Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout

Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout is a new Sporting Chance Press offering that is scheduled to publish in mid-January 2011. It is Patrick McCaskey's personal chronicle of spiritual enrichment and life lessons from athletes, coaches, religious leaders and everyday people. McCaskey looks at those who have struggled to make the cut both on and off the field. The book examines sports and faith from the author's perspective as a member of the famous Chicago Bears family.

Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout takes you out on the street, onto the football fields, up the podium and in some instances...down on your knees. More information.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Merkle's Birthday Today, December 20

Fred Merkle was born on December 20, 1888 in Watertown, Wisconsin. Fred's story is one of the most compelling in all of sports and is superbly recalled by Mike Cameron in Public Bonehead, Private Hero. Every baseball fan should be familiar with Merkle's story.

Photo is courtesy of David Stalker, Watertown, Wisconsin

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

New Sports and Faith Book Series by Patrick McCaskey

Chicago Bears Director, Patrick McCaskey, has penned a new work called Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout due out in mid-January from Sporting Chance Press. Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout, Book 1 in a new Sports and Faith Series, is a personal chronicle of Chicago Bears Senior Director, Patrick McCaskey, that looks back at decades of spiritual enrichment and life lessons from athletes, coaches, religious leaders and everyday people. McCaskey recalls the stories of those who worked tirelessly to make the cut on and off the field—plus people who left comfortable lives to serve the underserved in extraordinary ways.

Here are the stories of team owners George Halas, Art Rooney and Well Mara—plus inspirational players like Brian Piccolo, Bill Wade, Tim Foley, Brian Cabral, and Danny Abramowicz. Also examined are lives of extraordinary people who decided not to pursue a life of sports because they were tugged in another direction—John Smyth, Wayne Gordon, Don Nevins and Joe Freedy. What’s more, Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout looks at some who simply set out to help those who needed help the most: John Perkins, Ignatius McDermott, and others.

Athletes often face difficult lifestyle choices and moral challenges. Many professional sports teams work with religious men and women to help players and staff continue their spiritual enrichment. The Chicago Bears bring in speakers and inspiring men and women who share their faith and life-lessons with players. According to the author, “We don’t force feed anyone, but faith is fundamental to our caretaking efforts.” The Bears are also involved in many charities that are directed and supported by amazing people from all walks of life. Personal experiences of growing up in an exceptional sports family are also shared.

Patrick McCaskey has been at the center of it all. Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout takes you out on the streets, into the football fields, up to the podiums and in some instances…on your knees.

Order your copy from Sporting Chance Press.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Ron Santo Never Let Us Down

Watch the old Cubs highlight films of the late 1960s Cubs and you will see one player, who screams louder, throws his hands up higher, smiles wider and pummels his teammates harder at every win—that was Ron Santo. Santo was the racing heart and the wounded soul of baseball. Today, Ron’s heart beats no longer, but his soul lives on.

Major League Baseball is a lot of things, but in Chicago during the late 1960s, it was epic—a spectacular drama. In a four-year crescendo from 1966-1969, the city of big shoulders thought that destiny had finally smiled on the north side where a finely talented and spirited club had world championship written all over its jerseys. The Cubs had several players who would be today’s ESPN pin-ups: Banks, Jenkins, Williams, Santo, et al. But as Chicago’s reign as “hog butcher of the world” was winding down, the storied Chicago Cubs of 1969 were overtaken by the Miracle Mets. The city of broad shoulders was stooped with sorrow and disappointment.

Life went on—most of the players and fans came to grips with the sad poetry that continues to sing out on the north side of Chicago. But one player was always haunted by the season. While he said the right things about appreciating the fact that he played for a great franchise and one of the best teams ever assembled, there was longing is in his eyes and his heart. And what was in Ron Santos heart was not often masked by the man’s face. Santo knew that he could not win the games that were lost in 1969, but there is one last win that is ever looming at arm’s length even in death—induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Is it indeed how you play the game not whether your team wins or loses that counts? Is it all about fighting the good fight and finishing the race? Or is it about being on the right team at the right time? Often questioned about both the 1969 Cubs and the Hall of Fame, Santo would often say something positive about his love of the game and then in the same breath reassure listeners and readers that he was one of the best—that he owed no one an apology for how he played the game.

Many baseball fans may have been surprised by how Santo’s statistics stack up so well with other Hall of Fame inductees at third base. As a steady ever-present player with the Cubs, it was easy to take his play for granted. Winner of five golden gloves, eight-time all-star, and winner of the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award, Santo was always contributing.

Santo loved the Cubs and stepped over many larger offers from other teams on his way to Chicago. But it took a while for him to feel secure. In 1963, a young Ron Santo was concerned about trade rumors that turned out to baseless. At the time, Stan Hochman wrote, “Owner, P. K. Wrigley would sooner part with his formula for Juicy Fruit Gum than Ron Santo. (“Pull Isn’t Always Needed for a Raise, Cubs Santo Finds,” Stan Hoch, Baseball Digest, December 1963.)

Bookend to his 1963 crisis was Santo’s introspection late in his career in 1973. In his last season in a Cubs’ uniform Santo lamented to Chicago Tribune columnist, David Condon, “the longer you are around, the more the fans expect you to do the exceptional all the time.” While Santo’s comment on fans expectations is interesting, his comments about himself were always telling.

Santo was living in the shadow of grief in the 1973 season after having lost his parents to a car crash in January. But on the diamond, he was still looking to improve his game. That year he was not going to focus on the negative. Santo had gone through a period where he dreaded coming to the ballpark because he was not doing as well at the plate as he knew he was capable. Santo was especially frustrated by his 1971 marks that included a .267 average and 88 RBIs. In 1970, Santo had an identical average, but drove in 114 runs. In 1972, Santo’s average swung up to .302, with 74 RBIs. The Cubs third baseman seemed to dwell on the runners he left on and he seemed no less remorseful for plays in the field that he thought he should have made. Not that he had made many errors, Santo was thinking about plays he could have made had he been in better position or anticipated better.

Perhaps amazed at Santo’s modesty in looking at his career, Condon asked, “Would Santo rather be recognized as a hitter or the gold glove fielder that he is?” The reply came as one might expect, “A man could and should be known for both.” Condon sang the praises of the Cubs’ great third baseman at the time suggesting that he himself would never take Santo for granted. The Trib’s ace reporter was probably trying to prepare fans for the approaching time when the great third baseman would no longer be a Cub.

Like teammates Billy Williams and Ernie Banks, Santo’s career was punctuated by the fact that his Cub teams never won a pennant. Santo never received the national recognition that would have come had he played in a World Series. Bill Dray echoed the thoughts of thousands of fans and baseball aficionados when he said, “While he never played on a pennant-winning team, Santo was a winner. And it was his intense style of play that helped make him one of the top third baseman in baseball history.” (“Ron Santo, a Hall of Fame Plaque in His Future?” Bill Dray, Baseball Digest, July 1992.)

Seattle Start

Santo was hired by the Seattle Raniers of the Pacific Coast League in his freshman year in high school. He started as a bat boy at the Raniers park a few blocks from his house and eventually graduated to clubhouse attendant. He saw major league talent every day and he was not short on ambition as a young man who played baseball, football and basketball very well. He caught the eye of scouts at an all star game and had many offers. He was a catcher and could be erratic so when the Cubs liked his bat, they thought they would sign him and use him at third base, which was deemed to be an easier position to manage and one that fit his fiery temperament. Santo had an affinity for the Cubs and knew they could use his talent. He was also a big fan of Ernie Banks. (Brosnan, Jim, Ron Santo 3B, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, NY, 1974.-- Editor's note: This is an old kids book, but I highly recommend it for Santo fans if you can get a hold a used one--I got one from Bill's Books)

His pro career began with Cubs farm club, San Antonio of the Texas League in 1959. He was lucky to be working under the tutelage of manager Grady Hatton who happened to be an old hand at third base. San Antonio had also signed Billy Williams.
Santo routinely threw balls over the first baseman’s head into the stands. His .327 average however assured that he would get plenty of patient coaching. In 1960, Santo was once again in a San Antonio uniform, but when Lou Boudreau took over the Cubs in May, he brought the talented Santo up. Santo had vastly improved his fielding, but he was still very rough around the edges.

Boudreau was one of the greatest students of baseball to manage a team and Santo became one of his pet projects. Boudreau helped Santo in all aspects of the game and was especially challenged by Santo’s reckless base running. But Santo would become a complete player with help from Boudreau and others when combined with Santo’s endless supply of guts and determination. Santo was a guy who gave 110% when everyone else claimed they were giving 100.

Santo’s Character Shines Through the Seasons

The beacon that was 1969 still shines bright for Cub fans although it did not last the entire season. But it was not the 1969 season that best defined Santo’s character— it was the 1966 season. The official end of the College of Coaches experiment ended in 1966 when Leo Durocher signed on to manage the Cubs. The Cubs were a very young ball club with poor pitching and awful fielding. On top of that, Banks was having a bad year at the plate; Williams was hitting way below his potential. However, the lineup was starting to shape up with Glenn Beckert fitting in at second and Don Kessinger improving his skills at short. It did not come easy for Kessinger because his early play for the Cubs had not been good and he was on the bubble with Durocher in spring training. “Kessinger can’t hit, field or throw,” scowled Durocher to the press. Kessinger who had none of Santo’s bravado responded, “I am glad he thinks I can run.”(“Don Kessinger Looks Back at His Big League Career,” Norman Macht, Baseball Digest, November 1977.)

Although the young Cubs were miserable in 1966, Santo spiced up the season with a record and some heroics. Beginning on May 31, Santo began a hitting streak that would challenge Hack Wilson’s record of 27. It could not have been a more dramatic streak. At 26 straight, Santo was ready to tie and beat the record in a double header scheduled with the New York Mets. A large crowd was on hand to see the challenge. In the third inning Mets pitcher, Jack Fisher, decided to go inside on Santo who had been trying to punch the previous outside pitch to right. Fisher’s pitch trailed inside and up on Santo, who reacted like a deer in headlights. Whack! Santo took it on the cheek and had to be carried off the field. Surgery was required to mend a broken cheekbone and the Cubs’ star was placed on a liquid diet.

Santo could only take a week of idleness. He had a hot hand and he wanted more than anything to get back into the lineup before his bat had time to cool off. A special batting helmet was provided and Santo suited up for a Fourth of July double header with Pittsburgh. As spunky and confident as George M. Cohen, a swollen faced Ron Santo stepped up to bat in the first inning only to ground out. But he followed that appearance with two singles his next two times up. On his fourth appearance, he clobbered one out of the park onto Waveland Avenue. He had tied Hack Wilson’s record.

Drama continued into game two of the double header. Grounding out the first time at bat, Santo did not get much to hit his second and third plate appearance and walked twice in row. It looked grim as the day was nearing an end. Determined to swing when he was up again, Santo lined the first pitch into center field for a base hit driving in the winning run of the game. And 28 was where the streak ended as Santo went hitless the following day.

Santo had proved his mettle. The streak was short when compared to DiMaggio’s 56 game masterpiece, but it was big deal for the Cubs and a challenge that took guts and determination. Santo was never shy about sacrificing his body to stop balls at third base. He would routinely dive to make plays other infielders would have let pass. But the streak was special because Ron had stepped up after being seriously injured when most players would have been nursing their wounds for at least a couple more weeks.

It is ironic that the sports world would come to look at the Cubs as a polyester kind of team with a seemingly limitless supply of young urban professional fans who would pay most any price to spend a nice afternoon at a ballpark that was just a short cab drive from downtown Chicago. But no one would dispute that Santo was a Frank Chance and a Hack Wilson kind of guy. Every ounce of Santo seemed to go into his play. He was a muscle car in uniform. He would have looked at home in most any Chicago neighborhood park whether playing 16 inch softball, or shooting hoops or craps in a sleeveless T-shirt. Sure, he was the guy with the big mouth, the hotdog, but he was your pal and you knew you could count on him. All of Chicago counted on him, and he never let them down.

Copyright 2010 Sporting Chance Press (www.sportingchancepress.com) This article on Ron Santo comes from a Sporting Chance Press work-in-progress. Ron Santo is one of the subjects in an upcoming Sporting Chance Press book featuring several of the most influential men in the history of the Chicago Cubs franchise.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Skating with the Stars to Air in November

If you are a figure skating fan and you like celebrity contests shows, you are in for a real treat this winter. Skating with the Stars, a new series similar to Dancing with the Stars is coming your way. ABC TVs Skating with the Stars will debut on November 22, 2010. If you are familiar with Dancing with the Stars you know the premise. Celebrities work with expert skaters, train and then perform for a special panel of judges, a live audience and TV viewers each week. Individuals are voted off based on judges’ scores and viewers’ votes. Lots of glitz, drama and human interest will no doubt make the show compelling TV viewing. It should also help boost interest in figure skating and ice dancing in the United States.

For many viewers, some of the fun on Dancing with the Stars is the initial drama that surrounds the announcement of just who will be competing. The Skating with the Stars celebrities will be announced on the Dancing with the Stars show of November 2, 2010.

Of great interest to figure skating enthusiasts will also be the expert skaters who have been tapped for the show and just what the skaters will be doing.

If you are wondering whether the show will succeed, essentially a British version of the show has been running in the U.K. as Dancing On Ice for five seasons. A 2006 U.S. show called Skating With Celebrities did not fare so well. Some critics suggested that the show did not succeed in large part because of the faulty elebrity-skater pairings and wide disparity of skill levels between the celebrities. Avoiding these glitches should be doable for the current show producers.

Skating With Celebrities was hosted by Olympic Gold Medalists swimmer Summer Sanders and Olympic Gold Medalist skater Scott Hamilton. Judges included Olympic Gold Medalist Dorothy Hamill and others.

The 2010 U.K. Dancing on Ice show was aired earlier this year. Some of the U.K. show celebrities are also known in the U.S.—some are not. This year’s show featured:

Former Czech National Skating Champion, Pavel Aubrecht, paired with swimmer Sharron Davies. Sharron is a former swimming champion turned TV Gladiator "Amazon" and BBC TV swimming commentator.

Canadian professional skater, Brianne Delcourt paired with Kieron Richardson, actor.

U.S. professional skater Fred Palascak paired with actress, Emily Atack.

U.S. skating professional, Molly Moenkhoff paired with comedian and impressionist Bobby Davro.

U.S. skating professional Melanie Lambert paired up with singer Mikey Graham.

Finnish International skate star Alexandra Schauman paired up with TV Doctor, Hilary Jones.

Bulgarian Champion Maria Filippov paired with actor, Gary Lucy.

U.S. skating professional Matt Evers paired with Heather Mills.

Veteran of many ice shows, U.S. professional figure skater, Stuart Widdall paired with TV chief, Tana Ramsay. Tana is the wife of Hell's Kitchen Gordon Ramsay.

British professional skater Susie Lipanova paired with Jeremy Sheffield an English actor and former professional ballet dancer.

Russian professional Andrei Lipanov paired with British singer, Sinitta.

U.S. professional skater Matthew Gonzalez paired with British soap opera star, Danniella Westbrook.

Professional British skater Frankie Poultney paired with British soap star heart throb Danny Young.

The 2010 contest was won by British figure skater Daniel Whiston and singer/actress and soap opera star Hayley Tamaddon.

Also of great interest will be the judges selected for the new show. Dancing on Ice judges include Robin Cousins (Olympic Gold Medalist), Emma Bunton (Baby Spice), Jason Gardiner (choreographer, regular on British This Morning TV show , Nicky Slater and Karen Barber (former Olympic pair skaters). As you might expect each judge takes on a certain role that seems to be standard fair for such shows.

More information on the British show, Dancing on Ice Here.

Shown above is Sporting Chance Press author and Ice Dancing champion, Nicolette House in one of her competitions demonstrating the kind of classic move that the celebrities may try to perform on the new show.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Justin Hull Inteviews Mike Cameron for Fred Merkle Day 2010

Sporting Chance Press author Mike Cameron celebrated Fred Merkle Day by discussing his favorite sports figure with sports talk host Justin Hull of the Home Stretch. Hull asked Cameron about the state of baseball in 1908, the Merkle play itself and life after 1908 for the man who was Public Bonehead, Private Hero.

Link to the Home Stretch Show and Interview from HERE.

The photos above are from the Library of Congress Bain Collection and are rarely seen.

More on Mike's book, Public Bonehead, Private Hero HERE.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Author Celebrates Merkle Day on Radio

Sporting Chance Press author Mike Cameron will be celebrating Fred Merkle Day, tomorrow by discussing his favorite sports figure with sports talk host Justin Hull of the Home Stretch.

Public Bonehead, Private Hero, tells the complete story of the number one sports scapegoat of all time, Fred Merkle. On September 23, 1908, 19-year old Fred Merkle was the youngest player on the New York Giants--slotted into the lineup at first base to replace a wounded veteran. The pressure was on when Merkle came up to bat in the bottom of the ninth with the score tied 1—1. With two outs and Moose McCormick on first, the youngster rifled a single to right field easily advancing the slow-footed Moose McCormick to third. Shortstop slugger Al Bridwell, up next, whacked a low liner that knocked the second base umpire down on its way to shallow center field. As McCormick crossed the plate with the “winning run,” Merkle turned from the base path and raced towards the clubhouse. Modern fans know that even if a team scores on such a play, the runner should advance to the next base and tag it to avoid a force-out. The score is nullified on the force out. Unfortunately for Fred Merkle, in 1908 this rule had not enforced when the winning hit traveled to the outfield. September 23 however, was different.

The Cameron interview on Justin Hull’s Home Stretch Show on AM 1570 The Score is set for 4:30 p.m. (steaming at www.am1570thescore.com) on September 23. Cameron, a long-suffering Cubs’ fan is also happy to report that the Merkle story and his book was a topic of conversation in the Cubs’ booth during the Cubs-Giants match on Tuesday, September 21, 2010. If you are wondering whom the Cubs will be playing this September 23—well, it will be the Giants.

More on Public Bonehead, Private Hero.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Nicolette House Appears at Rainbo Sports

Professional ice dancer, figure skating instructor and Sporting Chance Press author, Nicolette House signed copies of Maddie Takes the Ice at Rainbo Sports LLC, 1440 Paddock Drive in Northbrook this past Saturday, September 18, 2010. Thunderstorms swept through the Northbrook area on the day of the signing, but many young readers came to express enthusiasm for Maddie Takes the Ice, listen to the author read from it and obtain their own signed copies.

Young skaters enjoyed meeting Nicolette in person and the Rainbo Sports was a perfect venue to meet with young readers. Maddie is a compelling figure skating story for ages 8-12 and will be getting a lot of attention in schools and libraries as an America's Battle of the Books selection for 2011.

In Maddie Takes the Ice, there is enough drama to keep kids turning the pages. The book also offers encouragement to kids who may feel a little overwhelmed by their own pursuits as they read about how Maddie faces similar problems.

Nicolette is a third generation figure skater and coach following in her mother's and grandmother’s footsteps. Her mother, Ilona House coached Nicolette and has coached in Chicago and the northwest suburban area for many years. Nicolette’s grandmother, Marylin House, was a skating instructor at Ohio State University.

Nicolette House is a four-time U.S Figure Skating gold medalist. Skating since the age of three, she went on to compete in European, World, and international ice dance competitions with her skating partner Aidas Reklys. Along with her Aidas, the author recently created After Dark, a skating show featuring several top international skaters. Ms. House is working to obtain a degree in psychology, communications and media studies at DePaul University.

The author makes presentations to elementary and middle schools to discuss both figure skating and writing. Maddie Takes the Ice is in many of the northwest suburban libraries. Teachers and school administrators who would like Nicolette to present at their school can write her in care of Sporting Chance Press, 1074 Butler Drive, Crystal Lake, IL 60014 or email the publisher at lmj.norris@sportingchancepress.com .
More on Maddie Takes the Ice.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Castro Gets Penance for Violating McCarthy’s Fourth Commandment

Contributed by Sporting Chance Press Author, J. D. Thorne [Public Domain Photo gamefreak777/wikimedia commons]

This week Cubs manager Mike Quade benched Starlin Castro for lapses in concentration. Castro who is only 20 years old, lost track of the number of outs in the seventh inning of Sunday game against the Mets. Castro was picked off after he wondered off the base path thinking the inning was over. Although he has been a ray of hope this season for the struggling Cubs, the Cubs have occasionally paid the price for his inexperience.

Castro took the benching in stride and was quoted as saying, ''I prefer playing, but I think sometimes you need to take one step back so you can watch and learn more, and then put both together.''

While he may not have realized it, Castro breached one of the original 10 Commandments of Baseball penned by the legendary manager Joe McCarthy in 1921.

Commandment Number Four: “Keep your head up and you may not have to keep it down.”

McCarthy was well aware of how important it is to keep your “head in the game” having managed for about 15 seasons in the minors when he wrote the Commandments. Later he would take the helm for the Cubs, Yankees and Red Sox where he insisted that his players follow the fundamentals.

Quade can take some comfort though in the positive response to the benching by his young star. A negative attitude can disrupt a player’s attention even further so punishment can lead to more poor play. McCarthy would coach his players not to waste a minute grieving over last inning’s error or strikeout. Being ready for the next play or the next at-bat is what counts. As Joe McCarthy said, “You can’t freeze the ball in this game. You play until the last man is out.”
More on The 10 Commandments of Baseball.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

SCP Author in Sun Valley

Sporting Chance Press author Nicolette House has been heading out west to Sun Valley Idaho each summer for training and this year was no exception. As a full-time student at DePaul and a skating coach, it is not easy to fit a few weeks in for that special lift the famous ski and skating center gives winter sports enthusiasts. It was more business than usual for Colette as she was promoting her middle grade skating novel, Maddie Takes the Ice, published this spring by Sporting Chance Press of Crystal Lake.

After getting back in touch with the Sun Valley figure skating community and getting back to her “high elevation” fitness level, Nicolette was guest of honor at a special book signing at Chapter One Bookstore on August 11, 2010.

According to Nicolette:

Sun Valley is loaded with skating enthusiasts and young skating students. Figure skaters are typically good readers so we had a nice crowd for the signing. I still cannot get over the feeling when a young skater asks me for my autograph on one of the books. It has really been a thrill, but the biggest thrill is hearing from kids who have read the book and tell me how much they liked it. As a first time author, you just do not know how readers are going to react. It’s been all positive.

Nicolette is making presentations to elementary and middle schools this school year to discuss both figure skating and writing.

I am looking forward to talking to kids about skating and writing – two of my favorite subjects! Kids hear about many bad things happening today and there are so many bad influences. It is great to have created Maddie as a means to reach kids who may feel a little overwhelmed by their own pursuits. I know I did at times. The good things we pursue --figure skating, team sports, music, gymnastics, ballet, academics—you name it, they all create stress. When kids read about other kids who have gone through what they are going through, at least they know they are not alone. We are not providing counseling in Maddie, we are just telling the story of a girl who has her own problems in part because she doesn’t confide with the one person who could help the most—her mom. Once Maddie opens up, it gets a lot easier for her.

Maddie Takes the Ice is in many of the northwest suburban libraries including Arlington Heights Public Library. For those readers who want their own copy and want it signed by Colette, she will be appearing at Rainbo Sports in Northbrook on September 18th from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Colette will be reading from Maddie Takes the Ice at 11:30 a.m. Maddie is also available from the Sporting Chance Press website. Teachers and school administrators who would like Nicolette to present at their school can write her in care of Sporting Chance Press, 1074 Butler Drive, Crystal Lake, IL 60014 or email the publisher at lmj.norris@sportingchancepress.com .

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Will the Real Joe McCarthy Please Stand Up

If you are a fan of talk radio and the passionate political media wars between right and left wing political pundits, you know that Joe McCarthy is a hot topic these days. But the pundits are ranting and raving about Joe McCarthy the Senator from Wisconsin who made headlines in the 1950s for his highly publicized attacks on all things communist. Unfortunately, the debate has overheated the media and the Internet to the point where our favorite Joe McCarthy, the legendary Major League Baseball manager who is father to the 10 Commandments of Baseball, has been silenced by the sound and fury of politics. So for those who are unaware, let us introduce you to another Joe McCarthy whose commandments are central to J. D. Thorne's great book The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball and Life --available at www.sportingchancepress.com.

Baseball's Joe McCarthy as Described by J. D. Thorne in The 10 Commandments of Baseball

Elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1957, Joe McCarthy never played a day of major league baseball. However, he went on to manage seven World Series Championship teams. This is a record equaled by only one other manager: Casey Stengel. McCarthy’s winning percentage as a manager is the best of all time: .614. For the New York Yankees alone, McCarthy managed the team to 1,460 victories, playing 154 game regular seasons in an eight-team league. To put this achievement in perspective, Joe Torre’s record as Yankee skipper is second best to McCarthy at 1,173 regular season games. McCarthy’s record was secured for the foreseeable future once Torre moved on to manage the Los Angeles Dodgers.

McCarthy managed many great players, including National Baseball Hall of Fame stars Rogers Hornsby, Hack Wilson, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and Ted Williams. From 1926 to 1930, he managed the Chicago Cubs, taking them from last place in 1925 to the National League Pennant in 1929. Unfortunately for McCarthy, the Cubs lost in the World Series against what some observers believe was the finest team ever assembled: the Philadelphia Athletics of Connie Mack.

McCarthy had turned the Cubs around and made the team a contender. In 1931 he was selected as manager of the New York Yankees. He managed for a 15-year stretch with the Yankees until 1946, when the owners considered him too “traditional” for the post war era. In 1948, he was hired to manage the Boston Red Sox, the last of the three storied franchises for which he worked. McCarthy retired during the 1950 season.

Many experts consider Joe McCarthy to be the best manager of all time. His record speaks for itself, although he meant more to the game than wins and losses. McCarthy was skilled at handling top talent and considered an excellent teacher by those who knew the game. Joe DiMaggio is quoted as saying, “Never a day went by when you didn’t learn something from Joe McCarthy.”

So that's our guy, Joe McCarthy. Not the Senator and if you are interested in reading more about McCarthy who wrote baseball commandments, we've got a great book for you that provides a little history on the great manager and the great game -- and then looks at each of the baseball commandments illustrating them with brief stories from America's game (no commies here - oh sorry let's not go there).

The 10 Commandments of Baseball is perfect for an airplane trip, a couple hours in the sun on vacation, or just a nice afternoon on the deck. Get away from all the politics of the day! Please.

Maddie Takes the Ice Gets Great Review from IceMom.net

At Sporting Chance Press we just got another great review of our newest book Maddie Takes the Ice. If you have been following Sporting Chance Press Talk, you saw our notice on Joe Ann Schneider Farris' review on About.com just a few weeks ago. This new review comes from IceMom.net -- a great site that offers information on a multitude of skating topics for figure skaters, their families and coaches.

There are so many great things in the review, we hope you will link to the IceMom site and read it in its entirety. Figure skaters of all kinds will love this book, which explores Maddie's world which is warm and reassuring at home, but can also be anxious and trying when she faces the challenges of competitive figure skating. The following is a few lines from the review that express the essence of why IceMom.net rates it a buy:

Maddie’s mental toughness journey is very, very good and the reason to buy the book. House, a psychology major, has done us parents a real favor. Maddie’s teen readers will want to give Maddie advice as they’re reading. They’re going to see the what not to do for a figure skater’s mental preparation and they’re going to start coaching Maddie in their minds. I’m telling you: if your skater is a bundle of nerves, this might be just the book to get her.

IceMom sees the positive messages for young readers in Maddie and it's that added dimension outside of the book's entertainment quality that we loved from the first draft to the finish at Sporting Chance Press. Kids will love to read it, parents will appreciate the messages crafted ever so gently throughout by the author Nicolette House.

[Nicolette shown above "decorating" the "Authors' Wall" at Cover to Cover Bookstore in Columbus, Ohio where she was signing copies of Maddie.]

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

When Physical Education is Brilliant

I get a number of newsletters on education and a recent one from GreatSchools had a discussion about whether PE is necessary. This is interesting in that most of us struggled ourselves in school with dull gym classes at one time or another, but I think the answer is YES, YES, YES and YES again.

The logic might go something like this: All kids (assuming physically able) need regular physical exercise; physical education is the most proven means to provide physical exercise to students; therefore students should have physical education. Not a perfect syllogism, but perhaps good enough for this discussion.

Of course not all physical education programs are equal. And from my parent/observer's standpoint, in education when you find something that works, it makes a lot of sense to copy it if you can.

I didn't have to look very far for an example of one PE program that I believe is brilliant and I thought I would call it to your attention. At Lundahl Middle School in Crystal Lake, Illinois, the physical education department offers something called the 24 Hour Run. As part of the PE program, students of all shapes and sizes work up to a mile run and once a week they are asked to run a mile. Lundahl has a paved quarter mile track on the grounds--it is nothing fancy, just an oval track that has been paved so the kids have a place that works during the warm months.

Lundahl like many middle schools is committed to having students who are fit and in some ways the one mile run demonstrates the school's commitment to that, but Fred Kaiser (shown above) takes the school's commitment and asks a greater commitment of the kids--and they deliver.

Kaiser manages Lundahl's 24 Hour Challenge Run in which roughly 40% of the students volunteer to run in relay teams of twelve a mile at a time for an entire 24 hour period. During this 24 hour period, the grounds of the school turn into a tent city that is home of hundreds of super enthusiastic kids and a small army of adult volunteers.

The run is a culminating event in that kids have to sign on to the program principles, train for months, and they must keep logs that demonstrate their consistent efforts. A strict regimen has to be followed. One slip up and your are out and few want to leave the program. Each student will cover between 12-50 miles. With students, teachers, parents and local business sponsors involved, the run is a community event. From kids in the science club to the basketball team, a student can grow exponentially in self respect, confidence and maturity.

Kaiser emphasizes the fact that when students make the 24 hour run, they have learned to make a difficult commitment, they have set goals for themselves, they have worked diligently towards achieving those goals and they have succeeded. For almost all the kids who sign on, the success of this achievement is memorable. We all know that once you achieve one thing, you can parlay it to other things in life that you may want to take on.

In both a symbolic and very real gesture, as the clock winds down to the final minute, the students jog one lap as one team -- all the kids as one rag tag bunch of hot sweaty students. While every effort is made to keep the kids hydrated and nourished, you can see the gas is just about on empty as they make their way to the finish line. The 2010 run was a particularly hot one.

Kaiser stands on a truck bed so he can peer over his students. He gives them one final pep talk--essentially reiterating four characteristics of success that he has lectured his students about all year. Kaiser says they had the willingness to risk when they took on the challenge, they were determined to stand for what they believed, they had a commitment to integrity, and they maintained a sense of passion during the entire effort.

You can see the camaraderie on the faces of the kids. The kids know that everyone in the group made it themselves-- mom and dad didn't carry them around the track and no technology gave them a boost or a virtual victory. It was 100% blood sweat and tears.

Kaiser has many great ideas on how to make Physical Education brilliant. He is somewhat of a PE guru and the Middle School father of the 24 Hour Run Challenge that was originally conceived of as a high school event. Not all schools have the right environment for such an event, but it is spreading to other schools. Kaiser was named Teacher of the Year in 2008 by the National Association of Physical Sport and Education. See Fred's web page for contact information.

For information on Sporting Chance Press books that entertain and inspire see our web site www.sportingchancepress.com.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Yuna Kim and LeBron James Help Charities

Olympic figure skating champion Yuna Kim serves as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and is encouraging more help for Haiti six months after the earthquake that brought sorrow and tragedy to the impoverished country. Kim was one of the most celebrated individuals to make a huge contribution to the UNICEF Haiti efforts shortly after the disaster and now she is back to help bolster the efforts that seem to be waning.

Olympic Champion Kim's appealed:

When the earthquake in Haiti shook the nation to the core, like you, I decided to help. And together, we did help by providing children with food, protection, clean water, medicine and school books. What has already been achieved in Haiti brings hope. But rebuilding homes, schools and lives will take time, and it needs our continued support. Let us not forget the people of Haiti – or the millions of children around the world who need our help the most.

Kim's efforts not only will help the earthquake victims, but they also provide great press for athletes in the face of many negative stories. Kim as a young athlete garners positive press with each step she takes. But of course we all know that is she screws up, she'll make real headlines.

Lebron James Questions

In the United States, the LeBron James team selection decision reveal was televised after the decision itself was discussed ad nauseam in the media in advance. It was an odd bit of media hype over a move that would normally have been reported in the normal course of a radio or TV newscast. Many sports fans thought it was way over the top--a show saturated with ego and drenched in the sickening syrup of American athletic worship. Yet, in a kind of irony the martyr Saint Lawrence (turn me over I'm done on this side) would love, through ads and sponsor contributions, LeBron raised an estimated $2.5 million for Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Of course, many questioned his motives. But it's not exactly drug money in the collection basket is it? $2.5 million in commercial endorsement income is a pretty big sum as charitable events go. Take for example, a very worthwhile celebrity gold tournament like the Bob Hope's Classic. The Classic's charitable contribution averages a little over $1.5 million a year. If LeBron could just move from team to team each year and televise his selection announcement, he might turn into a one-man charitable behemoth.

Legally, James had a right to select his next team based on his employment relationship in the NBA. He was highly criticized for his selection of Miami over Cleveland. No doubt I would feel very different if I was a Cavs fan and I think they have every right to rant and rave about the decision because they must feel like they have been betrayed by a family member.

But, in the interest of fair play, one has to wonder if the Cavaliers had dumped a player with diminishing skills on the same day as LeBron's decision, would it have gotten a glance from critics? As long as a team is able to dump its players for any reason, players should be allowed to move as well. LeBron had a legal right to select a team based on whatever criteria he wanted to use. It wasn't pretty in Cleveland and I feel for the fans there. If Jordan had done the same thing here in Chicago, it would not have made fans here happy either.

In terms of moral behavior, the team switch might seem wrong to many fans who consider team loyalty a moral issue. But again, if we are honest with ourselves, we all know that there are several loyalty angles that come under scrutiny: teams can get rid of players (fans love) to reduce payroll etc.; players can move on to greener pastures; and fans can turn against players who are giving 100% (but something goes wrong in their performance). Not a new phenomena folks, read the Merkle story sometime. In that case the fans and press were nasty, the club was loyal. Overall, it would seem that loyalty can turn on a dime with fans, teams and players.

If the moral discussion turns to the question of charity, charitable motives and charitable actions of someone who probably makes more money in a minute than most make in a week, well that's a different discussion altogether--one that I hope LeBron and everyone else has frequently with God. If pundits will not be satisfied until huge sums come directly from LeBron's pocket to others with less, well we don't really know how much he has doled out in past. Not all charity is a charitable contribution.

There are cases of athletes bankrupting themselves with over-generous contributions to friends and charities. But from a "bigger they are, the harder they fall" perspective, he's probably getting a lot of advice against being too generous with anyone right now as his earnings are rising. I think many super-rich pay more attention to charity after they have amassed super huge amounts and those amounts are passively earning more than they ever could themselves. Oh the time value of money is such a great concept if you have both time and money!

I suppose the public would feel a little better if LeBron was getting "less is more" advice on the size of his next house. "Don't go too big LeBron--keep it to one bowling alley this time out." Yet by most accounts, even though LeBron is one big athlete, his house in Akron is less than half the size of skinny Bill Gates' home. Go figure! Of course, Bill has moved from what many would call a hated computer mogul to a begetter of what presumably is one of the largest foundations out to change the world for the better. Go Bill, Go.

But consider that LeBron is only 25 years old. History tells us that many of the most admired and richest people in America didn't become philanthropic until they were much older. If you think 25 is old enough to manage the complex world that is LeBron James, you probably haven't had any kids that age (or you are just a perfect human being). The "kid in the candy store" syndrome must be pretty strong when you are very young and have tens of millions coming in. Heck, I count myself lucky that I still have teeth left after years of candy purchases supported by my lawn care business that grossed me $1.50 per lawn with my dad's trusty Sears lawn mower. The sweet smell of cut grass was the smell of money in those days.

Perhaps we should hold off any judgments for now. We really don't know how much he's given away anyway. He's done much good with the ESPN show and usually good deeds seem to have a way of multiplying. He's got a long way to catch up with Bill Gates, but then even top NBA salaries and fees from expensive basketball shoes and clothing will never match the cash spent on software.

My advice to LeBron right now would be go a little smaller on the bling and tell your critics you are done on one side and they can turn you over. Coming from a good Catholic High School, I think LeBron would appreciate the humor.

One day he may just find a nice quiet shack on the beach will be all he needs along with a huge charitable remainder trust to cover the bumps in the road.

I suppose LeBron's move is all kind of moot point anyway, we all know the Bulls are going to win the championship next year.

Copyright 2009, Sporting Chance Press publisher of Maddie Takes the Ice and other fine books.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Climb Every Mountain

I am both intrigued and concerned about young people taking on extreme sports challenges. In our last posting, we wrote about children who attempted to break the solo-unassisted around-the-world sail. When 16-year old Abby Sunderland’s small craft was adrift without a mast in the Indian Ocean, the public debate on whether we should allow our children to take on such dangerous exploits was turned up a few notches.
Copyright 2010, publisher of fine books on sports.

Jordan Romero

The ongoing saga of Jordan Romero is another page in the debate. On May 22, 2010, the 13-year Californian reached the summit of Mount Everest with his dad, his step-mom, and three Nepalese sherpas. Everest was just one stop on the boy’s long journey to climb the highest peak on each of the seven continents that he began as a ten year old. Pretty incredible stuff in my book.

According the Romero’s web site http://www.jordanromero.com, Everest is the seventh peak in his bid to climb the highest summits in each continent--he says there are eight peaks in all. An expedition to scale the 4,897-high Vinson Massif in Antarctica is planned for December.

Unlike the very young solo round-the-world sailors, Jordan was not alone in his climbing adventure, which to my way of thinking puts his exploits into a whole different category. Jordan was always surrounded by a team of adults leading the way and monitoring his physical condition at every stage of the climb. However, his exploits are not without controversy and I think the debate is important.

Climbing Controversy

Part of the controversy surrounding young climbers is that high altitude climbing may be more dangerous to the young. There are other criticisms as well. David Hillebrandt, medical advisor to the British Mountaineering Council, is not a fan of Romero’s exploits and believes that the boy could not be mature enough for such an ascent. He also suggests that some of these ascents are not true sportsman's adventures(my words). Hildebrandt points out that without years of training and experience, some climbers are essentially being winched up mountains using ropes put in the place by the sherpas.

Only His Sherpas Know for Sure

We don't know of course, how much help Jordan received making the climb. I guess you might say only his Sherpas know for sure. However, this being Jordan's seventh mountain, I suspect he has some pretty special skills for age 13. But no doubt we’ll learn much more about Jordan’s efforts in the coming months.

Only Those with Valid Drivers License May Climb

China (Tibet) and Nepal both have ascents to Mount Everest. The China Tibet Mountaineering Association (CTMA) regulates climbing activities in Tibet and recently said climbers applying for a permit to attempt the Everest summit or any other Himalayan ranges must be at least 18. Nepal restricts climbing to age 16 and above. There is a reported loophole in that CTMA said climbers outside the age limitations would be considered with proof that they were fit for such a climb, but the limit regardless would be 16 years old and above. At least for now that is.

About the Boy

Like sailing records, climbing records also involve a commercial aspect to them. After all, Sears is still selling Edmund Hillary tents. Romero has made the rounds on TV and has a kids book coming out this summer on his quest, The Boy Who Conquered Everest: The Jordan Romero Story with co-author Katherine Blanc, to be published by Balboa Press http://www.balboapress.com. But Jordan is also involved in Team Duke, John Wayne’s Cancer Foundation http://www.teamduke.org. For his schoolmates, he started a program called 7 Summits Youth Challenge to actively encourage kids to improve their fitness with diet and exercise. A young man with Disney-star looks, Jordan lives in Big Bear Lake, which boasts southern California’s largest recreational lake and a high altitude that gives the area plenty of snow in the winter for skiing and other winter sports. It’s a great place for an adventurous kid to grow up.

Jordan on Jordan

In the winter I would prefer to spend every waking moment on the slopes, practicing new tricks on my twin tips (skis) in the freestyle park. In the summer I mix it up a bit. I like to spend time, running, kayaking, mountain biking, downhilling, bmx, wakeboarding,cliff jumping into the lake, and rock climbing. I’m on the cross country running team at my school. Give me a new action sport and I’ll give it a try. Me and my friends, we live for sports and the outdoors.

There are certainly plenty of glory-hungry star wannabees around these days, but I am personally impressed with the approach taken by Jordan and his folks. He may be 13, but he is already connected to good causes and he likes to hang with his peeps as much as anything. There is no sin in pursuing your dreams even if they may lead to celebrity. At least that's what we believe at Sporting Chance Press. Kids need adventurous role models, especially ones who plan their exploits carefully with competitent adults. I don't know much about mountain climbing, but his "team" seems to be very good at planning and they are with him every step of the way.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Young Adventurers Sail On

From Lindbergh’s solo flight across the Atlantic to Hillary’s climb of Mount Everest, record-breaking adventures have captivated us. Those who set them are often celebrities for life. And it seems that each time we think there are no more record-breaking adventures to be made, someone comes up with a new twist.

At Sporting Chance Press we believe that inspiring stories of sacrifice and achievement motivate us to reach our own potential. But extreme adventures need more scrutiny.

Recently, new extremely dangerous record-breaking exploits have been set by children. This trend is unsettling and some have suggested that parents that permit, if not promote such attempts, should face criminal charges. Regardless of whether we see these attempts as a positive test of mettle or a form of child abuse, they will continue because they are a global phenomenon.

Sailing records have been targeted by several teenage adventurers recently, although the World Sailing Speed Record Council (WSSRC) has discontinued its endorsement of the age based records. The Council’s absence from such endorsements may leave a void in rigorous sanctioning of such attempts, but it hasn’t stopped the exploits.

The Sunderland family of California includes at least two very adventurous children: In 2009, Zac Sunderland became the youngest person to sail solo around the world last year at the age of 17. His sister, 16-year-old Abby, followed in her big brother’s footsteps this year, but her journey ended when her mast broke in rough weather in the southern Indian Ocean on June 10. Thankfully, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority speedily coordinated her rescue effort and spotted her from the air. She was found 2,000 miles off the Australian coast about half way between Australia and Africa. Abby was picked up by a French fishing boat Ile De La Reunion two days later--a full 20 hours after her family lost contact with her. Abby's de-masted "Wild-Eyes" shown below.

Abby’s exploits followed in the media. Every aspect of her journey has been scrutinized strategically and technically. Her parents have come under tremendous criticism.

Abby was sailing in the southern Indian Ocean in the winter when the weather conditions are most treacherous. Abby views herself as a sailor and is upbeat about her attempt and is quick to defend it:
Any sailor that goes out to the water knows that being hit by a rogue wave is a risk, no matter where you are...You can't eliminate risk, you can do a lot to minimize it but it's always there.

Once pulled from the Ocean, Abby was in for a long voyage to the French territory of Reunion near Mauritius off eastern Africa. Abby's record-breaking attempt at an unassisted solo sail around the world had actually run aground in April when she and her support team decided to stop in Capetown to repair her main autopilot, a critical piece of equipment that had died. But Abby went on determinedly with her trip until her mast was broken. From start to finish, Abby, like most 21st Century adventurers was blogging along the way. Whether you look at Abby’s trip as a dangerous stunt, a misguided adventure or a noble endeavor, most will find at least some of her postings compelling reading at http://soloround.blogspot.com/. A book may follow.

Australian Effort

A number of other young sailors have attempted the round the world solo sail recently. Three months before Abby set sail, in October of 2009, sixteen year old Jessica Watson of Australia set out on her around the world sail in the Pink Lady and arrived home in Sidney Harbor on May 15, 2010 just three days before her 17th birthday--a little over three weeks prior to Abby’s mast catastrophe. Jessica is a national hero in Australia.

There is of course a commercial aspect of these adventures. Jessica is said to be under contract to Rupert Murdoch for her exclusive story in his newspapers. Her book called True Spirit: The Aussie Girl who Took on the World should be out this summer. Jessica Watson merchandise and trip details can be found at her website http://www.jessicawatson.com.au/. A documentary is in the works. Some sailing experts say that Miss Watson did not sail far enough above the equator to qualify as a round the world journey, but that has not seemed to dim the enthusiasm for her effort.

England’s Youngest Sailing Superstar

Even if Abby had been successful, she would not have broken her brother Zac Sunderland’s record. Zac’s record had all ready been surpassed by 17 year-old Michael Perham who hails from outside London. Perham completed his voyage just six weeks after Zac’s trip. Perham has authored a book about his experiences, Sailing the Dream, released in March 2010. Find out what Michael is up to these days at www.challengemike.com.

Younger Still – The Dutch

The quest for the youngest around the world unassisted sail record parallels some of the early efforts of competing European nations to be the first to discover parts of the new world! As Abby Sunderland was sailing to Africa after her ordeal at sea, Laura Dekker a young Dutch sailor was fighting in court to make a run for glory from the Netherlands. After nixing her attempt last year when Dekker was just 13 years old, a Dutch court extended the ban on 14-year-old Laura Dekker this year. She is still hoping to get clearance for her attempt to beat Australian Jessica Watson’s record.

Certainly commercial rewards and national pride are entering into the picture and may further cloud the debate on whether these very young adventurers ought to be allowed to risk their lives. As long as all these young people and their would-be rescuers have made it back alive, these exercises have a fantastic feel, but if risk turns to tragedy, it will be very painful for everyone involved along with the millions who follow such adventures from all over the world and want to see these kids succeed. Reading just a bit of what goes on in these small boats in the ocean is proof enough for me that these young sailors are especially courageous.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Of Merkle's Critics and Gangster Movies

I am one of those context kind of guys. People who know me will tell you that I get really annoyed at people (including myself at times) who make judgments about people and events out of context. I suppose that's what really attracted me to Mike Cameron's book, Public Bonehead, Private Hero - See www.sportingchancepress.com. Cameron scripted his book like a drama. American history in the Progressive Era - Teddy Roosevelt, the Model T, the great race and much more... Baseball magic--the Pennant races are being watched with meteoric enthusiasm. The teams fight on -- the crowds riot, real life takes a back seat to the entertaining metaphor of baseball.

Then the tragedy. Young handsome youth--Merkle-- finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. He follows the lead of countless others as he runs the bases and turns off the field at the end of the game. But in this one game, the end never really comes. The umpire calls him out for not advancing to second and tagging the base, citing a rule that simply was not enforced before. The gas bomb that is the Muckraking press of 1908 explodes. From the stinky cloud comes the message: Merkle is a Bonehead forever more.

In Public Bonehead, Private Hero Cameron does what other writers have not done. He not only follows the drama of the season and the game, but follows the shattered aftermath of the game. Not a pretty story, but certainly one that is not without redemption. But even after Cameron's book and several other publications about Merkle's actions examined in the context of the time, most stories on Merkle continue to point the finger of blame on the unfortunate man.

People, many who should know better, still want to judge Merkle out of context. After Merkle was called out for not touching second as the winning run scored from home, any base runner in baseball would be guilty of a base-running error because the application of the rule was publicized repeatedly. But when Merkle ran the bases that day in 1908, it simply had not been ruled that way. He was doing what was done in his time. Judging Merkle as if he was running the bases like base runners are taught today, is judging out of context. Why is it so difficult to understand?

It's a little like watching an old gangster moving from the 1930s when the bad guys head over to the kill a rival mobster having just roughed up one of his underlings to find out where he is at. If the Merkle critics were in the audience, they would probably be screaming at the underling to pull out his cell phone and give his boss a heads up. They just don't get context.

Maddie Takes the Ice Gets Excellent Review

It's always good to get compliments on your work; this is especially true in publishing. We were thrilled this past week when Jo Ann Schneider Farris, Managing Editor of About.com Guide to Figure Skating gave Nicolette House's Maddie Takes the Ice Five-Stars in her review:

Maddie Takes the Ice is one of the most accurate and "true to life" fictional books about competitive figure skating. It not only will inspire, but will also give those interested in the sport some insight on what it takes to be a competitive figure skater. ..

Jo Ann’s site, About.com Guide to Figure Skating, is full of great information on figure skating and it was truly an honor for us to have such kind words from her. Jo Ann won a Silver Medal in Ice Dancing at the United States National Figure Skating Championships and is a US Figure Skating Double Gold Medalist. She coaches, writes and lives figure skating – her motto is “happy skating.” For Jo Ann’s complete review of Maddie Takes the Ice go to: (About.com Review). See www.sportingchancepress.com for ordering information on Maddie Takes the Ice.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thorne Talks Baseball to Kishwaukee Kiwanis

J. D. Thorne gave his 10 Commandments of Baseball presentation at the June 23rd Kishwaukee Kiwanis (http://kishkiwanis.org/) meeting yesterday at the Hopkins Park Terrace Room in Dekalb, Illinois. Kiwanis International is described as a “global organization of volunteers dedicated to changing the world one child and one community at a time. Members develop youth as leaders, build playgrounds and raise funds for pediatric research. They help shelter the homeless, feed the hungry, mentor the disadvantaged and care for the sick. Working together, members achieve what one person cannot accomplish alone. And along the way, club members share friendship and laughter.” (Shown above is Kishwaukee Kiwanis Park Playground)

At his Kiwanis presentation, J. D. spoke about how the baseball commandments have become part and parcel of good youth programs and can also be useful life principles as well. Application of baseball mantras like “run them all out,” “do not quit,” and “hustle” can help everyone improve their game in not only sports but life. The baseball principles were briefly noted in J.D.’s presentation and then illustrated with stories from baseball past that are funny, yet poignant. The presentation is based on Thorne’s book, The 10 Commandments of Baseball (see www.sportingchancepress.com).

At Sporting Chance Press, our authors have shared friendship and laughter with the “salt of the earth” folks who make community service a keystone in their lives. J. D. Thorne is a frequent and favorite speaker at service organization meetings along with many other venues. These programs and the volunteers who manage them are inspirational. Attending these service organization meetings has given us a glimpse into the good work these groups do all over the country.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Book Signing in Columbus

Nicolette House will be signing her new book Maddie Takes the Ice at Cover to Cover bookstore in Columbus, Ohio on Saturday June 19, 2010 beginning at 11a.m. Maddie Takes the Ice is a middle grade novel about a young figure skater who struggles mightily with nerves as she nears a regional championship competition. For more on the book see www.sportingchancepress.com.

Cover to Cover bookstore is a kid-friendly bookstore devoted exclusively to children’s books. Owner Sally Oddi and her staff pride themselves in their knowledge of children’s literature from the latest young adult offerings to preschool classics and everything in between. Cover to Cover is at 3560 North High Street just two and half (2 1/2) blocks north of East North Broadway on the east side of the street.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Will I Ever Get Over 1969

I was reading Ron Santo for Love of Ivy by Ron Santo and Randy Minkoff as part of some research I am doing on a new Sporting Chance Press title (www.sportingchancepress.com). It's a pretty breezy read and I was intrigued by what Ron had to say about 1969. I came away with a basic message of Santo looking fondly on the year and appreciative of being a part of the Cubs in such a great era. It made me think back to my own recollections of that late 1960's Cub era - occasionally taking the Western Avenue bus all the way from the south end of the city through every kind of neighborhood imaginable to watch the Cubs play and then back again. Most of what we did in those days though was listen to the Cubs on the radio while we played our own game of "off the steps." But occasionally we would get to Wrigley and it was something special.

What I remember of Santo was his total disregard of his own body. He was constantly expanding his range at third base by diving at balls -- and more often than not, snagging them and throwing the batter out. Santo was a fighter, a boxer with a baseball mitt. I am glad that he not only enjoyed those times, but looks back at them unapologetic. He was a man then and he is a man now.

For me it was really not 1969 that stings, but it was the absence of 1969 in the following seasons. 1969 was a great year, I just wish it could have been followed with a bunch of others like it. But that's like expecting Paul McCartney to write another White Album or Harrison Ford to still be the kind of Indiana Jones today that young girls would write secret messages to on their eyelids.

Santo is right, 1969 was a very good year. And maybe I will never get over 1969 because I don't want to ever forget it.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Maddie Takes the Ice

At Sporting Chance Press we are all about publishing books that bring out the best in sport. Maddie Takes the Ice is our first middle grade novel for ages 8-12.

As our compelling cover copy reads:

Madison Albright is one of the most confident skaters at the Arctic Circle Figure Skating Club, but the pressure builds as she prepares for the regional championship. A jealous skater is prepared to do whatever it takes to knock Madison from the competition and an old friend turns against her just when she needs her the most. Strangers and classmates alike suddenly make her the center of attention. Her stern coach seems incapable of understanding her worries. Her best friend is preoccupied with boy problems. At home, her family expects a big win. In the final days before the event, her confidence begins to unravel and she struggles to succeed in spite of the stress and strain that is competitive figure skating. Come along for an unforgettable journey as Maddie Takes the Ice.

The book is getting very high marks from our readers and it carries several very strong positive messages without hitting kids over the head with them.

Author Colette House who competed herself at the very highest levels in figure skating, wants readers to understand how to get through the pressure of the sport in healthy ways -- keeping communication open with supporting parents and maintaining a positive demeanor all the while working towards one's personal best and goals.

Most people who have seen the book simply buy it--it's that attractive. The cover illustration was created by Laila Kimball. The book layout was designed by Don Torres with special silhouettes to liven up the chapter openings.

See more on Maddie Takes the Ice at www.sportingchancepress.com

Friday, April 16, 2010

Cubs 2010 Song

Hey, the Cubs 2010 song is getting some play on the radio.

The Baseball Project is the name of a band that includes ex-Dream Syndicate leader Steve Wynn, Scott McCaughey of the Minus 5 and Young Fresh Fellows, R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck and Wynn’s wife, drummer Linda Pitmon. They play baseball-themed songs. Their first album was Volume 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails, released in 2008. Their second album is a work-in-progress called Broadside Ballads that will span the entire baseball season with one song being released each month until November. The second song released is Cubs 2010 – ESPN has it available free to download at http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/thelife/news/story?id=5053976. Cubs 2010 is an upbeat positive song for Cub fans that begins:

This is the Cubs year 2010
One hundred and two years
This drought has to end
Everybody from 1908 is dead
Like Merkle's boner it will be heaven-sent
Time to win it again Cubs
Time to win it again!

We will avoid commenting here on the Merkle boner line, other than to say that we don’t concede it was a boner at all – see www.sportingchancepress.com Public Bonehead, Private Hero. However, the tune for this one is very catchy and it is apparently getting some air time. To me the music sounds a little English invasionesque, but the singing sounds a little like the Beach Boy – one of the boys without the harmonies.

No doubt there are many opinions on the various Cubs songs. Just like there are so many choices in caps these days, we’ll have a selection of songs and everyone can chose their own favorite. But I find Cubs 2010 less embarrassing than some of the others. Not that there aren’t a few lines to cringe at, but hey, it’s not bad.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Merkle Was Bullied by Press

Fred Merkle Card
Much is being written about bullying today, especially cyber bullying and the tragic consequences to young people who are victims of it. According to two researchers who spend their time researching and educating people on the harmful effects of cyber bullying, Professor Smeer Hinduja and Professor Justin Patchin, the most common form of cyber bullying offending is "posted something about another person to make others laugh." Sadly, the professor’s research indicates that the victims of cyber bullying were twice as likely to have attempted suicide than those who had not experienced such bullying. (http://www.cyberbullying.us/)

It seems like the public has been very slow to understand the sinister nature of ridicule, which has been part and parcel of our culture for a long time. At Sporting Chance Press, when we think of the victims of ridicule, we think of our hero, Fred Merkle.

Of course, back in 1908 when Merkle fell victim to intolerable abuse, the Internet didn't exist, but the newspapers were passionate about ridiculing public figures for cheap laughs and newspaper sales. As Mike Cameron details in Public Bonehead, Private Hero, Fred Merkle (www.sportingchancepress.com) was perhaps the greatest victim of such ridicule in history. Some would suggest that Merkle was a public figure, a highly paid athlete and was fair game for such attacks. But, the 19-year old ballplayer was barely out of High School, substituting for an injured veteran and called out for violating an obscure rule that had not been enforced before. For all his trouble, the unfortunate Fred Merkle would never hear the end of it – the shameless press even bullied the poor man in his obituary.

If there is good news that comes out of the Merkle story, it is that those who become familiar with the circumstances and the impact on the Merkle family ought to be more cognizant of the impact of ridiculing others. The lesson for those who are bullied today might be that it is possible for them to hold their head up and get on with life as Fred Merkle did. Those of us who know better need to do what we can to support those who are victims.

Those who are bullied online today by their circle of acquaintances may want to see how Merkle was nationally ridiculed. Merkle was blasted not just once in a string of coast to coast articles, but many times over, again and again unfairly, when he happened to make a bad play or even when someone else may have made one and was compared to “bonehead” Merkle.

At Sporting Chance Press, Merkle is one of our heroes. We are inspired to overcome the problems in our own lives when we think of what Merkle was able to accomplish in light of his challenges. We like to see the good in sport, and Merkle certainly exemplified good in his battle to overcome the odds against him in baseball and life (www.sportingchancepress.com).

 Copyright 2010, Sporting Chance Press

Friday, April 9, 2010

SCP Author Mike Cameron on WGN

Sporting Chance Press author Mike Cameron was interviewed on WGN's Noon Show today by News Anchor Steve Sanders. With Public Bonehead, Private Hero in his hand, Steve asked Mike about the 1908 pennant race, the "Merkle game" and the aftermath of the bonehead branding that has been discussed on this site at some length. Watchers could easily see Mike's enthusiasm for the subject and the Sanders-Cameron interview was a great intro for our book.

You can see the entire interview at the WGN site below:


Mike's book, Public Bonehead, Private Hero, is for sale on our site at www.sportingchancepress.com and you can see Mike in person at the Howard Inn at 6700 West Howard Street in Niles, Illinois on May 15 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Increasing Positive Influences

What we are trying to do at Sporting Chance Press is bring out the good in sports and somehow help people improve their game in life. Sports can be a great way for us to learn and practice healthy principles--teamwork, self-discipline, preparation, practice, etc. The violence in our young people's world shows that life without principles can get awfully ugly. Promoting those principles in an engaging and interesting way can help.

We all need to have that little voice in our heads that tells us to stay on course. People live their own lives although they are influenced by those around them. A good book on sports is long way removed from the key influences on young people like their fathers, mothers teachers, brothers, sisters and others. Good books are a very small part of the process, but we are doing what we can. Our authors do more than write to help.

Author J. D. Thorne speaks to many different groups about the 10 Commandments of Baseball - principles for baseball and life. If there are young people present they love to participate in the discussion. It's encouraging to see how young people want to do the right thing with a little encouragement.

J. D.'s first presentation was to a very appreciative Prison Camp audience in Duluth so we know his message on principles can be very powerful. Even men who have seen a lot of bad things in life can still muster up some enthusiasm for the good.

But perhaps our greatest influence on people is with average Moms, Dads and grandparents who are reminded of the benefits that good sports programs, coaches, and players had on them. They are reminded that encouraging other people to have those postive experiences can be a great benefit.

After a presentation, a few people will offer encouragement to those in their families. Some will take a young person to their first baseball game or show up at a granddaughter's next game to offer encouragement. Some will write a check to the Little League or make an extra contribution to a charity that helps troubled kids.

Others might be inspired to look in the mirror and take a more active role in helping those around them -- they might "take the bat off their shoulder" after they have kept it there for years. If we can help to increase the positive influences in life, perhaps it will help drown out the negative ones.

Sporting Chance Press Books.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Merkle Game is Still a Big Deal Over 100 Years Later

Public Bonehead, Private Hero is about one of the most interesting years and events in baseball and American history. The year is 1908 in the midst of the Progressive Era. Teddy Roosevelt is in office. There is no 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 media and there are so many of them steeped in competition, reports are working desperately for readers. 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.

1908 Was Special

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.

In one of the most heated rivalries, a young 19-year old New York Giant is put in for an injured veteran in a key game against the mighty Chicago Cubs. The young man, Fred Merkle, plays well and in the bottom of the ninth inning, he finds himself safe at first base with another man on third in a tie game. When the batter drives the ball into the outfield for a hit, scoring the winning run from third, Merkle does something everyone else was doing at the time. Instead of touching second to avoid a force out, he runs off the base path towards the club house to beat the crowd that is about to push through the field on their way out. But this day, the rule that required Merkle to touch second base is enforced at the urging of one, Johnny Evers of the Cubs, and young Merkle is belatedly called out long after the play.

The game is called a tie. The ruling is appealed, but eventually the game is “replayed” as the last game of the season to determine the National League champion when the Cubs and Giants are tied in the standings. The Cubs win the tiebreaker and go on to the World Series championship – their last in over 100 years.

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.

Still a Big Deal 100 Years Later

Sounds like old new? Not really. The Merkle game continues to be one of the most sensationalized games in baseball history. Author Mike Cameron got to know Merkle’s last living daughter and he brings the human side of the Merkle affair to light in Public Bonehead, Private Hero.

And How about the Ball?

And what about that famous ball used to force Merkle out at second? No one knows exactly how the second baseman, Johnny Evers (of Tinker, Evers and Chance fame) got the ball to force Merkle out—some witnesses said the ball was tossed by one of the players into the outfield when the game appeared to have been over. Some say the Cubs chased the ball into the stands and slugged a spectator to get it back and into the hands of Evers. Evers achieved some notoriety over and above his fame as a player for orchestrating the famous force play. He thought enough of the play to hold onto the ball for posterity.

Interesting enough, the Merkle ball as certified by the Evers family is up again for sale this spring through Robert Evans Auctions. Some believe it may fetch as much as $25,000.

And Merkle

Merkle dusted himself off as much as he could from the ridicule that followed him through life, and despite difficulties went on and raised and supported his family in the American way throughout both the Depression and World War II. The book is a good fit with my company, Sporting Chance Press, because our objective is not only entertain, but also inspire and Merkle’s story does that.

Merkle was born in Watertown, Wisconsin and although he grew up in Toledo, Watertown has a special place in its heart for him. Collector and baseball fan, David Stalker helped erect a special monument to Merkle in Watertown for its native son.