Thursday, May 29, 2008

Just got off the phone with a Very Old Lady who worked for a Prominent Businessman who was friends with Harry Truman. I wanted to interview her for my book. I had been warned that she was a bit curmudgeonly. Was she ever!

Me: How would you describe their relationship?

VOL: What kind of question is that?!

Me: Well, were they close friends? Did they call each other by their first names?

VOL: How would I know?!

Me: OK, do you remember when the Trumans visited him in 1953?

VOL: No! Too many years have passed!

It was apparent the interview was pointless.

Me (diplomatically, I think): Well, thank you so much for your time...

VOL: Is that all?!

It was kind of sad, actually. Even though she was being thoroughly uncooperative and unhelpful, I think she wanted to keep talking.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed that I recently updated my photograph on this blog. The new picture is from fifth or sixth grade at St. Agnes School in Sellersville, Pennsylvania. I found it recently in a box o' stuff at my mom and dad's house.

Picture day was always exciting in Catholic school (at least in mine), because it was the only day we were allowed to wear "regular" or "normal" clothes instead of our uniforms (navy blue pants, white shirts, plaid ties). So, for that one day at least, we could "pass" as "publics" (i.e., public school kids).

I remember that peach-colored shirt fondly. I wore it with light green pants, as I recall. It was a striking ensemble. My dad generously cut my hair for free.

Come to think of it, it's rather odd that we *didn't* wear our uniforms on picture day...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Last week I stopped for gas in a small town in central Pennsylvania. I went inside to buy a soda. The clerk was a short, shaggy guy, not exactly toothy, wearing a baseball cap. His nametag said “Mugzy.” When I walked in, Mugzy was in the middle of a conversation with a tall stocky guy eating a hot dog.

Mugzy: “Yeah, I was there for a couple years.”

Hot dog guy: “What did you think?”

Mugzy: “Oh, wasn’t so bad. Better than Smithfield.”

Hot dog guy: “Had to be!”

It took me another moment or two to realize they were talking about their respective stints in prison.

Monday, May 19, 2008

My ballparks

Went to see the Phillies play the Nationals at the new ballpark in Washington tonight. (Phillies lost.) Got me to thinking about all the major league ballparks I’ve been to…

1. Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia (1974). Got free tickets for being a “straight A” student. Bob Gibson pitched for the Cardinals vs. the Phillies.

2. Memorial Stadium, Baltimore (1979). Caught three foul balls during batting practice. (Note: I originally listed this incorrectly as "Municipal Stadium.")

3. Tiger Stadium, Detroit (1986). Steve Carlton made his American League debut for the White Sox vs. the Tigers.

4. Wrigley Field, Chicago (c. 1986). I forget who the Cubs played, but I seem to remember the pitcher for the opposing team hitting a home run.

5. Municipal Stadium, Cleveland (c. 1986). A weekday day game. 3,000 people in an 80,000-seat stadium. Walked halfway round the concourse. Didn’t see a soul. Weird.

6. Kingdome, Seattle (1989). Like watching a game in a big living room.

7. Metrodome, Minneapolis (c. 1993). Crowd scenes for a movie called Little Big League were filmed before the game.

8. Busch Stadium, St. Louis (1997). By far the best of the “cookie cutter” stadiums. Never should have been torn down.

9. Fenway Park, Boston (1999). Decrepit and overrated.

10. U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago (c. 2000). Steepest upper deck ever!

11. PNC Park, Pittsburgh (c. 2002). Simply gorgeous. My favorite ballpark.

12. Petco Park, San Diego (2004). Second favorite park. What Wrigley Field must have felt like when it was new.

13. Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles (2004). My friend and I took a bus to the game. We may be the only people who have ever taken a bus to a game at Dodger Stadium.

14. Angel Stadium, Anaheim (2004). Angels-Red Sox playoff game. Drunk Red Sox fan walked up the aisle, middle fingers raised, challenging any Angels fan to fight. Hi-larious.

15. RFK Stadium, Washington (2005). Last of the cookie cutters. Narrow concourses. Terrible food.

16. Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia (2006). Just made me miss the Vet.

17. Safeco Field, Seattle (2006). Very Seattle. I liked it.

18. Miller Park, Milwaukee (2006). Barry Bonds hit a homer.

19. Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City (2007). A friend bought my ticket. I said, Don’t worry I’ll buy the food. Turned out to be Dollar Dog night.

20. Nationals Stadium, Washington (2008). Yet another “retro” park. But the chili cheese fries were awesome.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

While researching my book it's been interesting to see how buildings have (or haven't changed) over the past 50 years or so. On their trip, one of the restaurants that Harry and Bess ate at was the Country House in New Kingstown, Pennsylvania, just west of Harrisburg. Last winter I spoke on the phone with Harvey Sunday, who owned the restaurant. He told me the building that housed the restaurant is now being used as a post office. I went to New Kingstown and snapped this picture:

When I went inside the building, it was hard to imagine that it had ever been a restaurant. The lobby, the counter, the rows of P.O. boxes - it looked exactly like a post office should. I even began to wonder if Harvey wasn't mistaken. Then, earlier this week, I was lucky enough to meet with Harvey in person, at his retirement home in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He showed me an old brochure from the restaurant, with this picture on the front:

Clearly the same building. I wonder how many other post offices used to be restuarants?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

On their 1953 road trip (about which I am writing a book), Harry and Bess Truman stopped at a service station in Frederick, Maryland, where Harry had a Coke. That bottle of Coke was saved by the station manager, whose son later donated it to the Historical Society of Frederick County, where it resides today. I saw the Truman Coke bottle this week when I was in Frederick doing some research, and the museum was kind enough to let me photograph it.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

I ran a 5K today and boy are my legs tired. I hadn't run a race since high school - 25 years ago. But, as part of an effort to "get in shape," I signed up for the National Police Week 5K, a 3.1 mile race around Capitol Hill. I began training, oh, about four days ago. First day I couldn't run more than a half mile. Second day I barely made it a mile. Third day I took off.

But today I managed to run the whole race - I never stopped to walk. I wasn't very fast. My time was 33:41, which put me 90th out of 112 in my age division. But, hey, I was faster than 22 other forty-something guys.

Allyson also ran, and she kicked my butt. She finished in 28:07, good enough for 32nd out of 135 in her age division. But she jogs all the time. That's sort of like cheating, isn't it?

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Did you see me on the Today show last Friday? For about half a second at 8:30? Yeah, that was me, looking a little like a stalker or an assassin, in the crowd while Neil Diamond performed on Rockefeller Plaza.

Friday, May 02, 2008

A new documentary on the Steagles premieres this weekend on Fox Sports Network. “The Steagles: When Rivals Became Teammates" is part of a series called “Amazing Sports Stories,” which is produced by Bruce Nash (who also brings you “World’s Most Amazing Videos”).

I was interviewed for the documentary last fall, and I expect to be featured prominently in it, mainly because everybody else they talked to is at least, oh, 90 years old.

“The Steagles: When Rivals Became Teammates" is scheduled to air Sunday night. Times and channels vary, but in Philadelphia it will be on Comcast SportsNet at 7, and will be re-broadcast May 7 at 4 p.m. and May 8 and May 10 at 9:30 p.m. (unless the hockey playoffs mess up the schedule).