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.