Posts Tagged 'Sports'

The Bowling Ball That Went Around the World (5-28-1914)

Guest Post from The Oldest Chicagoan

Brunswick is a famous Chicago company.  They make bowling and billiards equipment.  In 1914 they came up with a new advertising stunt.  They were going to send a bowling ball around the world.

People didn’t travel much then—not even 50 miles, never mind around the world.  But there were YMCAs in all the British colonies.  So Brunswick planned to ship one of their Mineralite model balls from one YMCA to another, and the ball would get around the world that way.

Simple—and great publicity!  People would read about the ball as it moved from one place to the next.  When it got back to America, Brunswick would put it on display at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco.

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So Brunswick Mineralite #391914 leaves Chicago for San Francisco on May 28, 1914, and gets to ‘Frisco two days later.  They bowl a match at the YMCA, then the ball goes back across the U.S. to New York.

At New York they put the ball on a ship and it goes to London.  There’s another ceremony there.  Next the ball is off to Berlin, for the big international bowling tournament.

Now things get complicated.

While the ball is on its way to Berlin, war breaks out between Britain and Germany—a little scrap called World War One.  The Brunswick ball arrives, and the Germans are suspicious.  Most of them have never seen a big, American-style bowling ball.  They think it’s a bomb.  They send it back.

Somehow, the ball winds up in Paris.  It sits around for a few months, then back it goes to London.  This time the Brits put it on a boat for India, and it gets to Bombay in November.

In Bombay, the ball is put on another boat heading for Sidney, Australia.  And that boat sinks.  It’s all over.

But no!  It turns out that the ball missed the boat that sank.  It’s still safe in India!

Anyway, the ball eventually gets to Australia, and from there it goes across the Pacific to San Francisco.  And in May 1915, the world-traveling bowling ball is proudly displayed at the Brunswick booth at the fair.

Then the fair closes, and after all that trouble, they lose the ball!  It’s missing for 19 years.  But in 1934, somebody finds #391914 in a warehouse.  And it finally returns to Chicago, just in time for our Century of Progress fair.

Where’s this famous bowling ball now?  Beats me!  Maybe it’s in that warehouse in the last scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark.  So I suppose we’ll have to have another world’s fair for it to show up again.

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Lost Landmark: Evergreen Country Club

April is here. The golf clubs come out of the basement and into my car’s trunk. And yet the time is bittersweet. I’m starting another season without my favorite course—Evergreen Country Club.

Evergreen was located at Western Avenue and 91st Street in Evergreen Park. It wasn’t fancy and it wasn’t a great course. But in its own funky way, it was historic.

The site had originally been part of the Ahern farm. In 1924 the family opened an 18-hole daily fee course. Also on the property was a road house called the Beverly Gardens. At a time when most golf was played at private clubs, there weren’t many courses open to the public.

All sorts of people played Evergreen in those days. The most famous regular was Machine Gun Jack McGurn, Al Capone’s chief trigger-man. McGurn was a scratch player who once competed in the Western Open. Big Al came out to the course a few times, too.

John Dillinger also visited Evergreen, but not to play golf. On New Year’s Eve 1933, Dillinger and six pals stuck up the road house, shot it out with the local cops, and got away with $500.

I grew up on the Northwest Side, and never got around to playing Evergreen until the 1990s. Then I fell in love with the place. The Beverly Gardens had long since burned down, and the clubhouse was a little frame building with asbestos siding that looked like a renovated tool shed. But the green fees were cheap and it was seldom crowded.

The course was split in half by a live freight track, which you crossed four times during your 18 holes. Many of the holes were wide open and easy. A few were tricky, with narrow, tree-lined fairways and blind shots to elevated greens. Some were just weird—on the thirteenth, you teed off at roof-level of the houses behind you on 93rd Place.

One thing I appreciated was that the course was never littered with goose droppings. The greens crew simply let their dogs run free, and that kept the geese away.

By now the course was owned by Anna May “Babe” Ahern. She’d been born on the property in 1907 and was listed as the club pro. All the years I played at Evergreen, there’s was talk that the course was going to be sold to a developer, or Wal-Mart, or the Village of Evergreen Park. But like Babe Ahern, Evergreen went on.

On October 14, 2010, I holed-out a full 5-iron shot on Evergreen’s seventeenth. In nearly fifty years of golf, it was only my second eagle. Not wanting to spoil my mood, I skipped the last hole and walked off the course.

That was the last shot I ever hit at Evergreen Country Club. The next month Babe Ahern finally found a buyer who would pay her price, and the month after that she herself died, at 103.

I’ve driven past Evergreen’s site a few times in recent years.  I’ve seen the development that has taken place.  I realize that change is inevitable.

But sometimes it comes too damn quickly.

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Chicago Trivia Quiz #9—Answers

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1. The last Republican Mayor of Chicago was __________.

(D) William Hale Thompson

2. Who was the last local winner of the NCAA men’s basketball championship?

(B) Loyola University

3. The last Chicago streetcar ran on what line?

(D) Wentworth Avenue

4. The last movie John Dillinger saw was __________.

(B) Manhattan Melodrama

5. The last year Riverview operated was __________.

(C) 1967

Chicago Trivia Quiz #9

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For the last days of the year, a quiz on Chicago “lasts”—

1. The last Republican Mayor of Chicago was __________.

(A) Benjamin Adamowski

(B) Carter Harrison Jr.

(C) Martin Kennelly

(D) William Hale Thompson

2. Who was the last local winner of the NCAA men’s basketball championship?

(A) De Paul University

(B) Loyola University

(C) Northwestern University

(D) University of Chicago

3. The last Chicago streetcar ran on what line?

(A) Western Avenue

(B) State Street

(C) Clark Street

(D) Wentworth Avenue

4. The last movie John Dillinger saw was __________.

(A) The Public Enemy

(B) Manhattan Melodrama

(C) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

(D) G-Men

5. The last year Riverview operated was __________.

(A) 1963

(B) 1965

(C) 1967

(D) 1969

ANSWERS POSTED AT 5 PM

 

Chicago Trivia Quiz #8—Answers

1. Skip’s Drive-In (aka Fiesta) was located near __________.

(C) North and First

2. The manager of the 1969 Cubs was __________.

(D) Leo Durocher

3. Garfield Goose thought he was __________.

(A) King of the United States

4. It’s Here was a __________.

(D) coffee house

5. Who was nicknamed “The Cool Gent?”

(C) Herb Kent

Chicago Trivia Quiz #8

A quiz for Chicago Baby-Boomers—

1. Skip’s Drive-In (aka Fiesta) was located near __________.

(A) Grand and Harlem

(B) Roosevelt and First

(C) North and First

(D) Lake and Mannheim

2. The manager of the 1969 Cubs was __________.

(A) Chuck Tanner

(B) Al Lopez

(C) Eddie Stanky

(D) Leo Durocher

3. Garfield Goose thought he was __________.

(A) King of the United States

(B) Mayor of Chicago

(C) Emperor of the North Pole

(D) Donald Duck’s brother

4. It’s Here was a __________.

(A) clothing store

(B) dance hall

(C) theme park

(D) coffee house

5. Who was nicknamed “The Cool Gent?”

(A) Dick Biondi

(B) Dick Gregory

(C) Herb Kent

(D) Hugh Hefner

ANSWERS POSTED AT 5 P.M.

 

 

 

 

 

The Babe Calls His Shot (10-1-1932)

On this date, Babe Ruth hit the most famous—and most controversial—home run in baseball history.  It happened in Chicago, at Wrigley Field.

Ruth’s Yankees were facing the Cubs in the World Series.  The Yankees had won the first two games in New York.  Now the series had moved to Chicago for Game Three.

There was bad blood between the two teams.  The Cubs’ pennant drive had been sparked by the late-season acquisition of shortstop Mark Koenig.  But the rest of the Cubs had voted Koenig only a partial share of World Series money.

Koenig was an ex-Yankee.  The Yankees thought the Cubs were cheating their old teammate.  When the series began, both teams started dissing each other across the field.  “Cheap bastards” was one of the milder terms used.

The score was tied 4-4 when Ruth came to bat in the 4th inning of Game Three.  The Cubs yelled at Ruth.  Ruth yelled back.  He watched the pitcher fog in two quick strikes.

Then Ruth majestically pointed toward the center field bleachers, announcing he’d hit the next pitch there.  The pitcher threw.  Ruth swung.  He hit the ball just where he had pointed.

At least, that’s the legend.

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A few newspaper accounts said that Ruth made some sort of gesture toward the pitcher, or toward the Cubs’ bench.  Most of the reports don’t mention any gesture.  Only one New York paper said that Ruth had pointed—like a man playing pool, the Babe had “called his shot.”

Over the next few years, more and more writers picked up the story of The Called Shot.  At first Ruth brushed aside questions about whether he’d pointed.  By the time he died in 1948, he was happily telling everyone that, of course, he really had pointed.

Later generations of baseball scholars dismissed The Called Shot legend.  Some questioned whether Ruth had even made a gesture.  The whole business seemed like another New York media invention.

Then, in 1992, a fan’s 8-mm movie of Game Three surfaced.  The film shows that Ruth did make a pointing gesture with his hand.  But it’s not clear who or what he was pointing at.  So the debate continues.

By the way, in case you haven’t guessed, the Yankees swept the Cubs in the 1932 World Series in four straight games.

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