August 20, 2002

Jeez, I had a whole bunch of brilliant stuff ready to post, but it all kinda got lost on the PATH ride back to Jersey City. Crap. I remember thinking that it was going to be really funny and cool, so I guess we all lose. Me sleepy anyway.

Oh, I did learn something on the D Train heading to Yankee Stadium: if you're a bald, way-overweight, poorly groomed 40-year-old guy in an ill-fitting Jason Giambi jersey, repeatedly saying, "Dude, that is exactly why I'm not in a relationship" in reply to your friend's tales of womanly woe is a great way to make everyone on the train understand that your singleness is completely voluntary, and has absolutely nothing to do with issues of attractiveness, hygiene, or large ketchup stains on the front of said Giambi jersey.

Meanwhile, here's a quick update on my relocation decision:Advantage: Texas!
Everybody's favorite sports parody site, Twisted Fans, has been forcibly moved off of its old URL to a spanking-new address, so go re-check it out. I once described it as "Like the Onion...but with balls!" and they liked that a lot and used it as a pullquote and I got a bunch of traffic, so I decided to do it again. Plus, if you're so inclined, you can kick their collective asses in fantasy football.
The 7th Annual Air Guitar World Championships are taking place in Finland, and it could be the key to a brighter future.
The purpose of The Air Guitar World Championships is to promote world peace. According to the ideology of air guitar playing all war and disease would cease to exist and all bad things would disappear if everyone in the world only played air guitar. This is why at the end of every competition all people in the world are invited to play air guitar simultaneously.
Of course, everybody's wondering if anyone can dethrone reigning champ Zac Monro of London, who is looking to become the first repeat champion. Last year, Zac rocked out to Blur's Song 2 (which was also enjoyed heartily by tonight's Yankee Stadium crowd, which "Woo-Hoo"ed right along), but is keeping this year's choice under wraps until showtime.
(Oh yeah, thanks to everybody who said HO-OOOOO!)

August 19, 2002

Chuck Smith Answer! I know this will sound strange, but for some reason I'm getting a ton of search engine hits today looking for the answer to a question that begins "What NL East team said they debuted 30-year-old rookie Chuck Smith to give 36-year-old." I have no idea what this is about (Some sort of trivia contest? Please somebody let me know), but I'm pretty sure the answer has to be the Florida Marlins. Please send my share of the prize in care of this blog.
I want a new stadium, with plenty of luxury boxes! Ever since I announced my upcoming forced relocation, a classic East/West Coast bidding war has broken out in the message boards, with each side making their case to be my next home.

The Seattle folks have teamed up to offer me, among many other things, all the croutons and Ichi-rolls I can eat, a lifetime membership to the Lusty Lady, Mount Rainier, and a plate of cookies with a tuck-in to top off every night. The East Coast folks have threatened to kick my ass if I move. So it's pretty much a toss-up right now, I guess.
Check out this terrific Marc Weisblott Blogcritics piece analyzing the Clear Channel College Entertainment artist pricelist. Did you know that Pauly Shore is still asking for $17,500 for a night of his specialness? Up-and-comers Badly Drawn Boy seem like a bargain for $7500, especially considering that the "generally available" Blessed Union of Souls are asking for $10K and Silverchair $15K. Go check it out..
If you're like me — a man who may conceivably go out on a date at some point in his life — then you'll definitely want to check out Edie Singleton's Mating Call for a few pointers on what you can do to look like a massive tool:
He mentioned a couple times that he basically expects a kiss at the end of a first date, because if you don't kiss, what's the point? I responded that it was funny that I totally didn't feel that way! He said, especially after shelling out a lot of dough, etc, etc, it is nice to get a kiss. I insisted on paying for half of everything.
Seriously, I'd like to stick up for my gender and such, but this is the third or fourth dating story I've heard recently where we end up looking like total retards. Guys, let's be careful out there.
Baseball Strike Betting Line:As big a fan as I am, and as much as I'd like to see the Mariners in the playoffs, if there is a strike I doubt it would take more than a couple of days for me to completely forget about baseball. The same seems to be true for most of the people I've spoken with: hardly anybody can understand why these jerks can't get there act together, and not many more care. (Now that I think about it, the only people I know who would really care are some heavy sports bettors who need their daily fix.) Bleh on all of them — bleh, I say!

August 18, 2002

New York Notes. I caught the second half of 24 Hour Party People last night, a darn fun film that captures the inspiration and the stories, if not quite the madness, behind one of my favorite musical movements: the Manchester sound of the 80's. I can't really offer a full review, since I'm still hoping to check out the first half of the film.

Why did I miss so much of the film, you may ask? Because my friends told me to meet them at a certain bar near the theater, then thought that the bar was closed because "it looked dark inside" (shocking, I know), leaving a message on my (not with me cellphone) to meet them at a different bar. Oh, I was not-so-much pleased. Anyway, after the movie we spent many hours and dollars at some bar which had the sign "Please be aware of all your possessions at all times," which I thought was an interesting philosophy.

Finally, on my way to the PATH station, some car slammed on the brakes near where this other couple and I were walking. The female passenger rolled down her window and screamed, "OHMYGOD!!! Did you see that rat?!?!" Three in the freaking morning, walking in the middle of New York Freaking City, and I have some idiots scaring the shit outta me with the news that there's a rat on the loose. After a quick call to alert the media I was on the train back home.

August 15, 2002

Lemme hear you say HO-OOOO!

Tony Woodlief has some choice words for those bastards at Quaker Oats.
Well, no more, Quaker Oats Company. You can keep your tortured oats and your freakish pancake powder, because this is one customer who is on to your cruel game. Do you know what it's like to look into the face of your heretofore innocent toddler, and to discover a betrayed expression as he lets gray gruel ooze out of the corners of his mouth? "Why, Daddy?" he asked. "Why?"

Can you sleep at night, Quaker Oats Company? I can't. Not anymore.
If you can read this entire letter and remain dry-eyed, then you either have a heart of stone or are some evil hat-wearing Quaker freak.
Googlebation! Here's the latest update:Without Google, I would have no proof that I really exist.
I'm not claiming to know a lot about sales or marketing, but can it really be the best use of Slate's advertising space to repeatedly offer me this 1999 Baseball Year in Review video, or this slightly discounted copy of the 2000 Tampa Bay Devil Rays Yearbook (in case I wanted to relive their magical 69-92 season)? There is free shipping on orders over $99, in case I wanted to order 13 of these keepers. I swear, these same pieces of crap keep popping up every other time I check the site. Do I have some kind of "Will buy old garbage" cookie on my hard drive or something? Sheesh.

August 13, 2002

New Jersey: The Secret Weapon in the Fight Against Communism. There were numerous factors which contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 — decades of mismanagement, an escalating and financially crippling arms race, an increasingly unhappy populace — but I like to think that my own New Jersey had a little something to do with it. More specifically, Bon Jovi's "New Jersey," which 13 years ago today became the first U.S. album to be released legally in the Soviet Union. (Due to currency restrictions, the Russian label paid for the albums with a truckload of firewood.) The group also helped organize and perform in the Moscow Music Peace Festival, the first of its kind in the U.S.S.R., giving Soviet youth some idea of the glories that awaited them if they overthrew the Communist regime and built some Turnpikes and Skee-Ball alleys.
It's turned into Relationship Month over at Paul Frankenstein's mercurial blog, and while I personally prefer to wait until the temperature drops back into the double-digits to discuss such weighty matters, Paul jumps right in to ask and sort of answer the tough questions: Men are pigs: yes or no? and Women: are all of them psycho?
I remember once seeing a trial lawyer on TV discuss the jury system, describing it as the worst possible method for determining guilt or innocence...except for all the alternatives. That ran through my head as I read this New York Press report from Russell Birnbaum, the foreman for the federal jury in the retrial of former police officer Charles Schwarz in connection with the Abner Louima affair.
The cumulative weight of the evidence was leading us to believe the government’s accusation that Mr. Schwarz held down Mr. Louima when he was violated by Officer Justin Volpe. But this one lone juror rejected the testimony of almost every witness who testified against Mr. Schwarz. Anyone who spoke against Mr. Schwarz was automatically mistaken, misguided, duplicitous. "Liars. They are all liars—or maybe they forget," she said of the prosecution’s witnesses. "How do I know?" In a broad and unmistakable inflection, our obstructionist uttered this generic reply to almost every question.
[S]everal jurors asked our obstructionist if any evidence, real or imaginary, would persuade her of Mr. Schwarz’s guilt. She replied, "I don’t know."
It's worth reading to see how sometimes the most important things in life are decided by a few random, crazy factors.
James Taranto's Best of the Web has been taking some sportswriters, Keith Olbermann chief among them, to task this week, calling them "ninnies," "sanctimonious, oversensitive weenie[s]," and "tedious." Their collective crime? Objecting to Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden adopting Flight 93 hero Todd Beamer's rallying cry "Let's roll," as his team's motto.

Now, I don't consider myself either sanctimonious or tedious (though I have been known to be a touch oversensitive on occasion), but the idea that Bowden will be calling on Beamer's spirit to spur the Seminoles to convert a third-and-long against Miami seems a bit...unseemly.

Taranto finds ridiculous the idea anybody could have a problem with this, especially now that the Todd Beamer Foundation has given its seal of approval to the Seminoles' use of the motto. While that's interesting, the fact that Lisa Beamer approves of Bowden's use of the phrase doesn't really have any effect on how I see the situation, and it's certainly not the conversation-ender that Taranto perceives it to be.

Ted Williams' son may be trying to freeze his dad in order to sell his DNA later on. The family of Martin Luther King Jr. charges textbook publishers to reproduce his speeches and has licensed the footage of his "I have a dream" speech for a television commercial. Am I equating the "Let's roll" usage with these acts? Not at all. But no matter who owns the rights to Beamer's or King's words, the truth is that they're really owned by all of us (not to get too corny here), or else they wouldn't mean anything at all. While it maintains certain important legal rights regarding usage, the Foundation does not get to decide what the phrase and the courage that inspired it means to any individual.

August 12, 2002

Jeez, I feel like a big pile of stupid crap today. Just go read something else today, like....oh, I dunno...Jim Henley's Unqualified Offerings. He's very good, and writes about anthrax and Bruce Springsteen. That's pretty versatile.

As for me, I'm going to eat chickpeas out of the can while watching scrambled porn.

Oh, and I still need a place to live in a few months.

August 11, 2002

Donkey Command Central needs a new base of operations. I just got a horrible, horrible e-mail from my landlords, informing me that they are selling the condo and, therefore, kicking me out, effective pretty darn soon. I love this place and all its fun little extras, and having to leave will completely blow. So...anybody know about a Blogger-friendly apartment?

August 08, 2002

In preparation for their 25,000th show, has posted the 25 best SportsCenter commercials of all time. And if you're a fan of those, then you'll definitely love these Seattle Mariners commercials, featuring the unique comedic talents of Lou Piniella and Kaz Sasaki.

August 06, 2002

Definitely Above Average. Happy 60th birthday to a hero of mine: Garrison Keillor. A fine writer, a terrific broadcaster, and a heck of a guy to have on your side during those tough times.
A Fine Blogging First! Kudos to Edie Singleton of A Mating Call in the Concrete Jungle for adding a new level to the blogger/reader relationship. Edie has one of them TagBoard Message Boards, and she has announced that she will be online and chatting on her site every weekday afternoon from 1-2. Got a question about one of her posts? Want to ask her out? Well, now you can, in real time! This could be the start of something big.

And even if you're too busy to chat, you should still head over there for lines like "the one night stand with the lumberjack" and "[h]e is supposed to be getting a tattoo in my neighborhood in a couple weeks, and he asked me if I wanted to meet him afterwards and hang out somewhere and check out his new ink." It sure beats Skee-Ball.
Speaking of me, today was my one-year anniversary at my job, and I'm pretty darn pleased about it.
If you're looking for that surefire web address you'll want to check out Heather Cochran's I Come to Bury, Not to Praise It in Salon, which will introduce you to Every day tens of thousands of domain names are allowed to lapse, thrown back into the big Internet sea, waiting to be snatched up by some lucky bastard like you!

Just to offer one example: in the last week alone,,, and have become available. For months I've been thinking about either changing this blog's name or taking up dentistry, and now I can do both! Just think of what you'll find!
My dear friend Juliette Aiyana, a licensed acupuncturist and a heck of a gal, has written "Our Food Relationships," a fine article about oriental dietary therapy for The Pulse of Oriental Medicine Magazine. She offers some basic recommendations for healthy eating, and trust me, if you got a gander at her you'd follow whatever advice she gave ya.

August 05, 2002

Speaking of cool blogs you should be reading, check out Sickside, Kimberley's raw recollections on her time spent in the L.A. County prison system. It sure as hell beats another thoughtful and well-reasoned political essay.
New Link Policy. (I'm trying to head off a bunch of angry e-mails, here, so feel free to skip this post if you don't care about such inside blogging minutiae.) I've always tried to keep my links list fairly brief, in order so that visitors wouldn't be overwhelmed and might actually click on a link or two. There's a few sites in the main blog that I've humped like a drunken dog in heat, but for the most part I've tried to just stick some good links over there and hope that a few people checked them out. I had hoped to limit my list to about 25 blogs.

Now, as any math major can tell you, when you have a set number of blogs in a list, whenever you add a new one it means that an old one needs to be removed. Sometimes a link would be removed for a while and then returned, other times not. What I wanted was to keep the list fresh and to avoid was one of those massive 100+ permalink lists that are now pretty much the norm. I'm on a few of those lists, and while I certainly appreciate every link I get, it's practically impossible to get any kind of traffic from them. I figured I'd rather try and get 20 blogs a few hits than 100 blogs none.

This seemed to work well until about a month ago when, for the first time, a bunch of those folks whose blogs I delisted e-mailed me, asking what was up. (Probably not coincidentally, this all started around the same time as N.Z. Bear's Blogosphere Ecosystem, a method of ranking blogs based on the number of sites linking to them.) Well, I usually felt pretty embarrassed about the whole thing, so I would just put the writer's blog back up, which twice led to a different blogger getting bumped and then e-mailing me. To make things easier I stopped removing links, just adding new ones. The list went from 25 to 30 to 35, then 40, to the point where there were links on my own list I was reading less than once a week.

Which brings us to now, and to the much-reduced list at left. I've created a permalink list of ten blogs, as well as some "frequently rotated" (ha ha) Rotisserie Links. What this means is that your blog link may be gone, but it may very well return soon. I'm sorry if this bugs anybody, but blogging ain't all sunshine and puppies.

(Editor's Note: While we here at The Donk have always pledged to concentrate on the art and ignore the merchandising and speculation that has surrounded this blog, recent events have made this difficult, if not impossible. After receiving dozens of letters and e-mails from loyal readers and collectors who have been scammed by unscrupulous dealers selling counterfeit issues, mislabeled reprints, and the like, we have decided to include the following excerpt from Overstreet's Blog Price Guide to provide some help to those looking to get started in this fast-growing hobby.)

[1: First Appearance; D: Death; O: Origin; V: Versus]

The Illuminated Donkey

September 2001 - Present

1 $70 O: The Illuminated Donkey; 1: Cocky Sexton, Negative Nancy, The Duck

1 (Second, Third Printings) $3

2 $50 1&V: The Anti-Donkey; D: Uncle Chuck

2 (Second Printing) $3

3-5 $30 "Whence Came the Donkey" Storyline

6 $45 D: Impy the Kittycat; Ken Goldstein begins writing.

7-11 $20 "Donkey in a Strange Land" Storyline

12 $35 1: Mike Whybark (Two-panel appearance on last page.)

13 $55 O: Mike Whybark (Warning: Counterfeit versions of this issue have been discovered. The most common counterfeit can be determined by its fuzzy indicia, as well as MW's missing handlebar mustache on p14.)

14-18 $15 "My Pretty Girl, My Father" Storyline

19-21 $25 V: The Fat Guy

22-25 $12 Last Ken Goldstein issues.

26-29 $7 Crisis in Infinite Blogs Crossover

30-34 $5 "The Donkey in the Land of Rednecks" Storyline

35 $10 1&O: Guy Sterling: Skee-Ball Champion

36-40 $7 Guy Sterling storyline

41-44 $3 Poorly received All-French issues

45 $5 Ken Goldstein returns as writer.

46-49 $3 Brainwashed TID joins the Legion of Pernicious Posters

50 $8 Double-Sized Anniversary Issue; D?: Mike Whybark

Blogger Bazaar

March 1974 - July 1996

237 $120 1 & O: The Illuminated Donkey

238 $60 The Illuminated Donkey vs. The Dark Moose

239-40 $30 The Illuminated Donkey

August 04, 2002

Marilyn Monroe died 40 years ago today. She made the world a sweller place.
I know what you're all thinking: Where in the heck can I find a site devoted to everybody's favorite minor Warner Brothers character, Beaky Buzzard? Well, worry no more!
In case any of you wanted to learn a little more about my appearance and demeanor — the Ken behind the charming Donk persona, as it were — Mike Whybark describes me in somewhat disturbing and disconcerting detail in his latest MW of the Week. I can take issue with several facts, but I'd rather just let the mystery of the real me grow. Still, I have to think that any testimonial that compares me to Wallace, Steve Buscemi in Ghost World, and George Costanza ain't gonna help me in gettin' the ladies.
Poll Results. Well, it was a close battle, but John Rocker's pungent Sports Illustrated comments ("[New York is] the most hectic, nerve-racking city. Imagine having to take the [Number] 7 train to the ballpark, looking like you're [riding through] Beirut next to some kid with purple hair next to some queer with AIDS right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It's depressing.") was named by Donk readers as Major League Baseball's Least Memorable Moment. Hmmm...I can't help but wonder if a certain long-suffering fan of Texas Rangers (Rocker's current team) might have stuffed the ballot box.

Finishing close behind were the Yankees 1972 wife-swapping incident, Lenny Randle's unique fielding technique, and the Black Sox scandal.

August 03, 2002

Sorry about the lack of posting, Scott, but I've been dang busy lately. Continuing the good life theme, I spent my half-day yesterday wandering around New York, visiting the main Public Library branch and the brand-spanking-new American Folk Art Museum (definitely worth a visit, and free on Friday nights). Last night I saw The Breeders, with Imperial Teen opening. The folks who had seen them during their original run were pleased if not thrilled, but I thought it was all pretty fun and exciting, even if Kim Deal is crazier than a sack of hens and the Deal sisters each went through about three packs of cigs in an hour show. In cross-culture news, the band played the Buffy theme, and the Deal sisters will apparently appear on the show. Well, I'm off again. The world calls.

July 31, 2002

A good workout, a nice swim, then a big bowl of macaroni and cheese while watching the gorgeous red sun setting beyond the industrial paradise of Hudson County. Can life get any better than this?

July 30, 2002

I'm not sure when exactly it's coming out, but Despite Everything will apparently be the ultimate Cometbus collection, over 600 pages of reprints from the 20-year history of the greatest zine ever. If I knew when or where it was being sold I would camp out for it, and I'm so excited I might just do it anyway.
Nature Quiz: Read the following excerpts and then answer the question that follows:
Biologists said the five males and one female were showing a typical mating pattern, common during the summer.

Biologist Penny Husted said from two to 20 males will follow a female for days, sometimes weeks, until she is receptive. [During this time] "She will hide her genital regions and basically rest," Husted said. "It's important that people leave them alone when they do this so she can get the rest that she needs." Husted said the female will typically return to deeper water once she has rested.
Were the preceding excerpts taken from:
  1. A story about six mating manatees which washed up on a Florida beach, or
  2. A Trentonian feature about the singles scene in Seaside Heights, NJ?
Click here for the exciting answer! (Okay, it's the manatee one. Thanks, Christine!)
"Others bemoan the lack of Smurfs."
This is not a democracy, people! Apparently, due to my special position as the sponsor of the oft-praised-round-these-parts Girls Are Pretty, several loyal GAP readers have written to me wondering what has become its beloved message boards. Each day, dozens of fine folks gathered in the GAP boards exchanging polite greetings and clever comments about...well, really, it was more like scatological references and blatant come-ons from near-psychopaths, but at least the board kept that sort isolated in one place.

Anyway, about a week ago, the boards disappeared, and there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. The instructions were still updated daily and the YACCS link stayed up, but the message boards were gone. There was no explanation, of course — the Pretty Girl never explains herself — so the masses turned to me for guidance. have no idea. Sorry.

July 29, 2002

Check out Matt Labash's terrific Weekly Standard series uncovering the real reasons behind the rise in automated enforcement technology — those red-light cameras becoming too common in major cities.
Snapshots from the Baseball Hall of Fame Induction.

And direct from the first batch of postcards, the text of Ozzie Smith's Hall of Fame plaque:
Osborne Earl Smith

"Ozzie" "The Wizard"

San Diego, N.L. 1978-1981

St. Louis, N.L. 1982-1996

Revolutionized defensive play at shortstop with his acrobatic fielding and artistic turning of double plays. The 13-time Gold Glove winner set six major league fielding records among shortstops, including most assists, double plays and chances accepted. An effective offensive player, he accumulated 2,460 hits and stole 580 bases. Named to 15 All-Star teams. His relentless pursuit of perfection helped lead the Cardinals to three World Series, including a 1982 championship. His congenial personality, consummate professionalism and trademark back flip made "The Wizard" a fan favorite.

Who's on tap for next year? Certainly Eddie Murray, probably Ryne Sandberg and Lee Smith, hopefully Gary Carter. There looks to be some fairly lackluster inductions on the way (2004: Dennis Eckersley and Paul Molitor; 2005: Wade Boggs; 2006: Um...nobody? Catchup on guys like Bert Blyleven, Jim Rice and Goose Gossage?) until 2007, when Tony Gwynn, Mark McGwire, and Cal Ripken, Jr. become eligible. That should be quite the show.

July 27, 2002

And now, back to our regularly scheduled blogging. I couldn't work it into Skee-Ball Week, but New York's Museum of Natural History is hosting "Baseball As America"through August 18, an exhibit featuring memorabilia and artifacts never seen outside of Cooperstown. It's a strange place for the exhibit, especially considering that Cooperstown is only a few hours north of Manhattan, but it's pretty darn good.

What is especially cool, though, is that the museum's food court will have a kind of companion exhibit: "Hot Dogs As America," with a selection of ten classic dogs direct from the regional suppliers. For the first time, I'll be able to try a storied Fenway Frank or Dodger Dog, as well a bunch of other tasty dogs. dogs.

Speaking of the closeness of Cooperstown, my brother and I will be driving up there tomorrow morning to check out Ozzie Smith's induction. It should be a lot of fun, especially if the rumors are true and Ted Williams' head makes a rare appearance. See you on Monday.
Dammit, I've never even been to Morocco!

July 26, 2002

Roll Closing Credits! Cue the Theme Song!
In Skee-Ball Week,
We’ve talked of many things.
Of love, and death,
And plastic spider rings.
It’s all felt really nifty,
Like rolling a 50.
We've had a lot of fun

We’ve laughed at Spats,
A roller much maligned,
We’ve shared some tales,
And been told we’ve lost our minds.
But now our time has passed,
It's a shame it went so fast,
Can’t wait for the next one!
Good night, everyone! We love you! Drive home safely!

July 25, 2002

Skee-Ball Week Continues! Click here to go to the beginning of the story.

[Editor's Note: Unfortunately, we here at The Donk have been unable to locate the May or June 1938 issues of Happy Boy Magazine despite countless phone calls, e-mails, and time spent searching the microfilm and periodical departments of several university libraries. There is a lack of any real collector's market for magazines like Happy Boy, making them extremely difficult to find (it would actually be easier for us to locate them if they were considered rare and valuable!). If any of our readers can provide us with these elusive issues, you will have our eternal gratitude.

That being said, we were, at last, able to locate the July 1938 issue of Happy Boy (our eternal gratitude goes out to Dick Gibson, the Skee-Ball Hall of Fame's Director of Research, for his patience and diligence), featuring the climax of the Guy Sterling: Skee-Ball Champion storyline. We hope you enjoy it.]

From the July 1938 issue of Happy Boy Magazine: For Boys Like You!

Episode 15 of Guy Sterling: Skee-Ball Champion!

When we last saw Guy Sterling: Skee-Ball Champion, he had defeated Jehoshaphat Smith, Adirondack Al Acres, and Buck D'Lish (not to mention a nefarious German Agent attempting to infiltrate the world of Skee-Ball!) to reach the final round of The Championships. His opponent: the mysterious, bearded Joe Doe. Guy and Joe Doe had each won one game in the finals; the winner of the third game would become the World Skee-Ball Champion.

Guy Sterling put down his glass of lemonade, walked over to the alley, and put his nickel in the slot. He heard familiar metallic whoosh of the resetting scoreboard and the clack of the nine wooden balls as they reached the bottom of the chamber. Guy was getting ready to play a game of Skee-Ball, something he had done thousands and thousands of times.

There was one small difference, however. In none of those thousands of times had a whole dome filled with screaming fans been watching Guy roll, and in none of those thousands of times could a good game make Guy the Skee-Ball Champion of the World. Thinking about all that wouldn't help, Guy thought, so he just kept reminding himself that it was just another game of Skee-Ball: the balls weren't any heavier, the lanes weren't any longer, and the 50-point hole wasn't any smaller.

The bellowing voice of the announcer broke his concentration. "Ladies and Gentleman, the final game of the 1938 World Skee-Ball Championships! Let's hear it once again for both of our finalists: Guy Sterling and Joe Doe!"

Guy looked over at his opponent, the mysterious Joe Doe. Guy had never heard of Joe Doe, and neither had any of the other rollers in the tournament. Nobody even knew where he came from, since he refused to talk to anybody. Even when Guy tried to wish him luck, like his Ma had taught him to do, Doe just grunted and walked away, tugging at his bushy beard. He hadn't seen anybody that mean since the time Barkeep Billy kicked a pig in the middle of Main Street!

Well, he might have been an unfriendly son-of-a-gun, but he sure could play some Skee-Ball! After losing the first game by more than 50 points, it took all of Guy's nerve and concentration to fight back and eke out a win in the second game. Now it was time for the final game, and Guy was tired. It had been the busiest, craziest, most exciting week of his whole life, and one way or the other it would be all be over in a few minutes.

"Gentlemen, start yer Skee-Balling!"

Doe rolled first, another 50. Gosh, Guy thought, this guy sure is good. How can it be that somebody this good would just appear out of nowhere? The way he was rolling he would have won a whole bunch of trophies, or at least come close! And if he had been in tournaments, surely somebody would recognize him, what with that big, bushy beard. Still, Guy thought while watching Doe roll, something about him seemed awfully familiar...

Guy threw his first ball: it hit the lip of the hole but banked in for the 50. Whew! In a match like this, even one little mistake could be the difference. Guy knew he had to stop worrying about this Joe Doe character and just worry about his game.

The two rollers went back and forth, trading 50's. Both seemed to know that it was going to take nothing less than perfection to win this title. 150-150. 200-200. Like 50-making machines, the two rollers were both throwing perfectly. 250-250. 300-300. The tension in the Skee-Dome was growing thicker with each roll. 350-350! 400-400!

Joe Doe got up to throw his last ball. Though he had thrown nothing but 50's, Joe Doe was looking a lot more tired and nervous than he had at the beginning of the match. That nervousness, combined with the heat inside the packed Skee-Dome, was causing him to sweat something fierce. He was wiping his hands on his shirt and furiously scratching at his beard. He looked like he needed a nap and a tall glass of ice water, but that would have to wait. Doe rolled the ball.

Like his previous eight throws, the ball banked off the right wall and up towards the 50. But this one seemed to be moving a little faster than the others, and rather than sailing into the 50-point whole it bounced off the top of it, rebounding into the 40. The crowd gasped, and now Guy could win the whole thing with his last throw. The 40 caused Joe Doe to utter his first word of the tournament: "Geesmackit!" he screamed, then stomped back to his chair, still pawing at his face.

As excited as he was about the chance to win, Guy couldn't help but notice that something strange seemed to be happening as Joe Doe scratched his face, that his beard seemed to be...shifting a little! That was something that never happened to Gramps' beard! And that "Geesmackit!" sounded awful familiar! He ran over to Joe Doe and grabbed his beard. Gosh, Guy thought, I sure hope I'm right about this. Guy grabbed tight, gave a yank...and the beard came off in his hands!

The crowd was stunned into silence, broken only when a man in the mezzanine screamed "It's Spats Muprhy!" And it was! Reviled by the sport and booed mercilessly at tournaments, Spats had adopted this cunning disguise to compete in the Championships. Immediately, NSBA officials ran over to Guy and Spats, screaming that the tournament was over, that Spats was disqualified, that there would need to be new matches, and a whole bunch of other stuff.

And, of course, it was Spats screaming loudest of all, screaming about how he was being framed, how some gamblers were forcing him to wear the fake beard, how he just wanted to beat the damn punk kid.

"Wait a goshdarn second," Guy screamed, silencing everybody. "Spats might be a sneak and a liar and a jerk and an all-around terrible man, but near as I can tell he didn't cheat here today. He may have done it in a real funny way, but he won a bunch of matches to get here, and he was rolling real good today." Guy turned to Spats and looked him straight in the eye.

"But you know something, Spats? Today, you just ain't good enough."

With that, Guy turned and walked over to the alley, a smile on his face. Like it was the easiest thing he was ever going to do, he reached down, picked up the ball, set himself, then rolled it down the lane. And like his little brother jumping off the rope swing into Critters Creek, the ball sailed through the 50-point hole quiet and pretty as can be.

And with that 50, Guy Sterling was the Skee-Ball Champion of the World!

July 24, 2002

I interrupt Skee-Ball Week for the following anecdote:

During my lunch break today I walked over to a nearby restaurant to play a little Golden Tee 2002. The Golden Tee machine is located next to the jukebox, and while I was playing two high school kids, a boy and a girl, came over to pick out a few songs. When the boy pointed to the Bob Marley CD and suggested one of his songs, the girls looked confused and asked, "That's Bob Marley? I thought he was a fat white guy. Are you sure that's Bob Marley?"

I decided not to respond since, after all, what can you really say to that? After about a minute, though, the girl turned to her friend and said, "Oh, wait, I was thinking of Chris Farley."
Celebrate Skee-Ball's Most Memorable Moments!

The history of Skee-Ball is truly the history of America. Over nearly 100 years, Skee-Ball has delighted and enraptured millions of fans, and etched countless moments onto the American tableau. To help celebrate this remarkable legacy, Discover® and the National Skee-Ball Association® invite you to be part of history by voting to determine the most memorable moment in Skee-Ball history.

A panel of experts including rollers, executives, and sportswriters have selected ten moments for our ballot. Simply use the ballot box to your left to select your most memorable Skee-Ball moment. We'll announce the winner at a special ceremony during this year's Atlantic City Championships.Skee-Ball: It's not just a sport — it's our lives.

July 23, 2002

Skee-Ball Week Continues!

Welcome to Sports Corner, with your host: Buck Woolley!

This week's question comes to us from Mo-Skee, obviously quite the little Skee-Baller. She asks, "What advice might Spats Murphy have given regarding the elusive 100's?"

Well, Mo, that's quite the question. Just what would have that legendary roller and noted scumbag have said about the 100-point targets? First, though, a little background: As I'm sure you know, the 100's weren't introduced into National Skee-Ball League play until 1978, long after Spats' death, in an attempt to liven up the game and boost sagging ratings. While originally rollers were only allowed to go for the 100 on their last ball, that rule was relaxed by the mid-80's to allow unlimited shooting. Who among us will ever forget Jock Casey's record 810 in the 1993 Finals, missing that perfect score by less than a millimeter? I know I sure won't.

Anyway, Spats Murphy was a man who didn't believe in doing anything halfway, whether it was Skee-Ball, stealing another man's wife, or selling nuclear secrets to the Italians. If Spats were alive today, I think he'd say to go right for that 100, and whether you make it or not you can cash in your tickets with your head held high!

This has been Sports Corner, with your host: Buck Woolley!
Skee-Ball Week Continues, with a Brief, Scholarly Interlude! [I’ve received a lot of e-mail this week indicating that the vast majority of you were not previously familiar with either the Guy Sterling stories or Happy Boy Magazine. I guess that most of you weren’t fortunate enough to grow up in the Goldstein household, where winter evenings were spent in front of the fire, with Gramps reading to us kids from the latest issue of Happy Boy. Ah, those were wondrous days.

Anyway, I thought that before I continued with the Guy Sterling reprints, I’d get you all caught up to speed, so to speak, with the following excerpt from Scott Scoglio's article "Magazines for Adolescents in the Pre-War Era," which appeared in the American Library Association publication Periodicals Quarterly.]

Though largely forgotten today, Happy Boy Magazine enjoyed a relatively lengthy period of success, especially compared to the many other boy's magazines that collapsed in the wake of the Grit/Boy's Life tandem juggernaut of the 1930's and 40's. Originally a giveaway produced by the Happy Boy Dairy Corporation to increase margarine awareness and sales among ten-year-old boys, the magazine soon outgrew its original purpose to include a wide variety of non-dairy features and serials. [Happy Boy's origins were well represented, however, by the long-running comic strip Oleo Joe, the adventures of a mischievous boy who each month used his beloved margarine to get out another tight scrape. Reports that Joseph Heller and Jack Kirby collaborated on some of the later Oleo Joe strips have proven to be only rumors.] The magazine began newsstand sales in June 1936, with its familiar tagline — "For Boys Like You!" — appearing shortly afterwards.
The most popular feature in Happy Boy Magazine was, by far, the Guy Sterling series, in its many incarnations. What made the Guy Sterling series unique was that its many writers never allowed it to lapse into a familiar formula or routine, as was the unfortunate practice of the time. Because of this character growth, readers followed the exploits of Guy long after they tired of many similar serials and, oftentimes, long after they had stopped reading the rest of the magazine. Towards the end of Happy Boy's run it would not be unusual to see men in their twenties and thirties reading the latest issue on the bus or subway. It was certainly responsible for a large share of the magazine's success.

The first year of the series, Guy Sterling: Farmboy, was standard rural fare, notable only for the relatively graphic, sometimes twice-monthly, descriptions of livestock birth that peppered the text. The characters were sweet, and the storylines ran to the sappy.

The series didn't really take off until 1937 with the introduction of the "Skee-Ball Champion" storyline. At the time, the Skee-Ball craze was sweeping the country, and the Happy Boy editors no doubt saw this as a way to cash in its popularity. It soon became much more, due to some crisp writing, exciting storylines, and an innovation that would become a hallmark of the series.

While other serials had occasionally featured real-life celebrities in cameo roles, the Guy Sterling serial was the first to actually use them as full-fledged characters, interacting as part of the storyline. Some of the nation's top Skee-Ballers, including Brinks McGillicuddy, Bobby Knowles, and Ray Rayberg, were signed to licensing contracts and became major players in the Skee-Ball Champion storyline. During a time when the sports press was much smaller and the personal lives of athletes were far more private, these stories gave many young fans the idea that they were seeing the men behind the legends.

In most cases, for obvious reasons, the athletes were presented as strong, noble, and near-invincible, despite their inevitable defeats at the hands of Guy Sterling. In a few cases, these Skee-Ballers had some input into their characters and storylines. There was, however, one unfortunate exception: Joey "Spats" Murphy.

At the time the Skee-Ball Champion series began, Spats Murphy was on the downside of a long, illustrious career, but was still immensely popular. Befitting his stature, Spats was introduced as a near-mythic figure, brave and beloved. To Murphy's lifelong dismay, this characterization only lasted a few brief episodes, and while the reasons for the editorial shift have been lost to history (the most persistent rumor revolved around a girlfriend supposedly shared by Spats and the series' lead writer), there can be no doubt that the animosity was genuinely felt. To a nation of boys the name Spats Murphy would soon became synonymous with sniveling, cheating, lying, and other unsavory acts.

While Murphy wrote letter after letter begging to be let out of his contract, his character continued to appear, even long after the Skee-Ball storyline and craze had passed. And while he died a broken man, hated by a nation of men and boys, a pariah to his own family, Murphy could take some solace that the April 1942 installment of Guy Sterling: Air Force Flyboy, consisting of seven pages of Guy savagely beating Murphy interspersed with scenes of Murphy begging for more and declaring that he wanted to kiss Tojo, is said to be largely responsible for the strengthening of America's libel laws during that period. How many of us can say we made such a difference?

July 22, 2002

Please join us here at The Donk as we continue to present these delightful, exclusive reprints of the 1930's favorite sports/adventure tales for lads. Check out the previous installment here.

From the April 1938 issue of Happy Boy Magazine: For Boys Like You!

Episode 12 of Guy Sterling: Skee-Ball Champion!

When we last saw Guy Sterling: Skee-Ball Champion, his boyhood idol, the legendary Joey "Spats" Murphy, had joined Guy in the locker room of the Atlantic City Skee-Dome, moments before the National Championships were to begin.

"The name's Spats, son, and you look like you can use a little advice."

Guy couldn't believe what was happening. Here it was, a few minutes before the biggest tournament of his life, and Spats Murphy was standing only a few feet away! Still, Guy couldn't help thinking that the whole thing was a little funny. Imagine, Spats Murphy introducing himself, like Guy wouldn't know who he was! Why, it was almost like if Guy's Ma had come to Atlantic City and introduced herself!

"Gosh, Mr. Murphy, I'm sure any advice you'd give would be terrific! But what are you doing here?

"Well, Guy, I've heard a lot about you, and I've been watching you. You remind me of another young roller I once knew, a roller with a golden arm and a headful of dreams. A roller named Spats Murphy. By which I mean you remind me of me, only when I was your age."

Guy Sterling's eyes opened wide, and his smile lit up the whole locker room. "Gosh, Mr. Murphy, do you really mean it? Wow! That's the gr—"

"And that's why I felt like I had to come and see you here today." Spats turned away from Guy. For a moment, Guy thought that Spats might be — no, could it be?! — wiping a tear from his eye.

"Skee-Ball's a great game, Guy — maybe the best darn game in the whole darn country. Maybe nobody knows that more than the two of us. And that's why it breaks my heart to see what some folks are trying to do to this great game."

Guy was on the edge of the bench. "What folks, Spats?! Who are they, and what are they trying to do to Skee-Ball?!"

"Gamblers, Guy. Rotten, stinking gamblers." This time there was no mistaking it; there were definitely tears in Spats' eyes. "It's chiselers and cheats and the whole thing makes me sick."

Spats turned and walked over to where Guy was sitting, putting his hand on Guy's shoulder. "You see, son, it was some of those rotten gamblers that got to me a few years back, right here in this locker room, forcing me to throw the championship. It was the worst thing that's ever happened to me."

Guy looked up at the hunched over figure, now definitely looking a bit older and more tired than he did in those old magazine photos. "So you're telling me that gamblers and tough guys made you throw the big championship?"

"Yeah, it was a bad break."

"Because I always heard that you just kind of fell apart that day."

"Nope, it was gamblers. I'm sure it looked like I just fell apart, but that was just because I was being forced to throw the big match."

"Yeah, I was talking to some of the old-timers here, and they say that you started babbling about some cockamamie shakedown story almost immediately after blowing your first three games. Seems like an odd thing to do, really, especially if you're trying to keep the whole thing a secret."


"So it was gamblers, huh? Who were these gamblers, exactly? I mean, how did you know they were gamblers?"

"Look, goshsmackit! I don't have to take this! I'm telling you the truth! They came at me in the dark with guns and knives and sticks, and one of those things that kind of looks like a porkypine at the end of a stick! They weren't wearing nametags for Pete's sake!"

"Okay, okay, it was gamblers, knives and sticks, took a dive, yeah yeah. So, anyway, you said you had some kind of big advice for me? Though, frankly, I'm not sure what kind of advice..."

"You be quiet! I got plenty of A-plus advice for ya!"

"Okay, like what?"

" should try to throw 50's in the big tournament."

"As opposed to?"

"40's. You definitely want 50's instead of 40's. 30's are even worse. And 20's and 10's are right out."

"Well, gee, that sure is some top-quality advice right there, Spats. I never would have figured that whole 50 thing out, me being an idiot and all. Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I just heard them announce my name."

Guy stood up, shook his hero's hand, and walked out the door into the noisy arena. It was the moment he'd been waiting for his entire life.

Will Guy take Spats' advice? Who will Guy face in the first round of the big championship? And what about the German Secret Agent disguised as a popcorn vendor? Be sure to keep an eye out for the next exciting installment of Guy Sterling: Skee-Ball Champion!

What the heck! Let's just declare this Official Skee-Ball Week here at The Donk, and present this loving history of the game, as well as the official history.

July 21, 2002

[As long as we were talking about the great game of Skee-Ball, I thought I'd share one of my favorite childhood stories.]

From the March 1938 issue of Happy Boy Magazine: For Boys Like You!

Episode 11 of Guy Sterling: Skee-Ball Champion!

When we last saw Guy Sterling: Skee-Ball Champion, he had overcome remarkable odds to defeat the evil Hans Schleppingham and win the Pigdirt County Fair Skee-Ball Tournament. More important than any trophy, though, was the pride of representing Pigdirt County in the National Tournament in Atlantic City! As we rejoin our hero, Guy is in the locker room of the legendary Skee-Dome in Atlantic City, waiting for the tournament to begin.

Gosh, thought Guy Sterling. Gosh, gosh, gosh. Gosh. It was all so exciting and dizzying. Ever since he had picked up his first handmade wooden ball he had dreamt of the National Championships, and now here he was, in Atlantic City, waiting to hear his name called. It was really a dream come true!

But it was also very scary, being all alone in a big town like Atlantic City. Not only was it the farthest he’d ever been away from home, but it was only the third time he’d ever been out of Pigdirt County for longer than a day (the other two times were on family trips to visit his Gramps and Grans, who had left Pigdirt for Scurville during the great varnish scare of aught-four). He missed Ma and Pa and Sis and Little Timmy something fierce, not to mention his friends and neighbors, and Old Man Pepper who ran the hardware store, and Happy the Mailman, and especially Becky Ann Susie, who he was starting to feel awfully sweet on. He even missed mean old Principal Leaf, and he wouldn’t have thought he’d ever miss him! Guy knew that he couldn’t just mope around missing everybody, though — he had a tournament to prepare for!

And what a tournament it was! Anybody who was anybody was there, rolling his wooden balls. Guy thought that he was a big deal for winning his little tournament, but now he was in an arena filled with big deals, and he was just a little deal. Last year’s champ, Chuckie Packard was there, as was Jehoshaphat Smith, the famed one-armed roller from Topeka. Mickey Merkin, Flip Young, Al Galvin — who was a small-town fish like Guy against such legends?

Guy sat wearily on the bench, resting his now achy head in his hands, when he heard somebody enter the locker room. Before he could look up, a strong, clear, voice shattered the silence of the room.

“You seem a bit worried, son. Maybe I can be of some help.”

Guy looked up, and a huge smile creeped along his face. The man in front of him was a little older and grayer than the man familiar from dozens of photos ripped from magazines and taped to his walls, but there could be no doubt that it was Joey "Spats" Murphy, Guy's boyhood idol, once the greatest champion of them all. And here he was, in the very same room as Guy!

Guy remembered evenings in front of the fire, listening to Pa Sterling tell tales of the great Spats Murphy. Spats was the first real Skee-Ball star, and legend had it that he learned the game on that first alley built by J.D. Estes back in aught-nine. He criss-crossed the country in those early days, going where the road took him, to the fairs and boardwalks, taking on the local talent and hightailing it when things got too rough. The legends grew with the sport, from every part of the nation: how up in Racine he threw a 450 blindfolded, that time in Salt Lake when he played two alleys at the same time, both lefty and righty. He'd spot the local champ a free 50 and leave him weeping. There was money, championships, women, and then...silence. Word of a scandal back in `35, and then nothing.

"The name's Spats, son, and you look like you can use a little advice."

What is Spats doing in Atlantic City? Where has he been all these years? Will he help Guy in the big tournament? Keep an eye out for the next episode of Guy Sterling: Skee-Ball Champion!

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