April 24, 2012

A baseball tale from 1943 involving the Chicago White Sox' Luke Appling

One of the charms of baseball is the little stories that can only have happened in our national pastime. Here is one from 1943 that I found in a book by Janice A. Petterchak, "Jack Brickhouse, A Voice for All Seasons."

Future Hall of Famer Luke Appling, who went on to win the American League batting title for the Chicago White Sox that season, had been asked by the American Red Cross in his hometown of Atlanta for some autographed baseballs. They were to be used in a fund-raiser to support the war effort.

As Brickhouse tells the story, "Luke asked the Sox for a couple of dozen baseballs. While he was getting ready for batting practice, he got the word that club vice president Harry Grabiner had turned him down -- 'Can't spare them.' Luke sent the messenger back to Grabiner to tell him, 'You better come out and watch my batting practice.'

"Grabiner went and watched as Luke fouled 12 straight pitches into the seats. On the last one, Grabiner yelled, 'You've got them. You can have the baseballs.'"

April 19, 2012

This season's Chicago Cubs tickets are a nostalgic collectible

Click on photos to enlarge


Cubs' season ticket holders received quite a surprise when they opened their packages of tickets in mid-March. In what I consider a brilliant move guaranteed to appeal to anyone who ever collected baseball cards or is a ticket holder of more than a few years, the Cubs have turned every ticket into a collectible.

Each ticket pictures a replica of a Topps baseball card. Of course the greats (Ernie Banks, Lou Brock, Billy Williams et al) and very good players (Phil Cavaretta and Ron Santo for example) are included, but so are players such as Bob Dernier, Damon Berryhill, Rick Wilkins and others who, sometimes, flashed across the sports page's headlines and quickly faded into, at least, semi-obscurity.

The Cubs' Marketing Department has made every ticket a keeper -- a souvenir of a probably not-terribly-important game. I wonder how long it will be before complete sets of 2012 Cubs' tickets begin appearing on eBay.


Chicagoan Tom Henningsen was a long-time columnist for Baseball Hobby News and operated a baseball card shop in his hometown for many years. His favorite player is still Hank Sauer.

April 16, 2012


Notre-Dame Basilica Catholic church in Ho Chi Minh City. Established by French colonists, the cathedral was constructed between 1863 and 1880.

Statue of Ho Chi Minh in front of city hall. He was a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary who was prime minister (1945–1955) and president (1945–1969).

Ho Chi Minh City's central post office was constructed when Vietnam was part of French Indochina. In 1886, it was built based upon the design specifications of renowned French architect Gustave Eiffel, who built the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Reunification Palace, the site of the end of the Vietnam war during the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, when a North Vietnamese Army tank crashed through its gates.

Chinese-made tank used in the war.

Vietnam is a communist country that has also embraced fast-food capitalism.

Howard Whidden on his return visit to Vietnam last month.

Click on photos to enlarge

As promised, here is part 2 of our Vietnam travel story. Vivian and I were there very briefly in 2006 as a stop on a whirlwind tour of Asia. The visit was long enough to see the former Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) and take some photos, but not long enough to get a real sense of the country.

My friend Howard Whidden, also originally from Levittown NY, is a Vietnam veteran who recently spent about two weeks traveling around the country. He is still fairly fluent in the language, having been trained while in the service. Here is his take on the Vietnam of his military days nearly 40 years ago as compared to now.


The genuine warmth of the people, their unparalleled cuisine, the outstanding beauty of the country, the poverty and work ethic of the people, their resourcefulness, the corruption of government officials, the motorbike being the main form of transportation, both for people and goods; their outrageous but uniquely Vietnamese way of driving; their rainy seasons, and the heat and humidity of Saigon.


The tremendous growth in population and their cities, with skyscrapers and modern highways; paved roads everywhere; the elimination of the war's vestiges (except in their war museums); propaganda posters, flags and the hammer and sickle EVERYWHERE; the brainwashing/indoctrination of schoolchildren; the unbelievable pandemonium of their city traffic; their successful attempts to improve the attractiveness of churches, temples and historic sites.

Photos by Frank Barning, except the shot of Howard Whidden

April 13, 2012


City Hall in Ho Chi Minh City which used to be called Saigon

Hotel Rex, reputedly the CIA used this as headquarters

This Vietnamese market which had some strange smelling food. One fruit smelled remarkably like dog poop.

Ho Chi Minh City traffic, not many traffic lights, mostly motor bikes and mayhem

Click on photos to enlarge

During an Asian cruise tour in 2006, Vivian and I spent part of a day in Vietnam, mostly in Ho Chi Minh City, which you may remember as being called Saigon.

Several of my school friends served time in Vietnam while in the military and a few have returned for a peaceful visit, including Cliff Fromm and Howard Whidden. Howard's recent photos and commentary sparked my interest in checking out the pictures I had taken in 2006.

I asked Howard about the odd smelling food (see photo above). "It is called "Sầu riêng (pronounced show ri-en) in Vietnamese, durian in English."

Part 2 will be posted in a few days.

Photos by Frank Barning

April 9, 2012


His dizzy aunt ----------------------------------------------- Verti Gogh

The brother who ate prunes------------------------------- Gotta Gogh

The brother who worked at a convenience store ------ Stop N Gogh

The grandfather from Yugoslavia ----------------------------- U Gogh

His magician uncle -------------------------------- Where-diddy Gogh

His Mexican cousin ---------------------------------------- A Mee Gogh

The Mexican cousin's American half-brother ------------ Gring Gogh

The nephew who drove a stage coach --------------- Wells-far Gogh

The constipated uncle ------------------------------------- Can't Gogh

The ballroom dancing aunt -------------------------------- Tang Gogh

The bird lover uncle -------------------------------------- Flamin Gogh

The fruit-loving cousin -------------------------------------- Man Gogh

An aunt who taught positive thinking ------------------ Way-to Gogh

The little bouncy nephew ----------------------------------- Poe Gogh

A sister who loved disco -------------------------------------- Go Gogh

And his niece who travels the country in an RV --- Winnie Bay Gogh

Smiling ?? . . .. there ya Gogh

Sent by a friend, author unknown.

April 3, 2012


Twelve United States presidents have thrown out the ceremonial first ball to start a season. It all began with William Howard Taft on April 14, 1910, according to "Baseball Almanac"


This picture is from the Barning collection and was taken at Griffith Stadium in Washington D.C. in 1955. With President Dwight D. Eisenhower is Hall of Famer Clarke Griffith, owner of the Washington Senators and hence the name of the ball park. With them are Senators' manager Chuck Dressen and Baltimore Orioles skipper Paul Richards.

Your blogger has been an avid baseball fan since 1952, so this is my 60th opening day, but who is counting. For most of my years as a baseball fan, presidents and others threw out what was referred to as "The first ball." For a few years now, it has become "The first pitch." Have you noticed this?

I wonder when and why the change in verbiage happened. Call me a traditionalist, but the old way works better for me.

For us hardcore fans, to quote columnist and author Thomas Boswell, "Life begins on opening day."


Baseball Almanac link:

April 2, 2012


Gil was my first hero. A heart attack claimed the New York Mets manager at age 47. The former first baseman of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers, Gil was two days shy of his 48th birthday. Big number 14 lives in the memories of his many fans.