Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Another Update

As I begin to write this there are less than five hours left of July and I only have six blogs this month. Because I have been working on my next book, “More Kenosha Softball”, a whole bunch, I really don’t feel like writing a blog. Sorry. Or maybe you couldn’t care less. I guess it doesn’t really matter. Anyhow, I thought that I would post another update of where I’m at with the book.

Since my last scintillating update 10 days ago, I have completed two more chapters and more than halfway done with a third. Plus, I went back and added a little intro to the other 12 chapters that are done. I think readers will really enjoy this extra little special feature. I know I’m having a lot of fun doing it.

Right now, if I stick to the outline below, I am looking at 28 total chapters. However, I am considering doing a chapter about a couple current Kenosha Softball greats – Travis Clark and Mike Umscheid. The idea was brought suggested to me by good friend and Kenosha softball wonk, Pat Hegewald. I’m working on it.

Currently, I am just over 26,000 words. To give you an idea, most of the blogs I write are between 700-1000 words. So, that’s the equivalent of about 30 blogs. Two of the chapters are over 4,300 words and two others are over 2,200. And it’s a blast.

I hate to do this, but now that things are really rolling, I am shooting for having the book done by Thanksgiving. Hopefully my publisher, Sari B doesn’t see this and tell me I’m crazy. Oh well, we shall see.

Here’s an updated outline. The check marks ( √ ) indicate the chapters that are completed.

More Teams
5th Amendment √
Snowblind Oasis √
Infusino’s Construction √
Team Export √
Sorensen Mfg.
Strang Siding
Finney’s Lounge
Stanich Realty

More Players
Kenosha Softball Bad Boys √
Kenosha Softball Shortstops √
Kenosha Softball Speed Merchants √
Kenosha Softball Gypsy √
Kenosha Softball Free Spirit √
Kenosha Softball Big Boys
Kenosha Softball Long Ballers
Kenosha Softball Managers
Kenosha Softball Pitchers

More Tales
Umpires √
Hall of Fame √
Dream Game √
Rest in Peace √
Bobby Douglass
Finney’s West Booth
An Unheralded 14-inch Star

More Stuff 
City Champs √
Rotary Champs √

One last thing before I finish. I received the following message on the Kenosha Softball Hall of Fame page. It came from Jon Atkins and was a great inspiration to keep writing.

I just picked up and read “Some Kenosha Softball” today and I loved it. It was really interesting reading about the high demand of softball back in the “Golden Age”. It took my mom back some years when I read some snip-its and she began to reminisce about the days when her and my dad played. It was also interesting seeing familiar names, including some of my friends’ dads, guys that played with my brother Scott (late 1990’s-early 2000’s Tirabassi teams), people I know in general, and some guys I play with from time to time now (Blade and Swammy to name a couple). Great job on the book and I look forward to reading “More Kenosha Softball”.

Pretty nice, eh? I’m proud of my first book and if anyone is still interested in picking up a copy, let me know. However, I guarantee that my second effort will be even better. I promise. Until next time…from the booth.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Some Northern Exposure

The people that know me know that I have a fondness for television. If you scroll down you will find graphics of some of my favorite TV shows on the right side of this blog. They are in no particular order, but my three favorites are in that column. They are, in order: The Wire, Northern Exposure and The Sopranos. For those of you that are shocked that Leave it to Beaver didn’t crack this trio, please rest assured that the Cleaver clan are in my top 10. It just doesn’t compare with these three programs.

Today, I would like to blog about my number two favorite – Northern Exposure. The reason I chose this show is because last night I saw a current picture of two of the prominent characters on Facebook. It got me thinking of this wonderful show and I began searching out old clips on YouTube®. I was in heaven.

Here is a brief overview of the show and some of its characters.

Northern Exposure ran from 1990 to 1995, with a total of 110 episodes. It centered on a New York physician, Dr. Joel Fleischman, who is sent to practice in the fictional town of Cicely, Alaska. The early episodes concentrated on the Fleischman’s culture shock in the small town. As he got better acclimated, the attention shifted to the whimsical town’s quirky residents.

Rob Morrow as Joel Fleischman.
The Jewish physician is forced to practice in Cicely, contractually bound for four years in order to pay off a student loan from the state of Alaska. This character was an integral part of the Northern Exposure, and in my opinion, when he left halfway through the final season, the program suffered greatly. This saddened me greatly.

Barry Corbin as Maurice Minnifield.
The former astronaut owned both the local newspaper and the radio station. And a whole lot of land in Cicely. Despite his tough guy persona, he absolutely loves his town and refers to it as the “Alaskan Rivera”. Minnifield is also the culprit responsible for bring Dr. Joel to Cicely.

Janine Turner as Maggie O’Connell
. The tomboy bush pilot is Dr. Joel’s love-hate protagonist. She is magnificent during Dr. Joel’s final episode, “The Quest”. The emotional interaction between the two tugged on my heartstrings. These days, Turner, now a platinum blonde, has become a political zealot.

John Cullum as Holling.
The owner of the Brick bar and restaurant who is quite proud of his Canadian heritage. He and Maurice are best friends, despite the fact that their relationship was strained at one time by their mutual love interest, the much younger Shelly Tambo. Holling was an outstanding character.

Cynthia Geary as Shelly Tambo. She was a waitress at the Brick where she lived with Holling, who she, although she is 43 years younger, eventually marries. She was brought to Cicely by Maurice, who had hoped to marry her. The Christmas episode, “Seoul Mates” always moves me to tears. Shelly, missing her Catholic roots, longs for a midnight Mass. Son Holling fills the Unitarian church with Catholic icons, including a Nativity scene and sings “Ave Marie” in Latin for her. Pass the Kleenex®, please.

John Corbett as Chris Danforth Stevens. This philosophical ex-convict works as the disc jockey at KBHR 570 AM. In between tunes, he often comments on events happening in Cicely and more intellectual topics. He also serves as the town’s non-denominational pastor. I enjoyed this character except for his short relationship with Maggie.

Darren Burrows as Ed Chigliak. The simple, good-natured half-native did odd jobs for Maurice while working part-time at Ruth-Anne’s general store. He is a film buff who has his sights on becoming a movie director. This character and Shelly’s were the two most pure and genuine on Northern Exposure.

Peg Phillips as Ruth-Anne Miller. A widow, the pragmatic owner of the general store was a 30-year resident of Cicely. She lived alone until late in the series when she hooked up with Walt Kupfer, (portrayed by Moultrie Patten), a fur trapper and former stockbroker. A tough old bird, she could stand toe-to-toe with Maurice without blinking an eye.

Elaine Miles as Marilyn Whirlwind. Dr. Joel’s stoic receptionist was a lady of few words. Her calm, quiet demeanor were a strong contrast with her employer’s incessant chatting and high-strung temperament. Marilyn was a true gem.

During the show’s last season, two new characters were introduced in an attempt to fill the void left by Morrow’s (Dr. Joel) departure. The pair, Paul Provenza as Dr. Phil Capra and Teri Polo as his wife, Michelle Schowdowski Capra, in my opinion, failed miserably in this attempt. While, she was easy on the eyes, he just tried too hard to be Dr. Joel. And he wasn’t.

Over the course of Northern Exposure’s run, the series was nominated for over fifty Emmy Awards and Multiple Golden Globe Awards. With or without those award nominations, this show will always shine with me, it was that good.

As I posted on Facebook last night, whenever I watched an episode of Northern Exposure, I always felt better, happier. Sometimes it was the message I got from the show, other times it was simply the beautiful scenery or, more often than not, it was the lovely music at the end of the show.

Until next time…from the booth.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Happier Times

Because of all furor and negativity surrounding the Ryan Braun suspension, I wanted to harken back to happier times and more pleasant memories. That’s why I am reposting a blog I wrote on October 17, 2011. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did when I reread it.


Thank You

Last night the Milwaukee Brewers’ season ended with a thud as they lost, 12-6, to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS. It was a sad ending to an otherwise wonderful season. When you think about it, they played longer than the Angels, Astros, Athletics, Blue Jays, Braves, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Giants, Indians, Mariners, Marlins, Mets, Nationals, Orioles, Padres, Phillies, Pirates, Rays, Red Sox, Reds, Rockies, Royals, Twins, White Sox and Yankees did. Fourteen of these teams had higher payrolls than the Brewers, while only five drew more fans.

Since last night, I have heard a myriad of meatball fans spewing their vitriol regarding the loss. When the ranting and raving started about who was to blame, I turned off the radio.

I was glad I wasn’t one of those guys. Choosing to remain upbeat, I decided to write a positive letter to my favorite baseball team.

Dear Milwaukee Brewers,

Thank you for the tremendous season. It provided many wonderful and magnificent memories, which I will treasure forever.  They included Corey Hart, Casey McGehee and Prince Fielder all hitting 3 home runs in a single game, Prince winning the All Star game MVP in Arizona, the unbelievable streak the team went on after the break, clinching the Division title against Florida and finally that amazing 10-inning win against the Diamondbacks to advance to the National League Championship Series.

These are only a few recollections that immediately come to mind, I am sure that many more will come to mind as I reflect on this record setting season. Again, I thank you.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Brewers provided so many incredible memories. After all, they have been supplying me with so many for the past four decades.

It started with getting the autographs from George “Boomer” Scott and Johnny Briggs at the Kenosha Burger Chef in 1972.

Or the time I skipped school my senior year to attend Opening Day in 1975. What made this so special was not the case of Pabst Blue Ribbon we drank on the way driving to the game, but that I was able to witness Hank Aaron’s first hit as a Brewer.

Next were all of those games in the mezzanine during the 1982 and 1983 seasons. I was fortunate enough to take my folks to several games in those choice seats. One memorable game was taking my nephew, “Little” Mike to his first baseball game. I can still see his wide-eyed look as he took it all in.

There was also the time I took Grandma ‘Trisch to a matinee game in the mezzanine. The game was secondary to Grandma; she was more concerned in getting one of those Doobie-Q hot dogs. After a while, I finally figured out she wanted a Dubuque hot dog. She loved it.

Going to the ALCS game in 1982 when Mark Brouhard became an instant hero is something I will never forget. Especially sitting in the cold rain with my buddies, Jimmy Gentile, Will Meurer and Kevin Hoff.

Of course, watching the heartbreaking 1982 World Series is etched in my mind forever. Seeing Robin Yount circling the warning track on his motorcycle during the post Series celebration quickly made the sting of the game seven loss go away.

Another unforgettable Robin Yount moment was being in attendance when his number 19 was retired on May 29, 1994 against the Seattle Mariners. The 9-8 win was the last Brewer game I saw in person.

The last game ever at County Stadium was on September 28, 2000. Elmer Dessens of the Reds got Mark Loretta to ground out to shortstop to end the game. The Brewers lost that game 8-1 and I was crying. It wasn’t the loss that brought me to tears; it was the closing ceremony that followed the game.

Legendary announcer Bob Uecker emceed the event, introducing greats from the Milwaukee Braves and Green Bay Packers. Familiar faces like Warren Spahn, Hank Aaron, Willie Wood, Fuzzy Thurston, Paul Molitor and Jim Gantner were there to salute the fans and the stadium.

When Uecker made his final player introduction, he began with, “his name is synonymous with the Brewers…” Robin Yount appeared from behind the left field fence and rode in on a Harley Davidson motorcycle. The 56,354 fans in attendance erupted in delight. I shouted, “Yes!”

When the player introductions were finished, Uecker did a brief reading dedicated to the old park as the lights were slowly turned off, standard by standard. He closed with a version of his trademark broadcast sign-off, “…so long old friend, and goodnight everybody.”

That’s when I lost it and started bawling like a baby.

Another cherished memory is June 25, 2005. On that Saturday night Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder both hit their first career big league home run. Weeks’ came off of Johan Santana in the first inning and Prince’s was off of Jesse Crain in the sixth. The pure unadulterated joy shared in the dugout with teammate J.J. Hardy is something I will never forget.

The next fond recollection is when the team made the playoffs in 2008. It was the first time Milwaukee had made the playoffs since 1982, obviously making this a very notable happening.

Prior to this season, the last Brewer memory that sticks out in my mind is Prince winning the 2009 Home Run Derby in St. Louis. Usually I am a casual observer of the Home Run Derby but this one was special was because of Prince. What made it even more special was that Dad watched it with me. It would be the last time that happened.

That brings me back to the 2011 season. Sure the Brewers came up short in their quest to return the World Series, but I’m not going to dwell on the negative. I’m not that guy. Instead, I choose to relish all of the beautiful memories the Brewers gave me. For that, I give you a final thank you.

Until next time…from the booth.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Quick Update

I know it must be getting old by now, but I have been busy working on my book, “More Kenosha Softball”. I had the privilege of interviewing Hall of Famer Jack Zimmerman in person the past week. What a hoot! It was tremendous and has kept me inspired. Another inspiration was the news that friend and longtime journalist, Gary Schneeberger has completed the chapter he promised me on Bad Boy Steve “Blade” Hess. I can’t wait to see it. Speaking of seeing it, here is an outline of where I am with the book. A √ indicates that the chapter is completed.
More Teams

5th Amendment √
Snowblind Oasis √
Infusino’s √
Team Export √
Sorensen Mfg.
Strang Siding
Finney’s Lounge
Stanich Realty
Kenosha Kings?

More Players
Bad Boys – Steve “Blade” Hess √ (Schnee)
Softball Gypsy – Jerry Ruffolo √
Jack Zimmerman √
Big Boys – Bill “Mountain” Griffiths
Long Ballers – Chuck Lange
Managers – Tim Georno
Pitchers – Gary “Wizard” Petersen
Short Stop – Bruce “Hollywood” Meyers
Speed Merchants – Rick Flocker
Jim Darula (14-inch)

More Tales
Umpires √
Hall of Fame (Fulmer) √
Dream Game (Hegs) √
Rest in Peace √
Bobby Douglass (Allen)
Finney’s West Booth

More Stuff 

City Champs √
Rotary Champs √

You probably noticed the ? following the Kenosha Kings. Help! I am at a loss finding information about this great team. If you have anything at all, please let me know. I have to get back to writing. Until next time…from the booth.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

All-Star Time

Tonight’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be the 84th edition of the Mid-Season Classic. It will be played at Citi Field in Queens, New York City, the home of the New York Mets. I look forward to watching Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura of the Brewers being introduced prior to the start of the game. After that, I will probably watch the game itself until 8:30. Then it’s time for Hard Core Pawn: Chicago and Shipping Wars.

In honor of the game, I came up with an all-star team comprised of guys that played softball for the 400 Club, Hoff’s Players, Finney’s West and Koos Inc. teams that I managed over the years. There is quite the talent pool to draw from; I estimate there were at least 83 players. But that’s being conservative. Realistically, it’s probably closer to 100.

The collection of athletes was quite eclectic. I had at least seven cops, a half-dozen teachers, a jeweler, a pilot, a principal, a TV Host, an NFL wide receiver, Kenosha’s Assistant DA, Kenosha’s Sheriff, the Racine Raider’s head coach and Tremper’s basketball coach. Sweet, huh?

It wasn’t that hard to whittle the group down to my 18-man all-star roster. Not only did I base my criteria on talent, but I also required a minimum of two years of playing for me.

Here is my personal All-Star team:

Tony Halpin*
Dennis FitzGerald*
Danny Llanas*

Ron Clark*
Jeff DiCello*
Glen Ekern*
Bruce Meyers*
Kevin Mikolas*
Mark Montague*
Larry Tostrud*
Steve Hess

Bruce Edmark*
Jimmy Gentile*
Matt Montemurro*
Randy Aulwes
Gene Heckel
Steve Neiman 
John Schwarz

Predictably, 13 of the players named to my squad had played for the 400 Club. They are marked with an asterisk. It is a considerable achievement for the five that never had the privilege of playing for the 400 Club and they should be proud of the accomplishment.

Not wanting to offend anyone, I was reluctant to name a starting line-up. However, after much deliberation, I thought, what the heck! Here’s my the batting order for my All-Star team.

1. Bruce Edmark – RC
2. Gene Heckel – LC
3. Bruce Meyers – SS
4. Matt Montemurro – LF
5. Kevin Mikolas – 1B
6. Ron Clark – 3B
7. Glen Ekern – C
8. John Schwarz – DH
9. Jimmy Gentile – RF
10. Danny Llanas – P
11. Jeff DiCello – 2B

There ya go, hopefully no one’s feelings are hurt by being left off the roster or by not making the starting line-up. Enjoy the game tonight. Until next time…from the booth.

Saturday, July 13, 2013


In my last blog I apologized for being somewhat lax about posting anything. I thought I would update you and let you know whazzup. Previously, I mentioned that I was occupied with writing my book and doing a column for the Kenosha News. Well, things haven’t changed very much. I finished the “My Turn” column and it will appear in the Monday July 22nd edition of the local paper. I am just about done writing a chapter about umpires for my book. 

I would have completed it by now, but this past Monday night something came up. I had a phone conversation with Jim Fulmer, president of the Kenosha Softball Hall of Fame. The 2013 induction ceremony for the Hall is Sunday July 14th at 2:30 at Lincoln Park during the Rotary Tournament and Jim needed help. The 15 inductees had to be notified about the ceremony and bios needed to be written for each of them.

Being the dutiful committee member, I sighed and told him that I should be able to take care of 10 of the 15. I knew it would be time consuming and take me away from writing my book, but these individuals deserved to have something written for them. So, I sucked it up and got to work.

I was right. I didn’t finish the last bio until late Thursday night, but it was worth it. Heck, it was even a bit rewarding.

I had the opportunity to personally speak with Howie Latshaw, Bill Johnson, Tom Blaziewske, Gene Willems, Kris Allison, Jack Zimmerman, Ernie Pascucci, Bruce “Hollywood” Meyers and the wife and son of the late Sam “Finney” Perry. The only person I struck out with was Richie Baumgarten. Seems he was “otherwise occupied”. Oh well…

The reason I said it was a bit rewarding is that it was a joy talking to these Hall-of-Famers. Not just because they were great ball players, undoubtedly, they all were. It was also gratifying to hear how excited they were to receive this honor. Finney’s widow, Carmella Perry couldn’t stop crying the first time I spoke to her.

Another reason that this was beneficial was that I was able to gather additional valuable material for my book, courtesy of Ernie Pascucci and Jack Zimmerman.

It was pure bliss to sit and reminisce for an hour about the “old days” with 86-year-old Pascucci at my house. The icing on the cake was when the “Distinguished One” loaned me an album chock full of photos and newspaper articles. You can rest assured that several pieces of this memorabilia will make it into my book.

I can’t begin to describe how anxious I am to interview Zimmerman in the very near future. This guy was not only one of the most talented softball ballplayers around, he was also one of the most colorful characters there was. He told me can’t wait for me to call him back so he can tell me some of the stories from his days of not only playing softball but also the years he starred with the semi-pro Racine Raiders football team.

One final reason this project was worthwhile was that it gave me cause to get in touch with other Kenosha Softball luminaries, such as Glenn “Rock” Evenson, Jimmy Gentile, Leon Rosko, and fellow HOF committee members, Gary “Wizard” Peterson and Pat Hegewald. When it comes to bullshitting about softball, it doesn’t get any better than Jimmy G and Hegs. These two guys are the best, bar none.

Well, that’s whazzup. Tomorrow I will hopefully finish the umpire chapter. I believe Sorensen’s Mfg. will be next up. Then it has to be Jack Zimmerman. Man, I can’t wait. Until next time…from the booth. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

My Apologies

I must apologize for not having posted a blog in over a week. I have been busy working on my book, “More Kenosha Softball” this past week and plan on doing the same for the foreseeable future. Oh ya, I have do a column for the Kenosha News this week as well. Hopefully, this chapter from my first book, “Some Kenosha Softball” will hold you over. Again, I apologize.

Be Careful What You Ask For


On a warm Tuesday evening in late June, I watched my 400 Club softball team warming up near the tennis courts at spacious Roosevelt Park. As I made the lineup for our 6:45 pm contest with Pasquali’s Bar, I noticed Matt Montemurro making his way from one teammate to the next. It was obvious that the young outfielder was the one doing most of the talking and all of the conversations ended with a mutual nod of the head and often a pat on the back. When it became evident what Matt was doing, a smile broke out on my chubby face and I went back to working on my batting order.

The reason I was smiling was because Matt had taken the advice I had given him in a phone conversation we had had earlier that afternoon. Based on our discussion, the talented young ballplayer was apologizing for what he had done the previous weekend.

Let me explain what Matt had done.

The Thursday before that eventful weekend, our 400 Club team had decided to play in a tournament in Whitewater at the Hawk’s Nest. When Matt heard that we were playing, he begged off saying he was getting “burned out” and needed a weekend off. I said fine, we would find someone to take his place.

If that was all that had happened, there would be no story.

 Our first game of the tournament had just finished and our team was making its’ across the parking lot to the bar for some “lunch” when Matt’s flashy sports car suddenly appeared. Screeching to a halt, Matt hopped out of the car and cheerfully asked, “How did you guys do?”

Not too many of us heard Matt’s question. We were too busy staring at the Tirabassi uniform he was sporting. Evidently he wasn’t too “burned out” to play in a tournament in Janesville with the archrival Tirabassi Excavators.

After the initial shock wore off, the response from his 400 Club teammates was less than cordial. After the burly Munk Ekern menacingly blurted out, “Get the fuck out of here!”, I suggested to Matt that he had better heed Ekern’s advice. He did so, and what could have been a very ugly scene was avoided.

Those are the events that led to Matt making that phone call to yours truly prior to our Tuesday game with Pasquali’s Bar.

The first words out of Matt’s mouth were, “That was pretty stupid of me. Am I still on the team?” After I reassured him that he was indeed still on the team, his next question was, “Is it fair to assume that I am not starting tonight?” After chuckling, I told him that was an accurate assumption and then suggested he apologize to the rest of the team before the game.

With the apologies and all the drama behind us, the game proceeded as most of our games with Pasquali’s Bar typically did…we were kicking their ass, only with Matt on the bench. Matt being a good soldier, eagerly coached third base and enthusiastically cheered on his teammates.

With our team preparing to bat in the bottom of the fourth inning, a well-intentioned Bruce Edmark approached me, pleading emphatically, “Puddles, Mattie has learned his lesson.” With chewing tobacco dripping down his chin, he added firmly, “Now get him in the game!”

It was then that I thought to myself, “Eddie, be careful what you wish for”…

With the emotional Edmark staring at me, I nodded in agreement and said, “Bruce you are right, Matt has learned his lesson. He should be in the game!” I then turned toward Matt  and bellowed, “Matt get in there. You’re batting for Eddie and playing left-center.”

Edmark, realizing that he had in effect just taken himself out of the game, slapped himself in the forehead and doing his best Homer Simpson, uttered a loud “Doh!”  Montemurro then hit a double in the gap, while a shaken Edmark was relegated to coaching third as the 400 Club went on to defeat Pasquali’s Bar by a rather embarrassing margin.

What could have been a potentially tumultuous situation was resolved and the topsy-turvy world of the 400 Club softball team was now back to a state of normalcy. Well, as close to normal as it could possibly be.

Until next time…from the booth.