Monthly Archives: February 2010

Salute to the Opening of Spring Training

Baseball fans!

This is the week that Major League Baseball’s spring training camps begin. Of course, the hateful, evil, Satanic New York Yankees were among the first teams whose pitchers and catchers reported to spring training on Wednesday, February 17, 2010. I will leave it to the all-knowing baseball gods to explain why my downtrodden, under-achieving Cleveland Indians (who you’d think would want to get a head start on the damnable Yankees and everybody else) were the very last club to hold their first spring workouts on Tuesday, February 23 – nearly a full week after the Yankees. What the hell? Was my Tribe gallantly giving the hated Yanks a head start? My competitive head aches…

But regardless of how my beloved Cleveland Indians have approached spring training 2010, I’d like to celebrate the first flowering of the MLB baseball season with a re-print of a poem I wrote many years ago. Full credit must be given to my wife Victoria (who was not yet my wife at the time) who managed in 1988 to get my satiric take on Ernest Lawrence Thayer’sCasey At The Bat” published in the Baseball Bible, The Sporting News.

I still remember being at the wheel of our car when Victoria told me that some sports publication called “the sporting something” was going to publish my poem. “Is it The Sporting News?” I screamed at her, pounding the steering wheel! “Are you talking about the Baseball Bible? The Sporting News??” Victoria was a cool, impossibly groovy girl — but she had no idea how absolutely perfect a publication she’d landed. And, as a relatively good South Side Chicago girl, she could not fully appreciate how I felt when I saw that the legendary Mad Magazine artist, Jack Davis, illustrated my poem.

UPDATE: Before I published this article, I wrote to The Sporting News to confirm the identity of the artist.  In September 2010, I finally heard from Sporting News archivist Bill Wilson that is was he — and not Jack Davis — who illustrated my poem. “I hate to disappoint you,” writes Wilson, “but the ‘prominent artist’ who illustrated this piece was none other than me. I’ll take the compliment, however, as well as the comparison to Jack Davis—it is an apt one, as he was one of the biggest influences on my style. I was with TSN as everything from a staff artist and cartoonist to creative director between 1981 and 2008.” Ultimately, I’m not disappointed. The very talented Bill Wilson did a great job.

Here then, in honor of Spring Training 2010, is my poem — first published in The Sporting News on January 5, 1988.


Written by Paul Barrosse

With apologies to Ernest Lawrence Thayer, a tongue-in-cheek look at baseball today…

It looked extremely hopeful for the Mudville nine that year,
The Spring was full of promise, and the fans were full of cheer.
Then came the news by UPI that hit home with such clout,

The star would not report that Spring — Mighty Casey would hold out!

Casey was the MVP on last year’s Series Champ,
And all the writers in the land pitched tents in Casey’s camp.
‘Twas “Casey this!” and “Casey that!” and features on TV,

Now when they came to interview, no Casey did they see.

The Mudville General Manager, his Stetson hat askew,
Bellowed “I’ll make Casey hold his breath until he turns bright blue!”
Casey’s agent, Morton Zucker, raised a challenge in the press,

“No Pay — No Play,” read headlines, “We Want Millions — Nothing Less!”

The season ticket holders soon stopped calling to renew,
As Casey held out six long weeks, and then another two!
Spring training almost over, and the lineup nearly set,

The name of Mighty Casey was not written on it yet.

On Op’ning Day the Mayor threw the first ball out with shame,
Not a fan inside the ballpark dared to whisper Casey’s name.
The players took the field and paused to hear the Anthem played,

A little boy sat crying, Mighty Casey was delayed.

The fans were growing restless, Mudville started 0 and 10,
And rumor was that Mudville would not see Casey again.
But when Casey’s agent Zucker sought an arbitration hearing,

Every Mudville heart believed a blessed settlement was nearing.

The Mudville G.M. cried with rage, “This business reeks of greed!
If Zucker wants to arbitrate, then we’ll make Casey bleed!
Ev’ry error he’s committed, every drunk post-curfew spree,

Will be laid before the arbitrator — bare for all to see!”

The hearing lasted five long days, as both sides thrashed it out,
Some devoted fans of Casey’s were no longer so devout.
“He has problems with his back,” his trainer testified to all,

“He’s drunk so often, sometimes he can’t even see the ball!”

“Casey never hits for average,” Mudville’s G.M. pointed out,
“And let’s not forget the day that ‘Mighty Casey had struck out!'”
The arbitrator ruled that Mudville pay nine hundred grand,

But Mudville brass weren’t buying and they made their own demand.

“If Casey wants his money, we demand he do his best,
And since he can’t be trusted, he must pass a urine test.”
Casey’s test results were positive; all Mudville was in pain,

When Casey was suspended for dependence on cocaine.

Casey rehabilitated while the season passed him by,
Mudville fell into the cellar while he hung out to dry.
There were stories in the paper, graphic photos told the tale,

Of how Casey got into a fight and spent the night in jail.

This was not the season for which Mudville hearts had hope,
The greatness overcome by greed, the dream done in by dope.
By All-Star break, with Mudville’s pennant promise all but faded,

It was announced that Mighty Casey would be reinstated.

Casey soon was reassigned to Triple A Des Moines,
First time up he hit a triple, ran too hard, and pulled his groin.
On a minor league Disabled List, laid low by wear and tear,

Mighty Casey waited for his body to repair.

July was nearly over, Casey wasn’t yet in shape,
If Mudville had a chance in hell, they could no longer wait.
The day at last arrived when Casey showed up, bat in hand,

And was penciled in the lineup for the final pennant stand.

Casey stepped into the box, a hush was heard to fall,
With Mudville on its feet, he tore the cover off the ball.
It smashed against the outfield fence, a triple in the gap,

And Casey, charging hard for third, paused just to tip his cap.

The throw from left was right on line, and Casey had to slide,
But Casey’s legs did not react, he could not find his stride.
The baseman put the tag down from the fielder’s perfect peg,

Before the dust had settled, Mighty Casey broke his leg.

A silence gripped the faithful when they heard that fateful crack,
And realized that Casey was not ever coming back.
They bundled him with air-splints and they trundled him away,

No Mudville man nor boy alive will e’er forget that day.

Somewhere children sing and laugh and play with simply joy,
Somewhere in ev’ry Baseball Play’r still lives the little boy,
Somewhere there’s a place where Baseball’s just a joyous game,
But there is no joy in Mudville — Mighty Casey pulled up lame.

Author’s Note: Of course, if this had been written in the last decade, cocaine would have been replaced by HGH and steroids — and Tiger Wood’s peccadillos would have loomed large. In many ways, my 1988 Casey got off easy.


Filed under Sports

Rockme Reunion 2010

Rockmes Return to Evanston

SPACE: A groovy place to rock the night away.

It’s my pleasure to announce the 2010 reunion of the nation’s finest purveyors of traditional and original garage music, Riffmaster & The Rockme Foundation, on May 17 in the town of their birth, Evanston, Illinois. This raucous rocking reunion will be held at SPACE (the Society for the Preservation of Art and Culture in Evanston) located at 
1245 Chicago Avenue.

You can check out SPACE by clicking here.

So mark your calendars with a big red “Rockme Reunion” — and plan your travel from whatever corner of the globe in which you currently reside. Our sax man, Tom “Wolf” Larson, will be traveling all the way from his new home in Madrid, Spain – so long distance should be no barrier to attending this splendid not-so-annual event. After all, wherever you are, you’re only 5 minutes away by rocket car!

And for those who wish more information on Riffmaster & The Rockme Foundation, simply click here for a brief colorful history of the band, whose motto has always been, “Make the kids jump!” No matter what age those kids are.


Filed under Art, Music

The Matey’s Log: Sailing Season Begins

Captain George Moll wanted his crew on the H dock in Ventura Harbor at 8:00 am on Saturday morning, February 13. It was a good thing that the race was being run the day before Valentine’s Day. Like golfing, sailing is a sport that takes men out of the house for long stretches of time on the weekend. But sailboat racing is worse than golf because it’s never certain when you’ll be done. 18 holes of golf always take about the same amount of time to complete. The duration of a sailboat race depends upon the vagaries of the wind and conditions on the water. The race was set to start at 11:00 am, and if the gods Aeolus and Poseidon were with us, we could easily be back on the dock by 4:00, as I’d promised my wife, Victoria. Or we could be home much, much later.

Captain George wanted us at the dock good and early because our boat, a 32-foot Beneteau First 10R named Sprit Decision hadn’t been in a race since early December. The crew was glad to be racing again. We were all veterans of earlier campaigns, though every one of my crewmates is a far more experienced sailorman than I am.  Captain George and Captain Tom Weber own Sprit Decision. George and Tom are a pair of old salts who keep everyone entertained with their crusty maritime Oscar and Felix act. Affable, gentlemanly Michael Froelich skippers his own boat, and is a key member of our crew as a helmsman and sail trimmer. Claude Dubreuil, an expert diver and sailor, is our fearless leader on the foredeck. (I assist Claude on the foc’s’le.) And my longtime buddy, Darroch Greer, may be the new guy on the foredeck crew, but as a diver, sailor and surfer, he’s also much saltier than me.

And me? Well, they call me “The Matey”, but my virtues as a sailor extend little beyond blind loyalty to my captain, the strength to haul lines and pump halyards, a knack for cursing like a tar in Nelson’s navy — and a good bit of weight on the rail. All in all, the six of us were a fine crew with which to start the 2010 racing season.

The February 13th race was the first of the Spring Series sponsored by the Pierpont Bay Yacht Club out of Ventura Harbor. Sprit Decision was among the twenty or so boats competing in the spinnaker class. The racecourse began at the Mandalay buoy, across the Santa Barbara Channel, around oil platform Gilda, then back into Ventura Harbor.

The Santa Barbara Channel is a glorious stretch of blue Pacific Ocean that separates mainland California from the northernmost Channel Islands. It runs between Point Conception and Oxnard on the coast and the islands of Anacapa and San Miguel. It’s as gorgeous a body of water as you’ll find on the planet, and whether you win or lose the race, it’s a pleasure to spend time on these waters.

As we sailed out of Ventura Harbor, we saw hard-working souls in two large out-rigger canoes paddling their way back inside the breakwater. It was a reminder that human beings have been navigating the Santa Barbara Channel for centuries – maybe even millennia. For many centuries before they first encountered Europeans in 1542, when Juan Cabrillo and his cohorts arrived from Mexico to “discover” the channel, the Native American Chumash tribe went back and forth across the channel in large, primitive dugout canoes, connecting the islands with their mainland villages and establishing trade between them.

We crossed the starting line just a few seconds after 11:00 am, and were sailing among the leaders, headed for the offshore oil platform called “Gail”. (All the oil platforms in the channel are named after women. It does get lonely on those platforms.) Platform Gail is about 10 miles from Ventura Harbor – and with a steady 10-15 knots of wind, we were showing 7-8 knots of boat speed. At that rate, we’d round Gail within a couple hours. Sprit Decision, her bottom newly-cleaned and treated, was knifing through the large, wide, rolling swells, as we made our way toward Gail.

Gail and her sister platforms are sitting in the Santa Barbara Channel because of the many oil fields below its sea floor. The channel has been mined for over 100 years – and was the site of the very first offshore oil well in 1896.

The channel was also fouled by one of the worst oil spills in history in 1969, when the black stuff came oozing out of fissures around a recently drilled offshore well a few miles south of Santa Barbara, blackening hundreds of square miles of water, killing aquatic wildlife, and mucking up the beaches from Goleta to Ventura. That disaster helped to galvanize the nascent environmental movement in the United States.

I must admit, I wasn’t thinking much about that history as we rounded platform Gail because there would soon be important work to do.  Once we got around Gail and were headed back to Ventura Harbor, the wind would generally be on our stern – which meant a spinnaker run to the finish line. Flying the spinnaker is one of the main responsibilities of the foredeck crew, and it’s one of those critical shipboard evolutions that can either kick the boat into a higher gear – or trigger a disaster.

Before the race, we’d practiced deploying the spinnaker – with mixed results. (Among other snafus, I managed to nearly get myself knocked off the boat helping to jibe the spinnaker.) But, rounding Gail, we got our spinnaker flying with very little drama, and were soon making between 10 and 11 knots on our run back to Ventura Harbor.

Claude looks back to admire the swell.

Since the start of the race, the long, rolling swells pushing toward the shore had continued to build – and were now quite large: eight to ten feet from crest to trough. As it was a following sea, Sprit Decision was literally surfing the swells that came in under her stern. The sea, the ship, and the crew were in a great rhythm less than a mile to the finish – but it wouldn’t last.

Suddenly, as we neared the shore and shallower water, the perverse geometry of the sea came into play, and the swell began to fall off more precipitously. The wind was gusting as we were riding down one particularly large swell, and as Sprit Decision’s bow dipped dramatically – a gust of wind drove the spinnaker down toward the trough of the swell.  The boat’s bow was pushed parallel to the rolling swell and the boat was listing heavily to starboard, its rail nearly in the water. In an instant, we were on the verge of getting knocked down and broached by the onrushing swell.

Michael, trimming the spinnaker, came close to a bath when we were nearly knocked down.

Quick work by all hands kept the ship from heeling over disastrously, but it was critical to de-power the spinnaker. (In other words, get the wind out of it, so it wouldn’t be driven into the water, taking us with it.) Alas, one of the spinnaker’s working sheets got hung up on deck cleat! You may not know what all that means – but the bottom line is that we were nearly knocked down a second time before we were able to free that spinnaker line, right the ship, and haul down the spinnaker.  Of course, there are no photos of these wild and wooly moments. At times like that, it’s all hands on deck!

Twenty minutes later, we were across the finish line. It had been an exciting and satisfying first race of the season. I’m not sure where we finished – probably somewhere in the middle of the fleet – but it was a pure joy to survive the experience with Captains Moll and Weber and the gallant men of Sprit Decision.

And, best of all, with the wind as consistently stiff as it was – we finished at 2:00 pm. That’s two hours earlier than I told Victoria I’d be done!  So, I got home earlier than expected.

A good start to the new sailing season, indeed.

What follows is a photo album from the race. All photos were taken on my iPhone — which, luckily, avoided going in the drink.

Captain George at the helm.

Captain George at the helm.

Claude, master of the foredeck.

Captain Tom consults the race rules. "Now, which platform is the mark? Gail or Gilda?"

Michael on the rail.

Darroch at the ready on the foredeck.

The Matey.

"So, George! Do you want us to fly the spinnaker now, or what?"

The Matey on the rail, watching the wake go by.

Captain George. Sailor. Leader. Legend.


Filed under Adventure

The Saints Come Marching In…

You don’t need to read this blog to know that the long-suffering New Orleans Saints won their first Super Bowl this weekend. Their emphatic 31-17 victory over the Indianapolis Colts touched off a party in the French Quarter that will ramble into the Mardi Gras festivities next week. Oh, how I long to be in that number, marching with the jazz bands stepping out down Bourbon Street, celebrating the Saints’ deliverance of the Crescent City from five years of neglect and misery after Hurricane Katrina nearly washed my father’s fabled hometown away.

For centuries, New Orleans has been the cradle of the Barrosse clan. It’s the only town in the United States where you can pick up a phonebook and find lots of people named Barrosse – and they’re all my kin. My father, Peter Adelmard Barrosse, was born there in 1927 (in the 9th Ward, near Jackson Barracks), and though he never again lived in the Big Easy after the Korean War, New Orleans loomed large in our family. We made a couple memorable visits to see my Grandma Barrosse and our many aunts, uncles and cousins – and I returned there several times in the 1980’s to work the Renaissance Faire in nearby Metairie. My grandmother, who lived to be 96, was still alive then – and the New Orleans Saints were still losers.

As if I didn’t suffer enough sports misery as a Cleveland Indians and Browns fan (and later a Cubs fan) – it was also my lot, through my father, to follow the Saints. The team was born at an NFL league meeting on November 1, 1966, which fell on All Saints Day. As New Orleans is just about the only Roman Catholic town in the south, the team’s ownership named them the Saints for the holiday on which they were born. For the next four decades, their heavenly name would be one of the few blessings this star-crossed franchise would receive.

The Saints played their first regular season game on September 17, 1967, in front of 80,879 fans at Tulane Stadium. The Saints returned the opening kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown – and for 43 seasons, it was mostly downhill from there. Naturally, they lost that first game to the Los Angeles Rams — and ended their first season with a 3-11 record.

The only truly bright moment in Saints history, prior to their recent success, was the day in 1970 that their place-kicker, Tom Dempsey booted the longest field goal in NFL history.

On November 8, 1970, the Saints were, of course, trailing by one point in the final seconds of a game against the Detroit Lions. At that point, the only thing remarkable about the game was that the Saints actually had a chance to win it. However, it would take a miracle: a 63-yard field goal. Up to that point, nobody had kicked one longer than 56 yards. And that record was 17 years old.

Adding to the unlikely drama was the fact that the Saints kicker, Tom Dempsey, was born with no right hand and no toes on his right foot. Nonetheless, Dempsey electrified Saints fans – and stunned the football world – by drilling the ball 63 yards through the uprights and into the NFL history books. I was 12 years old at the time – and I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. There was finally something about the Saints I could brag about. But that was just a fleeting, fantastical moment. Grim reality soon returned.

Dempsey lives in Metairie now, and because it seems divinely ordained that Saints should suffer — his house was flooded in the Hurricane Katrina deluge.

The year after Dempsey’s epic kick, the Saints drafted the Great Franchise Hope, Archie Manning. With the good-looking and talented Ole Miss star at quarterback, the Saints won the first game of the 1971 season, upsetting the Los Angeles Rams 24-20 at Tulane Stadium. But the Saints finished that year with a 4-8-2 record.

Despite Manning’s talent, and the adoration of his fans throughout Louisiana and Mississippi, Archie could not transform the Saints into a winner. The Manning family would have to wait another generation to put NFL championships in the family trophy case.

For too many years, too many seasons, too many games, and too many crushed hopes, New Orleans beloved Saints would become the ‘Aints. Fans wore bags over their heads, but they still came out to chant, “Who ‘dat? Who ‘dat? Who ‘dat say ‘dey gonna beat ‘dem Saints?”

Ironically, the Saints first Super Bowl victory, nearly 40 years after Archie Manning’s first season in New Orleans, came against Archie’s son, Peyton. Fate is always messing with ‘dem Saints.

Now, perhaps, the Saints curse has been lifted and a new period of hope, optimism and good luck will shine down from the heavens on the city of New Orleans. I sure hope so. My dad did not live to see what Katrina did to his city. It would have broken his heart. And he did not live to see this Super Bowl triumph, which would have thrilled him. But, if there was ever a football team being followed in heaven – wouldn’t it have to be the Saints?

So, Dad, how did you feel when Tracy Porter picked off Peyton Manning late in the fourth quarter and took the rock to the house, giving the Saints’ the Lombardi Trophy?

I think I heard you celebrating with the joyous throng in the Quarter last night. “Who ‘dat? Who ‘dat? Who ‘dat say ‘dey gonna beat ‘dem Saints?”


Filed under History, Sports

Johnny B. Goodrich

A few years before I met the incredible Crawfords, I was already fortunate enough to have certain of my adventures enhanced and illustrated in cartoon form by John Goodrich, a schoolmate at Northwestern University in Evanston.

In the fall of 1978, John and I were cast in what would ultimately become …But is it Art?, the ’79 Mee-Show. John was a precocious, gangly, and quick-witted freshman, the youngest in a cast that included a senior, Winnie Freedman, my fellow juniors Rush Pearson, Dana Olsen and Bill Aiken, plus sophomores Barb Guarino, Althea Haropulos, and the incomparable Larry Shanker on the piano.

It was my second Mee-Ow show, and I was already behaving (insufferably, no doubt) like a sagacious old veteran, so a young newcomer like John was under my microscope. I liked John right away, but I’m sure I was tough on him.

C’mon! The kid was a freshman. He was two years younger than me.

Even now, it’s strange how, among the friends you meet in college, those who were a year or two ahead of you in school still appear far older and more experienced than you – and will for the rest of your life. Likewise, those who were a grade or two behind you always remain much younger in your mind. And somehow this applies even when we’re all in our early 50’s! I may be nearing 52, but that nearly 50-year old guy who was a freshman when I was a junior still seems much younger than me.

John made unique contributions to …But is it Art? In addition to his role as “The Incredible Dork” and his all-important portrayal of an unsuspecting young man who slips on a banana peel – John drew the poster for the show, created flyers and ads for us — and also began to turn his funny friends into cartoons. As a frustrated cartoonist myself, I was very impressed that John was the real deal.

Click on image to enlarge and read the jokes...

During my senior year in 1980, John and Dana Olsen got together and created a comic strip called “No Dumping” which appeared in The Daily Northwestern. The strip portrayed the adventures of four brain-addled 20-something slackers. Man, I thought that was cool. But then John did something even cooler: he turned us all into cartoon superheroes.

The title of the 1980 Mee-Ow Show was Ten Against The Empire. We were doubtless inspired by the second Stars Wars film, The Empire Strikes Back, which was being heavily promoted at the time, and set to be released in May, three months after our 3-week February run.

John launched our own promo efforts into a whole new galaxy by drawing a series of comic strip advertisements that ran in The Daily Northwestern during the week leading up to the show’s opening.

That's John on the far left, me with the beard, Julia, Rush & Judy. Back from from left: Mike, Kenny, Dana & Rod.

In the promotional strips, John transformed the cast of Ten Against the Empire — 
John, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Rod McLachlan, Mike Markowitz, Kenny Marks, Dana Olsen, Rush Pearson, 
Judy Pruitt and 
piano virtuoso Larry Shanker – into a team of oddball heroes battling a humorless super-villain.

My own character’s name was Infra Death. You can tell how cool I thought all this was by the fact that I saved all 6 comics in the series. (The rest of them are posted at the end of this article.)

Even before he graduated from NU, John became very involved with the Practical Theatre Company as an actor and artist. He performed in our first production of Subnormal and our first improvisational comedy revue, Bag O’ Fun. He also did great graphic work for our third improv comedy show, Scubba Hey (’81) and a silly Shakespearean send-up I wrote called, Song of the Snells (’82).

John would contribute to many more PTC projects between ’82 and ’84, both onstage and with his brilliant pencils in hand. I’ll save some of those details for the next two installments of my PTC history – but for The Merry Guys Who Windsurf, the comedy revue we staged at The Gooodman Theatre Studio in the summer of 1984, John not only performed – but he once again turned his fellow cast members into cartoons.

John’s still doing his cartoon thing, only now he’s a pro. He’s got his own company, which you can check out by clicking here. He specializes in custom cartoon graphics, graphic design and desktop publishing services.

Check out this funny blog post I found, written by one of John’s satisfied customers.

A few years ago, John and I teamed up on a cartoon series I was trying to sell to — where else – Cartoon Network. Superhero Haven was about a rehab center and halfway house for troubled superheroes.

We didn’t sell the show (Alas, Drawn Together beat us to the marketplace.) But it was great fun to work with John again – and he really brought a lot of great characters to life.

Since then, it’s always a pleasure to get John’s annual Groundhog Day card. For one thing, it’s fun to see how John’s going to work the cartoon groundhog into the photo. And, of course, it’s great to see his lovely family grow lovelier each year. It looks like John has done really, really well in the family business.

The last bit of art John drew for one of the PTC family was the announcement he did for Tom “Wolf” Larson’s big Twin Cities performing arts center opening last year. Of course, Wolf recently left the snowy tundra for the sunny climes of Spain. But before he left, Wolf got the chance to have John Goodrich turn him into a cartoon hero, too.

This is Infra Death, signing off!


Filed under Art, History