Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Best

As I have grown older I have made a conscious effort not to deal in hyperbole unless I’m attempting to be sarcastic. Something else that I try to steer clear of is absolutes. Often times my blogs will feature personal favorites, but to the best of my knowledge, I never wrote one proclaiming something is the unequivocal best. Well tonight that changes. Because I don’t know what else to write about, here is a list of things that ARE the best. At least in my opinion.

The best television drama ever is the HBO hit, The Wire. Nothing comes close.

The best television character ever is Omar Little from; you guessed it, The Wire.

The best television sitcom ever is Leave It To Beaver.

The best television dad ever is Sheriff Andy Taylor from the Andy Griffith Show. Opie had a good pa.

The best television game show ever is Match Game.

The best male television game show panelist ever is Charles Nelson Reilly.

The best female television game show panelist ever is Elaine Joyce. Heavy sigh…

The best animated television show ever is King Of The Hill.

The best thing I ever saw on television was coach Leroy Fedders drowning in a bowl of Mary Hartman’s chicken soup. Priceless.
The best band ever is The Who.

The best “new” band is Dropkick Murphys.

The best concert I ever went to was at the Milwaukee Arena when Cheap Trick opened for Queen. It was wonderful.

The best football game ever that I saw in person took place September 27, 1992, when Brett Favre tossed a 35 yard TD pass to Kitrick Taylor with 32 seconds left in the game, sealing a dramatic come-from-behind victory for the Packers over the Cincinnati Bengals.

The best football game that I ever saw on television was the immortal Ice Bowl game. As quarterback Bart Starr snuck across the goal line giving the Packers the1967 NFL Championship over the Dallas Cowboys, my mother bounced off of the couch onto the floor as she squealed in delight.

The best baseball game that I ever saw in person was at Wrigley Field between the Cubs and the Mets in the late ‘60s. I went with my dad, uncle Dave and my sister Teri along with a couple of our cousins. I don’t even remember who won. It was still the best.

The best playoff baseball game that I ever saw in person was at venerable County Stadium in October of 1982. The Brewers beat the California in game four of the American League Championship Series.

The best baseball game that I ever saw on television was between the Brewers and the Minnesota Twins on June 25, 2005. In that game Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks each hit their first career home runs. I will never forget the raw emotion exhibited by J.J. Hardy and Prince in the dugout after Fielder’s homer.

The best hockey game that I ever saw in person was an IHL game at the Bradley Center between the Milwaukee Admirals and the San Diego Gulls on November 27, 1992. It was the day after Thanksgiving and I went to the game with my girlfriend Michelle. The Admirals gave the Gulls their first loss of the season in a hair-rising shootout.

The best hockey moment that I ever saw on television was a game between the Rangers and the Penguins on April 18, 1999. The game marked the retirement of Wayne Gretzky. When the game had ended, Gretzky, fighting back tears, skated laps around the rink for more than ten minutes, showing appreciation to those in attendance and to those watching the live telecast.

The best softball player that I ever saw play was Bruce “Hollywood” Meyers. I always felt good when he was coming up to bat.

The best double cheeseburger in Kenosha comes from The Spot. There I said it.

The best flavor of ice cream is Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.

The best flavor of custard is Pumpkin Pie from Shirl’s Drive-In.

The best raviolis that I have ever tasted were made by my grandma ‘Noni. They were the size of a man’s fist and she never ran out of them at family get-togethers. Never.

The best meal my mom ever made is her famous “Perone Macaroni”. My little brother Joey calls it “poor food”. I call it a meal that brings back wonderful memories of family.

That’s enough; I’m all bested out. I really don’t care if you agree with me or not because theses things ARE the best. At least in my opinion.

Until next time…from the booth.

Monday, June 27, 2011

What’s In A Middle Name?

I have always loved my middle name, Enrico. Not only does it reflect on my Italian heritage but also, more importantly, it is in honor of my grandfather, Enrico Vagnoni. Translated, Enrico is Henry. What a great name! Growing up, I was often reminded by brothers Mike and Joey, that I got the cool middle name. In fact, they often complained about the middle names that they were saddled with. I know that Enrico is quite distinguished, but the names Gerard and Francis aren’t that bad. Are they?

As much as Michael Gerard Vagnoni and Joseph Francis Vagnoni grumbled about their middle names, they could have done much worse, they really could have. If you don’t think so, please read on.

Take for example some of the middle names that some of the gang from Koos Inc. had to deal with:

Glen Lamont Ekern
John August Peters
Jim Ruben Weber
Harry Richard Leipzig

While the first three are obviously unusual middle names, you are probably asking yourself what’s so odd with Harry’s. Please keep in mind that we were a rather sophomoric group at Koos and that there is a rather common nickname for Richard. Think about it. See, I told you that we were juvenile.

Athletes are another group that sport unique middle names. Consider the monikers that these Green Bay Packers were given:

Bryan Bartlett Starr
Henry Wendell Jordan
Boyd Hamilton Dowler
Robert DeLafayette Jeter
Jermichael Decorean Finley

I couldn’t ignore baseball. Obviously football players didn’t corner the market on peculiar middle names. Check these out:

Cecil Randolph Hundley (better known as Randy Hundley)
Don Eulon Kessinger
Cecil Celester Cooper
Benjamin Ambrosio Oglivie
Will Nuschler Clark

Pretty strange, huh? Well, none of them come to close to that of former Milwaukee Brewer pitching coach Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar Tuskahoma McLish. McLish was named for Calvin Coolidge, Julius Caesar, and Tuskahoma, Oklahoma. He has stated that the origin of his lengthy name is that his father was given permission to name his newborn son and took full advantage of the opportunity.

And finally, celebrities with bizarre middle names. A couple of these are so eccentric that I had to make sure to let you know who they were. The Celebs:

Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger
Leslie Townes Hope (Bob Hope)
Harry Lillis Crosby (Bing Crosby)
Edward Bridge Danson III (Ted Danson)
Truman Streckfus Persons (Truman Capote)
John Uhler Lemmon III (Jack Lemmon)

See, I told you that there were some rather unconventional middle names out there. These were much more uncommon than either Gerard or Francis. Don’t you think?

While I am quite aware that Michael Gerard Vagnoni and Joseph Francis Vagnoni were never overjoyed with the middle names that our very Catholic parents gave them, they should realize something. Not everyone can be baptized Paul Enrico Vagnoni.

Be sure to stay cool and give your opinion on the new poll on the right before you click away. Until next time…from the booth.

Friday, June 24, 2011

I Was Wrong!

Larry Fine
In my last blog, Is It Just Me?, I asked, “Is it just me or do men appreciate the brilliance of the Three Stooges much more than women?” Based on the feedback that I received, evidently it was indeed just me. Judi, Jayne and Sharon all made it a point, that in no uncertain terms, they not only appreciated the brilliance of the Stooges, but also were all longtime fans.

By no means am I exaggerating when I use the term longtime, especially with Jayne. She has been a fan of the legendary comedy act since she was a child. In fact, she had the privilege of meeting one of her idols at a young age.

When she told me this, I asked if she would be able to send a recap to tell me about her experience so that I could use it in my blog. Her response was, “But of course! Anything to promote my guys!”

Here is Jayne’s touching tale:

I was but a mere child, around 12 or 13 years old. My stepdad was the manager of the Winnebago County Fair, and we lived in a big old house on the fairgrounds itself.

Every year my stepdad would let me see the “list” of acts within the price range that were available to appear at the fair. One year the Three Stooges were on that list! Woo hoo! I mean, woo-woo-woo!  With a tiny bit of encouragement, he arranged for their appearance.

The day of the show arrived, and I was working the grandstand as an usherette, as I did every year. It was a sunny day, about an hour and a half before show time and I was sitting alone in the huge grandstand, about halfway up. There were very few people there yet, so I was just hanging out, watching the workers putting their finishing touches on the stage on the field down below.

It was then that I noticed this funny little man climbing up all those steps toward me. He was wearing a suit, and had curly, fuzzy hair sticking out of his head. There was no mistaking him for anyone but LARRY!!! It was Larry Fine of the Three Stooges!

I couldn’t believe my eyes. I knew he was heading for me, as I was the only one in the area. He had a lot of steps to climb to get to me, but he was agile and it didn't take him very long.

I was extremely shy back then (yes, really I was), and I mean extremely. He smiled at me as he sat down right next to me. I was mortified. It was just Larry and me. I was so taken aback and embarrassed at myself that all I could do was giggle. I was speechless.

He just kept smiling at me. And when I didn't say anything and continued to giggle, he started laughing too and asked me “Are you laughing at me or with me?” I finally got the courage to speak and said, “With you!” Then I asked him if my stepdad had put him up to this and he admitted that he had, pointing out my stepdad down below. Who was of course laughing, too.

We shook hands, exchanged pleasantries, and said it was nice to meet each other. And then he was on his way back down the steps. The whole thing only took a few minutes, but I could tell during that brief encounter that he had the mannerisms of a very kind and gentle man. What a guy to do that for a kid. He made my day!

Thanks for sharing that heartwarming story, Jayne.

Remarkably, Jayne wasn’t the only person to send me a recollection of a personal experience with one of the Stooges. Believe it or not, Mike also had an encounter with Larry Fine. Thing is, this story isn’t nearly as uplifting. In fact, it might be better if Jayne doesn’t read it.

I will let you judge for yourself. Here’s what Mike had to say:

First a little background, my friend Bob and I were longtime phone pranksters. We almost always worked as a team, from our early teens well in to adulthood. We had a pretty impressive body of work. Several celebrities that most people have heard of were among our victims.

We hit Larry Fine circa 1973.

Bob was a close friend of longtime radio personality Chicago Eddie Schwartz and because I was Bob's oldest friend, Schwartz and I sort of became “friends-in-law”. When he did the all night show at WIND, Bob and I would often bring our dates up to the studio at 625 N. Michigan, hoping to impress them and Eddie would let us sit in on his show.

Due to his closeness with Schwartz, Bob got the telephone numbers of various celebrities that Schwartz had interviewed. Um, big mistake, Eddie.

One evening, Bob and I decide to call Larry. He was living at a “home for retired actors” and was very easy to get on the phone. Bob and I decided to play a little prank on the famous Stooge.

My role was to get him on the phone for a fake "radio interview". Bob was playing the role of a representative from the B’nai B’rith who was bestowing an award on Mr. Fine.

The prank call went something like this:

Fine answers. His trademark, nasally voice was very distinctive. It sounded the same, but in slow motion. I replied in a booming, morning-zoo like radio demeanor, “Hey, it's an honor to have the great Larry Fine with us on the air tonight. Good evening Mr. Fine, I'm Bob Rouse.”

It was the first name I could think of. Rouse was the assistant manager of the bowling alley I patronized in Chicago. I went on, “With me is Sid Meyers and he has some wonderful news for you, Larry”. I wanted to use a Jewish name and I thought of Sid, a security guard at the Polk Bros. store that I worked at in high school.

Bob then took over. “Larry, it’s great to talk to you. I’m a longtime fan of you guys, except for Curly Joe. Anyhow, Larry, it's my great privilege to tell you at this time that you are the winner of our organization’s Golden Age of Comedy Award and we would love to have you receive it in person at our annual banquet in September”.

Larry finally spoke. Slowly, but distinctly he said, “I’m afraid I can't travel, I’m in a wheelchair.” Bob, without breaking stride, came right back with, “Larry, not to worry. We are sending you two first class round-trip airlines tickets for you and your caretaker. And, oh yes, Mr. Fine, I almost forgot. There is a $10,000.00 honorarium that comes with this award.”

Larry immediately changed his tune and replied, “Really?!? Okay, send me the details, I’m definitely going to make it there!” Bob then told him, “A registered letter will be sent out to you on Monday.” He paused and suddenly blurted, “Larry, excuse me, please hold on for a second. It seems that Bob Rouse has to do an FCC thing.”

My friend Bob handed me the phone because he couldn't control his laughter anymore. It didn't help when I said, “It's 8:00 pm straight-up here in the Windy City. I’m Bob Rouse here with Larry Fine. It's 83° at Midway and 16° at O'Hare.”

At this point we both lost it and went in to convulsions, laughing hysterically. We ended up just hanging the phone up on Larry Fine. He was probably sitting in that wheelchair until the day he died wondering when his plane tickets were going to arrive.

I warned you that Mike’s remembrance of Larry Fine wasn’t quite as cheery as Jayne’s.

Maybe I was wrong about women appreciating the Three Stooges, but there is no questioning their popularity. Hopefully these two very personal accounts satisfied the many requests for more Stooges.

Until next time…from the booth.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Is It Just Me?

You may not be aware of it, but I am a very deep thinker. Really, I am. The littlest thing can get the wheels turning in this over-sized melon of mine. It doesn’t take much. Sometimes, after pontificating on particular subject, I will wonder if I am the only person who thinks the way that I do about it. Do others feel similarly about a certain thing or is it just me? 

For instance:

Is it just me or do others notice that people who ask you how you are, really aren’t interested in the least?

Is it just me or has the “D” or “R” behind a politician’s name become more important than where they stand on specific issues?

Is it just me or does it seem that most people who enjoy discussing wars, past or present, have never fought in one?

Is it just me that thinks that Match Game was far and away, the greatest game show ever made?

Is it just me or do men appreciate the brilliance of the Three Stooges much more than women?

Is it just me that feels that the new Cubs’ radio analyst, Keith Moreland, is failing miserably because he is trying way too hard to become the next Ron Santo?

Is it just me who cringes whenever someone says, “I could care less” when they should be saying, “I couldn’t care less”?

Is it just me or was the Boston Bruins first Stanley Cup championship in forty years overshadowed by a bunch of moronic thugs starting riots in Vancouver?

Is it just me that is perplexed when the same people that complain about how much professional athletes make have no problem when “entertainers” such as Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa earn $20 million and $7 million respectively each year for co-hosting their morning talk show?

Is it just me who realizes that there is no such word as “irregardless”?

Is it just me or did the fact that the Dallas Mavericks won their first ever NBA championship get pushed aside by the media because they were occupied covering the vitriol being directed at LeBron James and the Miami Heat?

Is it just me or is it strange that Chicago Cub fans living in Wisconsin have hate directed toward the Chicago White Sox?

Is it just me that prefers Tyler Florence to Bobby Flay when it comes to TV chefs?

Is it just me that thinks Kathy Griffin was never funny, not even with her recent abundance of physical enhancements?

Is it just me or have others noticed that people that make a point of letting everyone know how wonderful they are, usually aren’t?

I told you that I was a deep thinker. Feel free to give me your answers to any or all of these momentous questions. Before you click away, please take a moment to give your opinion on my latest poll if you haven’t already done so.

Until next time…from the booth.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Oh, My Papa

Joyful the sound, the word goes around.
From father to son to son...

That was the photo and those were the words that I have used to close my blog on each of the last two Father’s Days. Each time I was honoring the most beautiful man I ever knew. This year I have decided to make my tribute more visual.

Dad and his sister Helen making their First Holy Communion. Dad’s faith was the most important thing in his life. I dearly miss praying with him in the morning. I keep his rosary in my drawer next to my bed.

Dad in his Army uniform. He bravely served our country in World II from age 19 to 21. People like Dad are the reason his generation is referred to as “The Greatest Generation”. He never intended to be a hero, but he was.

Dad at work with a big smile on his face. He’s smiling because he loved providing and caring for his family. I don’t ever remember hearing him complain about going to work, no matter how tired or sick he was. 

Dad with his family celebrating my birthday in 2009. It was the last time that ever happened. He loved his family more than anything on this earth. We were truly blessed to have him as a part of our lives for as long as we did.

Oh, my Papa, to me he was so wonderful
Oh, my Papa, to me he was so good
No one could be, so gentle and so lovable
Oh, my Papa, he always understood.

Gone are the days when he could take me on his knee
And with a smile he'd change my tears to laughter.

Oh, my Papa, so funny, so adorable
Always the clown so funny in his way
Oh, my Papa, to me he was so wonderful
Deep in my heart I miss him so today.

Until next time…from the booth.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Arno Got His Lunch

It’s time for another Arno Anecdote. You remember Arno Schubert, the cantankerous old Kraut who was known in every watering hole from downtown Kenosha all the way out to Paddock Lake. The only time he didn’t have a cigarette in his mouth is when he removed it long enough to quaff a beer or spew an obscenity, both of which he did with great regularity. His beer of choice was Pabst Blue Ribbon and his favorite expletive rhymed with rock-tucker.

Last month I wrote a blog about the Koos Inc. icon that was titled, Arno Was On Fire!” Today I will share with you a story about when Arno got his lunch.

In Arno Was On Fire!” I mentioned that Koos Inc. was extremely cold during the winter months because the antiquated structure was, for the most part, unheated. There were only two areas in the dilapidated building that had any heat – the shipping dock office and a small room that housed a Hayssen packaging machine. If it was 10° outside, it wasn’t any warmer inside, so you dressed accordingly.

Well, I lied. Sort of.

Around the bagging areas we had salamander heaters. For the uninformed, salamander heaters provide heat for outside workers and are generally found at construction sites. They are portable and provide warmth and are gas-powered (although there are now electric types available for use).

Depending on which type of unit you have, they can use natural gas, propane gas or kerosene. Whether you are a construction employee or an employee of Koos Inc., the salamander heater can come in handy.

Check out the photo at the top of the blog to get an idea of what a salamander looks like.

Besides yielding a modicum of warmth, salamanders also provided several other “benefits”.

The old, obsolete models that we used at Koos Inc. were kerosene fueled, so they spewed out an exhaust that left a black, sooty film on everything it came in contact with, including your lungs. I ruined many a bath towel by blowing my nose into it after a 10-hour shift in that filthy ice melter plant.

The other service that the salamander could provide the ability to warm up a frozen TV dinner in about an hour. Put your Swanson Hungry Man dinner on the top of the salamander at 11:00 o’clock and by noon it was piping hot, ready to eat. It really worked. Honest.

Now, I want you to venture a guess who cooked more frozen TV dinners on top of those salamanders than anyone else at Koos, Inc.

That’s right, Arno Schubert.

Because he drove the front-end loader downstairs by the raw materials, Arno made it a point to get his TV dinner on top of the noxious fume-emitting heater before anybody else would.

You knew it was 11:00 o’clock when you saw that crusty, old German in the raggedy orange snowmobile suit putting his lunch on a salamander. He always told the bagging crew to keep their f#cking hands off of it before disappearing downstairs to his front-end loader.

On one particularly chilly February morning in 1976, we were working on line #3, bagging 50 lb. bags of ice melter. At 11:00 o’clock, like clockwork, Arno popped up out of nowhere to start “cooking” his lunch.  I believe meatloaf and mashed potatoes were on the menu that day. Then, just as quickly as he appeared, he cursed at us and vanished.

Pretty much business as usual until our supervisor told us to finish the pallet we were working on and go down to line #4 and start doing 25 lb. bags. No big deal, all we had to do was drag the salamander down there with us so we had our little bit of warmth.

That would be the salamander with Arno’s meatloaf dinner on top of it that we were dragging.

As you might guess, a salamander gets very hot and as you can tell by looking at the photo, that there are no handles to grab onto. What you had to do was loop a length of twine around one of the supports on the base and drag it, being cautious not to spill any of the flammable kerosene contained inside.

This was no easy task because the floor at Koos Inc. was tremendously uneven and depending on the weather, it was covered with slimy mud or with an inch of dust. On that day we were dealing with the dust factor.

Again, please keep in mind; Arno’s meatloaf is going along for the ride. Unfortunately, none of us did.

Halfway to line #4, Harry Leipzig hit a rather deep pothole in the severely pitted floor and the salamander bounced, nearly tipping over. Luckily, it did not. Regrettably, Arno’s TV dinner didn’t make it, landing on the grimy flooring.

Yes, it fell upside down, spilling meatloaf and mashed potatoes all over the place.

After we finished laughing hysterically, we realized that we had a problem on our hands. A big problem. If Arno discovers that his precious TV dinner had met such an untimely demise, there would be hell to pay.

What would we do?

Jim Weber, thinking quickly, grabbed a shovel and scooped up the meatloaf and mashed potatoes back into the aluminum tray. Granted the shovel was rusty and was used to clean the filthy floor, but our options were limited. We didn’t want to incur the wrath of that cantankerous Kraut.

We checked the clock; it was nearly noon so we had to work fast. After Weber had gotten most of Arno’s lunch back into the tray, we pushed it around to make it look as presentable as we could. Fortunately the gravy was dark, which made it hard to see the dirt. We carefully covered the sloppy mess with the foil before returning it to the top of the salamander.

We could only pray that he wouldn’t notice.

We had just finished moving the salamander into the line #4 area when a hungry Arno showed up. Grabbing his TV dinner, he sat down on the conveyor belt, ready to eat his lunch.

As he pulled a spoon out of his pocket, we watched breathlessly, not knowing what to expect. He smiled his toothless grin, pulled back the foil ready to dig in.

He scooped up a big spoonful of the brownish slop and brought it up to his scarred lips. Was he really going to eat it?

Just as he was about to put the disgusting mixture into his mouth, Weber blurted out loudly, “Don’t eat it Arno, it fell on the floor!”

After throwing what was supposed to be his lunch against the wall, Arno let loose with a string of expletives that was legendary. Without going into a lot of detail, most of the words contained the hard “k” sound.

The story did have a happy ending because Arno got his lunch. Weber graciously offered to run over to McDonald’s and buy Arno a Big Mac. After carefully pondering the proposal, Arno called Weber a rather offensive name and said, “Make it two.”

If you enjoyed this Arno Anecdote and would like to read more about Arno Schubert and his hijinks, click on either Arno or Schubert in the Labels section below this blog.

Until next time…from the booth.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

My Week Of Radio

Let’s face it; I listen to a lot of radio. In fact, I listen to loads and loads of radio. I have the Bose Music System on for a major part of the day. The only time I turn it off is if I am listening to music, watching a TV program where it is necessary to have the sound on or if I have company. Otherwise, the radio is on.

I thought that it might be interesting to see just how much I listen and, perhaps more importantly, what exactly I am listening to.

As a kid living across the street from St. Mary’s church, I remember the family filling out the Nielsen Ratings book. The Nielsen Ratings are an audience measurement system that was developed in an effort to determine the audience size of television programming.

But what about radio?

Believe it or not, there are rating systems for radio, just like TV. One such system is Arbitron, a popular syndicated radio rating service that collects data by selecting random samples using a paper diary two to four times a year.

After the collection is complete, the data is marketed to radio broadcasters, radio networks, cable companies, advertisers, ad agencies and the online radio industry.

Armed with this information, I decided to keep a log of what I listened to this past week. I have dubbed it the Vagitron system.

With this blog I will “market” the data I collected with the Vagitron system to you, the readers. Draw whatever conclusions you may from this information and please feel free to use it however you wish.

Vagitron Results

Sunday – June 5

6:30 – 8:30 The Sunday Papers – Rick Kogan 720 WGN
9:30 – 11:30 Hit and Run – Spiegel and Rozner 670 WSCR
3:45 – 4:45 Brewers Extra Innings – Bill Johnson 540 ESPN
5:00 – 6:00 Cubs Plus/Sports Central – Jim Memelo 720 WGN
6:00 – 7:00 Ostrowski and McKnight 670 WSCR
10:00 – 11:00 Mothership Connection – Dobie Maxwell 1050 WLIP
11:00 – 12:00 Les Grobstein 670 WSCR

Analysis: 9 hours with a heavy emphasis on baseball. I gained a bit of culture from Kogan’s show, a degree of oddity from the Mothership Connection and some awful radio from Ostrowski and McKnight. It was also enjoyable hearing the callers on WGN grousing about their beloved Cubs.

Monday – June 6

5:30 – 8:00 Wake Up Call with Bill Lawrence 1050 WLIP
8:00 – 9:00 Hanley and Rozner 670 WSCR
10:00 – 11:00 Green and Gold Today – Johnson and Wilde 540
11:00 – 12:30 D-List – Olson and Salmon 540 ESPN
5:00 – 6:00 TRadio – Pete Serzant 1050 WLIP
11:00 – 12:00 Les Grobstein 670 WSCR

Analysis: 8 hours that saw me lose on the iconic WLIP Money Wheel, taking home only a consolation prize in the form of a $10 gift certificate from Something Different, a sports fan fantasyland. Later in the day, TRadio had some pathetic Howard Stern fans attempting to disrupt the venerable radio rummage sale with childish prank calls.

Tuesday – June 7

6:00 – 7:00 Wake Up Call with Bill Lawrence 1050 WLIP
9:00 – 10:00 Lenny Palmer 1050 WLIP
10:00 – 11:00 Green and Gold Today – Johnson and Wilde 540
11:00 – 12:30 D-List – Olson and Needles 540 ESPN
5:00 – 6:00 TRadio – Pete Serzant 1050 WLIP
10:30 – 12:00 Alan Colmes Show1400 WRJN

Analysis: 7 hours that featured some politics, courtesy of Lenny Palmer and Alan Colmes, mixed in with the usual dose of sports. While I did notice that Palmer tends to get easily aggravated, Colmes should receive hazard pay for dealing with the lunatics that call his show. You can’t say that I’m not diversified.

Wednesday – June 8

6:30 – 8:00 Wake Up Call with Bill Lawrence 1050 WLIP
10:00 – 11:00 Green and Gold Today – Johnson and Wilde 540
5:00 – 6:00 TRadio – Pete Serzant 1050 WLIP
10:30 – 12:00 Matt Abatacola 670 WSCR

Analysis: 5 hours. I can’t recall why the total was so paltry on Wednesday. I was probably too deeply engrossed playing games in Pogo while talking with my British friend Bev on Skype. She tends to be very competitive. What does it say when 5 hours is a “light” day of radio listening?

Thursday – June 9

6:30 – 7:30 Wake Up Call with Bill Lawrence 1050 WLIP
9:00 – 11:00 Lenny Palmer 1050 WLIP
11:00 – 12:30 D-List – Olson and Needles 540 ESPN
5:00 – 6:00 TRadio – Pete Serzant 1050 WLIP
10:30 – 12:00 Matt Abatacola 670 WSCR

Analysis: 7 hours featuring two solid hours of 100% Radio in the Raw with Lenny Palmer. Fortunately he remained relatively calm. However, I was mildly disappointed when Kenosha’s favorite radio fireman, Pat Ryan didn’t appear on the Wake Up Call. Perhaps there a large fire Thursday morning at 6:50 am.

Friday – June 10

6:30 – 8:00 Wake Up Call with Bill Lawrence 1050 WLIP
8:00 – 9:00 Lenny Palmer 1050 WLIP
10:00 – 11:00 Green and Gold Today – Jason Wilde 540
11:00 – 1:00 D-List – Olson and Needles 540 ESPN
5:00 – 6:00 TRadio – Pete Serzant 1050 WLIP
10:30 – 12:00 Nick Digilio 720 WGN
12:00 – 1:00 Matt Abatacola 670 WSCR

Analysis: 9 hours that included an amusing 90 minutes of the king of hyperbole, Nick Digilio. Highlighting his show was a ubiquitous tale of when he worked at “the Jewels”. I wish he spent more time sharing his personal experiences and less time doing movie reviews.

Saturday – June 11

7:00 – 8:00 Mr. Fix It – Lou Manfredini 720 WGN
8:00 – 9:00 Plant Chatter – Lesko and Selovich 1050 WLIP
9:00 – 11:00 Fantasy Sports Weekly – Cossentino and Salmon 540 ESPN
11:00 – 12:00 Rosenbloom and Grote 670 WSCR
12:00 – 2:00 TRadio – Jim Selovich 1050 WLIP
2:30 – 3:30 Jason Goff 670 WSCR
9:45 – 10:15 Brewers Extra Innings – Matt Salmon 540 ESPN
10:30 – 11:00 Nick Digilio 720 WGN

Analysis: 9 total hours of eclectic listening that ran the gamut from fix-it and gardening shows to fantasy sports talk and Brewer post-game shows. The highlight of my Saturday radio experience was chatting with longtime friend and radio host, Jim Selovich for nearly ten minutes on his weekend edition of TRadio.

The Vagitron data for the week reveals a whopping 54 total hours of radio listening for yours truly. So, what does this mean? Do I need help? Perhaps an intervention is in order.

I would enjoy hearing your reactions based on this highly scientific research. You can leave your feedback by emailing me, on facebook or in the comments section of this blog.

One last tidbit, during my 54 hours of radio listening this week, I heard an interview with Hall-of-Fame baseball writer, Peter Gammons. In the interview, Gammons said that the Ricketts family has underestimated the cost of renovating Wrigley Field and referred to the 97-year-old ballpark as “a dump”.

Cub fans, I hope you took the time to vote in my poll. Until next time…from the booth.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Another Bold Prediction

Prince Fielder
On March 2, 2011 I made a rather bold prediction. In my blog, “SPOILER ALERT”, I stated that Boston Rob Mariano would be the winner of Survivor: Redemption Island, the 22nd season of the award-winning reality show. 

That prediction was made after only the third episode of the season and with only one contestant having been eliminated. On May 15, 2011 this gutsy prognostication came to fruition when Mariano did indeed become the Sole Survivor, winning the $1,000,000 that went along with the title. Now more than three months after making that bold prediction, I am prepared to make yet another prophesy. Thing is, this one might be even a bolder.

As many of you know, Prince Fielder is my favorite baseball player. Some have accused me of having a man-crush on him. So what if I do? Truth be told, Prince is my favorite athlete in any sport, including football.

That is why it greatly concerns me that the slugging first baseman may be leaving my beloved Milwaukee Brewers after this season when he becomes a free agent. 

Fielder is currently making $15.5 million. Once his contract is up, rumor has it that über-agent Scott Boras will seek a contract at or above the infamous $200 million range.

Longtime baseball scribe, Bob Nightengale of USA Today, agrees that he could get a $200 million deal in free agency if he keeps hitting like he is. Currently, Prince leads the NL with 50 RBI and is hitting .291 with 15 long balls.

Even with those numbers, that kind of money for a franchise with a 2011 payroll just a shade under $85.5 million is seemingly out of reach.

So the burning question is, after locking up Ryan Braun through 2020, can the Milwaukee Brewers actually compete for Fielder’s services next season?

(Here comes the bold prediction)

A resounding YES!

No matter what anyone tells you, Prince Fielder is a valuable asset to the Brewers and they really do not want to lose him. 

In baseball there are many different factors that can determine if a player stays or goes. Prince would like to be paid what he is worth, but he may find out that is not as much as he had hoped for. 

While it’s true that Prince’s numbers are as good as of the other top first basemen in the league, the problem that he will run into is that all the teams who have deep pockets are already set at first base. This means he would have to select a “second tier” team that doesn’t have as much money as the Yankees and Red Sox do.

This means Prince may have to think long and hard about where he wants to play and the kind of money he will be offered. Surely there will be teams that will offer him big money as a free agent. However, with the Yankees and Red Sox most likely being out the bidding, I feel the Brewers have a fighting chance to keep him.

Here is another point to ponder. Last night on facebook, Scott Wisniewski, a veteran of the Milwaukee sport talk scene, wrote that the Brewers drafted Scott Boras’ son in the 30th round of the MLB draft.

Wisniewski, after wondering if Boras would play hardball with his son’s first contract, speculated that the Brewers might have drafted Boras’ son as a favor in hopes of getting the agent to talk Prince into a home team discount. Sounds feasible to me.

With all of this in mind, should the horrific happen and Prince does leave the Brewers, I would have two wishes. The first is that he doesn’t go to a west coast team. I want to be able to follow my favorite player and late night games make this rough to do.

The second wish is hard to even consider. It would be unbearable if he ended up with the Chicago Cubs. That would be indescribably appalling and leave me very disgusted.

Fortunately, I honestly don’t think there is much chance of this happening. While Prince wants to cash in on a big payday, he is also driven to win. That fact alone should keep the Cubs out of consideration if Prince doesn’t resign with the Crew.

Let me make it clear to my friends that happen to be Cub fans that I am very serious about that last statement. I am not merely taking a cheap shot at their Cubbies. Like I said, Prince wants to win and with the current disarray that the Cub organization finds itself in, there is very little chance that they will be a winner anytime soon.

Hopefully I won’t have to worry about this happening because my bold prediction materializes and Prince Fielder remains a Brewer for years to come. Until next time…from the booth.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Booth

This morning my Aunt Janet stopped by to drop off a Kenosha News clipping from Sunday, June 23, 1985. It is an article about the booth at Finney’s West, featuring Leon Rosko and myself. Sports writer Steve Brunner wrote the piece. I thought that you might like to read it. I did.
2 Slowpitch Experts

Announcers Enjoy Game
 Paul Vagnoni and Leon Rosko will watch more than 1,400 softball games this year, spend three to four hours a week each on league batting averages, and see some of the best players in the Kenosha area.

Of the 1,400, they’ve seen each season for the past seven seasons, one stands out.

“It was a few years ago,” Vagnoni said. “Washington Island had two outs and were down seven runs in the bottom of the seventh and came back to win.”

Leon Rosko, 35, and Paul Vagnoni, 28, are the public address announcers at Finney’s West softball diamonds. Both started announcing at Finney’s in 1978.

Alternating games and nights, the two work three mornings and six nights a week at Finney’s. They nickname players and cause the scoreboard to go crazy for a homerun.

“It’s not so much a job,” Rosko said. “It’s a good time.” They’re sure there is more fun in the booth than on the field.

Anybody who has played at the diamond in Somers at the corner of highways 31 and E has heard their voices.

“OK, we will let the crowd file in before we start our next game,” Rosko announces as the three spectators enter view. “This will let you people pick up a nice cold brewski and a redhot hot dog.”

On this particular night, the Racine city champs, Bushwackers, were dueling the Kenosha Park Tavern. Rosko was at the mike while Vagnoni watched.

“People come up here to see the view all the time,” Vagnoni said laughing. The booth faces west overlooking two diamonds and straight into the sunset.

“Hey, get the score right up there, “ yelled Washington Park player Willie Yee.

“Get in the game Joey,” Rosko said to his eight-grade scorekeeper, Joe Garnero. “See, things do get tense around here.”

“Most of the players blame us for mistakes on the scoreboard,” Vagnoni said. “Let’s get this straight. We only do the stats and the announcing.”

“The players like hearing their batting averages most,” Vagnoni said. “But that is where the most complaints are. One guy the other day said I messed up on his batting average – that he had two more hits. So I looked back in the books. He had a sacrifice, and got on on an error.”

Rosko said the little things, like announcing averages, are what makes Finney’s one of the best area softball complexes around. “Finney fills up his leagues every year for the last 10 years.”

“Paul and I start out in December, organizing meetings and setting things up,” said Rosko, who is also a part-time worker at Rosko signs. Vagnoni works at Koos Inc. eight months of the year. The softball, both agree, is more of a hobby.

For a hobby, they know their subject, and the players, well.

“Who are the best softball players in the area? That’s a tough question,” Rosko said. “There are so many good players no one really stands out. Maybe Ron Funderbird or Dick Laba. But Laba has a bad back now.”

Vagnoni said he couldn’t pick just one player. “I suppose I like the nicer guys. For instance, Mark Hackbarth will bring cookies sometimes.”

After some prodding, they said the six best players they’ve seen at Finney’s are: Bill Johnson, Nick Perrine, Hackbarth, Funderbird, Laba, and Ron Danoski. They pegged Ira Williams of Washington Island Fish Market as the best newcomer.

Johnson plays softball in Milwaukee now. Laba and Perrine are semi-retired, after playing professionally.

Rosko and Vagnoni have come to appreciate a good softball game as well as good players.

“I really don’t like to see the boom, boom, boom stuff. It’s no fun to see all homers. I like to see a good hitting and fielding game,” Vagnoni said.

“What we hate to see is a sloppy game,” Rosko said. “Those sometime seem to take forever. Good games fly by.”

The longest home run they’ve seen?

“Remember, Paul, when Funderbird hit the Squirt sign,” Rosko said. The Squirt sign is on top of the scoreboard 310 feet away.

They divulged a secret about Finney’s West: “Those signs on the main diamond fences,” said Rosko, “are a few feet short.” “Yeah, about three feet each way,” said Vagnoni.
And they know other secrets.

“We’ve seen some bad calls, but we won’t say anything. The umps usually do a good job.” Rosko said.

“People call up here all the time,” Vagnoni said. On this particular night a man called up to protest umpire interference from the game before. Both laughed after the phone call. They seemed to know the umpire was in the right.

From their perch they see all, seem to know all, and still have time for fun.

The article brings back many memories from the booth. Thanks to Steve Brunner for writing the article and thanks to Aunt Janet for bringing it by. Until next time…from the booth.