An American coin for Casey

Casey copy

I have for many a moon prided myself in sharing Ernest L. Thayer’s Casey at the Bat with whoever would listen, or wouldn’t listen, or who’d prefer not to, or who’d heard it before – I didn’t give a damn, I’d recite Casey at the slightest provocation.

I held out Ernest L. Thayer, who wrote the poem for the San Francisco Examiner in 1888, as my hero. A guy who loved baseball, who could write. I noted in a column 15 years ago that his poem, written when he was a teen-aged flack in the Examiner’s sports department and casually offered to his editor – “Use it if you want to” – put him into the Baseball Hall of Fame. I was contacted by the Baseball Hall of Fame three days after my column was published, and told that only players, managers and owners are “enshrined” in the HOF. As a matter of fact, Thayer is better than “enshrined” – a statue of his Mighty Casey graces the entrance to the Hall.

Now, the U.S. Mint is vetting baseball players worthy of having their visages struck onto US coins. I have nominated, through Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle’s sports department, Mighty Casey, with Ernest L. Thayer’s likeness in a half-tone in the background.

And in closing, I note many readers’ opinions that Scott Ostler himself be included in the Hall, as a Ford Frick Award recipient – where baseball’s writers and announcers are included (can’t use the word “enshrined,” I’ll get jumped on again!)

The Ground Cow moos again!

Ground Cow copy
Off to Old Sacramento this weekend, and should have stopped and taken a photo of a sight we noted in Penryn, just a hoot-and-a-holler west of Auburn. As all readers of this site recall, the old Ground Cow we remember from Auburn moved to Penryn ca. 1962, as the Ground Cow. In years to come, it would become about three different restaurants with three different names, all of them lousy.
Now, the once-Penryn Ground Cow is re-named the Ground Cow (hell, this could have happened a year ago and I didn’t notice it. But I don’t think so.) One would hope it is as good as the old one was in Auburn, and when it first moved to Penryn these 50 years ago.
A bit more background: I researched the place once and if I ever wrote a column I can’t find it now. The original Ground Cow, I learned, was in Oakland, opening a second location in Auburn sometime after WWII. And yes, there was a third location in Reno, that one up in the northwest near where Keystone Avenue – then known as Peavine – crossed West Seventh Street – a site that became a casualty of the I-80 freeway construction.

Happy Birthday, Ron!


He was 8 years old when I took this picture, now he’s turning 47 this week. Our ’72 Ford pickup’s gone; Larry Hicks won his District Attorney race (the bumper sticker in the back window!), the binoculars sitting on the water cooler just out of view, still work, as does the VHF aircraft radio sitting on the roof

Ron was illegal as hell out where this was taken, at the Home Pylon of the air races where I was the flagman for 28 years (as he got older – and bigger – he gave me a hand. As did his younger brother Brent). The FAA turned their heads when he sat in the truck, all day, at the races, surely the best seat in the house

He’s in San Francisco now with wife Amy, daughter Jackie (14) and son Andy (12 yesterday). Happy Birthday, Ron!

The Bishop’s Bendix

bishop's bendix


Seen above is St. Mary’s, on the corner of Gough Street and O’Farrell in San Francisco, its full moniker the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption. It was completed in 1971, to replace an earlier cathedral on Van Ness Avenue that was destroyed by arson in 1962. This structure is technically known as a “hyperbolic paraboloid,” and was designed to emulate a Vatican “miter,” which to us Christian Scientists is known as a “hat.” We will not include in this website that it has been dubbed variously as “the Bishop’s Bendix,” for its resemblance to the tumbler on a washing machine, that appellation given by who-else, Herb Caen. It has been also expressed as “Our Lady of Maytag.” Due to my vow not to trash this website with a bunch of inanity like I did the last one, these facts shall go unreported.

An unintended consequence of its unique design is that the, well, chest, of any maiden in San Francisco, and probably elsewhere, is represented on its walls. That actually is not the building design itself, but the sun’s shadow on the two southern walls of the building. On those walls, on sunny days, the shape of any woman in The City, large or small, Catholic or Protestant, may be seen, at some hour on some day of the year. A gentleman might say, “My lady appears on St. Mary’s on April 14th, at 1:57 p.m.,” for on that day at that hour the shadow might perfectly represent her, over two hundred feet high for all the San Franciscans to view and applaud.

Caen discovered this, popularized it, and for many years it was a sort of local joke with San Francisco residents. And damn few of the visitors. I have not heard the thought expressed for many years. But while looking for the picture of the Queen Mary 2 in my “SF” photo file, the Bishop’s Bendix appeared and the devil made me post this. One wonders if even Pope Benedict himself is aware of it, and our thoughts of having two Popes with the same robes and hats loose upon the world, each given a certain degree of sense of authority, will go for another column.

A Queen arrives in The City


February 5, 2007 it was, when the Queen Mary 2 arrived on her inaugural voyage into San Francisco. A few friends were there to meet her, including Linda and I, and our late life-long buddy Alex Kanwetz, on the deck of the Liberty Ship Jeremiah O’Brien that acted as SF’s host ship. The pilot boat with orange trim is seen trailing the QM2, with an Irish pilot much to the chagrin of the stuffy British Cunarder captain of the liner