...is filled with selections that were gifts from Louise, who tends to read about a hundred books to my one. But that may be 'cuz I'm busy reading news, government reports - especially anything to do with the investigation of Donald J. Trump and his campaign staff of criminals.
But, once again I'm swerving off-topic ... this posting is s'posed to be a book review. For the holidays Louise dug up this little gem: Hack's 191 - Hack Wilson and his incredible 1939 season which I've just finished & thoroughly enjoyed. Until recently I had no idea who this Hall of Fame baseball player was or the impact he had on the game. As mentioned below, 2018 was the year of discovery when it came to learning more about my father's collection of baseball cards ... and through the course of a little bit of research & reading I stumbled upon a quirky baseball card from 1930 for a player named Lewis "Hack" Wilson.
Louise enjoyed the stories I had found and just knew I'd love still more vignettes about the ballplayer and the era ... the golden age of sport in America. She was right. About half of Bill Chastain's book introduces Wilson, his teammates and Chicago's rich sporting & gambling history ... the second half of the book summaries the Cub's 1930 season. The number 191 in the title refers to Wilson's single season major league baseball record of 191 "runs batted in" (RBI) which still stands today!
So what's on-deck now for my reading pleasure? Well after hearing me quote endlessly from a book my older brother got for me about the life & times of Bronco Nagurski Louise knew she'd score big by following the same theme. Under the Christmas tree I found another cool book covering pro-football from the same era: Pigskin - The Early Years of Pro Football. Sports fans may have seen it - the dustcover shows Washington Redskins Hall of Fame quarterback slinging Sammy Baugh. It oughta' be swell.
It's A Snow Day...Hallelujah
Young folks cringe when they hear the phrase "back-in-the-day" but it's true, as kids looking for weather related school closing news we had to tune-in bright & early to one of two TV channels we could receive in Greenbush before there was cable TV. That or tune-into one of the few "local" radio stations in Alpena or Tawas. (Both of which younger brother John worked at as a teenager before launching his professional radio career.)
But the polar vortex that slung deep into Michigan last week spurred a couple of videos by two local educators which have gone "viral" in their effort to communicate school closing news. Perhaps you've seen them.
First, Swartz Creek Community Schools Superintendent Ben Mainka and high school principal Jim Kitchen released their parody of Leonard Cohen's “Hallelujah.” It's a snow day. Then came their encore: "Let it snow!"
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer offered some kudos to the district officials for their effort. “What a creative way to announce a snow day,” she said. Well done, guys!
posted 02.14.19 Happy Valentine's Day!
Sign, sign. Everywhere a sign.
While the declutter project here at High Pointe continues I stumbled upon this nameplate that used to display the entry to my office at Ameritech in Troyland. It brought back fond memories and reminded me of projects that used to take up my time & energy and people I used to work with. Ah, the projects, and multiple drafts of PowerPoint presentations. The endless string of initiatives and plans ... committees, consultants, boarding passes, hiring & firing decisions, promotions & stock options. I'll never forget a co-worker's comment / observation: "there's nothing wrong with taking a profit" when it came to selling our stock options. We used one such grant to pay off our mortgage, and another to buy a condo for Mom-in-law to reside near us in comfort. It sure was fun seeing the value of our stock soar when SBC offered to buy us out ... though they preferred to call it a "merger". Funny. I was part of the merger integration team and there was nothing co-equal about the parties ... it was clear who bought whom and who was in-charge. While I miss many of the people I used to work with, it's fun pondering & thinking back. Glad I kept the nameplate.
The day I "beat" Arnold Palmer...
It was Christmas Eve, not a creature was stirring ... not even a Ripley! Mike was feeling a bit nervous after 9-holes of computer golf - he was leading Arnold Palmer by 2-strokes. When Louise relayed the story the next day by phone to her sister Cindy in Bergland...hubby Bill in the background observed: "I think Arnie's dead." We know. Mike was playing a beloved golf simulation program called Links LS which includes computer generated games by popular professional golfers of the era when the game was introduced in the '90's...Palmer, Fuzzy Zeller, Davis Love III, & Sergio Garcia. The game does not function with modern operating systems like Windows 10 so it's not been played in nearly a decade. Another example of planned obsolescence, Mike says. But while cleaning out a closet this summer he stumbled upon the original program discs for some of the most famed golf venues in the world...realistic renditions of Pebble Beach, Oakland Hills, St. Andrews, Pinehurst, Banff, Riviera and more than 30 additional courses. Mike loaded the programs (folks call 'em "apps" today but that's a whole 'nuther story for another time) on an older PC in the lower level which is still limping along with Windows XP. Yes, the internet connection is disconnected. Result: instant joy. In short order Mike was "clicking away" like a mad man getting reacquainted with the game.
Louise loves it, hearing Mike hacking away. He golfs as she weaves in the adjacent room. The first couple of rounds Mike was struggling to get the ball in the hole...but being the persistent sort that he is, scores slowly came down. Mike's Links golfing persona is Shot Shaper a fictitious character he created back in the day when he played other 'puter golfers on the internet. Younger readers should know, in the early era of the internet it was frowned upon to use real names for security reasons. And, BTW: Mike says "Shot" is obviously a nickname; his real name is Walter Shaper...famed PC golf bum.
So, back to the match play between Arnold Palmer's computer character vs. Shot Shaper...the contest was taking place at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, KY. Mike...'er...Shot went out in 29, Arnold scored 31 for the front-9. By the 10th hole the lead was 3 strokes...by the 13th it was up to 4...and computer commentator David Feherty was going bonkers. ("...who are you and what have you done with the other guy who was playing?") Mike took a break from the game to share the news with Louise and take a little walk...trying to shake off the tension. It didn't help. When play resumed Shot bogied 16 & 17...(ouch)...but managed to par #18 for a final score of 63. Palmer birdie #18 for a 64. Sweet! A legendary round of golf on an old game.
update: 01.30.19 In multiple rematches Shot Shaper has beaten Mr. Palmer (and other computer animations) many times by as many as 4 strokes.
Our sports memorabilia project continues. As you may have read in the articles below, my Dad collected baseball cards starting in 1933. The cards he saved from that first year were pretty worn...only one card rated PSA-3 by a professional sports authentication service; the rest were rather beat up, so we sold 'em. I did want to preserve a sample however of the cards from 1933 produced by the Goudey Gum Company and I found some bargains on eBay. Thru the process, I learned more about some really neat players like Hack Wilson shown to right in the middle. When I first spotted the card and this odd looking character I found that Wilson was the leading National League power hitter during the era when Ruth & Gehrig were tearing up the American League. "Wilson, who still holds the seemingly unbreakable single-season record for RBI with 191 in 1930, was a compact 5’6" tall and weighed close to 200 pounds. At the plate, he was an explosion waiting to happen," says PSA. Wilson is a Hall of Famer. [see more about Hack Wilson...]
I made this frame some 30-yrs ago out of cherry using a neat hand plane Louise got me called a Stanley Combination Plane. The cheap prints that the frame held had faded long ago and it sat all alone in a dark closet. We figured it needed a 2nd chance at spreading joy, so we teamed-up 2 other cards from the same series of cards from Goudey: pitchers George ("Rube") Walberg & Richard Coffman...not Hall of Famers, but two very talented pitchers. I liked the Coffman card because it was in really great condition (PSA 4.5), and 'cuz he had a long career (15 seasons largely as a relief pitcher)...and because the blue background is just so striking. Attractive.
Walberg, shown right/top, also played 15-seasons in the big leagues and had several World Series appearances during the Depression era with Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics. Walberg was the winning pitcher in game #5 when the Athletics beat Hack Wilson's Cubs in the 1929 World Series. He was traded to Boston in '34 and retired after the '37 season with a lifetime record of 155 wins vs. 141 loses. Welcome to the High Pointe collection, fellas!
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.
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
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 doing as well as most others. So I bought a bunch for peanuts 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
Oldest Living MLB Player Passes 11.30.18
Fred Caligiuri...who had just turned 100 on October 22, 2018, has passed away. The autographed picture to the left was 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 was in his 99th year & his recollections of William's quest to end the season with a batting average over .400. RIP, Fred & many thanks, John for the autographed treat. (Link) revised/updated 12.19.18
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.
|There Was More Than One
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
|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.|
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:
Shown to right is one of my new fav's...Louise pictured in 1960. Whada' cutie! Web-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:
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.)
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.
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.
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 story...no 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.
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.
||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 off...by 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
Not familiar with the Safety Patrol? Here's a vintage public service announcement that may help explain on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRw-cJ0RXcQ
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!
Went Solar !
We decided to be part of the solution. First, when it was time to replace our natural gas powered forced air furnace in 2012 we opted for Geo Thermal which uses the Earth's temp 5-feet down in the ground to heat & cool our home. No fossil fuel is burned. The system relies on electricity so we added an array of 20 solar panels mounted on a neat rack constructed in our backyard. 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. Since 2012 our solar panels have generated 30.2 megawatt hours of power, reducing our Consumer's Energy bill by $4,378.
in annual bowl contest
Louise once again has beaten Mike in the annual High Pointe Bowl Pickers competition...she picked 16 winners to Mike's 15. How did this get started? Well, decades of ineptitude by the Detroit Lions tends to drive fans crazy - 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 in 2011. You may have read about it previously on this website. Mike wrote: "He Lacked" (story archived here) when Louise won big that 1st year.
Wow. Mike was shellacked again in 2018. No wonder Louise has won the contest 5 out of the last 8 years! She does her homework - and we're not talking about simply reading headlines off some Twitter-feed!
Louise's take on this year's
2018-19: Louise won! 16-15 (9 bowl games were dropped
'cuz participating teams didn't have winning records)
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.
If some foreign country had dropped 20,000 bombs on the
USA do you think we'd notice?
|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 02.18.19