Monday, April 8, 2013

Spring Openers Sound New Start to Another Year of Merkle Misunderstandings

Spring is a good time to write about how Fred Merkle was lambasted for what many people perceive as a base-running error. It is perhaps the most famous story in baseball history, but one that is often misunderstood. Merkle ran the bases pretty much the way it was done in those days.

In Mike Cameron's Public Bonehead, Private Hero: The Real Legacy of Baseball's Fred Merkle the complete story is told. Yet, Merkle continues to be the butt of jokes on screwball plays in sports. It seems like every time a big-time goof is made in sports, the Merkle base running story comes up.And you can bet that the 2013 season will serve up more stories that will conjure up the Merkle game of 1908 and no doubt most of them will "have it all wrong."

Fred Merkle, was a young 19 year old New York Giant who was filling in for an injured veteran in an important game against the mighty Chicago Cubs in 1908. The game was tied going into the bottom of the ninth inning in the Polo Grounds. Merkle who was on first, walked off the base path and ran to the clubhouse after the apparent end of the hotly contested game when a teammate on third scored on a base hit to the outfield. Merkle was called out for not tagging second based on a rule that was rarely enforced (if ever) under the circumstances at the time. The players' flight from the field was even more common at the Polo Grounds because once a game ended a large part of the crowd exited right through the field. In those day, if fans didn't like a player's performance or an umpire's call, they might take it up with them right on the field seconds after the game. In some ways, you would have been a "bonehead" to stick around after a game!

The main reason why Merkle was called out that day is because Cubs second baseman Johnny Evers had primed umpire Hank O'Day for the call by discussing the particulars of the rule after a similar situation had occurred when the Cubs played the Pirates a few weeks earlier. A baseball article had also appeared in a newspaper question and answer feature calling attention to the rule and thereby calling attention to its obscurity and lack of use at the time.

Because thousands of fans had run onto the field on their way to the exits, the umpire ruled the game a tie rather than attempt to have the crowd return to their seats for extra innings. Merkle's team cried foul, but the press focused all of its muckraking venom on the unfortunate Fred Merkle and christened him “bonehead” for the remainder of his life. Merkle became baseball’s number one scapegoat and obviously continues in that role over 100 years later despite the efforts of Mike Cameron and others to set the record straight.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Now's the Time for Schools and Libraries to Start Planning for Winter Olympic Speakers: Consider Author and Figure Skater Nicolette House

It is not too early to start thinking about the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. The 2014 Games will be hosted in Sochi in the Russian Federation. The host city Sochi has a population of 400,000 people and is situated in Krasnodar, which is the third largest region in Russia. Now is a good time to book ice dancer, figure skating instructor and Sporting Chance Press author, Nicolette House for a presentation.

Nothing helps energize and inspire students more than a positive role model. In Nicolette's program, young readers get many strong positive messages. Students get a first-hand glimpse of what it takes for a young athlete to compete at a very high level. Nicolette talks about the importance of discipline in practice, the need to respect authority and communicate with Mom and Dad, and the necessity of a healthy diet to be at one's best. Nicolette also talks about how she came to write her book: Maddie Takes the Ice, a compelling figure skating story for ages 8-12 that has received high marks from many reviewers and educators. Nicolette's presentation is suited for elementary and middle/junior high school audiences and parents. It is a fun "show and tell" program that offers an up close and personal look at a positive role model for students.

Nicolette is a figure skater and coach. 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. Like her presentation, her book Maddie Takes the Ice keeps readers attention with plenty of drama and social interaction--life lessons included. More on Maddie Takes the Ice. If you are interested in having Nicolette speak at your school or library, please contact us at lmj.norris@gmail.com.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Life Lessons and Values from Sporting Chance Press Books

All our books at Sporting Chance Press convey positive values. The idea behind Sporting Chance Press is to produce books that do convey something worthwhile, something that will make the world a better place even if it is in a very small way. It helps to connect the dots from the various sports activities to the values to get the benefit.

In our book, The 10 Commandments of Baseball, the connection is very direct in that the book is about Joe McCarthy's baseball principles that can easily be applied to life. The author, J.D. Thorne, has given dozens of presentations on the baseball commandments and the fascinating people whose lives illustrate these principles. He's been to schools, community groups, clubs,  churches and synagogues with his entertaining message.

Perhaps even more easily seen is the value proposition in Patrick McCaskey's book, Sports and Faith. Unlike the other Sporting Chance Press books, Pat's slant is specifically Christian because it is entirely personal to his life and religious commitment.  Pat's subjects demonstrate value in their lives, from Coach Wayne Gordon who founded the Lawndale Community Church to Father Ignatius McDermott, the "Skid Row" Priest. He often features people doing their best for those who are the least fortunate around us.

In Public Bonehead, Private Hero, Mike Cameron examines Fred Merkle's "character assassination" in 1906 when he was labeled 'bonehead" by the press after his performance on the baseball diamond in a critical game. It may have been 1906, but the story couldn't be more timely when we look out a world that continues to haze, bully, and unjustly criticize others. The harm is especially wrong-headed when it is done for a kind of perverted entertainment value. Mike Cameron's fascinating story of good man who faced endless unfair criticism, discloses the harm that we do when we pass along unjust criticism of others and engage in name-calling.

You have to get into Maddie Takes the Ice a little deeper to appreciate the positive messages from this middle grade book.In this way the book avoids turning its highly sensitive audience off. We all know stories about "misfit" kids who are maligned by their peers. In Maddie, Nicolette House explores the world of someone who is not odd or an ugly duckling, foolish or forgetful. In fact, Maddie is a good student, an excellent athlete, and she comes from an excellent home. She is hard working in both figure skating and schoolwork. But the author shows that even in such a positive environment, a young athlete opens herself up to certain pressures, petty jealousies, and other challenges when she attempts to achieve something exceptional. The pressure Maddie puts upon herself is oppressive and it starts to impact her in unhealthy ways. In the end, she learns to seek help from those who are closest to her. She opens up to her mom and her coach, and it makes a big difference in her life.