Friday, September 30, 2011

Gabe Carimi and Dislocated Kneecap


Several media sources, including a Chicago Sun Times article, have stated that Gabe Carimi suffered a dislocated kneecap in the Chicago Bears-New Orleans Saints game. I understand that it is the Bears policy to not get into specifics about injuries so we don't know for sure if this is the exact nature of Carimi's injury. However for those interested, here's a link to About.com's discussion on Patellar Subluxation and Dislocation.

Image is of Panini Threads Football Card

Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of Patrick McCaskey's Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout and other fine books.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Payton Book Stirs Up Some Dust

Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton is a new book by Jeff Pearlman. Although the book has not yet published, it is getting plenty of buzz because the media has cherry-pit picked a few things from Payton's life that many of his fans (if true) would have preferred die in the Confessional box. In today's media market, it's hard to make a living without casting some dirt around. There are a lot more haters than lovers on the Internet and there is an absolute army of critics that attack most everything from both the right and left side of the fence--whether you are talking about politics, religion, education, or most everything else.

Some have suggested that the book may be a well-balanced account of Walter's life, but I guess we won't have a clue until the book is out and read. Ultimately it's the Man upstairs who will have a well-balanced account of Walter Payton life. I don't think He's sharing it right now.

I think in the end, little will change in light of the book, in fact Payton's legacy may burn even brighter when more people are exposed to all the good that he did and his courage during his illness. I'd guess most sports fans will not read the book at all, if anything they will probably read the "Cliff Notes" that will be coming out in Sports Illustrated. Just what the SI article focuses on may have more impact than the book itself.

It's always interesting when you think of how the average person's little victories and failings would put most people to sleep, but somehow when a celebrated person's life is examined, we are all-ears.

The Bears issued a statement in response to publicity on the book:

The Chicago Bears had the unique honor and privilege of having Walter Payton as a part of our organization for over two decades as both a player and board member. We believe his competitive spirit lives with us today. When we take the field each Sunday, we represent the great players like Walter who helped build the rich tradition of our organization. Nothing will change our feelings for a man we have the deepest respect for and miss having around Halas Hall to this day.


Connie Payton and her family also released a statement that essentially says what's being said in the book (true or false) changes nothing for them--they love Walter and he was a great dad.

I think most Bear fans would say the same thing--the book changes nothing.

Amen.

Bartman, Buckner and Merkle: Scapegoats "Catching Hell "

It’s the eighth inning of game six of the 2003 National League Championship Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Florida Marlins. The game is being played at Wrigley Field. The Cubs are ahead 3 games to 2. Cub fans are more than hopeful, they are optimistic. Moises Alou chases down a foul ball hit by Louis Castillo popped up along the left foul line wall. As the ball drops, fans lean towards the ball and it glances off a life-long Cubs fan, Steve Bartman. Alou is unable to make the catch. He looks back at the fans in the stands and does a dance in frustration.

The game continues. Castillo returns to the plate and takes a walk. A series of hits, walks and Cub miscues blooms into an 8-run Marlin rally and win. As the game ends, fans turn on Bartman who needs to be escorted out of the park. Garbage and curses fly at Bartman as the cameras roll.

The Cubs are demoralized. In the final game of the series, the Cubs lose 9-6 with Kerry Wood at the mound. The Bartman game and incident lives on and on. Bartman plays the scapegoat for the Cubs collapse. As Cubs fan always do, the Bartman game is added to the dozens of key Cubs historical incidents that are hotly debated. Another Cubs incident lives out in the collective consciousness of Cubs fans never to be resolved one way or another. Bartman is scarred and shies away from any publicity.

Catching Hell

The Bartman game is relived anew these days with the release of Catching Hell a film offered up this week in ESPN’s 30 For 30 Series. Catching Hell is directed by Alex Gibney. Gibney knows baseball fan pain as a long suffering Boston Red Sox fan. (In addition to Boston's almost Cub-like history, this year the Red Sox came into September with a 9-game lead in the wild card hunt. The Sox were shut out of the playoffs with a horrific month-long nose dive that culminated in a ninth inning loss on September 28.)

In Catching Hell, Gibney examines sports curses and scapegoats in baseball taking a close look at the Bartman game and its aftermath—and examining the Bill Buckner incident. ESPN’s web page for Catching Hell.

For Chicago Cub fans, the film has opened up an old wound and has also shown the dark side of the “Friendly Confines.” Perhaps Wrigley Field will never be looked at the same way, at least by those outside of Chicago who can now witness the shameful reactions to Bartman’s attempt to catch what he and others around him thought was simply an out of play foul ball.

Scapegoats

At Sporting Chance Press, we like to champion Scapegoats. After all, a scapegoat is simply someone who takes the fall for others. There were a number of well-paid Cubs involved in the 8-run rally and subsequent loss the following day that took out the Cubs in 2003. For fans, it just seems more appropriate to try to place the blame elsewhere, thus we have Bartman as scapegoat.

It's important to remember that a scapegoat is someone who takes the punishment for others. In this sense Bartman continues a long tradition that is as old as the Old Testament; some suggest that it's even older than that. When you see the Castillo popup on film and you see other people leaning over to do the same thing that Bartman did, it doesn't take a genius to know that the rules of baseball etiquette are a little murky at best for the average fan. There's a also the fact that Catillo's ball was very close to being unplayable altogether. Perhaps a lot more Wrigley fans hesitate when a ball comes their way today.

Many say Bartman should have known better. That may be true. But, let's not forget that when you chase a ball in a ballpark, typically it's more of responsive action than a thinking one. Who can forget that one young father fell to his death this year leaning over to get a ball for his son. Bartman did what came natural to baseball fans and sometimes the consequences are rotten and ill-deserved--and tragic. In his case, my thinking is more along the lines of "but for he grace of God" I'd be right there with him as opposed to calling him a fool.

Fred Merkle Our Favorite Scapegoat

Many fans know the biggest scapegoat in all sports was not Barman nor Bill Buckner, but Fred Merkle. Fred Merkle remains the most famous scapegoat in sports history although the Merkle game was over a hundred years ago. The Merkle game took place on September 23, 1908, and barely a day goes by when a blogger or someone in the media does not recount the story or make a reference to “Bonehead” Merkle. Our book, Public Bonehead, Private Hero, recounts the Merkle game and its aftermath. It’s a must-read for both sports and history fans.

History keeps repeating and you have to wonder if we ever get any smarter. It’s likely that Bartman is aware of what Fred Merkle suffered at the hands of media and fans because Bartman has suffered a similar fate essentially for doing what most everyone else in his circumstance would have done. Merkle's lesson for Bartman however, is rock-solid. You get up, dust off your shoes and get on with life. Merkle lived through World War I, lost his savings in the Great Depression and struggled to make a living through World War II. As if that wasn't enough, there was always some knucklehead around who wanted to call him Bonehead. My hope and prayer for Steve Bartman is that there are a lot less knuckleheads around who want to call his number after viewing "Catching Hell."
Copyright 2011, Sporting Chance Press

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Chicago Bears Middle Linebackers: "Defense by George"


Chicago Bear fans love their defense. If the number one goal of the Bears franchise is to beat the Green Bay Packers, certainly the number two goal is to field an awesome defense. This hasn’t changed as far as we can tell at Sporting Chance Press.

An awe-inspiring part of that defense has been the gifted linebackers who have played in the navy blue and burnt orange. The middle linebacker has been the most glamorous (if you can use that term in football) defensive position. Modern fans have enjoyed watching Brian Urlacher since the start of the new millennium. Before Urlacher, fans remember the great Mike Singletary who played from the 1981 season through the 1992 season. Barry Minter was a bridge between Singletary and Urlacher, playing steadily as starting Bears middle linebacker from 1994 into the early part of the 2000 season.

Almost a decade before Singletary, there was Dick Butkus who played from 1965 through 1973. And before Dick Butkus, there was another great middle linebacker. But the man who Butkus replaced, Bill George, is no longer a household name as are the more recent stars, but he is someone worth remembering in the genealogy of Bears players. George was one of the all-time best. He played for the Bears from 1952 into the early 1965 season when he was injured and replaced by Dick Butkus.

Urlacher-Singletary-Butkus

Urlacher was Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2000 and Defensive Player of the Year in 2005. He’s a seven-time Pro Bowler. Urlacher continues to impress fans for his power and speed. Commentators often talked about how Urlacher could cover receivers who were considered too fast for linebackers. Urlacher’s best on the 40-YD Dash is said to be 4.5 or even lower by some accounts. Mismatch was not a term used to describe Urlacher covering an opposing receiver. While he may be a little slower in his 12th season, his speed and quickness still surprise runners, receivers and quarterbacks. His recent play continues to show an athleticism that astounds fans.

Singletary was intense and intellectual. Chicago Bear fans appreciated his punishing tackles, his heads up play and leadership more than his crazed looks that the national sportscasters and cameras seemed to love so much. Singletary had a talented group of defensive players around him who won the Super Bowl in 1985. He stood out as their leader. Singletary made everyone around him that much better. He was a 10-time Pro Bowler and inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998.

Butkus will be remembered by many as one of the most intimidating players of all time and one of the most fun to watch. You could see the fear in the opposing team’s offense each time the ball was snapped and he was on the field. Number 51 played during a tough era for the Bears despite his presence on defense and Gale Sayers on the offense. The 1969 Bears went 1—13 for the season.

Yet, Butkus's career was stellar. During the Sayers-Butkus era, fans were treated to watching two of best players ever. Butkus is also endearing to Chicago fans because he came from humble south side origins and played his college ball at the University of Illinois. He epitomizes so much of what it means to play Bear football. Butkus was an eight-time Pro Bowler inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979.

Most fans are too young to remember Bill George. His name doesn’t come up in a lot of conversations these days, but he was a one of the best and a trend-setter. George was born in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, a coalmining region. He played his college ball at Wake Forest University. He was drafted in 1951 and played middle guard for the Bears in 1952. He was a ferocious competitor and feared throughout the league.

In those days, the middle guard was usually positioned at the line. On a pass, he would make contact with the offensive center and then drop back and cover. George decided that the contact was slowing him down and so on a passing play, he would drop back before the play was underway. In this way he was able to fill the space better and disrupt the shortest of passes in the middle. Essentially, George’s middle guard position morphed into what we call today the middle linebacker.

The middle linebacker quickly became a position that required all the defensive skills rolled into one: excellent sure handed tackling, pass rushing, pass defense, shedding blockers, quickness and speed---and extreme toughness to take a beating and dish one out. The unique central position on the field, several steps back of the line, also gave the middle linebacker a fine vision of the field. The middle linebacker became the field general that “quarterbacked” the defense.

Bill George was an eight-time Pro Bowler who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1974. He was key member of the Bears great 1963 Championship team. Sadly, Bill George died in a car crash in 1982. Bill George is a middle linebacker to remember along with the other greats.

Copyright Sporting Chance Press, publisher of Patrick McCaskey's Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships and Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout and other fine titles.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

U.S. Department of Education's Blue Ribbon Schools Giving Kids a Sporting Chance


At Sporting Chance Press, we like to acknowledge exceptional efforts on the part of athletes, coaches, teachers and administrators. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the Blue Ribbon Schools Program honors public and private elementary, middle, and high schools that are either high performing or have improved student achievement to high levels, especially among disadvantaged students. Each year since 1982, the U.S. Department of Education has sought out schools where students attain and maintain high academic goals, including those that beat the odds.

We'd like to congratulate all the schools and the teachers, coaches, administrators and parents behind them that achieved the Blue Ribbon designation. Below is a list comprised of schools in our home state of Illinois.

High performing List: Regardless of the school's demographics or percentage of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, the school is high performing. These are schools that are ranked among a state's highest performing schools as measured by state assessments in both reading (English language arts) and mathematics or that score at the highest performance level on tests referenced by national norms in at least the most recent year tested.


Carlinville Primary School
18456 Shipman Road
Carlinville, IL 62626-2442
Phone: (217) 854-9849

Epiphany Catholic School
1002 East College Avenue
Normal, IL 61761-3129
Phone: (309) 452-3268

Greenbrier Elementary School
2330 N. Verde Drive
Arlington Heights, IL 60004-2867
Phone: (847) 398-4272

Highland Elementary School
3935 Highland Avenue
Downers Grove, IL 60515-1515
Phone: (630) 719-5835

The Lane Elementary School
500 N. Elm Street
Hinsdale, IL 60521-3519
Phone: (630) 887-1430

Lincoln Magnet School
300 S. 11th Street
Springfield, IL 62703-1204
Phone: (217) 525-3236

Mary, Seat of Wisdom Catholic School
1352 S. Cumberland Avenue
Park Ridge, IL 60068-5121
Phone: (847) 825-2500

Northside College Preparatory High School
5501 N. Kedzie Avenue
Chicago, IL 60625-3923
Phone: (773) 534-3954

Queen of the Rosary School
690 Elk Grove Boulevard
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007-4262
Phone: (847) 437-3322

Robert Frost Junior High School
320 W. Wise Road
Schaumburg, IL 60193-0000
Phone: (847) 357-6800

St. Emily School
(Shown in photo)
1400 E. Central Road
Mount Prospect, IL 60056-2650
Phone: (847) 296-3490

Saint Joan of Arc School
4913 Columbia Avenue
Lisle, IL 60532-3503
Phone: (630) 969-1732

Saint Linus School
10400 S. Lawler Avenue
Oak Lawn, IL 60453-4717
Phone: (708) 425-1656

St. Paul of the Cross School
140 S. Northwest Highway
Park Ridge, IL 60068-4253
Phone: (847) 825-6366

St. Therese Chinese Catholic School
247 West 23rd Street
Chicago, IL 60616-1996
Phone: (312) 326-2837

Wood Oaks Junior High School
1250 Sanders Road
Northbrook, IL 60062-2906
Phone: (847) 272-1900

Improving schools: These are schools with at least 40 percent of their students from disadvantaged backgrounds that have reduced the achievement gap by improving student performance to high levels in reading (English language arts) and mathematics on state assessments or tests referenced by national norms in at least the most recent year tested.

Audubon Elementary School
3500 North Hoyne Avenue
Chicago, IL 60618-6112
Phone: (773) 534-5470

Mohawk Elementary School
917 W. Hillside Drive
Bensenville, IL 60106-1819
Phone: (630) 766-2604

Sorento Elementary School
510 S. Main Street
Sorento, IL 62086-0068
Phone: (217) 272-4111

More information on the program can be found here.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Patrick McCaskey Featured on Shelia Liaugminas Radio Show

A Closer Look, Relevant Radio's popular show hosted by Shelia Liaugminas, feature an extended interview with Chicago Bears Senior Director Patrick McCaskey on Thursday, September 22. Ms. Liaugminas, an avid sports fan, asked McCaskey about his latest book Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout. McCaskey talked about several of the inspirational people featured in his book and how sports and faith can live together even in the highest level of competition--like the NFL. He also talked about Sports Faith International, an initiative he chairs that recognizes exceptional athletes who lead exemplary lives.

You can hear the entire program by going to the Closer Look calendar and clicking on the link under September 22, 2011.

Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout 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 and everyday people. McCaskey recalls the stories of those who strived to make the cut on and off the field—plus people who left comfortable lives to serve the underserved in extraordinary ways.

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy Award winning journalist with extensive experience in both secular and religious journalism. She has reported for Time magazine for more than twenty years and has been published in the Chicago Tribune, Crain’s Chicago Business, the National Catholic Register and the National Review Online.

Patrick McCaskey is Senior Director of the Chicago Bears and chairman of Sports Faith International. McCaskey is the grandson of Bears founder George Halas and has worked for the Bears in many capacities over 37 years of service.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Today is Merkle Day

Today, Merkle Day, September 23rd, is the day dedicated to the greatest scapegoat in sports history, Fred Merkle. It is the anniversary of the game that started it all. Sporting Chance Press author Mike Cameron wrote the book on Fred Merkle. Literally. We call it Public Bonehead, Private Hero: The Real Legacy of Baseball's Fred Merkle.

On September 23, 1908, 19-year old Fred Merkle was the youngest player on the New York Giants. He was slotted into the lineup at first base to replace a wounded veteran against the mighty Chicago Cubs of Tinker, Evers and Chance fame. 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 been enforced, especially when the winning hit traveled to the outfield. September 23 however, was different. Merkle was called out, the game was ruled a tie, a protest ensued and at the end of the season a rubber match was played for the Pennant because the mighty Cubs and feisty Giants had identical records for the season. The Cubs won the rubber match, the Pennant and the World Series.

Merkle was unfairly Christened "Bonehead" from coast-to-coast.

Each year, the Merkle game is discussed in TV and radio booths, in newspapers and in other printed and electronic venues. Media contacts looking for a Merkle expert can write us here at Sporting Chance Press (lmj.norris@gmail.com) to set up interview time with Cameron who is happy to help explain the context of the game and what happened to Merkle during and after his playing career.

One of Merkle's greatest fans is David Stalker of Watertown, Wisconsin. Watertown is the birth place of Fred Merkle. David is a sports historian who has been instrumental in honoring many of baseball's greatest players from the Deadball Era. Here is the Facebook page that shows the monuments that David has put up. Here's a wonderful short piece on Fred Merkle written by David.

Recently, Mike Cameron was interviewed by a Toledo newspaper for the Merkle story. The Merkle's moved from Watertown to Toledo and that's where Merkle played his high school ball. Once the Toledo story publishes, we will provide details on Sporting Chance Press Talk here.

You can get the inside scoop any time by simply ordering your own copy of Public
Bonehead, Private Hero at Sporting Chance Press.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Great Reviews for Maddie Takes the Ice

Maddie Takes the Ice was selected for the 2011 America's Battle of the Books program and that program provides exposure to many schools. We've also received excellent reviews from three renown skating sites.

Maddie Takes the Ice got a nice plug from Tony Wheeler on his blog called flutzingaround.com. His review is linked here. If you are interested in what's going on in skating, I think Tony's blog deserves a look: http://www.flutzingaround.com Flutzing Around is also on Facebook.

Maddie Takes the Ice was also reviewed by Jo Ann Schneider Farris, About.com Figure Skating. Link to it here. I've been impressed by the quality of the people who manage different subjects for About.com and I think Jo Ann is a real skating insider who cares about her audience and the sport. Like Tony's blog, give Jo Anne a look: http://figureskating.about.com/

Another review of Maddie Takes the Ice can be found at icemom.net. Read Ice Mom's review here. Home base for Ice Mom is http://icemom.net/#

Author Nicolette House continues to skate and train. For the latest on her see Ice Talent Inc. here. Nicolette's skating partner is Aidas Reklys--the American-Lithuanian duo competed in U.S., European and Internationally. Both Nicolette and Aidas coach in the Chicago area. Photo can taken in Sun Valley, courtesy of Ice Talent Inc.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Skaters Profiled in Our Books

One of Sporting Chance Press's authors is Nicolette House, an accomplished figure skater who has competed nationally and internationally in ice dancing. Her book is a middle grade novel called Maddie Takes the Ice that is very popular with young girls and is an America's Battle of the Books selection for 2011. "Maddie" has the right mix of drama and fun to make it a great read for ages 8-12. Ms. House is also a wonderful role model for young girls. She presents at libraries and schools discussing diet, training, competition, family and figure skating. Her mother Ilona was also a professional figure skater and is a popular coach in the Chicago area.

Chicago Bears Senior Director Patrick McCaskey's Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout has a skating connection as well. One of the "devoted and devout" people discussed is Nancy Swider Peltz; also mentioned in the book is her daughter, Nancy Swider Peltz, Jr.

Nancy, "the elder," grew up in Park Ridge, Illinois and is a personal friend of the author. She made four U.S. Olympic Speedskating teams (1976, 1980, 1984 and 1988)--no other U.S. speedskater had done that. Nancy traveled extensively and competed internationally over two decades. She is now an accomplished coach.

Nancy's daughter, Nancy Jr., is an exceptional athlete as well and equally inspiring. Nancy Swider Peltz, Jr., is an olympic speedskater like her mom. Nancy, "the younger," competed in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and was coached by her mom. She placed 9th in the 3000 M race, the highest of all U.S. competitors. Nancy Sr. serves as Nancy Jr.'s trainer working to prepare her daughter for the Sochi Olympic Games in 2014.

For top athletes, there are many competitions that stand out in their minds as significant. For the amateur fan, we tend to put more emphasis on the Olympic Games. It is possible of course, for an athlete to win every major event in a span of several years, to be known as the best in her sport and then to fall short in the Olympics. There are others who may never win the top prize in national or (non-Olympic) international competitions and then peak right at the Olympic Games and take the Gold. It's that kind of drama that in part attracts fans to the Olympic Games.

In Nicolette's book, Maddie Takes the Ice, readers read about how a competitive skater must have excellent habits. A skater must eat right, get plenty of sleep and train for hours a day. As a student, the skater must also use any time outside of skating for homework and other responsibilities. What is normally sacrificed is TV time and to some extent hanging out with friends.

The Athlete must be willing to put in extraordinary effort to move up to competitive skating. At some level the athlete makes a pact with herself. "This is all worth it because my goal is very important to me--it's crucial." When an athlete no longer commits to her goal, the competitive edge is lost. "Maddie" uncovers a lot of life lessons, but takes great pains not to bore kids with lectures.

In Maddie Takes the Ice, the main character is committed to a goal, but she gets sidetracked by keeping too much inside herself. She decides to hide things from her mother and then she starts to falls apart. Things come back together for her once she opens up to her mom. The book offers a great message for kids and I am very happy to be associated with it. No doubt, it reflects a lot of things that the author and fellow skaters have experienced.
Kids will be smarter after reading it.

In Sports and Faith, there are many stories of people who have made great sacrifices for goals as well. Sports and Faith is about how sports and faith come together in many athletes' lives. Lessons in this book are spiritual ones. In some cases, like in Father John Smyth's, Father Joe Freedy's and the Reverend "Coach" Wayne Gordon's, featured in the book, all athletic pursuits are put aside for a "higher calling." The goal changes for these people. In other cases, McCaskey looks at other athletes who pursued their sports ambitions, but came to an understanding that the ultimate result is in someone else's hands.

Maddie Takes the Ice is a great book for young girls. It entertains and keep readers turning pages while presenting real life wisdom. Kids are inspired to pursue their goals in healthy ways.

Sports and Faith offers inspirational stories that focus on the the role of faith in life. McCaskey shows that for many top athletes sports and faith are not mutually exclusive, rather they are often part and parcel of our human makeup.

Maddie Takes the Ice and Sports and Faith, two books from Sporting Chance Press that we are proud to publish.

Note: Top image is Nicolette House in Sun Valley. Second image is Nancy Swider Peltz, Jr. at Vancouver Olympics. Nicolette House and her skating partner can be seen in various skating shows. See Ice Talent Inc. for the latest on her career. View a montage of Nicolette House and her skating partner, Aidas Reklys here.

Chicago Bears Senior Director Patrick McCaskey to Sign Books Tomorrow at The Book Stall at Chestnut Court


September 20, 2011: The Book Stall at Chestnut Court, Winnetka, Illinois

Patrick McCaskey will sign copies of his book, Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout at the Book Stall at Chestnut Court on September 20, 2011 from 7:00-8:30 p.m. Football fans will be able to meet and talk to the Chicago Bears Senior Director at the celebrated book shop.




The Book Stall at Chestnut Court
811 Elm Street
Winnetka, IL 60093
(847) 446-8880

Monday, September 19, 2011

Painful Bears Loss


After the Saints took it on the chin against the Packers, odds were they would be ready to play very hard against the Bears on Sunday. When I saw all five sportscasters on Fox Sports pick the Saints, I thought that maybe they hadn't been watching the Bears the last half of last season. I also wondered if they had seen the improved offensive line and improvements in Cutler's form and decision-making this year.

The game went well at first with Forte running very well and the line was giving Cutler enough time to pass. But it also seemed that Jay was falling back to some bad habits, running out of the pocket too quickly, waiting too long and throwing off balance. It looked to me that from the early portion of the game that Cutler was not going to have a great game, but I thought maybe the Bears could still pull it off with some strong rushing, tough defense and great special teams play.

At one time, in one of the early series, I saw Cutler and Gabe Carimi talking and Jay had a big smile on his face. That seemed to bode well. With Carimi rides a lot of promise for the Bears offensive line. It's amazing just how important offensive tackles are to the game.

The effectiveness of the Saints' pass rush and Cutler's ability to deal with it seemed like the key to the game offensively. As it turned out, in my opinion it would also turn out to be the key to the game defensively.

The Bears played well enough at first, but things fell apart. It looked to some sports writers like Earl Bennet was not just hit hard, but speared in the chest. Strike one, Cutler's go-to guy was gone. Gabe Carimi went down with a knee injury. Strike two, the new promising tackle was out. Once Cutler got into the scramble mode and the Saints smelled blood, the offense was on the field way too little and the defense was on the field way too much. And when Cutler is running for his life and the defense gets too many short rests, the defensive becomes beatable--strike three.

Cutler is really in a no-win situation at times with the Bears. If the receivers are not doing well--not getting open fast enough and not following through on their routes, it's hard for Cutler to throw the ball away because one down can look the same as the next. He presses and scrambles and tries to make something happen. Unfortunately, a lot of time it ends in a sack where the Bears lose yardage and Cutler takes a hit. It's easy to make a case that he should have thrown the ball away and should be much quicker with his passes, but the Bears receivers do not inspire a lot of confidence. Some suggest that if someone like Williams can step up and play very well, he can make the rest of the guys that much better. I suppose it's like having Julius Peppers on defense, it keeps the offense on edge all the time and they overcompensate. You do get a sense that no one on the Bears is scaring the opposing defenses and they need to do that. Maybe Forte is getting there.

The way the offensive line played in the second half suggested that schemes were too complicated for the players on the field. They were missing two starters. I suspect the Bears will look at making the simplification adjustment that they made at mid-season last year.

Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees passing statistics run at least five percentage points better than Cutler's and that may not change much. But, I believe the Bears defense is still better than the Saints or the Packers. If the Bears can patch up the offensive line again, simplify their offensive game plan and improve their running game--the defense will have them playing head-to-head with any team. That's a lot of ifs, but the stars have to line up just so for any team to become a top contender. The Saints had a lot of ifs that didn't happen last year; the Packers had a lot of ifs that did.

Simplifying the Bears game plan should be a slam dunk. Improving the running game often comes with time, but sometimes you have to take it on the chin in a game or two before it happens. Patching up the line is the hard part, especially if Carimi is out for a while. Carimi was already getting praise from the Bears great offensive tackle of the 1980s, Jimbo Covert (football card image above). The Bears need a Covert kind of guy to make the offense work over the long haul. I hope Carimi is that kind of guy.

The Bears were also hurt by the fact that two new veteran acquisitions, Roy Williams and Marion Barber were out. When the team is in the heat of the game trying to win and they lose two yards on a first yard run, it's hard to maintain a balanced attack. Maybe Barber would have made a difference and mixed things up more. Sometimes I think we miss Payton, not so much because of his long runs, but because he never seemed to lose any yards.

On a positive note, when your team plays one of the best teams early, your weaknesses are revealed and it gives you more time to adjust. The Bears will have another diagnostic test run when they play the Packers on Sunday.

Sporting Chance Press

Reviews for The 10 Commandments of Baseball by J. D. Thorne




At Sporting Chance Press, we are very proud of The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life) by J. D. Thorne. The 10 Commandments of Baseball is a mix of professional baseball stories and the author's affectionate retelling of his own amateur baseball experiences--all centered around fundamental baseball principles created by the most successful baseball manager in history. It has been called the "perfect airplane read" and a real "keeper." Short, sweet, inspiring and entertaining is the consensus thoughts of our customers.

Here are links to a few online reviews:

Bus Leagues Baseball

Live Strong Article

Bleed Cubbie Blue

The 10 Commandments of Baseball is available from a few select retail outlets: the National Baseball Hall of Fame store in Cooperstown, NY; Burghardt Sporting Goods in Brookfield, WI; and St. Anne's Gift Show in Orland Park, IL. Order copies online:www.sportingchancepress.com.

Schools Should Make the Most of Merkle Day to Combat Bullying



Here at Sporting Chance Press our books have discussed noble and inspiring athletes who have much to teach all of us especially our children. We believe sports themes and stories can be useful in education because they appeal strongly to kids--they are relevant. We have a book we believe will help teachers fight bullying in their schools called Public Bonehead, Private Hero: The Real Legacy of Baseball's Fred Merkle. First, let's look at one of baseball's most historic games.

September 23, 1908

September 23, 1908 is a day that many sports historians and baseball fans note on their calendars. It is the date of the most famous baseball game of all time. On that day, a 19-year old Fred Merkle of the New York Giants baseball team was slotted into the lineup at first base to replace a wounded veteran against the mighty Chicago Cubs. The teams were tied at 1—1 in the bottom of the ninth inning when Merkle came up to bat with two outs and Moose McCormick on first. Merkle rifled a single to right field that advanced 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, including most kids who play baseball, 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 been enforced, especially when the winning hit traveled to the outfield. September 23, 1908 however, was different. Merkle was called out, the game was ruled a tie, a protest ensued and at the end of the season a rubber match was played for the Pennant. The final extra game was necessary because the mighty Cubs and feisty Giants had identical records for the season. The Cubs won the rubber match, the Pennant, and the World Series--the last World Series won by the Cubs.

Wrong Time, Wrong Place Merkle

Merkle was unfairly Christened "Bonehead" from coast-to-coast.

At this time, there was no radio or television--the Newspapers were king. And the newspaper writers, were fighting tooth and nail for readership. Often they were known to stretch the truth for a good story. The writers could also be cruel and many used ridicule shamelessly. History calls these journalist "muckrakers" because they were also instrumental in pointing out social ills and political corruption.

The writers decided to ridicule Merkle and they kept it up--not just for a few weeks, or a few months, but for a years--and their predecessors continued for decades. Even now, over 100 years after the Merkle game of 1908, there are media sources who call Merkle "Bonehead."

Merkle's Lesson for Today's Kids

Much has been written about bullying and the detrimental affect it has on kids. Bullying can take the form of physical bullying "on the playground," but today it can also take the form of "cyber-bullying." Social media is often misused to attack kids' characters and reputations--often in the guise of humor. Humor in its most base form can be employed to cause pain.

Although it may be modern in some ways, "cyber bullying" has much in common with older methods of maligning people in print. We believe the Merkle story is particularly instructive when it comes to teaching kids about bullying.

Here are some reasons why Merkle is a good lesson against bullying:

1.People of all types can be bullied. Merkle was a large athletic man who spoke two languages, was a gifted student and an excellent athlete. The press painted him as bumbling imbecile.

2. Bullying can have a long lasting impact. Almost fifty years after the Merkle Game, Merkle passed away and his "Bonehead" moniker was used liberally in obituaries for him. Do kids who bully others want kids to feel the pain decades after they have graduated? Do they themselves want to be remembered by classmates for their cruelty at 10-, 25- and even 50-year reunions?

3. Bullying can hurt an entire family. Merkle's wife and his daughters were deeply affected by the ridicule that followed Fred Merkle around.

4. Bullying can unfairly take things out of context to cause harm. It has been shown that Fred Merkle ran the bases as pretty much everyone else was running them at the time. But the papers paid little attention to this fact.

5. A lie often outlives the truth. Even today, most mentions of Merkle use his story as a metaphor of someone who does something stupid--yes even today!

On the plus side....

Merkle's story is compelling because he overcame the injury to live a good life. One positive point that author Mike Cameron makes in Public Bonehead, Private Hero is that Merkle stood up to the abuse. In addition to having to put up with ridicule over the years, like others of his generation he lived through the Depression, lost his savings, tightened his belt and went to work through two world wars. He kept living and working hard for his family. In middle age after decades of struggle, he and a business partner put together a highly successful fishing float business. He never gave up--never let others destroy him and he was a hero to his family and those around him. This is the lesson kids who are ridiculed can take from Merkle, never let the bullies win.

Teachers and parents can get the inside scoop any time by simply ordering a copy of Public Bonehead, Private Hero at Sporting Chance Press or ask your school or public library to order the book. We think it's not only instructive but interesting on a lot of levels. Author Mike Cameron is available for presentation on Merkle to schools, libraries and clubs. If interested, write us here at Sporting Chance Press (lmj.norris@gmail.com).

Sports can and should be used to teach children important lessons that they will remember the rest of the lives.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Forte Returns to New Orleans

As the Chicago Bears head into New Orleans to take on the Saints, sportswriters/sportscasters have pointed out that this will be a homecoming of sorts for running back Matt Forte. Forte attended Tulane University in New Orleans from 2004-2007.

Forte and Mewelde Moore go head to head on most every Tulane rushing record. Moore played just before Forte arrived at Tulane; he is a smaller stockier back who has been used more sparingly in the pros. Forte holds the single-season rushing and receiving record (2420), the single season rushing record (2127), the single game rushing record (342), and the record for rushing touchdowns (39). He also scored five touchdowns in two games, four touchdowns in one game, and three touchdowns in one game. At Sporting Chance Press, we believe Forte will be remembered at Tulane for a long time.

More on Forte's Tulane football records.

Besides all the accolades Tulane gets for being an excellent research university in New Orleans, it is also the largest employer offering 4,400 jobs to the community.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Bryan Bulaga at the Freeze and Gabe Carimi at Halas Hall

Bulaga
The Green Bay Packers selected Bryan Bulaga a University of Iowa standout in the 2010 draft. I was jealous. Bulaga is a Crystal Lake, Illinois native (my town and location of my company www.sportingchancepress.com) and I thought it would have been great to have him play for the Bears. You will recall that the Bears needed a lot of help on offensive line last season.

In the summer of 2010, just before training camp, Bryan was hanging out in line at the Freeze ice cream stand in Crystal Lake. The Freeze is one of the landmarks in town. It's a very 50-ish kind of place. Imagine an old McDonalds, remove the arches, cut off the back end--then add crowds, swarming insects waiting for you outside and a parade of cars pulling in and out--that's the Freeze. It's a happening kind of place.

My wife and two youngest daughters were in line at the Freeze. They could see a few people approaching an extra large young man half a dozen people ahead and asking for his autograph. My wife turned to my daughter and half kidding said, go up there and ask him for his autograph. My daughter looked at her incredulously and asked, "Who is he?" The woman in front of my wife in line said, "no fair lady, you have to know who someone is before asking for their autograph." They both laughed and my wife said, I was just kidding, I don't even have anything for him to sign. They continued to watch this good natured giant sign anything he was handed--although most people in line had no idea who he was. When my wife got to the counter, the giant had left. Another patron told her the big guy was Bryan Bulaga.

According to the Packers web site, "Bulaga was drafted as their left tackle for the future, but became the right tackle of the present." Bulaga started the final 12 games of the regular season and rolled right through the post season. He earned Pro Football Weekly/Pro Football Writers Association all-rookie honors.

I think for fans it might be difficult to gage the performance of an offensive lineman. What is visible is a holding call, a missed block that leads to a sack and other negatives. But according to most analysts, Bulaga is coming along just a fine and the Packers are high on him. After all, he's playing for the Super Bowl winner protecting the premiere quarterback. Toward the end of last season in a game against the Bears, he had two holding calls and two false starts. Julius Peppers lined up on his side quite a bit and Julius can make a lot of veterans look bad! According to some, the Bulaga sky was falling. But he had no penalties throughout the playoffs. His own assessment of his first season:

I had ups and downs. I’ll be the first one to say it. But I thought down the stretch I played some really good football, did a lot of good things. It’s hard to say you didn’t have a good year when you walk away with the Super Bowl championship.


As for this season, Coach McCarthy has remarked that Bulaga has shown great improvement. I am not sure if Bryan Bulaga went to the freeze this summer, but I'd be willing to bet that a lot more people recognized him if he did.

Carimi

The Bears snagged their own monster offensive lineman when they selected Gabe Carimi, the 29th pick in the draft. Wisconsin offensive tackle Gabe Carimi won the Outland Trophy, which goes to the best interior lineman college football. Carimi studied civil and environmental engineering and was named Academic All-Big Ten for four straight years.

In a recent Sun Times article, former Bears great Jumbo Covert was asked about Carimi:

He’s well-coached. He has the body, the height, the mass, the long arms and athletic ability you look for. He has the tenacity and a little bit of that defensive mentality that you need. He has all the intangibles.


Carimi is the starting right tackle for the Bears.

Although a rookie, Carimi is 23 and actually older than second-year man Bulaga. Bulaga is 22 and last year at 21 was the youngest player to start in a Super Bowl. According to Spotrac, Carimi signed a 4-year $7,056,000 deal that included a $3,631,672 signing bonus. Bulaga signed a 5-year $12,210,000 with $8.76 Million guaranteed. Both Carimi and Bulaga have a lot of upside on their salaries if they become a couple of the best tackles in football. Jake Long of Miami who some consider the best, averages over $10 Million in annual salary.

Bryan Bulaga Card Shown Above



Copyright 2011, Sporting Chance Press

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

How Wheaton Ice Man Saved Professional Football


The history of the NFL was fraught with peril. Many times over the course of its history, it didn't look like it would survive financially.

George Halas sat on a running board in the Canton Ohio car showroom of Ralph Hay on September 17, 1925 with 14 other excited men that established the American Professional Football Association which was later called the National Football League. Failure however would prove to be the norm as dozens of teams came and went during the first few decades of the league's existence.

A few teams succeeded. The Racine Cardinals had joined the league with the Bears and like the Bears would be an orignal charter team to survive until today. The Green Bay Packers joined the fledgling new league shortly after it was established, but they were impaired by financial weaknesses that made them an on-again off-again team in the early days. In 1925 Tim Mara an entrepreneur and legal bookmaker bought the rights to a New York team that would become the Giants. The New York franchise was critical for the success of the league, but in those days New York was a baseball town.

It was probably not players' salaries that created the greatest challenge then. In the early days, most players were paid $50 to $100 per game. Often the ticket price was $1 and during this period it is estimated that the Bears were pulling 7-10,000 fans at home games and about 5,000 away. With that kind of attendance and cheap seats, in 1925, things looked desperate.

Grange Saves the Game

The fledgling football world was hit by a meteor from the University of Illinois. Harold "Red" Grange was football's first superstar and he brought huge numbers of fans to games wherever he played. Some credit Grange with bringing college football into the national limelight. It's hard to argue. Grange who worked as an ice man during his summers in Wheaton, Illinois was big news.

When the Illini played Michigan in 1924, Grange scored four touchdowns in the first 12 minutes of the game. He ran back the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown, and scored three more touchdowns on runs totaling 167 yards. Later in the game, Grange scored another touchdown on an 11-yard run and passed for a sixth score to give Illinois a 39-14 that put an end to a Michigan 20-game unbeaten streak. Totals for the day were 402 yards -- including 212 rushing, 64 passing and 126 on kickoffs. His play became a national story--Grange was on the cover of Time Magazine October 4, 1925--two years before Knute Rockne would grace the cover in 1927.

Theater owner and promoter C. C. Pyle approached the Chicago Bears owner George Halas and convinced Halas to sign Grange after the college season. Grange had just finished his junior year so he was leaving school early employing Pyle to represent his professional interests. Pyle was a tough negotiator whose nickname "Cash and Carry" seemed appropriate. Halas agreed to unprecedented terms for Grange's services. Perhaps taking a clue from baseball's highly successful barnstorming tours, Halas created an ambitious schedule that included both NFL and exhibition games that would put Grange in the spotlight and help lift professional football out of the doldrums.

Beginning on Thanksgiving Day, Grange suited up as a Chicago Bear and attendance exploded to 36,000 fans. The Bears and Grange would continue to play until mid-February under grueling schedule that left the players totally exhausted, but was credited with saving the game financially. In one game out east, a crowd of 65,000 showed up at the Polo Grounds to see the Bears defeat the Giants 19-7. That game not only helped the Bears, some say it saved the Giants franchise.

It was reported that the deal that C.C. Pyle concocted for Grange paid handsomely--some say it was a $100,000 contract; others put the total value of the deal in the area of $250,000. Regardless, it was huge money for Grange.

Pyle would move on to established his own league, the American Football League that featured Grange, but failed due to lack of attendance outside of the New York team games. In 1927, the NFL awarded Pyle the NY Yankee football franchise, but that failed as well and a few years later Grange signed another lucrative contract with the Bears. Grange was never the same however, having injured his knee playing for Pyle in New York. He would however adjust and become a very good defensive back whom the Bears loved.

Many football writers say that without Grange, professional football would have collapsed. He helped increase the gate especially in 1925 and he certainly showed just how exciting the game could be for spectators.

Copyright 2011 by Sporting Chance Press. Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of Chicago Bears Senior Director Patrick McCaskey's new book Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout. McCaskey's book is his personal chronicle in which he takes stock of faithful and inspirational people he has known both on and off the football field.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Growing Number of Book and Gift Stores Carry "Sports and Faith" by Patrick McCaskey Senior Director of Chicago Bears


Below is a list of bookstores that carry Patrick McCaskey's Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout:

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

Holy Family Books and Gift Shop
1515 Palatine Road
Inverness, IL 60067

Lagron Miller
4517 N. Sterling
Peoria, IL 61615
[Country Cottage Kiosk LaSalle Mall –also supplied by Lagron-Miller]

Lake Forest Book Store
624 N. Western Ave.
Lake Forest, IL 60045

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

Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House Bookstore
5353 East 56th Street
Indianapolis, Indiana 46226

Our Lady of Perpetual Help
16708 S. Oak Park Avenue
Tinley Park, IL 60477

Pax Vobiscum Book and Gift
227 S. Third Street
Geneva, IL 60134

Saint Anne’s Gift Shop
15160 S. LaGrange Rd
Orland Park, IL 60462

St. Mary of the Angels Angelorum Bookstore
1850 North Hermitage Avenue
Chicago, IL 60622

St. Peter's Books & Gifts
(Photo of St. Peter's shown above)
110 W. Madison Street
Chicago, IL 60602-4102

The Book Stall At Chestnut Court
811 Elm Street
Winnetka, IL 60093

Wheaton Religious Gifts
113 W Front St.
Wheaton, IL 60187

Sports and Faith is also available from the publisher's web site www.sportingchancepress.com.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Red Grange and Papa Bear


The history of the Bears is in many ways the history of the NFL. George Halas was Papa Bear to Chicago, but his position in the orbit of NFL football was essential for many reasons.

It was Halas who sat on a running board in the Canton Ohio car showroom of Ralph Hay on September 17 with 14 other men to establish the American Professional Football Association which was later called the National Football League.

It was Halas who by sheer force of will kept standing while dozens of teams fell around him.

It was Halas who would play 10 years and coach for 40 seasons. No man could tell Papa Bear that he didn't know what it was like to play the game.

Owning a professional football franchise was a risky investment--at least until well after World War II. Within a few years of the league forming, other storied teams (besides the Bears and Cardinals) got their start, but it was never easy. The Green Bay Packers joined the fledgling new league, but they were impaired by financial weaknesses that made them an on-again off-again team in the early days. In 1925 Tim Mara an entrepreneur and legal bookmaker bought the rights to a New York team that would become the Giants. Professional football was still struggling in 1937 when Football Commissioner Joe F. Carr recruited a successful fight promoter and gambler Art Rooney as an owner in Pittsburgh.

Joe F. Carr

Carr was a brilliant administrator and marketer who is credited with much of the organizational work that helped the NFL survive. As NFL President from 1921-1939, Carr was also quick to take on a problem and resolve many issues that threatened the credibility and reputation of the league. Carr was also involved in many sports endeavors outside his office in the NFL.

Art Rooney

Pittsburgh owner Art Rooney was special. Like George Halas, he was an athlete himself. He played football, baseball and boxed--and loved all three sports his entire life. The Rooneys, the Maras and the Halas-McCaskeys are wonderful owner families who continue to give back generously to their communities along with others who have also made their mark.

Early Struggles

In the early days, most players were paid $50 to $100 per game. Often the ticket price was $1 and during this period it is estimated that the Bears were pulling 7-10,000 fans at home games and about 5,000 away. In 1925, things looked desperate.

Grange Changes Everything

The fledgling football world was hit by a meteor from the University of Illinois. Harold "Red" Grange was football's first superstar and he brought huge numbers of fans to games wherever he played. Some credit Grange with bringing college football into the national limelight and most believe he did the same for professional football.

When the Illini played Michigan in 1924, Grange scored four touchdowns in the first 12 minutes of the game. He ran back the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown, and scored three more touchdowns on runs totaling 167 yards. Later in the game, Grange scored another touchdown on an 11-yard run and passed for a sixth score to give Illinois a 39-14 that put an end to a Michigan 20-game unbeaten streak. Totals for the day were 402 yards -- including 212 rushing, 64 passing and 126 on kickoffs. His play became a national story--Grange was on the cover of Time Magazine October 4, 1925--two years before Knute Rockne would grace the cover in 1927.

Grange was nicknamed the "Galloping Ghost" and lauded by legendary writers Grantland Rice, Warren Brown, Ring Lardner and Damon Runyan.

Halas was approached by theater owner and promoter C. C. Pyle to sign Grange after the college season. Grange had just finished his junior year. Pyle who would get a nickname of his own, "Cash and Carry," had convinced Grange to let him represent his professional interests. Pyle was a tough negotiator and Halas agreed to unprecedented terms for Grange's services. Perhaps taking a clue from baseball's highly successful barnstorming tours, Halas created an ambitious schedule that included both NFL and exhibition games.

Beginning on Thanksgiving Day, Grange suited up as a Chicago Bear and attendance exploded to 36,000 fans. The Bears and Grange would continue to play until mid-February under grueling schedule that left the players totally exhausted, but was credited with saving the game financially. In one game out east, a crowd of 65,000 showed up at the Polo Grounds to see the Bears defeat the Giants 19-7. That game not only helped the Bears, some say it saved the Giants franchise.

It was reported that the deal that C.C. Pyle concocted for Grange paid handsomely--some say it was a $100,000 contract; others put the total value of the deal in the area of $250,000. In today's dollars, that's $3,167,326.59 according to the Dollar Times calculator. Think of how the average player might have felt when comparing a salary of less than $1500 with Grange's $250,00 or think in today's dollars --comparing a salary of roughly $18,000 to over $3 Million.

When Pyle and Grange came back to Halas the following year, they had even greater demands including a large ownership interest in the Bears. Halas rejected the offer. Pyle established his own league, the American Football League that lasted just one season. In 1927, the NFL awarded Pyle the NY Yankee football franchise, but Grange suffered a devastating knee injury that ruined his running career. Grange returned to play for the Bears from 1929-1934 as a superb defensive back. He coached briefly and ended up working as a Bears football analyst from 1947-1961.

Many football writers say that without Grange, professional football would have collapsed. Certainly 1925 was a year that George Halas went way out of his comfort zone (if an NFL owner could have one in those days) to save the game. Not only did Red Grange leave the University of Illinois after three years, but terms of his contract were unprecedented and dictated in large part by a sports agent. Some think of player demands and salaries being outrageous today! Halas and others would come back later and establish a rule that no college player could play professional football until after his class had graduated.

Copyright 2011 by Sporting Chance Press. Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of Chicago Bears Senior Director Patrick McCaskey's new book Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout. McCaskey's book is his personal chronicle in which he takes stock of faithful and inspirational people he has known both on and off the football field.

Hows the NFL Began: September 17, 1920


Firsts are often hard to trace. Professional football teams, if defined as organizations that paid their players, were around for some time before the most organized and ambitious owners created a professional football league. An early professional contract can be traced back to as early as 1892, but historians have set the origins of the first professional football league to a meeting in Canton, Ohio on September 17, 1920. The 91st anniversary is just a few days away.

Ohio had a strong history of football from the earliest of days. A number of teams in Ohio were competing with each other on the field and for fans. Some attempt to reign in the chaos that was created by poor scheduling and unbridled player recruiting, inconsistent player salaries and various disputes had been made within Ohio itself without much success. An Ohio conference was created that included the Canton Bulldogs, Akron Pros, Cleveland Tigers, and Dayton Triangles in August, 1920.

A formal meeting of teams on a larger geographical scale was scheduled for September 17, 1920 at the request of automobile dealer Ralph Hay who owned the Canton Bulldogs. The Bulldogs featured the famous Jim Thorpe. Patrick McCaskey, grandson of George Halas, has stated that it was Halas who wrote Hay suggesting a national league be formed. We do know that it was Hay who wrote and invited the others. It's been said that Hay and others knew that their teams could draw fans outside of Ohio in other Midwest states where they were also known. Fourteen men showed up at the meeting representing 10 organizations. Seating was scarce and the men ended up out in the showroom where George Halas found a running board to sit on. The American Professional Football Association was formed and minutes were taken to memorialize the groups decisions.

Teams represented at the September 17th meeting included Canton, Akron, Cleveland, Dayton, Rochester, Hammond, Rock Island, Muncie, Decatur and Chicago.

Of those original teams, only Decatur and Chicago survived. The Decatur team was called the Staleys owned originally by the A.E. Staley Starch Company and organized by Staley employee George Halas whose college experience at the University of Illinois and his coaching and managing skills gained by running teams at the Great Lakes Training School would pay dividends. The Halas family (Halas-McCaskeys) still own the Bears.

The Chicago Team was called the Racine Cardinals. It was organized on the south side of Chicago with players and fans living adjacent to Racine Avenue. From its earliest days, people have confused the origins of the team thinking that it had come from Racine Wisconsin. The Racine Cardinals would become the Chicago Cardinals and exist today as the Arizona Cardinals.

The Staleys with Halas as it's owner would move to Chicago after the Staley Starch Company could no longer afford to field it. With financial help from Staley, the team would become the Chicago Staleys for one year and then the Chicago Bears.

The original teams would play outside the listed teams in their first year and so some suggest that other teams that were active in the first season should also be considered charter members of the league. In June of 1922, the league's name would be changed to the National Football League.

See the images of the original September 17, 1920 Meeting Minutes here from the National Hall of Fame website.

Compiled by Sporting Chance Press. Photo of Odd Fellows Building, Canton OH home of the Ralph Hay's Dealership.

Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of Patrick McCaskey's new book, Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout.

Chicago Sun Times Reports on Patrick McCaskey Speech at Marian Catholic High



The Chicago Sun Times covered Sporting Chance Press author and Chicago Bears Senior Director Patrick McCaskey's presentation on sports and faith at Bishop Perry's Father and Son Conference on September 10, 2011 at Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights. The event was sponsored by Catholic Men of Chicago Southland, Young Adult Ministry of the Archdiocese of Chicago, and the Office for Black Catholics of the Archdiocese of Chicago. The article may be accessed here.

McCaskey is the author of a new book called Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout published by Sporting Chance Press.


Friday, September 9, 2011

The Human Side of Literacy



At Sporting Chance Press, we are interested in literacy and the development of healthy kids of good character.

Schools and libraries offer a number of literacy programs. Sometimes, the private sector gets involved as well and helps fund these in some way. Sports teams often work with large public corporations to sponsor a program. The team provides name recognition and media attention to drum up publicity/interest in the program while the corporation contributes much of the funds. Professional athletes chip in as well and attend program kickoffs and award ceremonies.

Competitions

Literacy programs like America's Battle of the Books (one of our books, Maddie Takes the Ice was a ABOB selection for 2011) are built on recognition and competition. They start with a book selection process that involves teachers and other reading experts. The experts help select a group of books that are listed by reading level and the organization creates some tools that can be adopted. Schools, classes and practically any division of students can compete against another. In these programs, one school may compete to see if its students can read more books than another. It might involve some kind of testing where students must show they read and understood a book. Other variations exists as well. But in the end, the idea is to create some sense of excitement about reading.

These literacy programs are wonderful and they don't have to be expensive for schools. Some use the Public Library facilities and books. These literacy programs are a great way to encourage reading.

Sadly, in some states a number of school libraries are closing due to budget shortfalls. This will involve job loss for school librarians and media personnel who are often helping our kids read and learn. This will not help literacy in the United States.

Early Readers are different

Literacy programs that promote reading through competition help kids who are already readers to become better and better readers. But sometimes I think the issue of literacy for the youngest of readers can get overlooked. Learning to read is often difficult for a child on a personal level. There is a different kind of struggle that takes place when a child is just learning to read. If it is not solved early, it can continue for many years and hold the child back in school and life.

Many kids are taught to read at home--in fact it may not take much formal teaching at all for many kids, just Mom or Dad sitting at home reading from a book with a child on their lap who points to words or pictures. Many kids learn this way and by the time they start school they are ahead of the curve.

But many kids enter school who have difficulty reading. In many schools there are wonderful programs that provide one-on-one reading help. But the bottom line for these programs is having a good teacher who understands the art of teaching reading who will work patiently with the child. Supportive parents are also a huge help. And if you are a parent who has had a child who struggles to learn to read, you know the incredible patience these teachers possess.

People are better than tools

I think many people don't understand that the actual tools used for teaching a young child to read are often just a cheap series of small books with large type and pictures. A child who is first learning to read in these programs is not given a small library, nor do they need a selection of books. In fact they may spend a couple months on a single booklet. Literacy tools for beginning readers are not very expensive at all. But what may be expensive in a school are the services of a good teacher. In many schools, Moms from the community help in these efforts. In my opinion, a good volunteer can do more than hundreds of books.

I disagree with people who believe technology is going to solve literacy problems. I have a friend who was a very innovative school superintendent who consults with principals now. She is a hard-nosed educator who managed finances very tightly in her schools that were urban and poor. She also did not suffer fools for teachers, but software programs did not impress her. She demanded teachers who could teach reading.

The best reading teachers may be a child's homeroom teacher. Sometimes it's a reading specialist, but not always. Nevertheless, I believe the first and best step to literacy for a child who is having difficulty reading is another human being.

Once a child learns to read, advanced skills will be honed when they practice the craft. Good teachers and libraries are necessary and good parental support is vital. Unfortunately, teachers know they cannot always count on parents. Many parents read very little and are not good examples for their kids. Some people think that schools are going to somehow change the parents. I don't think that was practical 50 years ago when it was touted and I don't think it's practical now.

I've heard the notion that I believe comes from reading studies that homes with books breed good readers. To me this might be one of those statistics that show a relationship, but not a cause and effect. Certainly if the parents are good readers, they are likely to have more books than a home in which the parents are not good readers. But I have a hard time believing that even if you dumped a truckload of books on the parents doorstep, the child would automatically become a good reader. There are programs that entice people to buy or donate books to provide children with their own little libraries despite their financial circumstances. I think these are wonderful, but again, I don't believe they should be the focus. The nurturing and development of good teachers is most important for the nurturing and development of good readers.

I believe young readers are developed by teachers, parents and librarians --not by software and piles of books whether those books are in paper or electronic form.
A child who is inspired by an enthusiastic teacher or librarian who reads an interesting story out loud is worth more than a stack of books piled sky high. Books are cheaper and more accessible than ever before. You can buy used kids library books at my library for 25 cents a piece. Access to books are not the problem. If you really want to get at the core of the literacy problem, support teachers and librarians. And if you are a grandparent and you buy a little one a book, sit down and read it with that child--and read it again--and again--and again.

Image from University of Texas, College of Education
http://www.edb.utexas.edu/education/departments/ci/

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Sports and Faith at St. Mary of the Angels



St. Mary of the Angels Angelorum Bookstore now carries Patrick McCaskey's Sports and Faith. The story is located at the church and is open around the Masses on Sunday. This church is one of the most beautiful in the United States and it is a landmark in Chicago. St. Mary of the Angels is located at 1850 North Hermitage Avenue in Chicago.

A campaign is currently underway to repair some of the most important features of the church. The church underwent an extensive restoration during the 1990s.

Principles Help Guide High School Athletes



Schools are looking for athletic programs to make a greater impact on students’ maturity and character. It’s an old song, but one that gets louder especially when something negative occurs that involves an athlete. Educators and coaches know that powerful examples help instill good values in students.

At Sporting Chance Press, we have a couple books that provide some excellent examples for students. These are books teachers and coaches will enjoy:

The 10 Commandments of Baseball and Public Bonehead, Private Hero

The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy’s Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life) by J. D. Thorne examines legendary MLB manager Joe McCarthy’s simple principles and illustrates them with the author’s own personal experiences along with classic stories from baseball’s golden era. McCarthy’s principles can be boiled down to short phrases like “always run them, take the bat off your shoulder, never quit, make the right play, respect authority,” and more. When coupled with brief story images of Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Willie Mays, Joe DiMaggio and dozens of others, the principles come to life. The 10 Commandments of Baseball teach kids about effort, doing things right and seeing them through. Thorne's book is fun to read and the reading level is accessible to students.

Public Bonehead, Private Hero: The Real Legacy of Baseball’s Fred Merkle by Mike Cameron is a historical and personal account of the most famous play in baseball history and the poor rookie who suffered from it throughout his life. On September 23, 1908, 19-year old Fred Merkle was the youngest player on the New York Giants. He was slotted into the lineup in a critical game against the mighty Chicago Cubs. When Merkle came up to bat in the bottom of the ninth with the score tied 1—1 and Moose McCormick on first, he rifled a single to right field easily advancing McCormick to third. Up next, Shortstop slugger Al Bridwell whacked a low liner that scored McCormack for the "win." But as was the custom at the time, Merkle turned from the base path and raced towards the clubhouse rather than tag 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. Unfortunately for Fred Merkle, in 1908 this rule had not been enforced, especially when the winning hit traveled to the outfield. September 23, however, was different.


The rule was enforced. Merkle was called out, and the game was ruled a tie. A protest ensued to no avail and at the end of the season a rubber match was played for the Pennant because the mighty Cubs and feisty Giants had identical records for the season. The Cubs won the rubber match, the Pennant and the World Series. Merkle was unfairly Christened "Bonehead.” He was vilified so severely by the press that today over a hundred years after the Merkle game, the name Merkle is still associated with the moniker "Bonehead."

Author Mike Cameron sets the record straight in Public Bonehead, Private Hero. The author establishes the historical context of the game and then recounts the 1908 season and its aftermath for Fred Merkle and his family. By understanding how an intelligent athlete like Merkle could be maligned and vilified (bullied by the press), students can understand the impact of bullying and ridicule in their own lives.

he 10 Commandments of Baseball and Public Bonehead, Private Hero should be part of every high school library and can be ordered at Sporting Chance Press. Both authors, J. D. Thorne and Mike Camero, are available to speak schools, clubs and libraries. If interested, please contact us at ljm.norris@gmail.com .

Above Image from Library of Congress, William Perlitch, U.S. Office of War

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Fred Merkle Finished His Career as a Cub


Fred Merkle is certainly one of the most well-known baseball players of all time. In fact, he is arguably one of the most well-known athletes of all time. He is considered by many to be the greatest sports scapegoat in history. He was bullied and maligned from 1908 until the day he died and beyond for no good reason. Even his obituaries recalled the "bonehead" play.

On September 23, 1908, 19-year old Fred Merkle was the youngest player on the New York Giants. He was slotted into the lineup in a critical game against the mighty Chicago Cubs. When Merkle came up to bat in the bottom of the ninth with the score tied 1—1 and Moose McCormick on first, he rifled a single to right field easily advancing McCormick to third. Up next, Shortstop slugger Al Bridwell whacked a low liner that scored McCormack for the "win." But as was the custom at the time, Merkle turned from the base path and raced towards the clubhouse rather than tag 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. Unfortunately for Fred Merkle, in 1908 this rule had not been enforced, especially when the winning hit traveled to the outfield. September 23 however, was different.


The rule was enforced.
Merkle was called out, and the game was ruled a tie. A protest ensued to no avail and at the end of the season a rubber match was played for the Pennant because the mighty Cubs and feisty Giants had identical records for the season. The Cubs won the rubber match, the Pennant and the World Series. The Cubs had actually played much better ball than the Giants the last few weeks of the season and were certainly the better team, but you wouldn't know that by the stories you read about the Merkle game.

Merkle was unfairly Christened "Bonehead" Merkle from coast-to-coast--after the September 23rd game and perhaps more emphatically after the Giants lost the rubber match for the Pennant. Merkle was vilified so severely by the press that today over a hundred years after the Merkle game, the name Merkle is still associated with the moniker "Bonehead." At Sporting Chance Press, we helped Mike Cameron set the record straight by publishing his book Public Bonehead, Private Hero which you can order at Sporting Chance Press. Cameron's book sets the stage historically and then recounts the 1908 season and its aftermath for Fred Merkle and his family.

Much has been made of the fact that it was Johnny Evers, who had alerted the umpire Hank O'Day to the rule that was enforced that day. Many have written about the play as if it had just occurred to Evers at the time and praise him for being crafty--and having tagged the base to force Merkle out. Evers may have been crafty, but he was also prepared for the game. Evers himself said that after a similar situation had occurred in a Cubs-Pirates game nineteen days earlier in which he didn't get the call, he had primed umpire Hank O'Day for just such a game. Evers would always be remembered for his heads up play that day. Merkle would always be remember for his "boner" even though he ran the bases essentially the same way everyone else had done up to that day. In Fred Merkle's case, life was not fair.

However, Merkle had a long career. He played for the Giants through 1915 with the respect of his teammates and manager John McGraw. He moved around to a few other teams as his career wound down. Although, Merkle played his last games for the New York Yankees in 1925-1926, his last full and productive MLB seasons were with the Chicago Cubs 1917-1920. In fact, Merkle played in the 1918 World Series where the Cubs took on the Boston Red Sox. Unfortunately for both Merkle and the Cubs, the Red Sox were a talent-laden team that won the Series 4 games to 2. The Red Sox boasted a young baseball phenom named Babe Ruth who was pitching that season. Ruth won two games in the Series with a stellar 1.06 ERA.

Some have argued that there is a Merkle curse on the Cubs because of the treatment he received following the Cubs-Giants game in September 1908. But these arguments seem a little silly when you consider that Fred Merkle himself was a Chicago Cub and played some of his best baseball in Chicago. Merkle certainly would have loved to have won the 1918 Series against the Red Sox!

Photo from Library of Congress Bain Collection