Monday, November 27, 2023

This site software sucks

To say that I'm fed up with this blogging site Blogger/Blogspot is an understatement. I want to include images from my server at GoDaddy, but much of the time the attempted inline images show up as broken. This started happening a few years ago and so far I've just tolerated it and put a disclaimer at the top of the page. Google, the owner of Blogger, apparently wants me to upload my images to their server. For me, that adds another step and makes maintenance more complicated. So I've been investigating blog alternatives.

One of the options on GoDaddy is Wordpress, which apparently is a popular program. It was rather easy to import the Blogger XML backup file into Wordpress, but I found it extremely difficult to customize the pages to look the way I wanted them to. I thought, "If only Wordpress used the PHP/SQL command syntax that I used to construct my web site...." Hmmm.

So I decided to port my blog posts from the past 20+ years into my GoDaddy SQL database and write PHP pages to access them. Trouble is, I've discovered no easy way to import the Blogger XML file. So I'm doing a lot of cut-and-paste.

I will leave my text-only rants (such as this one) on this Blogger site, but anything that uses images from my web site will eventually be a PHP page hosted on my web site. This is still a work in process, but click here to see what I've got so far.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Fear the Rabbit

The South Dakota State Jackrabbits won the NCAA Division 1 Football Championship (FCS) over the weekend, dominating nine-time champion North Dakota State 45-21. This was reported as South Dakota State's first NCAA national championship, which isn't entirely true. It was the first D1 championship.

For a journalism class at South Dakota State 45 years ago, I did a writeup on construction of a new shopping mall. I didn't go into it looking for a scoop, but it turned out that the project had not been announced yet and this was big news in the small town of Brookings. My professor used her contacts and the article ended up on the front page of the Brookings Daily Register, the first time I had something published in a real newspaper. My primary source for the story was Sid Bostic, a loan officer at the local bank which was involved in the financing. His claim to fame was throwing in a midcourt shot to win the 1963 NCAA College Division national basketball championship for the Jackrabbits, 44-42 over Wittenburg, Ohio.

With the exception of this NCAA championship, South Dakota State was an unremarkable participant in College Division/Division 2 men's sports over the years. During my college years 1974-78, the basketball team made the tournament once and lost badly to Green Bay. The football team under Coach John Gregory, who sadly passed away a few weeks before the recent championship game, made the D2 playoffs once, losing to Youngstown 51-7 in 1979. Meanwhile, North Dakota State won three College Division football titles by poll from 1965-69 and five D2 championship games from 1983-90. By the '90s, the SDSU men's basketball team made the Division 2 tournament most years but the football team remained mired in mediocrity. When SDSU announced it was going Division 1 in 2004, I thought the school administration and athletic department were suffering from delusions of grandeur and would be condemned to permanent irrelevance in the two major men's sports.

What I realize now is SDSU had no choice. The Universities of South Dakota and North Dakota followed their ag school State cousins to D1 five years later, and with perfect hindsight I believe they should have done it earlier. The SDSU men's basketball team has been an above average mid-major program, winning the Summit League to qualify for the NCAA tournament six times, but not yet accomplished that first March Madness win. The women's team is a mid-major powerhouse, advancing to the Sweet 16 in 2019 and winning the WNIT in 2022.

Anyway, football. After some decent seasons during the transition starting in 2004, the climb really began with a 58-10 win over Eastern Illinois in the 2012 playoffs. But by then North Dakota State already had a championship under its belt and took out the Jackrabbits in the next round 28-3. The next few years through 2015, Jacks were unseeded in the 24-team tournament. In 2016, they started getting seeded in the top 8. There were early-round wins, but including that 2012 game, North Dakota State ended South Dakota State's season four times on their way to nine championships through 2021. The most recent of the playoff losses to the Bison came in the 2018 national semifinals.

The last two seasons have been weird. SDSU was the #1 seed in the 2020-21 COVID year but lost by two points in the national championship game to Sam Houston after quarterback Mark Gronowski was lost to injury in the first quarter. In the 2021 fall season, the Jackrabbits beat North Dakota State but also had some bad losses and were unseeded. I know the records may say differently, but prior to this year it seemed like they always lost to UNI even if UNI was terrible. As an unseeded team, they had to travel all over the country with playoff games in all four time zones before falling at Montana State in the semifinals. NDSU recovered from their regular season loss and dominated Montana State 38-10 in the championship game.

This year, the Jackrabbits beat North Dakota State in the regular season again AND this time avoided those bad regular season losses to gain the #1 seed again, escaping UNI by three points with the help of a late penalty. The Jackrabbits have won the last three Dakota Marker regular season games with North Dakota State, but Bison fans would issue reminders about their 4-0 playoff record. Finally that was put to rest with the dominating 45-21 result on Saturday.

They call it FCS in football and mid-major in basketball. It's tough being a fan of a mid-sized school, and is becoming tougher with the transfer portal and NIL money. SDSU's best basketball player Baylor Scheierman decided to return to his home state of Nebraska and play for Creighton of the Big East. My fear is some of the top Jackrabbit football players may be lured away also. I can't help but note that the two running backs who both went over 100 yards in the championship game, Amar Johnson and Isaiah Davis, are both from the state of Missouri. Gronowski is from Illinois. When they were little kids, they didn't dream of playing ball in Brookings. Tight End Tucker Kraft famously resisted attempts to get him into the portal and get some bigger NIL money, but he is from Timber Lake, South Dakota, the most desolate place I have ever been to on Earth. (And I've been to Antarctica.) Downtown Brookings must have seemed like Times Square to him the first time. But he is giving up his remaining eligibility to enter the NFL draft, where he will likely go in the second round. (Update: Third round to Green Bay.) Barring any other major defections, SDSU will be a solid #1 in the 2023 preseason FCS polls.

A longer-term question is whether North Dakota State and perhaps South Dakota State will be lured to an FBS Group of Five conference. For now that is a bigger question up north, but it seems to be percolating south. Teams are shifting around in the Group of Five, and there may be a landing spot somewhere. Travel is a concern, of course, but right now the Dakota teams have to travel to Youngstown for football, and flying to San Antonio is just as easy. I think it is cool to win an FCS championship, but supposedly there is more money in the minor bowls than in the FCS tournament. For South Dakota State, however, leaving the Summit League would mean giving up what is essentially a home court advantage in Sioux Falls in the conference basketball tournament every year. Unless they can find a football-only conference, the anticipated gain in football money may be offset by a loss in basketball money.

The transition away from Division 2 may have begun in 2004, but perhaps it has not ended. My preference would be for the Jackrabbits to pound out a few more FCS championships before taking another leap, but the BIZON may not wait that long to cash in on their reputation as an FBS wolf dressed in FCS sheep's clothing. The two don't have to move up together, but being together in 2004 made that transition easier.

One last thing. One news service reported the recent Jackrabbit win over "their hated rival." I don't think that's accurate. The four Dakota schools are all on the eastern edge of the Dakota land mass near the more populous states of Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska. They can't afford to hate each other. They all need each other to succeed, and any hate should be directed toward those other states. I can't find greater joy than any one of the four beating the Gophers on the football field, which NDSU and (strangely) USD have done and SDSU has come close. It probably won't happen, but it would be fun to have Gronowski, Johnson and Davis stick around and beat down the Nebraska Cornhuskers in 2024. I don't know if the Sagarin computer ratings (combined FBS and FCS) mean anything, but the 14-1 Jackrabbits finished this year #41 and the 4-8 Corndogs were #65 after firing their coach mid-season.

Sunday, June 05, 2022


We usually don't patronize Renaissance Festivals, but this one in Red Lodge, MT was just a few blocks away so we biked over. Lots of broken lances in the jousting.

Saturday, April 02, 2022


My web site has grown, sometimes haphazardly, over the past 20+ years. I have 4,160 images on 217 pages. In addition to scenics, airplaces, spacecraft and celestial objects, there are images of 176 animal species. Writing an HTML file (see glossary below) to display just one image could be done with just one line of code, for example this could be a perfectly valid HTML file in its entirety: <img src="puffin.jpg">. No caption, just an image. Not very useful, but valid. Categorizing and presenting 4,160 images using just HTML code would be impossible. About 20 years ago as my image library was growing, I created an SQL database on GoDaddy and learned how to code SQL queries into PHP files to display the images and other information. There are different web sites that organize images, but by doing my own coding I have complete control. Within the limits of my knowledge and motivation, of course.

I just did a redesign of my web site, which seems to happen about every 10 years. I had to brush up on my PHP, SQL and CSS knowledge, which made for a good intellectual exercise I'm going to claim is better than Wordle (which I have never played). I used MS-Access at work years ago, and gained some portable experience working with SQL. For the PHP coding to access the SQL, I was self taught. Same with CSS. There are many internet examples for accomplishing the necessary tasks. Some are nothing but a headache, and some of them work. I'm about 98% done, with all remaining is updating automatic redirects from HTML pages to PHP pages. Tedious.

A couple things got me going on doing this redesign. First, I wanted to upgrade my PHP version on the GoDaddy server from 5.6 to 8.1. Since 5.6 is the lowest supported version, I figured at some point it would be deprecated and my site would cease to function properly. As I got into making the changes to my PHP code, I decided I may as well do a complete overhaul. Another reason was the new but persistent difficulty of Blogspot to consistently display inline images (i.e. images hosted on my GoDaddy server rather than uploaded to Blogger). Sometimes they display, and sometimes they show a broken image. With my Photo of the Year posts, that's 20+ broken images, so I decided to move POY from the blog to my site so the images would display. Anyway, new features:

  • I coded a new dropdown top menu and a standard footer. GoDaddy doesn't seem to support Server Side Includes where the standard header and footer are contained in separate files, so formerly I had to touch a lot of files to make design changes. I recently figured out how to do an "include" with PHP coding instead of SSI. This will make the site easier to maintain.
  • The "Destinations" menu item replaces "Galleries" and is now PHP/SQL generated rather than manually maintained.
  • There is a new "Years" menu item featuring "Photos of the Year" and links to a new PHP/SQL-generated page showing all photo destinations for a year.
  • The new "Aircraft, etc." menu item links to two new pages, "Celestial Events" and "Air Shows and Museums" in addition to the "Aircraft/spacecraft Index."
  • The new "Methods" menu item links to all my trailcam and remote image pages. I also put in a link to "Celestial Events" on the theory that I use different methods when shooting the sun than with other subjects.
  • Re-designed left menu for the home page. Still subject to change.
  • The large "Recent" image in the center of the page is now generated from recent photo uploads. I used to have to change this manually within the file, and it only rotated among five images. It will change depending on how many images I post, but I believe the current image pool is over 60.
  • The recent events list is now PHP/SQL-generated. It is the 10 most recent photo pages. I used to edit this list manually.
  • I've now been going this long enough to put in a "20 years ago on" This is in addition to the Pedro item from 1999. I don't know if there is an effective way to auto-generate this, so for now the selected items are manually maintained.

More pages are PHP/SQL generated than before, so will be easier to maintain. After fixing the old "journey" pages, the next major project would be to edit just about every blog post from the past 20 years to remove any inline images and replace them with uploaded images. I don't know if the sudden problem with inline images is the fault of Blogger or GoDaddy, but it really doesn't matter. Even if I accept that mission, it could take a while. I'm not under any illusion that very many people care, but it satisfies my OCD. Update: As of December 2023 the problem persists, so I decided to port most of my 400 blog posts for 20 years over to my own web site server with my own coding. Screw Google.

Examples of inline and uploaded images. If the first image is broken, that's the problem I'm having. If not, it just proves that intermittent problems are the hardest to diagnose and fix.

Broken image

  • HTML: Hypertext Markup Language. The basic language of the World Wide Web, created by the legendary Tim Berners-Lee.
  • SQL: Structured Query Language, a language for managing data.
  • PHP: Originally Personal Home Page, now PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor. A language which runs on the server and dynamically creates HTML to pass to the user's browser.
  • JavaScript: I don't use it much, but mention it here because, unlike PHP which runs on the server and is unseen by the user, JavaScript runs on the user's device in the browser.
  • CSS: Cascading Style Sheets, used in combination with HTML to format web pages.
  • MS-Access: Microsoft's desktop database application.
  • SSI: Server Side Includes. A capability to paste together several different HTML files (such as header, side menu, body, footer) into one web page.
  • GoDaddy: Company that tries to do funny Super Bowl commercials.
  • Blogspot: Blog site owned by Google. All hail Google, one of our technological overlords.

Thursday, March 17, 2022


Baseball resolved its labor dispute and will start on time. I used to extensively patronize baseball 20 years ago, even maintaining baseball web sites ( and for 6-7 years. What I learned in those years of attending the Arizona Fall League and spring training is there are countless minor leaguers barely scraping by, hanging on in the hope of breaking into the big time. The first image below is from the 2002 Arizona Fall League, featuring a Red Sox minor leaguer by the name of Kevin Youkilis. I recognized the name from the 2000 Bourne Braves of the Cap Cod League, where he summered while attending U of Cincinnati, and that's the second image.

Youkilis went on to a somewhat distinguished career, picking up the nickname, "The Greek God of Walks" for his ability to get on base. (Just to explain this to modern players, if the pitcher throws the ball a foot outside, you don't have to try to pull it for a home run.) He was an excellent fielder, and won two World Series rings with the Red Sox, although he didn't actually make the post-season roster in the 2004 epic drama. Even in 2007 when he won a Gold Glove at first base, he had to sit in favor of David Ortiz when there was no designated hitter for the two games in Colorado. (He did play in both games as a defensive replacement as the Red Sox swept, so he was on the field as the celebration started.)

Youkilis doesn't look like an athlete. He is shaped something like a barrel, and his batting stance was weird. But it just shows with the peculiar talents needed for baseball and with perseverence, you can make the big leagues. And if you were lucky enough to be with the Red Sox during the first decade of this century, you could have become Tom Brady's brother-in-law. Youkilis is married to Brady's sister Julie.

The Greek God of Walks with the Scottsdale Scorpions, 2002

Tom Brady's future brother-in-law on the Cape, 2000

Oh, wow. Mark Texiera playing for Orleans in the summer of 1999. He was attending Georgia Tech at the time.

Tex, 1999

Just for the heck of it, I'll throw in this picture of Frank Robinson from the first time I attended Arizona Fall League in 1999. He was the league's Director of Baseball Operations at the time. I hadn't seen the original of this image for quite a while until today.

Sunday, January 30, 2022

I was scouted by the Mets

Continuing the mid-winter baseball theme, I've been going through all of my bubble gum cards. I knew I had two Jim Kaat/Katt cards somewhere in a box after news came out of his selection to the Hall of Fame, and after I found them I dug further into the box. In addition to a few thousand cards, some of them worth $100 and most of them worth $.01, I came across a business card from Russel L. Sehon, Scout, New York National League Baseball Club. In other words, the New York Mets. Written on the card was, "Good luck Tom, Your friend, Russ Sehon, 7-4-69."

In 1969, my Dad had a side gig taking care of the landscaping at a motel in Rapid City. He struck up a conversation with Sehon, who was in town scouting the Basin League, a college summer league. And of course my Dad probably said, "I've got a boy who plays baseball." Sehon was kind enough to meet with me and offer a few pointers on my swing. The Holy Grail for scouts of that era was to find the next Mickey Mantle, and I'm sure it didn't take long for Russ to figure out that I wasn't "The One." A few weeks later, the Little League season ended and my baseball career was over at the age of 12. Childhood's end, time to start getting summer jobs.

After having my memory prompted by that business card, I did some research to find out how Sehon ended up as a baseball scout. He was a Kansas boy, and even though he was scouting for the Mets when I met him, he lived in Lawrence. He was a native of the small town of Lecompton and graduated high school there in 1935. He is in the back row, second from the right in this picture of the graduating class.

Apparently Russ played college baseball at Kansas University before turning pro at age 21 in 1940. Like so many players of his generation, his career was interrupted by WWII. He served in the Navy and his name is one of 940 on the Veterans Memorial in Lecompton. His one minor league homer came in 1946 for the Jackson Senators of the Class B Southeastern League. Although he had no power, he hit .301 in his minor league career. In 1947-48, he worked in the athletic training department back at KU and was coach of the Jayhawk baseball team. Future long-time head baseball coach (and manager of the 1965 Basin League champ Rapid City Chiefs) Floyd Temple was a Jayhawk baseball and football player at about that time, but it isn't clear whether he played for Russ. The KU press guide says Russ was 7-12 as KU coach in 1948 but offers few other details. He may have been finishing up his coursework during that time because his obituary said he got his degree in 1949. The obit didn't mention his wife's name but did list three sons and four grandchildren.

Sehon spent part of the 1949 season as manager of the Hutchinson Elks, the Pirates affiliate in the Class C Western Association. His scouting career started in 1950, and he spent the next 37 years prowling the Great Plains for the Phillies, Braves, Angels, Mets and Yankees. He passed in 1998 at age 79 and is spending his eternal rest in Olathe.

He scouted me for the Mets. It didn't quite work out. That's how I choose to remember it.

I have to go off on just one more Kansas University tangent. One of the players Sehon was interested in seeing in Rapid City the previous year, 1968, was a fellow Kansas Jayhawk, Franklin "Junior" Riggins. This is the entry in the 1969 Chiefs program looking back at Junior's 1968 season:

As mentioned in the bio, Junior played in the backfield at Kansas. His last football game was the Orange Bowl on New Year's Day 1969, a 15-14 loss to undefeated Penn State. (The quarterback of that Kansas team was future Chicago Bear Bobby Douglass, a strong runner with a rocket arm and no accuracy, but that's a whole 'nother tangent.) Junior was drafted by the AFL Chiefs and NFL Cardinals, but never played pro football. He only rushed for 865 yards in three college seasons, and since he was "husky" they were probably looking at him as a fullback, back when fullback was a thing. He went the baseball route but never got past "AA". After five minor league seasons, he entered the real world and spent his adulthood as a golf equipment salesman in Vienna, Virginia.

That "strong Kansas backfield" also included Junior's younger brother, who was much better at football than baseball. Making football a career choice paid off when he was named MVP of the Super Bowl in January 1983 as the Washington team beat Don Shula and the Dolphins. One of the epic plays in Super Bowl history was younger Riggins' 43-yard TD run on fourth down to give his team the lead for good. The classic video shows a Dolphins player getting a handful of jersey, but just momentarily.

The younger brother is John "Riggo" Riggins, Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 1992. End of Kansas tangent.

Thursday, January 27, 2022


Jim Kaat and Tony Oliva were selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame this month, joining 1968 Minnesota Twins teammates Harmon Killebrew and Rod Carew. I have two Topps 1965 baseball cards on which Kaat's name is misspelled "Katt."

This is an excerpt from my Aug. 23, 2005 blog post looking back at the first Major League game I saw in which Kaat was one of the starting pitchers and just one of eight future members of the Baseball Hall of Fame on hand:

These days the Twins play in the Baggiedome in downtown Minneapolis, but in the '60's and '70's they were out in the suburbs. My first major league game was at age 11 on June 22, 1968 at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington.

Today the Mall of America sits on the site, but back in 1968 it was baseball under open skies. In the game program (25 cents) it says, "Half of the fun at a ballgame is keeping score," and instructions were provided on how to do so. It didn't say what the other half of the fun was, so I kept score.

Visiting was a mediocre Yankee team, six years removed from winning the World Series and nine years away from winning their next one. Twins pitcher Jim Kaat got the first two Yanks to fly out, but the third connected for a home run. It was my first major league hit, so to speak. Referring to the scoring instructions, next to the name "Mantle" I drew four horizontal bars (four-base hit) and a "7" (to left field) then circled all of it (run scored). The scoreboard flashed the message that it was the 528th home run of Mickey Mantle's career.

Of course I remember that The Mick hit a home run in the first major league game I attended, but documented on the scorecard are forgotten details. For instance, Mantle was playing first base, not the outfield. The designated hitter hadn't been adopted by the American League yet, so I figured the move to first base was because of his knees. Web research today verified that one of the great center fielders of all time spent the last two years of his career at first base due to bad knees, and they were two awful years. He retired after the 1968 season after hitting only .237 with 18 homers in 144 games. The notation on the scorecard that he was playing first base is what compelled me to look it up. Perhaps the "other half of the fun" is looking at a scorecard 37 years later and seeing details and clues that add substance to imperfect memory.

The scorecard also shows: Tony Oliva put the Twins ahead with a two-run homer in the fourth, but the Yankees scratched out four runs in the seventh and won 5-2. Stan Bahnsen, who went on to win Rookie of the Year, allowed six hits (three to Oliva) and struck out nine to get the win. Hall-of-Famer Harmon Killebrew went 0-4. With the help of Baseball Almanac, I have recreated the box score as it would have appeared in the paper the next day.

The box score reveals how the game has changed in 54 years. There was no designated hitter. The game was completed in two hours and 10 minutes, an hour less than the average game today. The winning pitcher, a rookie, pitched a complete game. Kaat was leading 2-1 after six innings, what we call now a "quality start." Kaat lost it in the 7th, but he had 180 complete games in his career so it is impossible to say it was a mistake to leave him in. Back then, the best pitchers were starters and the bullpen was usually populated by the very young, the very old, or the very mediocre. The position of "closer" didn't become universal until the '70's, and "setup man" came long after that. These days, the analytics zealots would have roasted Manager Cal Ermer on social media for the sin of wasting a quality start.

Below is my very first attempt at keeping score. As you can see, I went back and did some edits afterward to perfect my scorekeeping technique. I didn't know yet that a called strike three was a backward K. According to Baseball Reference, there were three backward K's in the game. I see a mistake there in the third inning where I gave Kaat a single, but he shows 0-for-2 in the box score. It was a fielder's choice with Frank Quilici out at second. I had so much to learn.

I was counting members of the Hall of Fame who were in the dugouts that day and came up with eight, including the two who hit home runs: Kaat, Oliva, Killebrew, Carew, and pitching coach Early Wynn for the Twins; Mantle, first base coach Whitey Ford, and 2nd baseman Bobby Cox for the Yankees. Cox, who started the game-winning rally in the 7th inning, didn't get inducted for his playing career, but for his long managerial career primarily with the Braves. I'm not including Yankee GM Lee MacPhail, who may not have been there. Yankee third base coach Frank Crosetti isn't in the HOF but won 17 World Series rings as a player and coach. Other names I recognize from the roster include shortstop/future Royals Manager Dick Howser, and pitcher Al Downing who gave up Hank Aaron's 715th home run. And then there was a former Yankee who was a coach with the Twins in 1968, Billy Martin. Martin spent his last year as a player with the Twins in 1961 and stayed with the organization as a scout and coach. He also worked as a sales representative for Grain Belt Beer during that time. That is so right, but so wrong.

Billy Martin is listed as a coach elsewhere in the 1968 program, but is not on the roster shown here because a month into the season he got sent to manage the Twins AAA minor league team, the Denver Bears (7-22 at the time). The Bears improved significantly during the remainder of the season (66-50) and he became Twins manager the following year. The Twins won the AL West in 1969 but lost badly in the very first ALCS 3-0 to Baltimore. Owner Calvin Griffith favored starting Kaat in Game 3, but Martin chose someone else and lost 11-2. After various incidents over the years, apparently this was the final straw for Griffith, and Martin was fired a week after the season. Much of Martin's bad behaviour was blamed on his drinking, but there were plenty of times he was rather impolite even when sober. His abrasive personality and tendency to drink too much was very well known but it didn't keep the Tigers, Rangers, Yankees, Yankees, A's, Yankees, Yankees, and Yankees from hiring him as manager, only to eventually fire him for the usual reasons. None of his stints lasted three full seasons, and his last and shortest tenure was 68 games with the Yankees in 1988. On Christmas Day 1989 at age 61, he died in a drunk driving accident in which he (probably) was not the driver.

Former Yankee teammates Mantle, Ford and Martin were a legendary party trio in the 1950's. They used to hit Manhattan after home games to drink the night away with the likes of Joe DiMaggio, Rocky Marciano, Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra and Rock Hudson. As an 11-year-old, I knew nothing of this, but now I wonder if Mickey and Whitey missed Billy, who was out in Denver, as they threw down a few in some Twin Cities watering hole that Saturday night in 1968. In this team picture from the 1968 program, Martin is in his characteristic hunch (front row, fourth from the left).

Another Twins player listed above is Jim Perry (third row, fourth from the left), who won the Cy Young Award during a distinguished career but is not in the HOF. However, his somewhat controversial brother Gaylord is, and the two of them have the second-most pitching victories by siblings behind Phil and Joe Niekro. My final useless factoid is the 1968 program says Tony Oliva's real name is Pedro Oliva, Jr., but Wikipedia says his birth name was Antonio Oliva Lopez Hernandes Javique. Wikipedia says Pedro is actually his brother's name, which he used in order to appear three years younger as he was trying to establish his baseball career after arriving from Cuba. Other players who have supposedly fudged their age include Albert Pujols, Bartolo Colon, Miguel Tejada, and Little Leaguer Danny Almonte who at age 14 was blowing away 12-year-olds.

What is baseball without trivia, statistics, trivial statistics, and just a few lies?

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Sports Page

I moved to the Boston area in 1991, back when people read newspapers on actual paper and not on a screen. I got the Boston Globe dropped on my driveway every day and I always read the sports section first. The collection of Globe sports columnists was second to none, with the best-known names from the 1970's onward including Bob Ryan (basketball Hall of Fame), Will McDonough (longtime NFL insider), Peter Gammons (baseball HOF), Bud Collins (tennis HOF), Larry Whiteside (baseball HOF), John Powers (Olympics, non-sports Pulitzer), Jackie MacMullan (basketball HOF), and Leigh Montville. Ryan, Collins and Montville were recipients of the AP's Red Smith Award, considered the most prestigious national award for sportswriters. Collins (NBC) was one of the first to cross over into broadcasting while still writing for a newspaper, and Ryan (ESPN), Gammons (ESPN) and McDonough (CBS/NBC) followed.

The Globe had the first female NFL beat writer in 1976, the young Lesley Visser, who has gone on to a long broadcasting career with CBS, ABC and ESPN. In the most Boston thing ever, she met her former husband, CBS broadcaster Dick Stockton, at the classic 1975 World Series between the Red Sox and the Big Red Machine. On his podcast, Tony Kornheiser (ESPN/Washington Post) routinely introduces Bob Ryan as "the quintessential American sportswriter." Ryan was just one voice on the quintessential American sports page. Sports Illustrated called the Globe's sports lineup "the greatest sports staff ever," and most were still there when I arrived in 1991.

Another staffer was a young Dan Shaughnessy, who started on the high school beat and worked his way up to a regular column. Today he is the most senior member of the Globe sports staff and shares a distinction with former Globe writers Gammons, Whiteside, Harold Kaese, Tim Murnane and Nick Cafardo as a winner of the Baseball Writers of America Career Excellence Award. In other words, he is in the writers' wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame. In 1990, he wrote "The Curse of the Bambino," and followed it up in 2004 with "Reversing the Curse" after the Red Sox finally won their first World Series since 1918.

According to Wikipedia, one of his nicknames is "Shank," "given by the 1980's Boston Celtics team for the often unflattering and critical nature of his articles." In 2000, he got in a spat with Red Sox player Carl Everett, who he called "Jurassic Carl" for denying that dinosaurs ever existed. Everett had said, "You can't say there were dinosaurs when you never saw them. Somebody actually saw Adam and Eve eating apples. No one ever saw a Tyrannosaurus rex." After being subjected to Shaughnessy's nickname, Everett fired back at Globe writer Gordon Edes, telling everyone from the paper to stay away and to pass the message along to his "curly-haired boyfriend." No one remembers much else about Carl, but Shaughnessy's new nickname stuck. Good times.

There's something admirable about a columnist who writes what he believes to be the truth rather than doing puff pieces. If you want to compliment Shaughnessy, that's what you would say. Shaughnessy has been in the headlines lately for saying he did not vote for David Ortiz to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Ortiz, the most important player on World Series champion Red Sox teams in 2004, 2007 and 2013, took the news in stride: "You know that Dan Shaughnessy has been an a–hole to everybody." Nobody is arguing with Big Papi on that one.

I used to care about the Baseball Hall of Fame. I attended the 1999 ceremony when Nolan Ryan, George Brett, Robin Yount and Orlando Cepeda were the players inducted. (Best speech: Son of the late umpire Nestor Chylak.) After the full impact of the steroid era became evident a few years later, I sort of lost interest in baseball and the Hall of Fame.

Ortiz is not the only HOF snub on Shaughnessy's ballot. He's also not voting for suspected steroid cheats Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Manny Ramirez and Sammy Sosa. I believe the only player among the nominees actually suspended by MLB for steroid use is Rodriguez. The amount of evidence against each of the other players varies, and in the case of Ortiz I would say there is some skimpy hearsay and speculation. Shaughnessy also is not voting for Curt Schilling, apparently for the sin of being an outspoken conservative who has said impolitic things about the Islamic and transgender communities. Schilling got 71.1% of the vote last year, 20 votes short of the number necessary for induction, and no doubt some writers such as "Shank" hold his politics against him. The only player Shaughnessy voted for the past two years was Jeff Kent.

Manny Ramirez, Red Sox spring training 2003

I'm not going to get out the pitchforks and torches to hunt down Shaughnessy, but my questions are: How can you tell the story of baseball for the past 50 years without mentioning Rodriguez, Bonds, Clemens, Pettitte, Ramirez, Sosa and Ortiz, even if they are suspected drug cheats? How can you tell the story without including the unfashionable Schilling or the disgraced gambler Pete Rose? How can you tell the story of the team you wrote books about, the Red Sox, without mentioning Clemens, Ramirez, Ortiz, or Schilling and his bloody sock?

Schilling's candidacy should rise or fall based on his baseball performance, not the voter's personal prejudices regarding Schilling's political views. Rose and the suspected drug cheats should have their names written in Cooperstown, even if the writing includes an account of their (alleged) sins. Maybe they need a special Wing of Shame that tells their stories and lets the visitor make up their own mind how to balance the accomplishments and the misdeeds. Must the story of the last 50 years of baseball include Shaughnessy's new favorite player, Jeff Kent? No, not unless you believe Kent's dugout fight with Bonds in 2002 was one of the signature events of the era. Kent was a good player, but I feel like Shaughnessy is trolling us by voting for him and only him. Kent got 32.4% voter support last year.

I lived in the Boston area until 2007, and the vibrant sports scene was one of the things I enjoyed about the 16+ years I was there: The swan song of Bird, Parish and McHale. Big Papi hammering "The Curse" into oblivion. The ascension of Brady to total world domination. My first autumn in Boston, I saw Bob Ryan striding powerfully across the parking lot after a Boston College football game, no doubt headed back to 135 Morrissey Boulevard to pound out his game story. As Kornheiser would say, "Sneaky tall." Sixteen years later, my going-away party included a final trip to Fenway Park before I headed back to the Upper Midwest to live out my days. The legendary giants of the Boston Globe sports section have retired or passed away. Now the only link to the glory days is Carl Everett's curly-haired boyfriend who is still churning out columns and controversy. In contrast to those days of real newsprint, I don't feel like I'm missing much.

Update: Ortiz got in with 77.9% of the vote. None of the others mentioned above got in. Bonds, Clemens and Schilling will not appear on the ballot next year, so the only path for them now is through what used to known as the Veterans Committee, actually now four committees looking at different historic eras. Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, Bud Fowler and Buck O’Neil will be inducted this year via the committee route. I'm guessing my two Jim Kaat cards, on which his name is misspelled "Katt," have skyrocketed in value.

Ortiz played for the Twinkies for six years before joining the Red Sox in 2003.

Monday, January 17, 2022


Until very recently, I never used Twitter. Although I think it is the death of civilization and a huge waste of time, I've been sucked in for the past few weeks. Zuckerberg recently posted a picture of himself with a group of apparent students in Peru, looking over someone's shoulder at a computer. It looked awkwardly staged to me so I answered, "Creepy as usual. Are you a real human boy?"

I was a little stunned today to receive a reply, apparently from Zuckerberg himself. He said, "I'm human."

That was the entire message. I'm going to need more than that. A blood test performed under controlled conditions should suffice.

I really need to get off Twitter. I was going to delete my account a few days ago, but decided instead to make it worthwhile and try to get suspended for posting misinformation. "Cloth masks are ineffective," except that turns out to be true. "Fauci is a liar," except that may be true. "Zuckerberg is a space alien." I truly believe that and I challenge someone to prove me wrong.

BTW, I'm not showing images of the tweets because my Twitter username is the name of (gasp) a bogus identity I've used from time to time, believe it or not, for the past 50 years since high school. Nothing illegal!

Sunday, October 03, 2021

Tall, Strong Arm

For more than 15 years, 1992-2007, I was a daily commuter in the Boston area, driving up I-95 to my office near Route 128, Boston's version of the Beltway. Trapped in my taupe-colored Camry for 35 minutes each way on a good day and three hours on one really, really bad day, radio was my entertainment. The first few years of that drive I listened to Imus until he turned his show into a constant telethon for his children's ranch scam, so in the mid-90's I turned to WEEI sports radio.

At that time the Red Sox were still tagged as lovable losers and dominated the sports talk. The Patriots were largely ignored because they were utterly inept, but an amazing thing happened on Jan. 21, 1993: Owner James Orthwein, who was not considered a football genius, somehow convinced two-time Super Bowl champ Duane "Bill" Parcells to take the head coaching job. And because the Patriots had a dreadful 2-14 record in 1992, Parcells was able to take quarterback Drew Bledsoe #1 in the 1993 draft. Parcells and Bledsoe coming to town forever transformed the radio buzz surrounding the Patriots. Parcells press conferences were highly entertaining and became appointment listening. More importantly, Bledsoe and the Patriots began to win and they made the Super Bowl after the 1996 season. But just as they neared the pinnacle, it seemed as though they couldn't stand success.

There was chaos leading up to Super Bowl XXXI against the Packers. It was rumored that Parcells was on his way out because he didn't get along with Robert Kraft, who had bought the team from Orthwein in 1994. Indeed, mere seconds (it seemed) after the Packers finished off the Patriots 35-21, Parcells bolted to the hated New York Jets. Despite the tensions between the owner and the now-former HC, Kraft considered promoting Parcells' right-hand man Bill Belichick to be the new HC. Kraft eventually decided to make a clean break with the Parcells era, but he respected Belichick enough that he felt it was necessary explain his decision over dinner with their spouses. Instead of taking over the Patriots in 1997, Belichick went to the Jets to resume his recurring role as Parcells' defensive coordinator, with a deal in place to eventually become HC.

Pete Carroll took over as Patriots HC for three downward-trending seasons, then was fired. (Whatever happened to Pete?) By all accounts Bledsoe is a wonderful person, but I grew increasingly frustrated with his play. He could put up huge passing numbers but was a statue in the pocket, holding the ball too long and taking a lot of sacks. After that brief moment in the sun, the Patriots had slid back into mediocrity.

Parcells decided to move to the Jets front office after the 1999 season, which triggered the promotion of Belichick to head coach, per his contract. What followed was tremendously entertaining during my commutes listening to WEEI. As the story goes, Little Bill decided he didn't want Big Bill looking over his shoulder, he didn't like the Jets' ownership situation after the death of Leon Hess, he probably had a secret agreement with Kraft to finally take the head coaching job in New England. The bizarre events of January 2000 started with Belichick infamously scrawling his resignation as "HC of the NYJ" on a napkin, then stumbling through an explanation of his decision to a stunned audience at what was supposed to be his introductory press conference. Jets president Steve Gutman followed Belichick to the podium and said, "We should have some feelings of sorrow and regret for him and his family. He obviously has some inner turmoil." Big Bill wouldn't release Little Bill from his Jets contract to take the Patriots job, and a 23-day New York-Boston media circus ensued. Untimately, Commissioner Tagliabue got Parcells to settle for a draft pick from the Patriots, allowing Kraft to hire Belichick.

Completely unnoticed a few months later was the signing of the 199th selection in the 2000 NFL draft, Tom Brady, who managed to stick with the Patriots as the fourth-string quarterback. Never mind that NFL teams don't keep four quarterbacks. After Brady's first season in which he only dressed for two games and went 1-3 for six yards, Kraft gave Bledsoe the richest NFL contract to date, $10 million per year, despite an 5-11 team record, a 59% completion percentage (low by today's standards), 45 sacks, and only 17 TDs to 13 interceptions. Sometimes I wished they would put in Michael Bishop, the scrambler from K-State, just to cut down on the sacks. One of WEEI's frequent callers gave voice to my frustrations with Bledsoe: "He's tall, he's got a strong arm, he's tall, he's got a strong arm. And he's tall."

That damning faint praise was delivered by "Butch from the Cape," a mysterious Yankees fan who took joy in blistering the Boston teams on sports talk radio. WEEI obviously thought it was good for ratings to give Butch a platform as the New York a-hole that everyone in Boston could love to hate. It was rumored that Butch was a retired mobster, a rumor he no doubt reveled in. Although he certainly associated with lots of criminals in his shady life, it turned out that Butch was not a made man, just a small-time gambler and stool pigeon named Thomas Speers. Butch/Thomas actually was from Waterbury, Connecticut, but to the sports fans of Boston he was the prototypical arrogant New Yorker. His wicked laugh was one of WEEI's favorite sound bites. Even a pacifist like me wanted to punch him in the face, even though I largely agreed with him on Bledsoe.

September 2001 is forever defined by national tragedy, but it also was the month that Bledsoe suffered a serious injury against the Jets. When he went down, I expected Bishop to trot onto the field. The backup quarterback situation wasn't a topic the hosts and callers on WEEI bothered to talk about, so I didn't know that Bishop was no longer on the team and Brady had risen from #4 on the depth chart to #2 ahead of Damon Huard. Brady was unable to pull out that first game in relief, and there were rumblings that perhaps Belichick wasn't up to the job as his record was 5-13 to that point. As September turned to October and Boston sports fans were contemplating a lost football season with an inexperienced backup QB, the story spread that the notorious "Butch from the Cape" had cancer. Many WEEI listeners figured it was some weird scam being perpetrated by the degenerate gambler. No, he really was sick and he died October 17, 2001 at age 58, missing Brady's meteoric rise and the Red Sox breaking the Curse of the Bambino, not once but four times. With few exceptions since October 2001, sorrow, regret and inner turmoil has been the domain of hapless Jets fans.

Belichick's decision to stay with Brady after Bledsoe recovered was controversial at the time, even after Brady's storybook first Super Bowl win. I wanted Brady to be the quarterback because Bledsoe was an immobile sack machine. Not that Brady was fleet of foot, but he moved around the pocket well and got rid of the ball quickly. (Still does.) Belichick nipped the controversy in the bud and shipped Bledsoe off to Buffalo before the 2002 season. After three seasons with the Bills and two seasons with the Cowboys (and his old coach Duane Parcells), Bledsoe retired in April 2007. He's still only 49 years old, living the good life as a successful winemaker in his native state of Washington.

Twenty years and a few weeks after that initial 2001 relief appearance, 44-year-old Brady is returning to New England today with Tampa Bay as a 7-time Super Bowl champion and holder of every major career passing record except regular season passing yards. With just 69 yards today, he'll claim that record. Even though it will come as a visitor, I'm certain that 95% of the home crowd will cheer wildly when it happens. There is no dispute he has had the greatest career in NFL history, and most of that came as he lifted the Patriots to a level that could not have been imagined in September 2001. The two Bills, Bledsoe, Kraft, Adam "the Greatest Jackrabbit" Vinatieri and countless others played their roles in the rise of the Patriots. But if Brady had never happened, can anyone claim with a straight face that there still would be six Lombardis on display in Foxborough?

Brady is tall, he's got a strong (enough) arm, and he's the ultimate championship quarterback. Today, for (almost) certainly one last time, Brady leads a team out of the tunnel onto the New England turf. That the color of his uniform is different today than on 166 previous Foxborough gamedays will not matter to a still-adoring and grateful constituency. Decades of frustration with the Patriots ended when Belichick picked Brady over Bledsoe, symbolically coinciding with the death of the fake New York wise guy "Butch from the Cape," now so very long ago.

Sunday, September 12, 2021


When I was a youth, Lew Alcindor was the best collegiate freshman basketball player, but didn't play one minute for UCLA. Back then, NCAA member schools had a theory that keeping freshmen on the sidelines gave them time to adjust to college, get their priorities straight and set them up for future success. Alcindor had to be content with three years of varsity ball before turning pro (and changing his name to Kareen Abdul Jabbar). There were allegations that a character named Sam Gilbert showered UCLA players with illegal benefits back then.

How things have changed. The freshman prohibition ended in 1972. Now colleges are lucky to get one year out of the most highly-regarded basketball recruits. The top football players can turn pro three years out of high school. But that's a handful of guys. New rules make it much easier for players to change colleges. They can even get paid something over the table, thanks to a recent court decision.

Of course there was some hand wringing regarding these changes, and no doubt there will be some horror stories that come to light of nomads who go from school to school, squander what little money they make, and end up with a useless degree in exercise management. But there will be some who will take advantage of the changes the correct way, cram two useful college degrees into five years, make a little money along the way, and enter the real world set up for future success. The opportunity is there but equity is not guaranteed, and that's the way it should be.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Sturgis +40

During my newspaper internship in the summer of 1978, back when newspapers were still a thing, I was told that members of the editorial staff all wrote a weekly column. Unlike most college students then and now, I didn't think the world would be all that interested in my opinions and observations, but I dutifully complied.

I returned to that newspaper the following year for my first real job after graduation. The location was Sturgis, SD, which at the time had 5,000 residents, two competing weekly papers, and (as it still does) a huge annual motorcycle rally. I was working for the upstart weekly, which eventually bought out its older competitor and started publishing twice a week. From 1979-84, in addition to my newswriting and photography duties, I wrote a weekend sports column for the Black Hills Press and a mid-week general-interest column for the Meade County Times-Tribune. (The highlight of my column-writing career was getting yelled at on the phone by the governor of South Dakota, "Wild Bill" Janklow, for expressing my dismay when he abruptly withdrew without explanation the State Board of Regents nomination of a local man.) Both of my columns were topped by a head-shot sketch by the newspaper's artist, Penny Green.

At this time of year when the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally gains the attention of the world for a couple weeks, I scan the Sturgis news to see if anything I'm familiar with has burned down or blown up. That's how I came across the obituary of Penny Harvey Green. She was age 78, survived by a large extended family, founded the Sturgis Art Show and Sturgis Cleanup, was a member of many community organizations, has her art displayed in countless places throughout the world, and was on the Sturgis City Council for 16 years. She was the type of person who makes a real contribution to the world and her community, unlike most who make it into what passes for the news these days.

We weren't close and my memory doesn't contain specific anecdotes about Penny, just the recollection that she did her job with great skill under deadline pressure. Whenever we needed any type of artwork, she could do it. And she provided this sketch for the big-shot junior columnist in the small-town pond. Skinny Tom, age 22 with an 80's porn stash, someone not sure the world was interested in his opinions, but he had his own sketch so he was sharing them anyway.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Fool me once

The bluebirds fooled me once this summer. There were three fledglings around my nest box, so I assumed they were hatched in that box. Not true; when I opened the box to clean it, it was completely empty.

There has been a lot of activity around the box the past few days. I'm not assuming anything, but the hope is these younger birds will produce their own batch before the season ends. I have literally hundreds of trailcam images from the past few days, and these are some of the better ones. The sixth and seventh image show that the birds are going inside the box.

If I did this the way I usually do it, my website would be overflowing with trailcam images. Instead I'm using the capability of Blogger to put them all in a slide show. Click on an image to see the larger version, then use the arrow keys to go forward and backward.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021


What is officially known as the Robertson Draw Fire has caused a great deal of consternation in and around Red Lodge, MT, our new home. It actually started on Sunday but didn't become spectacular until Tuesday when rough terrain, 95-degree temperatures and high winds made it impossible to keep the flames from consuming the trees on most of Mount Maurice. A helicopter battling a blaze elsewhere in Montana crashed Tuesday due to the high winds (thankfully no fatalities), and everything was grounded here in the afternoon.

By Wednesday morning, conditions were more favorable for a string of airplanes and helicopters to dump water and fire retardant on the flames. The fire is still not under control, but it is not threatening the town at the moment. I thought for a while we might have to evacuate Tuesday, not in fear of the flames, but the thick smoke driven by the wind. Fortunately we were never hit by the smoke, and the forecast seems to indicate favorable winds (at least for us) for the next few days. Here are a few images and a video from Tuesday and Wednesday.