Thursday, September 30, 2010

I-70 Baseball

For the past three months or so, I have been cheating on you, Henry Wiggen Blog. I'm having an affair with another website.

I've been writing about the Kansas City Royals at the new site I-70 Baseball. And in the short time the site has been "live," I've also become the co-host of a weekly radio show and the content editor for the site. It's taking up a lot of time, but it's been fulfilling, and I think the website has a strong future.

I-70 Baseball, an affiliate site of, covers both the Royals and the St. Louis Cardinals, which fills a niche missing in the online world - especially since many people in this part of the country are fans of both teams. However, even if you're just a fan of one or the other, there's something new on the site about each team every single day.

To help fulfill that goal, I've enlisted the help of the other half of the Henry Wiggen Blog, Mr. John Lofflin. John's first article will appear on Saturday. Be sure to check it out. He writes a terrific, in-depth piece about Royals Hall of Famer Frank White.

I am forever grateful to John for giving us a helping hand. I know his presence will make the site more popular and much stronger.

Check out I-70 Baseball when you get a chance. I think you'll like it.

But remember, Henry Wiggen Blog, I still love you.

-- Matt Kelsey

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Radio Talkers say trade "Negative Nancy" Zack Greinke

The momentum among the radio talkers is building to trade Zack Greinke.

And what could be more absurd than this 'logic': What the Royals don't need next year when the studs from Omaha come up is a "Negative Nancy" walking the halls of the clubhouse.

Exactly what poison will this Cy Young Negative Nancy spew to injure the impressionable young minds? Well, they're a bit unclear about this. Something like, the Royals aren't getting any better. Losing sucks. Et al.


This sounds like the gossip in an elementary school teacher's lounge. Negative Nancy, for god's sake? Negative Nancy?

We're talking about a major league baseball clubhouse not vacation Bible school. These guys obviously don't get the joke, do they? Saturday Night Live, guys. It's a joke. You're supposed to laugh. It's not a life lesson.

Negative Nancy, indeed. Zack Greinke had just watched an infielder juggle a double-play ball for maybe the tenth time this season, costing him 11 more pitches and three runs. What the hell do they expect him to say? "I'll just wait till next year when the studs are here to back me up. The organization always knows best..."

Guess those press passes are secure for watching the young studs next year. Funny how guys who supposedly make a living telling it like it is suddenly revert to management speak when it comes to ballplayers. My guess is they identify with management rather than ballplayers. Just a guess...

And what could possibly be more ironic, more hypocritical, than these radio talkers criticizing a ballplayer for being a "Negative Nancy"? These "Batty Bobs", "Surly Shans" and "Naysaying Nicks" spit more negative natter than a dozen ballplayers in a Red Man contest. Nattering negative is their job description, their ticket to Tompkinsville, their free pass into the ballpark.

That had to be the worst five minutes of talk radio in at least ... well ... uh ... at least the last two days.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

PHOTO ESSAY: New Orleans

Apologies in advance for what's sure to be a much-too-long post, but I'll promise not to make it sound too much like "What I Did On My Summer Vacation."

Last week, on family business, my wife Jamie and I drove to Lake Charles, Louisiana, a straight shot south from Kansas City almost all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Since Lake Charles is only about three hours west of New Orleans, we decided to take the week and spend some time in the Big Easy.

In the six years, 364 days of our marriage (that's right - our seven-year anniversary is tomorrow, Sept. 20), this is the biggest vacation Jamie and I have taken since our honeymoon.

Since I have been accused of being a serial planner when it comes to travel, our plan for this trip was not to plan, only to make hotel reservations in the French Quarter and go where the wind took us.
From Lake Charles, you can take the quick, easy route to New Orleans via Highway 10, but we decided to detour south, through the bayou, on Route 90. This took us through some backwoods. I'm talking deep backwoods, the kind of places you only see in movies.

Off the highway we saw a sign for the TABASCO factory. The place where they make the sauce. I pulled off, thinking we'd just drive by the place and see what it was all about. Once we left the highway we noticed it was six miles out of the way. I was ready to drive on, but Jamie convinced me to head toward TABASCO-land.
What a smart cookie my wife is.
The six-mile drive took us to Avery Island, Louisiana, and in fact it's the place where all TABASCO Sauce is made. We had to pay a one-dollar toll to drive onto the island.

Our first stop was not the factory, but instead a place called Jungle Gardens, which was built by the McIlhenny family decades ago. It's basically a bayou nature preserve.

The place is absolutely stunning. They have tons of native plants and trees, including many covered with beautiful Spanish moss:

They have lots of alligators:

And they even have a 900-year-old Buddha statue with a fascinating back story:

Then we made our way to the TABASCO factory. It was your standard, run-of-the-mill factory tour, but the TABASCO country store was cool.

They gave lots of free samples, including some unique concoctions. A word of warning: Never, ever, under any circumstances, no matter what anyone else tries to say, NEVER taste TABASCO ice cream. NEVER EVER EVER! It's quite possibly the most vile thing I've ever eaten. On the other hand, a few drops of TABASCO in a Coke makes for a surprisingly refreshing beverage.

I would go back to Louisiana just to visit Avery Island.

Then we made our way to New Orleans.

Our hotel, the Hotel St. Marie, was in the French Quarter, on Toulouse, a half block off Bourbon Street. It's the off-season now, so the room was only about 60 bucks per night. Hell, you can't get a Motel 6 in Blue Springs for sixty bucks. The kicker, though, was the parking fee of $28 per night. It was worth it, though. Everything in the French Quarter was in walking distance.

Our first impression of the French Quarter was that it's pretty much a smelly, disgusting hole. The garbage smell was overpowering at times. That's not surprising; there's really no such thing as a "week night" on Bourbon Street. I can't imagine what it would be like during Mardi Gras.

Most of the bars along Bourbon Street are targeted at frat-boy, bachelor-party types, and the places were much, much sleazier than I imagined they would be. We learned a lot about human anatomy and subtlety in advertising. One establishment advertised to the masses via people holding signs emblazoned with the words "TITS 'n' WHISKEY."

The two famous drinks in New Orleans are the Hurricane and the Hand Grenade. My impression of these drinks and others in the French Quarter are that they're expensive, overly sweet and fruity, and not nearly as strong as people would like to think. I discovered this through rigorous testing over the course of our stay.

Our best drinking experiences were at the bars off Bourbon Street, the places that aren't quite flashy enough for the other tourists. Once or twice Jamie and I found ourselves as the only customers in some of these great local haunts.

We had some terrific food, including, of course, gumbo, jambalaya, poboys and etouffee. Jamie even found a handful of vegetarian options. And for breakfast one morning we ventured to Cafe Du Monde, known for their chicory coffee and beignets:

My favorite experience from New Orleans was buying a book. I purchased a copy of William Faulkner's "Soldier's Pay" at a little bookshop on Pirate's Alley. The shop used to be a house, and William Faulkner lived in that house when he wrote "Soldier's Pay."

That book will always be a cherished keepsake for me.

New Orleans is a dirty, stinky, wonderful place. I don't know if we'll ever go back again. But I'm sure as hell glad we went this time.

-- Matt Kelsey

Friday, September 17, 2010

"Gift of the Game" truly is a gift

Everyone should have a friend who is a librarian.
My great librarian friend is Ann Schultis. Ann Schultis can find anything. No article, book or movie is obscure enough to hide from her.

Ann found the Randy Wayne White DVD called "Gift of the Game", the video about the trip the novelist/catcher White took with Bill "Spaceman" Lee to Cuba a few years ago. I referred to it in the previous post. She found it at Unfortunately, they only had one and --- And, well... I bought it five minutes ago.
However, check back because more copies are bound to show up at Amazon. For 15 bucks you won't be disappointed. As Ann said, this will surely warm a snowy night in January.

Last night as we were leaving the ball field in disappointment, towing our bats and gloves in bags grown heavy across the summer, we were saying how much we'll miss playing ball come January snow. But, one of the guys -- a shortstop named Terry who still has wheels after 60 -- just looked at our tired faces and grinned.

"I'm playing in a tournament in February," he said.
"How the hell is this possible?" we asked.
"In the Metrodome," he crowed. "It will be wonderful."

Man, I wish they needed a catcher or a pitcher, or just a guy to buy beer and pick up bats.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Bill Lee raises the spirits of a Royal's fan - "Here am I/ sitting in my tin can/ far, far away/ Planet earth is blue and there's nothing I can do

It's almost too painful to write about the Royals right now. So, I thought I'd post these photographs. They tell a great story.

That's Bill "Spaceman" Lee, pitching for an independent league team recently. At 63, he may be the oldest man to win a professional game.

I've always appreciated the Spaceman. He still plays ball in a highly competitive over-40 league, which you know warms my heart. In fact, he is connected to a writer I admire: Randy Wayne White. White is a travel writer I discovered in Outdoor Magazine. Later I picked up on his string of gripping Doc Ford mysteries, the latest has been number six on the New York Times fiction list. He also plays in a highly competitive over-40 league. He's a catcher -- the only right position for a novelist.

A few years ago White and Bill Lee took White's team to Cuba. They also took some film and made a wonderful movie about the adventure but I can't find record of it anywhere today, even on his Web site. I bought a VHS copy but it malfunctioned. Anyway, they took along a big cache of baseball equipment which they distributed to kids everywhere on the island, kids who were playing with bats whittled from logs and baseballs that were essentially electricians tape.

Here's a Web page where you can see snippets of the movie.


Downloaded the bottom image from Deadspin but they did not give credit to the photographer. My guess is the photographer worked for the Brockton, Mass., Enterprise. The top photograph was submitted by "john" to the Rox' Facebook gallery. Love it...

Friday, September 10, 2010


Today is my last day at a temporary job that has lasted for nearly nine months.

Over that span of time, I have grown attachments to many of my co-workers. Attachments that are much stronger than the ones I've formed with co-workers at other, non-temporary jobs, some of whom I worked with for three or four years.

It's just hitting me today how much I'll miss my friends.

I don't know what it is about temporary assignments. But this isn't the first time it's happened to me.

Ten years ago this summer (ugh... that makes me feel old), I was awarded an internship in Washington, D.C., with the U.S. Department of Education. The internship itself was fulfilling, but the best part of my summer was my off-work hours.

The internship was through Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society for community colleges. That year Phi Theta Kappa sent 20 students to D.C. for internships, and we all roomed together in a handful of dorm rooms at The George Washington University (our dorm building was named Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis Hall).

Over that span, I came to know some of those 20 students better than I know people I grew up with and went to school with my entire life. And to this day I consider some of them my very best friends. Others in the group I've lost contact with, but occasionally I'll run a web search to try and find a phone number or e-mail address, and I often think back to those days with fond memories.

This current experience is a lot like that. I've discovered lifelong friends here.

The good news is, all of my co-workers are local. During my DC internship, I was with people from Chicago, San Fransisco, New York, Florida and all points in between. So there's a much better chance that I'll be able to stay in contact with these folks.

I don't know what it is about temporary assignments.

But the quick bonds you form are often more permanent than any other relationships in your life.

--Matt Kelsey

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Big questions about the girl in the polka dot bikini, folks sucking in their guts and the future of photojournalism poolside at The Jones

Who are these people?

(You can plug in the lyric from "Who are you..." here if you are a Who fan.)

One of my guilty pleasures is the photo galleries the Star posts to its Web site via INK. This one is about a pool party on the roof of the long-gone Jones Store. Go there, then come back.

I say to you again, who are these people? Never in the history of photography have so many people expended so much effort holding their bellies in. You can almost hear the choir of sighs after the camera goes off.

And what are these poses? Who are they imitating? Do they all imagine they are shooting a still version of a rap video? Hmmm....Not a very integrated rap video, eh? I mean, what are these poses they are striking about?

The star here seems to be the young woman in a polka dot bikini. Isn't that a song from the 1950s? Somebody needs to buy her a sandwich. Maybe she's in so many pictures because she doesn't have to hold her belly in. It's concave.

And is this the proud future of photojournalism?

--Lofflin, puzzling the mysteries of the universe.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Pig Roast

Every Labor Day weekend for the past 36 years, Charles and Darlene Lamberson of Logan, Iowa, have held an end-of-the-farming-season celebration on their spacious farm.

Chuck and Darlene are family friends, and my family has been attending this event, called The Pig Roast, since before I was born.

Even though Jamie and I haven't been in a few years, someone from the Kelsey family is always present, with only one or two exceptions over the three-plus decades of the Roast. This weekend, my wife and I were able to attend, and since my parents couldn't make it (only the third time they've missed in 36 years) and my brother and his wife were unavailable, Jamie and I were the family representatives.

I could write a book about how wonderful The Pig Roast is. But for today, I'm going to stick with the food.

Of course, the main dish is the pig. The pork is slow-roasted in a huge rotisserie firepit with an electric motor. They start cooking it on Saturday afternoon and it cooks all night before being served on Sunday. The pork is then sliced and chopped up fine and served up as sandwich meat. The pork is always tender, but this year it was indescribably succulent. They also cook a boatload of cubed, seasoned potatoes and onions in the firepit, and they were also exceptionally tender and delicious.

Then everyone brings something to contribute to the feast. The first year my parents attended, my mother asked Chuck what they could bring, and Chuck said, 'Bring a covered dish.' My mother did not know what that meant in pot-luck etiquette, so she brought an empty tupperware dish. It's become a running joke, and in addition to my wife's cornbread, we also toted an empty dish to the festivities this year to present to Chuck on behalf of my parents.

The side dishes range in variety from pasta salad to cole slaw to deviled eggs and fruits and breads and vegetables. All delicious, of course.

And then there's the dessert.

Here's one of the many beautiful things about the Pig Roast: they serve the food at about 1 p.m., but then they leave the buffet available all night long. People often bring more desserts than will fit the first time around, so after everyone gets a plate at 1 p.m., Darlene will place the rest of the desserts on the buffet throughout the night. So if you go in at 3 p.m. for a snack, you might find peanut-butter rice crispies treats that weren't there before; go back at 6, and you'll find a raspberry cheesecake.

Like I said, I could write a book about this.

But I'm not going to tonight. Even after the four-hour drive home, I am still stuffed to the gills. I'm going to go rest in my easy chair, and I may never eat again.

... Who am I kidding? The next Pig Roast is just 12 months away.

--Matt Kelsey

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Go ahead and die already: Advice to aging hipsters

Here is our advice to the aging hipsters out there clogging up the system:

1. We don't really give a damn if you saw The Who in their first American tour. Stop telling us you saw Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, or The Beach Boys when Glenn Campbell filled in on guitar. Who the hell was Glenn Campbell? How good could a concert be that you paid twelve bucks to get in? This is just boring and we don't really care. We wouldn't care if you told us you caught Beethoven live. BTW: You should have taken The Who's advice and died before you got old.

2. Stop yelling at us about our gadgets. You didn't have them when you were our age, which is not our problem. And don't decide to take up texting now. You have a hard enough time driving your Honda in a straight line.

3. When we come into McDonalds with our kid in the car seat, stop looking at us like you're trying to figure out how old we are. If you'd had the same chance when you were fourteen and you didn't happen to have a condom in your wallet, (or a wallet for that matter) you'd have done the same thing we did. Tell you what -- you don't worry about our sex lives and we'll try not to throw up thinking about yours.

4. And by the way, just because you hitch your pants up just below your man-breasts doesn't give you the right to tsk, tsk, because you can see some of our boxers. Don't even try to tell us you never wore anything funky. What about those bell-bottom pants you just had to have from Temple Slug. Jeeeeze. And what was that strawberry incense you bought each week at Strawberry Fields supposed to cover up?

5. Wear a helmet when you ride the new Harley you bought with a chunk of your kid's inheritance. We aren't worried about your health. We thought we made that clear. It's just that out on 69-Bypass around 103rd, the afternoon sun glinting off your bald head is gonna cause a big time wreck which will make us late for class at JCCC.

6. We don't want to hear about how good your mother's fried chicken was. It couldn't have been as good a Popeyes' and it took a lot longer than seven minutes to get on your plate.

7. We absolutely don't want to hear any more about how baseball players can't bunt these days. Nobody cares about baseball anymore anyway. If you want to do something constructive, try to learn soccer.

8. What's more, we've heard all we want to hear about that game you and your crotchety, broken down buddies play with softballs. That game is more like croquet than baseball. And baseball is more like coquette than football or soccer. And don't even start in about Bill Russell. We've heard it one million and one times. LaBron makes more money every minute than Bill Russell did in his entire sorry career.

9. If you want to read books, fine. Don't foist that crap off on us. If God wanted us to read books He wouldn't have created Control-C / Control V. Oh, and don't start in about newspapers. If the person who delivers the news on TV doesn't have decent cleavage, we don't need to know about it.

10. Just go ahead and die, will ya, and get your single-tasking self out of the way.

-- Matt, Dylan, Jacob, Trent and Williamson.