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Monthly Archives: March 2014

Tour de Farley

The kids of south-central Farley in the late 80s and early 90s must have been expert bicyclists.

We rode our bikes in the most reckless fashion, all day long, and no one ever got injured.

Oh, and no one wore helmets. In fact, I’d be shocked if any household in Farley owned a bike helmet in those days.

One of our favorite things to do was latch on to a moped rider’s arm and have him/her pull us halfway across town. We did that constantly and never thought twice. Now I realize how dangerous that was.

We south-central Farley kids lived on our bikes when we weren’t playing baseball. My Schwinn Sprint could have navigated the town’s streets by itself after all the miles I put on it.

My proudest moment was outrunning the Hintgens’ scary dog one afternoon. That canine knew I was frightened of him, and he smelled blood that day. But I shifted into top gear and raced past Sweeneys, Streifs and Rauens. Eventually that dirty dog gave up the chase. Ha ha ha!

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Posted by on March 31, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

‘Opening Day’ by Terry Cashman

Verse 1:

I’ve been counting the days in the winter haze since the leaves began to fall

Now it won’t be long til the sun comes shining through

when the camps start breaking my spirit awakens to that irresistible call

of that old American song that’s always new

Refrain:

And the robin is here

the sky is so blue

there’s a band, there’s music, and the flags are flying too

The grass is so green, it’s like never before

It’s opening day … I can be a kid once more

Verse 2:

Will the champs repeat in the summer heat?

will the races go down to the wire

In April every team has a chance to wear the ring

and a rookie phenom who tore up the farm and the fans who never get tired

of chasing the dreams that dance in the air every spring

Refrain:

And the robin is here

the sky is so blue

there’s a band, there’s music, and the flags are flying too

The grass is so green, it’s like never before

It’s opening day … I can be a kid once more

Verse 3

So spen the gates and let the people in

Let the sun shine in

And may the home team always win

The robin is here …

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

100 things I love about baseball

As Opening Day nears, my ode to the greatest game in the world (originally published April 2009)…

  • I love how a baseball smells.
  • I love how hot dogs and beer taste better at a ballpark.
  • I love the crowd rising to its feet.
  • I love watching how effortlessly big-league infielders can throw a ball across the diamond.
  • I love the rhythm of a radio announcer calling a game on a July evening.
  • I love the one-on-one duel between a pitcher and a hitter that occurs more than 200 times each game.
  • I love double-plays.
  • I love how baseball infuses February and March with a burst of energy.
  •  I love Vin Scully: His stories about the old days, his anecdotes about each player who comes up to bat, and how he uses the crowd noise to add drama to the broadcast.
  •  I love that Vin Scully has been the Voice of the Dodgers since 1950. I absolutely LOVE that.
  • I love watching games with my wife and explaining to her the finer points of baseball. I love telling her old stories about the Dodgers. Even though all of it probably drives her nuts!
  • I love the idea of taking my little girl to baseball games when she gets older, and teaching her the rules.
  • I love hard sliders, Bugs Bunny change-ups and 95-mph fastballs.
  • I love day games at Wrigley Field, the ivy on the walls and that magnificent, old-time scoreboard in center field.
  • I love reading about the overpowering left arm of Sandy Koufax, and watching old highlights of him pitching.
  • I love it when broadcasters refer to Tommy Lasorda as a “great ambassador for the game of baseball.”
  • I love sacrifice flies and sacrifice bunts. They epitomize what “team sports” are all about.
  •  I love the fact that Sandy Koufax retired at the top of his game, and never tried to make a lame-ass comeback. I love how Koufax has never sought the spotlight since he retired. No one in baseball has ever had more dignity than the Greatest Left-Hander of All-Time.
  • I love my memories of playing stickball with my friends John and Matt when we were kids.
  • I loved going to the Farley Park batting cage for hours on end with Matt. All that practice didn’t make me a big-leaguer, but I’ll never forget how much fun it was to put bat on ball again and again. “Just 10 more line drives,” we’d say.
  • I loved playing sandlot games on Poodle Healy’s property in west Farley. Best days of my childhood were spent right there.
  • I loved playing “one vs. one” baseball against John in the big open lot next to his house. John’s dad Terry was the pitcher/first baseman, and those games were intense. I always left that field tougher than when I came, thanks to Terry’s pointers and prodding.
  • I loved eating sunflower seeds and joking with Eben during B-games my freshman year. Eben and I would play the A-game, then spend the next 90 minutes joking and laughing and spitting seeds.
  •  I absolutely LOVED watching Farley Hawks semi-pro games when I was a kid. Still do, in fact.
  • I loved watching Paul Scherrman, a former minor-leaguer, play for Farley. He was a terrific hitter and catcher well into his 40s, and I tried to do everything just like Sharm.
  • I loved seeing Farley ace John Ackerman, another former minor-leaguer, blow 90+ fastballs past opponents. The man could hit, too.
  • I loved it that Paul Scherrman trusted me to monitor the scoreboard and official scorebook at the Farley Tournament. When I was younger, he had me monitor the foul balls.
  • I love all the games my Dad took me to when I was a kid. Chicago and Milwaukee, usually. We never had a lot of money, but somehow Dad always found a way to take us to those games. It was a great treat and really shaped me as a person.
  • I love that I’ve been able to return the favor. I’ve taken my Dad and Mom to games in Chicago, Milwaukee and Minneapolis since I graduated and got my own job.
  • I love ol’ ball yards. They’re everywhere across the landscape of America. They’re rinky-dink, they’re outdated and they’re full of character. Three of my favorites in Iowa are Bernard, Westphalia and Placid.
  • I love the fact that “Field of Dreams” was filmed in my hometown and my home county. No other piece of pop culture had as much impact on my life. I cry at the end of that movie every time.
  • I loved seeing Kirk Gibson round those bases at Dodger Stadium after his dramatic World Series homer in 1988.
  • I love the image of Orel Hershiser taking a knee after fanning another clueless A’s player to end the ’88 Series.
  • I love and appreciate the fact that my favorite team won at at least one World Series in my lifetime.
  • I love sneaking my flask into Sec Taylor Stadium in Des Moines. Nothing better than whiskey-and-diet coke while you’re watching the triple-A Iowa Cubs on a hot Friday night.
  • I loved how my friends and I would pile into Dad’s Lumina and go to the Dyersville Tournament, the Cascade Tournament, the Holy Cross Tournament …
  • I loved that summer when I played all those games. I was about 14 years old. Three different teams, 50 games or so. That was a lot back in those days. I had 75 hits that summer. Yes, I kept track.
  • I love watching East Coast games on my dish at home in Ankeny, starting at 6 p.m.
  • I love switching over to the Midwest games, starting at 7 p.m., then catching the end of the East Coast games before…
  • … switching to the Dodgers game at 9:10 p.m. I REALLY LOVE watching the Dodgers on TV. It is my favorite hobby of all time.
  • I love talking about the Dodgers with my uncle Hub. He’s been a Dodger fan since 1955, and he turned me into a Dodger fan in 1985.
  • I love reading box scores in the newspaper. Some of my earliest memories involve this activity.
  • I love the Dodger Thoughts blog on latimes.com.
  • I love playing catch with my Dad. Did I mention that one already? It’s OK if I did, because I really like that one.
  • I loved pitching when I was a kid. I thought I was Doc Gooden.
  • I loved catching when I was a kid. I thought I was Paul Scherrman.
  • I always struggled to hit, even when I put up good numbers. Hitting never came easily — but I loved it.
  • I love all the great Dodgers that I’ve watched over the years: Piazza, Karros, Hershiser, Gibby, Sheff, Greenie, Beltre, Gagne, Fernando, Nomo, Tommy.
  • I love all the great Dodgers that I’ve seen only in old highlight clips: Koufax, Big D, The Duke, The Nuke, Campy, Gil, Jack Roosevelt Robinson, Podres, Pee Wee, Garvey, Sutton, Cey, Lopes, Alston.
  • I love what Jack Roosevelt Robinson did for baseball and for this country. He did more for civil rights than any other American, I would argue. You should read about his life.
  • I love the Green Monster in Cascade, the concrete dugouts and box seats in Farley, the peacefulness of the Epworth field, the corn field in Bernard and the center-field bleachers in Dyersville.
  • I loved watching Eric Gagne make professional hitters look like children with his change-up and slow curve.
  • I love that there’s a new MLB Network.
  • I love that you can watch games on your computer now.
  • I love living in Iowa, where there are no MLB teams so you are free to cheer for whomever you choose.
  • I love pine tar.
  • I love bruises from getting hit by a pitch, especially when you can see the ball’s stitching.
  • I love all the baseball trips my wife and I have done: Milwaukee, K.C., Minneapolis, Vero Beach, Los Angeles, Denver. … Did I forget any?
  • I love how the best center fielders (Andruw Jones in his prime, Gary Pettis in his prime, Devon White in his prime), standing 300 feet away from home plate, can instantly identify where the ball is headed when it hits the bat.
  • I love how those same center fielders can track down hard-hit line drives in the gap.
  • I love that my wife can watch a game and not be totally bored.
  • I love that my Dad is a baseball junkie, just like me.
  • I love that my Mom understands the game and has always encouraged my baseball addiction.
  • I love that baseball has a language of its own. Bloop hits. No runs, no hits, no errors. Uncorked a wild pitch. Around the horn. You can put it on the boooooooardddd …. YES!!!!!
  • I love watching kids learn the game on a neighborhood empty lot.
  • I love when my wife nags me not to watch the game … then gives in and lets me watch. She always gives in.
  • I love talking on the phone about the game with my best friend Chad. He lives 2,000 miles away, but when we talk baseball, it feels like he’s in the same room.
  • I love watching games in a sports bar with dozens of other baseball fans.
  • I love baseball’s castles — Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, Ebbets Field, Dodger Stadium, Farley Park. 🙂
  • I love how Hollywood has immortalized baseball through movies such as “Bull Durham,” “The Natural,” and “Field of Dreams.”
  • I love how each team wins 60 games and loses 60 games every year, and the remaining 42 games determine champions.
  • I love keeping a scorecard. My brother Steve, the best scorekeeper I know, taught me how to keep the book before I was 10 years old.
  • I love how pitching is the great equalizer. A team can have the greatest hitters in the world, but without a decent pitcher, it won’t matter. Likewise, a team without any offensive punch can achieve glory with just one great pitcher (see 1988 Dodgers and Orel Hershiser).
  • I love how I continue to learn things about baseball, even though I’ve been a student of the game since grade school. Example: There are times when I’m still not certain if a particular run is earned or unearned.
  • I love sitting directly behind the plate and watching curveballs and sliders move violently downward and outward as they travel toward the plate.
  • I loved watching Mark Grace hit the ball to the opposite field, Ryne Sandberg turn double-plays and Andre Dawson throw out base runners. I’ve always enjoyed watching the Cubs.
  • I love to jeer Tony La Russa, Barry Bonds, Todd Helton and Mark McGwire.
  • I used to love playing Strat-O-Matic when I was a boy. I practiced my impressions of announcers as I played the board game in my bedroom.
  • I love ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight,” but not as much as most baseball fans love it.
  • I love perfectly manicured grass ball fields. Next time you’re at an MLB game, sneak down to the left-field rail and be amazed at how perfect the outfield grass looks. God himself planted it and takes care of it.
  • I love retractable-roof ball parks. What a great concept! Let the sun in when you can, but never miss a game because of weather. I’m not surprised that former Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley was the first person to come up with this ingenius idea.
  •  I loved the hired pitchers Farley always found for tournaments (Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams being one of them). Those guys made a 10-1 first-round win over Balltown much more fun to watch.
  • I love how competitive Cascade’s Pat Weber is. I don’t think any athlete alive wants to win as much as he does.
  • I love my baseball books and memorabilia collection — which has dual residence at my house and at my folks’ house.
  • I loved watching my brothers Tom and Steve play “rapid-fire” catch when I was a kid. Tom threw the ball about 100 mph but had no idea where it was going. Steve was adept at tracking down Tom’s wild pitches (Ozzie Smith would have blushed after seeing some of Steve’s diving catches).
  • I love that for one short stretch of my short-lived career, I was “locked in” at the plate. My first season of Babe Ruth, I had seven hits in the first three games of the Farley Tournament. It felt good to play so well in front of big crowds in my hometown. … Full disclosure: I struck out three times in the championship game.
  • I love the fact that the Dodgers have the prettiest uniforms in the major leagues. No team gets its uniforms as bright white as the Dodgers do. And they haven’t changed their uniform design since the late 1930s. Few teams can say that. Even when they have a bad season, the boys still look good in blue.
  • I love baseball-reference.com. You MUST check out that Web site sometime. There’s nothing you can’t find there. I used to love the 24-pound Baseball Encyclopedia — now I just use baseball-reference.com.
  • I love White Sox announcer Hawk Harrelson (the biggest homer in the business, but I don’t care), and I love White Sox color analyst Steve Stone (the biggest know-it-all in the business, but I don’t care). Can’t wait to hear them on the air together this season. It’ll be June 3rd, and Stoney will say something like, “Hawk, if the Sox want to win the pennant this year, they’ve just GOT to win this game.”
  • I love how 55,000 strangers stand up and sing together during the 7th-inning stretch at Dodger Stadium.
  • I love Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.” blaring out of the Dodger Stadium loud speakers after Dodger wins. The Bums stole the idea from the Lakers, but it’s such a great song that two teams can share it.
  • I love the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. It’s the only place on the East Coast that I could call home.
  • I love Opening Day. It feels like a national holiday to me. There are five games on ESPN and ESPN2 on Opening Day this year (April 6).
  • I love the first day of the playoffs. Three games, all critical to the teams playing in them, back-to-back-to-back.
  • I love Queens’ Night at the Dyersville Tournament. At least, the way I remember it. I’m sure it’s not as cool these days.
  • I love base runners going from first to third on a single.
  • I love that there’s a man inside the Fenway Park Green Monster, watching the game through a tiny hole and keeping the scoreboard updated.
  • I love bars near ballparks. The Cubby Bear and Sluggers (Chicago), the Sports Column (Denver) and Johnny’s Hall of Fame and the High Life Lounge (Des Moines) come to mind.
  • I love musician Terry Cashman, who has made a career out of baseball songs such as “Talkin’ Baseball (Willie, Mickey and the Duke)” and “Play by Play (I Saw It on the Radio).”
  • I love going back to Farley and watching a game on TV or at the Farley Park with my Dad.
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    Posted by on March 29, 2014 in Uncategorized

     

    13 pool rewrite

    Now I’m told that we have the Brewers in this year’s 13 pool. Not the White Sox. Commissioner of the league had his facts mixed up the first time around. 😉

    The Brewers scored 12 runs in a game once last year. They tallied 10 runs in five different games.

    The Brewers play in a hitter-friendly ballpark, which could help.

     
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    Posted by on March 27, 2014 in Uncategorized

     

    Hoiberg’s trip to Dyersville

    Long before Fred Hoiberg became one of the country’s top basketball coaches, he played in a rec-league tournament in Dyersville’s old Xavier gym.

    My buddies and I happened to be there that day to see Hoiberg suit up for Pella Windows. “The Mayor” had just graduated from ISU.

    I think Pella Windows won the tournament.

     
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    Posted by on March 27, 2014 in Uncategorized

     

    Go White Sox!

    I learned today that the Chicago White Sox are my team in the 2014 Westphalia 13 Pool.

    Every time the Pale Hose score exactly 13 runs in a game, Grampa B, Jill and I win the jackpot. So go Sox!

    Last year, the Sox scored 12 runs once, 11 runs once and 10 runs three times. So they just need to improve on that a little bit and we’ll be in the money. 🙂

     
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    Posted by on March 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

     

    Tommy Lasorda: Dodger icon, Catholic icon

    Special thanks to my brother Tom for sending me this entertaining interview with former Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda. He’s a proud Italian Catholic.

    Lasorda has been with the Dodgers just about as long as Vin Scully. Approximately 65 years. (Vin is a Catholic, too. An Irish Catholic.)

    http://www.catholicsun.org/2014/03/20/qa-baseball-legend-tommy-lasorda-is-catholic-to-the-core/

     
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    Posted by on March 25, 2014 in Uncategorized