Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Truman's 1947 Diary

I used to have this fantasy where I gained access to the Harry S. Truman archives and discovered a reference to the Roswell incident. You know the bit. I ask to see some papers for a "book I'm writing" and the ambivalent attendant brings me everything he's got and more. I discover a non-descript Manila folder from 1947. It smells musty. In a long forgotten memo, sandwiched between newspaper clippings and boring missives on the state of the White House restoration effort, a brief memo with the President's seal mentions the flying saucer recovery effort in the New Mexico dessert. I glance around to make sure I am alone in the stacks, remove my Minox spy camera, and snap a picture of the first official acknowledgement of the legendary cover-up. Later, I appear on the Donahue show and have Thanksgiving with Whitley Strieber.

It never happened. I always meant to front that fake book idea and drive over to Independence, but do you have any idea how hard it is to get prints made for Minox snaps?

Imagine my delight when the article I was searching for in my deep purple conspiracy dreams was found at the Truman Library recently. Some curious soul found Truman's 1947 diary in a heap of books. Best of all, they transcribed it on line. I quickly turned to the July entries and found that he made no mention of anything extra-terrestrial. Too bad.

There's nothing during the Roswell window. The Truman entries stop July 6th and don't resume until July 21st. Hmm. Furthermore, the 7/21 entry is loose-leaf. The next entry in the book is July 23rd. Is it possible the Roswell entries were removed after Truman wrote them? Perhaps. Maybe it looked like this:

July 10th - Sorry I haven't written. I've just been so busy with work and the commie menace. Just returned from Ft. Worth and a review of the "little green men". I don't know who smells worse, the dead aliens or General Blanchard.

[J. Edgar] Hoover stopped by to tell me who's gay in Hollywood. Bess was not amused by his joke about Edith Head giving good costume.

Or this:

July 14th - Was playing poker with the boys when Rose delivered an update on the flying disk salvage in N.M. It was so shocking I folded with three tens off the deal. It doesn't use gasoline and there aren't any cup holders. Detroit's not gonna like it.

Phoned De Gaulle to wish him and Madame De G. a happy Bastille Day. Forgot about the time difference and ended up waking his French butt out of bed. Played the piano in cross hall until 11pm. Had ice cream in the kitchen, did 25 push-ups, and so to bed.

Monday, November 22, 2004

River City Reunion - Lineup

River City Reunion - September 1987 in Lawrence, Kansas. Roster part two. Here's part one in case you missed it.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Lets Riff

First there was Mad Movies, then Mystery Science Theatre 3000 came along. Now there's Cheap Seats.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Q & A With Rob Neyer

Rob Neyer is a baseball columnist with ESPN.com and the author of four baseball books. He's a former K.U. student and long-time Kansas City Royals fan. His new book is The Neyer/James Guide To Pitchers by Bill James and Rob Neyer.

FJ: I was looking over some old Royals box scores from the late 70s and was shocked to discover that George Brett was not a fixture in the three hole. He batted lead off, 2nd, 5th, all over. Looking back at the Royals of the 70s glory years, what statistic surprises you the most?
RN: Hmmm, that’s a tough one. But I suppose what surprises me the most is that during the two years both of us were in Kansas City, John Mayberry wasn’t a particularly good hitter. He’d been a great hitter in 1972, ’73, and again in ’75. But in ’76 he stopped hitting for average, and never really got back to where he’d been.

FJ: As a kid, describe the moment when the Kansas City Royals became your team?
RN: That’s hard to say. I only vaguely remember my first Royals game, which would have been in the spring of ’76, and we had good seats behind third base. The Royals were very good, of course, and I’d never really had a favorite team before.

FJ: What town did you move to after your family relocated from the upper Midwest?
RN: In the winter of 1975/76 (or perhaps the early spring of ’76), we moved to Raymore, Missouri. A year later my parents split up, and my mom, my younger brother and I moved to Lenexa.

FJ: Although you get paid to follow baseball, I'm guessing you're also a K.U. basketball fan. How do you keep up with the team these days?
RN: Obsessively, at least from November through March. I don’t pay much attention to all the recruiting stories during the baseball season, because I have a lot of other things on my mind. But once the games actually start, I put all of them on my calendar and do whatever I can to clear my schedule and watch on TV.

FJ: What do you miss the most about living in Lawrence?
RN: Gosh, that’s a tough one. I miss the summer sounds, the crickets and the cicadas. I miss walking around campus on a crisp autumn day. I miss walking around in the stacks at Watson Library. I miss a lot of stuff. But I’m sure I’ve romanticized things and would be disappointed if I moved back (which I do consider from time to time).

FJ: Were you in Lawrence the night we beat Oklahoma for the NCAA championship in 1988? If so, what are your recollections of that night?
RN: Oh, that’s another big thing I miss: Saturday afternoons inside Allen Field House. And yes, I was in Lawrence on that glorious evening. We – my girlfriend and my roommates – did what everybody else did: we walked to the top of Mount Oread and ran around screaming until we got tired, and then we walked home.

FJ: What's the best literature course you took at K.U.? Or if you didn't take any literature courses, who was your favorite K.U. instructor?
RN: My favorite literature course was (naturally) The Literature of Baseball, taught by Jim Carothers. I enjoyed the class, and it was one of the few that I took seriously during my time as a student. But I never felt particularly close to Carothers, perhaps because there were a few hundred students (it was very popular with the Greek set). I had a history professor that I liked quite a lot, though I can’t remember her name. But my favorite instructor was Burdett Loomis, a brilliant poly sci professor who’s still teaching at KU. It’s funny, I saw him a couple of years ago in Seattle and he looked exactly the same as he did twenty years ago, when I took my first class with him.

FJ: We had a mutual acquaintance named Mike Kopf. I knew Mike as a volunteer at the Kansas Audio Reader Network with a passion for reading baseball stories. How did you know Mike?
RN: Mike ran a little second-hand bookshop inside Quantrill’s Flea Market (which I believe doesn’t exist these days). Mike, being a baseball fan, carried a nice selection of baseball books, so I dropped in occasionally and bought what I could afford (which in those days wasn’t much). I also noticed that Mike was listed in the membership directory of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), so eventually I introduced myself and we struck up a friendship. Mike later was instrumental in me getting my job with Bill James, without which you and I wouldn’t be chatting now.

FJ: About the time you went to work for Bill James, he quit writing the yearly abstract. Did you know of that development going into the job? Were you disappointed at the time?
RN: Sure, I knew. Bill had announced his “retirement” in the 1988 Abstract, which was published seven or eight months before I interviewed for the job. I was disappointed when I first learned that the Abstract was dead, but that didn’t have anything to do with my job. In fact, it was probably the best thing that could have happened to me, because I’m a better writer and editor than analyst, and if Bill had continued with the Abstract I probably wouldn’t have been much use to him.

FJ: What's the most misused or abused statistic in baseball today.
RN: Oh gee, there are so many . . . Seriously, we’re smarter than we used to be. But I suppose it’s wins and losses, as applied to individual performance. I’ll never get over the fact that in 2003, three MVP voters really believed that Shannon Stewart was the most valuable player in the American League. I mean, that just defies belief. But it happened.

FJ: I can't stand it when a sportscaster or interviewee turns a unique entity into a generic quanity. For example, when somebody says "a Pat Sheridan" or "a Cookie Rojas". Care to share your favorite sportsese pet peeve?
RN: Yeah, that’s a good one. Or a bad one, really. My favorite? Nothing occurs to me at the moment, but here’s something that does make me cringe . . . I can’t stand it when a baseball writer repeats something he’s been told without even thinking to question whether the assertion is actually true or not. It’s intellectual laziness, and it’s something that all of us should remember, every day, to fight with every ounce of energy that we’ve got. All of us fail, of course, but we should do better.

FJ: Tell us about your latest book, The Neyer/James Guide To Pitchers.
RN: How many words can I have? Essentially, if you want to know who invented the curveball and who’s thrown the best curveballs over the years, this is the book for you. If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to be the umpire when Sandy Koufax pitched, this is the book for you. If you want to know what nearly 2,000 pitchers threw, this is the book for you. Bill and I packed as many facts about pitchers and pitching as we could into nearly 500 pages.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The River City Reunion took place in Lawrence Kansas in September of 1987. It featured an impressive line-up of artists. Here's the first part of the program for your amusement.