Monday, March 29, 2010

Let Them Eat Cake

Based on the feedback that I received from my last blog, Rock ‘n’ Roll All Night, people enjoy reading about my carefree, fun-loving younger days. So with that in mind, I have decided to once again return to those crazy days of yesteryear and write a Monday quickie. If you have been reading From The Booth for any time, you are well aware that I was deeply involved in softball back in the day. Many of my blogs have been softball oriented. Blogs like, What’s In A Nickname? for instance. Taking a look back, I realized that I had overlooked an entire family of nicknames – the Gascoignes.

Before going on, I must remind you that these names were given to the various members of the Gascoigne clan nearly thirty years ago. It was a softball thing, a sports thing, a 400 Club thing. Okay, it was a childish thing, but you have to understand there was a lot of testosterone and beer involved. One more thing, see how long it takes you to see a pattern developing.

With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s get started. The very first Gascoigne to acquire a nickname from my 400 Club team was Tim. At the time, Tim played outfield for Stanich Realty. Although Tim was a decent ball player, he possessed a rather pugnacious disposition that often rubbed the opposition the wrong way.

During a tournament game, it was this abrasive personality that caused Jeff DiCello to hang the nickname “Cupcake” on him. You see, Tim had a tendency of running in a unique fashion that caused his butt to stick out. It’s hard to explain, but after watching him beat out a single against us, the demonstrative DiCello muttered, “Look at him, he looks like a little “Cupcake” when he runs.”

This cracked the rest of the team up and the name stuck on Tim. When it started to become apparent that Stanich was going to beat us, we began to amuse ourselves by thinking up more clever nicknames. Next up was Tim’s brother Jeff.

Jeff was a fine hitter who I had known since Junior High School, but he needed a nickname. After all, he was “Cupcake’s” brother. Our astute squad, noticing Jeff’s bushy Afro-style hairdo, quickly dubbed him “Sponge Cake”. There was no stopping us now, we were on a roll.

Tom Gascoigne was the older brother of Tim and Jeff. He was a marginal player at best who served as manager of their team. Tom was a portly fellow, so it came as no surprise when he was tagged with the moniker “Pound Cake”. Have you noticed a theme yet?

Scouring the Stanich dugout, we became disappointed, seeing no more Gascoigne boys. Then one of my players slapped me on the arm and pointed. “Look, their little brother Mark is the bat boy!”

It should be noted that Mark would grow up to become the best athlete among the Gascoignes, excelling in both softball and basketball. But on that day it didn’t matter. On that day Mark would become “Shortcake”.

We eventually did lose the game, but that didn’t stop us from going inside Finney’s West to enjoy a few adult beverages and bask in air-conditioned comfort. Once inside we were still chuckling about assigning the “Cake” names to Tim, Jeff, Tom and Mark.

While sitting at the bar, an elderly farmer, who was a regular customer, came up to me and said, “Hey Paulie, did you guys win?” I smiled and answered, “No George, they got us today, but thanks for asking.”

As the venerable senior ambled away, one of my players asked me who that was. I explained, “George was a local that spent most of his non-farming time drinking here. George is a good guy.” It was at that point I laughed out loud.

The reason for the giggling was because I had just recalled George’s last name. You guessed it, George the farmer’s last name was Gascoigne. Although he wasn’t related to Tim, Jeff, Tom and Mark, but he was a Gascoigne and damn it he deserved a nickname. The gentleman farmer was officially christened “Rum Cake”.

There you have it, the “Cakes”. Tim, Jeff, Tom, Mark and George had become “Cupcake”, “Sponge Cake”, “Pound Cake”, “Shortcake” and “Rum Cake”, respectively. Interestingly enough, a few years later, Tim “Cupcake” Gascoigne would become a member of the 400 Club, with Jeff DiCello being his most ardent recruiter.

That’s it. Next up will be my Survivor recap on Thursday. Now it’s time for dinner. I wonder what’s for desert? Until next time…from the booth.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Rock ‘n’ Roll All Night

It was Friday morning at Koos Inc. and later that night I would be attending my very first Rock concert with Harry, Munk, Weber, Sluga and several other Koos luminaries. We were going to see KISS at the MECCA Arena in Milwaukee. The only problem was getting our supervisor to allow us to leave two hours early at 3:30 so we could cash our checks and wash off the Koos stink before the show. After much pleading and a promise that we would definitely be at work at 6:00 a.m. the next day, we finally got the okay. We were going to see KISS!

I wanna rock and roll all night and party every day…

Weber picked me up promptly at 5:00 in his small blue sub-compact with Harry and Munk already stuffed into the backseat with a case of Pabst Blue Ribbon. As I attempted to squeeze my large frame into the small vehicle, Munk shouted at me, “Where’s your wine Puddles?”

Smiling, I reached inside my jacket and produced a chilled flask full of Boone’s Farms finest. “Oh, you already put it in the flask!” was the response I received. With that, we made our way up I-94 with Munk and Harry attempting to pour wine into their flasks as we all chugged ice cold PBR.

I wanna rock and roll all night and party every day…

Forty minutes later, with the all the flasks filled and the case of beer consumed, we pulled into the enclosed parking structure just west of the MECCA Arena. With all that beer in my bladder, I needed to make quick work of the three-block journey that separated me from a restroom in the Arena.

That problem was immediately eliminated when I noticed that Weber, Munk and Harry were standing over a drain in the corner and were in the process of unzipping their jeans to relieve themselves of their Pabst. I instantly followed suit, shrugging my shoulders, wondering what I had gotten myself into.

I wanna rock and roll all night and party every day…

Feeling much better, we made our trek to the Arena in record time and found our seats just as a nondescript opening act started playing some rather mediocre music. That was okay; this gave us an opportunity to get to the concession stand to buy some (you guessed it) more beer!

Back from the concession stand, we eased back into our seats, with the strong aroma of Cannabis permeating the air, and were bombarded with extremely loud music, brilliant pyrotechnics and Gene Simmons’ bloody tongue. Enjoying the show, we filled our now empty beer cups with the wine we had smuggled in. Beer, my first concert, more beer and now wine. What more could an 18 year old guy ask for?

I wanna rock and roll all night and party every day…

After the show ended we stepped out into the cool Milwaukee night and met up with Sluga and his “uncle”. After a quick critique of the concert, it was decided that it was much too early to go back to Kenosha and that we were going to a trendy local nightspot. Having no say in the matter, I wondered to myself how we were going to make it work the next day.

The club was an enormous 2-story structure whose name escapes me. Hey, it was 34 years ago, what can I say? I do remember Sluga’s “uncle” challenging another guy to a game of foosball and ripping his shirt open, causing the buttons to fly everywhere. Oh yes, and we also drank some more beer.

I wanna rock and roll all night and party every day…

After a couple of hours, the four of us had had enough and we said good-bye to Sluga and his “uncle”. Glancing at my watch I noticed it was 1:30 a.m. hopefully I could get three hours of sleep before work. That idea was quickly put to rest when Harry announced we need some more beer for the ride home. I just shook my head as Weber obediently pulled off of the Interstate in pursuit of a new supply of alcohol.

Finding a neighborhood tavern, Weber hopped the curb parking on the sidewalk just outside the front door of the establishment. He quickly jumped out and ran inside. With a six-pack under his arm, he ran out just as quickly, screaming, “They’re rednecks! They’re going to kill us!” Our small car sped away into the darkness just as a large contingent of angry locals emerged from the bar, shaking their fists.

I wanna rock and roll all night and party every day…

Relieved that we had escaped the wrath of the hayseeds that didn’t appreciate our ‘70s hairstyles, we laughed at our good fortune. There was only one problem – we didn’t know where the hell we were!

Trying his damnedest, Weber could not find his way back to I-94. He turned left and we nearly ended up in Lake Michigan. When he turned around and headed west we ended up in Greenfield, but we still could not find the Interstate. Something told me the chance of me getting any sleep before work was rapidly diminishing.

I wanna rock and roll all night and party every day…

Realizing that we needed help getting our bearings, we pulled into a George Webb restaurant complete with its two clocks on the wall. Inside there was a cook, a waitress, a truck driver and a young couple who promptly departed when they saw us stumble in. We opted to get something to eat as long as we were getting directions.

Harry, Weber and myself chose to have breakfast. So did Munk. Along with breakfast he ordered a double cheeseburger, French-fries, a chef’s salad, a milk shake and a large bowl of chicken soup. Evidently he was hungry. Unfortunately he didn’t like the shade of green that the soup was, because he threw it all over the front window of the diner.

The rest of the “meal” must have agreed with Munk because upon completing it he proceeded to emit one of the largest belches that I have ever been witness to. The colossal burp obviously impressed the truck driver because he responded with, “That’s nice.” To which Munk sprung up from his seat and barked out, “Oh ya! If you don’t like it, step outside with me and my friends.” Where were we, the old West?

I wanna rock and roll all night and party every day…

Luckily cooler heads prevailed and armed with our directions we were finally heading back to Kenosha. We were going home. Or so I thought. Even though we had just filled our bellies at George Webb’s, we had a more than an ample supply of alcohol sloshing around in us as well. The ride home was going to be adventurous to say the least.

It was at this point that I realized that I was the only one not in some various stage of unconsciousness. Regrettably, I wasn’t behind the wheel, Weber was. At one point he came to long enough to see me looking terrified, clutching onto the small grab bar located above the passenger door. He merely mumbled that if we crashed, that wasn’t going to save my ass. I knew he was right, I just prayed that I didn’t die.

I wanna rock and roll all night and party every day…

Well, happily I didn’t die and we miraculously made it home safely sometime after 4:00 a.m. As you can imagine, none of us made it to work. Not me, not Munk, not Harry, not Weber, not Sluga. Not even Sluga’s “uncle” made it. Wait, he didn’t work at Koos, so he was okay. We all caught hell and because of our irresponsible actions, nobody was allowed to leave work early for the next thirty years. Management at Koos was tough.

However, when I eventually did wake up (sometime around noon), I make it over to Midtown Records and purchased the KISS Alive album. Until next time…from the booth.

I wanna rock and roll all night and party every day…

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hot Dogs For Everyone!

It was well worth the wait. Because of the NCAA basketball tournament, Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains was preempted last Thursday and moved to Wednesday this week. I believe it was billed as being on a “Special Night” in commercials earlier during the week. And special it was!

The show immediately opened with both tribes reading tree mail and wondering if it was going to be a reward challenge, an immunity challenge or the dreaded reward/immunity challenge combo.

Indeed, it was the combo challenge, but with an unheard of twist. Each tribe would compete against itself for Individual Immunity, which would result in two Tribal Councils and a castaway being sent home from both the Heroes and the Villains.

As if that wasn’t enough, the Good Guy winner would compete head-to-head against the victor of the Bad Guys. The Reward would be a feast of hot dogs and soft drinks that the winners would consume while watching the losers’ Tribal Council.

Candice pulled off a mild upset when she was victorious in the Heroes Challenge with Colby finishing dead last. Boston Rob was her competition in the finals when he was triumphant in the Villains heat.

The battle for the hot dogs was anticlimactic with the Brat from Bean town winning handily. However, that didn’t stop the annoying Sandra from squealing out in glee, “You get the biggest hot dog.”

With the challenges complete, it was time for the scrambling to begin as each tribe had to decide whom they were going to send home.

The Heroes were stressing over whether to keep James and his bad leg or Colby, who had announced that he knew his time had come and not to worry about it.

Over at the Villains camp it appeared that it would be either Russell the Hall-of-Famer or Parvati getting ousted. Boston Rob even told Russell that if he didn’t have the Hidden Immunity Idol, he had better go find it.

Boston Rob then went so far as to instruct his minions to split their votes, giving three to Russell and three to Parvati. That way, they would force Russell to play the Hidden Immunity Idol and they could eliminate the devious Parvati.

Unbeknownst to Boston Rob, Russell pulled Tyson off to the side and informed him that, although he hated to do it, he was going to write down Parvati in an effort to cover his own ass.

The dimwitted Tyson, who Boston Rob had instructed to vote for Russell, was giddy. He declared that now he was going to vote for Parvati, just to make sure. Then, as he grinned from ear to ear, he said, “I just want to get it over with and get some hot dog in my mouth.”

When are these people going to be careful of what they wish for?

What went down at the Villains Tribal Council was epic. After everyone voted, the award-winning Jeff Probst advised the castaways that if anyone had the Hidden Immunity Idol, now was the time to play to play it.

Everyone’s gaze turned to Russell as he stood up. Boston Rob’s face broke into a broad smile as Russell reached into his pocket and said that it was time to take the target off of his back. As Probst reached for the Idol, Russell pulled it back, saying, “but not like that.”

With that he handed the precious Hidden Immunity Idol to Parvati. This meant that any votes cast for Parvati would not be allowed. As Probst read the votes, the smile on Boston Rob’s face had vanished.

The first two went to Russell with the next four going to Parvati and not counting. When Probst read Tyson’s name three consecutive times, the blank look on Boston Rob had turned into one of astonishment.

Russell the Hall-of-Famer had outwitted Boston Rob and his foolproof plan. Now Tyson could fill his mouth with as much hot dog as he wanted. It just wasn’t going to be at the Heroes Tribal Council.

While the Villains, sans Tyson, were munching on hot dogs, they watched the Heroes tell James to take his gimpy leg and go home. That left them with J.T., Amanda, Rupert, Candice and Colby. All I can say is that they had better pray for an early merge because their days as a tribe are numbered.

I have said it before and I am saying it again, I can’t wait until next week.

Thanks to an idea from a friend of mine, I plan on writing a rather unique blog over the upcoming weekend. Until then…from the booth.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Satriale’s Meats 2010

Tonight the draft took place for the fourth season of the Bada Bing! Fantasy baseball league. I have been the commissioner all four seasons, running the league through Yahoo Sports. There are 10 teams in the league this year, up two from last year.

These are the teams making up the Bada Bing! League in 2010.

Klingon Bastards
Chris Moltisantis
Cubs Suck Ass
Long Ball 24
BG Big Chicks
Satriale’s Meat

Some clever names, huh? Some are self-explanatory, while others are a bit more subtle. My team is Satriale’s Meats; the regular hangout for members of Tony Soprano’s crew on the HBO hit The Sopranos.

I was fortunate enough to draw the first pick in the draft and raised a few eyebrows by choosing Prince Fielder of the Brewers. People who know me though, would have been shocked had I taken anyone else. Here is what my squad looks like:

C – Kurt Suzuki, Oakland Athletics
1B – Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers
2B – Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays
3B – Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals
SS – Miguel Tejada, Baltimore Orioles
OF – Jacoby Elsbury, Boston Red Sox
OF – Adam Dunn, Washington Nationals
OF – Andre Ethier, Los Angeles Dodgers
Utility – Michael Bourn, Houston Astros
Bench – Placido Polanco, Philadelphia Phillies
Bench – Cody Ross, Florida Marlins
Bench – Alcides Escobar, Milwaukee Brewers
Bench – Casey McGehee, Milwaukee Brewers

SP – Yovanni Gallardo, Milwaukee Brewers
SP – Jake Peavy, Chicago White Sox
SP – Tommy Hanson, Atlanta Braves
SP – Scott Baker, Minnesota Twins
SP – Mark Buehrle, Chicago White Sox
RP – David Aardsma, Seattle Mariners
RP – Trevor Hoffman, Milwaukee Brewers

It is fairly obvious that I am a fan of the Milwaukee Brewers, using five of my twenty picks on them. More importantly, there are no Chicago Cubs or St. Louis Cardinals on my team, a fact 0f which I am proud.

I understand that you really shouldn’t draft your team with your heart instead of your head, but it’s my team! Of course that’s probably why BG Big Chicks won last year and I finished fifth. Oh well, until next time…from the booth.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Attack Of The Chainsaw

Due to the NCAA tournament rudely preempting Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains, I hadn’t planned on writing this evening. With no Survivor, what could I possibly write about? But after dining on a quarter-pound hot dog smothered in ketchup and mustard, I have decided to give it a go. So I fired up my MacBook, turned the Marquette/Washington basketball game on TV and tuned the Bose into some scintillating talk radio. Now all I had to do is think of something to write about.

With no Survivor, I considered my options. I have finished listing my favorite athletes by the number, so that was out. Recently stories about The 400 Club have been popular and a while back, the tales of Koos Inc. were all the rage, especially those about Arno. Hmmm, what to do?

After much consternation I decided to squeeze out one more story about the legendary Koos madman, Arno Schubert. And what better story then the time he battled a chainsaw and lost. And I am not kidding.

A quick recap on Mr. Schubert. As I previously wrote in Arno: A Koos Legend, he was a cantankerous old German who weighed in at about 230 pounds and stood 6’2”. His unkept hair was reddish-brown and, as was his scraggly beard and moustache. Arno had more scars on his body than teeth in his mouth.

The infamous chainsaw incident resulted in Arno gaining a new scar to that already mangled body. He was at his parent’s house helping his father clean up trees that had fallen in the yard. The two had been at it for some time when Arno began cutting up the trees into smaller pieces with the chainsaw.

The chainsaw, like Arno, was weather-beaten and broken down. It wasn’t long before it became stuck in a thick log. Try as he might, Arno couldn’t extract the chainsaw from the wood. Being a stubborn Kraut, he gave it one last, mighty jerk and it finally came free!

Unfortunately, he had no idea that the chainsaw would start running again once it was loose. To make matters worse, the force of Arno’s mighty tug had caused him to stumble backwards with the buzzing chainsaw in his hands.

When Arno landed on the ground, the sharp chainsaw blade smacked him the head, digging into the left side of his head and cutting into his eye. Arno’s father rushed him to the hospital and unbelievably his eye was saved.

I say unbelievably, because given his track record, anybody that knew Arno would have assumed the worst. At the very least it was thought he would be sporting a shiny new glass eyeball. Instead he had to settle for a black eye patch for the next couple of weeks.

Arno told us that the eye patch was necessary because the muscles in his eyelid were damaged and therefore his eye would not close. We thought he was just bullshitting us, because, after all, he was a world-class bullshitter. We figured that he was just making it worse than it actually was. None of us believed that his eye wouldn’t close.

That was until one eventful Sunday morning when he stopped by the apartment that Harry and I rented. Arno had just dropped his wife and daughters off at church and came over to our place in search of a Pabst Blue Ribbon. Evidently the case he had poured into his head the night before had lost its effect.

Disgruntled because our supply of beer was exhausted, Arno decided to crash on the mattress in the corner of our living room. When it appeared that he was asleep, Harry and I jumped on he opportunity to check out whether or not his eye would close.

We quietly tiptoed over to the snoring Arno, trying not to giggle. Harry gently peeled the dirty eye patch back. Much to our surprise, there was a crusty, bloodshot eye staring back at us!

He hadn’t been lying, his eye would not close. Even when he was sleeping. And trust me, we checked it a half dozen more times before the grumpy Arno came to. It was pretty cool, it did indeed stay open. Wait until the rest of the guys at Koos heard about this.

Please don’t think unkindly of Harry or me. Unless you have met Arno Schubert, you would not understand. The man was a legend, but for all the wrong reasons. And this time the legend took on a chainsaw and lost. Until next time…from the booth.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Few Of My Least Favorite Things

Recently I have been feeling a bit verklempt and when you throw in a bad case of sinus-induced congestion, I really don’t feel like thinking or even writing for that matter. Like any red-blooded man, when I am not feeling up to snuff, my male instincts take over. The whining and complaining starts with a huge dose of bitching and moaning. So rather than writing an entertaining tale about Koos Inc. or The 400 Club, I have decided to simply make a list of things that either annoy me or that I just don’t like. Yes, I am going to bitch and moan. These are a few of my least favorite things.

Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip. I can’t tell the difference, they both activate my gag reflex. Pretty unusual for a man of girth such as myself, don’t you think?

The Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings and the Chicago Bulls. No explanation needed here, my feelings towards these particular teams have been well documented on this very blog.

People who think men should never cry. I have cried plenty since February 3 and I cry each time I watch the movie Bang The Drum Slowly. I have to wonder about any person who never cries.

Onions on pizza. Pizza is like sex, even when it’s bad it’s still pretty good. Except for when onions enter the equation, then all bets are off.

The Doug and Mike Show. I admittedly listen to an inordinate amount of sports talk radio, but the two giggling frat boys on 1250 WSSP are not a part of my regular listening rotation. Give me those “fat, boring white guys” from 540 ESPN any day.

Politics. The best way to start an argument is to bring up politics. Don’t get me wrong, I do my patriotic duty and vote regularly. I just don’t possess the passion that some of my family and friends have for the political scene.

American Idol. The last time I watched this show, Carrie Underwood beat out some Rock ‘n’ Roll guy in season 4. Time spent watching the next four totals less than two hours. The amount of time spent viewing the current season – zero.

Jay Leno. I was not a fan of Leno before the late night wars started. After he weaseled his way back onto the Tonight Show at 10:35 p.m., my opinion of him dropped even more. If that’s possible.

People who admire Donald Trump. Please understand; I think that “The Donald” is an insufferable, self-serving blowhard. However, people who fawn over him are in a category all their own.

NCAA Basketball Tournament. Many of you are probably shocked, knowing my obsession with sports. So I will explain. I only hate March Madness on the first Thursday of the tournament when it preempts Survivor. The audacity!

People who say you shouldn’t put ketchup on hot dogs. I know it’s a “Chicago thing”, but I happen to like ketchup on my franks, thank you. You don’t hear me telling people not to put that glow in the dark relish on their wiener, do you?

Close-minded people. It worries me when a person believes that they always know best. But it bothers me when they won’t even listen to the other side of the argument. Nobody is always right.

Even though I could come up with a few more, that’s enough bitching and moaning for one day. Please keep in mind that although I am not fond of these things, it’s only my opinion…for what that’s worth.

I fully understand that many people feel just the opposite and that’s okay with me. After all, I’m not close-minded. These just happened to be a few of my least favorite things. Until next time…from the booth.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Favorites By The Number…Part Five

This is it, the final installment of my Favorites By The Number series. The previous four have included 47 football players, 19 baseball players, 9 basketball players and 19 hockey players. This final list consists of another 18 footballers, 15 of which played for the Packers (there’s a surprise) and two more hockey players.

#81 – Marv Fleming, Green Bay Packers. He is the first player in National Football League history to play in five Super Bowls - with Green Bay Super Bowl I and Super Bowl II; with Miami Super Bowl VI, Super Bowl VII and Super Bowl VIII.

#82 – Paul Coffman, Green Bay Packers. Played college ball at Kansas State before playing tight end for eight seasons for the Green Bay Packers.

#83 – John Jefferson, Green Bay Packers. Along with James Lofton and Coffman, J.J. teamed up with quarterback Lynn Dickey to give the Packers one of the most explosive passing attacks in the NFL in the early 1980s.

#84, #85 and #86 – Carroll Dale, Max McGee and Boyd Dowler, Green Bay Packers. This trio of receivers were Bart Starr’s primary targets during the Lombardi years. A hung over McGee scored the first touchdown in Super Bowl history when he replaced an injured Dowler.

#87 – Willie Davis, Green Bay Packers. After completing a Hall of Fame career, Davis went on to become one of the most powerful business people in the world, as a member or former member of the boards of Alliance Bank, Dow Chemical, Johnson Controls, K-Mart, L.A. Gear, Manpower, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, MGM Mirage, Rally's Inc., Sara Lee, Schlitz Brewing, and WICOR Inc.

#88 – Lynn Swann, Pittsburgh Steelers. Swann was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 21st pick of the first round in the 1974 NFL Draft. That draft class is considered to be one of the best in NFL history and included 4 eventual Hall of Famers: Swann, John Stallworth, Mike Webster, and Jack Lambert.

#89 – Dave Robinson, Green Bay Packers. Robinson played 10 seasons at outside linebacker for the Green Bay Packers from 1963 to 1972 and was honored on the NFL's all-decade team for the 1960s.

#90 – Ezra Johnson, Green Bay Packers. Johnson played for the Green and Gold from 1977-1987. He was most notable for eating a hot dog on the sidelines during the fourth quarter of a 38–0 Packers' home exhibition loss to the Denver Broncos on August 30, 1980.

#91 – Brian Noble, Green Bay Packers. After graduating from Arizona State, Noble played in Green Bay for nine seasons. One of my fondest memories of Noble was seeing him, along with a couple of rookie linemen, at the Body Shop Gentlemen’s Club on Monroe Avenue in Green Bay during training camp.

#92 – Reggie White, Green Bay Packers. During his professional career, he became famous not only for his outstanding play, but also for his Christian ministry as an ordained Evangelical minister. This led to his nickname, "the Minister of Defense." White was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006, two years after his death.

#93 – Gilbert Brown, Green Bay Packers. Nicknamed "The Gravedigger," in honor of his celebratory dance following a thunderous tackle, Brown played for the Pack from 1993-2003. During the 1996 season, it became known that Brown would regularly order the "Gilbertburger", a Double Whopper with extra everything, cut in half with extra cheese, no pickles.

#94 – Kabeer Gbaja Biamila, Green Bay Packers. Commonly referred to as "KGB", he was drafted by the Pack in the fifth round of the 2000 NFL Draft. He played college football at San Diego State.

#95 – Bryce Paup, Green Bay Packers. Paup played 5 years in Green Bay before going on to play with Buffalo, Jacksonville and Minnesota. In 2007 he returned to Wisconsin and was introduced as the head football coach at Green Bay Southwest High School. He is also on the Packers' Board of Directors.

#96 – Sean Jones, Green Bay Packers. This hard-charging end recorded 113 career sacks over 13 seasons in the NFL, the last three with the Packers. He was part of the Super Bowl Championship team in 1996.

#97 – Jeremy Roenick, Chicago Blackhawks, Phoenix Coyotes, Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks. J.R. played 20 seasons in the NHL, the first eight with the Blackhawks where he wore number 27. The final 12 years of his career he sported number 97.

#98 – Tony Siragusa, Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens. After a successful career in professional football, the rotund Siragusa began his new line of work on television. He is a sideline reporter during NFL games on the Fox Network, has also appeared as the character Frankie Cortese in the HBO hit series The Sopranos and hosts "Man Caves" on the DIY network.

#99 – Wayne Gretzky, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers. The Great One held or shared 61 NHL records upon his retirement on April 18, 1999, including 40 regular season records, 15 playoff records, and 6 all-star records.

#00 – Jim Otto, Oakland Raiders. Born in Wausau, Wisconsin, Otto played for the Oakland Raiders from 1960-1974. Otto punished his body greatly during his NFL career, resulting in nearly 40 surgeries, including 28 knee operations (nine of them during his playing career alone) and multiple joint replacements. His joints are riddled with arthritis, and he has debilitating back and neck problems. On a lighter side, Jim is the only player on any of my lists whose last name is a palindrome.

That wraps up my lists of favorites by the number. I will try to write something new by Tuesday, perhaps an Arno story or maybe another tale about the exploits of the 400 Club softball team. Until next time…from the booth.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Times They Are A Changing…Sort Of

Tonight’s episode of Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains was outstanding, although I must admit it had my head spinning. Typically, I scribble down notes and quotes while I watch the show and try to think of a “theme” for this blog. Then, during commercials I search for a clever graphic to accompany it. Finally, once the show is over, I call Fellow Survivor Geek Auntie Janet to get her take on the episode before I start writing. That being said, looking back at my notes I ultimately decided that the times they are a changing…sort of.

The very first thing I wrote on my pad was, “J.T. is starting to make me sick.” Further down the page I read, “Screw Tom. He is so insincere.” That is where some of my confusion began. That is because both Tom and J.T. were two of my all-time favorites. I can say, without shame that I cheered out loud when they won Palau and Tocantins respectively.

So why has my opinion of these two champs changed? Basically it is because I am seeing different sides of them. Tom has become “Tom Terrific”, the moral compass of all things Survivor, while J.T. has become a windsock while attempting to be a conniving bad guy.

A couple of things that Tom has said cause me to feel this way. During the second Tribal Council when StephEnie was voted off, he and James were involved in a rather spirited argument. After James had made a point, Tom responded with, “Maybe in your world, but I’m not in your world.”

At tonight’s Tribal Council Tom conceded to award-winning host Jeff Probst that this could very well be it for him, “unless a few good people decide to do what’s right and what’s best for the team and vote James off.” He sealed the deal with his “James, all mass, no class” remark as he voted.

J.T. has turned into a little boob. He wants to be evil, but doesn’t have the brainpower to pull it off. Each time he betrays someone at Tribal Council, he immediately starts making excuses the second everyone returns to camp. All he accomplishes by this is sounding like a whiny little girl.

Even Amanda has him figured out. After trying to mend fences with her and reestablish their alliance, by saying, no less than 10 times, that he swears he would never turn on her. Moments later, Amanda promptly said that she sees right through J.T. and has made at least twenty alliances already.

There are a few others that I have also changed my outlook on. Sandra and Colby used to be among my most-lived castaways, but they no longer hold that distinction.

Sandra contributes absolutely nothing, yet acts as if she is some kind of vital cog in the Villain machine. When the clip of her saying, “It’s not fair for one person to have the Hidden Individual Immunity Idol” was replayed this evening, I vomited in my mouth a little.

Colby, Colby, Colby. Dear Colby Donaldson. You aren’t a tough guy anymore. Coach and Tyson have both knocked your ass around this season and tonight Jeff Probst almost bitch-slapped you when you got snarky about the chocolate. Then you didn’t even compete in the challenge. Some tough guy.

Yes, the times they are a changing…sort of. The only reason I say sort of was because one thing has not changed. The Heroes are still STUPID! Once again in the Immunity Challenge they took an enormous lead only to piss it away when it came time to solve the puzzle. The Heroes just aren’t very clever, that has not changed

But, that’s okay with me because, much to my delight, I once again found myself cheering for Tom, the most noble and righteous person ever to compete on Survivor. However, this time it was when was he told, “The tribe has spoken.” The times they are a changing…sort t of. Until next time…from the booth.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Stay Hot Toaster!


During the Golden Age of slo-pitch softball in Kenosha, my 400 Club team made an annual journey to La Crosse to participate in a tournament. It was a fun-packed weekend and a road trip that the entire squad looked forward to making each year. With family and friends included, it wasn’t unusual for the caravan to western Wisconsin to number over thirty people. It was such a popular event that players from other teams often offered their services to the “Club”, so they too could be part of this yearly bash.

One such player was Toaster.

Before going on, let me make it clear to you that Toaster, like most of the guys who played for the 400 Club, was quite a character. He has a real name, but due to some of his exploits that will be revealed in this blog, he will continue to be called by his nickname, Toaster.

Toaster was a young, up-and-coming softball player when he joined us in La Crosse. In the years that followed he not only became a regular member of the 400 Club, but also went on to develop into an outstanding hitter that played for many top ranked teams. Over two decades later, he is still playing at a competitive level.

Although it was always referred to as the La Crosse tournament, over the years we played in many different small towns in the area. Cities like Stoddard, Sparta and Brownsville have all had the honor of playing host to the rambunctious 400 Club team.

No matter what city we happened to be playing in, we traditionally stayed at the Bluff View Motel in La Crosse. Because of the distance that we had to travel, we were never scheduled to play on Friday night. This allowed us to check into the motel and carry out another time-honored tradition, going downstairs to the Anvil Lounge.

The Anvil Lounge was your typical motel bar, 12 stools and three or four small tables in the corner…and one large iron anvil. The first time we visited the Anvil Lounge, our first baseman Mark Montague felt compelled to head-butt it several times. But that’s a story for another time; this particular Friday night belonged to Toaster.

It was about 9:00 p.m. and most of the team had been enjoying adult beverages for a couple of hours. Our star pitcher, Danny Llanas, had just instructed our lovely bartender, Joan, on the fine art of mixing “root beer” shots. The first batch was making its way down the bar when Toaster made his entrance.

And what a spectacular entrance it was.

He bounced into the motel lounge grinning from ear-to-ear, clad only in a t-shirt, gym shorts and a pair of flip-flops. The problem was that his shorts were pulled down in the front and therefore were exposing his package. You know, his junk was showing.

Hearing the snickers, the fetching Joan looked over from behind the bar and noticed that little Toaster was making an appearance. Undaunted, she smirked at “Toaster” and commented, “That’s nice, but it’s not hard.” A hush fell over the Anvil Lounge.

Then Toaster, not to be outdone, smiled broadly and pointed at the attractive bartender saying. “Baby, that’s where you come in!” The bar erupted in laughter and a blushing Joan put her head down and starting mixing another batch of “root beer” shots.

After making himself decent, Toaster proceeded to do serious damage to the alcohol supply at the Anvil Lounge. Feeling a bit cock-sure (pun intended), he asked me what position he would be playing tomorrow. I informed him that the regulars would play the field and he would be the designated hitter.

When he loudly informed me that he hadn’t come all this way just to be the DH and sit on the bench, the hair on the back of my neck began to stand up. Before I could say anything, Jimmy G tapped me on the shoulder and quietly said, “That’s okay Paul, I will DH. Let the superstar play rightfield.”

Telling Jimmy G that I appreciated the gesture, I then informed Toaster that he would be playing rightfield. Satisfied, he went back to his mission of becoming extremely intoxicated. Shaking my head, I again thanked Jimmy G and made my way up to my room, after all, we had a 10:00 a.m. game tomorrow.


The next morning, the pounding rain on my room’s window woke me up well before I had intended to get up. After muttering a few expletives, I got dressed and rounded up the squad to head to the ballpark. It was no small undertaking, because first I had to convince them that there was a chance we would play.

Driving through a downpour, I thought that there would be no way we would be able to play. Much to my surprise, when we arrived games were being played despite the standing water on the field. Catching the attention of one of the poncho-wearing umpires, I asked, “Are you kidding?” “Rain or shine, buddy. Rain or shine” was his reply.

Resigned to the fact that we were indeed playing, I started making out a line-up. Gathering the team, I called out the batting order, “Okay, Red – 2B, Eddie - LC, Hollywood - SS, Munk - C, Ronnie – 3B, Toaster – RF…” Before I could say another word I was rudely interrupted by, “That’s okay Paul, I will DH. Let Jimmy G play rightfield.”

Wiping the rain from my spectacles, I looked up from my rain soaked scorebook to see a very hung-over Toaster clad in an orange Hawaiian shirt. Before I could reply to him, the normally congenial Jimmy G blurted out, “F*ck you Toaster! You go out there in this slop. You wanted to play rightfield, I will DH.”

Despite the weather, I beamed as I finished reading the line-up and we played softball in a constant shower. I think that we won the game, but I’m not sure. I do know for sure that Jimmy G was the DH in that game and sat next to me on the covered bench. Meanwhile, Toaster slid and flopped around in the mud, all the while struggling not to get sick all over his orange Hawaiian shirt.

Now you can see why the annual 400 Club La Crosse tournament was a tradition that the team always looked forward to and why players from other teams would want to be a part of it. Stay hot Toaster! Until next time…from the booth.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Favorites By The Number…Part Four

It has been a little while since I have added to my lists of favorite athletes. My first three columns covered those who wore uniforms featuring the numbers 1 through 60. This column takes a look at those who wore numbers 61 through 80. It should be noted that I lied when I said they are all going to be football players. Some hockey player named Jagr snuck in there.

#61 - Curley Culp, Kansas City Chiefs. Culp was a standout defensive tackle for the Chiefs of the late 1960s and early 70s. Plus, he shares the first name with one of the Three Stooges. Nuk, Nuk, Nuk.

#62 - Matt Brock, Green Bay Packers. Another defensive lineman. Brock played for the Pack from 1989 to 1993.

#63 - Fred "Fuzzy" Thurston, Green Bay Packers. I have seen Fuzzy (in person) stand and sing along to a Meat Loaf music video. I have listened to him tell endless stories at his fine establishment. He is an all-time favorite.

#64 - Jerry Kramer, Green Bay Packers. Kramer was Thurston's counterpart, playing right guard. It is an absolute sin that Jerry Kramer is not in the NFL Hall of Fame.

#65 - Mark Tauscher, Green Bay Packers. This former Badger was the Pack's 7th round pick in the 2000 draft. He became the starting right tackle early that season and has been there ever since with a short break last season.

#66 - Ray Nitschke, Green Bay Packers. As a youngster, I saw Nitschke play in a charity basketball game in Kenosha. During that game he reacted to an official's decision by slamming the basketball so hard that it hit the ceiling in St. Joe's gymnasium. I was impressed.

#67 - Reggie McKenzie, Buffalo Bills. This "Electric Company" guard paved the way for O.J. Simpson's 2003 rushing yards in 1973.

#68 - Jaromir Jagr, Pittsburgh Penguins. Jagr helped Mario Lemieux power the Pens to back-to-back Stanley Cup Championships in 1991 and 1992. He now plays for the Czech Republic.

#69 - Tim Krumrie, Cincinnati Bengals. Another former Badger. Krumrie is probably best remembered for his broken leg flopping around in the first quarter of Super Bowl XXIII.

#70 - Art Donavan, Baltimore Colts. Having never seen "Fats" play, I became a big fan of his when he began doing the late-night talk shows after retirement. The man can tell a story.

#71 - Alex Karras, Detroit Lions. I always liked Karras as a player and enjoyed him in Paper Lion and as "Mongo" in Blazing Saddles. I am not ashamed to say that I was even a fan of his work in the television show Webster.

#72 - John Matuszak, Oakland Raiders. "Tooz", a Milwaukee native, was a colorful character to say the very least. He too had a movie career. He passed at age 38. His death has been blamed on his wild lifestyle, including the possible use of anabolic steroids.

#73 - John Hannah, New England Patriots. Hannah played 13 professional seasons, earning All-Pro honors 10 times. Some have called this Hall-of-Famer the greatest offensive lineman in NFL history.

#74 - Henry Jordan, Green Bay Packers. After retiring, this NFL Hall-of Famer went on to create and oversee Summerfest. He too passed away very early, at age 42.

#75 - Joe Greene, Pittsburgh Steelers. Playing defensive tackle for Pittsburgh's Steel Curtain, he might be best known for gulping down a bottle of Coca-Cola and tossing his sweaty jersey at a little kid.

#76 - Mike McCoy, Green Bay Packers. McCoy matriculated at Notre Dame before playing defensive tackle for the Green and Gold for 7 seasons.

#77 - Lyle Alzado, Denver Broncos. Besides the Broncos, Alzado also played for the Browns and Raiders. He was one of the first major sports figures to admit to using steroids. He passed at the age of 43 after battling a brain tumor the last few years of his life.

#78 - Bubba Smith, Baltimore Colts. Another great NFL defensive lineman who went on to a career on the silver screen after retiring from the game. He is perhaps best known for his role as Moses Hightower in the Police Academy series.

#79 - Tony Mandarich, Michigan State Spartans. As #77, Mandarich was "The Incredible Bust" for the Packers. As #79, he was a consensus All-American for the Spartans. He is now a friend on facebook.

#80 - James Lofton, Green Bay Packers. Besides the Packers, this Hall-of-Famer also caught passes for the Raiders, Bills, Rams and Eagles. For 4 seasons he joined fellow wideout John Jefferson and QB Lynn Dickey to provide Green Bay with a very explosive aerial attack.

That's it for this list. The next time I do Favorites By The Number, I will finish up with 81 to 99. Until then…from the booth.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Okay, Maybe They’re Not That Stupid

It may be redundant, but I would like to quote the Hall-of-Famer Russell Hantz one more time, “Villains are smarter than Heroes. It’s a proven fact. Google it!” The first fifty minutes of tonight’s episode of Survivor strongly reinforced this notion once again. They lost yet another Immunity Challenge that required more thinking than brute strength and then took three days to figure out what the Villains did in three minutes. Add to that the fact they were prepared to make an extremely boneheaded move at Tribal Council. Finally in the last five minutes the Heroes redeemed themselves and made me think, okay, maybe they’re not that stupid.

It was understandable when the Villains narrowly defeated the Heroes in the Sears commercial that was disguised as a Reward Challenge. It was very entertaining, but it was a challenge based solely on physical skills.

But the Immunity Challenge had more of an analytical and cerebral slant to it and the Heroes lost again. Of the four Immunity Challenges to date, the only one the Good Guys were victorious in was a physical one, the Sumo/Mud Wrestling from last week.

Their dimwittedness was further evidenced when it took them three full days to discover the Hidden Immunity Idol clue that was hidden in their reward given them in the Sumo/Mud Wrestling challenge. Thing is, the Bad Guys found their clue three minutes after returning to camp from tonight’s challenge.

It was at this point that I wrote down, “The idiot Heroes finally find their clue for their Hidden Immunity Idol.”

Had Tom Terrific not found that Hidden Immunity Idol, the Heroes would have cemented their place in the Ignoramus Hall-of-Fame. Only the use of the Hidden Immunity Idol and a brilliant blindsiding prevented this. Like lambs being lead to the slaughter, they were ready to eliminate either Colby or Tom, two of their stronger competitors.

Seeing the astonished look on the leave-fearing Cirie’s face when she was told “The tribe had spoken” kept me from declaring the Heroes tribe a hopeless bunch of nincompoops.

Random Ramblings – When did Coach become a whimpering little bitch? First he goes crying to the insipid Tyson and follows it up by needing a “man-up” speech from Boston Rob…Is it just me or is Colby losing head-to-head competitions on a regular basis? In week one he was embarrassed by Coach and tonight, with the challenge on the line, he loses to Tyson…Sandra got under my skin when she whined that it’s not fair for one person to have the Hidden Immunity Idol. Maybe it wasn’t fair that you won $1,000,000 on Survivor: Pearl Islands…I am afraid that the Hall-of-Famer Russell is a marked man and might be shown the door sooner than I would like.

All in all, tonight’s episode of the award winning reality show was outstanding. The challenges were exciting and another personality-deprived individual was eliminated. Cirie was spot on when she said, “For my game, I need some of these strong players gone!” Maybe they’re not that stupid. Until next time…from the booth.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Favorites By The Number…Part Three

Round three in my series of favorite athletes by the number will feature those who wore numbers 41 through 60. Making up this list are thirteen football players, four baseball players, three basketball players and a hockey player.

#41 - Tom Matte, Baltimore Colts. My fondest memory of this Colt running back was when he was forced to play quarterback due to Johnny Unitas and Gary Cuozzo being injured at the end of the 1965 season. Using plays written on his wrist bands, he led Baltimore to victory over the Rams before losing to the Packers in the Western Conference Finals playoff game in overtime.

#42 - Connie Hawkins, Phoenix Suns. One of the original "Sky-Walkers", Hawkins could snatch a quarter off the top of the backboard and leave change. He played for the Harlem Globetrotters and in the ABA prior to his career in the NBA.

#43 - Jack Sikma, Milwaukee Bucks. Sikma was a solid NBA performer for 14 seasons, playing the last 5 with the Bucks. He featured a great head of curly blond locks.

#44 - Gino Cavallini, Milwaukee Admirals. It would have been easy to say Hank Aaron, Reggie Jackson or even Jerry West, but my favorite is Gino Cavallini. He was a "grinder" during his 10 year NHL career before joining the Admirals. In three IHL seasons, Cavallini scored 139 goals and totaled 248 points.

#45 - Carlos Lee, Milwaukee Brewers. You can't help but like "El Cabala." The guy always appears to be having fun and hits the crap out of the ball as well.

#46 - Vince Workman, Green Bay Packers. This former Buckeye running back did not have a great NFL career. What he did have was one of the best nicknames ever - "Pookie".

#47 - Mel Blount, Pittsburgh Steelers. This big cornerback was one of the leaders of the "Steel Curtain" defense for Pittsburgh's quartet of Super Bowl Championships. After retiring in 1983, he has made an impact in the community, establishing the Mel Blount Youth Home of Pennsylvania.

#48 - Ken Ellis, Green Bay Packers. Ellis played defensive back for the Pack from 1970 - 1975 and is a member of the Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame. I can still see Ellis catching Cowboy speedster "Bullet" Bob Hayes from behind on a Thanksgiving Day game.

#49 - Teddy Higuera, Milwaukee Brewers. This "barrel-chested" lefty toed the rubber for the Crew from 1985 - 1994 with a record of 94 wins against 64 losses.

#50 - Pete Vuckovich, Milwaukee Brewers. Vuckovich pitched for the Brewers for six seasons. Definitely a character, "Vuke" portrayed slugging Yankee first baseman Clue Haywood in the film Major League.

#51 and #52 - Jim Ringo and Frankie Winters, Green Bay Packers. This pair of centers are both Hall of Famers. Ringo was first inducted to the Packer HOF in 1974 and was enshrined in Canton in 1981. Winters became a member of the Packer HOF in 2008.

#53 - Darryl Dawkins, Philadelphia 76ers. "Chocolate Thunder", from the planet Lovetron, played 14 seasons in the NBA. He was most famous for naming his monstrous dunks and destroying backboards.

#54 - Randy White, Dallas Cowboys. White was an outstanding defensive tackle for Dallas' "Doomsday Defense" and was tough as nails. Just ask Cowboy linebacker Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson. In Henderson's book, "Out of Control", he tells a story of when he decided to confront White in the locker room. Henderson said that before he knew what had happened, White had slammed him against a locker, holding him there. Not being able to move, "Hollywood" said he was helpless and felt like a child.

#55 - Doug Buffone, Chicago Bears. I know you can't believe that there is a Chicago Bear on my list. Trust me, it's not because of his playing days. It is the way he and fellow former Bear Ed O'Bradovich rant and rave after a Chicago loss on WSCR.

#56 - Nick Barnett, Green Bay Packers. Barnett is a talented linebacker who should have learned by now to stay out of nite clubs. Oh ya, Nick, can you tone down the Samurai stuff?

#57- Ken Bowman, Green Bay Packers. Another center for the Green and Gold made my list. That classic black and white picture of Bowman's muddy, bloodied hands still sticks out in my mind.

#58 - Jack Lambert, Pittsburgh Steelers. This snaggletooth middle linebacker was no one to mess with. I am such a fan of Lambert that I still have a gold-colored 45-rpm record shaped like a football titled "Madman Jack".

#59 - John Anderson, Green Bay Packers. This Waukesha native and former Wolverine played linebacker in Green Bay for 12 seasons. During the off-season he was a salesman for Mid-City Sporting Goods in Milwaukee. That is where I met him while ordering the very first uniforms for The 400 Club. Since 1998, Anderson has taught middle school science and geography in Brookfield.

#60 - Lee Roy Caffey, Green Bay Packers. Caffey was a Green Bay Packer linebacker from 1964 - 1969. He was acquired in the famous "Jim Ringo" trade.

That completes list #3. Next time I will share with you numbers 61 through 80. Here's a sneak preview - they're all football players! Until then…From The Booth.