Monday, June 30, 2014

'Great Educational Environment In West Des Moines'

I'm here to tell you about yet another national honor for the city of West Des Moines--more specifically, the schools in West Des Moines.

I heard about the honor the other day while attending the farmers' market in Valley Junction. While I was buying a few cucumbers and radishes, a guy asked if I was aware of the honor.

"I haven't seen anything in the paper about it," the guy said. "Of course, I don't subscribe to the paper, and I read it very infrequently. I used to see it in the barber shop, but the barber--like everyone else these days--canceled his subscription."

"No problem, I said. "If the story was about West Des Moines, it  no doubt wouldn't have been in the paper anyway. West Des Moines and the schools there--especially Valley High School--are things the paper loves to hate.  Lots of jealousy and hate in the newsroom at that paper, starting with the opinion pages and continuing on throughout every other department.

"If Valley High School and its football stadium were  in downtown Des Moines, and if condos and apartments were being built in the end zone, the paper would be all over the story."

Anyway, I checked the Internet and found the story to which the guy was referring. Here it is:

"One of the first things people tend to ask when deciding where to move is 'How are the schools?' If you’re starting a family, already have one, or are a student yourself, that’s a pretty valid question.

"It’s also true that good schools increase your property value over time. But not everyone wants to live in a huge city with tons of schools, so where can the more peaceful sort go that still offers good education options?

"As it turns out, there are a lot of places for people like those. The Movoto Real Estate Blog noticed that there were so many, it only seemed natural to rank them by how good their schools were. So we put on our thinking caps and studied hard to get this top 10 list of the best small cities for education:

"We selected 140 small cities (populations between 50,000 and 60,000) then used the U.S. Census’ American Community Survey, AreaVibes, and to collect what we deemed important education criteria. Those criteria were:
  • Student-teacher ratio
  • Money spent per year per student
  • High school graduation rate
  • rating (based on test scores for the area)
"From there, we ranked each place in each category from one to 140, with one being the best. Then we averaged each place’s scores into a Big Deal Score, with scores closer to one being the best.

"With that, we found that Chapel Hill was the best small city for education. Let’s take a look at why it—and the rest of our top 10—are best for students."

Here's what the story said about West Des Moines:

Best Cities For Education
Source: Flickr user AnneCN
"This city was at the very top in the way of high school graduation rate. Over 96 percent of students graduated, and they did so with test scores that ranked eight out of 10. Not bad for our only Iowa representative in the top 10.

"There was also a decent amount of money spent per student per year, and the student-teacher ratio was 16 to 1. Overall, very positive scores that indicate a great educational environment in West Des Moines."

I fully agree.

Friday, June 27, 2014

A League Of Have-Nots


I've written several columns in recent months saying the Des Moines public schools are so bad in football that the elite suburban schools shouldn't waste time playing them. 
Des Moines Roosevelt High School

Obviously, people at the Roosevelts, Easts, Lincolns, Hoovers and Norths of central Iowa have been reading my stuff. 

Now it's in the paper that they're saying they want to form their own league with a few of the other have-nots of Central Iowa Metro League athletics. 

I'm all for that idea. 

My only question is whether it would be class 3-A football, or 2-A.  

Roosevelt, East, Lincoln and the other Des Moines schools have no business playing Valley, Dowling, Southeast Polk, Waukee, Johnston and the rest of the talent-rich metro high schools in football and a number of other sports. 

The sooner the Des Moines schools get out of the CIML, the better. 

Unfortunately, the metro teams will still be rolling roughshod over Roosevelt and the rest in the 2014 season, and those 70-7 scores [in favor of the metro teams] will be an embarrassment to the entire city of Des Moines. 

Games against the Des Moines schools have turned into breathers for the metro schools in recent seasons. 

The best the Des Moines schools can hope for in 2014 is for the "mercy" rule to be put into effect at the time of the opening kickoff. 

Just let the clock keep moving, whether Valley is ahead of Lincoln by 35 points or not.

Don't stop the clock after out-of-bounds plays or even at halftime. 

That way the scores won't be so one-sided and the paper's naive editorial writers won't have to write that Valley and Dowling were pouring it on.


Speaking of embarrassments, Manny Ramirez went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in his playing debut with Des Moines' Triple-A baseball team. 
Manny Ramirez

I'm wondering why  that clown was penciled into the starting lineup on his first day with the team. 

He's supposed to be some sort of half-assed advisor to young players in the Chicago Cubs' farm system, but I'm figuring Ramirez actually thinks he's auditioning for a return to the major leagues. 

It's too bad there isn't anyone in the entire Chicago organization who is smart enough to tell Ramirez he was washed up 10 years ago.


Good for Devyn Marble.  Hopefully, things will continue working out for him.


My Neighbor Al, the Health Nut, came over for a cup of Italian Dark Roast on this rainy morning, and asked what I thought about the paper's sports columnist borrowing the late Maury White's "A Little Bit About a Lot Of Things" idea for a weekly notes column. 
Maury White

Al, who had just read the paper at Hy-Vee, said the present columnist calls his notes column "A little bit about a lot." 

I told Al I don't have any opinion on it, and I don't care, because I don't read the stuff, 

Obviously, there's nothing new in newspapering these days. 


Photos courtesy of Google.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Rewarding Mediocrity


Soccer is a strange sport. 

It's a game where mediocrity is rewarded far too frequently. 

At least in the World Cup. 

In what other sport--and in what other event-- can a team, its coach and its fans be ready to party after a 1-0 loss? 

In what other sport can a team be happy about advancing to something called a knockout round after one measly victory [over Ghana], a tie with Portugal in which the U.S. team choked away the lead in the final seconds, and a shutout defeat administered by Germany? 

This is starting to remind me a little of wrestlebacks in Iowa's state high school wrestling tournament and double-elimination in softball tournaments. 

At least folks who ran the NCAA basketball tournament had the good sense to quit holding consolation games at the Final Four after UCLA's Bill Walton said he didn't want to play in one. 

Something tells me the World Cup is a marathon [it lasts for more than a month] event set up so the players and coaches on teams that aren't very good, and their fans, can hang around the host city so they continue spending money and helping the local economy. 

Oh, well, I just guess I don't know enough about soccer. 

Hell, I don't even have a red, white and blue shirt with stars and stripes on it so I can attend the next party to celebrate a loss. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Not Ready for Prime-Time


One of my sons was a standout collegiate soccer player. In those years, I enjoyed watching him play, and I enjoyed watching his team win. Despite all of that, I don't know a lot about soccer, and I haven't paid much attention lately to what's going on in the sport nationally and throughout the world. Unlike a lot of other Americans, I haven't suddenly become a huge soccer fan because the United States is playing in the World Cup. Indeed, I haven't watched a minute of either of the games the U.S. has played in Brazil against Ghana [a victory] and Portugal [a tie, or as they say in soccer, a draw]. However, I can't help feeling that the U.S. should never have to settle for a 2-2 tie with Portugal. The U.S. should never have to settle for a tie with Portugal in any sport. We're supposed to be the world leader in everything, aren't we? I say that even though the U.S. soccer coach is a German, and five of the U.S. players are German-Americans. Indeed, I think the U.S. choked in the final seconds of its tie with Portugal. The U.S. couldn't finish. That's never a good thing in the World Cup or the World Anything. I guess the U.S. soccer team isn't yet ready for prime-time.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Mike Jay Earns National Announcing Award

Anyone who attends the Drake Relays or the Iowa Coed State High School track and field championships knows Mike Jay is an excellent track and field public address announcer.

Now Jay has earned the stamp of approval for being one of the best PA announcers in the country.

Jay has been named recipient of the Scott Davis Memorial Award by the Track and Field Writers of America for excellence in announcing by a current track and field announcer

The award came during the annual TAFWA awards breakfast held in conjunction with the recent NCAA Outdoor Track and FIeld Championships in Eugene, Ore.

"I am both humbled and honored with this award," said Jay  "It is extra special since I had the opportunity to work with Scott Davis a number of times before his passing and to be selected by media professionals in the track and field world, makes it extra special too."

"We are thrilled for Mike," said Drake Relays director Brian Brown. "It is my opinion that Mike has been the best announcer in the nation for many, many years. It is nice that he is finally getting the recognition he deserves."

Jay has been the lead announcer at the Drake Relays since 2006 as well as the lead announcer at the Iowa Coed High School State Track and Field Championships since 2005.

"Mike Jay is a former school administrator and recognizes the educational values of competition at all levels," said Bud Legg, information director for the Iowa High School Athletic Association. "His passion for track and field and athletes is the essence of his announcing which engages the fans and makes them more than spectators."

Jay's resume has grown over the years with Jay annually having been on the announcing team for the U.S. Track and Field Indoor and Outdoor Championships since 2006.

He also has been the track and field announcer at 11 NCAA Division I Indoor and Outdoor Championships  as well as the 2003 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championship in Waterloo, IA, and the 2005 NCAA Division III Outdoor Track and Field Championship in Waverly, IA.

Former longtime Drake sports information director Mike Mahon nominated Jay for the award.

"Mike has always been recognized as the best track and field PA announcer in the Midwest and it's good to see him get recognized nationally," said Mahon, who served as media coordinator of the Drake Relays from 1988-2010.

"Mike brings an unparalleled passion to track and field announcing that makes him the top college announcer in the nation. He puts a lot of hours into his work, compiling research background information that helps educate the fans. And if a race is on record pace, Mike's enthusiasm can be heard over the PA trying to help drive the runners to break that record.

"To Mike's credit other meets have started utilizing his talents hiring him to announce meets around the nation."

Jay enjoys serving as lead announcer for NCAA Regional events just as much as the national championships, having work nine NCAA Division I Regional Cross Country meet and several NCAA Track and Field Regionals including the West Regional May 29-31 In Fayetteville, Ark.

If that's not enough, the personable Jay has been the announcer of cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field championships for five prominent NCAA Division I conferences: Southeastern, Big Ten, Big 12, Mountain Pacific Sports Federation and Missouri Valley Conference.

Jay also is the regular home meet announcer for the University of Iowa, University of Alabama and University of Nebraska.

He piles up a lot of frequent flyer miles visiting the West Coast several times throughout the season, traveling to Seattle, Wash., to cover Washington Huskies home indoor meets as well as Stanford, Calif., to announce the Stanford Invitational and Peyton Jordan Invitational during the outdoor campaign.

Jay retired from 26 years as a high school track and field and cross country coach at Columbus Community High School in Columbus Junction, IA, and now works for Northwestern Mutual.

Jay believes in giving back to the sport that has given him so much pleasure and countless opportunities. 

He is currently serving as the 2nd vice-present of the Iowa Association of Track Coaches, chairman of the Iowa Association of Track Coaches Hall of Fame Committee as well as being a member of the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union Track and Field Hall of Fame Committee.


Northern Iowa head track and field coach Dan Steele:

"This is a well deserved honor. There is an art to this profession few can master. Mike Jay has and it is a pleasure to work with him." 

Joe Wegstaffe, track and field director of operations at Stanford:

"Unbelievable. We are lucky to have Mike Jay call our Stanford meets."

Da'Nelle Earl, track and field director of operations at Nebraska:

"Mike Jay is the BEST and this is a well deserved honor. We love having him announce our meets in Lincoln."

Davenport Assumption HIgh School head track and field coach Tim O'Neill:

"This is awesome. Mike Jay has the ability to reach everyone when he speaks. Well earned and deserved."

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Sec Taylor Stadium Next Stop for Kris Bryant

Next stop for Kris Bryant, the Chicago Cubs' third baseman of the future: Sec Taylor Stadium in Des Moines.
Bryant tweeted about the promotion to the Cubs' Triple-A team today, and the team later confirmed it as reported by ESPN/

Can't wait to join the tomorrow! Thank you to and all my teammates for so many great memories!
Bryant, 22, led the Southern League at Double-A Tennessee in batting average (.355), home runs (22), RBIs  (58), on-base percentage (.458) and slugging (.702).

On Monday, Bryant won the Home Run Derby at the Southern League all-star game.
He joins another top pick, Javier Baez, in Des Moines. 
Headed to Triple-A along with Bryant are right-handed pitchers Arodys Vizcaino and Armando Rivero.
A lot of people, including Ron Maly, hope Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein has come to his senses and won't send asshole Manny Ramirez to Des Moines as a parttime player and advisor to the Des Moines players. Maly can't imagine Ramirez advising anyone.
Vizcaino, 23, is still a highly regarded prospect despite two years of arm problems. The Cubs purposely started his season in the warm weather of Class-A Daytona then moved him up to Double-A Tennessee. He had a combined 1.99 ERA at both stops in 23 games. Rivero, 26, had a 1.59 ERA at Double-A appearing in 26 games. Both performed well for Cubs brass in spring training.

Monday, June 16, 2014

I didn't know the University of Iowa was looking for a deputy athletic director, but now it has one. Steve Roe, the school's sports information director, tells me via an e-mail that Gene Taylor of North Dakota State is the new guy. Roe writes: "Longtime intercollegiate athletics administrator Gene Taylor has been selected as the deputy director for the intercollegiate athletics program at the University of Iowa. Taylor has worked in athletics administration for more than 28 years and is currently the director of athletics at North Dakota State University where he guided NDSU through the transition from NCAA Division II to NCAA Division I. During his 13 years as athletics director, NDSU has produced 64 CoSIDA Academic All-America® awards, three NCAA Woman of the Year nominees, four NCAA Championships Elite 89 student-athletes, and 18 NCAA Post-Graduate Scholarship winners. Taylor has engineered double-digit growth in NDSU's development efforts and triple-digit growth in its corporate partners program. He is currently overseeing a $41 million capital campaign for renovation of NDSU's basketball arena, administration offices, locker rooms, and indoor track and field facility. NDSU recently completed a $3.5 million renovation of its football administrative space and locker room complex. Taylor said, "I would like to thank Gary Barta for this exciting opportunity to be a part of Hawkeye Athletics and the University of Iowa. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Gary, the athletic program and the university. Other than the difference in size, the two share a number of similarities including the very high priority put on student-athlete success athletically, academically, and doing things the right way. I look forward to working with the athletic staff and coaches."

I guess WHO-TV, channel 13, is doing a good job with its newscasts. At least Tim Gardner of the station tells me so. Here's the unedited quote from Gardner: "The May television ratings have just been released and WHO-HD is now the undisputed #1 newscast at 10 p.m' and in the morning. Channel 13 News at 10 wins with a 25.5 share…a .2 share advantage. Today in Iowacontinues as the undisputed #1 morning news leader by SIX full share points with an incredible 42.9 share. That means nearly 43% of 18 to 49 year olds watching television in central Iowa between 5 & 7 a.m. are watching WHO. Channel 13 News at 6 remains in a dead heat for the top spot trailing by just 2.3 share points."

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Chatter Is Baseball's Disappearing Act


As I keep saying, the longer I live, the less I understand.

On a warm, sunny afternoon  this week, I was watching a high school baseball game with my son and daughter-in-law. 

What I couldn't figure out was that the only noise in the ballpark was being generated by the fans--most of whom were parents, grandparents and other relatives of the players from each team. 

The players and coaches were generally, and strangely, quiet. 

That seemed unusual to me because when I played Kids' League and high school baseball in Cedar Rapids many years ago, there always was "chatter" on the field and in the dugout. 

Coaches and players were always delivering words and shouts of support from the dugout and the coaching boxes to those on their team. 

When a team was on defense, a coach would always remind his players to vocally cheer on the players. 

"Let's hear it out there!" a coach would shout from the dugout when he didn't think there was enough chatter from the catcher and the infielders. "Let me hear some chatter! Make some noise!"

The pitcher was the only quiet guy, but that was understandable. 

He expected his teammates to be cheering him on. 

In the baseball of today, there is silence

At least in the games I've witnessed in recent years.

 "Don't they ever say anything out there?" I asked my son.

 "No," he answered. "It's not cool." 

Not cool

I think being silent is the only thing that's not cool.

I hear nothing from the coaches in the dugout, nothing from the  coaches at first base and third base, nothing from the catchers, infielders and outfielders. 

I'm not even sure there's any chatter in professional baseball anymore. 

The next time I talk to Joe Giardi and Mike Matheny, I'll ask 'em about that.

In the old days--by that, I mean the really old days--assorted loudmouths in major league baseball would get fights started by insulting players from the other team. 

I don't see that happening at all now. 

My answer to this business of "it's not cool" to chatter in baseball is that football and basketball players do plenty of talking and plenty of downright yelling and screaming at opposing players [and sometimes even their own teammates] during games, don't they? 

Then why not in baseball, too?

Since when did baseball become the silent sport?

Like I said, the longer I live, the less I understand. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

B. J. Windhorst Is a Gamer, and I Hope He's Finally the Coach Who Can Take An Eraser To the Underachiever Label That Has Haunted Valley's Boys' Basketball Program Since 1993


Hardly a day goes by when I can't figure out something I see in the paper, and today was no exception. 

I saw the story that said B. J. Windhorst will be Valley's new boys' basketball coach.  

Windhorst was quoted as saying, "When you have a position like Valley become open, it's a great opportunity. I'm extremely excited."  

In the last paragraph of the story, it says, "Windhorst did not immediately return calls seeking comment." 

To me, that sounds like either dumb reporting or dumb editing. 

My guess is it's probably both. 

But, like I said earlier, it's something else in the paper I can't figure out. 

All I know is this: I've written plenty of times that the Valley job is very challenging. 

The Tigers haven't won a state championship since Bill Harris' 1993 team did it. 

In recent years, Valley has been an underachieving boys' program, including during the years Jeff Horner was in charge. 

For a long time, it was thought that the best athletes in the huge school played football, not basketball. 

Could be. 

Football coach Gary Swenson has won five class 4-A state championships at Valley. 

Swenson is a wonderful coach, and obviously he's someone who understands Valley and its athletic program. 

The Tigers will be loaded in football again in 2014. 

They always are.

I don't know if they can beat Dowling [or, for that matter, Waukee and Southeast Polk], but they'll be representative, you can be certain. 

In my estimation, Valley is a sleeping giant in basketball. 

I hope Windhorst is the right guy at the right time at 35th and Woodland in West Des Moines. 

I do know he's a gamer. 

I covered him when he played basketball at Drake, and I like his attitude. 

He did a good job when he coached at Southeast Polk, which means he understands the Central Iowa Metro League. 

It's time Valley's basketball program rid itself of that underachiever label, starting in the 2014-2015 season. 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Most of today was drab and rainy, but a 97-year-old firecracker of a guy injected some sunshine into it on my 32-inch Sony TV this afternoon. Lenny Merullo, the oldest living Chicago Cub to have played in a World Series, sent a charge through Wrigley Field before and after singing "Take Me Out To the Ballgame in the seventh inning. Merullo was a Cubs shotrstop from 1941 through 1947 and played in three games of the 1945 World Series, which Detroit won from the Cubs, 4 games to 3. The Cubs haven't been in a World Series since. The Cubs' 5-2 victory today over Miami was their fifth in a row, but the way they've played most of the season, it may be another century or two before they get to another World Series. Hopefully, Merullo will still be alive when it happens. Merullo was a delight while being interviewed by the Cubs' TV announcers before and after the song he sang with the Wrigley Field crowd. A guy nearing 100 years of age made more sense than Theo Epstein, the Cub president who is showing signs of brain damage these days in the wake of his decision to sign Manny Ramirez to be a player/coach for the Cubs' Triple-A farm team that plays at Sec Taylor Stadium in Des Moines. Merullo's appearance behind the microphone at Wrigley Field could be compared to, say, Paul Morrison of Des Moines, another soon-to-be-97-year-old, singing the Star Spangled Banner prior to a Drake basketball game at the Knapp Center.

Photo courtesy of

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Chicago Cubs are such a bad team that even their radio station is giving up on them. That's right, WGN, which has broadcast the Cubs' games for 90 years or so, says it's somebody else's turn to bring lousy baseball over the air to longtime fans of the team. Starting next season, Chicago station WBBM will be the Cubs' flagship station. I don't know if that setup will in any way change what happens to people who want to hear Cub games in places like Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Timbuktu, but we'll find out. Now, of course, Des Moines station KRNT broadcasts the Cubs' games, via a feed from WGN. I don't listen to nearly as many games on the radio as I once did [hell, I don't even listen to radio much anymore], but I hope KRNT makes a deal with the Cubs' new station next year and in years to come because it's sometimes fun to listen to how the radio announcers describe the comical way the Cubs play. As a kid, I'd try to listen to Cub games from my home in Cedar Rapids. I'd get a crackly sound directly from WGN, and not much else. The Cubs were no better then than they are now, of course. By the way, WGN-TV is also in the process of dumping the Cubs. That also may happen next season. Tough times for the battered old ballclub.

Same old stuff at the paper. As has been the case for the past 15 years, the news is being distributed Pony Express style. Jack Dittmer died last Saturday, and his obituary--all 6 paragraphs of it in small type under the heading IOWA SCENE--was in Tuesday's paper. People at the paper should be ashamed of themselves for short-changing Dittmer, a member of the paper's Hall of Fame. Jack Dittmer, from small northeast Iowa community Elkader, was a rare athlete. The guy was awarded a phenomenal nine letters in three sports at the University of Iowa. Something like that is unheard of now. He also was a major league baseball player for more than 5 seasons. A truly amazing person. I'm very happy I was able to spend a day with him 26 years ago in Elkader. I'm glad I was able to hear him tell his story. I'm glad I was able to write his story.

Here's my 1988 story on Dittmer when he became the 117th member of the paper's Hall of Fame:


Jack Dittmer
Elkader, Ia. -- When Jack Dittmer was a second baseman for Milwaukee in the 1950s, no player knew him better than Ernie Johnson.

Johnson, a pitcher, was Dittmer's roommate when Milwaukee, not Boston or Atlanta, was the home of the Braves. Because the two spend so much time together, Dittmer said Johnson was his best friend on the club.

Dittmer, 60, now sells automobiles in Elkader, and regularly listens to Johnson talk about the Braves on television. Johnson is a commentator for the Atlanta games carried by cable station WTBS.

"Dittmer was a good, bear-down ballplayer," Johnson recalled when told his old roommate was becoming the 117th member of The Des Moines Sunday Register's Iowa Sports Hall of Fame.

"I don't know how many people realize it, but he also was quite a prankster.

"I'll never forget an incident that happened one night in St Louis. While 'The Star-Spangled Banner' was being played, the stadium lights were turned out. Dittmer than gave Manager Charlie Grimm a hotfoot by setting fire to his shoelaces.

Born in a Small Town

"Grimm let out a yell, saying, 'Dittmer!' when he felt the firse. He knew right away it was Jack who did it."

Small-town Jack Dittmer a hotfoot artist? Jack Dittmer, the kid with the flat-top haircut from Elkader, causing a stir in a big-league dugout? Jack Dittmer, who won a record 12 letters at Elkader High School and a rare nine at the University of Iowa, torching Charlie Grimm's shoelaces during the national anthem?

Well, just because Dittmer was a product of small-town America doesn't mean he didn't know how to have fun in the big city.


On a hot, dry afternoon in this picturesque northeast Iowa community of 1,500, Jack Dittmer is as far removed from a major-league dugout or a major-college football stadium as he could be.

His only connections with professional baseball are the telecasts he watches and the occasional games he sees in person in Milwaukee. Every fall, he makes the drive to Iowa City for two or three Hawkeye football games, and he watches most of Iowa's basketball games on TV.

He's still a Hawkeye fan, still knows who's doing what in the National and American leagues.

But today, he talks about how this town he has always called home needs rain. On a typical busy afternoon, he drops off the mail, pays a couple of bills, then makes a brief stop at home. He comes across as anything but a dugout hotfoot specialist as he shows a visitor the baseball caps, autographs in his recreation room.

Braves Dissatisfied

They are reminders that Dittmer was an outstanding baseball and football player at Iowa, and that he spend five years and three days as a major-league baseball player -- four of the seasons with Milwaukee.

Dittmer's first year in the majors was with the then-Boston Braves in 1952. In 93 games, he hit .193. But improvement came quickly.

His best season was 1953, after the franchise was moved to Milwaukee. It was his first season as a regular, and he hit .266, belted nine home runs and 22 doubles and had 63 runs-batted-in.

You would have thought that would be enough to install him as Milwaukee's second baseman for at least several seasons. But that's not the way it happened.

"I think the Braves made a big mistake after that season," Johnson said. "Dittmer had enjoyed a good year, and was only 25 years old. Then, all of a sudden, the club dropped a bombshell and got Danny O'Connell from Pittsburgh. The deal didn't help either Dittmer or O'Connell. Danny played a little more than Jack, but I could never understand why the Braves thought they needed to make a change."

O'Connell hit .279, .225 and .239 in his years with Milwaukee.

Dittmer played in 66 games in 1954 and hit .245. He appeared in 38 and 44 games the next two seasons before winding up his major-league career at Detroit in 1957.

No Bitterness

His final two seasons in Milwaukee he hit .125 and .245. With the Tigers, he hit .227, leaving him with a composite major-league average of .232.

Dittmer spent half the 1957 season at Detroit, then was sent to the minors at Birmingham, Ala. He played for Phoenix in 1958, Seattle and Sacramento in 1959, then retired.

Dittmer displays no bitterness at the way things went.

"I guess the Braves wanted a second baseman who could hit better than .266," he said.

"But that .266 average could make a lot of money for a player now."

We hear a lot about the millionaires who play the game today.

Dittmer wasn't one of them.

"I got a $6,000 bonus when I signed with the Braves," Dittmer said. "The minimum major-league starting salary then was $6,000 a year, and the most I earned was $13,000 in my one season with Detroit."

Dittmer supplemented his income by working for his father at the Dittmer Motor Co. in the offseason. He took over the business after his father died in December 1962. He sold the company in 1985, but still manages the dealership.


Although Dittmer came from the corn belt, he said he had no problem adjusting to the fast lane of major-league baseball.

"I was traveling all the time when I played two major sports at Iowa," he said. "Our football team played UCLA in Los Angeles before about 80,000 fans. Being in big cities ans playing in front of big crowds, wasn't anything new to me once I got to the Braves."

Dittmer attended Iowa on a football scholarship, and lettered four times on Coach Eddie Anderson's teams during the 1946 through '49 seasons, playing end. He also earned four letters in baseball and one in basketball before graduating in 1950 with a degree in general science.

Nine-Letter Hawkeye

Surprisingly, he says basketball was his best and favorite sport. But, even in the 1940s, the demand wasn't great for 6-foot 1-inch centers.

Dittmer said the last Hawkeye athlete before him to earn nine letters was Erwin Prasse, who got three each in football basketball and baseball in the late 1930s and early-1940s. Dittmer said no University of Iowa athlete since him has earned nine letters.

That Dittmer played on just one Hawkeye team that had a record above .500, was on no Big Ten championship squads and went ot no bowl games didn't dampen his career.

He was chosen Iowa's Most Valuable Player in 1949, and was in the school record book for a long time as the career leader in touchdown catches with 13. As a senior, he set a Big Ten Conference season record for yards gained in pass receiving with 333.

Dittmer had good hands and adequate speed.

"If the quarterback could get the ball to me," he said, "I could catch it. And if I got into the open, no one caught me from behind."

Despite his light weight (165 pounds), Dittmer never backed away from a collision on the football field. Following a rare Iowa victory over Ohio State in 1948, Dittmer was asked about a run-in with the Buckeyes' 220-pound Joe Whisler.

Although Whisler had steamrolled him, Dittmer said: "Did you see me take him on? I wonder if he's out of the hospital yet."

Dittmer's nickname was Skinny. The years have added bulk to his body, and the nickname no longer fits. He plays an occasional round of golf, and it's his goal to trim a few pounds soon.

He and Darlene, his wife of nearly 38 years, are the parents of three children -- daughters Lisa, 32, and Jan, 30, both of whom are married; and son, Doug, 17.