Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Bleacher Preacher in defense of Atlanta Braves pitching coach Roger Mc Dowell

Welcome first time visitors to my blog. Sometimes people will stop by for just a second or 2, and in many cases much longer. I wished that those who have returned, would leave a comment once in a while. It is not easy for me to put into words why I do this... however I have been blessed to have had one heck of an interesting life. I covered a lot of bases and often recorded them with my camera. I have been involved in sports, and politics as a participant or observer. I have been described as a gay Forrest Gump, or even as such without the word gay. In the past few days, I read about a former ballplayer, and now pitching coach with the Atlanta Brave's, Roger Mc Dowell. Our paths first crossed in the N.L. Pennant chase late in the 1984 season. For those that are visiting here for the first time, let me brag about becoming a legendary fan of the Chicago Cubs. It began in 1945 when I was 8 years old. That year my dad Hank, gave me a crash course in Baseball 101 and Cubs History. He then took me to my first game at beautiful Wrigley Field. A month or so later, when the Cubs clinched the N.L. Pennant, I asked him to take me to the '45 World Series. He said I was too young , but made me a PROMISE that he would take me the next time! The following year I heard the expression WAIT UNTIL NEXT YEAR for the first time. Baseball was the official language between my dad and myself ever since. In 1981, he was in a coma,at the Evanston St. Francisco Hospital. He awoke from the coma once. I was there... and in a soft whisper he said 'WE GOTTA GET RID OF KINGMAN!" He was not able to keep his PROMISE to me in his lifetime, but I have been looking for closure in mine.

In 1984, I thought I might get a chance. Without great detail... the Cubs was hot news on the sporting pages across the country. From Opening Day, the All-Star break and into the home stretch of the N.L. pennant chase. I was a Chicago transplant in San Francisco. A few years earlier I had gained the moniker as the Bay Area Resident Cub fan when I was the publicist for the S.F. production of the Stage Play "BLEACHER BUMS". It was supposed to be a 6 week run that ran for over a year. I turned the Lobby of the Little Fox Theater into Wrigley Field West. I was being quoted in local newspapers. When the run ended... I continued doing Chicago tie-in promotions whenever the Cubs and Bears came into town.

There are more complete stories about 1984 on this blog. I decided to return to Chicago for the last month. I had some T-shirts made and my battle cry was HOW DO YOU SPELL BELIEF? CUBS! I brought with me my life size Generic VOODOO Doll. I arrived in time for the dreaded N.Y.Met series. Before the game, I was photographed by the Associated Press, and interviewed on several local TV stations and made the Front page of the Chicago Sun-Times. The next day after walking around the friendly confines with the doll... I entered the ballpark in time for batting practice. The Mets were taking their swings. A Met pitcher yelled up to me I saw you on CNN and then he flung a Frisbee at me. We did that for a few times and his name was Roger Mc Dowell. It was the beginning of a long mutual friendship. My Voodoo Doll was then made into a Padre model for the Play Offs after capturing the N.L.E. Division. When the Cubs won the first 2 games, I honestly thought my Dad's PROMISE would finally be fulfilled. However... the Cubs dropped 3 in a row. For the next few years,whenever the Mets were in town, I kept a Frisbee in my back pack. Roger would always come out to the Left Field Bleachers, and we would fling the Frisbee for a few minutes. In 1987, both the Cubs and Mets were not contenders. In the final month of the season the Mets were in for their last series with the Cubs. As usual, I packed my Frisbee. It was a rainy day and no need to bring my voodoo doll. There were very few people in line when the gates opened. There was a tarp on the infield and chances were the game might be postponed. Then I saw Roger in the dugout, he then trotted out to greet me, and asked if I brought the frisbee. I nodded and as I was taking the Frisbee out of my backpack, a "rookie" security guard came over and warned me if I threw the Frisbee... I would be tossed out of the park. I pointed up toward the scoreboard and when he turned around, and I threw it to Roger. And he tossed it back to me. The Security guard said I was "OUT!" My 75 game streak for that season came to an end. I was really mad. There were just a hand full of fans in all the bleachers, and I was escorted out of the park. It stopped raining,and the game started on time. It was hard for me to get used to the noise of the little crowd from outside the park. I decided to call Cubs General Manager Dallas Green. He told me to go to the front entrance, and he would meet me there. However, before he got there the head of security told me to leave or I would be arrested. I called the Sun-Times, and then Sports Illustrated. That night I called Harry Caray at the Ambassador East, and told him I was going to become a "Free Agent Fan". He said I was foolish. The next day, the story appeared in the Sun-Times and a few days later in SI under the title"Defrocked!", in the ScoreCard Section.

The following year, I continued to fling a few Frisbee's and play catch with Roger, and he entertained the fans. Sometimes by having the fans drop him their camera, and he proceeded to take pictures of the fans in the stands, or his teammates, or just make a funny face and snap a self portrait. He also managed to cool off the fans by hosing them down with the hose from under the bleachers. Then he was traded to the Phillies... and he continued to always come out and talk, play catch or model a Interstellar Propeller beany that I gave him. Then he became a Dodger, but remained the same good guy. Along with Orel Hershiser, they created a game of chance. The would bring a large empty plastic barrel, and put a new Dodger jacket in it, along with a bat, a signed team ball and a crisp one hundred dollar bill in to it. fans from throughout the bleachers took turns trying to make a basket with a baseball. When some lucky fan made the winning bucket, they received a standing ovation from their peers and cheers from Roger and Orel.

Even after becoming a Coach, Roger always took part in the Beer Ball Game, trying to throw a ball from the outfield warning tract into a Beer Cup. In fact, there is a youtube out there of him doing that. However... I was shocked to read about Roger and his anti-gay antics at Pac bell Park last weekend. I appreciated that he made a public apology. If I did not know Roger, I would of been the first one in line to protest his actions. In the past I wrote letters to Commissioner Bud Selig when Cubs Pitcher Julian Taverz, and the Brave's John Rocker made anti-gay remarks. However they have been known to be hot heads and also prejudice. I took the time to send Bud Selig an email.

Today talked with a sports reporter from the Atlanta Constitution Journal, and I asked her to convey my good wishes to Roger, and made the suggestion that he would consider making a good faith contribution to the San Francisco Harvey Milk Academy Public School, and the Atlanta Gay Community Center.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Carmella/Dutchie & Harry Caray/ Dave Kingman and The Bleacher Preacher

For some reason these images disappeared from this story when it was originally posted....J.P.
Here are a few images moments from the "Old Friendly Confines", before they had a sponsor. The#5, photo is that of Carmella Hartigan. She was to Wrigley, what Mrs. Miller was to the early "Tonight" Show. She once went on a streak of 7 Season's without missing a game. She took 2 buses, to get to the park, and most days I drove her home, after stopping at the Zyphr. I was introduced to her when she was in her 80s.... she became my sidekick for over 15 years. The late Stephanie Leather's, arranged for her to toss out the first ball prior to the Sept. 12th game. The week prior to her taking the mound, I took her over to Wells Park, and tought her how to pitch underhand. While practicing, a cub fan noticed us, came over and thought that Carmella was the Cubs next Rookie Pitcher. That game on Sept.12 WGN-TV opening shot of Carmella throwing out the pitch... A Strike! The phot was shot by Lee Balterman.

The #4, shot , at the same event... first waving to her friends in the Bleacher's,then throwing a strike, when Sammy Sosa, called her over, with a motion of his finger from her, towards himself. Carmella, waves her finger at Sammy, like a teacher a young student, to come over to her... and she won out! These images were taken by Lee Balterman. The 3 of us "Old-timers" were the Tinkers, To Ever's to Chance of Cubs baseball fans. Lee, spent many years shooting all kinds of sporting events for Sports Illustrated. Carmella and I were among the most noted "Bums" in the crowd.

#3, Dutchie and Harry Carry, spend a day in the Left Field Bleachers. Note Harry's Hawaiian Shirt. I gave Dutchie the Cub's Interstellar Propeller Beany Cap... and she wore it throughout the game. On several occasions I also put Beany's on Steve Stone, and Chip Carry, and again with Dutchie, when they graced the Left Field bleachers for a broadcast. .

#2,This was during Carmella's Centennial year, I made the sign for her... she was the true Matriarch, blessing kids, to me, in all my years as the"Bleacher Preacher",she was my favorite Cubs fan of all times! I was able to get her tickets, for the first night game and many more events, and post season games over 20 years. She was often sought out for print and broadcast media for her wit and charm. The Cubs finally gave her a "Free Pass" for her last season.

#1 My father was not a Dave Kingman fan... who he described as striking out when you needed him, and hitting Home Runs when the Cubs were leading most of the time. My dad became part of the Cubs lore, when he slipped into a coma for the last30 day's of his life. He was at the St. Francis Hospital in Evanston. He came out of the coma only once, when I was visiting him. His eye's opened and he took hold of my arm and directed me listen to him. And then uttered "We gotta get rid of Kingman!"There is no doubt, that my Dad passed on his love of the game, to me and my brother Allen. The Kingman story opened up an article about Cubs fans. The following year, at a Cubs Charity softball game... I was able to get Kingman to sign my SI, and then former Cubs and media people played a slow-pitched celebrity game... and it drizzle for the later part of the game. On a 3-2 pitch with runners in scoring and winning position... Kingman struckout swinging... and I thought I heard my Dad say" He be shit!"

Saturday, April 16, 2011


Picture #1, Arch Ward Tribune Sports Editor
Picture #2, Paddy Bauler Chicago Alderman of the 43 Ward (Gave me my first political job)
Picture #3, Michele Smith Victory Party 4/5/2011
Picture #4, Michele Smith addresses Maple Pointe Seniors during a debate
Picture #5, Michele Smith & Jerry Pritikin in the Maple Pointe Community Room

When it comes to politics, I often have supported losing candidates. However, in this year's Chicago elections, I batted a thousand for picking winners. It's always satisfying to vote for someone or a cause,rather than against a politician for their stance on issues. I made my first attempt getting involved in politics back in 1948 when I was 11 years old. I made the mistake of attaching a poster for the Progressive Party's Presidential Candidate, Henry Wallace, on my back, and walking too close to an open polling place on N. Troy Street. A Chicago Policeman felt the need to rip it off me, rather than tell me why it was illegal to have political signage that close to a polling place. In the 1950s I helped a friend's brother who was running for Republican Ward Committeeman in the 47th Ward. He invited me to a Republican Party fund raiser. The main speaker was my favorite Chicago Tribune Sports scribe, Arch Ward. He was best known for creating Major League Baseball's All-Star Games during Chicago's Century of Progress Fair in 1933. I used to read his "IN THE WAKE OF THE NEWS" column daily in the Tribune, and I especially enjoyed the "10 Years Ago Today" section. He told an amusing story at the fund raiser that I'll pass on to you now.

He told the large crowd that he had been a sports writer and editor for many years. That job had given him the opportunity to attend all kinds of sporting events. He boasted that he had witnessed big league and minor league ball games, as well as Pro-football and college games. He had reported on regular and championship boxing matches. He had travelled throughout the United States, to big cities and to rural America. He had spent time prior to and after those sporting events in all kinds of locker rooms. The one thing that he had noticed about both amateur and professional athletes is that "not all men are created equal!"

My next political recall was a few years later, when I lived at 1504 N. Dearborn Parkway. I was given a one day job by the legendary politician, Paddy Bauler, of the 43rd Ward. The cigar chewing Alderman worked out of his famous tavern on North Avenue and Sedgwick. He appointed me a Democratic poll watcher in the landmark high rise building at 1500 N. Lake Shore Drive. Some of the best known and wealthiest Chicagoans resided there, who had one thing in common. They were all Republicans. Since 1996, I have been back in the Gold Coast neighborhood. I live at the Maple Pointe Senior Apartments. Originally it was the 27th Ward, now called the 43rd Ward. I helped create the Maple Pointe Tenant's Association and served on it's board for many years. I bought my first computer in 1999, the same year that Vi Daley was elected Alderman of the 43rd Ward. Since that time, I have sent her requests for needed stop lights, to fix broken sidewalks and to stop frequent street flooding that makes it almost impossible to cross LaSalle Street after it rains. It took her 8 years to get the stop lights installed after many false promises. They conveniently showed up in time to coincide with her last election.

I first met Michele Smith when she was running against Vi Daley in 2007. I liked the way she represented all the residents and businesses in our Ward. She forced a run off, and lost by only a few hundred votes that year. She then ran for the Democratic Ward Committeeman and won, beating out several contenders. When Alderman Vi Daley announced she was not seeking another term in late 2010, I jumped on Michele Smith's bandwagon.

Michele visited our building on many occasions. We had a candidate's debate and she was included with 3 others vying for Vi Daley's job. One was Tom Egan. It seemed he had a lot of support from the wealthier residents in the Ward and from big business. However during the campaign he was found to say one thing for one group, and another thing to others to gain their support. He was endorsed by the Chicago Chamber of Commerce, The Chicago Tribune and both Police and Firemen Unions. Michele had the endorsement of the Sun-Times, college and senior citizen groups, and she had the support of several former Independent Aldermen from our Ward. I was proud to appear in several of Michele's campaign brochures and wore one of her campaign buttons 7 days a week. She had a great staff, and they kept us informed of all the latest news.

I was the designated poll watcher for Michele, located at the polling place within the Chicago Historical Museum. That precinct included the 1500 N. Lake Shore Drive building and various historic brownstone buildings and mansions, as well as luxury high rise buildings in the Ward. I arrived before 6 a.m. and spent the next 14 hours there. Voting was light. I went home at 8 p.m. to feed my cat, put on my propeller beany baseball cap and took the Red-Line subway to the Victory Party at Grand Central Tavern on Wrightwood Street. I had a good feeling, because the el train was arriving at the Clark / Dearborn Red-Line stop when I did, and the #11 bus at Fullerton station was waiting for me when I got there too. The bus dropped me off right in front of the Grand Central. A large crowd made up of many of Michele supporters gave cheers each and every time the latest results came. When the counting stopped... Michele had won by just under 300 votes. It was not a landslide... however she did it without the help of Mayor Elect Rahm Emanuel! Michele Smith and other winners, along with Emanuel will be sworn into office on May 16th.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


I love Chicago in the Spring time. Walking around the near north-side during this season has been a favorite pastime of mine for over 50 years. Oak Street remains one of my special destinations via Oak Street Beach, Rush Street or Michigan Avenue. Over the years it has hosted the Gold Coast Art Fair, had the now closed popular Esquire Theater and was home to some of the City's best one-of-a-kind shops. Time has changed the landscape. Oak Street is now home to upscale coffee stops, designer clothing stores, internationally-known jewelry houses and multi-million dollar condominiums.

My first apartment was on the 1500 block of N. Dearborn Parkway back in the late 1950s. Many of my friends lived on some of the nearby fashionable streets (Ritchie Court, Astor St. and E.Lake Shore Drive). They had apartments in old mansions, high rises or coach houses. Now I am living on Maple Street west of LaSalle Street. My 13th floor apartment has floor to ceiling bay windows that look south down Wells Street and due west. Over the 15 years that I have lived here I have seen the skyline change dramatically. At least a dozen new high rises have altered my view. From this vantage point the brown line "el" looks like a toy train. Those big windows turn my living room into a skybox overlooking the Walter Payton Preparatory High School's softball field.

Today was bright so I strolled over to nearby Washington Square, aka Bug-House Square, opposite the historic Newberry Library, to enjoy the sun. Other people were also out - walking their dogs or pushing baby strollers. Even the homeless people sitting on benches with their worldly processions tied together in plastic bags seemed to be enjoying the day. The big cascading water fountain has yet to be turned on and the floral garden, not yet planted, was naked with not a single flower in sight. Only a few of the park's trees had noticeable buds on them.

There was still a chill in the air so I stayed only a short time in the park. On my way home I stopped at the new flower shop at 106 West Oak Street. Yellow flower petals on the sidewalk welcomed me into the store where I was greeted cheerfully by Christine Noelle and Amy. These friendly young ladies are true artisans. Their unique floral studio is a welcome addition for this end of West Oak Street. It is housed on the ground floor of a 6 story vintage red brick building. Large plate glass windows brighten the interior and the classic high ceiling adds to the ambiance. I recall going to a beatnik party in that building in the late 1950s (bongo drums, chianti wine and students from the Art Institute). A few years ago I had a photo exhibit in what is now a fine antique store next to The Floral Studio.

To find out more about The Floral Studio, visit the web-site or better yet, visit the shop in person.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


I was 8 years old, and I stayed home from Hibbard Grammar School in Chicago earlier that day. I was listening to an afternoon kids serial radio program, when they interrupted with a special announcement, "President Roosevelt is Dead, Truman becomes President!". We were living at 4839 N. Troy Street, and I was home alone . I remember running outside and yelling...Truman's President!. I stopped a few of our neighbors, and they didn't want to believe me. Then I ran through the alley, to my parents best friends, the Waldman's, over on Albany Street to their 3rd floor apartment. Rose, answered the door, and I kept saying Truman's President, she did not believe me, too. We went into the front room, and she turned on their console wooden RCA Victor radio... and the reception had a lot of static, and after a few moments ,the announcer repeated that the President had died and Truman was now the President... it was just after 5 o'clock Chicago time. I remember thinking to myself... that the next day was Friday the 13th. That evening, the Tribune had a bold Headline FDR DIES, and his picture was bordered in black. A little more than a week later, I recall that the Terminal Theater on Lawrence Avenue had the FOX Newsreel of President Roosevelt's Funeral... and for the next 6 months kept repeating it, I believe it was Lowell Thomas Voice. FDR was loved in our house, we used to listen to his fireside chats. Less then 4 weeks later, the war in Europe was over, and it was sad that FDR did not live to see the end of it. At a future posting, I will write about the year 1945, and the profound effect it had on me...

Sunday, April 3, 2011


A few years ago on a warm March 31, I took a stroll over to Oak Street Beach. I was not the only person there. Like bears waking up from a long winter's hibernation, the beach was abuzz with early Spring sun-worshippers. It has been rumored that I can smell a TV crew from 50 yards away, but that is not true... it's 75 yards! However, that day I noticed a TV news camera crew moving in my direction from 100 yards away. As they pulled even with me I gave them the opening line that I had used so many times within the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field. "I'm ready for my close up Mr. DeMille !" Sure enough the crew from ABC Channel 7 Chicago, stopped to talked to me. I was wearing my white mesh solar battery pith helmet with a solid 14 K gold propeller on it. They asked me why I was at the beach. I responded by saying I was getting my solar battery charged up. After a few more words they thanked me, and soon after I walked home to take a peek at myself on the 4 O'clock news. I had a rude awakening. They had actually given me the close up that I had jokingly asked for. I had more lines on my face than the old Indian TV test pattern. I swore I would never use that line again.

A couple of weeks ago, Chicago had one of those early warm spring-like days, and I found myself taking the red line subway downtown to stroll like a tourist along Michigan Avenue. I went to the Bean in Millennium Park, then headed back north over the bridge. There was still some green dye in the water from St. Patrick's Day. I grabbed a few shots with my digital camera. I continued up Michigan Avenue to the the Old Chicago Water Tower and the Hancock Building before turning up Oak Street and back home in time for Jeopardy. I had hoped that the weather would remain that way for the rest of the month, but true to Chicago, we had a couple more weeks of Winter.

Today, the weather man predicted that it would be overcast, but in the upper 60s and it sounded like a heat wave compared to the past few weeks. About 3 P.M. I grabbed my camera went outside to see if it warmed up. It had although the sun was nowhere in sight. I decided to walk, not to Oak Street Beach this time, but over to Michigan Avenue. I stopped to take a photo of my reflection in a window that was displaying wedding dresses. I had taken a few images like that before which had put a smile on my face because the reflection looked like I was wearing a dress. Today I was wearing my Bubbies Pickles (a legend in its own brine) blue baseball cap with a blue plastic propeller to which I had added a Michele Smith for Alderman campaign tag on the front. As usual I heard, "I like your hat," from people on the street. I've been hearing that compliment for over 30 years, ever since I donned my first Intersteller Beany Cap. Besides covering up my growing bald spot, it puts smiles on faces when ever I wear one, especially on those of youngsters. I decided not to walk down to Millennium Park and turned around instead at the Tribune Tower. I heard a few more "I like your hat" comments before arriving at the Hancock Building where I noticed a man with a TV camera and caught up with him. Would you believe, the first words out of my mouth were, "I'M READY FOR MY CLOSE UP MR. DeMILLE." He smiled and I asked him where he was from. He informed me that he was from Portugal. He asked me if I would mind if he interviewed me. He inquired about Chicago, and I gave the city a 4 Star rating (like Chicago's own flag). He then asked me about my hat and I told him the story behind it. All in all we spoke for about 10 minutes. One of his 2 crew members turned out to be studying music at Northwestern University. They had smiles on their faces as I started to walk away, but then I turned around and asked if I could take their picture (it's the one at the top of the page). I decided then and there that I will have a new pastime this year, since I do not go to Wrigley Field anymore. I'm going to spend all my time as a tourist in my own hometown, and shoot tourists. As I got near my apartment I passed 3 Cubs fans coming home from the game. I asked them how did the Cubs do today? All 3 responded sadly that they had lost. Thank goodness, I can't afford to watch them lose anymore!
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