August 04, 2002
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.
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:
- A story about six mating manatees which washed up on a Florida beach, or
- A Trentonian feature about the singles scene in Seaside Heights, NJ?
for the exciting answer! (Okay, it's the manatee one. Thanks, Christine!)
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.
And..um...I 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.
- The relentless booing of Bud Selig every time he spoke to the crowd. (Selig normally presents and reads the plaque to the new Hall of Famer, but this year, for some reason, he yielded to Ozzie's son.).
- Stan Musial on harmonica leading the crowd in "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."
- My brother's unexpected South Park sighting: Parker/Stone's BASEketball listed in the "Baseball in the Movies" exhibit.
- Talking baseball with the knowledgeable fans in the Records Room.
- As always, the saddest sight: an angry Pete Rose, sitting in the back of his shop, waiting for a stranger to either pay for his autograph or scream, "We still love you, Pete!"
- Buying an early-80's-vintage Seattle Mariners garbage can in my favorite souvenir shop.
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. Mmmmm....hot 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.
July 26, 2002
Roll Closing Credits! Cue the Theme Song!
In Skee-Ball Week,
Good night, everyone! We love you! Drive home safely!
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!
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.
- 1909 J.D. Estes replaces 40-pound steel ball with nine smaller wooden balls, introduces Skee-Ball's "modern era."
- 1922 Joey "Spats" Murphy wins inaugural NSBA event, the first of his 22 titles.
- 1928 Mickey Merkin throws record 1340 series in Championship Finals, caps greatest comeback in NSBA history.
- 1935 One-armed roller Jehoshaphat Smith breaks arm during tournament, ekes out gallant third-place finish using only his feet.
- 1947 Frederick "Frenchy" Frechette shatters the "Border Barrier," becomes first Canadian to appear in an NSBA event.
- 1951 17-year-old prodigy Zachary "Kid" Brinton eaten by coyotes during last outdoor Championships.
- 1963 Syphilis-ravaged Al Galvin delivers famed "God, how I've hated you all" farewell speech to sellout Atlantic City crowd.
- 1969 Sammy Syrop becomes first roller to win Grand Slam: Atlantic City, Orlando, Las Vegas, and Southern California.
- 1974 Tank Zimmerman wins 437th jumbo stuffed bear, breaks Al Galvin's career mark.
- 1993 Jock Casey rolls an 810 in the finals to cap off 1890 series — both records.
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?"
"Um...you 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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