Saturday, July 30, 2011

One More

Packer Training Camp
In my last blog I mentioned that I might be able to come up with one more story from my experiences at the Pioneer Inn. In the last few installments of From The Booth, I have been gushing about the fabulous week that I spent in Oshkosh back in 1990. In “So Happy”, I wrote about the wonderful people that I had met and the incredible party we had on the last night there. As great as that party was, it wasn’t the only fond memory from that week. Another recollection that comes to mind provides me with one more story.

If you recall, the first classmate that I met at the Human Resource seminar was my “next door neighbor”, John. He had the room next to mine and came knocking on my door minutes after I arrived. Given the proximity of our living quarters, John and I got to know each quickly and usually ate lunch together at the resort’s outstanding restaurant.

John lived in Milwaukee, commuted to Madison daily for his job and had just recently gotten married. I knew this because he often excused himself to call his bride. I recall one afternoon when he bolted out of the conference room the moment class ended. As he rushed down the hall, he smiled at me and said, “The wife drove up for a visit!” He was young and in love.

I have neglected to tell you one important thing about John. He was black and I now that I think of it, I would imagine that he still is. The color of a person’s skin doesn’t matter to me in the least. However, for this particular story it does have significance. Trust me, you will see.

Typically, our class was from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm with an hour off for lunch. Except for Wednesday, that was our short day. After an early lunch, we were free for the rest of the day.

It seemed like everyone had plans on how to spend their free time. Many of the ladies had planned to go shopping at the huge outlet mall located in Oshkosh, while others were going to enjoy Lake Winnebago.

Since the Green Bay Packer training camp was in full swing, I had decided to go watch the team practice. I asked the people seated near me in the restaurant if any of them were interested in joining me.

They all politely declined, except for John. He quietly said that he would like to go with. I told him, “Cool, let’s go” and got up from the table.

As we were walking toward the parking lot, John asked me if I was sure that it was okay that he was coming along. A bit perplexed, I reassured him with a loud, “Why not?” and we were on our way. The 50-mile trip on Highway 41 went by quickly and we arrived in Titletown less than an hour later.

Practice hadn’t started yet, so I chose to drive around Lambeau Field to give John a tour of the venerable stadium, driving slowly through the large parking lot.

As I carefully maneuvered my bulky silver-gray Dodge Ramcharger through the multitude of Packer fans milling about, some began approaching us. John’s eyes widened when the fans started waving at us and slapping the hood of my SUV.

When I noticed the Packer players were riding bikes and making their way from Lambeau Field to the practice fields across the street, I decided to get a parking space and find a spot for us to sit.

While walking to the portable bleachers, fans continued to wave at the two of us, many cheerfully shouting hello. When we finally sat down, John had a twinkle in his eye and said, “The people up here sure are nice. Thanks!” I smiled and told him it was no problem.

A heartwarming story, don’t you think? Now let me add a humorous twist to this tale.

Remember that I said it was significant that John was black? Well, not only was he black, but he was also tall, good-looking and put together well. In fact, he played varsity tennis in college. He was athletic look about him.

Now factor into the equation that we were in Green Bay, Wisconsin in the year 1990. At that time, there were not many blacks in Green Bay that weren’t playing for the Packers or a part of their organization. Especially athletic-looking young black men.

John was a young, athletic-looking black man at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin and it was 1990. He just had to be a Packer! At least that’s what those fans thought on that warm summer day.

I am sure that’s why they were so nice to John; they thought he was a Green Bay Packer. But thing is, if they actually knew John, they would have been nice to him even though he wasn’t a Packer. I know that I’m glad that he spent the afternoon with me.

Until next time…from the booth.

Monday, July 25, 2011

So Happy

Okay, the sadness I was experiencing last week has finally ebbed enough for me to make good on my promise to do a blog about more joyous times. If you recall, at the end of “So Sad”, I pledged to let you know why my stay at the Pioneer Inn was so memorable. I also said that it would be a joy reliving those glorious moments, and it will be. That week was unquestionably one of the most wonderful periods of my life. 

It made me happy. So happy.

This glorious span of five-plus days revolved around a Human Resource seminar in Oshkosh, Wisconsin and took place the summer of 1990. The setting was the rustic Pioneer Inn resort, nestled on sparkling Lake Winnebago.

This resplendent lodge featured 182 beautiful guest rooms, 10 suites and complete conference and retreat facilities. An award-winning restaurant overlooking the lake was available for your dining pleasure. 

Other amenities included a nightclub, an indoor/outdoor pool, whirlpool, a fitness room and a game room. Available outside was a sizable marina, watercraft rentals, a bike/walking path, volleyball courts and a miniature golf course.

This place had it all and it made me happy. So happy.

When I checked in early Sunday evening. I had barely put my luggage away before there was a knock on my door. My “next door neighbor”, John, had seen me entering my room and he figured that I might be there for the same reason. He was right, we were both attending the same seminar.

The next morning I met the rest that were there for the training session. The group was comprised of 20 individuals from different parts of Wisconsin. Besides John and myself, there were only two other males. That’s right, 16 women and 4 men. If my Tremper High School math serves me correctly, that’s a 4 to 1 ratio.

Are you beginning to see why I was happy? So happy.

The seminar incorporated many interactive projects that included a great deal of role-playing. This provided an excellent way to get to know the others. For some reason, the more boisterous characters seemed to gravitate toward me. It didn’t take long before I realized that this was going to be fun. And this was just the seminar.

For the most part, the schedule was class from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm with an hour off for lunch in the marvelous resort restaurant. That left plenty of time to enjoy the many features offered at the Pioneer Inn and to explore Oshkosh. I also continued to become more acquainted with my new classmates.

Typically, the day would end with a number of us meeting in the nightclub for a drink. At first, we would only discuss the seminar.  But once we had become more familiar with each other, we started joking around, telling stories and having some laughs.

The second night that our group assembled in the lounge, we noticed a poster promoting a musical group that would be appearing beginning Thursday evening. That being our last night together, we immediately decided that we would make that our going away party. We agreed to try to get as many people from our seminar to attend.

This was going to be a blast. I was happy. So happy.

When Thursday arrived, it was bittersweet. Sure, there was the get-together at the nightclub, complete with a live band, but it was a farewell party. More than likely, the next morning would be the last time that I would ever see these people.

Fortunately something happened to take my mind off of this fact. Someone had noticed a sign advertising one-dollar margaritas. There was going to be a pre-party party at the pub just up the road from the Pioneer Inn. There was no doubt that this would add to the merriment.

At 5 o’clock sharp a gregarious group of twelve started the two-block trek to quench its collective thirst. Unfortunately we were greeted with some disappointing news. Evidently the margarita special was on Wednesday night. We were crestfallen.

Our frowns were quickly turned upside when the barkeep informed us that Thursday’s special was 10-cent beer. That’s right, beer was only a dime a cup. It almost made me wish that I had not quit drinking. I could have done some serious damage to my liver at that price, but I thought better of it.

Needless to say our merry band of human resource types was adequately lubricated when it was time to head back to the Pioneer Inn for the real party. That short hike was chock-full of staggering, weaving and hilarity.

It’s safe to say that I was happy. So happy.

When we finally made it back to the nightclub, we were greeted by four more of our classmates and a Prince tribute band. Not exactly my favorite type of music, but hey, the place was jumping and I was enjoying my company. I was having a great time.

Then it happened. One of the ladies from our group asked me to dance with her. After getting over the initial shock, I politely explained that I wasn’t comfortable dancing, especially to a song that fast. Smiling, she grumbled something about not being done with me. Relieved, I went back to my diet Coke and continued telling jokes.

A bit later, the band was playing a slow ballad. Suddenly I was jerked from my seat by another one of my female classmates and dragged by my hand onto the dance floor. Hey, I was a lot smaller in 1990. But that’s a story for another day and another blog.

I had barely started to enjoy the slow dance when the lady who had first asked me to dance abruptly grabbed my shoulder, pulling me away. She blurted out, “He’s mine.” She then added, “I thought you didn’t dance?”, and led me away. Sheepishly I shrugged my shoulders and went with my new dance partner.

The remainder of the evening was a blur. I had never received so much attention from peoples that I hardly new. And they were of the opposite sex, no less! I couldn’t believe what was happening.

The Friday morning session was short and sweet. We traded goodbyes and awkward smiles while exchanging business cards and phone numbers. Deep down I knew that I would never hear from these wonderful people again, much less see any of them.

And I was right. Oh, I might have received a card from one of the ladies, but never again did I see anyone from that incredible week at the Pioneer Inn. They are all just memories. Magnificent and fantastic memories.

That’s why I’m still happy. So happy.

Believe it or not, I might be able to pull one last story from my experiences at the memorable Pioneer Inn. We shall see. Until next time…from the booth.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

So Sad

The Pioneer Inn, Oshkosh, Wisconsin
The current heat wave has caused me to be sad. So sad. No, it’s not because of the scorching temperatures or the oppressive dew points. It’s not even the 105° heat index we experienced today. While I personally do not enjoy any of those things, they are not the reason for my present state of unhappiness. But rest assure that the current heat wave has definitely caused me to be sad. So sad.

This hot spell that we are mired in brought about this sense of melancholy a couple of nights ago. As can be expected, the local TV news reports have been jam-packed with stories about how air conditioners, beaches and ice cubes.

All I wanted to see was the forecast. I wanted to know how long this was supposed to last. Where was Brian Gotter when you needed him?

Finally my favorite weatherman was on and magically all of his fancy visuals appeared. At one point Gotter was standing in front of a map of Wisconsin when he mentioned the current temperature in Oshkosh.

That’s when it all started.

Oshkosh! I love Oshkosh! After all, the Pioneer Inn was in Oshkosh! One of the most memorable weeks of my entire life took place at the Pioneer Inn. Those were undoubtedly five of the happiest days of my life.

You are probably wondering why I’m so sad if Oshkosh brings back such pleasant memories. I shall get to that, but first a little background is required.

I had recently been promoted to the newly created position of Human Resource Director at Koos Inc. That’s right; Koos, Inc. never had anyone in that position before 1990. I know, I know, but keep in mind that we are talking about Koos Inc.

Since I was new to the position, the company felt that it would benefit me to attend a seminar concerning the intricacies of Human Resources. That is where Oshkosh and the Pioneer Inn entered into the equation because that is where the seminar took place.

So, on a lovely Sunday afternoon in the summer of 1990, I aimed my Dodge Ramcharger north on Highway 41, not really knowing what to expect. 2½ hours and 120 miles later I arrived at the Pioneer Inn resort located on sparkling Lake Winnebago.

The time between Sunday evening when I arrived and Friday afternoon when I left were chock-full of wonderful memories. I believe that I was smiling the entire time I was there. I know that I am smiling right now.

Then why am I am so sad? 

On that fateful night, when I was reminded of Oshkosh, I immediately did a search on my computer for the Pioneer Inn. I needed another glimpse, a reminder of that glorious week. It would be like looking up an old friend.

Unfortunately, what I found is the reason that I am downhearted. The Pioneer Inn is no longer with us. That enchanting 180-room resort located on Lake Winnebago in Oshkosh, Wisconsin no longer exists. It’s gone.

When I searched “Pioneer Inn Oshkosh”, I got a response from titled, “Why is the Pioneer Inn closed?” What I saw next caused my heart to drop.

There were 29 replies, a few explanations mixed in with many notes of disbelief. This comment probably summed things up the best:

“Unbelievable: I cannot believe this beautiful property is not being used. At the very least they should open up the restaurant. This is a crime and the guy that bought this property should be put in jail.

Long story short. The owners and the DNR got into a big disagreement and a lot of legal red tape regarding public as opposed to private land usage on the proposed site of the hotel/condo.

The resort was open in the summer of 2005, sans hotel. Just the restaurant and banquet facilities. Since then, everything has been closed except for the marina, which, quite frankly, is going straight down the crapper.

As a former employee, I am extremely saddened by the constant push and shove match the owners and DNR cannot seem to get over. Call it what you want to call it, back it up with mounds of paperwork and land agreements, but it is what it is...

A bunch of 4 year olds fighting the old “I will not”, “you will too"” game on the school playground.

Shame on you all.”

 It took Brian Gotter’s weather map to make me aware that this once-magnificent institution is no longer around. This resort that was the hub for what was the most outstanding 5-day period of my life ceases to be.

I am sad. So sad.

That is enough mourning for my old friend, the Pioneer Inn. In an upcoming blog I promise to let you know why my stay there was so unforgettable. After all this gloominess, it’s the least I can do. Besides, it will be a joy reliving those glorious moments.

Until next time…from the booth.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Creatures Of Habit

We are all creatures of habit, but what exactly does that mean?

First of all, we are creatures. We are animals. Although we are very advanced animals and are equipped with opposable thumbs; we are still made up of flesh and blood. In particular, our brains are complex evolved machines. Our brains regulate basic activities such as breathing and food intake, and also enable us to appreciate the finer things like The Who and Prince Fielder.

As creatures, we have needs. We need to eat, so therefore we eat. As rational and social creatures, we like to communicate with one another, and we do so in various fashions. There are a multitude of behaviors that are just as complicated. How do we possibly get all of this done?

That's where habits come in. Habits help us through our day. Habits are something that we do on a regular basis without much effort.

And we don't have just a few. We have dozens, maybe even hundreds. While some are bad, many habits are good. Thank goodness for those.

One of my habits is my morning ritual. Upon waking, I open the blinds and turn on Today’s TMJ4 and watch Susan Kim and Vince Vitrano do the news, making sure to avoid Scott Steele as much as possible. 

The operative word there was watch. That’s because while I am watching the news, I am also listening to the Wake Up Call with Bill Lawrence on AM 1050 WLIP. As Lawrence spins the money wheel and makes corny jokes, my morning ritual continues with me turning on my laptop. 

Once my computer is powered up, I start doing things in a very specific order; evidently there are habits hidden within my morning ritual, which is a habit in itself. Can that be good?

Back to my computer routine. While I wait for Outlook to open so I can check my emails, I check the temperature, using Dashboard. After I have checked my emails, it’s on to my blog, From The Booth.

When I get to my blog site, I immediately check on the number of visitors and then look to see if any of the blogs that I follow are new. My Good Babushka and One Little Polish Girl are two of my favorites. Hmm, could that be a coincidence?

Next up on the computer is a brief check of my fantasy baseball leagues, the Bada Bing! and JAGFBL. Then it’s a quick check to see how many people have looked at my book on Blurb and I’m off to the magical world of facebook.

In facebook, I look for new notifications, check for friends’ birthdays, spin for my daily game tokens and then refresh my news feed to see what I have missed while sleeping. 

When my facebook regiment is complete, it’s time to check the Kenosha News and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel online newspapers. After catching up on the news, I go to Club Pogo and earn 2,000 tokens by doing the Daily Specials.

Finally, after all of that, the news is over, Lenny Palmer is threatening to take over the WLIP airwaves and my morning ritual is just about complete. 

Just about. 

I still have to shave, shower and do breakfast. That is how my morning ritual goes every day and always in that order. Always.

Unfortunately there is an important part of this morning ritual habit of mine that has been missing for quite a while.

Ritual has several definitions. One is “a series of actions or a type of behavior regularly and invariably followed by someone.” 

Well, I’ve got that aspect down pat, no problem.

Another definition is “a prescribed order of performing a ceremony, especially one characteristic of a particular religion or church.” 


That’s the part I need to work on. I need to make the habit of praying a more regular thing. I have been very negligent in this for quite awhile and that has got to change.

Until this creature of habit gets back into the good habit of making prayer part of his morning ritual, it will only be a bad habit.

Until next time…from the booth.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

What’s In My Head?

Occasionally an idea will pop into my over-sized head and it provides me with the inspiration for a new blog. Usually I will scribble the idea down and eventually put it in a folder called Drafts. Tonight I am looking through that folder while listening to my iTunes, which is set on shuffle. So far I have enjoyed some Semi-Twang and now it’s the Who. Imagine that, the Who.

Back to my Drafts folder. Crap, hang on the phone is ringing.

Nothing important, just a recorded message from the Republican Party asking for help. Ha, fat chance! Ms. Autovoice must have thought I am a miracle worker.

Okay, here is what used to be in my head and is now in a folder on my computer. (I know I’m anal, but it’s in alphabetical order because that the computer did it.)

  • Bang Drum
  • Brad Grey
  • Great One
  • Lawrence
  • Survivor Winners
  • Whose

Man, although my head is a rather spacious place, it has evidently been kind of messed recently. While I listen to the dulcet tones of Mat Kearney, let me try to figure out what this stuff from my folder means. 

Bang Drum obviously meant that I must have been obsessing on my favorite movie, Bang The Drum Slowly, recently.

Ah, now I see. My friend Sue commented, “We are all guilty of not knowing what we have until it is gone. Live for today as we never know what tomorrow may bring.”  

This made me think of a couple wonderful quotes from the movie:

Bruce Pearson: “Everybody'd be nice to you if they knew you were dying.”

Henry Wiggen: “Everybody knows everybody is dying; that's why people are as good as they are.”

Henry Wiggen: “From here on in, I rag nobody.”

Well, I can’t write about that tonight, I don’t want to be tearing up during the Brewer game. Please make a point to watch this movie sometime and you will see what I mean.

What’s next?

Great One. Must have been Wayne Gretzky. Did you know that Gretzky holds over 60 NHL records? I will tell you about it sometime, but it’s too warm to be writing about hockey.

Next is Lawrence. Let’s see what that’s all about while Dropkick Murphys serenades me with “Dirty Water”.

I remember this! It is an interview I did with AM 1050 WLIP’s affable morning personality, Bill Lawrence. I wrote this a couple of years ago, so I would have to bring it up to date.

I can’t be bothered with that right now, the Brewer game has started and I would probably mess things up. It’s hard enough watching Ryan Braun bat while listening to the Association sing, “Cherish”.

Survivor Winners is clearly a list of past victors from the award-winning reality show, Survivor. From the looks of it, I had better update it; J.T. from season 18 is the last winner on the list.

But not now. Prince Fielder just knocked in Braun with a double. Yes! Have I ever mentioned how much I like Prince? Yes, I know, stupid question.

One more left in the folder – Whose. Upon opening that document, I discover it is notes about Whose Line Is It Anyways? But not Drew Carey’s American version. No these are notes about the far superior British version.

I would do a blog about this fine improve show, but I would undoubtedly start making comparisons between the American and the British versions. Then I would probably mention that while Wayne Brady is very talented, he is highly overrated and he annoys me. Give me Tony Slattery any day.

Nope, can’t write about Whose Line Is It Anyways? I don’t want to piss anybody off. That’s why I avoid writing about politics.

Green Day is currently singing “Good Riddance” on my iTunes. Perhaps a little karma? Well, I don’t know for sure, but my generous noggin is telling me that I’m not supposed to write a blog this evening.

After I finish listening to “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, I better turn the sound up on the Brewer game. Did I mention that Prince had an RBI double?

That’s it; I got nothing in my head. Sorry no new blog tonight.

Until next time…from the booth.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Northside Syndrome

I live in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on the northside, just a few blocks from St. Peter’s Catholic church. I have lived on the northside of Kenosha for the last eleven years. I am a Northsider. Due to the subject of this blog, I felt it necessary to disclose that fact. The topic that I will be covering is serious in nature and is one that people need to be made aware of. Today’s blog pertains to the solemn issue of the Northside Syndrome.

While the official title Northside Syndrome has been recognized for over 30 years, it has in existence even longer. A gentleman, who for security reasons, will be referred to simply as Munk, coined the designation, Northside Syndrome sometime around 1979.

NS (Northside Syndrome) is an unfortunate disorder that has afflicted numerous residents of the northside of Kenosha, people commonly known as Northsiders. Luckily, this wretched malady does not plague all Northsiders; there many are who are able to lead happy and relatively normal lives.

It is fairly easy to detect someone suffering from NS. The most obvious symptom is that the afflicted person is extremely frugal. They are thrifty. People with NS are exceptionally prudent economically. You could say that they are miserly. Simply put, people smitten with NS are very cheap.

Fortunately, I personally do not suffer from NS. However, my life has been touched by many that do. It isn’t pleasant, but over the years I have learned to cope with it.

My first contact with NS victims was while working at Koos Inc. Being the kind soul that I am, I routinely gave a co-worker a ride to and from work on a daily basis. Not once during this time did this person ever offer me a couple of bucks for gas. Even the crusty Arno Schubert treated me to an occasional 6-pack when I gave him a lift.

But not this person, he was stricken with NS. That is why, after receiving free transportation for several years, he was able to purchase a brand new Chevrolet Monte Carlo and he paid with cash. Remarkably, he expected me to continue giving him rides to and from work. I did not. 

Evidently, delusion is another symptom of NS.

When I became manager of the legendary 400 Club softball team I had to deal with more people with NS. Once again, they were easy to pick out, even with softball players.

After a game they would be content to drink inexpensive tap beer, but as soon as someone offered to buy a round, that quickly changed. Suddenly tappers were no longer good enough, now it was a bottle of Heineken or Löwenbräu

NS had once again reared its ugly head.

Regrettably, my teammates that were tormented with NS also had friends with the disease. These individuals never patronized the historic 400 Club tavern unless there was a beer bust or if the team had won a tournament. There had to be the promise of free beer or you didn’t see them at the 400 Club. 

NS can be very polarizing.

Now that I no longer work at Koos Inc. or manage the 400 Club, my encounters with NS sufferers have decreased exponentially. However, the fact remains that this devastating ailment still runs rampant among the residents of the northside of Kenosha.

Recently I was reminded of this all so grim truth when a Northsider contacted me. He had heard that I had written a book and via email, congratulated me.

Being only a casual acquaintance, I was somewhat surprised, but appreciative nonetheless. It was a nice gesture. Then I received a second email.

In this correspondence he asked me how he could get a copy of my book, Some Kenosha Softball. I told him that it was available at Sister Act on Roosevelt Road and at the Kenosha History center. I thought to myself, cool, another sale!

Not so fast! I had forgotten about NS and hadn’t even considered that he might be a victim of this insidious disability. A third email from this person made me acutely aware that this was indeed the case.

The email informed me that he didn’t want to buy a book, per se. No, rather he wanted to trade me a copy of some poem he had written about the Green Bay Packers in exchange for the book that I had worked on for over three years. I graciously declined his offer.

Again, I was reminded; NS victims are not only cheap, but can also be delusional.

The Northside Syndrome, it’s all too real and affects many unsuspecting individuals. If you have friends or family that reside on the northside of Kenosha, look for the warning signs.

If they are overly tight-fisted and even the least bit delusional in their requests, take caution. They have probably been stricken with NS and your hard-earned money is in peril. You have been warned, so please be careful.

Until next time…from the booth.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Softball All Stars

This past Sunday I posted a blog naming my 2011 Major League Baseball All Star Teams. I mentioned that I would name the reserves later. Well, I lied. With the Rotary Tournament in full swing, I have decided to switch the All Star talk to Kenosha softball.

Calling upon the acumen of Kenosha softball veterans, Gary Petersen, Jimmy Gentile and Pat Hegewald, here are our four All Star teams.

Based on the old adage, age before beauty, Gary “The Wizard” Petersen’s lineup will lead things off. Finney’s Pirates, Zirbel Concrete, Slim’s Tap, Matador Lounge, Wizard’s, Kenosha Kings and Pitts Decorating are among the teams that the Wizard was associated with. He is easily the most colorful player ever to grace a softball diamond in Kenosha and never at a loss for words.

Wizard’s Kenosha All Stars

P – Gary “The Wizard” Petersen
C – Bill Johnson
1B – Gene Willems
2B – Dick Laba
3B – Bill “Mountain” Griffiths
SS – Bruce “Hollywood” Meyers
OF – Richie Baumgarten
OF – Chuck Lange
OF – Mark Hackbarth
OF – Jack Zimmerman
DH – Dan Wade

The next All Star team comes courtesy of long time 400 Club outfielder, Jimmy Gentile. While Jimmy G hasn’t been around quite as long as the Wizard, he too has played his share of softball games. When I called Jimmy G last night to get his lineup for this blog, it turned into a 2-hour conversation reminiscing about the good old days.

Jimmy G’s Kenosha All-Stars

P – Jim Nehls
C – Bill Johnson
1B – Jim Darula
2B – Dick Laba
3B – Jeff Clark
SS – Bruce “Hollywood” Meyers
OF – Glen Marescalco
OF – Carmen Pillizzi
OF – Peter Bruneo
OF – Matt Montemurro
DH – Larry Tostrud

The third squad of All Stars comes from none other than Kenosha softball wonk, Pat Hegewald. Hegs is the youngest of this illustrious group, the only one still playing ball; but that makes him no less an authority. His expertise was evident by his contributions in my book, “Some Kenosha Softball”. You would be hard pressed to name a player that Hegs hasn't seen since the '70s.

Heg’s Kenosha All Stars:

P – Rocky Tirabassi
C – Jerry Reeves
1B – Wally Marciniak
2B – Dick Laba
SS – Bruce “Hollywood” Meyers
3B – Jeff Clark
OF – Scott Barthuly
OF – Mark Hackbarth
OF – Tom Jahne
OF – Dan Ausloos
DH – Jerry Kalbfell

My team is made up of what I consider to be greatest softball players that I have ever seen play. This isn't scientific or anything, just my opinion. But please keep in mind that I saw approximately 32 games a week while managing the 400 Club and announcing at historic Finney’s West each summer for over a decade. That has to count for something.

My Kenosha All Stars.

P – Gary “The Wizard” Petersen
C – Bill Johnson
1B – Gene Willems
2B – Dick Laba
3B – Bill “Mountain” Griffiths
SS – Bruce “Hollywood” Meyers
OF – Rich Baumgarten
OF – Gene Heckel
OF – Jerry Reeves
OF – Jack Zimmerman
DH – Chuck Lange

A few interesting observations:

Surprisingly, seventeen of the 44 spots were unique. However, there was some overlapping.

Dick Laba and Bruce “Hollywood” Meyers showed up on all four teams.

Bill Johnson appeared on three of the lists.

Appearing on two of the squads were Wizard, Gene Willems, Bill Griffiths, Jeff Clark, Rich Baumgarten, Chuck Lange, Mark Hackbarth and Jack Zimmerman.

Jimmy G’s entire outfield is made up of players of Italian descent. I won’t repeat what the Wizard said when he heard this.

The one disturbing thing that I noticed was that my All Star team and the Wizard’s are very similar. Nine of the players are the same. Hopefully I’m not beginning to think like Wiz, as I get older.

Let me know whom you think was overlooked on our teams. It would be interesting to see if anyone can come up with a lineup stronger than any of these.

Until next time…from the booth.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Vagnoni Breakfast On The Fourth

This past Monday, at the suggestion of my cousin Susie, the Vagnoni family got together for a small breakfast gathering to celebrate Independence Day. What started out as a quiet and intimate get-together at Bonnie’s Diner on the northside of Kenosha, quickly turned into a boisterous and somewhat raucous congregation of family and friends. The throng of 24 even required a “kids” table.

Here are a few photos taken at the gala Fourth of July event.

Mark giving Mom a hug

Domenic, Pat and Mark

Uncle Dave and Aunt Bonnie

Auntie Joanne, Shelly and James

Aunt Bonnie, Samantha, Dusty, Uncle Joe and Auntie Joanne

Nancy, Briah, Jasmine and Joey

Shelly, James, Uncle Johnny and Auntie Janet

Mia and Nick

Annie and Susie

Mom, Me and Alex
Thanks to Mom, Susie, Alex, Nick, Joey, Nancy, Uncle Johnny, Auntie Janet, Uncle Joe, Auntie Joanne, Uncle Dave, Aunt Bonnie, Annie, Mia, Mark, Pat, Shelly, James, Dusty, Samantha, Briah, Jasmine and Domenic for making this a wonderful morning. And in case you were wondering, Aunt Bonnie isn't the proprietor of Bonnie's Diner.

 Hopefully everyone can make it again next year because I made reservations on the way out. Until next time…from the booth.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

From The Booth All Stars

The wait is almost over. Major League Baseball will make it official this morning when the starters and reserves are unveiled for next week's All-Star Game at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona. Online fan voting ended late Thursday night and entering the final week of balloting, a record 18.5 million ballots and 250 million total votes already had been cast. Rosters for both leagues were announced live at 11 a.m. on the All-Star Selection Show on TBS.

Before watching the All-Star Selection Show, I would like to make my picks public. For each league I have chosen the eight position players, a designated hitter, a starting pitcher and a relief pitcher. Please note that finding a deserving third baseman for the National League was next to impossible.

American League

 C – Alex Avila, Detroit Tigers
1B – Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox
2B – Robinson Cano, New York Yankees
3B – Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees
SS – Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland Indians
OF – Curtis Granderson, New York Yankees
OF – Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays
OF – Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox
DH – Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox
SP – Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
RP – Brandon League, Seattle Mariners

National League

 C – Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves
1B – Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers
2B – Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee Brewers
3B – Ty Wiggington, Colorado Rockies
SS – Jose Reyes, New York Mets
OF – Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
OF – Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers
OF – Carlos Gonzales, Colorado Rockies
DH – Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds
SP – Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies
RF – Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves

I know, three Brewers. Call me a homer if you like, but those are my All Star squads. I have not yet chosen my reserves; I will do so later in the week. 

I don’t know if each team will get a representative, I don’t like that rule. However, with that being said, I am willing to listen to Cub fans as to who they feel should represent the northside of Chicago. Please be realistic.

Make sure you vote on the Greatest Sports Franchise in my poll. Until next time…from the booth.