Chicago Celebrates A Century Of Baseball At Wrigley Field : NPR

Chicago Celebrates A Century Of Baseball At Wrigley Field : NPR.

Now that the basketball season (college) is over, it is time to shift gears and focus on another sure sign of Spring – the start of the baseball season! That actually came well over a week ago already (March 31), and the Detroit Tigers and the Chicago Cubs are well on their way to meeting in the World Series!

I didn’t say this year, for while the Tigers might make it, the Cubs are once again striving for baseball mediocrity. But who cares?! The season is underway and excitement is in the air!

WrigleyFieldOf special significance this year for Chicago Cubs’ fans and baseball history buffs is the 100th anniversary of that storied stadium, Wrigley Field. May news outlets are carrying special reports on this historic event this month. I picked NPR’s story (see the link above), in part because of the great slide show they have. And, yes, I do plan on visiting the park sometime this summer. :)

In that connection, author George F. Will has also written a book to mark the Wrigley centennial: A Little Place on the North Side: Wrigley Field at One Hundred (Crown Archetype, 2014), available at your favorite bookstore. And yes, I am purchasing this book – should be a great summer read! Here is part of the publisher’s blurb:

In A Nice Little Place on the North Side, leading columnist George Will returns to baseball with a deeply personal look at his hapless Chicago Cubs and their often beatified home, Wrigley Field, as it turns one hundred years old. Baseball, Will argues, is full of metaphors for life, religion, and happiness, and Wrigley is considered one of its sacred spaces. But what is its true, hyperbole-free history?
Winding beautifully like Wrigley’s iconic ivy, Will’s meditation on “The Friendly Confines” examines both the unforgettable stories that forged the field’s legend and the larger-than-life characters—from Wrigley and Ruth to Veeck, Durocher, and Banks—who brought it glory, heartbreak, and scandal. Drawing upon his trademark knowledge and inimitable sense of humor, Will also explores his childhood connections to the team, the Cubs’ future, and what keeps long-suffering fans rooting for the home team after so many years of futility. 

In the end, A Nice Little Place on the North Side is more than just the history of a ballpark. It is the story of Chicago, of baseball, and of America itself.

LittlePlaceonNorthSide-GFWillSo, on this Friday, we begin to mark the 2014 MLB season (including the Tigers’ affiliate, the Whitecaps, right here in Grand Rapids). Enjoy your own hometown (or adopted) team. And may the best teams rise and meet in the World Series. Go Cubs and Tigers!

Here is a part of the story that was published at NPR (audio is also available). Be sure and visit the slide show – a great summary of the history of Wrigley Field. O, and don’t neglect the part of the story that ties Wrigley to a Lutheran Seminary!

When the first pitch is thrown between the Chicago Cubs and the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday, it will mark the start of the 100th professional baseball season at iconic Wrigley Field.

The ball park on Chicago’s North Side, known as the Friendly Confines, opened as the home of the Chicago Federals 100 years ago this month.

The Cubs moved there two years later, and in all that time the Cubs have never won a World Series. There hasn’t even been a World Series game played at Wrigley since the end of World War II.

A unique aspect of Wrigley Field is its location — tucked away in a North Side neighborhood, and not in some centrally located downtown area or an island in a sea of parking lots.

Waveland Avenue, just outside the ball park, is surrounded by bars and restaurants and souvenir shops, but it’s also surrounded by single-family homes and small apartment buildings. There’s an elementary school just a block and a half away, and right across the street is a very busy Chicago firehouse.

“We love it. It’s what makes this firehouse special. It’s why I like working here,” says Capt. John Giordano of the Chicago Fire Department’s Engine 78, a lifelong Cubs fan. “Fifty years — I used to walk to the ball park when I was a kid. I grew up in Lincoln Square.”


Published in: on April 11, 2014 at 6:58 AM  Leave a Comment  
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MLB — Strange But True in 2013 – ESPN

MLB — Strange But True in 2013 – ESPN.

MLB team logosDid you realize that we are only a few weeks from the start of Major League Baseball’s Grapefruit League season? Yes, Spring training will soon be here! And Cubs’ fan fever will start all over again! For hope springs eternal (That is not my line.)!

So, before the 2014 season is here we had better look back on the wild and wonderful 2013 season. Actually, ESPN has done that for us with the above-linked article. And they have highlighted all the “strange but true” items for us, including one that involves the Cubbies! When you read them, you won’t believe these things really happened. Or that you missed these amazing events. But that’s baseball. I can’t wait for the 2014 season!

Here’s the beginning of the article. Read on and have fun – Friday fun! Baseball fun! Go Cubs! :)

How wild and crazy was the thrill-a-minute baseball season of 2013?

So crazy that a guy actually stole FIRST BASE! . . . So insane that an Angels rookie had to hit the first homer of his career TWICE — both off the same pitcher, but against two different teams! . . . And so downright nuts that Mariano Rivera entered a game in a save situation, spun a one-two-three inning and then DIDN’T GET A SAVE!

And if all that could happen in one year, it tells you everything you need to know about what a wacky, wonky, Strange But True kind of season it was. So now, before you get swallowed up by bowl games, confetti and Korbel Brut (not necessarily in that order), let’s look back at the 2013 collection of the awesome Strange But True Feats of the Year.

Published in: on January 10, 2014 at 6:26 AM  Leave a Comment  
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Fall at the PR Seminary (plus Hebrew Jeopardy & a Huge P-P Tournament!)

As we have been progressing through the beautiful Fall season here at Seminary, I have been taking some pictures from time to time of the changing landscape, as well as of some very special scenes that God has created. It truly is a special time of year, and though I am biased, I believe we have some of the most beautiful scenery around the country – maybe even the world!  Today for our “Friday Fun” feature, I include a few of these outdoor shots.

But, if you should think this is not exciting enough, stay with me – there was a special USA vs. Singapore ping-pong tournament in the Seminary basement a week ago Friday. Some of those pictures are below as well. Of course the USA won! Go USA!! Keep practicing, dear Singaporeans :)  (Click on any of the pictures to enlarge them.)

Curious wild turkey at backdoor - remember the  curious deer?1

Curious wild turkey at backdoor – remember the curious deer?!

A recent Fall sunrise

A recent Fall sunrise

Same sunrise looking to the west over the Seminary

Same sunrise looking to the west over the Seminary

Woods behind Seminary, taken this past Wednesday

Woods behind Seminary, taken this past Wednesday

Another shot of the woods behind Seminary

Another shot of the woods behind Seminary

Brad Gritters mowing the grass this week - final mow of the season? Probably not :)

Brad Gritters mowing the grass this week – final mow of the season? Probably not :)

Ever heard of Hebrew Jeopardy? I either, until these students did some group study of Hebrew!

Ever heard of Hebrew Jeopardy? I either, until these students did some group study of Hebrew!

The Singaporean Ping-Pong team: Ee Fong (Lim) and Aaron (Lim)

The Singaporean Ping-Pong team: Ee Fong (Lim) and Aaron (Lim)

The Singaporean P-P team doubles down!

The Singaporean P-P team doubles down!

The USA team swats to victory! Matt DeBoer and Ryan Barnhill

The USA team swats to victory! Matt DeBoer and Ryan Barnhill

Good sports! Victorious Team USA member, Ryan Barnhill receives his prize

Good sports! Victorious Team USA member, Ryan Barnhill receives his prize









New Thrift Store Books: A Famous Cat – and Even More Famous Cubs

deweydookIn the last few months I have picked up a few more Thrift store treats and treasures – personal books, that is – besides those I always find for the Seminary library and for the professors and students to purchase at a bargain. Today I will feature two of them.

The first is the story of a famous cat who lived in the library of Spencer, Iowa for 19 years. His name: Dewey Readmore Books. No, I am NOT kidding! Isn’t that a great name? And the story is even better, as told by the library director, Vicki Myron, who found him in the return bin of the Spencer Public Library one bitter cold Iowa winter morning. This is a story that will warm your hearts – for many reasons. It is a great Midwestern tale, true as the Iowa corn is tall. The copy I found is even signed by the author and Dewey. That’s what the signature says :) O, the title of the book is Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World (Grand Central, 2008). Here is the last part of Vicki’s introduction (“Welcome to Iowa”), which sets the stage for the rest of the story:

Around the corner from Sister’s Cafe, across a small parking lot and just a half a block off Grand Avenue, is a low gray concrete building: the Spencer Public Library. My name is Vicki Myron, and I’ve been working in that library for twenty-five years, the last twenty as director. I’ve overseen the arrival of the first computer and the addition of the reading room. I’ve watched children grow up and leave, only to walk back through the doors ten years later with their own children. The Spencer Public Library may not look like much, at least not at first, but it is the centerpiece, the middle ground, the heart of this heartland story. Everything I’m going to tell you abouut Spencer – and about the surrounding farms, the nearby lakes, the Catholic church in Hartley, the Moneta School, the box factory, and the wonderful old white Ferris wheel up at Arnold’s Park – all flows back eventually to this small gray building and to the cat who lived here for more than nineteen years.

How much of an impact can an animal have? How many lives can one cat touch? How is it possible for an abandoned kitten to transform a small library into a meeting place and tourist attraction, inspire a classic American town, bind together an entire region, and eventually become famous around the world? You can’t even begin to answer those questions until you hear the story of Dewey Readmore Books, the beloved library cat of Spencer, Iowa (pp.4-5).

By the way, Dewey Readmore Books even has his own website. Check it out :)

LoveofCubsThe second book is a classic alphabet book – on the Chicago Cubs! Yes, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing when I went shopping at Gary Vander Schaaf’s downtown Grand Rapids store (Credo Books) for some theological books a few weeks ago. As I looked straight on at some Greek and Hebrew language books, there on an endcap staring at me, beckoning me, was For the Love of the Cubs: An A-Z Primer for Cubs Fans of All Ages (Frederick C.Klein; Illistrated by Mark Anderson, with forewords by Ernie Banks and Chip Caray; Triumph Books, 2003). What a fun book! The illustrations (cartoon-like) are hilarious, and the stories of famous Cubs are great!

But of course, I have begun to read it to my grandchildren! They need to learn the alphabet – and about the most lovable baseball team in America – the Cubs! Here’s “Mr. Cubs”, Ernie Banks’, foreword:

Every sports team has a history, but few can boast one as illustrious as that of my team, the Chicaho Cubs. Organized way back in the 1870s, they’ve represneted the same city in the major leagues longer than any other club. And while they haven’t won a pennant for a while, they won plenty of them in the old days – and they’ve had great players all along. The spirit and fan loyalty of the Cubs makes them the favorites of many people, a lot of whom don’t live in Chicago. I hope that reading this book will help both kids and adults understand what makes the team special.

Indeed! Maybe you can find this treasure too. Have a great Friday! And happy reading, whatever you find!

Baseball’s Wit & Wisdom

Wit&WisdomofBaseballFor our second “Friday Fun” feature today, let’s return to that classic work of literature The Wit and Wisdom of Baseball by Saul Wisnia and Dan Schlossberg (Publications International, 2007). From the last section of the book, “Diamond Gems” I have selected a few Chicago Cubs specials – and one great Detroit Tigers item. Read on – and keep rooting for your favorite team, whether it is in first place (Tigers) or last (Cubs – sigh :( .

When the Cubs beat the Phillies 26-23 on August 25, 1922, the two teams produced the most runs in a single game. The Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox share the record for most runs scored by a single team (29).

William Schriver, catcher for the Chicago Cubs, was the first player to catch a ball thrown from the top of the Washington Monument, on August 25, 1894 (How many teams can make that boast?! -cjt).

Phil Wrigley, owner of the Cubs, was angered when ‘Chicago Daily News’ sports editor Lloyd Lewis ran a midseason box asking fans to vote for a new manager. Wrigley had to be restrained from running a Cub-sponsored ad asking for readers to choose a new sports editor (It’s that kind of passion that drives Cubs’ fans. -cjt).

From 1961 through 1965, the Chicago Cubs operated without a manger. Decisions were made by a rotating board of ‘head coaches’ (Probably not one of the better decisions by Cubs managment. But, they saved some money, I’m sure! -cjt).

With his Chicago Cubs trailing by nine runs one afternoon, manager Charlie Grimm, coaching at third base, dug a hole and buried his lineup card (No doubt he also wanted to bury a few players! -cjt).

And for you Tigers fans, here’s a great one – I simply love this little anecdote!

Detroit first baseman Norm Cash, already a strikeout victim twice, tried to break up a Nolan Ryan no-hitter with a table leg in 1973. Cash came to the plate with the sawed-off leg of an old table in the clubhouse (If you ever saw Ryan pitch – especially his fastball – you will understand Cash’s desperation -cjt).

Published in: on August 30, 2013 at 6:39 AM  Leave a Comment  
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The Wit and Wisdom of Baseball (2)

Wit&WisdomofBaseballI am thoroughly enjoying one of my recent Thrift store pickups – The Wit and Wisdom of Baseball (Publications International, 2007)! Having introduced you to it last week, and to mark the start of the second half of the baseball season, we give you a few more selections from this very fun book. Enjoy!

I like to see Quentin practicing baseball. It gives me hope that one of my boys will not take after his father in this respect, and will prove able to play the national game. -Theodore Roosevelt

We owe a great deal to Base Ball…. It is one of the reasons why American soldiers are the best in the world – quick witted, swift to act, ready of judgment, capable of going into action without officers…. It is one of the reasons why as a nation we impress visitors as quick, alert, confident and trained for independent action. -Chicago American, 1906

I know, but I had a better year than Hoover. -Babe Ruth’s response when a reporter pointed out his 1930 salary demand of $80,000 topped that of the President’s $75,000 salary

Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. -Satchel Paige

I always turn to the sports section first. The sports section records people’s accomplishments; the front page nothing but man’s failures. – Earl Warren

You don’t save a pitcher for tomorrow. Tomorrow it might rain. -Leo Durocher

Goodbye, boys, I am done with this kind of living. -Billy Sunday upon quitting baseball to go into preaching

God gave me an unusual arm. I’ve done well with it, and maybe I can keep doing well with it. I certainly don’t see anything to be angry about. -Sandy Koufax’s response when asked if he was bitter about having arthritis at age 28, “The Baseball Life of Sandy Koufax”

The Wit and Wisdom of Baseball

Wit&WisdomofBaseballLast week Saturday while browsing a local Thrift store for book treasures, I came upon not one, not two, but three good baseball books! In addition to the other good books I found (and this was a Catholic Thrift store!), it was a great day for books. The Story of Ty Cobb (New York: Julian Messner, 1952 – with a National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum sticker in it!), the famous Detroit Tiger, was the first one. Bob Costas’ Fair Ball: A Fan’s Case for Baseball (New York: Broadway Books, 2000) was the second. And third is my favorite, The Wit and Wisdom of Baseball (Lincolnwood, IL: Publications International, 2007) – a neat little book packed with baseball facts and quotes – and in the shape of a baseball!

Today I give you a few great “tidbits” from it to help you appreciate the great American pastime. Hope you enjoy :)

Perhaps the worst fielder of modern times was Dick Stuart, a stone-handed first baseman who took the field in the 1960s. Saddled with the nickname ‘Dr.Strangeglove,’ Stuart committed 29 errors in 1963. ‘Errors are part of my image,’ Stuart proclaimed. ‘One night in Pittsburgh, 30,00 fans gave me a standing ovation when I caught a hot dog wrapper on the fly’ (p.5).

Next to religion, baseball has furnished a greater impact on American life than any other institution.” -Herbert Hoover

Say this much for baseball – it is beyond question the greatest conversation piece ever invented in America.” -Bruce Catton

A hot dog at the ballpark is better than steak at the Ritz.’ -Humphrey Bogart

Washington – first in war, first in peace, last in the American League.’ – Charles Dryden on the lowly Senators

I am glad to hear of their coming, but they will have to wait a few minutes till I get my turn at bat. – Abraham Lincoln, on being informed of his nomination for President, 1860

I would like to take the great DiMaggio fishing,’ the old man said. ‘They say his father was a fisherman. Maybe he was as poor as we are and would understand.’ -Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

Rare 1897 Flipbook of Boxing Match

Library Journal.

Flipbook-1Does anyone remember these little “flipbooks”? While I don’t go back quite this far (1897!), I do remember books like this from my childhood, although the ones I recall were more cartoons than real life scenes. And, judging from the images on the web, they are still being made.

In any case, this 1897 flipbook is a real treat and captures a famous boxing event. The Library Journal featured this this past week (originally posted June 10, 2013). Here’s the link to see the book “in action”, and below is the brief introduction to it.

Imagine the impact of this 1897 flipbook, before television and radio!  Ringside seats to the championship match mean that the cover of this flipbook has been worn to bits.  I could safely capture a few images from the center to bring one punch back to life for you.

Living Photograph Flip Book. Novelty Export Co, 1897. 2 ¼” x 1 ½”.
James Corbett and Robert Fitzsimmons championship boxing match.

Notorious Baseball Player and Cubs Fan John Dillinger (Yes, the Bankrobber!)

Famed Bankrobber John Dillinger Once was a Professional Baseball Player.

A month or so ago I signed up for these “Today I Found Out” (Feed Your Brain) daily emails. They are usually quite interesting and informative, and sometimes just plain fun. This past Tuesday’s (July 2) was simply a “must use” for my “Friday Fun” features because it not only focused on baseball (which it does from time to time – check out this one too!) but also on a Chicago Cubs fan! A fan who ended up playing the game! And the fan was none other than the notorious bankrobber Johnny Dillinger!

JohnDilliinger-BaseballNow, you mustn’t think that all Cubs fan fall into this class. Dillinger was a crook, plain and simple! But we can’t help it if some Cubs fans are a little crooked. Ok, more than a little crooked. They do play in Chicago after all!

In any case, here’s some of the story on ol’ Johnny and the Cubs. Enjoy! And, “Go Cubbies”, crooks and all!

The John Dillinger that emerged from prison in 1933 was now a well-educated criminal. He instantly embarked on a bank robbing tear that both shocked and fascinated the nation. Criss-crossing the country and living constantly on the run, Dillinger still took the time to follow the Cubs. In between robberies, he was said to have attended more than a few ballgames at Wrigley Field. In fact, before one game in August of 1933, the bank robber was pointed out to outfielder Babe Herman as he sat with a group in the left field box seats. The Cubs great catcher Gabby Hartnett told how the Chicago police apparently knew about Dillinger’s presence at Wrigley Field yet did nothing to turn him into the Feds.

The following season he continued to attend games there, especially after he had crude plastic surgery done to alter his easily recognizable face. Hiding out in Chicago, Dillinger went to see the Cubs get edged out by Cincinnati 4-3 on June 8th. In a story that made newspapers nation-wide, he was in the upper deck at the June 26th game as they defeated Brooklyn 5-2. A guy sitting a few seats away named Robert Volk happened to have met Dillinger the year before when he stole a car during a prison getaway. He instantly recognized the arch-criminal and much to his chagrin, the robber recognized him, too. He got up and sat down close to the terrified man. After sitting in awkward silence for a while, Volk turned and said “this is getting to be a habit”, to which the country’s most wanted man replied “it certainly is.” Shaking his hand, Dillinger introduced himself as “Jimmy Lawrence” and departed during the 7th inning stretch. Apparently undaunted by the close call, he returned to Wrigley again a few days later and watched the Pirates get pounded by his Cubbies 12-3.

After the victory over Pittsburgh, the Cubs left on an extended road trip and were still out of town when Dillinger decided to pass the time by catching a movie at the Biograph Theatre. Of course, we all know what happened after that.

If he was also a White Sox fan he might have lived a little longer – they were in town that afternoon playing a double-header against the Yankees…

Why Chimps Don’t Play Baseball & Throwing a Strike: Contrasting Videos

Why Chimps Don’t Play Baseball: Scientific American Video.

ChimpPitcherNow we are going to feature a couple of contrasting baseball videos, both of which just happened to cross my screen yesterday – just in time for some “Friday Fun”, partly at the expense of the evolutionists at Scientific American, whose “scientific” claims sometimes reach the fantastic – as in “far-fetched”! Their video, included in their news notes from yesterday, claims that it’s all in how we “humanimals” evolved – shoulder-wise, that is. Here’s the introduction – catch the video at the link above. And, remember, don’t be fooled by this ‘science”!

Humans are much better at throwing than any other animal. Even our closest living relatives, chimpanzees, can’t match our pitching performance. This video shows how our skill is down to the anatomy of our shoulders.


Now, contrast that presentation with this one from the Institute for Creation Research. Yesterday they posted Episode 31 of their “That’s a Fact” series of videos defending creationsism. This one is about “Throwing a Strike”, and it explains much better (truthfully!) how it is that we humans can throw a baseball the way we do. Well, some of us anyway :)


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