issues & thoughts


The Guy Was A Stud!

Up until this past spring I had only the most basic familiarity with the football player named Bronko Nagurski.  I knew he was a Hall of Fame football player often called "the greatest football player of all-time" but I knew few details.  Then, in April ('18) Louise & I opened the box containing my Dad's collection of sports cards - mostly baseball but a few football cards including one featuring Nagurski.  The process of learning something new began.  For example, we learned Bronko was a two-way player - typically he played both offense (fullback) and defense (linebacker or tackle) for the Chicago Bears during a period often called "the fat ball era" as the shape of a football was quite bulbous ... lots of running and very rarely did teams use the forward pass ... in the mid-30's the shape of the ball was changed (from fifteen inches in circumference to eleven inches) making it easier grip & throw ... thus improving the passing game and increasing the action for fans.  Bronko was a powerful runner & major offensive threat.   On defense he was a bruising tackler disruptive force.

It took minimal research to determine Bronko's card (above - right) was likely the most valuable card in the cigar box.  As with most collectables several factors influence "value":  1. condition of card & the player's "star power" are vital in determining value.  2. pro football was in its infancy & this series of cards was among the first football cards introduced nationally.  3. the series initially did not sell well so production was cut ... only 36 of 240 cards planned were ever produced by the National Chicle Co.  4. timing - not good - these came out right in the midst of the depression.  My Dad's cards were in remarkable condition considering that we never did anything special to preserve them.  In the case of the "pre-WW2" era of sports cards - baseball & football - many collectors are attracted to the Art Deco-style prevalent in the mid-30's.  Rather than using photographs the player likenesses were artistically rendered.  Also, my Dad had a significant collection;  we were thrilled to discover 35 of the 36 card set called simply "football stars". 

My family has humored my interest in the card and the player.  Brother Pat gave me the book Monster of the Midway about Nagurski and I've learned a great deal about his life & sporting exploits.  Louise gave me an autographed reprint from the Bronk's early pro-career in 1934.  Care to know more, too?  I found a cute clip from a movie Hearts in Atlantis starring Anthony Hopkins based on a Stephen King novel, where the character played by Hopkins recalls seeing Nagurski play in the final regular season game in 1943.  [link to video clip]  Four weeks later the Bears defeated Washington's Redskins for the NFL Championship.     

Perfection can be fleeting...

Sixty-two years ago Don Larsen experienced a degree of perfection on the baseball diamond.  The NY Yankee pitcher faced 27 batters in game 5 of the 1956 MLB World Series and none of 'em could get on base...27 consecutive "outs". No runs, no hits, no errors.  The Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers had a team loaded with talent including Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella, & Gil Hodges ... but none of 'em could get a hit that autumn day.  "I had great control. I never had that kind of control in my life," admitted Larsen after the game.  The stats support that assessment; Larsen pitched 14-yrs in the big leagues for 7 different teams winning 81 games, losing 91.  Lifetime earned-run-average (ERA) of 3.78 ... respectable for a journeyman who played for many teams that often didn't produce enough runs to secure victory.  And though I was but 3-yrs old at the time, and did not witness the game at the time, I have grown-up reading about the feat and hearing the story ... I've listened to broadcaster Vin Scully's rendition a few hundred times, and always enjoyed the pure joy captured in the photo (right) showing Yankee catcher Yogi Berra leaping into Larsen's arms after the final out. 

Louise got the autographed photo for me as a birthday gift.  It's authenticated by Beckett's no less!  Isn't it swell?   She's a national treasure that spouse of mine.

click here-to-hear Scully's broadcast - video clip of Larsen's post-game celebration  

Collection of Baseball Cards...

We sold most of 'em as highlighted below.  Took us about 6-months.  The last batch was among our most valuable (authenticated and graded by professionals); they also netted my brothers and I with a sizeable pile of dough.  Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Stan Musial, Bob Feller, Hank Greenberg, Bill Terry.  Even some football greats from the National Chicle "Football Stars" series from 1935: Bronko Nagurski, Bull Tosi, Luke Johnsos, Clark Hinkle. 

Brother John was the one who found our eBay seller, Mark - great guy and an honest fellow.  Our final sales figures were even greater than Mark had originally estimated, but there were a few cards that did not do as great as most others.  So I bought a bunch rather than seeing 'em go for considerably less than they were worth like John "Blondy" Ryan who played shortstop for the NY Giants. 

See Ryan's "frame-mates" >


1934 Goudey Big League
baseball card #32 - rated "EXCELLENT 5"
by PSA. 

Oldest Living MLB Player

Fred Caligiuri...turned 100 on October 22, 2018.  The autographed picture to the left is a gift from brother John and will join the growing cast of characters celebrating sport during the era of my father's youth.  I had mentioned to John what I'd uncovered about Fred while researching a question posed (below) about Lloyd Johnson, the major league pitcher who appeared in just one game back in 1934.  I told John that the oldest living major league ball player was about to celebrate a birthday, and that his story was a bit different from Johnson.  Fred pitched for the Philadelphia Athletics for two years before WW2, and then returned from his military service to our country to resume his career but lasted just a couple of seasons…then "retired" and got into the auto business.   

Earlier this summer the Charlotte Observer newspaper posted a short video interview with Fred where he recalls his early baseball career and pitching to the late-great Ted Williams in 1941.  It's fun hearing how sharp Fred is today & his recollections of Williams quest to end the season with a batting average over .400.  Congrats, Fred & many thanks, John for the autographed treat.   (Link)         

"Hey four-eyes!"

Fathers teach their kids all sorts of things...big & small.  My Dad had plenty of experience wearing eyeglasses...shown in photo to the right, Dad's with his scout troop demonstrating some of the skills they've learned operating a drill press & other tools...and if you didn't guess: he's the handsome fellow in the middle wearing glasses!

So when my eye doctor said I needed to wear 'em too at 5-yrs of age, my Dad could relate.  He knew glasses could be a pain in the butt, knew all about kids teasing, and could recall when he'd catch hell from his father if he lost or broke his glasses.  My Dad never gave me a hard time when that happened to me...the same can't be said for Grace who went bonkers when my specs were broken or misplaced.

There are plenty of reasons I opted to hang onto some of his boyhood baseball cards he'd collected during the mid-1930's and eyeglasses like "Chick" Hafey, right, was just one of 'em. Reportedly Hafey one of the few big leaguers to wear glasses while playing.  The Hall of Famer Hafey was a fine hitter - sporting a .317 career batting average through 13 seasons with St. Louis and Cincinnati. 

I recall talking with Dad about these players but can't recall specifics.  I just know he cherished his card collection and took good care of them.  Now I get to enjoy 'em.
More photos of Young Ralph in our Scan-A-Slide collection, and more baseball card stories below.  See how nicely Hafey & Hubbell look with 4 other players in a new picture frame >

There Was More Than One Moonlight Graham

You know the story - from Field of Dreams...Burt Lancaster played Archibald W. Graham...or Moonlight Graham as he was known back in 1905...he made one appearance in the major leagues.  Yep, Archie played outfield for half an inning in the final game of the season.  The next year he enrolled in medical school.  His story is likely not completely unique but it did make great theatre in Kevin Costner's movie.

As we sort thru my Dad's boyhood collection of baseball cards.  The 1934 Goudey Big League baseball card to the right represents a bit of a mystery - much like Moonlight Graham - Lloyd William Johnson got to play in one game - one inning in the Major Leagues.  Johnson spent 12-yrs in the minor leagues in the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates organizations, and his only Major League appearance was with the Pirates in 1934: he threw one inning, allowed one hit on three batters he faced, retired the side and finished the game.  But that was in April...what happened to the rest of the season?   Not quite sure why...just one inning.   Yet, maybe these one-game wonders are not as rare as I thought. 

1934 Goudey Big League
baseball card #86 - rated VG-EX 4
(very good) by PSA. 

According to the Baseball Almanac there have been 948 players who, like Moonlight Graham & Lloyd Johnson, played just one game in their entire major league career.  At least Johnson had a big league ball card to prove it.  Another sad example: Larry Yount, relief pitcher for the Houston Astros and brother of Hall of Famer Robin Yount, was summoned to pitch late in a game in 1971, but he hurt his elbow warming up and never threw a pitch to a batter.  Ouch.   Another odd fun-fact I discovered...there have been 21 major league pitchers who appeared in one game with zero innings pitched; that is, they did not retire a batter. Double ouch.  So as I continue looking for info about Lloyd Johnson...and why he pitched just one inning...I'll enjoy the mystery. Meanwhile, I'm keeping the card.
She Comes From A Long Line of Cuties...

My brother John commented when he saw some vintage photos of Louise's mother: "Marie was really beautiful! She has that famous model/actress look...sure am glad I asked her to dance with me at your wedding! I was one lucky kid!"   John had spotted some of Louise's family photos that we've posted at Mike's Scan-a-Slide project. Initially the images were integrated with Dawson/Barrett family pix but when the list of Gignac/Brown pictures grew to over 200 vintage snapshots we decided Louise needed a home of their own on GooglePhotos - two fun-packed albums:

#1  Gignac Family Album  - historical view back to Marie & Richard's childhood.... 
#2  The Next Generation -
Dick & Marie's daughters grow-up

Shown to right is one of my new fav's...Louise pictured in 1960.  Whada' cutieWeb-guy note: when we created new albums on Louise's Google account and deleted the pictures posted on Mike's Google account, any comments that had been left also got wiped-out.  Unintended consequences.  So, the combined family albums are now "shared" just as brother Tom has done with his "Dawsons of Hawkinsville" pictures.

Take Me Out To The Ball-game...

The tune has become our theme song for 2018 & we've been humming it while sorting through our various collections of vintage sports cards.  Baseball, football, even a handful of non-sports collector cards, many from my father's youth (1930's) as well as my collections from the '50's and '60s.  So we decided to have a few cards framed to preserve as keepsakes and memories of my Dad, and sell the remainder.  Its hard to let go of many of these because so many of the vintage cards are really quite cool.  The wide frame below with 7 small baseball cards are from a limited series created by the Goudey Gum Co. in 1938 affectionately referred to as "Heads-Up" cards.  To learn more, click on one of the frames below:

Above (L) the famed 1935 National Chicle Co. football stars series; (R) Topps 1959 Detroit Lions team card.

I've learned a lot through the process of researching these sports cards. Example: as a youth I was definitely into sports as a participant and a fan.  I'd fall asleep listening to Ernie Harwell broadcasting Tiger games...but I do not recall ever hearing about The Boston Bees.  Turns out, the Bees of Boston played on a field called The Bee Hive.  I'm not making this stuff up. Originally the team was known as the Red Stockings in 1871 - sometimes called the Red Caps not to be confused with the Cincinnati Red Stockings (and not to be confused with the American League Boston Red Sox founded in 1901 but not named Sox until 1908). The NL Boston squad was known as the  Beaneaters ... then became the Boston Doves (named after new owners George & John Dovey). In 1911 the team was named the Boston Rustlers...who finally became the Boston Braves...they moved to Milwaukee in 1953 and then off to Atlanta in '66.  Whew.  Talk about an identity crisis!  Bet those who think native Americans are disrespected by "the Braves" nickname wish it were still The Bees!

The '38 Goudey Heads-Up card above features Hall of Fame catcher Al Lopez who played then for the Boston Bees and featured 2nd from left in 7-card collection at the top of this page.  After his playing career Lopez became manager of the Cleveland Indians & Chicago White Sox in the '50s & '60's.

While getting an education on current trends of collecting & selling vintage baseball cards I'll admit to getting the collector's bug just a little bit.  There are tons of various collections of baseball cards dating back to the late 1800's...most were available to the public as a premium for buying a particular product.  Tobacco companies were some of the early producers of ball cards, and a series known to collectors as the "T206" has caught my eye.  T206 cards produced 1909-1911 by the American Tobacco Co. to promote a number of their brands with ads on the back for: American Beauty Cigarettes, Carolina Brights, Polar Bear, Cycle, Sovereign, Drum, Sweet Caporal, Tolstoi, Uzit Mouth-Piece, Ty Cobb Smoking Tobacco and more.  A player's image appeared in color on the front with name & team affiliation.  I just love the simplicity of the design. The cards are quite small (1-7/16" x 2-5/8") about the size of 6 postage stamps.  Cards in pristine condition fetch thousands of dollars, or more, by serious collectors, which I am not.  One Honus Wagner T206 card sold for $3.12 million in 2016.  (Gulp.) 

I did purchase nine well-worn, well-loved cards to assemble the GoodPlanet squad (less than $40 a card) and framed 'em for my personal enjoyment. Louise keeps asking which is my favorite and I tell her the name of a different player/card each time she asks…but I've selected the player with the distinctive red background to serve as captain for my personal all-star team...Johnny Kling of the Cubs. In addition to being a pretty swell catcher he was also quite a pool-shark….won the World Pocket Billiards championship in '08. Kling even took a year off from baseball to compete in pool tourneys across the country.  When he returned to baseball he was a player/manager for Boston - a common practice back in those days. After his ball career he made his fortune in real estate, and was a popular owner of a Kansas City minor league ball club in part because he had the courage to ban segregated seating in the stadium.

Perhaps the stories & player biographies are nearly as much fun as having this tiny collection of vintage cards.  In the group of seven below the center card, Ed Killian, is the only card that was "graded" (PSA-3).  Naturally, for diversity, I had to have some of the landscape oriented cards - hence the duo shown left. 

added above 1909-11 "tobacco" cards 07.21.18; below 1914-15 "Cracker Jack" cards 08.16.18

Three cards in the framed group to right are from 1914 & 1915.  Babe Ruth, lower right, was a promotional card for a national card collectors show in 2013 labeled "the card that never was"...Ruth was a rookie in 1915 and was not originally included in the this series of cards.  More info about Cracker Jack cards. 
Click image for larger view >

As kids we sure had plenty to cheer about with our Detroit pro sports teams over the years. We lucked-out getting tickets for the Tigers world series games in '68 & '84. The Pistons were exciting through championships '89, '90 & '04...after decades of mediocrity.  But the football Lions have been a different championships since '57.  Quite a drought.  Still, we watch and hope.  I know my friends in cities like Cleveland can relate.  While something tells me the situation is about to change (and improve) I admit, I've had that same sense of optimism about our Lions for over a half-century.

Meanwhile, we'll continue our de-clutter projects - these framed vintage cards are about all that remain from these collections...we sold the rest! 

Rediscovered: we've found plenty of gems like the picture below as we've sorted thru family photo albums and slides taken largely by my father.  We call our collection the Scan-A-Slide photo project and it continues to grow.

above: Mike & Pat practice in Dearborn ('57).

As a youngster our family lived in a very nice community within walking distance to elementary school.  Quarton Elementary was just 701 yards (.4 miles) from my back door.  From the 1st grade onward I viewed the taller, older "safety boys" with great admiration, respect & a touch of envy. They were posted at each intersection on the streets surrounding the school...from my house to the school there were 4 such crossings where "safety boys" stood, arms extended, protecting kids from any traffic or danger.  "I wanna' grow up and be one of those guys!" I likely said to myself thousands of times.  It must have one of the many goals my parents urged me to set for myself & it paid the time I was a 6th grader I was doing my part to keep kids safe.  The badge they gave me has been a cherished keepsake in that shoebox filled with memories that included some of my favorite Match Box die-cast little toy cars & ticket stubs to the '68 World Series, among other treasures.  

Not familiar with the Safety Patrol?  Here's a vintage public service announcement that may help explain on YouTube: 

Mom passed away Oct. 19, 2017.  To celebrate Mom's life, and her family and our heritage I've created a virtual family photo album  called: "Scan-a-slide" - a mountain of family photos spanning a century! photo page >

SOLD!  J.J. Cardinal's Wild Bird & Nature Store...the fun little shop that Louise launched in 1991 now has a new owner (eff. Oct. 2017).  Our beloved Little Red wagon that hauled over 4.7 million pounds of the birdseed has such rich patina we couldn't give it up.  Brother John was kind enough to get us a new little red wagon for JJ's new owner Gretchen Giles so that our original little red can enjoy retirement, too.  Little Red is now Louise's "Chuck Wagon" ...helping with the daily task filling bird feeders at High Point!

We Went Solar !

In a big 2012.  Since then we've shared our production data, particularly for those who think only Southern states get enough sun to justify the investment...because it's a false narrative.  Even in cloudy Michigan where half the year you need a sweater or jacket anytime you venture outdoors...we generate electricity from the sun.  Lots of it.

She's a picker, he's a picker....wouldn't you like to be a picker, too?Louise Leads Annual High Pointe Contest

High School & College Football - Following multiple seasons of ineptitude by the Detroit Lions it stands to reason that we would learn to enjoy other expressions of the sport....namely high school & college football. We started our annual contest of picking college bowl game winners back in 2011.  You may have read about it previously on this website. Mike wrote: "He Lacked" when Louise won big that 1st year.  

This year Mike has doubled down on his belief that no college should be sending a squad who had not earned a winning record.  Last year Louise did not join Mike in his protest ... and this stubborn position obviously cost him.  Hey!  Sorry folks if it upsets you but why is a team with a 6-6 or worse a 6-7 record, is being rewarded with a trip to a bowl game?  This year there are nine contests with at least one team sporting a sub-standard record (6-6 or 6-7 season) ... so Mike eliminated those bowl games from our contest which kicks off Sat. December 15th.  We opted to include the Division II Championship game featuring the Ferris State Bull Dogs...pitted against thee Blazers of Valdosta State College (GA).  Go Bull Dogs...both teams are undefeated this season...Ferris has won more games this year than any major college team (15-0).  Impressive.

Here's Louise's take on this year's contest: "It’s time for our annual High Pointe Bowl Pickers Contest.  Mike and I enjoy college football and have a contest every bowl season that we pick who we favor to win each game. This year will be especially interesting!  Out of the 41 bowl games we differ on the outcome of 13 games … oh, this will be fun. Every bowl season, Mike prints out an official High Pointe Pickers sheet (he is the king of Excel for making spreadsheets) so we can indicate who we think will win; we also use this sheet to record game results. On my draft-list Mike noticed the marks & notations ("- and o") that I had made next to the individual bowl games listed and asked me what they were for, to which I replied, “Those are my marks and how I rate the teams and it is a secret.”  I look up articles written about the teams, what teams have a rookie quarterback or a quarterback playing his last game or key players out with injuries. I look for any team that had a coach retire, a coach fired or a coach out for some kind of infraction … which team has awesome defense or an awesome offence and how they’ll do in the match-up, etc. I also take into consideration their travel time to the bowl game and where it is playing as to whether or not it may affect the team, etc." 

Wow.  No wonder Louise has won the contest 4 out of 7 years!

Another bone I have to pick with college football is the compensation paid to the people who manage these bowl games - in some cases we're talking over $1 million per year.  Doubt me?  Read: "Bowl game executive pay soaring around $1 million" USA Today 12/14/'s pathetic.  These are supposed to be charitable  organizations - not another get-richer-quicker scam for the wealthy, well-heeled, well-connected good old boy network ... but it seems that's what we have.  The insult to the sport is compounded by the level of compensation modern day coaches are receiving ... the average FSB head-coach is knocking down over $4 million, annually.  Harbaugh, Saban & Meyer each rakes-in over $7 million per year, and assistant coaches typically rake in $500K or more.  (Point of reference: $7-million is more than 580 times the Poverty Level in America today.)  This is beyond sickening ... and we're capitalists!  Spare me, folks, but this has gotten a bit out of hand. 

2018-19:  33 games not counting bowl games that selected teams that did not have winning records
2017-18:  Louise won! 22-20
2016-17:  Louise won! 24-22
2015-16:  Mike won 25 to 20
2014-15:  Mike won 19 to 16
2013-14:  Louise won 22 to 16
2012-13:  Mike won 24 to 17
2011-12:  Louise won 18 to 14.

hammock lovers....head to toe (times 2)...the rest of the friends
while in college Mike had a roommate who nixed the standard issue dormitory bed in favor of a hammock. Yep, he strung it up with lag bolts secured in concrete walls. Quirky guy that boy we called "2-shirt Tanis" (because he always employed the layered look: shirt on shirt).

Anyway, this isn't a shirt-tale, but rather, a hammock story. Louise has bought a couple of 'em for our little utopia in the woods - strung between two sturdy oaks with the bolts slowly being absorbed by the growing trees. It's a peaceful way to spend some quality time with a good friend: swinging in a hammock. We made a design note to ourselves recently that when it comes time to build a Superior home we'd be wise to incorporate a hammock to be placed indoors so that we could use it year-round (ala' 2-shirt)! See? There was some linkage after all, to these tales. 

a little bomb - see Mike's latest comment >

If some foreign country had dropped 20,000 bombs on the USA do you think we'd notice?
see Mike's archive of past rants >

What happened to the "blog"?  Too much spam.  Given the political landscape in this country, one more ranting voice is certainly not going to make a difference.  I'll continue to write an occasional piece under the heading above: "issues & thoughts". 
something on this page was revised on 12.13.18