“Life goes on, finding new strength, even in the midst of difficulties.” Pope Francis, message to the prisoners at Santa Cruz la Sierra, Bolivia
From federal prison in Terre Haute George Van Til sent a copy of “The Serving Brother,” the Catholic newsletter for inmates. He wrote: “My fingers are freezing today. The heat and hot water have been out for almost 24 hours. Cold! Damp! Grim!” I plan to visit George, who has no business being incarcerated, again in March if he has not been transferred to a halfway house by then.
Kevin and Tina Horn invited our entire family to their Shorewood Forest house for a Holiday party featuring Mexican food from Leroy’s Hot Stiff that Dave picked up beforehand. In high school Kevin was a big fan of Dave’s band LINT. When he started a baseball team a quarter-century ago, he asked me to pitch; we won a championship shortly before I retired, and Kevin caught a high fly ball for the final out. David and I were on a championship bowling team at Camelot Lanes with Kevin, his dad and brother Tom. Son Kaiden is on Bowling for Donuts with James. Grandchildren Anthony and Tori had such a good time with the Horn teens that they all went ice-skating in Valpo the next day.
Robert Blaszkiewicz, who recently was hired to put together Chicago Tribune websites, gave out CDs of his 20 favorite songs of 2015, including numbers by Aussies Courtney Barnett (“Debbie Downer”), Dick Diver (“Year in Pictures”), and Tame Impala (“The Less I Know the Better”). Robert wrote” “For me, it’s been a challenging year, full of change. In that spirit, the overriding theme of this collection is resilience and relationships. I’m lucky to have good friends, family, and a wife (*Carrie) and son (Max) who always keep music in my heart.”
In a Christmas note former colleague Paul Kern mentioned that he and Julie will be driving to Sacramento, California in January, near where son Colin is doing a post-doc at UC Davis. Paul wrote: “We are going to detour down to Sanderson, Texas, a remote place where I lived in the late 1940s. Then we plan to spend a couple days in the Big Bend National Park. Julie somewhat morbidly calls this ‘our last great adventure.’”
From Montana former student Terry Helton wrote: “I make it a point not to watch the so-called GOP (Grand Old Pricks) debates because I can’t afford to get angry. They aren’t worth elevating my blood pressure.” Smart move.
We had Christmas on December 26 so we could have everyone together after other family obligations, including a cat (Luna) and two dogs (Rembrandt and Jerry). Daughter-in-law Beth brought lasagna, came with her brother Jimmy and his wife Erica and daughter, and gave me a flannel shirt for Christmas, which came in handy. Most of the gang saw “Star Wars” and Phil and I took in a thrilling overtime game between East Chicago Central and Merrillville that David announced and at which Becca sang the National Anthem. We celebrated Anthony’s eighteenth birthday at Applebee’s and at Toni’s urging shared anecdotes. Mine dealt with taking Anthony to California ten years ago where he went fishing and played wiffleball with cousin Bobby.
I watched my share of football over the holidays and found a couple good movies on HBO, “The Curse of the Jade Scorpion” (2001), directed by Woody Allen, and “Broken Flowers” (2005) starring Bill Murray. In “Indiana’s 200” were interesting essays on Hoosier composers Cole Porter and Hoagland “Hoagy” Carmichael. Cole (his mother’s maiden name) wrote “Night and Day” and “I’ve Got You Under my Skin. Carmichael, most famous for “Stardust,” was named for a circus troupe in Bloomington in 1899 when he was born. In his autobiography “The Stardust Road” Carmichael recalled “the circuses coming to town, the flour sacks we collected from boarding houses and sold to the local grocer for a cent each; the quarry holes where we used to swim; and the kindly neighbors who suffered us with never a reproachful word except when we smoked corn silks in their privies.”
In ”The Best American Sports Writing of 2015” Jeremy Collins wrote about my favorite Cub pitcher Greg “Mad Dog” Maddux, who after winning the Cy Young award in 1992 signed with Atlanta and went on to a Hall of Fame career. An avid Atlanta Braves fan, Collins was in the stands when Maddux, 19-2 in the regular season, hurled a shutout against Cleveland in the opening game of the 1995 World Series, which the Braves went on to win. In 2004 Maddux returned to the Cubs for three seasons. Known as “The Professor,” he had pinpoint control, was a perennial Gold Glove recipient, and was a fierce competitor who reminded me of my all-time favorite Robin Roberts of the Phillies during the 1950s. In April 2005 Maddux defeated Roger Clemons for his 306th victory, the first time in 113 years that two National league 300-game winners faced off. Collins ran into Maddux when behind the counter at Barnes and Noble. His hero was purchasing Golf Digest, a travelers guide to Tuscany, and two Dr. Seuss books for his kids. Collins said to him, “You’ve mastered your craft. Your flame burns clear and bright.” Maddux said, “Cool” and added: “Thanks.” Collins wrote: “That’s what I should have said.”
Dolly Millender with Merrillville middle school student; below, Coach Claude Taliaferro
The city of Gary lost two legends, historian Dharathula “Dolly” Millender, 95, on Christmas morning and Claude Taliaferro, 85, on New Year’s Eve. Jerry Davich called Millender a “keeper of history.” A Hatcher supporter while serving on the City Council, she started the Gary Symphony Orchestra (after the previous one moved to Merrillville) and the Gary Historical and Cultural Society. A believer in diversity, she solicited white ethnic leaders as members. Like me, she moved here at the beginning of her professional career (in her case, as a librarian) and made Gary recording Gary’s history her primary life’s work. She was a sweetheart and will be sorely missed. Claude Taliaferro, whose brother George was the first black athlete drafted by an NFL team after starring at IU during the 1940s, coached Gary Roosevelt football teams for 20 years beginning in 1971. Former NFL linebacker Blaine Smith recalled that Taliaferro “gave us discipline and the desire to want everything to be picture perfect.” Former Michigan star Erik Campbell told Times reporter Steve Hanlon: “He was a father figure to a lot of the players. He took care of them.”
Game Weekend photos by Charlie Halberstadt
Telestration contestants; below, Jef and Jordan Halberstadt
I spent four days, starting on New Year’s Eve, at the fortieth annual Halberstadt Game Weekend. Robin is in poor health but insisted that the event go forward and seemed to thrive on being with family and friends. Both she and Jef, as well as son Charles and daughter Sheridan, were students of mine; I’ve been attending the annual event since the early 1980s. John Hohner arrived wearing a “Halberstadt Game Weekend 1985” t-shirt that I had made; when he introduced himself and wife Candy to a young person, he added, “Like Uncle Buck.” Unfortunately, the woman had never heard of comedian John Candy or the movie. Evan and Patti Davis arrived from Fort Wayne, and we tested a railroad game Evan is developing. In Werewolf I drew the card “Virginia Woolf,” whose lover dies also if she does. I shined in Amun Re and Acquire (which we taught Brady Wade’s friends Austin and Ben), held my own in Wizards and Seven Wonders, and stunk in Telestration, where I drew things passed on to me or guessed others’ drawings. The person to my left thought my superhero resembled a flying duck and my pelican a penguin. I liked best the social games and stayed out of marathon contests such a History of the World.