Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Grayslake Public Library Offers Patrick McCaskey Presentation

Grayslake Public Library
Patrick McCaskey, director of the Chicago Bears and author of "Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships," will share stories about the most legendary coaches the game has seen at 7 p.m., May 28 at Grayslake Public Library. 

McCaskey will also discuss the Bears and his family's long connection with the NFL.  He will also highlight the story of the Chicago Bears, including his family's football roots. A question-and-answer period will follow the presentation. Tickets are required and available at the Adult Reference Desk.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Bears Draft Kevin White

The Bears picked the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Kevin White from West Virginia last night with their number 7 pick in the first round of the 2015 draft.   After transferring from Lackawanna College in Scranton, Pennsylvania, White played at West Virginia, but he learned some lessons along the way.  

White was red-shirted in his first year with the Lackawanna Falcons  and then because of problems with financial aid paperwork, he sat out another year before he actually played for Head Football Coach Mark Duda.  His coach helped ground White and the athlete has a fondness for the school as was evidenced by his recent pre-draft visit.  During White's visit, he said: “Coach Grande (Assistant Coach) and Coach Duda are strict on grades. One thing that Coach Grande said was that I could serve a Slurpee at 7-Eleven or I could own it. That stuck with me for a long time."

White left the school which is "said" to be down the road from The Office Dunder Mifflin Paper Company.  And like the Office, Lackawanna College has a lot of fans as it successfully turns out a large number of students who like White, go on the big college programs.  

According to Head Football Coach Mark Duda: "The goal of a great two-year college football program (at Lackawanna College) is to successfully recruit young men and take on the responsibility to do what our program can to prepare and help young student athletes to move on to a four-year institution. Seeing these players commit to a NCAA institution to continue their college educational and playing career is a source of great pride and satisfaction to our coaching staff."

At West Virginia, in his final season, white had 109 receptions for 1,447 yards and 10 touchdowns.  Most analysts believe that he will contribute immediately to the Bears efforts this year.
Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Bill Dana's Story in Sports and Faith Book 2

Bill Dana and Danny Thomas
Bill Dana had his own program, “The Bill Dana Show,”from 1963 to 1965 and it was rerun on the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) in glorious black and white in the 1980s. Dana’s real name is William Szathmary; he was born in Quincy, Massachusetts, on October 5, 1924. Dana’s father, who came from Hungary at the age of 14, did real estate work until the stock market crash in 1929. Dana never knew luxury; in fact, when he went into the service during World War II, he couldn’t believe he was receiving free food.

Dana was the youngest of six (he had four brothers and one sister). While a student at Daniel Webster Grammar School, his teacher said to him one day, “Szathmary, you’re a buffoon.” He replied, “Let’s keep religion out of this.”

The Szathmary family was fairly ecumenical. They were Jewish, but were raised with Catholics. Dana knew the Stations of the Cross, and he used his knowledge of Catholicism in his humor:
“During the ceremony where novitiates become Brides of Christ (Religious Sisters), the bishop noticed an Orthodox Jewish man praying loudly. Not being able to conquer his curiosity, the bishop had to stop the ceremony long enough to ask the man, ‘Sir, I realize you are not a Catholic. I must ask you why you are here at this marriage of our Lord to these novitiates?’“
The old man answered with a lovely, Jewish accent, ‘I’m on the groom’s side.’”
— Bill Dana

Dana had a long career in comedy, as both a writer and comedian.  He is one of the McCaskey's favorite stars. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Sports and Faith Book 2: More Stories of the Devoted and the Devout Takes a Look at Bob Cousy

 Sports and Faith Book 2: More Stories of the Devoted and the Devout takes a Look at Bob Cousy and many other stars.
The Boston Celtics were not a very good basketball team before  Bob Cousy arrived from Holy Cross in 1950.  Cousy became the most beloved athlete in Boston. The “Houdini of the Hardwood” was a great ball-handler, passer, and shooter. He was only 6-foot-1, but he had speed and quickness, great peripheral vision, big hands, and long arms. He played for the Celtics from 1950-1963 and during that time he led the league in assists for eight years in a row and played in six championship seasons. His record breaking 28 assists in a single game that he set in 1959 held until 1978 when Kevin Porter got 29. He scored 16,960 points in his career—an average of 18.4 per game. He had 6,959 assists—an average of 7.5 per game.  He averaged 5.2 rebounds per game and he held an .803 foul shooting percentage.   
Cousy was an NBA All-Star every season he played and was named the All-Star Game Most Valuable Player in 1954 and 1957. He was named the NBA Most Valuable Player in 1957. His play excited the Boston fans and the city developed a taste for the game. His 50 point performance in a playoff win against Syracuse in 1953 made an impression on fans that they simply never forgot. He went 30–32 at the free throw line and scored 12 points in the game’s fourth overtime period.
His behind the- back dribbling and passing punctuated his approach that was part showman, part street ball, but all explosive.

Thought from St. Benedict

Sports and Faith Book 2: More Stories of the Devoted and the Devout will be available in mid-to-late May.  In the book, Patrick McCaskey includes religious quotes that go along with the content.  This is one quote that I though especially helpful:
Not to desire to be called holy before one is; but to be
holy first, that one may be truly so called.
To fulfill daily the commandments of God by works.
To love chastity. To hate no one. Not to be jealous; not
to entertain envy. Not to love strife.
Not to love pride. To honor the aged. To love the younger.
To pray for one’s enemies in the love of Christ. To make peace with an adversary before the setting of the sun. And never to despair of God’s mercy.
— Rule of St. Benedict

Friday, April 24, 2015

What was the Hupmobile?

Some football fans know that the original organizing meeting that started what would become the NFL was at Ralph Hay's Jordan Hupmobile Showroom.  But what was the Jordan and the Hupmobile?

On September 17, 1920, George Halas and a group of men met at Ralph Hay’s Jordon Hupmobile car showroom in Canton, Ohio.  Ralph Hay owned the Canton Bulldogs and he knew several other team owners.  While sitting on the bumpers and running boards of the Jordan and Hupmobile cars, they organized the league that we call the NFL today.  Chances are you have not heard of the Hupmobile and the Jordan car makers that long ago went out of business. 

Hupmobile was manufactured by the Hupp Motor Car Company, from 1908-1941. The company was started by Robert Hupp in Detroit.  His first car was a little two passenger Runabout.  The car company was fairly successful and many Hupmobiles followed and their offerings grew from two passenger vehicles, to three, and four.  A tour took a four passenger touring model around the world in 1910-1912.  In 1916, another Hupmobile, made a trip though all 48 states.  The company continued through much of the Depression and had a labor dispute that led to no new models being manufactured in 1937.  A promising new Skylark debuted in 1939, but the company ended it car manufacturing 1940.  The company continued to manufacture parts for the war effort in the 1940s and made parts for other companies as well.  It morphed into a manufacturer of parts for appliances, heating and cooling equipment and other industrial parts until it disappeared in the 1990s.

The Jordan had a shorter life than the Hupmobile and lasted from 1916-1931. The company was found by an advertising executive in Cleveland, Ned Jordan.  Jordan made his vehicles from parts assembled by other companies and his advertising was a driving force behind his company.  He offered cars in an attractive variety of colors with models like the Playboy and Tomboy.   His advertising was whimsical and took car buyers to beautiful locations in ads that ran in the Saturday Review Magazine. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Public Bonehead, Private Hero

Public Bonehead, Private Hero: The Real Story of Baseball's Fred Merkle is about one of the most interesting years in baseball and American history.  It is also about a healthy young man of good character who is the center of ridicule and scapegoating.  The anniversary of the game that led to Merkle's scapegoating, the Merkle Game, is September 23.  Our book, continues to be available in print only, but every now and then a site with a pirated version shows up pedaling an illegal ebook version, although we have never made the book available as an ebook.  Funny that someone would steal someone's work today on a book that examines the good life of a victimized man. 

The Merkle story is still relevant in 2015.  It is an especially good example for today, for those who are bullied, those who bully, and everyone else in society.  And history lessons are especially noteworthy as many Americans are sinking their teeth into "The Roosevelts: An Intimate History," A film by Ken Burns, written by Geoffrey C. Ward, produced by Paul Barnes, Pam Tubridy Baucom and Ken Burns.

Ford Model T
The year is 1908 in the midst of the Progressive Era. The youngest and the most popular president in history, Teddy Roosevelt, is in office. It is before radio or television. The Wright brothers are working hard to show that flight might just work for more than a few minutes.  Ford is offering the first affordable car in history, his Model T. Newspapers are essentially the daily media and there are so many of them steeped in competition, reporters are working desperately for readers.  


The Setting

Muckraker Upton Sinclair's Jungle
Public Bonehead, Private Hero concisely sets the stage for the story of Fred Merkle.  The Progressive Era (1890-1920) was a time of political reform and activism.  Muckraking journalists took aim at corruption in politics, unfair competition in business, and women’s suffrage.  Society took a decidedly radical turn when addressing many social ills with modern ideas and means.  No problem was too big to tackle—the income tax was established—prohibition was passed.  Institutions of all kinds were reformed—often with a view toward modernization and efficiency.  After a period of incredible wealth building in the late 19th Century, the wealthy were calling on each other to help solve social problems and the greatest philanthropists had established some of the famous foundations that would do so much during the 20th Century and beyond.


The Sport

Even Uncle Sam Plays in 1908
There is a lot going on, but what is getting the most attention is baseball.  Thousands line the streets in mid-afternoon in places like Detroit to watch electronic scoreboards follow the big games.  Rickety old wooden ballparks are being cheaply expanded with more rickety old stands to increase capacity, but crowd control is primitive and ineffective.

In several parks, spectators stand a few feet away from players and umpires.  Often live balls roll into the bystanders and players have to fight to get them back to make a play. Poor play or an unpopular call by an umpire often gets an immediate verbal response from fans who are only a few feet away.  Occasionally, a player or umpire is attacked with fists or hit with a thrown bottle. A broken jaw here, a concussion there, it's all part of the game.


The Game

Polo Grounds 1908
Merkle Book
Merkle was a 19-year old New York Giant ballplayer when he was slotted to fill in for the injured veteran first baseman, Fred Tenney, in a key game against the Chicago Cubs on September 23, 1908. In a hard fought game, Giant ace Christy Mathewson and Cub star, Jack "the Giant-Killer" Pfiester battled to a 1 to 1 tie into the bottom of the ninth at the Polo Grounds. 

Chicago Cubs Johnny Evers
With two outs and Moose McCormick on first, young Merkle singled to right keeping the Giant's hopes alive.  Steady Al Bridwell sent Pfiester’s first pitch right at the ducking base umpire, Bob Emslie, into center field for a hit.  Moose trotted home for the game winning run, but Merkle broke for the clubhouse about mid-way between second and first.  The modern fan knows that the runner on first must touch second to insure the run counts because a force out would negate the run.  But Merkle and pretty much every other baseball player of the day didn't see it that way, because that particular rule, Rule 59 had not been enforced in those circumstances --on balls that were driven out of the infield.  Up until that time, it was just a point of discussion in a newspaper article and between Cubs infielder Johnny Evers and umpire Hank O'Day in a game on September 4, 1908 when the base runner had done the same thing as Merkle.  In that game, Evers had made the point about the force out to O'Day, but O'Day ruled that he had not seen the runner miss second base. 

It was as if Evers was allowed to play the hidden ball trick on Merkle with a ball that had been in his mitt for three weeks.  Evers quietly waited for just the right moment to make an issue of the rule and the right moment came when the Giants had apparently prevailed on September 23 and umpire Hank O'Day was in residence. 

The reason why Merkle and others ran directly for the clubhouse the second a game ended at the Polo Grounds was because much of the crowd emptied out of the stadium through the field.  (We include a photo of the crowd exiting in the Polo Grounds in Public Bonehead, Private Hero and it’s an eye opener!)  Players found themselves in a melee of thousands of fans--many in various states of intoxication. These fans would often want to "critique" the ballplayers’ play. It was worse for the umpires.  Thus, once O'Day made his call that Merkle was out (base umpire Emslie did not see it), he also ruled the game a tie rather than continue into extra innings due to the crowd on the field.  Many Giant fans went home thinking they had won the game. 

The Giants players didn't blame Merkle. But the newspapers pounced on Merkle with merciless venom and ridicule--making him the scapegoat of scapegoats.  Merkle had made a bonehead play and within a day or so, Merkle had received the appellation, "Bonehead Merkle" that would stay with him everywhere he went for the rest of his life.  The tie game would be made up at the end of the season and the Cubs would win the game to add more fuel to those who condemned Merkle for doing what every other base runner was doing at the time. 

A normal run of the mill baseball season would have American fans buzzing about their team, their heroes and their games. But 1908 turns out to be something special. In both the American and the National Leagues, several teams are neck and neck in the standings as the season winds down.

Bullying Lesson is Center Stage

Public Bonehead, Private Hero is about American history and culture, baseball, society, and the tragic media and fan attack on Fred Merkle.  After the “Merkle” game, the newspapers hung poor Fred Merkle out to dry and christened him bonehead for life.

There was no justice for Fred Merkle, he had to live with the bonehead stigma for decades.  But late in life, the press and many in the baseball community paid tribute to Merkle as a man who played well on the field and should not have been attacked for the play.  In the past decade, many more people have come to defend Merkle's legacy as more light has been cast on his life and baseball in muckraking 1908.
Merkle dusted himself off as much as he could from the ridicule that followed him through life, and despite difficulties he went on and raised and supported his family in the American way throughout both the Depression and World War II.  

Public Bonehead, Private Hero examines one of the most dynamic sports stories of all time.  Merkle's "bonehead" play continues to live on in posts and articles that issue almost daily.  The author, Mike Cameron, covers the exciting historic times, the baseball season and Merkle game, and continues with the story of a bullied athlete.  Availability

Copyright 2015, Sporting Chance Press

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