Thursday, November 29, 2012
Sunday, November 25, 2012
Friday, November 23, 2012
|Don Rudolph and his wife, Patti Waggin are shown|
in this 1957 photo while Rudolph was pitching
In the mid-1950s a journeyman major leaguer named Don Rudolph attracted more media attention because of his wife than his pitching skills.
During much of the the period that he was bouncing up and down between the big leagues and the minors, Rudolph was married to a stripper whose stage name was Patti Waggin.
|Patti Waggin (Mrs. Don Rudolph) in|
a 1950s publicity photo.
|The back of Don Rudolph's 1959 Topps card|
makes note of Mrs. Rudolph's profession.
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Monday, November 19, 2012
Topps used that nickname on its cards only in those two years. From 1952-1954 and 1957-1971 Topps used the "Senators" sobriquet . . . but before 1957, that was wrong.
Ever since a fan contest in 1905, the official nickname of the Washington American League team was the Nationals. The team had been known as the Senators since 1886 (Statesmen before that), but the 1905 vote never really caught on.
I'm unsure why the team made a renewed drive to emphasize the Nationals nickname in the mid-1950s. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that National Bohemian brand beer was the team's radio-TV sponsor.
Topps was alone in the card world in trying to revive the Nationals nickname. Bowman identified all Washington players as Senators right up until they ceased production in 1955. Red Man also used Senators in its 1952-55 sets. Briggs Meats, which had a lot of Washington players in its regional card sets of 1953-1954 avoided the issue by not using either name.
Because Washington was in the National League when the city reacquired major league baseball in 2005, it was natural that they adopted the Nationals nickname.
Thursday, November 15, 2012
In the 1950s, before anybody had ever heard of AIDS or bird flu, the health threat that struck the greatest fear into the hearts of Americans was polio.
And with good cause. By the late 1940s, epidemics of polio had become an annual scourge in the U.S., peaking in 1952 when 57,628 cases were reported in the U.S. Having migrated from a prevalence among infants, more teens and young adults were being stricken. That was doubly bad, because death or paralysis were more likely when polio was contracted by that age group.
Of the 57,628 new polio victims in 1952, 3,145 died and 21,269 were left with mild to disabling paralysis. (As late as 1977 in the U.S., 254,000 polio survivors were living with paralysis brought on by the disease.)
On April 12, 1955, Dr. Jonas Salk of the University of Pittsburgh announced that a vaccine had been created to prevent polio infection. The course of immunization required three shots. Following the initial injection, follow-up vaccinations were given at six weeks and six months.
With most of its players in the most at-risk age range for severe complications, the N.Y. Yankees (and other teams) offered the polio shots at spring training in 1957.
A writer following the team reported that Andy Carey and Billy Martin declined the shots. Whether they were needle-shy or just feeling lucky was not reported.
While I don't recall any major league ballplayers having been diagnosed with polio, it is certainly possible that there were victims among professional baseball ranks.
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Noreen Schmidt was a secretary for the team. She told TSN that during the season 500 letters were received from fans each week.
On an annual basis, she handled 12,000 requests for individual player photos.
Friday, November 9, 2012
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
I'd never heard this baseball nickname before. Long-time (1941-59) National League slugging outfielder Hank Sauer was called "Pontiac." Wonder why?
Saturday, November 3, 2012
Last time I looked back at some food and drink memories of my childhood. I'll start this time with a treat from my teen years.
Other than a couple of paper routes at age 12-14, my first real job was at McDonald's. When I was 15 and a freshman, my older brother "got me in" (that was the phraseology back then) at the McDonald's restaurant in Fond du Lac, Wis., where he was killing time between his high school graduation and being drafted into the Army.
I could write a book at my time under the Golden Arches, and for many years I thought I would. Unlike most of my contemporaries, I was a long-term employee at Mickey Dee's, working there from 1965-70. I was there when McDonald's was strictly a drive-in, in the days before inside seating. I was there when the orange bowl and root beer barrel stood atop the counter. I was there when the Big Mac was introduced. I was there when women were first allowed to work at McDonald's.
Much of the time during the years I worked at McDonald's, at least at our store, employees were allowed, within reasonable limits, free lunch or dinner while working. As you can imagine, with the rather limited menu at that time, I looked for ways to vary my mealtime selections.
Honestly, more than 40 years later I no longer remember whether I invented the "cannibal burger" or was introduced to it by another employee. But it is on my list of once-favorite foods that I'll never be able to enjoy again.
Some years later, I learned that my cannibal burger was known in classier circles as steak tartare.
I began my creation by mashing together two of the standard 1/10 pound hamburger patties and sprinkling it liberally with dehydrated onion flakes. This was placed into the special bun steamer that we used to soften the buns for Filet-O-Fish.
The burger was steamed just long enough to get the fat flowing and the onions plumped back up. Then a bun was steamed and the burger placed thereon with a slice of cheese top and bottom. The sandwich was topped with the handmade tartar sauce that we made back then, and heavily salted and peppered. With a large root beer and an order of the fries that I was so expert in making, it was a meal that I would happily partake of today instead of the finest filet mignon.
Given the highly publicized salmonella and e. coli incidents of recent years, I don't guess I'll be seeing steak tartare on a menu any more.
Surprisingly, another of the taste treats that I recall so longingly came from a chain restaurant. After a night of drinking at area minor bars, my friends and I often found ourselves after midnight at Lum's, again in Fond du Lac.
My order never varied; two hot dogs and a schooner of beer. But these were not your average hot dogs or beer.
Lum's prepared their hot dogs by steaming them in beer and serving them on a steam roll. Sauerkraut was optional, and I never optioned for it. The beer was Schlitz dark. I don't believe I ever saw Schlitz dark anywhere else. It was foamy and had the body color of root beer, but it didn't have the heaviness or burnt malt taste of Guiness Stout or any other dark beer I've had since.
The Lum's chain, which would probably be characterized today as casual family dining, seems to have failed or faded away in the 1980s.
I left home the day after Christmas in 1972, to begin my journalism career on a small town weekly newspaper in Wautoma, Wis. In the year and a half that I roamed Waushara County as a reporter, failed ad salesman and paper delivery guy, I encountered two gustatory delights that stand out even four decades later. A steady diet of these would have killed me by now, but I'd give jump at the chance to enjoy them again.
Both meals were encountered in country taverns (remember those?).
The first was french fried lobster at a small tavern on the outskirts of Wautoma. I don't remember the name anymore; it was Pine Tree or Pine Cone or something. But, oh, I remember the lobster that I enjoyed there many a Friday night. Both my wife and I rate it as the best meal we've ever eaten.
After I left Wautoma for Iola, I never again got to enjoy that french fried lobster. I kick myself now that I didn't make the one-hour drive every Friday night until the bar closed.
I've had plenty of lobster in the intervening years. I've even had some sort lobster-cake sandwich at a McDonald's in Maine. I've had french fried lobster twice since 1974. It wasn't the same. Those latter day lobster meals featured frozen shredded lobster or some other form of macerated lobster meat. The fried lobster in Wautoma was lobster chunks. They were served drenched in melted butter and washed down with mugs of cold beer.
I'm sure that there are lots of places that serve similar french fried lobster chunks . . . I just haven't found them.
Just a couple of years ago I drove down to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to attend a coin show and promote the candidacy of my former boss, Cliff Mishler, in his successful run for president of the American Numismatic Association.
Driving back to Iola on a Sunday afternoon, I purposely took the back roads so I could drive through Waushara County and stop at a country tavern that I had frequented in 1973-74 in the township of Dakota.
When I lived and worked near Wautoma, the bar, which sat on a muddy creek, on Wednesdays used to serve turtle soup and french fried turtle. I used to stop there at noon and each visit had to make the painful decision as to whether to order the soup or the fried turtle.
Like the lobster, the fried turtle was in large chunks and drowned in melted butter. The soup also featured large pieces of turtle meat, in a thick, very rich, reddish-brown stock. I've never seen either of those items offered anywhere else, though I'm sure they can be found on a menu somewhere.
The bar was still there, at least in an expanded, updated form, but there was no turtle or turtle soup to be had.
The final item on my list of long-lost favorites would be the easiest to once again enjoy. All it would take is a plane ticket to England.
I made my first and only trip overseas in 1990. It was a bonus of sorts for having engendered and expanded the very profitable sportscard division of Krause Publications. At the time Sports Collectors Digest, the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards and the related periodicals and books were an $18 million a year arm of the company, generating about half of the company's income.
While in England I first encountered what is known there simply as "beer". British bitter beer is dark and served cool, not cold, in pints -- imperial pints at that.
Maybe it was the ambiance of a Kensington hotel bar, or small-town pubs, but that beer haunts me more than 20 years later. I've had a few bitters since. Once in downtown Ottawa and a couple of times at the now-gone British Bulldog Pub in Las Vegas, but it hard to find in the U.S. I understand it doesn't travel well.
Still, if this style of beer has been made in England for centuries, there's no reason some of the microbrew restaurants that have sprung up all over America can't be making it. I try to patronize those places whenever I find them, but they never have a true bitter.
There you have the nostalgic musings of an old man. As I said in the first installment, I'm sure my longings for these specific foods and drinks are more about mourning lost youth and kicking myself for not making the most of opportunities -- food and drink and otherwise -- that were right in front of me.
Thursday, November 1, 2012
One of the inevitabilities of getting old is that you spend more time looking into the past than into the future.
Last night I got to thinking about some of the foods and drinks that I enjoyed in the past, but that I may never have again until the day that sweet chariot swings low to take me home.
I realize the cravings for these victuals is really a lament for my lost youth.
This train of thought left the station when I saw some mention on television of Halloween cookies. That got me to thinking of Everix Bakery Cookies.
I'm sure if I tried enough bakery sugar cookies, eventually I'd find one that replicated the taste of this childhood favorite.
While I'm sure my mother did her share of baking, nothing stands out in my memory like Everix cookies.
Everix was a family bakery in my home town of Fond du Lac, Wis. The building was a long, narrow brick structure, with its glass entry doors on a diagonal where the front corner met. The shop portion was also long and narrow, with glass display cases down one side and across the back.
The holiday cookies were always in the back case, strategically placed on a shelf about child-eye level. The cookies were large, at least in relation to the size of my hand back then. They were probably a standard sugar cookie recipe, but it was the frosting that gave them their special taste. It was thin, hard and colorful.
There were yellow egg shapes at Easter, red hearts at Valentine's, orange bats at Halloween, orange and brown turkeys at Thanksgiving and green trees at Christmas. The bakery probably offered the same cookies year-round without the fancy shapes and colors, but as I remember it, Everix cookies were only a holiday treat at our house. Or, on even rarer occasions, a perk while accompanying Mom on her errands.
My memory of what happened to Everix is foggier than my recollection of the taste of those cookies. I seem to recall that by the mid- to late-1960s, the family had expanded the enterprise to one or two other locations around town, perhaps also into some of the supermarkets that drove the mom-and-pop neighborhood groceries out of business in that era.
I do know that by the time I was a sophomore in high school, and occasionally walked past the bakery on my way to or home from school either the store was closed or had changed hands and I don't recall ever stopping in for cookies.
We were not a bacon and eggs or pancakes for breakfast family. I don't know if it was a financial necessity, or just the time crunch of getting Dad off to work for 7 a.m., and five or six kids off to two or three different schools at varying times, but we were cold cereal kids.
In the early Fifties, I was partial to Sugar Pops, Rice Krinkles, Sugar Crisp and the like. Most of those cereals are still on the shelves today, though the word "sugar" has been replaced in the brand name.
In 1959, Post came along with Oat Flakes. I recall them as sweeter than Wheaties or Kellogg's Corn Flakes, and a spoonful of sugar on top made them even better. Another quality that I found appealing about Oat Flakes, but which was certainly never part of their advertising, is that they got soggy in milk very quickly. It's just a personal quirk, I prefer my breakfast flakes limp, rather than crunchy.
Of course when Post cereal began putting panels of baseball cards and football cards on the backs of its boxes in 1961, I became immediately brand-exclusive. Even though I had reached the age when going to the grocery store with Mom was a socially marginal activity, I did so every chance I got so that I could examine the boxes for Milwaukee Braves or other cards I didn't have.
I don't know when Post first stopped producing the original Oat Flakes, or when I stopped eating them. I probably stopped when the card-backs ended, and by the time I was in high school, I had switched to Quaker Puffed Rice.
Twenty years later, I learned that because of the relative unpopularity of Oat Flakes among kids, the cards that were exclusive to that brand were among the scarcer of the Post cereal issues. Unfortunately, by then I had long since gotten rid of most of my childhood collection.
Oat Flakes made a brief comeback in its original form, if I recall correctly, in the early 1970s. I enjoyed them once again, but wish I'd have stocked up while they were on the shelves. I see by google-searching that Post revived its oat flake cereal again in the late 1980s with the name Fortified Oat Flakes. I never tried those. I have, however, on occasion, tried other brands of oat flakes that caught my eye in the cereal aisle, but none of them ever measured up my memories of the original.
As it now looks like this nostalgia trip is going to take longer than I originally anticipated, I've decided to break it into several entries.
I'll close this chapter with a reminiscence of a favorite brand of pop. During my childhood, there was a brand of soda called Howdy's. I'd guess they were a state-specific or Midwest regional company. I recall they made orange soda and root beer; probably a few others.
It is Howdy's root beer that I remember with such fondness. I'd describe it now as crisper and sweeter than Dad's or A&W.
I'm sure Howdy's was sold all over town, but my specific memory is of buying a bottle on many early mornings from the vending machine outside Moses Hardware store in my neighborhood while on my paper route. It provided the necessary sugar rush to get me through my Milwaukee Sentinel deliveries so I could get to school on time.
Looking back, I'd guess that I gave up Howdy's root beer about the time Dr. Pepper began to make an impact as far north as Wisconsin. I regret that now; maybe if I hadn't made the switch I could more clearly remember the taste of Howdy's root beer.
I've read on the internet that Howdy's was bought up by 7-Up. Whenever I see a story on TV about that store in Los Angeles that carries hundreds of obscure brands of pop, I always wonder if I get a Howdy's root beer there.