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Summer in St. Louis July 8, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Restaurants, Sports, Towns.
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A friend on Facebook posted this a few days ago, and it certainly will make former residents of the Gateway City homesick. If nothing else, maybe it’ll encourage a few Route 66 travelers to hang around the city for a few days.

Here is St. Louis from Grain Inc. on Vimeo.

The exceptional video was created by Grain Inc. of St. Louis. Whoever paid them got their money’s worth.

(Image of the St. Louis Arch by princesskoko via Flickr)

New Mexico continues to snub Tucumcari for a racetrack license June 16, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Animals, Businesses, Sports, Towns.
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The Quay County Sun newspaper last week published a well-researched story that speculates why the Route 66 town of Tucumcari, New Mexico, hasn’t been awarded a license from the state to build a horse-racing track and casino, despite a license being available for more than a year.

The proposed Coronado Park racino in Tucumcari calls for 600 slot machines and a one-mile dirt racetrack just off Route 66. It would host 55 days of horse racing each year and create an estimated 1,200 jobs. The New Mexico Racing Commission holds six licenses, and one is available after a proposed “racino” in Raton went bust a few years ago.

State officials contacted by the newspaper wouldn’t comment on why Tucumcari is denied the open license. However, the Sun said the state may be holding back for a number of reasons:

  • Doubt exists whether there is enough horse stock to keep six racetracks running.
  • Even more doubt exists whether the horse-racing industry is healthy enough for another facility. Race attendance in the United States declined 30 percent from 2006 to 2011 and shows no signs of improvement.
  • Casino officials are concerned the gaming industry has reached a saturation in the United States, especially with the rapid rise of Native American-owned casinos. And more tribal casinos are coming.
  • Questions remain whether the state can manage enough oversight over illegal doping of horses and ensuring jockey safety. A New York Times report in 2012 showed that New Mexico had the worst oversight in the country.

The Sun reports Tucumcari remains an attractive site for a new racino, with its proximity to Interstate 40 and a neighboring state — Texas — that has almost no casinos. And the promise of hundreds of jobs and thousands of new visitors undoubtedly would boost Tucumcari’s economy and perhaps halt or reverse the town’s 50-year slide.

But the proposed racino contains pitfalls, too. No one should look at a Tucumcari racino with rose-colored glasses.

(Image of downtown Tucumcari by Matt via Flickr)

Joplin’s new baseball team is called the Blasters April 22, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Sports, Towns.
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The name for the new American Association professional baseball team in Joplin, Mo., will be the Blasters, with a logo that includes a reference to Route 66.

The club announced the nickname and logo Monday afternoon in Joplin. The logo contains a nod to the region’s lead-mining history and the town’s old Joplin Miners ballclub, with the mascot wearing a mining helmet. The Blasters name also refers to dynamite blasting as part of ore extraction.

A Route 66 shield is in the background, and the ownership group acknowledged before the announcement a reference to Route 66 was being considered.

Thw owners chose the name from residents’ suggestions. The Blasters name came from Joplin resident Cliff Mansley, reported the Joplin Globe. He received season tickets and a suite box.

Shawn Suarez, co-owner and general manager, said Blasters is a way to honor the area’s mining heritage in a fresh and new way. [...]

“I know there’s a huge group of traditionalists,” Suarez said. “When we came in, there were two camps of people we would talk to. There was one who wanted the traditionalist way, and there was one who wanted a more modern approach. The thing we’re happy with the Blasters is we think this will satisfy with both camps. If we picked Miners, there’s one section. This way, both groups of people can be represented.”

Black and gold will be the team colors.

Locals greeted the Blasters name mostly with derision on Facebook. Many hoped to resurrect the Miners name, when Joplin hosted a Yankees affiliate during the 1940s and ’50s — and two future Hall-of-Famers in Mickey Mantle and Whitey Herzog. But it’s understandable the new ownership wanted to start with a clean slate.

However, in addition to its historical ties, the Blasters name carries excellent marketing possibilities (blasting home runs, having a blast at Joe Becker Stadium … you get the idea). It brings to mind six years ago a minor-league club in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania with a seemingly clumsy name of IronPigs (a reference to the region’s pig iron and steel production days). The team’s marketing department used the name in all sorts of clever ways, fans quickly embraced it, and Lehigh Valley went on to set minor-league attendance records.

The ownership group recently began multimillion-dollar renovations of historic Joe Becker Stadium, and the first pitch will be in May 2015.

Mansley made this observation:

“It’s time to have some fun in Joplin. … We’ve had enough of the heartache of the tornado. It’s time to move on and move up and trust that the good Lord has some new things for us. This is one of those new things that will be a lot of fun. We want to bring families together. We want to bring the community together, and this is a great way to do it.”

The amazing story of Joe Bauman April 2, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Gas stations, People, Sports.
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Famed sportswriter Joe Posnanski a few days ago wrote about Joe Bauman, who set a professional baseball record of 72 home runs in a season in 1954.

That record stood until Barry Bonds hit 73 in 2001.

The hot, dry air of the region and smallish ballparks of the Longhorn League undoubtedly helped Bauman set the record.

But Bauman, at 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, didn’t hit many cheap home runs, either. He reportedly blasted a 500-footer during his big season that landed in the middle of an adjacent rodeo — sparking a lot of jubilant hollering from the cowboys. And he had other seasons in which he hit 48, 50 and 53 home runs.

In addition to those 72 homers, Bauman’s 1954 season featured 35 doubles, three triples, 224 RBI, 188 runs scored, a .400 batting average and an eye-popping .916 slugging average (which is higher than any major-league mark) in just 138 games. Bauman never made it to the major leagues, but his record season brought him national fame anyway.

The whole story by Posnanski is worth reading. A few tidbits to let you know why this is relevant to Route 66:

  • Bauman co-owned a Texaco gas station and tire shop on Route 66 for many years, and worked there during the off-season.
  • Bauman was born in Welch, Okla., close to Mickey Mantle’s Route 66 hometown of Commerce, Okla. He grew up in Oklahoma City.
  • His baseball career included stints in Amarillo and Elk City, Okla. And Albuquerque was part of the league in which Bauman played.

He finished his career — all in the minor leagues — with a .337 average, 337 home runs and an amazing .702 slugging average. Bauman died in Roswell, N.M., in 2005 at age 83.

Bauman’s Baseball Reference page is here. A more detailed biography can be found at the Society for American Baseball Research can be found here.

Overview of the 2013 Route 66 Marathon February 25, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Sports.
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Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma yesterday posted this video below about the 2013 edition of the Route 66 Marathon, held in Tulsa in November.

Blue Cross / Blue Shield is a major sponsor of the marathon, but the video serves as an excellent overview of it regardless. In a relatively short time, the Route 66 Marathon has become a major event in Tulsa:

The 26.2-mile course goes over portions of the earlier Admiral Place alignment of Route 66 and a portion of the 11th Street / Southwest Boulevard alignment.

The 2014 edition of the Route 66 Marathon is Nov. 22-23.

(Image of the 2013 Route 66 Marathon medal by AZ_Michael via Flickr)

Route 66 makes brief appearance in Chrysler Super Bowl ad February 2, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Sports, Television, Vehicles.
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The advertisement Chrysler aired tonight during the 2014 Super Bowl will forever be labeled as the “Bob Dylan Chrysler ad” — mostly because of the surprising appearance by the famously reticent singer-songwriter.

But a Missouri Route 66 shield also makes an appearance. You’ll see it about the 20-second mark.

Chrysler has produced a few superb ads in recent years, notably the Enimem “Imported from Detroit” spot. This wasn’t a bad one, but it felt as if someone shoehorned a bit of Dylan’s vernacular into it.

By the way, this isn’t the first time Dylan’s been mentioned in Route 66 News. We delved into the bizarre (and debunked) rumor that he once lived in the Route 66 town of Gallup, N.M. back in 2012.

UPDATE 2/6/2014: A historian writing for CNN points out that Dylan has flouted expectations for his entire career. So, in a way, the ad on Super Sunday was nothing new.

(Image of Bob Dylan by erjkprunczyk via Flickr)

Professional baseball will return to Joplin January 24, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Sports, Towns.
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As expected, the City of Joplin, Mo., approved a lease this week with an independent professional baseball team from El Paso, Texas, to move into and renovate century-old Joe Becker Stadium, reported the Joplin Globe.

The newspaper reported details of the arrangement:

The lease requires the city to spend $4 million enlarging and updating the stadium. The baseball partners are to spend $5.3 million in building an entry plaza that eventually is to have a ticket booth, management office, restaurants and some loft apartments in addition to parking lots in the surrounding area. [...]

“There’s opportunity here, and we’re really excited to be here come 2015,” when the as yet unnamed baseball team would start play if the city proceeds with the remaining legal work.

The owners already have posted artist’s renderings of the renovated ballpark and plaza on the team’s Facebook page:

The owners have asked Joplin residents to offer a new name for the team. Chances are locals will favor Joplin Miners — the former name of the city’s Yankees affiliate during the 1940s and ’50s. Future Baseball Hall of Fame members Mickey Mantle and Whitey Herzog played for the Miners.

The artist’s rendering of the plaza suggests a statue of Mantle will be placed there. The statue wears No. 7 on its uniform, the same as Mantle’s with the Yankees. In 1950. Mantle hit .383 with 26 homers and a .638 slugging average in 137 games with the Miners. Mantle grew up in the nearby Route 66 town of Commerce, Okla., and played baseball as a 15-year-old with a semipro team in nearby Baxter Springs, Kan. — also on Route 66 — before going to the majors.

The owners had better not forget Herzog, who remains beloved in Missouri because of his stints as manager of the Kansas City Royals and St. Louis Cardinals, including winning a World Series title in 1982 with the latter.

Residents may make nickname suggestions on the team’s Facebook page or by emailing joplinprofessionalbaseball(at)gmail(dot)com. At least two Route 66-related names — the 66ers and Cruisers — are suggested, although an NBA development team in Tulsa and a minor-league baseball team in San Bernardino, Calif., use the 66ers name.

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