Sunday, May 31, 2009

I'm a Celebrity?

Since Survivor concluded two weeks ago, softball-based blogs have been dominating From The Booth. If you’re not a fan of softball, you’re in luck. I'm a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! begins tomorrow night on NBC at 7 PM. Basically it’s a group of B-list celebrities who are stranded in Costa Rica, with their fate in the hands of viewers in this retooling of the British reality show.

The celebrities compete in survival-themed challenges to earn extra food, supplies and luxury items, and viewers vote them off the show one by one. The last celebrity standing wins cash to be donated to his or her favorite charity. Here are the pseudo celebrities:

Heidi Montag is an American reality television personality, fashion designer, pop singer, and aspiring actress. Montag, along with Spencer Pratt, have made a joint fortune of $3 million in the last two years with the help of TV salaries, club appearances, photo shoots, and business deals.

Spencer Pratt is an American reality television personality known for his role on MTV's "The Hills." He is well known as husband of Heidi Montag and brother of Stephanie Pratt, who also appears on "The Hills."

Janice Dickinson is an American supermodel, fashion photographer, author, and agent. She opened her own modeling agency, which was documented in "The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency," after judging for four cycles on "America's Next Top Model."

John Salley is a retired professional basketball player in the NBA, actor and talk show host. Currently, he is one of the hosts of "The Best Damn Sports Show Period" on Fox Sports Network.

Lou Diamond Phillips has been seen in movies and television (Numb3rs, The George Lopez Show) but this will be his first venture into reality TV. But with his roles in action films such as Young Guns as well as his guest-starring role on 24, Phillips should be ready for the endurance challenges that will come before him on the show.

Sanjaya Malakar was a finalist on the sixth season of American Idol. He gained national attention on the series, controversially advancing to 7th place with public votes, despite being poorly received by the show's judges (particularly Simon Cowell).

Patti Blagojevich is the wife of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and daughter of a Chicago alderman; Patti is a licensed real estate broker and appraiser who owns her own real estate company.

Stephen Baldwin is an American actor and is the youngest of the Baldwin brothers. A veteran of reality TV, competing in reality shows like "Celebrity Mole: Hawaii" (2003), "Celebrity Mole: Yucatan" (2004) and “Celebrity Apprentice” (2008). His disturbing yet comical mind games helped him win "Celebrity Fear Factor" (2002).

Torrie Wilson is a former wrestler, fitness competitor, and model who worked for WCW and WWE. In May 2003, Wilson appeared in a pictorial and on the cover of Playboy magazine. I addition to Playboy, Wilson has also graced the cover of several other magazines, including the September 2006 cover of FHM magazine. Wilson was also number forty-three on FHM's 100 Sexiest Women in the World list in 2007.

Frangela is a Los Angeles-based comedy duo composed of African-American comedians, Frances Callier and Angela V. Shelton, both of The Second City. They are a last-minute addition.

An interesting side note: although former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich had been asked to take part in I'm a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! by NBC, a judge refused him permission to leave the country while awaiting trial on corruption charges. Wouldn’t that have been sweet?!?

Starting on June 2nd thru the 18th, the show will run Monday - Thursday (7 - 8 PM). Then, from June 22nd thru the 24th, it will air Monday - Wednesday (7 - 8 PM). I will attempt to post a recap/commentary following each show, so check back daily! Until next time…from Costa Rica.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Happy 25th Anniversary Play Ball

Today marks the silver anniversary of the Play Ball newspaper. The eight-page tabloid was the effort of publishers Glen Marescalco and Jack Ostrowski. During the first two weeks of the free publication’s short existence, Don Cox and John Rampart assisted them. The paper was published bi-monthly beginning May 29, 1984, with the last issue coming out August 21 that same year. As you might have guessed, the paper was devoted to all levels of Kenosha softball and baseball. Although it only survived the one-year, it was a must-read periodical.

The cover of the inaugural issue featured team pictures of both the 12” men and women Kenosha City champions from the previous (1983) season. Current Kenosha Mayor, Keith Bosman penned an article about the upcoming city tournaments. A regular feature, the “May Beverage Player of the Week”, debuted in this issue. Larry Keating garnered the honor, winning an Old Style cap and t-shirt along with a case of Old Style beer. Other regular features were the standings from The Bullpen and Finney’s West.

The second issue not only spotlighted the local softball scene, but also concentrated heavily on hardball. Tremper High School’s baseball team made the cover, celebrating their trip to the state tournament. Play Ball also featured two regular columnists, Dudley Blue and Xavier B. Harding. These pen names were used by a couple of softball “heavyweights” who liked to offer their spin on Kenosha’s favorite sport.

As could be expected, getting team and managers to contribute information and results was Marescalco and Ostrowski’s biggest obstacle. So much so, they put themselves on the cover of the June 26th cover pleading for contributions. Mayor Bosman added a second article, this one concerning the upcoming 14” tourney. Tournament results were peppered with the usual array of pictures featuring Kenosha’s men and women in action.

The July 12th issue of Play Ball ran a column by Xavier B. Harding that pondered the future of softball in Kenosha. It was interesting to go back and read the column and see how Harding’s opinions have played out, as softball progressed. Maybe, if there is enough interest, I can “reprint” that 1984 column in the Daily Kenoshan. I found it very interesting. That was the beauty of Play Ball. It was about people and things that you knew and cared about. Heck, it was about you!

The cover of the next issue of Play Ball had 1984 women Rotary champs Pasquali’s on it. A comprehensive article was featured along with an ad congratulating them on their back-to-back Rotary titles. Speaking of ads, they were another great part of the paper. Not only do they bring back wonderful memories, like The Ranch, Uncle Munchies and Hoff’s Players; but also the paper had coupons! The Times, Video Unlimited and The Fon Tan Blu were just a few that offered great deals when you patronized their establishments. Many a Thursday night, my team made the short trek across 22nd avenue from Hoff’s to The Times to use the free drink coupon we had tore out of the latest copy of Play Ball.

The final issue had the 14” City Tournament champions, The 5th Amendment, on the cover. The 5th’s pitcher, Rick “Cardo” Bloomquist, was honored as the last “May Beverage Player of the Week”. The tabloid was fortunate enough to have Kenosha softball luminary Al Gajdos author an article about the legendary Strang Siding’s women’s team. Jon Naumann, Steve Spizziri, Tom Jaehne, Tammy Nelson and umpire George Becker had the privilege of having their pictures grace the back page of that last issue.

In that last issue of Play Ball, Jack Ostrowski and Glen Marescalco wrote, “We hope you enjoyed each and every issue of Play Ball. We’ll be back next year – bigger and better!” Unfortunately, they weren’t back the next year. But please rest assured that I, along with countless others, did indeed enjoy each and every issue of Play Ball. Until next time…from the booth.

Friday, May 22, 2009

A Tip of the Cap

Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May. It commemorates U.S. men and women who died while in the military service. Many people observe this holiday by visiting cemeteries and memorials. Many Americans also use Memorial Day to honor other family members who have died. This Memorial Day I would like to remember those associated with Kenosha softball that have passed on.

Softball first became significant in Kenosha in the early 1960s, continued to flourish during the ‘70s and ultimately exploded in the ‘80s and into the ‘90s. Games were being played on eight city diamonds and at seven private parks each night of the week. This was the “Golden Age” of Kenosha Softball.

In recent years we have lost many of the people that were an integral part of this popular game. With the help of several area softball savants I was able to compile the following list of these special folks.

Keith Anthonson – Player
Jim Darula – Player
Bea Dinan – Sponsor
Vern Ekern – Sponsor
Sacramento "Kenny" Garza – Player
Tom Gascoigne, Sr. – Manager
Walter Glass – Player
Russ Guarascio – Player, Umpire
Mark Issetts – Player
Dennis “Doc” Kalberg – Player, Umpire
Herb Kolmos - Player
Darrell Kozel – Player
Jim Krifka – Player
Corky Lettsome – Manager
Art “Shorty” Llanas – Player
Ricky Llanas – Player
Jim Mason – Manager
Leila Mercado – Player
Don Newport – Umpire
Sam “Finney” Perry – Organizer, Sponsor
George Pflueger – Umpire
Bob Reschke – Manager, Player
Nick Scavone – Manager
Jeff Schneeberger – Manager, Player
Tom Sorensen – Player, Sponsor, Manager
Dave Spitzer – Player
Randy Warnock – Player
Jim Webber - Player, Umpire

Although some of the above have served our country, that is not what this list is about. On this Memorial Day I want to honor them for helping to make the great game of softball something special in the city of Kenosha. A tip of the cap to all of them for providing many wonderful memories.

My thanks go out to Pat Hegewald, Jimmy Gentile and Leon Rosko for helping me put together this list. My sincerest apologies to any that may have been missed. Until next time…from the booth.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

What's in a Nickname?

What’s in a nickname? Nice question for a guy who was nicknamed Puddles 34 years ago while stacking fifty-pound bags of ice melter in the summer heat at Koos Inc. When I became involved in softball, managing the legendary 400 Club, the tag stuck. I was in good company though, because heaven only knows the number of nicknames that are hung on softball players.

But what makes a really good nickname? One online dictionary gives the following definitions for nickname:

(noun) 1. An additional or substitute name given to a person, place or thing – usually descriptive and given in fun, affection or derision, as “Doc” or “Shorty”. 2. A familiar, often shorter, form of a proper name, as “Dick” for Richard”.

Puddles would probably fall under the first definition, although I have been called Dick. As far as softball players go, your guess is as good as mine. Most could fall under either definition, with some being somewhere in between. Still others just leave you scratching your head, saying, “Huh?”

Thinking back, I put together a list of over 80 nicknames for Kenosha softball players. Some are fairly obvious, ones given because of the player’s real name or a physical attribute. For example, Jeff “Red” DiCello, Roger “Worm” Wermeling, Bruce “Eddie” Edmark, Willy “China” Yee, Bill “Mountain” Griffith and Dan “Ozzie” Ausloos. You can see what I mean; they are easy to figure out how they came about.

Then there are those that are, simply put, good solid nicknames. Falling into this category are Glen “Munk” Ekern, Jimmy “Slash” Gentile, Fred “The Hammer” Parham, Jeff “Lumpy” Perrault, Brad “Chili” Breiling, Dale “Bear” Kolmos, John “Cool Papa” Schwarz and Steve “Blade” Hess.

Others in this group are Glen “Smooth” Marescalco, Tom “Bads” Beth, Dennis “Satch” Lumley, Sam “Finney” Perry, Steve “Beaver” Griffith, Dave “Smiley” Johnson and Gary “Juice” Andreucci. You would be hard pressed to find a stronger list of sobriquets for softball players.

The next group is the “head-scratchers”. These include the names that are just tough to figure. Take for example, Fred “Wally” Altergott , Ron “Nosh” Rossa, Kim “Roy” Myers, Jeff “Herman” Clark, Mark “Bwana” Issets and Ron “Mort” Zeith.

Certainly there must be a good reason for christening these players with these monikers. If you happen to know the story behind any of these, I would be glad to hear it.

For every hard-to-figure nickname there are those that are so popular that at least two players are attached to them. First are the “Docs” - Dennis Kalberg, Chuck Lange and Jim Nehls. Next are the “Rocks” or “Rockys” - Glenn Evenson, Domenic Tirabassi III, Dave Roehl, Rocky Witzman and Rock Jurvis. After that, there are a couple of “Cats”, Jeff Kaeppler and Russ Guerra. Finally we have two “Goons”, Mike Matuzek and Brian McGonegle.

Before I reveal my all-time list of great softball nicknames, here is my honorable mention list - John “Chops” Goodwin, Ron “Pig Pen” Greb, Tom “Buzz” Pinzger, Chris “Swammy” Wade, Rick “Cardo” Bloomquist, Kurt “Cooter” Sinclair, Jim “Downtown” Brown, Dennis “Tura” Lura, Chuck “Chooch” Portillia and Jeremy “Whammer” Kalbfell.

Here is my Top 10 list, in no particular order.

* Bruce “Hollywood” Meyers
* Gary “The Wizard” Peterson
* Danny “Love” McGonegle
* Larry “Laredo” Weiss
* Randy “Ducky” Aulwes
* Mike “Itchy” Griedanus
* Jon “Atomic Dog” Naumann
* Tom “Boom Boom” Keating
* Gary “Speed” Paskewicz
* Kris “Nightmare” Ray

To be sure, there are nicknames that were not mentioned in this column. Any of you Kenosha softball types are welcome to let me know whom I left out. Oh, by the way, thanks Harry, Arno and Ryan for that Puddles thing. Until next time…from the booth.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Survivor Reflections

Last night at 10:00 pm, Tim Cuprisin, the long-time media columnist for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, posted the following on facebook, “In the least exciting conclusion to a "reality" show I can remember, JT won "Survivor." Being an official Survivor Geek, I was offended at first. After some consternation, I realized that he was indeed correct. It wasn’t exciting. But it was something else. It was satisfying.

It was satisfying because JT, the guy I was pulling for, won and he was a respectable family-orientated guy to boot. The reason the finale was less than thrilling was because the final four contestants were all down-to-earth, decent people. There was no “villain” to root against.

The manipulative Coach Wade was voted off last week and his disturbing minion Tyson was blindsided three shows prior to that. Don’t get me wrong, without characters like Coach and Tyson, Survivor Tocantins would have been a snooze fest from start to finish. That being said, it was still nice to see a “good guy” win.

The “good guy” doesn’t always win, nor does the person I am pulling for. Here is a list of all 18 winners of Survivor. My opinion of the outcome is indicated by a YES! or a BOO! or a Whatever…

1. Survivor: Borneo - Richard Hatch is the winner of the first Survivor series, which aired in 2000. He was released from prison on May 14, 2009, having been incarcerated for tax evasion. YES!

2. Survivor: The Australian Outback - Tina Wesson became the first woman to win the $1 million prize in 2001. BOO!

3. Survivor: Africa - Ethan Zohn co-founded Grassroot Soccer that leverages soccer in order to raise money and awareness to fight HIV/AIDS. YES!

4. Survivor: Marquesas - Vecepia Towery won $1,000,000 on the Marquesas edition of Survivor, the first African American contestant to win the game. Whatever…!

5. Survivor: Thailand - Brian Heidik reportedly worked as a soft-core porn star before Survivor. BOO!

6. Survivor: The Amazon - Jenna Morasca was the youngest ever winner at the time of taping and is currently working for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. YES!

7. Survivor: Pearl Islands - Sandra Diaz-Twine currently lives with her husband and two children while working as a bank teller in Fayetteville, North Carolina. YES!

8. Survivor: All-Stars (Pearl Islands) - Amber Brkich accepted fellow All-Stars competitor Rob Mariano's proposal of marriage on live television. BOO!

9. Survivor: Vanuatu - Chris Daugherty was considered by host Jeff Probst as one of the most unlikely Survivor winners. Whatever…

10. Survivor: Palau - Tom Westman is a husband, father of three, and former firefighter. YES!

11. Survivor: Guatemala - Danni Boatwright represented Kansas at the nationally televised Miss Teen USA and Miss USA pageants. YES!

12. Survivor: Panama - Aras Baskauskas is the second youngest male winner of Survivor at the time of it’s taping. Whatever…

13. Survivor: Cook Islands - Yul Kwon is a member of the Washington, D.C. and California State Bar Associations. Whatever…

14. Survivor: Fiji - Earl Cole is a California advertising executive. YES!

15. Survivor: China - Todd Herzog is the youngest male contestant to win the game, at age 22 at time of air. BOO!

16. Survivor: Micronesia - Parvati Shallow won this Fans vs. Favorites edition of Survivor. BOO!

17. Survivor: Gabon - Robert "Bob" Crowley is the oldest winner in the history of Survivor and also won the $100,000 from the Sprint Player of the season contest. YES!

18. Survivor: Tocantins - James "JT" Thomas Jr. is a cattle rancher who also won the $100,000 from the Sprint Player of the season contest. YES!

I know everyone isn’t going to agree with my viewpoints. For instance, Fellow Survivor Geek Aunt Janet didn’t like the outcome and I am sure other Fellow Survivor Geeks such as Jamie, Mary Beth, Karen and Greg will have their opinions. That’s the beauty of Survivor.

It might not have been the most exciting finale, but it satisfied this Survivor Geek. Until next time…from Samoa.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Tale Of A Fallen Warrior

“Coach Wade is no longer in control of this game.” None other than Coach Benjamin Wade himself uttered those now prophetic words. That’s right, the Dragon Slayer, the Warrior if you will, made that concession moments into tonight’s episode of Survivor Tocantins. He sounded like a defeated and broken man when he spoke those words.

A psychotic, demented, deranged and defeated broken man, but a defeated and broken man nonetheless. As twisted and unbalanced as Coach Wade is, he possessed sufficient mental stability to realize his time had come. He was just stable enough to know it was all over.

It wasn’t pretty either. He whined, moaned, made excuses and complained so much he caused Taj to roll her eyes and comment, “What a drama queen!” From the outset he was begging the others not to be sent to Exile Island. Something about his asthma. Ya, Right.

Of course JT did the “noble” thing and sent Coach packing to Exile.. He immediately started to bellyache and whimper. So, Waukesha’s own, Erinn proceeded to tell him off and basically called him a little girl. Not smart by Erinn, but very amusing.

A haggard and hollow-eyed Coach, supporting himself with a cane, limped back just in time for the Immunity Challenge. Jeff Probst, obviously fascinated by Coach, asked him what it was like on Exile Island. Coach, in a subdued voice says, “I was freezing, had no sleep, no food or water, it was euphoric!”

That was only one of the many verbal gems that Mr. Wade treated us to this evening. Here are a few others, “I was honored by defeat.” and “Coach Wade is the last of the Mohicans.”

Yes, he was now referring to himself in the third person. Stuff like, “Coach Wade’s foundation is built on the rock.” And of course, the afore mentioned, “Coach Wade is no longer in control of this game.” Let’s face it, the man is certifiable.

At the end of the Immunity Challenge, Coach collapsed to the ground in a heap. Everyone hurried over to see if they could help the fallen warrior. He muttered that his back had spasmed for the last ten minutes. Once he is helped into an upright position, a concerned Probst asked him if he wanted to be evaluated by the medical team.

The disheveled Coach swallowed deeply and through clinched teeth said, I don’t want to see the medics. I’m not leaving the game that way.” This caused Taj to roll her eyes once again and remark, “He’s so full of it.” Yes he is Taj, yes he is.

At Tribal Council, Probst, being the little instigator that he is, prods the once mighty combatant for his thoughts. Though physically and mentally spent, Coach did not disappoint. His “one more thing” soliloquy was one for the ages providing much chuckling and countless WTF expressions. And, to be honest with you, I don’t know what the hell he was saying.

When Probst said, “The twelfth person voted out and the fifth member of our jury…Coach”, I let out a little shout of joy. Then, pausing to reflect, thought about all of the memorable moments that this crazed lunatic provided us with. And you know what? I’m still glad he’s finally eliminated!

Sunday is the 18th season’s big finale. The final four is comprised of Taj, Stephen, JT and Erinn. At this stage, it is anyone’s game. One thing to watch for is look for some early friction, because Stephen crossed up JT by voting for Coach. It should be good, I can’t wait! Until next time…from Tocantins.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Why Didn’t I Listen To Myself?

After the first season of the pitiful Celebrity Apprentice mercifully concluded last year, I promised myself that was it. No more of this pathetic excuse of a reality show. Celebrity Apprentice’s sole purpose is to provide a venue for Donald Trump to stroke his massive ego in front of a collection of various washed-up stars, ex-athletes, and has-beens from other reality shows and a smattering of sex kittens. But alas, I broke my vow.

I wrote that paragraph on March 2 in my blog, “Donald Trump – You’re Fired!” After watching tonight’s 3-hour marathon of a finale, I realized I should have listened to myself. These people have made me sick from March until May!

The show opened billing Trump as “New York’s number one attraction” as he entered the theatre through a smoky fog. Why stop at New York? Why not America? Why not the World?

Donald Trump is the most over-bearing, pompous, conceited person alive. Who does he think he is? I will tell you who thinks he is – GOD! His treatment of Khloe Kardashian in the episode where he fired her was prime evidence of this. I truly feel sorry for anyone who is impressed with this arrogant lout.

I will not waste any more time on my opinion of the “Donald”. He is not worth it. What I will do is share a few things that I came away with watching this 180-minute train wreck.

Dennis Rodman, like all of these “celebrities”, desperately craves attention. He also worries a lot about not getting in trouble.

Tom Green covers up his insecurities by telling corny jokes. He can go from funny to annoying in the blink of an eye.

Clint Black can be summed up in one word – Narcissist. His love for himself is probably the only reason he agreed to appear on the show.

I don’t know who had a fouler mouth, Joan Rivers or Annie Duke, although Annie never referred to Joan as a piece of shit.

I was astonished that “Poker Player” sounded dirty and disgusting each time Joan Rivers squeezed those filthy words through her Botox-bloated lips.

Why don’t Donald Trump, daughter Ivanka and Melissa Rivers speak like normal people when they talk? Maybe if you are a wealthy “celebrity” you sound different because you are special and better than others.

Joan Rivers made it abundantly clear that if Trump ever tires of acting like GOD she can fill in capably.

Annie Duke is pretty well connected for just being a “Poker Player”. But she still cusses like a longshoreman.

I know that I promised no more about Trump’s omnipotent powers, but I have to close with one last item. While introducing last year’s runner-up, Trace Atkins, he stated, “Trace is a huge country music star thanks to Celebrity Apprentice.”

The power of the “Donald” and don’t think that Trump doesn’t believe it either.

Enough already! I can’t go on anymore. I hadn’t planned on writing a blog about this show. I wasn’t even going to watch it remember? Why didn’t I listen to myself? Oh well, “I’m a Celebrity – Get Me Out of Here” starts in June. Until next time…from the booth.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Increments of Twenty!

Tonight was the next to last Thursday of Survivor Tocantins. After next Thursday we can count the days to the season finale on Sunday May 17. At the conclusion of the finale, the much anticipated reunion show will take place. Sadly, after that Survivor fans will have to wait until fall for season number 19 to begin.

By contrast, the students of Auburn’s Drake Middle School will only have to wait until early June for the school year to come to an end. Why do I say fortunately? So they can get away from their lunatic Principal, Debra Beebe!

Until recently, this bleach bottle blonde - complete with the ubiquitous boob job, was not overly annoying. She played nicely with others and even won an Individual Immunity Challenge along the way.

Then she got in tight with the heinous Coach Dragon Slayer and his smarmy sidekick Tyson, becoming part of the nefarious Warrior Alliance. Unfortunately, being part of this alliance required that you act smug and lie a lot. Debra was not accomplished at either.

Last week, after watching her tell lies and then sob afterwards, I made the comment, “I wonder what the parents of the children at her school are thinking. Nice Boobs?” You would hope that a Middle School Principal wouldn’t be a too-faced bimbo. Maybe that’s why she was blubbering, she felt guilty.

Perhaps you think I am being too hard on Coach’s fair-haired girl. You could counter with the point that everybody plots, schemes and tells half-truths on Survivor. And you would be correct. Even though she is a Principal, I might even let it slide.

However, after her mind-boggling performance tonight, I feel justified in my assessment of Debra Beebe.

The following exchange took place early, during the time-honored Survivor auction. Please keep in mind that Jeff Probst instructed the contestants that they must bid in twenty-dollar increments.

Taj made an opening bid of $40 for a plate of French fries. Undaunted, Debra thrust her cash in the air and shouted out $50! Probst shook his head and reminded the flaxen haired leader of Alabama’s youth that bids must be made in increments of twenty-dollars.

After the laughter had died done, Debra composed herself and confidently made a bid of $70. Need I say more?

The only positive that the parents of the Drake Middle School students could possibly draw from Principal Debra’s performance tonight was her tenacity. After finally mastering the seemingly perplexing twenty-dollar increment conundrum, she won the French fries for a paltry $120.

Then she was voted off at Tribal Council.

Thankfully, in September, Survivor fans will be rewarded with the 19th season of the show we have come to love. Regrettably, September also marks the return of the Alabama’s young minds to Auburn’s Drake Middle School with the lovely Mrs. Beebe there to guide them. Until next time…from Tocantins.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Kenosha's Passion for the Game

It is May and that means it is softball time in Kenosha. With Survivor Tocantins coming to an end I have decided to start sharing some more of the softball memories that are crammed into my ample cranium. Softball was a major part of my life from the late 1970s up until the late 1990s. It has been a major part of Kenosha dating back to the early 1960s.

Earlier I wrote about the early years of slow-pitch softball in Kenosha. Detailed were the accomplishments of the Tirabassi Excavators. Their success, in the '60s, ignited Kenosha's love affair with the game of 12" slow-pitch softball. That passion would grow exponentially over the next 30-plus years.

Kenosha's passion for the game was at a fevered pitch (pun intended) during the '80s and '90s. This was evidenced by the ever-expanding list of softball fields in the area.

With the addition of the two Anderson diamonds on the Southside, slow-pitch players had nine parks for city league competition. Added into the equation was the growing number of private venues popping up.

Establishments such as Finney's West, The Bullpen, Hooker Lake Inn, Furlin's Dugout, Rawley's, The Waterhole and Extra Innings provided more places to get your "softball fix."

With all of these new opportunities presenting themselves, players were able to play every night of the week somewhere in the Kenosha area. It seemed like everyone was playing 12" slow-pitch.

Not only established teams like Tirabassi's and Finney's, but new teams as well. Many of these teams were formed by combining veterans from several different teams with a handful of newcomers eager to cut their teeth in the game.

One such team was Cenni's/George's Bar. This squad was a collection of players from Margetson's Construction, The Italian American, Finney's Lounge and The Gonzalez Brothers.

Manager Pat Conwell's roster was anchored with softball veterans Jimmy Nehls, Joe Gonzalez, Tito Gonzalez, Dennis Lura, Ken Pflugrad, Paul Cox and Pat Hegewald.

Conwell then mixed in a half dozen players new to slow-pitch, to create a team that was very successful in all of their endeavors. The "rookies", Tom Lux, Jeremy Kalbfell, Perry Hegewald, Mark Paszek, Ron Schuler and Scott Durkee, eventually became seasoned veterans, carrying the tradition forward.

Cenni's/George's Bar represented just what the game had become. A group of guys with diverse backgrounds that got together and took advantage of the expanding opportunity offered them. And were successful! This is just another example of what made this The Golden Age of Kenosha Slow-Pitch Softball. Until next time...from the booth.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Birthday Thanks

May 2 is here and yours truly is another year older. Yes, it is my birthday. It is not quite 7:00 am and I have decided that I better write this before the festivities begin. Please note that last sentence was written with my tongue planted firmly in cheek.

For some a birthday is filled with adulation and the expectation of wonderful gifts and marvelous parties. This is true of not only of the young. I have an “ex-relative” who chooses to celebrate an entire birthday week for himself. If you knew Pat you would fully understand.

Others like to get together and reminisce about years past, the “good old days” if you will. This can be either warm and sentimental or just plain depressing. Either way, it is therapeutic in a sense.

Then there are those who choose to totally ignore the anniversary of their birth. They act as if pretending the day has no significance makes them some kind of stoic, hardened martyr. I think it just indicates a person who is afraid of admitting how old they have gotten.

Personally, I fall somewhere in between all of these groups. I am not overly fond of real big parties, but I do like to get together and reminisce. And hey, who doesn’t like a thoughtful card or perhaps a nice gift?

As I grow older I have developed an increased appreciation of things. I suppose it is natural to do this as you age. I also find myself being more much thankful. One thing that I am thankful for is angels. Using a column I wrote last year, I will attempt to explain.

For many, an angel has religious connotations. Whether the religion is Christianity, Judaism or Islam, an angel is a spiritual supernatural being. I personally believe in spiritual angels. However, the spiritual angel is not the only type that I am thankful for. Once again, let me explain.

The New Oxford American Dictionary provides the following definitions of angel:

1. A spiritual being believed to act as an attendant, agent, or messenger of God, conventionally represented in human form with wings and a long robe.

2. A person of exemplary conduct or virtue.

Based on those two definitions, I would hazard a guess that we all have some sort of angels to be thankful for. Think about it for a moment and I am sure that you will begin to identify the angels in your own lives.

They may be the spiritual type based on your religious beliefs. Being Catholic, growing up I learned about Raphael, Gabriel and Michael. Another concept taught was that of guardian angels. Yet another sort of spiritual angel could be a loved one that has passed on. In that respect, I am thankful for my late grandma, Ermalinda Vagnoni. She was an angel while here on earth and remains one to this day.

The second definition of angel provides for a wide range of possibilities. I am sure that growing up, all of us has had a teacher or a coach that made a difference in our young lives. Maybe they helped you with something you could not comprehend or helped developing a certain skill. Maybe they just helped you fit it. Now as adults, this angel may be someone that has had a similar impact on your child’s life.

An additional variety of angels are role models. Once again it could be a teacher or coach, but personally, my “role model” angels are relatives. Not necessarily any one in particular, but a combination of the qualities of many. For example, I am thankful for my parents. They have shown me how to love, care and respect others. Also the entire Vagnoni clan for demonstrating how important family is. Funny thing about Italians. Finally, in the category of role models, I am thankful for my aunt Terri in California for illustrating how significant it is to not only listen, but to understand.

Yes, both types of angels are there to help us. A case in point is the angels that helped my godson Alex survive the 2007 holiday season. The spiritual kind guided the earthly angels as they fought from December 8th to Christmas Eve to keep him alive. A ruptured AVM (arteriovenous malformation), resulting in hemorrhaging in his brain, had both sets of angels working overtime. I am extremely thankful for that.

Where would we be without our angels? Who really knows? I know that I am thankful for Dr. Alfred Habel for helping me to delay what is inevitable for all human beings. I don’t know if he would appreciate being called angel, but he surely qualifies as one.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a very wonderful type of angel – the friend. My “friend” angels are all over the world. Literally. From Kenosha, Wisconsin to Farmington Hills, Michigan. From St. Paul Minnesota to San Juan Capistrano, California. I even have an angel with an English accent. They are all angels for various reasons. They are there for me without being asked. And I am thankful for each and every one of them.

I truly believe we all have angels in our lives, whether we know it or not. Maybe you have a different name or term for your angels, but they are still angels nonetheless. So be thankful for them. I am as I prepare to celebrate my 52nd birthday. Until next time…from the booth.