Goodbye to the “Heater from Van Meter”

16 12 2010

Bob Feller died last night at the age of 92. Among the things that could be easily argued include that he was Iowa’s most famous athlete, and one of major league baseball’s best pitchers ever.

My first experience with Bob Feller was when I was younger. He stopped in Mason City at a local shop, making an appearance to sign autographs.  I went down to see him, but at that age I didn’t understand the concept of former players making some cash from people coming to see them and paying to get an autograph. Feller was known for having a rough edge at times, and I got to see it that day up close when I got a full explanation about how he was there to sign things for a fee, and that I wouldn’t be getting any type of autograph without paying for it. Of course I didn’t understand and thought he was a mean guy at that point, but of course later in life I realized that I didn’t understand the “autograph industry” at the age of 9 or 10.

Fast forward to the months leading up to the Iowa Caucuses in 2004. Feller was part of the campaign of Democrat Senator and former Cleveland mayor Dennis Kucinich, and Kucinich knew that having his friend Feller tag along to sign autographs as part of a stop at a Mason City restaurant would be a good thing. Kucinich had a good crowd that day, but I wondered while reporting on the event how many people were there to see the man who wanted to be president and how many were there to see one of their favorite Iowans. And for those who are wondering…no, I didn’t ask for an autograph, and I didn’t remind him of the story of him giving me a lecture on autographs when I was a kid.

I also wonder this morning if today’s athletes would put their career on hold if our country was thrown into a major war like Feller did. Feller was on his way to sign a new contract with Cleveland when he heard the news about the attack on Pearl Harbor. Feller diverted from his trip to Cleveland and became the first active major league baseball player to volunteer for the service, signing up to serve in the Navy. He served as a Gun Captain on the USS Alabama, earning eight battle stars and five campaign ribbons. He is the only Chief Petty Officer that is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Feller talked about some of his experience of being in the Navy in World War Two in this video from 2008.

Looking at Feller’s stats, it’s obvious that he put country ahead of baseball. Feller won at least 20 games in the three seasons before and the two seasons after the war. I estimate that he would have had about 93 more wins, putting him seventh best ever in career wins with 359. Also in that lost time he should have had about 950 more strikeouts, putting him around 7th to 8th best. In the day of multi-million dollar contracts and egos, I do wonder if today’s athletes would put aside the money and fame of climbing the career stat lists like Bob Feller did in the prime of his career.

Feller kept in great health until recently. He pitched in the 2009 Hall of Fame old-timers game at the age of 90.

The Feller Museum in Van Meter is someplace I have not visited, but must put that on my list of places to go in the near future.


High school football playoffs not watered down…

22 11 2010

Some people continued to complain about the expanded playoff format for high school football this year. Those complaints directed my way fell on deaf ears and have for the last couple of years. Yes, when they announced the expansion of the playoffs starting three years ago, I was skeptical at first that it was going to water down the playoffs. After three years of the playoffs, I’m not turning back. There are several examples of why an expanded playoffs works for Iowa. I know I’m not going to be able to sell all of you on the idea of why it works, but I certainly hope before the end of this to sway you in my direction.



== Pella 2009, Dike-New Hartford 2010

Pella finished second for the Class 3A state championship in 2009 (I goofed, thanks to Jeff Moss for correcting my wishful thinking about Pella beating Harlan). Under the old format, they would have been left for dead at the side of the road after the fifth week. Pella lost two of their first three district games and ended up with a 4-3 district record, finishing fourth in their district. 6-3 Pella went on to beat an 8-1 Williamsburg team, a district champion, in the first round (it was termed as the “substate” round, but has since been recognized as a full round of the playoffs by the IHSAA)…a 9-1 Grinnell team in the second round, an 11-0 Centerville team in the quarterfinals, a 10-2 New Hampton team in the semis, and then losing to a 13-0 Harlan team in the championship game. Once again, under the old rules, this team isn’t given a chance to be state champions, and they are just going through the motions in weeks 7-8-9 in anticipation of the banquet a week or so after the final game.


Dike-New Hartford this year. Yes, they got thumped in the 1A championship game by traditional power West Lyon, but they aren’t there in the end if a third-place district team isn’t allowed to qualify.



== Three teams at 6-1

The district Clear Lake’s district was matched up with in the playoffs had three teams with 6-1 district records and one team with a 4-3 district record. Decorah, West Delaware and Waverly-Shell Rock each had their loss inside that trio of schools (Decorah to Waverly, Waverly to West Delaware, West Delaware to Decorah). Under the old format, whoever ended up being in third place with the tiebreaker was left out. Then you’d wonder why a team that was possibly 8-1 overall and 6-1 in their district was being left out of the playoffs, while a team with a 5-2 district record and 5-4 overall record was being allowed in? The only team from District 4 not to win their first round game this year was Oelwein, who you can honestly say had Clear Lake on the ropes for three-plus quarters. Look back to our Dike-New Hartford example of this year (it wasn’t a three-way tie) of a third-place team taking home a big trophy and some pride in being runner-up.




== Some districts have more quality teams in them that others. I think this truly shows in the number of #3 and #4 seeded teams beating #1s and #2s in the first round of the playoffs (Classes 3A thru 8-Man) in the first three years of the expanded playoffs, as well as the number of lower seeds knocking off higher seeds in the 4A playoffs:


            — 2010

8-Man — 3

Class A — 4

Class 1A — 3

Class 2A — 2

Class 3A — 4 (including a #1 seed, a 9-0 team losing to a 5-4 team)

Class 4A (higher losing to lower seed) — 4 (including two 3-6 teams winning, beating a 9-0 team and an 8-1 team)


Total number of lower seeds beating higher seeds in first round — 20

Percentage of lower seeds beating higher seeds in first round (96 games) — 20.8%



            — 2009

8-Man — 3 (including a #1 seed, a 9-0 team losing to a 3-6 team)

Class A — 2

Class 1A — 5

Class 2A — 2

Class 3A – 4

Class 4A — 4 (including a 4-5 over an 8-1)


Total number of lower seeds beating higher seeds in first round — 20

Percentage of lower seeds beating higher seeds in first round (96 games) — 20.8%



            — 2008

8-Man — 4

Class A — 4 (including a #1 seed, a 5-4 team beating a 7-2)

Class 1A — 2

Class 2A — 5

Class 3A — 4 (including a #1 seed, a 5-4 New Hampton team beating a 9-0 squad)

Class 4A — 2 (including a 4-5 over an 8-1)


Total number of lower seeds beating higher seeds in first round — 21

Percentage of lower seeds beating higher seeds in first round (96 games) — 21.9%



I personally think that a 20% success rate of lowers seeds beating higher seeds is substantial proof that the playoffs are not watered down in this format, and you see several notations above that show that a 9-0 or 8-1 team is not guaranteed a cakewalk in their first round game.



That being said, congrats to all the area teams, and congrats to the championship teams in each class. The Iowa City area definitely shines in the football spotlight with two champions (Regina, Solon) and one very close runner-up (City High losing in overtime) playing under the dome this past weekend.

Trust me, it wasn’t the idea of strip clubs that kept me away…

18 11 2010

Well, I hate to admit again, haven’t been very good at doing the blog thing on a timely basis, but now that my favorite two seasons that clash together…high school football and “political”…are behind me, maybe I can update this a little bit more that I have in the past, and I apologize to you that followed the first few postings only to see me go into an extended hiatus with this..



This week’s meeting of the Mason City City Council wasn’t a record-breaker on the clock…3 hours and 38 minutes, including the public comment session after the business portion of the meeting (click here to listen/download the entire meeting and public comment) …but it certainly saw one of the larger crowds in recent memory to a council meeting. NIACC buildings officials had to be called in to expand the room at the Muse-Norris Conference Center. The council has been using two-thirds of the total space for meetings, but an overflow crowd of about 125 people meant the other third had to be opened up. Most were there to listen to the council deliberate the issue of adult-use businesses, mainly with the concept brought forth during the November 2nd meeting by Max Weaver to change the zoning in the downtown area to allow so-called “gentlemen’s clubs”. The council shot down the idea of allowing city staff to further look into the issue…Weaver in the end voted against that proposal…but even after this vote, I find a number of people inside and outside the community are thinking that adult-use businesses won’t be allowed anywhere in the community, especially after we’ve reported that fact in a story late last week.



As we reported on November 11th and 12th, under the current zoning laws, there are several areas of the city that already could allow strip joints. Mayor Eric Bookmeyer last week not only stated that he would veto any movement forward with looking into rezoning downtown to allow adult uses, but also pointed out places in the community where such places could be put, either “by right” under the current zoning, or by having a conditional use permit awarded in some certain spots.



Bookmeyer presented us a map that shows where those spots could go, and some spots may even surprise you on where those businesses can go. To allow you to see the map and zoom in on specific areas, click on this link to open up a PDF file of the map.



Even if downtown was rezoned to allow adult uses, is it really likely that in today’s climate that someone is going to set up shop downtown? Probably not. City Planner Tricia Sandahl reminds us, in her words from a memo to city staff, that “owners of adult businesses generally do not like downtown locations because they do not offer any anonymity to their customers.” Take the area inside the US Highway 65 loop. Is there really any spot inside that area where you would set up shop if you were going to bring in a strip club?



It will be interesting to see, even after this flare-up of local politics and Mason City getting itself into the bad national spotlight again for the second time in six months, if anybody will take the chance of establishing an adult business in one of those spots where according to zoning laws they can.

Clear Lake Lions football — Week 1 preview

27 08 2010

Off to football season we go starting today. Friday mornings each week I’ll try to put down some of my thoughts and direct you to some of the links that will provide you with more. I’ll also during the weekend after each game provide a bit of a summary/thoughts on this blog.

First of all, there’s always a stack of notes as well as starters that I put together, you can find those this year at this link. You can also find the link at that website to listen to the broadcast as well tonight.

Charles City seems to have been one of the tougher opponents for Clear Lake throughout the last ten years. Yes, there was a stretch between 2006-2008 where the Lions did show dominance, but if you subtract the four games played in those three years (three regular season, one playoff), the winning margin of difference in the series since 2003 is about six points. Charles City is coming off of the high of a strong finish in baseball, and facing the Lions right out of the gate might mean a tough ballgame for Clear Lake tonight on the road.

Lions fans will be eager to see how Ozzie Adams handles the quarterback position as a junior, helped by a pair of senior running backs that combined for about a thousand yards last season in Paxton Farmer and Elliott Neuberger.

Clear Lake holds an 18-15 overall record in the series, with a 10-8 record when games are played in Charles City.

The Lions JV started out the season last night with a come from behind 35-27 win over Charles City.

Our pre-game on AM-1490 KRIB starts at 6:45. Game at 7:30. Stayed tuned after the game for the Radio Iowa Football Friday Night scoreboard program from 10:00-11:30.

Was on hiatus, but am now back…

25 08 2010

 I had the gut feeling that there might be lapses in my blogging, but my goal is to get back in the swing of things with the start of high school football this week. How about a bit of a recap in things in the last month since my previous posting (I’ll try to go in chronological order)….

DixieFest (July 24-25)….
It was another great weekend at the Lakeside DixieFest in Clear Lake. There were a number of wonderful groups from the Midwest that entertained a full City Park next to the lake. If you’ve never been to the event, make sure you mark the last full weekend in July down on your calendar for next year.

State baseball (ended July 30-31)…
North-central Iowa saw a great showing at state baseball. It was tough to see Troy Rood’s Mason City High club finish the way they did in the semifinal round, just like Tony Adams’ Newman ballclub did the day before. Congrats to Charles City for making it into the final before their loss. Congrats to those clubs for making it into the state tournament.

MCHS Class of 1990 reunion (July 30-31)…
Fun was had by all (I think) at my 20 year class reunion. I worked with three other great classmates on putting together the event, and was able to see a number of people that I had not talked with from anywhere between 10 years to even more than 20 years ago, as we had some classmates that moved away and didn’t finish with us that came back to Mason City for the celebration. Surprisingly enough, I don’t think there was one person who mentioned the Obama/Hitler/Lenin billboard that was up in downtown Mason City earlier in the month.

Vacation (August 17-24)….
It was a mix of taking some “day-trips” and sleeping in (had to say it since everybody’s favorite question is “when do you sleep?”). A couple of the more interesting experiences included last Wednesday’s trip to Dubuque, stopping by the Lake Delhi area to see the devastation of the area from the dam break. I could try to describe it with words, but the best way is for you to see the photos of where the lake water used to be, mangled boat lifts and other destruction by showing you the photos at this link

This past weekend I also had quite an experience as well, sitting in “Champions Club” level seats at Target Field in Minneapolis for the Twins-Angels game on Saturday. Pricy tickets (thanks to my brother-in-law for flipping for them), but definitely one of those things that if you are a baseball fan that enjoys going out and enjoying a ballgame that you will want to consider in the future.

What’s next….
High school football season starts this week. Friday mornings throughout the season I’ll try to be blogging at least a little bit of a preview of the Clear Lake game to come that night.

Photos, Tim McCarver, Tractor Ride

20 07 2010

Did I mention in my last blog posting that things were busy? I guess the last 20 days have been full of things and I haven’t been able to write up a blog, so I figured I better try to do share some of my thoughts on things going on throughout the area.

=== Taking photos

Last Tuesday morning I took two photos. I’m not going to sit here and say I’m a professional photographer or anything. One nobody ended up seeing, the other ended up on the Radio Iowa and ABC News websites and a few others worldwide.

Pulling out of my driveway in the 4 o’clock hour of the morning and heading to work, I looked over to my right, and I thought I saw something or somebody on the sidewalk, staring at me. I was startled and had to flash the brights to make sure that it wasn’t some goofball roaming the neighborhood looking to cause trouble. It just happened to be a deer. I stayed in the same spot in the street for about a minute, not sure whether it was going to cross my path or not. At that point, I thought it would be a great idea to get the cell phone out and snap a shot with the camera in it. Obviously I had forgotten to turn the settings back to automatic flash. So I took a picture which ended up being a dark nothing. The deer after standing there moved right up the sidewalk, just like it was on a Sunday stroll.

Do you think we still have a deer problem in the state? I hit one with my old car in March 2009. Here’s a picture I took just off of downtown Mason City in the Rock Glen area back on June 23rd shortly before 9:00 PM. Will there ever be a solution to the problem?


 Anyway, the second photo I took last Tuesday morning, you can go here to take a look at that one.


=== North Iowa Tea Party and….Tim McCarver?

As a regular reader of Michael Hiestand’s “Sports Television” column in USA Today, I noticed from his Monday column that the North Iowa Tea Party wasn’t the only one making references to the Hitler and Lenin eras.

Say what?  It should probably go without saying that it’s not a great idea to compare sports front office moves with, say, killings in the Nazi and Soviet systems. But Fox’s Tim McCarver did just that during the network’s coverage of Tampa Bay Rays-New York Yankees on Saturday. In saying there was no sign of former manager Joe Torre at Yankee Stadium, McCarver made an analogy to “despotic leaders in World War II, primarily in Russia and Germany” who, after shooting some of their generals, then “airbrushed the generals out of pictures. In a sense, that’s what the Yankees have done with Joe Torre.”

Yikes. Kind of a stretch to compare Torre’s fate — he now manages the Los Angeles Dodgers— to those of military officers executed by their own governments. The Dodgers aren’t that bad.


=== KGLO/KWMT Tractor Ride

 The 9th annual Tractor Ride is underway, cloverleafing out of Iowa Falls. You can keep up to date with the ride on the event’s Facebook page.

30 06 2010

Busy busy busy…

The one thing I feared when I started a blog happened…that I’d have some lapses in posts. Well it’s been quite an interesting two weeks, highlighted by a lot of severe weather, some ballgames and other things. June 17th saw the tornadoes hit in Freeborn County Minnesota, and then last Wednesday morning I was wrapping up an “all-nighter” from overnight Tuesday into Wednesday after flash flooding and storms hit the area. I think it’s the first time since operations moved from our old 19th SW location into Radio Park that I’ve pulled an all-nighter. One of those things that you sometimes just have to do.


That’s how my radar screen looked at 11:00 PM on Tuesday night June 22nd with the storms pushing through. The pink boxes are tornado warnings, the yellow boxes are severe thunderstorm warnings. The red balloons are either funnel cloud or tornado reports in the last few hours, while the green balloons with the white dots are hail reports.

I always hate to say that for the most part I enjoy doing severe weather coverage. I guess it’s more the fact of passing along information immediately to listeners and doing the “fly by the seat of your pants” radio at times when it’s warning after warning after warning like we saw several days in the last two weeks. I know some of you have passed along your compliments about our severe weather coverage and I thank you for those.

The baseball bounces…

An interesting last 72 hours in high school baseball in Cerro Gordo County. Mason City High extended their streak of wins over Newman Catholic on Sunday at Roosevelt Field with a 4-2 win. Then last night, Clear Lake pulled out some seventh inning magic and found a way to score four times in the seventh for a 5-4 win over the Mohawks in their annual Cerro Gordo showdown. It was the first time Clear Lake had beaten the Mohawks since a then #10/3A Lions club knocked off a freshly-ranked #1/4A team back in 2003 at Roosevelt Field in Mason City. Some debated after the game whether or not last night’s win was one of the biggest in Clear Lake history. It for sure was one of the most dramatic finishes I’ve done of a Clear Lake baseball game.

I have a feeling both teams will take last night’s game and move forward in grand fashion for the rest of the year. Clear Lake is looking for a second place finish in the North Central Conference. After a loss on Monday night to Hampton-Dumont, the Lions have three conference losses, and Hampton-Dumont’s best chance of being dealt a second loss in conference play was dashed last night as the Bulldogs came back from a 4-0 deficit to re-start a suspended game to beat Algona in extra innings. Hampton-Dumont only has one loss in the conference, and the planets will have to align correctly at this point for the Bulldogs to drop three of their final conference games with the hope that Clear Lake could win out in their conference schedule. Not likely, but not many gave the Lions a chance to knock off the Mohawks last night heading into the game, let alone going into the bottom of the seventh.

For Mason City, it may be one of those good reminders that a team can’t shift into cruise control after opening up with winning 22 of their first 26 games. Troy Rood wants to see his club win a conference title as well as a state title. I have a feeling it’s good things from here on out for the Mohawks, but people also must remember that the CIML Iowa Conference equals quality baseball, and that a loss or two shouldn’t be the end of the world for MCHS.

 You can listen back to comments from Clear Lake coach Seth Thompson and Rood by clicking here