theaters she worries about, she doesn't own her performance space and also hasn't had to pay rent while the shows are closed.
She says she can see now that the random vignettes in her book are all about coming in touch with people: "I didn’t plan it this way, but it points out what we've been missing this past year, which is the ability to go out and witness something, meet someone, talk to people on the sidewalk."
Close Encounters of a Chicago Kind is available at eckhartzpress.com.
Wednesday, January 06, 2021
That's right. PBS.
lol. PBS just has this permanent banner below him on the screen of this live-feed pic.twitter.com/v8xvI3gieW— Parker Molloy (@ParkerMolloy) January 6, 2021
Tuesday, January 05, 2021
29,508...and that doesn't include anything after the election. Stop comparing him to anyone else. He's in his own league. The biggest liar in history.
After weeks of intensive work, we have cleared past all of Trump's campaigns rallies and updated our database of Trump's false and misleading claims through Nov. 5. The current total: 29,508 claims: https://t.co/rZaAOI0gjd— Glenn Kessler (@GlennKesslerWP) January 4, 2021
For those of you claiming the election was stolen by the Democrats, I give you this thought experiment.
If the Democrats really did steal an election without leaving evidence, aren't they exactly what we need right now to combat foreign hacking and distribute the vaccine? They are amazingly efficient.
Today is former White Sox slugger Ron Kittle’s birthday. In his book “Your Dime, My Dance Floor” Eckhartz Press author Chet Coppock devotes an entire chapter to Kittle and his former teammate Greg Luzinski. In honor of Kittle’s birthday, we are posting that chapter as a free excerpt.
Two Sox That Never Matched: Kind-Edged Kittle and Crab-a-Bull Luzinski
On a steamy August night in 1984, Ron Kittle, “The Gary Strong Boy,” hit one of his prodigious moon shots over the roof at old Comiskey Park.
I happened to be leaving the ballpark at the time and was walking down the lower concourse aisle, maybe half way between the Sox dugout and the left-field wall. Suddenly, the bell went off in my cranium. The Eagle Scout in me determined that Ron would probably like to put the ball on the mantle of his fireplace. So, I turned up the motor and dashed out behind the left-field roof where, lo and behold, a kid maybe 14-15 years old, ran up to me and said, “Mr. Coppock, I’ve got the Ron Kittle ball, do you think he’d want it?”
And the kid didn’t ask for a thing, which told me he was a lousy negotiator.
I examined the ball. The scuff mark from the roof told me it was legit and, if it wasn’t, who was going to holler “Fix!” about a free baseball?
I told the kid Kitty would be thrilled. Now, the game was a blowout and in the 7th or 8th inning, so I told my new pal I’d take the ball to Ron and get him an autographed bat in return. The lad was thrilled.
Game over, 10-minute cooling-off period finished and I walk over to Kittle in the Sox locker room and showed him his grand prize.
His response, “What the hell would I want that for?”
That was Ron. He never took himself or the game all that seriously. However, Kittle clearly enjoyed signing one of his 34-ounce bats for the youngster back of left field. By 1987, the Kittle blast was a memory.
Clarification time: The year 1984 may have been the most tumultuous one of my professional life. I’d been drop-kicked by WMAQ-Channel 5 in November 1983, which meant an annual dip of $85,000 in salary.
I did get a life preserver. I moved over as Sports Director of WMAQ-AM (670). I debuted “Coppock on Sports” (“COS”) in January 1984 to a fabulous reception. But Tom Hoyt, the general manager of WMAQ radio and a standup guy, knew “COS” was going to go dark all too many nights during the summer while the station carried Sox baseball.
Tom suggested I do the pre- and post- for the White Sox gamers. I took the assignment with mixed emotions even though I had always yearned to do a full year of baseball with one club.
No. 1, I thought it would it would take me inside a baseball world where a whole different language is spoken. Two, I wanted to see if I could pass the endurance test. Hoyt wanted me to do 150 of 162 games.
I bought into a year that was so surrealistic that the club should have hired Andy Warhol or Yoko Ono to conceptualize the season with Jimi Hendrix – dead or alive – providing the musical backdrop.
Let me give you another reason why I figured the MLB grind figured to be a kick. Ron Kittle was a sound-bite circus who had a gift very few MLBers publicly possess: He wouldn’t hesitate to laugh at himself.
Ron and I first hooked up in 1982 when he was a late-season call-up from the Sox farm team in Edmonton. The guy was so loose and exuded such vibrant, happy-go-lucky charm that I actually asked him to flex his muscles during a live TV sportscast before he played his first game. He did it – quite happily!
Kittle tore up American League pitching in 1983. The 25-year-old rookie hit 35 home runs (he would have hit 42 to 45 in homer-friendly Wrigley Field) and drove in 100 runs while running away with the American League Rookie of the Year award.
We aren’t done yet. The White Sox hosted the 50th anniversary All-Star Game that summer. The festival, a glowing tribute to the pastime, brought together what I believe has to be the greatest gathering of past and present All-Stars in baseball history.
You could bounce from Willie Mays to George Brett, Stan Musial to Mike Schmidt or Joe DiMaggio to Robin Yount.
Where did Ron Kittle fit with the past and present diamond stallions? Ron was given a roar and a standing ovation during player intros. Kittle, believe me, got louder cheers that Mays and Joe D.
Kitty was appreciative but not overwhelmed. Sometimes I wondered if the ice water in his veins also ran through his spleen and brain. No, he was never arrogant. Dare we suggest that he was actually grounded?
Listen, Kittle had worked in a steel mill in Gary. Maybe he thought that the other shoe had to fall sometime and he would be back in a blast-furnace sweat shop sporting a union card along with his hard hat and safety goggles.
I recall a magazine asking me for quotes on Ron Kittle during his majestic ’83 season. The mag also wanted to know what I thought Kittle’s career numbers would be. I knew Ron was strong but not overrun with “muscularity.” He wasn’t going to get fat and lazy.
I projected he would play 12 or 13 years, most of those as a D.H., which meant his legs weren’t going to buckle. So, I told the guy on the other end that I thought Ron Kittle would hit at least 325 homers with 1,100 RBIs. I was wrong, as wrong as the Bears wasting so many football seasons on an inconsistent brat named Jay Cutler or Bruce Rauner thinking he could beat Mike Madigan in the hard clinches. Kitty would end his 12-year career with journeyman numbers: 176 homers, 460 ribs.
The 1983 White Sox – “Winning Ugly” – ran away with the old American League West, winning 99 games. They took the division by a staggering 20 games. Sox Park then looked one heck of a lot like Wrigley Field did during the 2016 curse-ending season.
As for the playoffs, the Sox flamed out 3 games to 1 against Baltimore. They won Game One. Then, the O’s Mike Boddicker threaded the Sox in the second game, going the full nine while recording 14 strikeouts.
After the game, I went to get a sound bite from Ron about Boddicker slamming the door on the South Siders. He addressed me with a grin: “What are you askin’ me for? I couldn’t hit a beach ball tonight.”
The Sox scored one run in the final 30 innings of that series while batting .211. Now that’s “Losing Ugly,” like getting body-shamed on match.com.
So, we arrive at baseball 1984. The White Sox on paper have the best pitching staff in the game, with LaMarr Hoyt, Rich Dotson, Floyd Bannister, Britt Burns and, good morning, the off-season addition of Tom Seaver.
However, sometime around the ides of March, the Sox became just another club. After scuffling before the All-Star break, the Sox plummeted during the second half. My team of destiny closed the year 76-86 and about 20,000 meters out of first place.
Let me tell you, there is nothing as thrilling as doing a baseball post-game show on a Monday night in mid-September when you know your club is playing out the string. Catching early falling leaves with an upside-down rake is more engaging.
Kittle hit 32 homers. But his RBI count and batting average slid downhill.
Meanwhile, Chet Coppock vs. Greg Luzinski became a pretty hot media topic. I had been in training camp with the Sox and knew that Luzinski, the 1983 American League Designated Hitter of The Year, was in terrible shape, at least 25 pounds overweight. Bull looked like a 260-pound catcher on an over-50 16-inch softball team. I think he wheezed when he tied his shoelaces. His idea of a full-blown workout was doing 20 minutes on the exercise bike. There should have been a sign over his locker that read, “One Pair of Pants to a Man!”
The book says Bull retired after the 1984 season. The book is wrong. Greg called it quits around April 24th of his final year. He brought new postage to the phrase, “Mail it in.” The Crabby Bull was a complete liability and murder in a very frail and notably insecure clubhouse. I began ripping him on the air on a regular basis. That took some stones given the fact that I was a so-called “home team” broadcaster. But the club knew Luzinski was worthless. They were more disgusted with him than I was.
I’ve had feuds before. You can’t work my side of the street without exchanging verbal taunts and dagger eyes with guys you’re competing against. In 1982, Johnny Morris and I had a dandy skirmish.
Remember the Lee Elia rant? Sure you do. On a Friday when the Cubs were in their traditional state of spring confusion and losing to the Dodgers, I told Mark Giangreco to hop over to Cubs Park with the notion that somebody might blow up after the ballgame.
My guess was Larry Bowa would burn a hole in Mark’s mic. I was wrong. Elia went into a tirade for the ages.
“Eighty-five percent of the [effing] world is working. The other fifteen come out here.”
Lee at his peak. Even Richard Nixon must have reacted with more restraint after finding out no one had ditched the White House Watergate tapes. We were the only TV station that had taped Elia’s eruption. Later that night on the 10’clock news, I called for both Elia and Cubs general manager Dallas Green to be fired.
Had I gone overboard? C’mon, of course I did. Two days later I was apologizing to both guys who, to their everlasting credit, didn’t break my jaw.
Morris called and tried to bulldoze me into giving him the Elia material. I said no way. Johnny was just getting warmed up. He called our station manager Monte Newman demanding the tape.
Newman told him to get lost. Johnny and I, never friendly to begin with, began to slug it out in the press. What, you think the newspapers weren’t going to find out about Channel 5 Sports rejecting this handsome former Chicago Bear with 356 career receptions (and a rarely seen but extremely explosive Greek temper)?
That was a different era: Coppock, Tim Weigel and Johnny. We were not friends. We didn’t even speak to each other. We played hard ball seven days a week. We lived to beat each other on stories.
These days sportscasters work in packs with the golden rule being: “Don’t break a story unless you tell me about it so I won’t look bad and I’ll cover your ass too.”
Johnny never got the Elia tape from us.
Kittle’s injury problems also began in ’84. He would never have another year that would resemble his magnificence of 1983, but he never lost the ability to laugh at himself. I can still remember him telling me, “I’m probably the only guy that ever wrote a book who never read a book.”
Kittle doesn’t have to apologize. He hit a record seven roof-top homers at good old Comiskey Park.
In the late 1990s I had a role in hooking Ron Kittle with a manager’s lineup card. Brad Saul, a close friend and superb broadcast syndicator, called looking for a favor. It was a simple task. A foul ball by the name of Richie Ehrenreich was going to launch the Schaumburg Flyers. He did do some things very well. He helped to build a gorgeous small stadium and gave his patrons free parking. Years later, Ehrenreich would be evicted from his ballpark over non-payment issues. Richie wanted to sound me out about hiring a manager. That led Ehrenreich to have Brad call me. Ehrenreich and I met over dinner.
Richie tried to play the role of Branch Rickey, talking about the kind of “Hands on, no-nonsense skipper who knew when to employ the drag bunt” he wanted.
I told Richie that sadly, Casey Stengel was dead. I said the guy to hire was Kittle. I told him Kittle was no threat to the legacies of Earl Weaver or Herman Franks but I brought up one key point:
“No one knows your team is alive. You’re an independent, minor-league ball club. You need a popular face for your operation.”
Kittle was a salesman. He would generate media interest, sign every program and cut every ribbon at every shopping center. He may even have appeared at Schaumburg-area garage sales.
As for the nuts and bolts, I told Little Richie to get Ron a bench coach which, of course, he never did.
I knew there were guys who would take the bench gig at 50-grand a year just to get away from their wives.
Kittle was terrific. He worked the gig for three or four years and played the role of ambassador to the hilt. He also knew he was underpaid.
Now, its 1997 and I’m at the old Sports Channel studios in Oak Park taping a series of my “Back Table” interview shows. One of our guests was Ron Kittle. We greeted each other with big hugs. Then Kitty popped the question:
”Do you still have that roof-top ball I hit in, what was it, 1984?”
I said yes, and that it was handsomely displayed on a stand with gold baseball bats.
Kitty then told me he wanted to show the ball to his kids.
I was happy to oblige.
I’ve been preaching this gospel for 25 years. Kittle remains a baseball character who was put on earth to be a color announcer. I have no doubt fans would fall in love with this guy. Ron’s life wasn’t based entirely on hitting rockets over third base and then telling boring tales of the glory days. He’s also a master craftsman who designs sofas, chairs and other bric-a-brac using baseball bats. No kidding.
Ron Kittle is and was cool, northwest Indiana cool. Would he have posted bigger numbers if he had poured himself into the game with the zest of Ron Santo or Bo Jackson?
Who’s to say? Because Ron Kittle only knew how do to things his way. And he’s got a precious gift: He can still laugh at himself.
Plus, now he has that roof-top baseball…and the Zen-like peace of a steel-edged, kindly, kindly craftsman.
Monday, January 04, 2021
RIP Gerry Marsden
His song "You'll never walk alone" is sung before every Liverpool soccer game, but this is the one that was his biggest hit...
Rest in Peace, Gerry Marsden.— Yoko Ono (@yokoono) January 4, 2021
You were good friends with John, a Merseybeat legend and a kind and proud champion of Liverpool.
Our love and condolences go to Pauline, Yvette and Victoria love, Yoko and Sean. pic.twitter.com/eaLq8WLOPw
The January issue of Illinois Entertainer is out and includes my interview with WLIT's Melissa Forman. Thanks to Melissa for doing the interview, and thanks to Robert Feder for mentioning it in his column today.