Wednesday, May 31, 2017

John Sotak


John Sotak got a lot of mention at our pie-and-coffee session today.
It's Wednesday, so the pie was free at Village Inn.
Retired sportswriters and other media types, of course, always know where and when to get a good deal.
I was a lot younger and so was John Sotak when we both worked in the sports department at the paper.
Sotak was mostly a sports news editor, but he sometimes covered the local ballteam at Sec Taylor Stadium. I think the locals were then known as the Iowa Oaks.
The way I recall it, Sotak was from Chicago, and he liked baseball. I mean, he REALLY liked baseball.
He was a fan of the Chicago White Sox. No Cubs crap for him. Notice in the photo [courtesy of Sotak's Facebook page] that he is wearing a White Sox cap.
Somewhere along the line, Sotak decided being a sports news editor and a baseball writer weren't exactly the things he wanted to do with his life.
So he became a Catholic priest.
Quite a career change.
Indeed, Sotak is the only sportswriter and news editor [or newspaper guy, period] I knew, or know, who became a Catholic priest.
According to Sotak's Facebook page, he is still doing what Catholic priests do. The page says he studied journalism at Drake University, and now is a parish priest at St. TuribiusI in Tulsa, Okla.
However, that information evidently is out of date. Dick Lane, a former member of our pie-and-coffee group in West Des Moines, presently lives in Tulsa and informed me that Sotak is now at a parish in Chicago [see the comments below].
Someone in our group today reminded me that, at some point in his life in Des Moines--before he became a priest--Sotak had a pet sheep.
Consequently, Sotak was also the only sportswriter and news editor I knew, or know, who had a pet sheep.
I have no additional information on that.
Needless to say, John Sotak was an unusual guy.
I guess that's why we spent so much time talking about him this afternoon.
By the way, I had blueberry pie ala mode at Village Inn.
It was sensational,

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Judy & Betty



It was great seeing and visiting with relatives Judy Wiseman of Marion and Betty York of Ladora at Megan's graduation bash yesterday.
We all appreciate them making the long round trip drive from eastern Iowa on Memorial Day.
Excellent people, both Judy and Betty.

I'd like to add add a personal note. One of the pleasures of my young adult life many years ago was visiting the Iowa County farm homes of the families of Judy and Betty.
I have vivid memories of Judy and Betty and their wonderful parents, Mart and Irene Timm and Erv and Elizabeth Koehn, all of whom now celebrate their holidays in Heaven.

Megan & Rocky

Ron, Megan and Maxine
Megan and Other Valley Student Managers
Nate and Hanna
Megan's Memories


Among the many visitors to Megan Maly's graduation party on Memorial Day was Rocky Lombardi, who [like Megan], Is a graduate of Valley High School.
Lombardi was a standout quarterback for the Tigers, and will attend Michigan State on a football scholarship.
He said he'll leave in two weeks for the campus in East Lansing, Mich., in preparation for his freshman season.

Megan was a football and basketball student manager at Valley for four years.

Other photos from today's celebration at the West Des Moines Community Schools Learning Resource Center follow the Megan/Rocky picture.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Beautiful Day


It was a spectacular Sunday afternoon at the Knapp Center on the Drake University campus as Megan Maly, the youngest grandchild of Ron and Maxine, received her diploma at Valley High School's graduation ceremony.
Megan celebrated afterward with members of her family. She will continue her education at Northern Iowa in the 2017-2018 school year.
When she begins attending classes in Cedar Falls, all of Ron and Maxine's six grandchildren will either be enrolled in universities or will have already received their university degrees.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Way I See It


I watch a lot of stuff on public television, especially on weekends.
I won't get artsy on you and write that it's just Downton Abbey and documentaries like The Roosevelts, The Civil War and The National Parks produced by Ken Burns in which I'm interested.
I watch those things, too. But what I'm writing about today are more low-key programs like Iowa Ingredient, The Joy of Painting and the woodworking and fix-it shows dealing with things I know absolutely nothing about.

I received a nice paycheck from Iowa Public TV a number of years ago for a weekly sports show I did, but I'm not writing about that today either.
That's an essay for another day.
I'll concern myself with just Iowa Ingredient and The Joy of Painting today.
They differ about as much as any two programs can.
The Joy of Painting is shown at 6 a.m. on Saturdays, Iowa Ingredient is shown at 11:30 a.m. on Saturdays.
Sometimes I'm awake and alert enough to watch both shows.
Iowa Ingredient, a show on which Iowan Charity Nebbe [pictured] appears and does a wonderful job, deals with foods produced in Iowa.
The 42-year-old Nebbe began her career in public radio at WOI in Ames when she was a student at Iowa State.
She continues to do work for Iowa Public Radio. I don't hear her on that, but if she's as smooth on the radio as she is on TV, it's very pleasant listening. Nebbe is a pro at whatever she does.
Nor only does Nebbe appear on the scene when the filming of Iowa Ingredient is done in various parts of the state, she hosts and participates in the cooking of those foods [along with cooks] on segments of each show. Nebbe is a vegetarian.
The Bob Ross painting show at the ridiculous time of 6 o'clock in the morning on Saturdays is totally different.
For one thing, Ross has been dead for 22 years.
Wherever he is now, I'll bet he'd get a charge out of finding out that his painting shows are still appearing on Iowa Public TV.
The Joy of Painting originally appeared on public TV from 1983 through 1994. On each show, Ross paints a scenic picture on canvas, and keeps up a steady flow of conversation while doing it.
He talks about painting things like a happy little tree, a happy little creek and a happy little cloud. He signs off most shows by saying, "Happy painting and God bless."
As far as Bob Ross is concerned, there is nothing sad about life--or painting. Everything is happy.
That can't be all bad. I guess that's why his shows are still on TV 22 years after his death.
Not even Jim Zabel can say that.

Thursday, May 25, 2017


I get into some interesting discussions with my podiatrist when I visit his office every 3 months.
Politics, other doctors, taxes, name it, Stan [not his real name] and I talk about it.
"What do you think of Trump?" Stan asked me this week.

"I try to not think about him," I answered. "You know me, I dislike most presidents. I don't think I've liked any of 'em since Harry Truman."
In the event you skipped school the day your history teacher talked about Harry Truman, he was our president from April 12, 1945 until Jan. 20, 1953.
Good ol' Harry is pictured holding up the front page of the Nov. 3, 1948 Chicago Tribune that said he lost the presidential election to Thomas Dewey, furthering the widespread belief that you can't always believe what's in the paper.
No wonder one of Truman's nicknames was "Give 'Em Hell, Harry."
One final thing. I won't be in Cedar Rapids next Thursday when Trump is there. He'll have to get along without me in my hometown.
I've got more interesting and important things to do--like taking the Miata in for an oil change and getting a couple of cheese enchiladas for lunch at a Mexican restaurant.
As for Stan the podiatrist, he didn't say if he's going to Cedar Rapids or not.
If he goes, I've given him orders to get me a dozen kolaches from Sykora's on The Avenue--6 poppyseed, 2 apricot, 2 cherry and 2 peach.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017



What a horrible situation that was, and still is, in Manchester, England.
As much as I would like to say it's unbelievable that it happened, I know better because awful things like that have been taking place far too many times in far too many places in recent years.
Twenty-two people [many of them young people, one as young as 8] were killed and 60 or so were injured last night when a suicide bomber detonated explosives just as an Ariana Grande concert was ending at Manchester Arena.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. Now reports from news sources of "haphazard" security screening are surfacing.
Indeed, one report said there was virtually no screening as people entered the arena.
I don't attend such concerts, so I don't know if there's much, if any, screening that takes place at musical events in the U.S.
I do know that screening takes place at collegiate football stadiums in this country, and I know that people were screened at the State High School boys basketball tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines earlier this year.
A security guy person asked me what was protruding from the right front pocket in my blue jeans as I entered the basketball arena [it was a hair brush, but I'm glad he asked], and I've seen people screened when they enter Kinnick Stadium at Iowa City.
I have experienced no screening at high school football games in Des Moines and its suburbs.
I fully realize that a lot of us [me included] sometimes grow impatient when we are carefully screened at airports, but maybe that's the type of security that should take place at athletic events and stage plays in the U.S.
If such screening saves one life, it's worthwhile.
This is how I feel now. Sorry to say, in the wake of what is taking place worldwide, I am very reluctant to enter an arena where a basketball game or a stage play are being held.
Until improved screening takes place at venues where large numbers of people will be, I also am very reluctant to have members of my family attend such events.
Of course, the kids and grandkids won't listen to me on this.
They think nothing will ever happen to them.
But that's what those young folks thought when they entered Manchester Arena last night.
It's a sad state of affairs, and I don't know what the future holds.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Folding the Circus Tent


The circus has folded its tent.
After 146 years, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has performed its final show.

In the last act, according to the AP, the circus received a standing ovation tonight in Uniondale, N.Y.

So the Greatest Show on Earth ain't so great anymore.
I'll be honest. I always liked going to a circus.
Like everyone else, I guess, I haven't gone to nearly as many circuses in my adult years as I did when I was a kid.
Attendance has been in a steady decline at circuses in the U.S., and not just because animal rights groups have targeted them for considerable blame in recent years.
People nationwide have found other forms of entertainment. And don't think it's the movies that hurt the circus. Attendance at movie theaters isn't all that hot either.
We even went to the circus in Russia while visiting there a number of years ago.
We heard that tickets were available for a performance by the Moscow Circus, so we went.
It was a good show. No complaints from me.
I checked to see tonight if the Moscow Circus is still in operation, and here's the deal:
It was supposed to open last week, but government safety inspectors have suspended the circus over concerns about the structural strength of the big top.
Count on it I won't be going to the Moscow Circus again until they get that big top thing figured out.
I mean, the last thing I want to do is fold my tent in Russia.

Good for the Tigers


I don't usually pay much attention to track and field--especially the field part of it.
But I did notice on Twitter today that there was a photo of the West Des Moines Valley track and field team that won the class 4-A state boys' state championship yesterday.
Congratulations to the Tigers.

By the way, the reason I never paid much attention to track and field was because I wasn't any good at either track or field.
In other words, I couldn't run very fast or jump very high.
And I still can't.

Friday, May 19, 2017

I Feel Sorry for Uncle Fat


I don't plan to devote many words in this space to the historic $6.5 million the University of Iowa will pay out of athletic department funds to settle discrimination lawsuits filed by Jane Meyer and Tracey Griesbaum, her partner.
Or the first international trip being taken as president by a circus clown named Trump.
Or the lousy May weather in Iowa.
Instead, I'm going to write about a monkey.
A wild monkey from Thailand described as being "morbidly obese."
I tend to feel sorry for people--and animals, too--who fight the battle of the bulge.
And when a monkey is nicknamed Uncle Fat [a name I don't particularly like], you can figure he's got quite an uphill battle.
The AP says Uncle Fat's age is somewhere between 10 and 15, and that he weighs 60 pounds.
Monkeys his age are supposed to weigh only 20 pounds.
Evidently, Uncle Fat has been eating lots of food provided to him by people and other monkeys.
Uncle Fat gorged himself on junk food and soft drinks left behind by tourists.
Other monkeys also fed into Uncle Fat's bad habits.
"He had minions and other monkeys bringing food for him, but he would also redistribute it to younger monkeys," said a veterinarian in charge of the monkey's diet.
"He is now in a critical condition where there is a high-risk of heart disease and diabetes."
To help him lose weight, Uncle Fat's new diet is limited to 14 ounces of lean protein, fruits and vegetables twice a day.
Good luck with the diet, Uncle Fat.
Call, text or email me with how you're doing.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

I Had a Lot Of Help On This One


These peonies were picked before this afternoon's ornery storm visited the neighborhood. I'm not much of a gardener. Heck, I had to ask the girls what kind of flowers the peonies are. I wouldn't know peonies from petunias. I didn't plant the peonies and I didn't pick 'em. Give the credit to Maxine and Karri for the planting and the picking. 

It's tough to find anyone who is optimistic. When I was talking to people this afternoon, I heard the word "impeach" three times.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Ron Maly writes that it was a Mothers Day for the ages. Perfect weather for a perfect day as Mark Maly and his mother Maxine Maly pose for an early-evening photo. Additional Mothers Day photos are also included. Pictured are Maxine with granddaughter Megan Maly; grandson Nate Maly [foreground]; left to right: Polly Maly, Maxine and Ron's daughter-in-law, Maxine, Megan, Donna Maly, Maxine and Ron's daughter-in-law; Maxine and Ron. Obviously, Mothers Day is also a great day for families.

Happy Mothers Day!


A very Happy Mothers Day to mothers everywhere, especially my wife Maxine, and daughters-in-law Julie, Polly and Donna. And a special very Happy Mothers Day to my mother Alice Maly, who left us in 2006 at the age of 94.


Those constant regional and national rankings of cities for one thing after another are a joke.
I don't believe any of them.
In the same week Des Moines received a No. 1 ranking as the best city in the midwest for millennials to live, the paper printed a story saying a whopping 11 homicide cases from the past 2 years in Des Moines remain unsolved.
I wonder what city ranked No. 2 for millennials.

Hanging In There


You know the Chicago Cubs are having a downright disappointing season when I write more about dancing than baseball.
Indeed, retired Cubs catcher David Ross is having a better year than his old team.
Ross and partner Lindsay Arnold have qualified for next week's semifinal round of Dancing With the Stars.
They've lasted a heck of a lot longer on the ABC-TV show than most people expected.
People are finding out that Ross, the guy they call Grandpa, has plenty of swing on the dance floor just like he had on the baseball field.
He's certainly not tripping over his own feet or Lindsay Arnold's feet.
The Cubs, meanwhile, aren't hitting, aren't pitching and aren't winning like they did in 2016 when Ross was one of three catchers on the roster.
Ross, a crowd favorite last season when the Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years and the inspirational leader of the team, is now a fan favorite on the dancing show.
Fan votes count on Dancing With the Stars, so after another stellar performance last night by the Ross/Arnold team, Ross sent out a tweet urging TV viewers to send in more votes for them so they can make it to the finals.
Keep this up and I might suggest that Ross should replace Joe Maddon as the Cubs' manager when the dancing ends.
Like I wrote earlier, Ross is having a better year than than the Cubs, and I kind of like that old line, "What have you done for me lately?"

Monday, May 8, 2017

Well, At Least She Avoided Going To Prison


I haven't heard many people talk about this, but maybe it's because I don't hang around in enough places where they discuss such topics.

It could be that you already know it, but I didn't realize that Emmanuel Macron, the new president of France, is married to a woman 25 years older than he is.
It seems like we're always hearing about 64-year-old guys being involved with 39-year old women, but this ain't that.
I mean, Macron is 39, his wife is 64!
I know, that's starting to sound like Trump's kind of stuff, but with the ages reversed.
What's more, Brigitte Trogneux, Macron's wife, was one of his high school teachers.
It seems that we hear of that kind of stuff regularly in this country, too.
But when it happens in the U.S., the teacher is sent to prison.
I learned from Mangolorean News that Macron met Trogneux in high school when he was 15. She was a 40-year-old married literature teacher and mother of three.
As the couple tells it, Mangolorean says, he pursued her doggedly, and in 11th grade convinced her to help him write a play. The work “brought us together every Friday” and “unleashed an incredible closeness,” she told reporters.
After breaking what was called shocking news of their bond to his parents—Trogneux says the moment when the relationship turned romantic will forever be their “secret”—Macron was shipped off to an elite school in Paris to finish his final year.
“You won’t get rid of me. I will come back and I will marry you,” he told her, according to Mangolorean. The distance did not break them up, and eventually Trogneux left her husband and moved to Paris.
“We’d call each other all the time and spend hours on the phone,” she said. “Bit by bit, he defeated all my resistance, in an amazing way, with patience.”
Sounds to me like that would get the teacher about 15 years in a U.S. slammer.
The young man and the older lady [pictured, courtesy of the Washington Post]] were married in 2007.
Since then, Macron's wife has been trying like heck to look younger than her 64 years.
Trying like heck to look younger doesn't just happen in France, of course. It goes on everywhere.
It's said that the old girl has had at least one facelift and she buys a lot of Botox.
All I know is that when Macron is 60, his wife will be 85.
Positive thinker that I am, I wish 'em well.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Kathy and Dave Wessel Die 2 Months Apart

I was saddened to learn of the death of 81-year-old Dave Wessel, a longtime Iowa high school basketball coach whose West Davenport teams won state championships in 1971 and 1994.

Wessel's coaching career began at West Branch High School, and he wound up winning more than 400 games throughout his career.

My memories of Dave go back a long way.

He and I grew up in Cedar Rapids, and one of the first times we visited was when his family and mine vacationed during the same week one summer in Delhi, IA, when both of us were kids.
My parents and his didn't plan the vacation that way. It just happened.
Dave [who is pictured] and I attended different high schools on the west side of Cedar Rapids. He was a standout football and basketball player at Roosevelt; I did the best I could at a couple of sports at Wilson.
Let's put it this way. I was a quick learner. I knew very early that my future in athletics was not as a collegiate player or coach.
After graduating from Roosevelt, Wessel received a football scholarship from Drake University, then transferred after one year to Coe College in Cedar Rapids [where he was a standout in football].
The last time I visited with Dave and his wife, Kathy, were at my wife's Roosevelt reunion three years ago in Cedar Rapids. Kathy died this past March, Dave died Friday of leukemia.
Both Kathy and Dave were wonderful people. The world is better because of them.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Forget Those Inrerviews At Lowe's and Home Depot


It's just a guess, but l'm thinking Jane Meyer, Des Moines' newest millionaire, will be able to cancel those job interviews she may have scheduled at Lowe's and Home Depot.

Happenings At the Doctor' s Office


I went to see a doctor the other day.
No big deal. A routine checkup.
First the preliminary stuff.

Give 'em some blood out of the left arm. Let 'em check my blood pressure in the right arm.
Pleasant conversations with the girl doing the bloodwork and the other girl taking my blood pressure.
I'm never sure if the people doing that kind of work are nurses or technicians. That's why I refer to them as girls.
Guys my age are permitted to do that.
Usually those procedures are performed separately in a doctor's office.
Not this time.
There I was, sitting on the table with one girl dealing with the blood pressure cuff on my right arm, the other girl taking blood out of my left arm.
At the same time.
Suddenly the girl doing the bloodwork asks me, "How long have you had curly hair?"
"As far as I know, since the day I was born," I replied.
"I wish I had curly hair," the girl said.
My conversation with the doctor went well, too.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Those Front Pages


There are a couple of reasons why I liked yesterday's paper.
One was the fact that there was a special section titled Historic Front Pages.
The other reason was that my byline and my story were on one of those pages.
In all, there were 9 front pages in the section, including those documenting the ends of both World Wars I and II, a man walking on the moon, Richard Nixon resigning as president and the Pope visiting Iowa.
All were tremendously significant accomplishments.
But the one that caught my eye was the only sports section front page that was included.
It was from the Sept. 18, 1977 paper.. The headline on Page One of the sports section read:
Chronicled below that headline were 4 stories detailing Iowa's victory over Iowa State the day before in the renewal, after 43 years, of the football series played between teams representing our state's two largest universities.
And, at the top of the page, were these words:
For all of you longtime readers of the Des Moines Sunday Register, you know what those words meant.
At that time, the Sunday paper's sports section was called The Big Peach because the pages were colored peach.
The peach-colored paper has been gone a long time, but I'm still asked by folks who miss The Big Peach why it went by the wayside and if it's ever going to come back.
The reason it died was that peach-colored paper cost more money than white paper.
And, no, I don't look for The Big Peach to return.
For the same reason.
I recall that Sept. 17, 1977 Iowa-Iowa State football gave vividly.
I had spent the week leading up to the game living in Iowa City, interviewing coaches, players and athletic department officials, visiting bars, visiting restaurants, attending press conferences and detailing everything that went on from the Hawkeyes' perspective leading up to The Big Game.
So, naturally, I covered the Iowa aspect of the game when it was played Saturday afternoon, Sept. 17, 1977.
Buck Turnbull covered the Iowa State angle, Chuck Offenburger and Larry Eckholt wrote about the fans and Maury White wrote the game story.
If it seemed like we had most of the newsroom staff in Iowa City that day, you're right.
I think almost everyone, including two copy girls and the night janitor made the trip.
Hey, don't forget, the Hawkeyes and Cyclones hadn't played since 1934, and it almost took an Act of Cngress to make it happen.
So, yes, it was a big deal.
As the banner headline in the Sunday paper said, defense was a key for underdog Iowa in the football slugfest that was televised by ABC.
Indeed, neither team scored in the last half after Iowa had taken a12-10 lead--thanks to a 77-yard touchdown scamper by Dennis Mosley..
Iowa's quarterback was Bob Commings, jr., the son of Hawkeye coach Bob Commings.
I don't know who was happier when the game ended--the dad or the kid.
I had forgotten that Iowa's fans tore down the goalposts following the game, but I saw it happen on some videotape of the highlights I just saw.
The crowd was absolutely electric. Iowa's fans were loud, Iowa State's fans were loud.
For all I know, my friend Paul Glahn might've been there, wearing his black-and-gold outfit while screaming for the Hawkeyes. I'll check with him the next time I see him at church.
An aspect of the game, and something that motivated Iowa throughout the afternoon, was the uniforms Iowa State's players wore.
Printed across the front of their jerseys were the words BEAT IOWA, shown in the accompanying photo.
So on every offensive and defensive play, the Hawkeyes had to stare at those words before the football was snapped.
In retrospect, Iowa State's players should never been outfitted with those uniforms by Earle Bruce, their coach.
Keep in mind that Bruce was a very good coach. Indeed, one of the best Iowa State has ever had.
But, following that game, those jerseys never surfaced again.
Rumor at the time had it that the BEAT IOWA jerseys could've been thrown out of the windows of the team bus by the players on the trip back to Ames following the game, given away at a garage sale near the campus the day after the game or torched at the homecoming bonfire later in the 1977 season.
All in all, it was quite a day and quite a week for me in Iowa City nearly 40 years ago.
And it was quite a football game the Hawkeyes and Cyclones played.
I'm glad Page One of the Sept. 18, 1977 sports section was chosen as one of the paper's Historic Front Pages.