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August 23 2012
The Cub’s Home Run Delusion
I was a Cub fan myself when younger. Until about age 12. That was in 1939 when the Cubs swapped Billy Jurges with the New York Giants for Dick Bartell. The Cubs were attracted to Bartell because he had hit seven home runs in 1938.
That the Cubs needed more power, there’s no question. In the 1938 World Series they had managed only two home runs while the champion Yankees hit five. But why would the Cubs break up an excellent double play combination to get power is a mystery. Why didn’t they go after an outfielder or a first baseman?
Then in 1941 they traded second baseman Billy Herman to the Brooklyn Dodgers. He would lead the Dodgers to pennants in 1941 and 1947. Herman, who would be inducted into the Hall of Fame, holds many defensive records for National League second basemen. He has a lifetime batting average of .304. He specialized in doubles, however, not home runs.
During World War II, Herman and many other players saw military service. Those left to play were middle-aged and cripples. There was even a one-armed man playing.
This was a scenario that suited the Cubs just fine and they won the pennant in 1945. Their star was Andy Pafko. Eventually they traded him to the Dodgers, who had begun to regard the Cubs as a farm club. Pafko playing left field helped the Dodgers win the pennant in 1952. Then in 1957 he helped the Milwaukee Braves win the World Series.
In 1948 the Cubs traded popular first baseman Eddie Waitkus to the Phillies who then won the pennant in 1950. But there had been a strange interlude. In June 1949 when the Phillies came to Chicago for a series, Waitkus was shot by a girl fan who was distraught about not getting to see him play regularly.
The incident spawned the novel “The Natural” and the movie with Robert Redford. Although the nation at large was fascinated with the story, it was old stuff in Chicago. After all, Billy Jurges had been shot by a chorus girl in 1932.
I didn’t follow Cubs closely in the 1940s. Being in service and away at college, I had other interests. And in the 1950s when I worked in East St. Louis, I became a Cardinal fan.
As soon as I became a fan, the Cardinals stopped winning pennants. They had won three in the 1940s. The reason was clear for the Cardinal decline, especially if you saw them play Brooklyn with Jackie Robinson. The Cardinals lacked speed. There wasn’t one African-American on the team.
They decided to change their lineup and who would they go to for help but the Cubs. The Cubs had drafted Lou Brock out of college and started him in 1961 as left-fielder. However, Brock’s home run output did not satisfy the Cubs so they traded him to the Cardinals in 1963 for an old pitcher with a sore arm.
The Cubs had not utilized Brock’s speed. The Cardinals told him not to worry about home runs but concentrate on stealing bases. Brock immediately led the league in that category. He became the first player to steal 50 bases and hit 20 home runs in the same season.
Brock led Cardinals to world championships in 1964 and 1967, receiving the Babe Ruth award as most valuable player. The Cardinals also won the pennant in 1968 but lost the series to Detroit.
In 1977 Brock surpassed Ty Cobb’s record of 892 stolen bases and held it until eclipsed by Ricky Henderson of Oakland. Brock reached 3000 hits in 1979 against the Cubs. The Cardinals retired his jersey and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
And then there’s Mark Grace, who played 13 seasons with Cubs, won four golden gloves and compiled a lifetime batting average of .303. During the 1990s he had more hits than any other major league player.
As a free agent he was offered a large salary by the Arizona Diamondbacks, a new team just underway. Grace said that if Cubs had matched the offer and told him they wanted him, he would have stayed.
But many of Grace’s hits were singles and Cubs wanted home runs. They had been stuck on this mantra ever since Hack Wilson hit 56 home runs in 1927. So they let Grace go. Naturally, the Diamondbacks won the pennant in 2001.
In the world series against the Yankees, Grace hit a home run in game four. And in the ninth inning of game seven, Grace started a rally leading to a Diamondback surge of runs that won the game and the series. Something Cubs hadn’t done for 91 years.
I got to thinking about this history after the Cub’s trade with Atlanta a few weeks ago. They sacrificed Paul Maholm, a pitcher who some thought was the best left-hander in the game today. And also Reed Johnson, an outfielder who had just won two games for them with bunts. And what did they get? A minor league pitcher with a sore arm.
Reminds me of the trade for Dizzy Dean in 1938. I’ve seen it all happen before.
August 23 2012Waste collection event your chance to get rid of old garden chemicals
If you have been wondering what to do with that left over yard care chemicals, oil based paint, etc. Good news. The Ecology Action Center and University of Illinois Extension are co-sponsoring a Household Hazardous Waste Collection Event (HHW). It will be held Saturday, September 29 from 8 A.M. - 2 P. M. at the Interstate Center, 2301 W. Market St., Bloomington. They collected 18,000 gallons of hazardous waste at the last collection held about 5 years ago, so it is time for another one.
They will accept oil based paint, yard care chemicals, electronics, mercury containing items, CFLs and fluorescent Tubes, asbestos, harsh household cleaners, poisons, spray paint and other aerosols, and corrosives.
They will not accept Latex paint, tires. radioactive materials, explosives, biohazards, business-generated waste, or materials from non-McLean County residents.
Since it is not funded by the state, it is just open to local McLean County people and can not accept anything from businesses. The one day event will cost at least $150,000, so more donations are needed. You can mail a check to Ecology Action Center, attn. HHW fund. 202 W. College Ave, Normal, IL. 61761. Or donate to the McLean County HHW Fund at www.ecologyaction
center.org. For business or organizations interested in sponsorship opportunities, please contact Michael Brown at 309 454-3169 Donations are needed and they are tax-deductible.
This is a very handy and safe way to get rid of those things you can not put out for garbage pick up and helping to keep the environment and water supplies clean. Now is a good time to start collecting the items you want to dispose of.
Thanks to Ecology Action Center for spearheading the event, we can now dispose of this material safely.
August 23 2012Some U.S. Towns Hotter than Hot
AND WE THINK we’ve had it bad.
It’s true we have sweltered our way through one of the hottest summers on record, and there may be more misery still to come, if we believe some of the leading climatologists out there.
But it could be worse. A lot worse. As a compulsive weather watcher, I check the morning newspapers daily to see which American community endured the hottest temperature on the preceding day. This summer, a number of different towns in a number of different states have taken the blue ribbon.
Towns in Kansas, Nebraska, Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, and California have all checked in with the blistering first-place position. Of course, if you wanted, you could just check off Death Valley, California, nearly every day, with its 120 degrees; but it’s actually a national park, not a community.
My curiosity runs to the cities, towns, and villages that suffer through record heat. I often wonder, “What are these towns like?” Or, “What would it be like to live there?”
For this article, I could have chosen places like Ada, Oklahoma, or Laredo or Del Rio, Texas, or Tacna, Arizona, or half a dozen others.
Using Internet resources, I chose three: Needles, California, Bullhead City, Arizona, and Hill City, Kansas. My criteria? Each of these locations topped the nation’s thermometer at least three or four times. I had to wonder: what would mitigate that phenomenon by providing some level of pleasure for citizens there?
HILL CITY, KANSAS. This tiny West Kansas village (population 1,474 according to Wikipedia) got scorched through late June and most of July. According to Wiki, “Beginning on June 26, the town was the hottest city in the U.S. for four days in a row with temperatures of 114, 111, 115, and 115.”
Now that’s hot. If I lived in Hill City, what would I do for amusement or recreation? The town’s Chamber of Commerce is here to help. Besides having a municipal swimming pool and two city parks, there is a “challenging” 9-hole golf course that is “Constantly being upgraded with new tree planting and improved tee boxes.”
But the town shines its brightest PR spotlight on the “Cowboy Action Shooting Competition,” held each summer. The Hill City Chamber celebrates the event by saying, “Cowboy Action Shooting is a competitive shooting game where the shooter and/or the target are moving (unlike standard target shooting).
“The firearms used are based on those which existed in the 19th century American West, i.e. lever action rifle, single action revolver, and shotgun. What makes Cowboy Action Shooting so unique is the fact that every competitor must be dressed in a costume representative of a real or imaginary character that would have existed on the American frontier.”
Sounds fun, but buckskin from head to toe in 110 degree weather? I’d probably pass on that.
BULLHEAD CITY, AZ. This is a much larger community (population 39,540) located on the Colorado River across from Laughlin, Nevada. Wikipedia’s weather chart for the community tells us, “Summers are very hot with temperatures frequently exceeding 110 degrees. Heat waves involving temperatures going over 122 degrees are not unusual.”
Nevertheless, the Chamber of Commerce reminds us, “Bullhead City is the most affordable city in Arizona!” And, “Bullhead City has the cheapest car insurance in the nation!” Okay, fair enough.
But back to that heat. The city has recorded temperatures of 120+ in May, June, July, August, and September. A day in October once hit 111. The record high for February is 93, while 94 is the highest recorded temperature for November. 126 degree recordings set the pace for June, July, and August.
How to beat the heat and love the city? There’s a public swimming pool with a water slide. Riverfront beaches are well maintained.
The city’s signature event is the annual River Regatta, held each August. Wikipedia has a few details that sound like heat relief: “It’s estimated that the 2012 River Regatta will accommodate as many as 40,000 floaters down the Colorado River. In its sixth year, the Regatta rivals the Laughlin River Run as the Tri-State Area’s premier special event.”
Okay, sign me up; where’s my raft?
NEEDLES, CALIF. Needles (population 4,844) is located in the Mojave Desert on the western banks of the Colorado River in San Bernardino County. But the city takes its name from a configuration of pointed boulders in Arizona, across the river.
Some of its climate data makes you wonder if someone is fibbing. Most of this comes from Wiki and an Internet climate data Web site: “Needles, like Death Valley to the northwest, is known for extreme heat during the summer. Temperatures often reach 120 degrees in July and August.
“On July 22, 2006, Needles experienced a record high low temperature, with a reading of 100 at 6:00 A.M. On August 13, 2012, the town set a world record. There was a thunderstorm at 115 degrees, starting at 3:56 P.M.”
Stifling though it may be, the Chamber of Commerce home page urges us to “Enjoy Life on the Colorado River.” There is much to amuse here. The Chamber goes on, “Needles offers a wide range of business and recreational opportunities of all types and for all visitors. Activities range from shopping, sightseeing, golfing, hiking, swimming, fishing, camping, and water sports.
“Attractions for the area include the Mystic Maze, the Mojave National Preserve (home to the Kelso Dunes), the Mitchell Caverns, real ghost towns, the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge, and the natural beauty of Topock Gorge, to name just a few.”
Heat, Schmeat. Who cares?
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August 23 2012
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