Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sports and Faith: Patrick McCaskey's Personal Chronicle of Inspiration and Faith

Patrick McCaskey's Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout takes a time-honored approach in which the author simply and honestly shares his faith and life-lesson experiences with readers. Published by Sporting Chance Press, the book offers a look into McCaskey's own life growing up in the famous Chicago Bears family where everyone was expected to pitch in around the house and bedrooms were shared with several brothers--no super-sized luxury suites for this family. When Mom brought home a new sibling to the McCaskey home in Des Plaines, football games broke momentarily for a quick introduction and then reconvened. As the first McCaskey children became old enough to attend Bears games, Grandpa George Halas (Papa Bear) made room for them on a bench along the sidelines and cushioned it with a wool blanket. Like all the other fans, the McCaskey kids had the authentic Chicago Bear weather experience.

But more than a memoir, Sports and Faith is McCaskey's personal chronicle of athletes, coaches and everyday people who fought the good fight for faith. In McCaskey's years of service to the Bears and charitable endeavors, he has had a front row seat to inspirational people like Father Ignatius McDermott-the Skid Row Priest, Father John Smyth--Chicago's Father Flannagan, and Dr. Wayne "Coach" Gordon -- Lawndale's white pioneer of urban ministry and community development. In Sports and Faith, McCaskey is not only recalling the stories of these great people, he is talking about people who are his personal and family friends as well. McCaskey was privileged to have Chicago Bear's 1963 championship quarterback Bill Wade teach him football fundamentals after training camp sessions, but his parents and Papa Bear taught him to always appreciate such things and give back yourself.

McCaskey took good notes for his book over a 36 year period. There's nothing fancy or superficial about the author or his book. Along with McCaskey family history and stories of faithful people, there is a bit of football history.

Patrick McCaskey is a Senior Director with the Chicago Bears. He is chairman of Sports Faith International, an initiative that honors exceptional athletes who lead exemplary lives at the professional, college and high school levels. He actively helps promote faith based education and his image is used by the Archdiocese of Chicago to promote Catholic schools. He is a frequent speaker known for his sense of humor and his Christian devotion. His book, Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout is simply his witness to a world where sports and faith go hand in hand.

Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout can be purchased online from Sporting Chance Press. It is also available at these fine stores: Bishop Lane Retreat Center 7708 E. McGregor Road Rockford, IL 61102; C & A Inspirations 313 N. Mattis Avenue, Suite 112 Champaign, IL 61802; Christian Shop Ltd. 325 East Dundee Road Palatine, IL 60074; Church of Saint Mary’s 175 E. Illinois Lake Forest, IL 60045; Holy Apostles Parish Bookstore 5211 Bull Valley Road McHenry, IL 60050-7429; Little Way 50 Brink Street, Crystal Lake, IL 60014; Love Christian Center 249 South Schuyler Avenue Kankakee, IL 60901; Olivet Nazarene University Book Store One University Avenue Bourbonnais, IL 60914-2345; Lagron Miller 4517 N. Sterling Peoria, IL 61615; Lake Forest Book Store 624 N. Western Ave. Lake Forest, IL 60045; Saint Anne’s Gift Shop 15160 S. LaGrange Rd Orland Park, IL 60462; St. Peter's Books & Gifts 110 W. Madison Street Chicago, IL 60602-4102; The Book Stall At Chestnut Court 811 Elm Street Winnetka, IL 60093; Others coming soon: God's Gifts Catholic Store 1740 44th Street, S.W., Suite 1, Wyoming, MI 49519 and many more.

10 Commandments of Baseball: Perfect Baseball Book and Father's Day Gift

The modern baseball fan may never have heard of baseball's Joe McCarthy. McCarthy is one of the most influential managers in baseball history. Although he spent 20 years in the minor leagues as a player and manager, he never made it to the big leagues as a player. Nevertheless, he managed the Chicago Cubs, the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox in what some would describe as the Golden Era of baseball. McCarthy still holds the winningest percentage for all MLB managers. He managed Hall of Famers such as Hack Wilson, Rogers Hornsby, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, and Ted Williams.

While managing in the minor leagues he created a document called the 10 Commandments of baseball and Sporting Chance Press published a book by the same name on the topic by J. D. Thorne. The Commandments are a simple list of principles that may seem self-evident to those who were coached well as kids playing Little League:

1. Nobody ever became a ballplayer by walking after a ball.
2. You will never become a .300 hitter unless you take the bat off your shoulder.
3. An outfielder who throws back of a runner is locking the barn after the horse is stolen.
4. Keep your head up and you may not have to keep it down.
5. When you start to slide, S-L-I-D-E. He who changes his mind may hav to change a good leg for a bad one.
6. Do not alibi on bad hops. Anyone can field the good ones.
7. Always run them out, you can never tell.
8. You will never become a .300 hitter unless you take the bat off your shoulder.
9. Do not find too much fault with the umpires. You cannot expect them to be as perfect as you are.
10. A pitcher who hasn’t control, hasn’t anything.

The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life) provides a concise review of these principles illustrated with brief stories of golden age greats baseball greats along with the author's personal experiences. It's a thoroughly fun read that is accessible to fans from 10 to 100. It is a paperback that costs $20 plus $4 shipping when you buy it from the publisher.

But if you are short on cash, there are many libraries that have the book so check it out--if your local library does not have it, they can order a copy or get a loaner from another library for you. Libraries are usually happy to get a book for a patron especially when they know it will be read and appreciated!

Many people who have seen the book, buy their own copy, but it also makes a superb gift for Father's Day or graduation. You can get it at

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sporting Chance Press Author Nicolette House Presents at Bourbonnais Public Library on April 9, 2011 at 2 p.m.

Professional ice dancer, figure skating instructor and Sporting Chance Press author, Nicolette House will be presenting at the Bourbonnais Public Library at 250 West John Casey Road in Bourbonnais on Saturday, April 9, 2011 at 2 p.m. The author will discuss her skating experiences and her novel Maddie Takes the Ice, which is an America's Battle of the Books selection for 2011 and has received high marks from the skating media. After the presentation, Nicolette will sign copies of Maddie Takes the Ice.

Nicolette is a third generation figure skater and coach following in her mother's and grandmother’s footsteps. Her mother, Ilona Horvath 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 Aidas, the author recently created and performed in "Military Time," a skating show featuring several top international skaters. "Military Time" and its 2010 predecessor, "After Dark" were produced by IceTalent Inc.

Ms. House is working to obtain a degree in psychology, communications and media studies at DePaul University. 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--they can see how Maddie faces similar problems.

The author makes presentations to civic organizations, elementary and middle schools to discuss both figure skating and writing. 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 .
More on Maddie Takes the Ice.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Patty Turner Center Men's Club Visits with Mike Cameron and Fred Merkle

Mike Cameron wrote the book on Fred Merkle: Public Bonehead, Private Hero. With his own Merkle Play Diagram in hand, Mike Cameron presented his case for the exoneration of Fred Merkle to the Patty Turner Men's Club last week. According to Chicago Cubs aficionado, newspaper man and Sporting Chance Press author Mike Cameron, Fred Merkle was a scapegoat who paid the price for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Cameron who avoids using the word "bonehead" so often a moniker cruelly affixed to Fred Merkle, set the stage by describing the historically fascinating year of 1908 -- the Wright Brothers prove that flight could be a practical mode of transportation; Henry Ford proved that automobiles could be affordable; and baseball proved that an entire nation could ignore all its worries for a few hours a day when smitten by a game.

Once the crowd understood the historical context of the 1908 season, Cameron described the close races in both the National and American Leagues that year. Having set the stage for the "Merkle Game" and describing the cast of characters -- including Tinker, Evers, Chance of the mighty Chicago Cubs and John McGraw, Christy Matthews and Fred Merkle of the Giants -- Cameron went on to describe the infamous play and how Merkle ran the bases that day. With the plodding Moose McCormick on third and Fred Merkle on first, Al Bridwell whacked a line line drive safely over the infield into right-center. After seeing that Moose had easily lumbered home, Merkle veered off the base path towards the clubhouse after the apparent end of the game rather than tagging second. The game ball disappeared for a while as the crowd and players mixed it up on the field, but then a ball made its way to second for the belated force out.

"How could he have done something so stupid? Everyone knows you have to tag the next base even after the run scores," the modern fan exclaims. But Cameron points out that everyone ran the bases that way in those days, especially when the winning hit landed in the outfield. It didn't help that the game was being played in the Polo Grounds, a field that was infamous for fans in close proximity to the players. In fact, at the Polo Grounds, the fans who sat in the outfield seats exited through the field itself. No surprise that players ran to the clubhouse a nanosecond after the game ends.

After Merkle was ruled out -- the result: Tie game. The Giants cry foul, but the press focused its muckraking venom on Merkle, calling him “bonehead.”

Cameron went on to tell the crowd at Patty Turner, that Mekle was ridiculed for life and even his obituary mentioned the "bonehead" play.

If you know some group that could use a dose of American history mixed with fascinating baseball and human interest--let us know at Meantime, treat yourself to a great book, buy Public Bonehead, Private Hero. Order here.


How do you sell a book to libraries today?
Librarians have often told me that getting a good review in one of the credible journals that serve librarians is perhaps the greatest sales pitch that a publisher can have. Our Public Bonehead, Private Hero got a terrific review from the Library Journal:

Chicago sportswriter Cameron presents a flavorful and entirely enjoyable history, not only of the unfortunate Fred Merkle, but of the deadball era, which was livelier than any ever known ... Cameron gives us a touching birth-death portrait of the admirable Merkle. The Cubs haven’t won a series since that year, the “Merkle Curse.” Highly recommended for baseball fans young and old.

—Margaret Heilbrun (MH), Library Journal

I have described Public Bonehead, Private Hero hundreds of times in print, but never quite as well as Margaret in these few lines.

Kudos to Mike Cameron for a job well done! And thanks to Margaret for this great well-written review.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Opening Day: Merkle Revisted

You can never write too many stories on Fred Merkle because for every accurate one published there a dozen that get it wrong. As we begin the 2011 MLB season, let's take another look at Fred Merkle, the biggest scapegoat in sports history.

Public Bonehead, Private Hero, tells the complete story. 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 in a game of great importance in a tough Pennant race. 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-center 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 without touching second. 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.

No Brainer?

What seems like a "no-brainer" for modern players was not so obvious in 1908. Unfortunately for Fred Merkle, in 1908 this rule had not enforced when the winning hit traveled to the outfield. September 23 however, was different.

Johnny Evers, the Cubs super-competitive skinny-as-a-chicken - clever-as-a-fox second baseman, knew the rule and had quietly lobbied for it's enforcement with umpire Hank O'Day. Just a few weeks before the Cubs-Giants match, the same scenario took place when the Cubs played Pittsburgh, but O'Day would not call the Pirate runner Warren Gill out--"I didn't see it" was O'Day's response to Evers on that day when the Cubs second baseman screamed that Gill had not tagged second. But from that day forward, O'Day and Evers mutually agreed that the runner needs to advance and touch the base--and O'Day was prepped to "make the call." But, there was no sports radio to discuss and publicize the rule--in fact there was no radio at all!

No Go at the Polo Grounds

To further complicate the issue, the Cubs-Giant game took place in New York's Polo Grounds where fans not only surrounded the field in close proximity to the players, but they actually exited from the outfield stands right through the field. It was a custom for Giant players to wisely run with all due speed to the clubhouse the nano-second a game ended. This had a great deal to do with self preservation as many a fan in those days was able to give the players, managers and umpires an up-close-and-person critique of each game. Even the Cubs fearless "peerless leader" Frank Chance would have known enough not to dally on the Polo Grounds infield after a game.

Follow the Bouncing Ball

As Merkle flew toward the clubhouse after Moose crossed home, there is evidence from various accounts that the game ball was grabbed and tossed into the stands. No doubt several rules were broken as the ball moved from the playing field and mysteriously made its way back to the Cubs who stomped on second and appealed to O'Day. Perhaps a very basic question was: Was the ball that came into possession of the Cubs infielders the actual game ball? O'Day having been primed by Evers saw and attested to two things: 1. Merkle had not touched second. 2. The Cubs touched second with a ball and called for a force out. O'Day ruled for the Cubs.

As usual, seconds after Moose crossed home, the derby clad crowd of dark clothed Giant fans were spread out all over the field like kids at an Easter egg hunt. It was no time to ask everyone to get back into their seats --tie-game ruled O'Day, who was anxious himself to find the exit.

Merkle was boiled, broiled, baked, steamed, sautéed, and grilled in the papers for his "bonehead" play. Legendary Giants Manager Mugsy McGraw, whose temper was one-part Earl Weaver and two parts Mike Tyson, defended Merkle in every interview, but it wasn't enough. Merkle's good name was toast. When the Cubs and Giants ended the regular season tied for the Pennant lead, a "tie-breaker" was played and the swooning Giants took it on the chin leading to a Cubs Pennant, a Cubs World Series and a Merkle burning at the stake that outlasted Fred Merkle himself.

Neverending Story

Sadly, the papers had so much fun making fun of Merkle, the name-calling spread to the fans and from clambakes to church services, from opening days to playoffs, the verbal abuse never ended. As I write this article, there are probably three more references appearing on the Internet that will posit that Fred Merkle made a play. He did not - he did what everyone else was doing at the time under the circumstances. The real boneheads were those critics who knew better, but cared little for fairness or accuracy.

If you are a baseball and history fan who likes a good story, get Mike Cameron's Pubic Bonehead, Private Hero: The Real Legacy of Baseball's Fred Merkle.