Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Christmas Season Has Officially Started


The Christmas season began for me tonight.

The official Christmas season, I mean.

Oh, sure, I know Younkers and Von Maur have had decorated Christmas trees in their stores since Labor Day.

But that's only meant to spur people into spending money.

Department stores are department stores.

They want your dollars.

It's difficult for me to get in the Christmas spirit when it's 85 degrees outdoors  and the malls are air conditioned.

Anyway, the Christmas season officially began for me when the Southwestern Community College choir from Creston came to Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Des Moines to sing Christmas music.

The weather cooperated.  A combination of snow and rain was falling when I drove to the church.

That, plus the cold wind, made it feel like Christmas.

The Southwestern chamber choir performed such numbers as Carol of the Bells, O Magnum Mysterium, Eljah Rock,  plus the more familiar stuff like Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, I'll Be Home for Christmas, Silver Bells, O Holy Night and Silent Night.

The audience [and it was large] joined the choir in the singing of Silent Night.

That's the one that really gets to me.

Like I wrote earlier, the Christmas season has officially started for me.

Look for me to be sitting on Santa's knee at the mall any day now. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Jerry Moses


Legends don't show up all that often in Iowa high school football.

But that's exactly what Jerry Moses was.

A legend.

I was sorry to learn today of the death of Moses, a standout running back at East Waterloo High School in the 1960s.

The Waterloo Courier reported that he died this morning at the age of 65. The photo of Moses is courtesy of the Courier.

I can recall him running rampant through high school defenses during my newspaper years.

Every Friday night, it was Moses does this, Moses does that.

Nothing stopped him.

Like I said, a legend

The Courier said Moses scored 56 touchdowns, was a two-time first-team all-stater and a high school all-American while East Waterloo was overpowering other Iowa high school teams.  

East didn't lose a game from 1965 until the first game of the 1972 season.  The Courier said the state's sportswriters voted East as the mythical state champion five times, prior to the current playoff system.

Moses played for coach Johnny Majors at Iowa State after his standout high school career.

Unfortunately, his collegiate years weren't as kind to Moses as his high school years.

Injuries slowed him.

No matter.

We always had the memories of his high school exploits.

And those memories are still clear. 

Still fantastic.

My thoughts and prayers are with Jerry Moses' family.

The man died much too young. 

Tigers Will Get Better


I had fun following and writing about Valley's march last season to the state high school  class 4-A boys'  basketball championship.

I mean, when a guy's granddaughter is a student manager for a state championship team, it's always fun.

 Naturally, I was eager to get a look at what the Tigers  have for the 2016-2017 season.

That opportunity came tonight when Valley defeated Fort Dodge, 51-39, at the Bill Coldiron Fieldhouse in West Des Moines.

Coach B. J. Windhorst's team is a work in progress, but the Tigers have a chance to be pretty good as the season continues.

I'm certainly not predicting any repeat state championship at this stage, but I have confidence in Windhorst's coaching ability. 

Count on it that this team will improve.

Windhorst has size. Charley Crowley is a 6-8 senior, and Blake Brinkmeyer is a 6-7 junior. Quinton Curry is a 6-6 senior who has started since he was a freshman.

However, Curry won't be able to play until January at the earliest because of a knee injury sustained during the summer.

Windhorst had Crowley and Brinkmeyer in the lineup at the same time during crunch time tonight. Both can play. Brinkmeyer scored 12 points, Crowley 9.

Senior Reese Skinner scored 14 for Valley.

The Tiger girls had a much easier time. They soared to an 87-50 victory over a Fort Dodge team coached by Julius Michalik, a 6-11 former Iowa State player from Slovakia.

I was covering the Cyclones for the paper when Michalik was playing from 1991-1995. The guy could shoot with the best of 'em.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Women's Basketball, Arts To the Rescue At Drake


My friend Jay A. Davidson posted a message on Facebook a few minutes ago that read:

"Terrific music tonight at Drake University by Nicholas Roth, in the Keys to Excellence Piano Series. Nicholas played Philip Glass and Robert Schumann. All in attendance won!"

I responded to Davidson and his other readers with this message:

"Jay, I'm glad you're keeping us updated on the impressive music and arts happenings at Drake. There was a time when men's basketball was the biggest thing on the campus at this time in the school year. lt appears those days are gone, at least in the immediate future. So it's women's basketball and the arts. Sounds like a bunch of winners to me."

I could have added these words:

Maury John, where are you when Drake's sadsack men's basketball program, as well as what's left of the fan-base, need you? This 2016-2017 team doesn't look like it's got much game or much fight. Consequently, it's going to be another long, long season.

Meanwhile, Jennie Baranczyk and her women's basketball team, plus the arts Jay A. Davidson and others follow faithfully, hopefully will save the winter at Old Main [pictured] and elsewhere on the Drake campus.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

No Such Thing As a One-Day Holiday Or Birthday


One of the beautiful things about my family is that there's no such thing as a one-day holiday or a one-day birthday.

Holidays and birthdays in this outfit go on and on.

Hey, one year I had 6 or 7 birthday parties, but had to add just a year to my age.

Holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, the Fourth of July and Labor Day never end either.

We just keep celebrating, moving from one home to another, one smoked, roasted or fried turkey, one baked ham, one champagne cake, one apple pie to another.

I'm pretty sure we had our last Thanksgiving of 2016 late this afternoon at Kevin and Donna's house.

The first Thanksgiving get-together was Wednesday night, and the celebrating of the turkey-and-all-the-fixin's just kept going Thursday, Friday and today.

Of course, you can't have a Maly gathering without pictures.

One with Ron and Maxine and grandchildren Nate and Megan [Kevin and Donna's kids] is included here.

I know one thing. Today's Thanksgiving bash at Kevin and Donna's beat any football game that was on TV.

Before leaving for Kevin and Donna's, I watched the entire Ohio State-Michigan game that was played in Columbus, Ohio.

In a game in which it seemed neither team wanted to win, Ohio State finally prevailed in 2 overtimes, 30-27.

I watched both teams keep screwing up in their final regular-season game of the season.

I mean, it was one mistake after another, one failed field goal after another.

For a while, the Buckeyes and Wolverines threatened to set collegiate football back 75 years with the ridiculous way they were performing.

Consequently, I am saying right now that I think Iowa, which walloped Nebraska, 40-10, in a regular-season finale yesterday in Iowa City, is currently the best team in the Big Ten.

The Hawkeyes have already beaten Michigan, and I fully believe they'd defeat Ohio State, too, if the Buckeyes were on their schedule.

I know Penn State did a number on Iowa a few weeks ago, but Kirk Ferentz's team has come a long way since then.

I like the Hawkeyes over the Nittany Lions now.

I know none of us can do anything to improve 

Iowa's 8-4 record, but I'm staying with the belief that the Hawkeyes are the best in the BigTen right now.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Bob Devaney Rolled Over In His Grave Today


I have absolutely nothing against Nebraska.

Great state.

Great people.

Great university in Lincoln.

One of my sons and one of my daughters-in-law have degrees from the University of Nebraska.

One of my grandsons will earn his degree from Nebraska next month.

His wife already has her degree from the university.

I have a granddaughter who is a sophomore at the University of Nebraska now.

I have a number of wonderful, intelligent relatives and friends who live in Nebraska and Iowa, and are huge Cornhusker football fans.

But, for a minute or two, I'd like to write about Nebraska's 2016 team..

And I don't want to upset any of those relatives and friends in Nebraska and Iowa while doing it.

I saw the Cornhuskers play Iowa on the tube today, and came away wondering what in the name of Crab Orchard, Nebraska has happened to their once-mighty program?

This was one of the worst Nebraska teams I've ever seen, and I've seen plenty of 'em over the years.

The Hawkeyes, with a big-play offense that completely befuddled a Nebraska defense that used to pulvervize and otherwise manhandle the opposition, sliced and diced the Huskers, 40-10, in a gala regular-season finale at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.

And, yes, I'm giving Kirk Ferentz and his Iowa players lots of credit for making it happen.

It wasn't just Nebraska's inept football that was the reason for the rout.

In my newspaper days, I covered lots and lots of Nebraska football games.

I was in Memorial Stadium in Lincoln so many times they almost named not only a seat, but an entire row, in the press box after me.

The best of the Nebraska juggernauts I covered were coached by Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne.

I preferred Devaney, who consented to a long one-on-one interview with me one day in Lincoln in the middle of a very good season.

The only thing Devaney [pictured] didn't like about my questions was the one I asked about his salary.

Coaches don't especially like it when sportswriters ask 'em about the millions of dollars they're paid.

Devaney, who won a ton of games and a couple of national championships at Nebraska, has been dead since 1997.

He's buried in Lincoln, and I'm sure he was rolling over in his grave when someone relayed today's final score to him.

When Devaney heard it, he probably said something like, "Who the hell is Mike Riley and how soon can you run his ass out of Lincoln?"

Devaney used to talk like that.

Especially when he was alive.

Mike Riley is the coach of the sorry excuse for a football team that showed up for today's game in Iowa City.

This wasn't even the worst drubbing the Huskers have taken this season.

Mike Ebbing, a former sportswriter who is a friend of mine, reminded me that Ohio State hung a 62-3 haymaker on Nebraska earlier this month.

Despite that, the Huskers somehow went into today's game ranked No. 16 nationally.

Don't ask he how or why.

Also, don't get me wrong.

I don't mind it that Nebraska doesn't have a very good team this season.

I like it that the Hawkeyes won big.

Nebraska is still a fine state, the people who live there are fine people and the university in Lincoln is a wonderful institution.

I'm sure the folks who are Nebraska fans aren't feeling very good about their football program in the wake of today's blowout.

I sure don't want to act like I'm rubbing it in.

Don't forget, I covered an Iowa team that lost all 11 games it played in a season many moons ago.

I know how it feels.


Today's Thanksgiving feast [at least t]he afternoon version] had concluded, so it was time for Ron and Maxine to pose for pictures with their grandchildren [three of the seven who were in town anyway].

The kids, pictured left to right, in the back are Claire, a sophomore at the University of Nebraska; Megan, a senior at Valley High School in West Des Moines, and her brother Nate, a sophomore at the University of Iowa. 

Claire and Nate will be at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City tomorrow when the Hawkeyes play the Cornhuskers in a Big Ten Conference football game that starts at 2:30 p.m. 

The kids who had to miss today's get-together were Jerika, now a Californian; her sister Shelby, who is studying in India this semester as part of her junior year at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN, and newlyweds Cole and Danielle, who are studying and working in Nebraska. 

The good thing is that all of the kids will be here for Christmas. God-willing, the parents and grandparents will be here, too.


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Naked-Man-In-the-Chimney Story


I've been meaning to share this story with you for a while.

It starts a few months ago on a day I visited the office of one of my doctors.

As all of you know, when a patient visits a doctor's office these days, he or she first is met by a nurse or technician, whose job it is to review the person's medications, take the blood pressure, check the pulse, stuff like that.

When I arrived at the doctor's office that day a few months ago, I was greeted by a technician I'll call Stephanie.

Stephanie is a very efficient, very cordial young lady.

She works in a medical office that is full of people [including my doctor] who are very cordial.

I like that because I always try to be friendly when I visit a doctor's office. My hope is to talk about as many things as possible that are not health-related.

So, while Stephanie was taking my blood pressure, I asked where she was from.

"Carroll, Iowa," she said.

Carroll is 75 miles northwest of Des Moines.

"Nice town," I said. "Lots of good people in Carroll. What's going on in Carroll these days?"

"Well, they found a naked man in a chimney there a few days ago," Stephanie said calmly.

That got my attention immediately.

I laughed a lot when I heard it.

"A naked man in a chimney?" I said. "What's that all about?"

"I don't know the details," Stephanie said, "but I'm going to find out the next time I'm back home."

"When you find out, let me know," I said. "I'd like to hear more about that deal."

I got a good report from the doctor that day.
That may have been the day the doctor used a pencil to draw a picture of my profile on a sheet of paper and handed it to me as a gift [remember, I told you this was an office of friendly people].

Stephanie, the cordial technician, said goodbye and she'd see me at my next appointment. I then drove home.

Later that day, I went to my computer to see if I could find anything about a naked man being found in a chimney in Carroll.

I did.

I don't keep track of the news the way I did in the old days, so I missed the original story about the naked man in the chimney..

A story on KCCI [perhaps originated by the Associated Press, the Carroll Daily Times Herald and/or other news services] said, "A man trapped in a chimney at an Iowa business has pleaded not guilty to a trespassing charge.

"Jordan Kajewski, 29, spent at least 11 hours stuck inside the chimney. He told authorities he was playing hide-and-seek [with his cousin].

"He has....been released from jail. He declined to comment to the Carroll Daily Times Herald following the hearing.

"Brad Sapp, owner of the Carroll Redemption Center, said nothing too exciting ever happened at his shop in downtown Carroll. That is until when he heard something in the back room.

“'I was dragging some bags out and I heard a voice say what I thought was ‘Get out of here,’ but in a whisper of a voice,” said Sapp. “So I kind of looked around and didn't see anything.'

"Sapp says he went home and told his wife, who made fun of him for hearing ghosts. His wife heard a sound coming from the shop’s old chimney when they returned a few hours later.

“'And that's when the guy finally came out, and said, ‘Hey, I need help. I'm in the chimney,’” said Sapp.

"The couple called 911 to help get the man out.

“'In my career as a firefighter that's got to be one of the most unusual cases that I’ve ever responded to,” said Carroll Fire Chief Greg Schreck.

"Schreck said crews were able to see and communicate with Kajewski, who was stuck toward the base of the chimney.

“'He was very calm and relaxed, and he just wanted to get out of the chimney,” said Schreck. “He'd been in there a long time.”

"The fire department’s ladder truck was unable to help the man because he was too far down inside the chimney. Crews were forced to break the chimney’s brick wall to get Kajewski out.

"Daily Times Herald reporter Jared Strong, who arrived at the scene after hearing about the incident on police scanner traffic, reported that Kajewski [photo courtesy of Strong, the Daily Times Herald and the AP] was naked when firefighters pulled him from the chimney, and that Kajewski claimed he was playing hide-and-seek when he got stuck.

“'I've been a crime reporter for a while now, and you see some crazy things, although I don't think I ever thought about seeing a naked man emerge from a chimney.'"

So there's your story.

I plan to get an update from Stephanie the next time I see her and the doctor.

Meanwhile, have a very happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Nobody Left At the Paper To Cover Sidewalks


Maybe it was a slow news day, maybe it was meant to tell bosses at the Gannett Co. to shove it up their city edition deadlines or something else.

Hell, for all I know, it was meant to be a joke.

Whatever, there was this lengthy front page story in the paper about sidewalks written by someone named Scott McFatridge from the Associated Press.

The sidewalks are in the very nice Des Moines suburb of Windsor Heights.

I guess the issue is more than sidewalks, period.

Apparently it's a sidewalk mess, if there is such a thing.

There was a time, of course, when there would never be an Associated Press story in the paper dealing with anything [sidewalk messes included] happening in metropolitan Des Moines.

But now there are more and more AP [that's newspaper lingo for Associated Press] stories because the parent Gannett Co. keeps firing and laying off people at the paper, and evidently there's nobody left in the newsroom to cover the sidewalk beat.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

No Cartwheels Yet



The guy who had X-rays of his sacroiliac and a few other areas on the right side of his body got back to me over the weekend.


He said the X-rays showed that a large part of the leg, probably including his sacroiliac, is filled with arthritis.

"So the doctor gave me a shot of cortisone," he said.

"Did the shot do any good?" I asked. "I've heard that some people who get shots for pain hurt more after the shots than before."

"Well, I'm not thinking about skateboarding down the street in front of my house, or doing cartwheels on Polk Boulevard," the guy said. "But I maybe feel a little bit of improvement."

"Good," I said.  "And I'm glad you're continuing to bleed Medicare for cortisone injections, surgery, physical therapy and water therapy.

"At the rate you're going, Medicare will be broke by New Year's Day."

I don't think the guy thought that was funny.

Be Glad You're Not An Illinois Fan


It's difficult for me to believe there are many worse major-college football teams in America than Illinois.

It could be there are two or three teams that are more inept than the Fighting Illini, but at
the moment I can't think of them.

It looked to me like Illinois' offense, defense, special teams, kicking and coaching were all on life support in today's 28-0 loss to the Hawkeyes.

Of course, I certainly am not overlooking the thought that Iowa's players and coaches were at least somewhat responsible for the awful display of football by the Fighting Illini.

However, it stunned me that first-year Illinois coach Lovie Smith was without emotion on the sideline, and so were most of his players on the field.

I'm a bit surprised Smith, who looked like he preferred to be anywhere other than a football stadium on a cold and windy morning and afternoon, worked up enough motivation to meet Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz at midfield for the postgame handshake.

I feel sorry for fans of the Fighting Illini.

Be glad you're not one of them.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Cheer Up, Kendall. You're Still the Official Pastor


These have been interesting days for Kendall Meyer, a man of the cloth who has been reluctantly dressing in blue.

Chicago Cubs blue, that is.

World champion Chicago Cubs no less.

Meyer is pictured in one of the Cub shirts and jerseys he wore all week, whether he liked the idea or not.

Early in the week, Meyer put this message on his Facebook page:

"So, I lost the bet about the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series. For a whole week I have to wear this."

Kendall has been a good friend of mine for a long time.

He's certainly an unusual man of the cloth.

He's the type of guy who, one summer day when I invited him to lunch at Jethro's in the Drake area, arrived on his motorcycle.

Just one problem with him.

He's been a St. Louis Cardinals fan forever.

So naturally he and I [a Cubs fan forever] had plenty of conversations about major league baseball--some of them heated conversations.

I got to know Meyer when he was our senior pastor at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church in Des Moines. 

He now is the associate pastor at Lutheran Church Of St. John in Quincy, Ill.

An important thing to know is that Meyer is the Official Pastor of this column and all of my other websites and columns.

Indeed, I pointed out to him when he was feeling bad about wearing Cubs blue that even though he no longer is the pastor at Mt. Olive Lutheran, he's still the Official Pastor of my columns.

That made him happy.

The Official Pastor thing dates back to when I had an Official List of 25 or so people on another of my websites.

In addition to Official Pastor, I had stuff like Official Car, Official State Fair Tractor, Official Kinnick Stadium Night Game and Official Bicycle.

There were a couple of more negative Official This and Thats, but to name them I'd have to use some profanities, and I don't think that's a good idea with the holidays approaching and when I'm writing about churches and pastors.

Here's  what I wrote a couple of years ago when Kendall Meyer was again named the Official Pastor of this column:

It's a pleasure for me to announce today that Rev. Kendall Meyer of Mt. Olive Lutheran Church and School in Des Moines has been named the Official Pastor of this website, as well as my other websites.

Rev. Meyer won in landslide fashion in a thoroughly unscientific poll, beating out 41 other Protestant pastors, 10 Catholic priests and two Jewish rabbis.

Twenty-two of the Protestant pastors were from Methodist churches, nine were from Baptist churches, six were from Presbyterian churches, two were from other Lutheran churches and two were from Episcopalian churches.

The thoughtful, consistently-meaningful pastoral messages from the highly-intelligent, hard-working Rev.  Meyer have proven to be a strength in his work with both adult and youth memberships at his growing church.

I delivered the news to Rev. Meyer that he had won the Official Pastor title at a free Mt. Olive pizza party at the Incredible Pizza establishment in Urbandale following the 10:30 a.m. service on Sunday.

Upon hearing the news, Rev. Meyer said, "I appreciate very much the confidence those who participated in the poll have in me, and I will do all that is humanly possible to continue accomplishing what it takes to maintain the Official Pastor recognition for many years to come. 

"I read Ron Maly's columns regularly, and they have definitely been an inspiration to me." 

I have felt for some time that there was a need for an Official Pastor in these columns and on these websites to more than balance off a tiny  negative element in The Official List....

Have a great day, Kendall.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Getting Screwed and Not Enjoying It


It looks to me like members of the Baseball Writers Association of America are guzzling far too much of the free beer that's in the coolers
of major league press boxes.

Otherwise, why would they have voted Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers the National League Manager of the Year instead of  Joe Maddon of the world champion Chicago Cubs?

Maddon [pictured] clearly deserved the award.

His Cubs won 103 games during the regular season, and had the best record in the majors.

From there, Maddon's Cubs went on to win the franchise's first World Series since 1908, beating Roberts' Dodgers in a best-of-seven National League playoff in the process.

The big problem, of course, s that the Manager of the Year voting takes place before the playoffs start, which is a dumb way to do things.

But who ever said major league baseball people are smart?

All I know is Joe Maddon got screwed, and didn't enjoy it one bit.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Even Trump Has a Sacroiliac



I talked to a guy who tells me he had his sacroiliac X-rayed the other day.


That's right, his sacroiliac. 


Not just one sacroiliac. 


Both of 'em.


The only other time I'd heard anyone  say something about his sacroliac was when a comedian--Jack Benny, Johnny Carson or somebody--mentioned it years ago on the radio or TV.


"Are you feeding me a line of crap or do you and everyone else, including Trump, really have a sacroiliac?" I asked the guy.


 "Actually, all of us have two sacroiliac joints--one on the right side of the body and one on the left side," the guy said. "Men have 'em and women have 'em."


 "How do you know that?" I asked.


"Because the lady who X-rayed me told me so," the guy said. "And I believed her. She said she graduated 27 years ago from X-ray school in Ottumwa. That was good enough for me.


"She said the doctor wanted her to X-ray both my right and left  sacroiliac joints so a comparison of the two could be made. My doctor is trying to figure out why my right leg hurts like hell every time I take a step, and why I'm not sleeping well. Sometimes I wake up in pain at 3:30 in the morning."


I wanted to make sure the guy knew what he was talking about before I wrote this. So I looked it up on the Internet about sacroiliac joints. I found a picture of one, and it's kind of homely-looking.


It said, "Sacroiliac joint pain involves the joints between the spine and the pelvis....Common symptoms [of sacroiliac trouble] include lower back pain, buttocks pain, sciatic leg pain, groin pain, hip pain, urinary frequency, and transient numbness, prickling, or tingling."


That's more than  I needed to know.


I checked today with the guy to see if the pictures done by the graduate of X-ray school in Ottumwa showed that he had a bad sacroiliac or two.


"I haven't heard yet," he said. "I'll get back to you when I find out."

Sunday, November 13, 2016

A Night To End All Nights


What a night.

I show up for my first Hawkeye game in a while, do the 5-mile tailgate tour with my kids and grandkids, sit comfortably for nearly 4 hours in a stadium absolutely electric with excitement, and witness the university's biggest football upset since I can't remember when.

As has happened so often in the past, all hell breaks loose when I arrive on the scene.

I mean, I didn't get the nickname The Lightning Rod by accident.

You may recall that I started writing about this late last week.

I mentioned that the kids, who evidently think I don't get out enough, all but demanded that I attend the game matching an Iowa team that virtually everyone had given up for dead against a Michigan team that was unbeaten and ranked No. 2 in the nation.

I wrote that I'd try to match the trip up with an adventure I'd had many years ago as a kid who had just turned 13.

I spent a week in the old Children's Hospital at Iowa City, wrapping up a 44-day stay in two hospitals in two cities.

While in Children's Hospital, doctors had arranged for a wonderful nurse to accompany me to the Iowa-Wisconsin football game--my first Hawkeye game ever.

The university is now ready to open a new $360 million, 14-story Children's Hospital, one of the features of which will allow young patients to watch Hawkeye football games from the top floor in the stadium.

I got a number of great looks at the new hospital last night, and I'm giving rave reviews to university officials for the idea.

Little did I know when writing last week's column that the Hawkeyes would pull off a semi-miraculous 14-13 victory over Michigan in the football game.

Like I said, I accompanied Kevin, Donna and Megan on the 5-mile pregame tailgate tour throughout the Iowa campus.

My tailgating menu consisted of one Blue Moon from Kevin and two cookies and a handful of potato chips from Jo and Rick's tent.

We saw and visited with people we knew, people we didn't know and people we might want to know while making the tour.

Everyone was cordial, just the way Hawkeye fans are every Saturday, win or lose.

I fully expected the tailgating and the inspection of the new Children's Hospital building to be the highlights of the night.

Little did I know that Kirk Ferentz would inspire his Hawkeyes, who had lost their previous three home games and had a 5-4 record, to rise up and bring down a Michigan team that had been flexing its muscles all season.

The Wolverines were favored by more than three touchdowns.

Still, the tailgaters I talked with thought Iowa could win.

I didn't.

From my sportswriting years, I knew fans were fans.

They always thought their team could win, even in Frank Lauterbur's disastrous 0-11 season in 1973.

I always dealt with reality when it came to which team was going to win and which team was going to lose.

But what Iowa's victory last night, secured 
when freshman placekicker Keith Duncan--a kid without a football scholarship--booted a 33-yard field goal as time expired, did was chalk up another one for the Iowas of the football world.

I mean, the massive upset came on the same Kinnick Stadium field as when Hayden Fry's 1985 team [then ranked No. 1 nationally] defeated a No. 2-ranked Michigan team coached by Bo Schembechler.

That victory, too, was produced with a last-second field goal. That one a 29-yarder by Rob Houghtlin.

I wrote the game story on that one for the 
paper, and the entire week and night 31 years ago was a highlight of my nearly 40 years at the place.

Strange but true: The Michigan quarterback in 
that 1985 game was Jim Harbaugh, who now is the Wolverines' coach.

A good thing as far as I was concerned about last night's victory was that I didn't have sweat my ass off writing a game story about a historic No. 1 vs. No. 2 game while battling a difficult deadline situation.

All Kevin, Donna, Megan and I did when last night's game finished was watch as thousands of joyous Hawkeye fans stormed the field to celebrate.

Thanks to Kevin for taking the pictures.

Our celebration on the ride home, which
ended at nearly 1 a.m. today, was a dozen doughnuts from a 24-hour place in Coralville.

Man, how times change.

What a beautiful night.

Now the Hawkeyes are even bowl-eligible.

I enjoyed writing this, and thanks for reading it.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Feel-Good Column

The new Children's Hospital at the University of Iowa. Kinnick Stadium is at the right.  Photo courtesy of the University of Iowa


Some of this is personal, some of it isn't.

I'll start by writing that I heard something very interesting while watching a Hawkeye football game on TV a few weeks ago.

I'm not sure what the network was. It could've been ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ABC, the Big Ten...any of 'em.

I didn't watch all of the game, but I'm glad I saw some of it.

One of the announcers mentioned that the new $360 million, 14-floor Children's Hospital at the University of Iowa in Iowa City would soon be opening, and that there would be a very special top floor.

He said the floor would be named the Press Box, and from there kids hospitalized in the building would be able to watch the Hawkeyes play football in nearby Kinnick Stadium.

What a wonderful deal, I thought.

What a wonderful idea.

I'm glad it's happening.

I know the kids will enjoy the games.

Now for the personal stuff.

I spent a week in Children's Hospital at Iowa City a long time ago.

Not the present Children's Hospital, of course.

The former Children's Hospital.

I had just turned 13. 

I had already spent 37 days at St. Luke's Hospital in Cedar Rapids.

The 44 consecutive days in two hospitals in two cities caused me to miss much of one semester of eighth grade at Wilson School in Cedar Rapids.

Children's Hospital in Iowa City in those days wasn't close to the football stadium.

But I got to see a Hawkeye game nonetheless.

Inside the stadium.

It was my first Hawkeye game ever.

My doctors somehow obtained a couple of tickets to the Iowa-Wisconsin game.

They arranged to have a very nice nurse take me to the game. 

It was a cool day in late-October, and she sat with me the entire four quarters.

The Hawkeyes made it a perfect afternoon by beating Wisconsin, 19-13.

I was just a kid then and probably didn't thank the doctors and that wonderful nurse enough after they made arrangements to get me into the stadium for my first Hawkeye game.

There would be many, many other Hawkeye games, of course, that would follow in my sportswriting years.

I don't know if those doctors and that very special nurse are still around, but I'd like to thank them again for making that game when I was 13 one of best things ever to happen to me.

By the way, my kids think I should go to Iowa City with them Saturday night so I can see not only the Iowa-Michigan game, but the new Children's Hospital, too.

I think I will.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Good Eats In Balltown


Sometimes I attend church on Saturday evenings, sometimes on Sunday mornings.

I happened to be there on Sunday this past weekend, and ran into a longtime friend.

I call him Herschel because--as he points out--that's what his parents named him.

On Sundays, Herschel and I try to get together over coffee provided by the church before Bible class starts so we can discuss the most important happenings of the weekend--stuff like his White Sox and my Cubs in the summer and the Hawkeyes and Cyclones in the fall and winter.

Obviously, we had a lot to talk about a few mornings ago, what with the Cubs winning their first World Series  in 108 years and the Hawkeyes and Cyclones experiencing mounting frustrations on the football field.

Herschel also mentioned that he had sent me an email a while back about Balltown, the Iowa community I wrote about many years ago for the paper and a couple of months ago for this website.

Somehow I missed Hershcel's email.

I was probably busy talking to another very good friend of mine about the Amphicar, a vehicle manufactured in the 1960s that was both a car and a boat, and listening to folks named Frank and Edna bitching about how their favorite loaf of bread skyrocketed from $2.99 to $5.98 overnight at HyVee.

I enjoyed writing columns about both the Amphicar and the bread, so now I'll get to the email Herschel sent me about Balltown. Here it is:

"Hi, Ron,

"I still occasionally check your blog and I just read the thing you wrote about Balltown.  I have been there several times along with family, most recently last year.  

"We enjoy eating at Breitbach's [pictured].  They usually have a great buffet.  It is a very popular restaurant and people come from 60 or 70 miles or more to eat there.  It is especially busy in the fall when people come to see the colorful leaves.  

"Right at the west edge of town is a scenic overlook along the highway offering great views of the valley and lowlands below, which are dotted with farm places.  You can also see the Mississippi River several miles in the distance.  The view is quite spectacular this time of the year, so the restaurant is also very busy, especially on weekends.  Tour buses often stop there too for a meal. 

"As you wrote, Breitbach's was considered the oldest restaurant in Iowa.  Unfortunately, you may remember, they had a disastrous fire about 8 or 9 years ago.  They rebuilt, but then it burned again shortly after.  They rebuilt it again and that is now the current building. 

"There always was a full-sized ballfield right behind the restaurant, but I'm not sure if it is still there.  Back in the '50s and '60s, Lowden had a very competitive independent baseball team made up of farmers, businessmen, and whoever else lived in the area that had baseball talent.  In those days they would draw 2,500 people to the games at the field in Lowden.  

"They would also travel to other towns, mostly in northeast Iowa, and they played games in Balltown.  I think they had their own team.  The Lowden team even went to some towns in southeastern Wisconsin, Potosi was one of them, I believe.


"Good to visit with you last Sunday."

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

2016 Cubs Made the 108-Year Wait Worthwhile


I don't mind telling you I'm happy as hell that this thing is finally over.

The Chicago Cubs' 108-year wait between World Series championships, I mean.

Yes, sir, the Cubs finally did it.

They won a World Series for the first time in my lifetime.

The seized the final three games of the 2016 World Series over Cleveland, and can now call themselves world champs.


Tonight's score was 8-7 in 10 innings at Cleveland in maybe the goofiest, craziest, strangest game since Abner Doubleday invented baseball.

Now for some personal stuff.

It starts in 1945 when the Cubs lost the World Series to the Detroit Tigers.

There was no TV in those days, of course.

I was an elementary school kid then.

The games were all in the afternoon, so I'd hurry home from Lincoln School in Cedar Rapids and listen to the final few innings of the games on our radio.

Lots of misery followed.

Not just the lack of a World Series in which to play.  

The lack of success during the regular season.

Any regular season.

I saw my first Cubs game in person in 1948 when Jack Stone's dad, Cliff, drove us to Chicago for a game against St. Louis.

I'm pretty sure the Cubs lost.

More misery after that, too.

In my teen-age years, my mother kept asking me what in the world I was trying to listen to on the radio in our living room.

All we could get in those days were broadcasts on Chicago's WGN-radio. 

Lots of static on 18th Avenue Southwest in Cedar Rapids.

As I recall, the Cubs lost most of those games, too.

Lean times to be sure.

Eventually, the kid grew into an adult 

I sat in the press box at Wrigley Field many times in my more than 40 years as a sportswriter.

I saw more Cub losses than victories.
Sure, I ate the free hot dogs and drank the free Old Style in the press box.

Somehow the dogs and suds seemed to make it easier to digest the losses.

No World Series games for the Cubs in those years, of course.

A number of regular-season games, but no World Series games [until 2016] in my retirement years.

That's why I feel so good now.

Thanks, Cubs.

You made the waiting worthwhile.