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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.

Andy Granatelli, race car owner and Route 66 Hall of Famer, dies December 29, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, People, Sports.
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Andy Granatelli, who became famous as an owner of a winning Indianapolis 500 race car and as a CEO of STP motor oil, died Sunday in Santa Barbara, Calif., at age 90 of congestive heart failure, according to varying media outlets, including the New York Times.

Granatelli also was inducted into the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame in 2003 and the Cruisin’ Hall of Fame at the Route 66 Rendezvous in San Bernardino, Calif., in 2002.

He is most well-known for his racing career, which the Associated Press summarized as follows:

Andy Granatelli’s cars nearly won the Indianapolis 500 in 1967 and ’68 with turbine engines. He broke through in 1969 with Mario Andretti driving his winning car with a conventional engine. Granatelli kissing Andretti on the cheek in Victory Lane is one of the most famous images in Indy history.

In 1973, Gordon Johncock gave Granatelli another Indy 500 victory.

But, as late author Tom Teague explained, Granatelli started his racing and entrepreneurial career on Route 66 in the Chicago area:

Andy’s first trip on 66 came when the family drove to Chicago to live with relatives. Their apartment was at 5200 North Winthrop. During the Chicago World’s Fair of 1933-34, the first great festival of the Route 66 era, Andy and his brothers would walk all the way downtown to collect soda pop bottles discarded by fairgoers. Then they’d trudge back home and “return” the bottles to neighborhood grocers.

In 1937 when work proved too scarce in Chicago, Vincent Granatelli drove his family to California. There he hoped to find farm work. Their car was an over-the-hill ’32 Oldsmobile as heavily laden as any Okie family’s. When the job hunt was unsuccessful, the family returned to Chicago. There Andy delivered bags of coal up the steps of tenements. With Joe and Vince he sold vegetables door to door along North Halsted from the trunk of a Buick. The three also become expert mechanics. Often they would fix cars right on the street. If they needed to use a power tool, they’d just knock at the door of a first-floor apartment and ask to pass a cord in. Later Andy would attend Weaver Alignment School in Springfield. But essentially his formal education ended when he was 14. All the rest came from under the hood or behind the wheel.

When a housing shortage hit the west coast early in World War II, Andy and Joe set record after record for towing house trailers from Chicago to Glendale, California, on 66. Joe drove a 1940 Mercury and Andy had a 1940 Ford. Both cars had souped up engines and could hit 100 miles an hour with a trailer in tow. Often Andy would get right behind Joe and ride in his slipstream. For a few extra dollars they took on soldiers and other people as passengers. But Andy can’t remember any of those folks lasting past St. Louis.

Granatelli started racing cars after World War II, including at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield. He also brought hot-rod racing all over the Chicago area. Teague wrote:

The Indianapolis 500 proved to be the magnificent obsession in Andy’s life. He won it twice as an owner. But Route 66 also continued to weave in and out of his life. He drove or sponsored races in more than a dozen cities and towns along the road. He had his famous but illfated Novi engines built in Glendale, California, on 66. He ran the STP Corporation from Des Plaines, just a few miles north of 66. He’s worked and lived in the 66 cities of Chicago, Joliet, St. Louis, Los Angeles, and Santa Monica. He even got married near the start of 66 and spent his wedding night in Joliet.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway produced this tribute to Granatelli before his death:

The Speedway issued this statement today:

“Andy Granatelli – appropriately known to many of us as ‘Mister 500′ – understood better than anyone the spirit and challenge of the Indianapolis 500 and had a remarkable ability to combine innovative technologies with talented race car drivers to make his cars a threat to win at Indianapolis every year,” said J. Douglas Boles, IMS. “Andy leaves a legacy of historic moments that will live forever in Indianapolis 500 lore including his famous turbine that dominated the 1967 Indianapolis 500, the Lotus 56 of 1968, and giving the great Mario Andretti a kiss on the cheek in victory lane after his 1969 win. Our thoughts and prayers are with Andy’s family, friends and legion of fans.”

More about Granatelli can be found at his Wikipedia page.

(Hat tip to Pat Bremer; image of Granatelli’s 1969 Indy 500-winning car by Daniel Incandela via Flickr)

The waitress on Route 66 who loves sports December 26, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in People, Restaurants, Sports.
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One of the reasons people love traveling Route 66 is the unique characters they meet.

Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke reports on another such character at the Peppertree Cafe in Glendora, Calif. She’s a waitress who serves sports commentary along with breakfasts, and she’s become so popular that some diners wait hours for a table in her section.

Her name is Julie Butkus. And, yes, Chicago Bears fans, it’s her real name.

We’ll let Plaschke explain:

Butkus, 45, with steely blue eyes that turn red when she covers them with Kansas City Chiefs contact lenses, spreads her passion five days a week from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. with a mixture of softness and sassiness that turns the Peppertree dining room into a family room.

She’ll hug a frail woman whose beloved New England Patriots just lost a game, she’ll high-five a couple of construction workers whose UCLA Bruins are on a roll, and she’ll put down her coffeepot to argue about last night’s college basketball game with two cops.

If the whipped cream on your waffle is in the shape of the Angels logo, that’s Butkus. If you hear someone in the kitchen whooping at a football score on a Sunday afternoon, that’s Butkus. And if the scrawl on your check reads, “Go Chiefs.” [...]

Butkus has become so popular, diners will decline tables that aren’t in her section and wait until she becomes available. She is sometimes given as many as three extra tables — giving her 13 tables and booths at once — to accommodate her fans.

“She’s an amazing waitress — half the people who come in here ask for her,” says Dave Dallas, Peppertree owner. “Then once they sit down, they’ll sometimes sit for three or four hours at a table just to hang with her.”

It’s not just a schtick for Butkus. She genuinely loves sports, and she always wanted to be a sports commentator. But she grew up at a time when she thought few women would have such opportunities.

But at the restaurant, she can indulge her passion. And she provides company — for at least a short time — to her customers, many who are older and alone.

Even if you’re not older and alone, if you’re a Route 66 fan in the L.A. region who also happens to be a sports fan, the Peppertree Cafe is the place to go for breakfast.


Joplin likely will acquire minor-league baseball team December 12, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Sports.
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The City of Joplin, Mo., is moving swiftly to accept a proposal to renovate historic Joe Becker Stadium and land a minor-league team from El Paso, Texas, as its new tenant, reported the Joplin Globe.

The council voted to have the city staff write a formal agreement defining the terms of a deal toward relocating the El Paso (Texas) Diablos to Joplin. That agreement may be presented as soon as next Monday if the city’s legal staff can finish it that soon, according to the discussion. [...]

Rohr said the city’s proposed investment has been reduced from $5.9 million to $4 million because the El Paso owners have agreed to take on the cost of building more stadium parking. In return for assuming the cost of buying land and constructing lots, the team ownership could charge for parking to recoup the cost.

The team’s contribution to the deal would be to build a $4 million entry plaza to the stadium with the additional costs for parking construction. Owners also would be responsible for team operational costs.

To pay for the renovations, the city will either raise the motel tax or take on debt. Regardless of that detail, all of the aldermen present agreed to draft a formal pact to bring the Diablos baseball team to town.

The Diablos will be renamed if they come to Joplin. One of the options is the name of the town’s previous minor-league club, the Joplin Miners of the 1950s.

Joe Becker Stadium was built in 1913, making it one of the oldest baseball parks in America. The grandstand burned down in 1936 and again in 1971. But the field itself is the same as it was a century ago. The stadium’s biggest claim to fame is future Baseball Hall of Fame members Mickey Mantle  and Whitey Herzog played there as members of the Joplin Miners during the early 1950s.

My thoughts about Joplin renovating the stadium and getting a minor-league team are here.

(Image of Joe Becker Stadium by Julio Borcher via Google Plus)

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