Tuesday, May 26, 2015

At 5 feet 9 Inches and 155 Pounds, Murray Wier Was a Standout Basketball Player for the Hawkeyes In the 1940s, and Now Dave Buhr Thinks His Jersey Number Should Be Retired By the University Of Iowa. 'Wier Is the Only Iowa Player Who Earned Consensus First-Team All-America Honors [By Four Sources] Who Doesn't Have His Jersey Number Retired,' Buhr Tells Me


The first Hawkeye basketball game I saw was on Feb. 9, 1946 in Iowa Fieldhouse.
Murray Wier

The nickname of one of the coaches was Pops. 

The nickname of the other coach was Piggy.

I went there with a classmate of mine from Lincoln Elementary School in Cedar Rapids, and his dad. 

We made the Cedar Rapids-to-Iowa City roundtrip on the old Crandic Railway.

I recall the game vividly. Pops Harrison was coaching Iowa and Piggy Lambert was coaching Purdue.

It was fun watching Harrison orchestrate the behavior of Hawkeye fans throughout the game.

Pops would grab the emotions of the fans by screaming at the officials a lot and at his own players occasionally.

The Hawkeyes wound up winning the game, 43-41, and they finished the season with a 14-4 overall record, 8-4 in the Big Ten.

The Iowa player with whom I was fascinated that night was Murray Wier,  a 5-foot 9-inch, 155-pounder from Muscatine, IA, who, remarkably, was a starting forward in Pops Harrison's lineup.

These days, the only spot a 5-9, 155-pounder would have on a Division I basketball team would be that of student manager.

But Wier was something special.   

As a senior, he averaged 21 points, set a then-Big Ten record with 272 points in conference games, was a first team all-league pick, the Big Ten's most valuable player and a consensus first-team all-American.
After a professional career, Wier coached high school basketball at East Waterloo, where he had a 374-140 record and his 1974 team won a state championship.

Now Dave Buhr of Waterloo, a former high school player for Wier, is campaigning to have Murray's jersey number [3] retired by the University of Iowa. 

Wier, 88, now lives in Texas.

Buhr sent me a copy of the letter he is circulating. 

In it, he writes:

"The recent health issues of Roy Marble prompted an outcry to have the jersey number of Iowa's all-time leading scorer retired. But I want to bring attention to another Iowa standout basketball player who is long overdue in having his jersey number retired....

"Murray Wier is the ONLY Iowa player who earned consensus first-team all-America honors [by four sources] who DOESN'T have his jersey number retired."

Good luck, Dave and Murray.

I'm all for it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

I'll Know Better Next Time


Channel 23 in Des Moines is carrying a few Chicago Cubs games this season, and those are the only times I watch the station. 

I was still viewing last night's [and this morning's] game at San Diego past midnight on channel 23. 

The Cubs lost, 4-3, because hopeless-excuse-for-a-shortstop Starlin Castro made an error, and so did rookies Kris Bryant and Addison Russell.  

My TV was still on channel 23 this morning when I turned it on. 

Staying up past midnight to watch the Cubs lose was mistake No. 1 by me. 

Mistake No. 2 was still having the station on this morning. 

At 8:52 a.m., people from the station were interviewing Rekha Basu  about something she wrote for the paper last Sunday. 

Basu is on the other side of the mountain now, and the years haven't been kind to her. She's looking pretty rough these days [and nights], and having to see her blabbing away before 9 o'clock in the morning about some crap she wrote for a paper that was several days old made her look even rougher. 

I've got no one to blame but myself. 

A newspaper guy from Fort Dodge mentioned
A much younger version of Rekha Basu
to me a number of years ago in the press box at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City that he couldn't stand Basu's writing. 

"Then don't read it," I told him. 

I didn't follow my own advice today. 

I should've switched  my TV from channel 23 to channel 206 [ESPN] or 231 [the cooking channel] early this morning before shutting it off. 

Had I done that, I wouldn't have had to see and hear Basu before 9 o'clock this morning.

I'll know better next time.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Numbers Game

1. Ron Maly says today's Des Moines Register had
a page 1 headline that said:  8 things to watch for at big GOP fest.  Ron's Neighbor Al, the Health Nut asked Ron why there are only 8 things to watch for at the big fest [what the hell ever a fest is]. "Because the paper couldn't think of 10 things to watch for," Ron replied.

2. Most chickens are scared to death of catching bird flu. Not so with the paper's mammoth Daniel P. Finney.  Rumor has it Finney [pictured at the right] wouldn't mind
getting at least a mild case of bird flu to see if it helps him lose one or two of those 561 pounds. Some of Finney's co-workers, however, think a severe case of bird flu would be just what the doctor ordered, and what the large man deserves. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Definition of mammoth, courtesy of Google:  A large extinct elephant of the Pleistocene epoch, typically hairy with a sloping back and long curved tusks.]

3. The paper published pictures and a story about a restaurant called Cabo Sol. Evidently, the food isn't
so hot at that joint. The photo of the interior the restaurant [left] showed a bunch of seats--all of them empty. No one in the place. Ron Maly guesses people found out very quickly that the food is lousy. It's strange that the paper continues publishing photos of empty restaurants. And reviewing them.

4.  Ron Maly says he doesn't care what Tsuyoshi  Wada's  earned-run average  is in the
Tsuyoshi Wada
minor leagues. "Wada isn't exactly Bob Feller, but he could be a week away from Tommy John surgery and still be a better pitcher than Travis Wood, who is the worst part of the Cubs' starting rotation," Maly said. "If I were Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon of Chicago, I'd call up Wada immediately and make Wood the ballboy.

5.  Ron Maly mentioned bird flu in the state of Iowa, and how it applies to Daniel P. Finney, earlier in this column. Bird flu in Iowa--specifically in the newsroom of the Des Moines Register--is on the mind of Roland H. Thompson of St. Louis. Thompson was the pseudonym of Finney
a number of years ago when the weird tandem shared one desk in the newsroom of the St. Louis Post- Dispatch.  Thompson called Ron Maly a few minutes ago, also wondering if Finney is a victim of bird flu.  "All I know is that I wouldn't get close enough to Finney to find out if he has bird flu or anything else," Maly told Thompson.

6.  Tom Thibodeau is out as coach of the Chicago  Bulls. Three predictions from Ron Maly: 1. Rumors will immediately swirl that the Bulls are
attempting to hire Iowa State's Fred Hoiberg as Thibodeau's replacement. 2. Hoiberg will not take the Bulls' job. 3. Hoiberg will get a pay raise from Iowa State.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Rookie Kris Bryiant finally hit his first home run as a Chicago Cub tonight, then received the ultimate compliment--complete silence [even complete absence] from his teammates. After Bryant's 3-run bomb gave the Cubs a brief 3-2 lead in their game at Milwaukee, his teammates hurried to the clubhouse and weren't there [photo below] to greet him after he rounded the bases. That's typical treatment for a rookie. Bryant's teammates quickly came back to the dugout and congratulated him. Unfortunately, the good times didn't continue for Bryant and the other Cubs, Milwaukee ripped them, 12-4. By the way, if I see the Cubs' Travis Wood [the starting pitcher] and Edwin Jackson [an awful former starter who is now an awful middle-innings reliever] in the same game again, it will be too soon. Wood allowed six runs and took the loss. Jackson didn't retire a batter and allowed three runs. Don't look for the Cubs to be doing any bigtime winning with those clowns on the pitching staff. No. 3 catcher David Ross pitched a scoreless inning of relief, with a 76-mile-per-hour fastball, demonstrating that at least there is someone on the roster who can get people out.

Photo courtesy of Google

There's Nothing To Like About Fat, Not Funny Finney


Daniel P. Finney is the Des Moines Register's sorry-ass version of the Goodyear blimp.

The major difference between Finney and the blimp is that the blimp can still get up and can still move around.

Finney is a 500-going-on-600-pound medical catastrophe waiting to happen.

When he permanently goes down for the count--something that could happen any day now--the only thing to feel sorry for is the concrete that will crumble when he collapses in the parking lot or on the sidewalk.

 Finney visions himself as a humor writer.  But if Finney is a humorist, so was Benito Mussolini. 

The only thing funny about Finney is his appearance. You should hear how people in the office talk about him.

Finney is a mean-spirited person who hates everyone--including himself.

It says in the paper that Finney "pokes fun at the passing parade."  Well, with his track record, he deserves to have fun--lots of it--poked at himself.  With 24/7 regularity.

So, in the spirit of Finney's 5, here are some thoughts and observations about this weird individual, who is an  embarrassment to the entire dying journalism business, the city of Des Moines, Polk County, the state of Iowa and most of America's heartland: 

1. When baseball's Ford Frick was a do-nothing major league commissioner a half-century ago, a knowledgeable  sportswriter wrote, "An empty car pulled up in front of a hotel, and Ford Frick got out." Now I hear that an empty Mayflower moving van stopped at the back of the Register building downtown, and two dozen workers wearing blue coveralls rolled the ponderous Finney out of the rear  door and onto a loading dock so he could inhale the 15 Jimmy John's pulled pork sandwiches he had delivered for his lunch. 

2. People are wondering if there is a toilet seat and an elevator big enough and sturdy enough in central Iowa to hold Finney's huge ass. One suggestion on the transportation problem is to use a freight elevator used to haul John Deere tractors from one part of the factory to another. Folks are still trying to solve the crapper problem.  A solution is to dispatch Finney to an outhouse in an abandoned area of rural Jasper county that is now being used by farm animals, then leave him there.

3. Managers of the all-you-can-eat restaurants around town want to organize a union so they can ban Finney from the premises. A half-dozen places have already gone bankrupt  because he insisted on elbowing his way to the front of the line at their buffets so many times.

4. When doctors and other medical personnel were trying to find a place to weigh Finney, they called officials at the State Fair, whose job description includes weighing responsibilities in the annual Big Boar contest. The 2014 Big Boar winner was Peabody, who tipped the scales at a whopping 1,273 pounds. Some people think Finney and Peabody deserve each other. Peabody, however, is balking at such an idea.  Peabody has observed Finney's act, and wants no part of it. Still on the subject of the State Fair, rumor has it that Finney has been attempting to woo fair officials, hoping he can take the place of the Butter Cow at the 2015 event. However, Finney's hopes have been dashed. He was told the Agriculture Building is not spacious enough to hold a sculpture of his enormously flabby body. Finney is the odds-on favorite to be chosen to give the keynote speech at the next World Fat Man's Convention, which is open to slobs who prefer all of their food fried, their desserts with real sugar and no artificial sweeteners, weigh at least 500 pounds and have cholesterol scores of 500 or higher.

5. Finney's weight problems have drawn the interest of his longtime sidekick, Roland H. Thompson,  Thompson was the fake name Finney used to attack his bosses a number of years ago  in a personal blog at the St. Louis Post Dispatch--a campaign that led to his dismissal from the paper.  "St. Louis--the city, not just the paper--has a ton of problems, and Finney was one of them," Thompson said. "I sure feel sorry for Des Moines. Not only is 3-foot 2-inch Mike Gartner a laughingstock there, so is the humongous Daniel P. Finney." Finney is the worst and laziest columnist the Register has ever had. He is supposed to be the metro columnist, but spends most of his time making fun of people and places in his idiotic commentaries. Meanwhile, tons of other good stories around town go unreported. Finney sometimes speaks to high school journalists--perhaps about what it takes, and what it's like, to be in the news business. That's as ridiculous as John Dillinger speaking at the state bankers' convention. 

[Logo courtesy of the Register and Google. "You are free to do whatever you want with the logo," officials of both companies told me. "We don't think much of Finney or the logo either.]

A Fantastic Cardinals Fan from Iowa


A well-educated, well-spoken Cardinals fan from Iowa sent me a very nice response to my latest column about the Cubs and Redbirds.

Here was my return email to him: 

"Thank you for your wonderfully-written email. 

"You have a terrific way of putting together words. 

"I envy you being a Cardinals fan.  

"The Cardinals are the model of what a major league baseball team should be. 

"Great hearing from you, and say hello to all of my excellent friends in your part of the state who are on the St. Louis bandwagon.  

"My family and I wish you and your family and friends the very best."

That Russell Kid Of the Cubs


Rave all you want about Kris Bryant, the much -ballyhooed Chicago Cubs' rookie third baseman. And who, by the way, still hasn't hit a
Addison Russell
home run as a major leaguer. I certainly have nothing against Bryant. Considering his experience, he's a hitter who shows plenty of promise, and as a fielder he's better than I expected. But I'm starting to wonder if Addison Russell, the Cubs' rookie second baseman, isn't an even stronger player. Russell, 21, quietly has hit in 11 consecutive games--four of them against the the St. Louis Cardinals, the best team in baseball. Russell has already swatted two home runs since being called up by the Cubs on April 21.
...Russell has been playing out of position on defense. He's a shortstop who is doing a decent job at second base. I've heard that Russell , a first round draft choice who came to the Cubs last summer in a trade with Oakland, is actually the best shortstop in the Chicago system. He's not playing there
Starlin Castro
because of the continued presence of Starlin Castro. For my money, I'd get rid of Castro as soon as possible. I watched him in the four-game series with St. Louis [three Cardinal  victories, one loss], and he is still the immature, undependable, lack-of-hustle  player he was when he got to the bigs five years ago. He might make one superb defensive play, then screw things up with three terrible plays. I'd dump him and put Russell at shortstop. For Castro, maybe the Cubs can get a relief pitcher who can give up fewer than five runs in the sixth inning
....Like I said, St. Louis is clearly the best team in baseball right now. Indeed, the Cardinals might be the best major league team I've ever seen. It pains me to write that, of course, because I've never been someone who wanted St. Louis to win. Indeed, I enjoy watching baseball on TV for two reasons: 1. Hoping the Cardinals lose. 2. Hoping the Cubs win. Yes, in  recent years, I've altered

some of my thinking: I like watching the Cardinals lose even more than seeing the Cubs win....I guess I'm not alone. I heard the Cardinals' TV announcers say the other day that there are growing amounts of baseball fans nationwide who have become Cardinal-haters because of St. Louis' success in recent years....I realize sportswriters at the paper are catching hell from letters-to-the-editor writers about coverage of Iowa and Iowa State athletics, but the real problem continues to be the horrible coverage of high school sports. It's the worst it has ever been. Brad Wilson and Chuck Burdick, who were longtime stalwarts in the paper's high school coverage in years gone by, are no doubt rolling over in their graves....Back to the Cubs one more time: I'm starting to think Javier Baez, the clueless Triple-A shortstop,
Javier Baez
will never make it to the bigs as a fulltime player. Chicago already has enough rally-killers. Joe Maddon is a very smart manager. He knows the best place for Baez is minor league baseball. Heck, maybe Oakland or some other sucker of a team will take Baez in a trade for a relief pitcher who can pitch the seventh inning....
Desperate baseball teams do desperate things.  The Cleveland Indians for some reason decided to reach a minor league agreement with relief pitcher Carlos Marmol, a one-time Cubs flame-thrower who couldn't find the batters' box with any pitches in his aresenol in his final seasons with Chicago. Good luck to Cleveland on that one.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Don't Believe the Headlines. Chicago Cubs Farmhand Javier Baez Is Not a Star. All He Has Proven Is That He Is Clueless At the Plate, and He Is a Strikeout Waiting To Happen. Until He Figures Things Out and Acquires Some Discipline In the Batters' Box, Baez Won't Be Playing In the Bigs


I've been meaning to write this for quite some time. 

I was reminded of it when I saw a headline in today's paper. 

The headline said:

Young star
makes debut

What I'm getting at is that the paper horribly over-uses the word star when it's referring to athletes.

It happens far too often. 

Often enough that I'm starting to think people in the sports department at the paper are fans and cheerleaders more than what they're supposed to be--objective journalists.

Javier Baez

To some at the paper, any professional baseball player who comes through a farm system and hits a few home runs is a star, and any freshman football player at the collegiate level who made a high school all-state team is a star.

The paper uses the word star so often that the description of the real stars--and there aren't many real stars--is watered down because of the presence of so many phony stars.

Javier Baez, the Triple-A player referred to in the headline that was in the paper is no more a star in the Chicago Cubs' system than the batboy.

The only thing Baez has proven is that he can strike out a lot. 

Indeed, the guy is a strikeout waiting to happen every time he steps to the plate.

Hell, he struck out three times in six at-bats last night.

I watched him a lot on TV last season, and he embarrassed himself and his team game after game for Chicago.

If the Chicago Cubs thought anything of him, he'd be with them now, right along with stars-in-the-making Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler.

Frankly, I hope Baez somehow figures out the strike zone so he can someday play for Chicago.

Until that day comes,  the poor guy will never have a chance to become a major leaguer, much less a star.

Right now, he doesn't have a clue, and neither do the cheerleaders at the paper who, for some unknown reason, think highly of his abilities.