Sunday, April 22, 2007

40 years ago: "Fore!"

I know what Ray Schalk did 40 years ago today. This is not a monumental development, but whenever I can pick up a tidbit about the off-the-field activities of the baseball Hall-of-Famer, I enter it on the spreadsheet I use to track his life events. These items can help me weave the story that I intend to make into a full biography.

Thanks to Google Alerts, I was directed to a brief mention of Schalk toward the end of a Daily Southtown article. I now know that Schalk, then 74, played a round of golf at his home course, the Beverly Country Club in south suburban Chicago, on April 22, 1967.

At first glance, there is nothing terribly significant in that -- except that his round with Chris Smits occurred the day after the course and its facilities were severely damaged in a killer tornado. Dozens were killed and hundreds injured -- many of the victims not far from the course.

Apparently Smits and Schalk played around the debris-strewn course, which had nearly three dozen of its large trees uprooted in the twister. They were the only golfers that day.

No word on Schalk's score.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Deadball book subject of web interview

David Jones, editor of Deadball Stars of the American League, which includes my chapter of Red Faber, on Thursday was interviewed by Casey Stern on MLB.com Radio on Thursday. The 10-minute interview was archived. Though Faber, a spitball pitcher was not mentioned, Jones and Stern do discuss the spitball and its impact on the game. The book also has Brian Stevens' chapter on the subject of my next biography, White Sox star Ray Schalk.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Curve ball

After things started to quiet down around the house on Easter afternoon, I resumed my research on my Schalk biography.

Turns out that Ray and the New York Telegram, both deceased, threw me a couple of curve balls that cost me a couple of hours of research time.

In 1929, Schalk described for the New York paper one of the funniest things he ever observed on a baseball diamond.

The situation involved an apparent Washington Senators home run that wasn't. It seems that baserunner Frank Ellerbe hearing the crowd react after teammate Ed Gharrity sent a long drive to left field, thought Chicago's Shoeless Joe Jackson had made a great catch to end the inning. (Actually, the ball cleared the fence on the fly.) Ellerbe stopped running the bases and headed to his defensive position, shortstop, and passed Gharrity, who was making his home-run trot. Passing a teammate is an automatic out, and Gharrity was credited with being the first man to end an inning on a home run.

In the article, the year of the incident was wrong, and the names of the two Senators were misspelled. That makes it tough to do accurate Internet searches. Finally, after straightening out the name spellings, and re-thinking my search parameters, I found accounts of the incident -- which occurred two years later than Schalk stated (1920 instead of 1918). In addition, sportswriters' accounts at the time differed from Schalk's recollection more than eight years later.

The moral of the story is that even witnesses get their facts wrong and that journalists -- then, as now -- can be challenged by name spellings.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Tidbits among the reels

Though my time for such work has been limited, I took a day off Friday (I was "on duty" Saturday) and spent it researching Ray Schalk at the Chicago Public Library.

After about six hours of poring over a hot microfilm reader, I had a few dozen articles from Chicago newspapers (the ones I can't access over the Internet through the Carnegie-Stout subscription to ProQuest Historical Newspapers) about one of the greatest catchers ever.

I found sportswriter Bill Gleason's recollection in the Sun-Times of visiting Schalk's home for an informal get-together that included three aging Hall-of-Famers -- Schalk, Red Faber and special guest Ty Cobb.

I located more information about the tragic death of Schalk's son, Ray Jr., who took his own life just a few months before his father died.

My account of the brazen robbery of Schalk's bowling alley in 1948 -- during which the criminals locked up Schalk, his wife and a couple of dozen employees -- will be more descriptive now that I know the make of Schalk's car (which the robbers also stole).

There are just a few of the tidbits from that fuzzy microfilm that I hope to bring into focus in the Schalk biography.