Sparky Anderson

Nice remembrance of Sparky Anderson, whose jersey was retired by the Detroit Tigers Sunday.

"We used to be in the car and we'd bet, as he was talking with other people," (his daughter Shirlee) Engelbrecht said. "We'd say, 'When he comes back, he's going to say, 'That's the nicest person I've ever met." And every time he'd come back -- whether it was old, young, male, female -- he'd get in the car, and he'd say, 'That's the nicest person I've ever met.' And then we'd just start laughing."

Anderson, a Hall of Fame manager, led the Tigers to the World Series title in 1984. He had won championships in 1975 and '76 with the Cincinnati Reds.


Jim Riggleman

Probably the wackiest baseball story from the weekend is Jim Riggleman's resignation from the Nationals. The argument is did he stand on principle or did he quit?

Frankly, I'm torn. I want to like Riggleman and I want to think he acted on principle. But he just quit - over an extension. I like to think there's more to it, but I haven't heard it yet.

"Riggleman left at the height of a franchise's success, the players were hustling and they were listening, but he quit because the Nationals management wasn't sure he was part of the future. However confusing and incomprehensible it may appear, it is that simple."


"Either way, Riggleman quit, left the ballpark without a job, and likely will never manage again. Anyone who knows Jim Riggleman knows he's not a quitter; he is the opposite -- a guy who would do anything to win, a man's man in every way. But in his mind, a man can be disrespected for only so long before he has to do what he thinks is right. So he stood on principle, and the Nationals let him walk. And in the end, no one was right. And no one won. And everyone was mad."

Joe Posnanski for the prosecution:

"Here's the thing, and I mean this with deep respect: He is JIM RIGGLEMAN. It seems difficult for me to believe that he was unaware of this. His teams have never won a World Series. His teams have never won a pennant. His teams have only once made the playoffs, and that was a not especially great 89-win Cubs team that won a one-game playoff. Ten of his 12 teams had losing records in his span as skipper. He lost 100 with a Padres team that was in the playoffs two years after he got canned. He lost 95 with a Cubs team that made the playoffs the very next year. For managers with 1,400 or more games, no one from 1900 on has a lower winning percentage than Jim Riggleman, and that includes this lovely little winning stretch. The amazing thing to me, I am forced to admit, is not that Riggleman did not get a contract extension. It's that he had a contract in the first place."

There's more:

"Jim Riggleman quit on his team and his players over his contract. I want, so much, to sympathize with him, but it's hard to get much less admirable than that. The only thing missing from his career suicide was a note."

All in all, I think the weight of the evidence leans toward Riggleman appearing to be selfish. I, too, want to give him the benefit of the doubt. But right now it looks as if Riggleman took doubt out the door with him.


I Love It When Words Come To Me

Joe Posnanski is one of the best sports writers in the business today. He was, at one time, at the Kansas City Star, but is now working for Sports Illustrated. His articles come up on my feed reader regularly and I always anticipate what he has to say.

One of the most recent posts by Posnanski is on the passing of Nick Charles, a sportscaster for CNN. I heard the news over the weekend, but I had no idea who he was since I usually don't have cable or satellite TV and, if I did, I probably wouldn't get my sports from CNN.

So I read Posnanski's article primarily because he is usually good, but secondly, I read it to be introduced to Nick Charles and why his life made the news. I am so glad I did, because I found the words for something that I have been having trouble explaining.

My recent layoff caused me to think about my life and work and why I do things and what things are worth doing. I have always known that I liked to write, but I would not have had an easy time explaining why. "Why do you want to write?" somebody might say. Or, "What would would you like to write about?" is another version. Nick Charles provided the answer during his interview with Joe Posnanski.

Posnanski went to see Charles because Charles was dying and both men knew it. As their time together was ending and Posnanski was headed for the car, they had this exchange:

Nick: "Do you know what you're going to write about me?"
Joe: "No, not yet."
Nick: "Will the words just come to you?"
Joe: "I don't know. I hope so."
Nick: "I'll bet they will. I love it when words come to me."

And there it was - "I love it when words come to me." That's why I write. I want to say something, to feel something. I want the reader to feel something, to imagine something, to connect with what I've written. Not for my sake; not because I wrote it, but because, in sharing the written word, maybe we'll experience an affirmation of a previously unspoken certainty.

Like I did when I read Charles' statement.

I recommend that you read Posnanski's article, even if sports isn't your thing. But be ready feel something - the words came.


The River Road? You Can't Miss It

In case you didn't know, this is the River Road.

Photo from Fox News.


Two Films From Peter Falk

Like a multitude of people, the TV show 'Columbo' introduced me to Peter Falk. I thoroughly enjoy that show and Falk's portrayal of the rumpled detective is iconic. Watching Falk makes me think about acting. I have never aspired to do so, but Falk's style, his presentation, his comfort in character, his apparent joy in his work makes the craft appealing.

Many remembrances have flowed in the wake of Falk's passing. Aside from his role in 'Columbo' there were many movies. 'Princess Bride' gets some mention as well as 'It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World'. But let me tell you about two films that weren't mentioned that I found enjoyable.

The first is called 'Checking Out' and was released in 2005. IMDB says, "A famed stage actor reunites his family for a party, and plans to commit suicide afterwards, unless they are able to convince him not to." We've seen it twice and one of Falk's lines has become a quote around our house. Here's the trailer:

The other film, also released in 2005, is called 'The Thing About My Folks' and stars Paul Reiser along with Falk. From IMDB, "Ben's (Reiser) dad Sam (Falk) shows up one night with a note from Ben's mother (Sam's wife of 46 years), that she has left. While Ben's wife and his three sisters try to find her, Ben takes Sam on a day trip to see a farm house that's for sale. The day trip turns into a road trip while dad and son explore their past, their relationship, and why Sam's wife might have left him." This one has a road trip/coming of age feel to it, but it's not heavy. I particularly enjoy watching Reiser and Falk interact with each other.

The trailer is below.

I recommend them both.


Winnipeg Jets

The NHL's Atlanta Thrashers were recently sold to a group who intend to move the hockey club to Winnipeg, Manitoba. This will mark the return of NHL hockey to Winnipeg, which had a team in the World Hockey Association (WHA) from 1972-79, and that franchise, along with Edmonton, Quebec and New England (Hartford), joined the NHL when the WHA folded. The franchise moved to Phoenix in 1996 to become the Coyotes.

It has been announced that the new Winnipeg team will be called the Jets, as was the previous squad. No announcement has been made that I know of pertaining to the logo and colors, but this gives us a chance to look at the old ones. As always, I copied these logos from Chris Creamer's site.

1972-1974: Classic old school look. Hadn't succumbed to the 70's yet.

1979-1990: Definite 1970's update, but not a bad one. No harm, no foul. I do like the treatment on the word 'Jets'.

1990-1996: Another relatively harmless update. I do not care for the 'Jets' mark in this as much as above. I am not fond of the 'J' laying over the top of the 'N' above it. But what that does is separate out the 'WIN', which is a nice touch. I also like the drop shadows in red on the 'J' and the top of the 'S'. These nice touches are actually better than the effect of the logo in its entirety, I think.


Lincoln Brought Them All Home

After Abraham Lincoln's death and funeral service in Washington D.C., his body was carried westward to Springfield, Illinois and its final rest. Along the way, the train stopped and the body was transported to government buildings in order that citizens could pay their respects. Stops were made in about 10 cities including Philadelphia, New York, Cleveland and Chicago. And over the hundreds of miles where the train never stopped, still the mourners came to the tracks to observe the passing.

From the book:

The twenty-day death pageant transfigured Abraham Lincoln from man to myth. On the day he was murdered, he was not universally loved - even in the North. His traveling corpse became a touchstone that offered catharsis for all the pain the American people had suffered and stored up over four bloody years of civil war. For whom did they mourn? For their slain president, of course. But the outpouring of national sorrow could not be for just one man. "Not for you, for one alone;/Blossoms and branches green to coffins all I bring," wrote Walt Whitman. And so they mourned, not for this one man alone but for all of the men; for every son, every brother, every lover, and every husband, and every father lost in that war. It was a though, on that train, in that coffin, they were all coming home. Lincoln's death pageant for Abraham Lincoln was a glorious farewell to him and to the three hundred and sixty thousand men of the Union who, like their Father Abraham, had perished for cause and country.


All Men Seek Happiness

I have often commented that 'Desiring God' has been the most influential book, except the Bible, that I have ever read. Its author, John Piper, celebrates Blaise Pascal's life today on the Desiring God blog with a quote from Pascal that was key to Piper's understanding.

"All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves."

These words of Pascal's resonated with Piper and they resonate with me. Piper's reaction was also mine:

"I suspected this was true. But I always feared that it was sin. That wanting to be happy was a moral defect. That self-denial meant renouncing joy, . . . "

'Desiring God' goes on to explain that we should seek our happiness, provided we seek it in the only place (person!) in which lasting happiness can be found.



I have been reading the story of Joseph lately. Today I am struck by another aspect of the purposes, designs, and sovereignty of God.

Why was God pleased to use Joseph in the manner He did? And the question is not meant to focus on Joseph, but God. Joseph, about whom the Bible makes no critical observations, is put through the wringer. He had not wronged his brothers, yet they despise him. He had not wronged Potipher, indeed, he was faithful to Potipher under the most difficult circumstances, yet Joseph is thrown in prison. In prison, he rises to the top again, yet is forgotten by one who received help from Joseph.


Why does God put this man of apparently noble character through this ordeal? Keep in mind, God could do anything He pleases in any manner He pleases. In other words, it is not necessary for God to put Joseph through the ordeal for the outcomes we see to occur.

Jacob and his family could have been led to Egypt to escape the famine another way.

God did not have to send the famine.

Pharaoh's advisors could have been inspired to think of the plan.

Potipher's wife did not have to have a roving eye.

The possibilities are innumerable.

But God chose this particular way.


Why send a faithful man through the grinder?


70's Saturday Today

On the way home from hunting and gathering, I had the radio tuned to a station that features music from the 70's on Saturday. Get this - they call it "70's Saturday." Pretty handy, I think.

At one point, the Boz Scaggs song 'Lido Shuffle' came on. I had not heard this song in a long, long time and it immediately took me back to a period in my life. On a similar note, I remember the MASH episode where Hawkeye suffers from an allergy and other symptoms and Sidney, the shrink, comes to help him. There's something in there about smells being a powerful memory trigger. Maybe. But songs can do it too.

So, 'Lido Shuffle' stirs up memories of listening to rock music way too loud at 'The Ranch, ' cruising around Missouri State, nee SMSU, showing the campus to a guy from out of town who, as a young father, was trying to persuade his toddling son not to admire Darth Vader so. I told him I liked Vader and he said, "Yeah, but you're not four."

So, what does 'Lido Shuffle' remind you of?

This is a live version and not the one of 30 years ago and Boz obviously can't hit the high notes anymore, but I find it compelling nonetheless.


Writers Write

More from W.P. Kinsella's "Shoeless Joe,"

"Writing is different," Salinger insists. "Other people get into occupations by accident or design; but writers are born. We have to write. I have to write. I could work at selling motels, or slopping hogs, for fifty years, but if someone asked my occupation, I'd say writer, even if I'd never sold a word. Writers write. Other people talk."


Memorial Day Photos

On Monday I got out and took some pictures of flags, and people, and people with flags. I came home and cropped and colored. I'll let you look at these.


A Thousand Words Paint A Picture

Writing. This is how it's done:

I had to go to Iowa City again that night. As I tucked Karin into bed in her room with curtains covered in kittens and ballerinas, I said, "Is there anything I can bring you?" figuring on an ice-cream bar, a Dr. Pepper, or a slice of cheese pizza, which, incredibly, she likes to eat cold for breakfast.

"Bring me the flowers, Daddy," she said. "I want some to touch when I wake up in the morning."

That night, after my meeting, I drove back to the spot we had visited by day. It was like a cathedral, the filtered light of stars and streelights peeking through the thatch of blossoms and leaves.

From the jumble in the back seat, I took a large Styrofoam cup that had once held a cherry Coke, and, walking along the dark street rather sheepishly, scooped handfuls of petals from the the overflowing gutters, wondering how I would explain myself if someone chanced to ask.

I carried them home on the seat beside me like an urn of ashes, and placed them on the night table beside Karin's bed. I watched her sleeping; she slept on her back, her right-hand palm up beside her head. She looks like Annie run through a copying machine that reduces things in size. I bent and kissed her freckled nose. I will probably never love her more than I did at that moment.

- from "Shoeless Joe" by W.P. Kinsella


Why Not Believe Him?

Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, is one of the men on the current political scene that I admire most. He is a straight-talker. He is not afraid to mix it up with anybody with whom he disagrees, not maliciously, but honest and tough. And generally he's on the right side of the issue. He's taken on New Jersey's budget deficit which has required him to face down unions over benefits and the City of New York over a tunnel project.

Naturally, there is talk of Christie being presidential timber and he very well could be. Every time, however, the subject is brought up to him, he says no. He says he was elected to do a job in New Jersey and that he intends to do it.

Still the talk persists. According to this story, a group from Iowa visited the governor and encouraged him to run. They were also told no.

What we love about Christie is his straight talk and he's had to deal with tougher customers than donors from Iowa. He said he's not running for president. We believe him on the other stuff, why not this?