Fielding Hurst and the Sixth Tennessee Cavalry Presentation

This week, I was invited to give my presentation on Colonel Fielding Hurst and the Sixth Tennessee (U.S.) Cavalry to the Tippah Tigers Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp #868 in Ripley, Mississippi. The membership treated me to a great meal and several members purchased copies of my book Hurst’s Wurst: Colonel Fielding Hurst and the Sixth Tennessee Cavalry U.S.A. This is the first time anyone’s recorded one of my speeches, and I appreciate Robert Jackson of the Tippah Tigers posting it to YouTube. Thank you again to the Tigers (who you can also find on Facebook) for their hospitality!

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Please Support the Ken Boyer Book Project

I’ve started a Kickstarter project to potentially help with research and travel expenses associated with working on my latest book project, a biography of St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Ken Boyer. This is the first time I’ve tried this type of fundraising venture, but I’ve contributed to a couple of successful projects in the past and thought I would give it a try. It’s a great concept to help fund projects that otherwise might not make it off the ground.

While I’m dedicated to completing my book project regardless whether this Kickstarter venture is successful or not, it would be a great financial help to me if those who are interested in Ken Boyer and the book could “step to the plate” and make a pledge. I’m offering copies of the book for various levels of funding–from one to four copies–as well as recognition of contributors within the book itself.

What would your money go toward? Research expenses such as microfilm copies, interlibrary loan requests as well as travel expenses (gasoline, lodging, etc.) to the St. Louis area for additional interviews with family members and former teammates.

With 19 days to go, only $25 has been raised so far. I hope you will consider making a pledge on the project’s Kickstarter page. Thank you!

Ken Boyer Book Project 02.05.2013

This past week, I received a CD in the mail filled with newspaper articles from a researcher in Omaha, Nebraska and I began work on Ken Boyer’s 1951 season with the Omaha Cardinals of the Class A Western League.

This was a critical season in Boyer’s development as a player. It was only his second full season of pro ball, but the Cardinals felt he was ready to jump four levels in the organization from Class D to Class A. The hitting ability he demonstrated as an emergency third baseman at Hamilton in 1950 finally convinced them to let go of their notion to convert him into a hard-throwing pitcher. So in addition to adjusting to a higher level of competition, he also had to learn the nuances of playing third base on an everyday basis.

1951 Omaha Cardinals Scorecard

1951 Omaha Cardinals Scorecard (nebaseballhistory.com)

Boyer’s manager at Omaha was George Kissell, who would later become the sage of player development for the Cardinals and keeper of the Cardinal Way that stressed fundamentals and how to play the game the right way. At this time, however, Kissell was 30 years old and still a player-manager. He was a teacher and worked with the 20-year-old Boyer on fielding the position, just as he would work with future Cardinals Mike Shannon, Joe Torre, and Todd Zeile. Boyer improved at Omaha and by the end of the season, he began showing flashes of defensive greatness that he would eventually bring to St. Louis in the 1950s and ’60s.

Among Boyer’s teammates at Omaha in 1951 were future Cardinals Joe Cunningham, Wally Moon, and Willard Schmidt, a right-handed pitcher who had a 19-14 record and league-leading 202 strikeouts and 2.11 ERA that season. Ken and “Schmitty” became good friends and roommates in the minor leagues and once they reached St. Louis. Another teammate who never made it to the Cardinals but nonetheless had a Hall of Fame career was Earl Weaver, a St. Louis native who at the time was a scrappy second baseman toiling in the Cardinals organization.

The Omaha Cardinals won the Western League title (90-64-1) in a close finish, but lost in the first round of the postseason playoffs to the Sioux City Soos. It turns out that after the playoffs, Ken and Willard Schmidt were called to St. Louis for a brief “look-see” with the Cardinals before the team finished the season. That was a bit of information I had never come across in either of the biographies written about him! Boyer hit .306 with 14 home runs and 90 RBIs for the season.

As a side note, I’m working on a Kickstarter project to help raise funds for research and publishing expenses, including a spring research trip to St. Louis. I hope to make an announcement this week about it. If you have the financial means and can give a little, that would be awesome. Every little bit helps. Thank you!

Ken Boyer Book Project 01.24.13

This week was a sad one for research and writing with the passing of Stan Musial last Saturday at the age of 92.

Working on this project gives me a greater appreciation not only for the athleticism and decency of Ken Boyer, but that of his teammates like Stan Musial, Red Schoendienst, and others from the Fifties and Sixties eras of Cardinal baseball. It also brings the realization that these gentlemen are growing older and may not be with us 10 years from now. Boyer himself would’ve been 82 years old on May 20 had lung cancer not stricken him in his prime.

Last Saturday afternoon, I had the chance to talk for about 30 minutes with Solly Hemus, former Cardinals infielder from 1949 to 1956 and team manager in 1959 and 1960. He was very giving of his time and shared lots of memories not only of Boyer, but Musial as well. Like other teammates, Mr. Hemus spoke fondly of Stan the Man. (I haven’t had the chance to transcribe what he said, but I’ll share some of his remarks at a later time.) About two hours later, I learned that Stan had passed away at his suburban St. Louis home.

Visitation for Mr. Musial was held today at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. I thought this photo from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was a touching one: two generations of Cardinals fans honoring his memory; a father bringing his son to look upon the man who truly was the Greatest Cardinal of Them All.

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Baseball’s Perfect Warrior, Baseball’s Perfect Knight

Stan Musial_Greatest Cardinal EverStanley F. Musial–Swingin’ Stan the Man (as the song goes)–passed away at his suburban St. Louis home on Saturday, January 19. He was 92 years old.

As St. Louis Cardinals fans, we knew this day was coming. Mr. Musial had been in failing health for the past few years and had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease about a year ago. We knew the day would come, but it doesn’t make any less sad.

I never met Mr. Musial or had the opportunity to meet him or talk with him. I knew when I began my book project on Ken Boyer two years ago that interviewing him would be very unlikely for the above mentioned reasons. I would’ve been honored to have met The Man whom many fans refer to as the Greatest Cardinals of Them All.

That Saturday afternoon, I was talking with his teammate and manager, Solly Hemus, on the telephone. Along with questions about Ken Boyer, I asked for his memories of Stan Musial as a teammate, which he graciously shared. It was an hour or two later that I learned of Mr. Musial’s passing.

I’m too young to have seen him play, aside from watching grainy black-and-white highlights of his 22-year career on VHS tapes. But I appreciate history, and Stan Musial was a big part of the Cardinals’ history. He played on three World championship teams, batted .331 in 3,026 games, and had 3,630 base hits–half at home and half on the road. That last statistic is absolutely incredible with one thinks about it!

I have numerous framed 8 x 10 photos of Cardinals players hanging on my office walls. I have Ken Boyer (of course), Bob Gibson, Red Schoendienst, and Enos Slaughter. I have favorites from my childhood and teenage years like Ted Simmons, Jack Clark, and Tom Brunansky. I even have Bob Horner! The one I don’t have–yet–is Stan Musial.

The reason is: I had never found the perfect photo of him to hang there. The greatest of the great Cardinals.

I’ve decided the one above is one I want to have, posing in the on-deck circle leaning against his bat. Now, with his death, I’ll start searching for it.

This week, I expect to begin writing about Ken Boyer’s rookie season in St. Louis in 1955. I’ll be reading quite a bit about Stan Musial this year and his friendship with Mr. Boyer. And I’ll look forward to returning to St. Louis this spring or summer, not only to watch today’s Cardinals on the field, but to visit the Musial statues outside Busch Stadium. I know they will mean a little more to me now.

God bless you and your family, Mr. Musial. Thank you for the memories, and for being such a gentleman on and off the field.

A Great-Looking Baseball Film

I can’t help but watch this trailer over and over again.

Granted, Jackie Robinson’s integration of major league baseball is an incredible story of courage and fortitude in the face of racism and bigotry. And I would go see this film simply because of that and his place in the game’s history.

But the cinematography and visual effects of 42 are absolutely amazing! There’s Ebbets Field, looking like a brick and mortar ballpark and not a computer generated picture. There’s baseball players playing the game in flannel uniforms and no jewelry around their necks or in their ears. I was skeptical when I first heard that Harrison Ford–Han Solo and Indiana Jones of my childhood–was going to play Branch Rickey. But he pulls it off and actually resembles the man himself!

I’m really looking forward to seeing 42 this spring.