Upcoming Events

The first two Saturdays in October will see me at two very interesting places. On October 4th from 1:00 p.m.-3:00 pm., I will be signing copies of Boots Poffenberger: Hurler, Hero, Hell-Raiser at the Third Base Tavern here in Williamsport. The Third Base Tavern, “Last Stop Before Home” as the sign says, is the former Ern’s Tavern, which was one of Boots’ favorite hangouts. I’ve never done a book signing in a bar before, but I am certainly looking forward to this one. I bet that I come away with a few more stories about Boots! Special thanks to owner Ed Cave for inviting me.

Boots at Ern's Tavern. The table is still there.

Boots at Ern’s Tavern. The table is still there.

On the 11th at 11:00 a.m., I will be giving an illustrated presentation entitled, “Boots, Baseball, & World War II” as part of Williamsport’s World War II Days. The talk will focus on how the war affected baseball and I’ll use Boots’ experience in the Marines as a specific example. It will last 20 minutes or so (unless I get carried away by this very interesting topic!)

I hope to see at least some of you at one event or the other; or perhaps even both!

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“Did you ever hear about the time . . .”

One of the most rewarding aspects of the book signings held so far for Boots Poffenberger: Hurler, Hero, Hell-Raiser is having folks share the fond memories of their youth, and of Boots. There are still so many stories about Boots floating around out there that I may eventually have a sequel! Here are two of my favorites so far and I plan to write about others in the future.

Jack Phillips, whose father published the newspapers in Hagerstown for a quarter of a century told me this story at the Winchester Book Gallery: His dad had season tickets right beside the Hagerstown Owls’ dugout and one Sunday afternoon during the first game of a doubleheader, the manager of the Owls looked up and down the bench for Boots who had pitched the night before.

“Where’s Boots?” he asked.

“Last we saw him, he was on the floor of the Funkstown American Legion,” replied one of the players.

“Go get him; he’s got to pitch the second game.”

Some of his teammates left the ballpark, fetched Boots, stuck him in the shower, and he pitched the second game.


During Williamsport’s Canal Days signing, Gary Weaver who had a cabin next to Boots’ along the Potomac, told me this tale:

Boots was at his cabin along the river one night when he summoned Gary and told him to call the ambulance because he was sure that he was experiencing appendicitis.

“Do me a favor, Gary and wait down here at the end of the lane so as to flag down the ambulance. They’ll never find the entrance to this place in the dark,” Boots instructed.

Gary, of course, was rather flustered and asked Boots if he wanted to be driven straight to the hospital. Boots replied, “Nah, I’m just going to go up to the house and lie down.”

The ambulance arrived and carted Boots to the hospital where his appendix was safely removed with no complications. Two days later, however, Boots’ wife, Hanna, called Gary on the telephone liberally cursing him.

“For two days, I’ve been looking in every bar in Washington County only to find out that he’s been in the hospital! And you knew it all along!”

“I just assumed that Boots would have told her he was in the hospital, but he didn’t!” laughs Gary.

As Boots’ step-son Jerry Knode once told me, quite often if you wanted to know what was going on with Boots, you had to read it in the paper.


Did I mention that Boots was a real character?

Did I mention that Boots was a real character?

I’ll be doing a book signing soon at one of Boots’ old haunts here in Williamsport, formerly Ern’s Tavern, now known as the Third Base Tavern. “Last stop before home,” as it says beneath the name on the sign out front. I can’t wait to hear the stories that I will hear in there!


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Another Stupid Sign

About a year ago, I wrote about the number of stupid signs that have blossomed like ragweed across the land. One of those about which I wrote last time was on a gas pump at Sheetz. While pumping gas last week, at the very same Sheetz I might add, I saw another warning that gave me pause.2014-08-19_19-52-16_785

Contemplate the second paragraph on the photo at right. As I understand this sign, if a fire erupts somewhere over 20,000 gallons of gasoline or whatever those underground tanks hold, I’m supposed to stroll on in and mention to Skippy behind the counter, that he might want to turn off the supply of gasoline before the expectant explosion hurls my automobile into the shopping center on the other side of the highway.

It seems to me that the sign should more accurately reflect what is likely to actually happen. Therefore, I propose that it read as follows:

If a fire starts, run like a crazed gazelle into the store and scream to Skippy behind the counter that he should hit the red switch and then duck. You should probably wave your arms will doing so.

If you see a stupid sign out there, take a photo and post it in the comment section.

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Boots Gains Recognition

Boots Poffenberger: Hurler, Hero, Hell-Raiser received some nice recognition over this weekend in several ways. Many people stopped by the Winchester Book Gallery on Saturday to purchase a signed copy and to talk some baseball. Three different people were proud to tell me that they knew Boots personally. The book signing was covered in a nice feature by free-lancer Alison Laurio in the Winchester Star the day before.

The book (and its author!) were also featured in a large spread in the Sunday Herald-Mail. The interview was conducted by Meg Partington and the on-line version may be seen here.

The signing schedule for Williamsport’s Canal Days has finally been finalized. (Is that redundant?) I will be at the Town Museum from 1:00-4:00 BOTH Saturday and Sunday, August 23rd & 24th. This is different from what appeared in the Herald-Mail, however the error was not theirs. The interview was conducted a couple of weeks ago when the times which Meg listed were the most accurate available.

At approximately 1:15 on the 24th, I will be presenting a slide show on Boots’ career, the same presentation that I gave at the book launch.

That should bring everyone up to speed. I apologize for such a fact-filled entry. Usually, the only facts that I present are the ones that I invent for purposes of illustration. To make it up to you, however, here is a photo of Boots that was previously unknown to me and was posted to the Sulphur Dell Ballpark Facebook page by a Mr. Jay Richards. I’d love to know what Boots was thinking about in this shot.

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No matter how many times you (or the editor) proofread a manuscript, there is always a mistake or ten in a finished book. The first mistake has turned up in Boots Poffenberger: Hurler, Hero, Hell-Raiser. I misspelled the name of the man whom Boots stated was the best ballplayer ever to come out of Washington County. What appears as Jack Krebs with a b should be Jack Kreps with a p. I apologize to Connie Cole, Jack’s daughter, and all of Jack’s friends. I would much rather have written an incorrect date or strikeout total because I am very sensitive to misspelling someone’s name. When your own name is Gisriel you become sensitive like that because you’ve seen multiple and creative misspellings your whole life.

When Bob D’Angelo of the Tampa Bay Tribune reviewed an advance copy of Boots, he noted several misspellings which we were able to correct because Bob read an advance copy and not the final copy. The mistake that I found most amusing was that I referred to Yankees’ manager Joe McCarthy as “Charlie McCarthy.” Charlie McCarthy was the dummy in Edgar Bergen’s ventriloquist act. D’Angelo’s review led to one more edit just for names, but I simply missed Jack Kreps’ name.

Books often insert a page at the end entitled errata, a Latin term the translation of which is “oopsie page.” Of course, I’m translating somewhat loosely. On this page are listed the mistakes that are found after the book has gone to print. I’m hoping that there won’t be much to add after this one; however, if anyone finds another mistake, please place it in the comments section for this blog entry. If we can fix ‘em in future editions, we will.

A note to my Winchester friends: I will be appearing at the Winchester Book Gallery, this Saturday, August 16th, from 11:00-1:00. Look for a write-up in the Winchester Star this week (probably Wednesday.) Hope to see you there!

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Why Was Pete Ramirez Wearing Spurs in His Hotel Room?

I loved the Lone Ranger when I was a kid. He seemed cool and suave compared to other cowboy heroes, and with the powder blue jumpsuit and the red scarf, he kind of had an Elvis thing going even before Elvis had the Elvis thing going. And Clayton Moore, the actor who to me was the Lone Ranger, delivered every line as though it had been written by Shakespeare.

I have to stop watching the Lone Ranger, however, before all my childhood illusions are destroyed. Oh, the Lone Ranger is still cool, but as an adult, I get the sense that the show was written, not by Shakespeare, but more like two patrons of the Funkstown Tavern right before last call. Patrons who arrived at say, 3:00 that afternoon. Many entertaining and even serious movies have holes in the plot. Most of us can accept those, but it’s the details that sometimes destroy a movie. You know, the ones that you notice that make no sense; the ones that make you say, “Hey! Wait a minute . . .” And it only takes one “Hey! Wait a minute . . .” moment to make you realize that in fact, the entire movie is nothing but such moments.

I recently watched the 1956 movie The Lone Ranger and instead of being inspired by the Masked Man’s pursuit of justice, I was instead inspired by the scriptwriter’s profound denial of reality. We’ll skip the part where the Lone Ranger has assigned his horse, Silver, to be a lookout, and that when Silver does see a gang of bad guys, he begins tapping out some kind of equine Morse Code with his hoof to let the Ranger know that Evil Personified is riding across the land. Maybe it was the actual Morse Code, I don’t know, Silver is pretty smart.

Anyway, there’s this scene with cow hand Pete Ramirez who, fresh off the trail in Abilene, is writing his best gal back home while seated at a table in his hotel room. There’s a knock at his door and his spurs jingle as he walks over to answer it. And this is the exact point at which this movie fell apart for me.

Why was Pete wearing spurs in his hotel room? Why was Pete, a cowhand, in a hotel room and not at a boarding house or even more likely, camped on the prairie? And he was not staying in a little room either. It was big enough to be the Bat Masterson Suite at the Abilene Hilton. And how is it that the Evil Foreman felt that he could shoot through the wall and kill Pete without anyone noticing? And no one did seem to notice, not even the town marshal who, when questioned by the Lone Ranger, who was wearing his “codgy old miner” disguise, couldn’t remember any murders that had taken place in his town just a week earlier? It could have been a month earlier or a day earlier, I’m not sure. It took the cattle drive a lot longer to reach Abilene than it seemed to take the Lone Ranger. Maybe Silver is just that fast or maybe Silver was smart enough to tap out “t-a-k-e-t-h-e-b-u-s” in Morse Code. In any case, when the marshal finally did remember that a murder had taken place, he didn’t remember any of the details. The town’s general store owner did, but never mind; explaining why he did and the marshal didn’t will only make our heads hurt.

We know that Pete was shot because he knew too much. This demonstrates the true flaw in the script for it was the writer who should have been shot for knowing so little. Pete knew that the Evil Rancher was buying dynamite, which we learn he will use to drive the Innocent Indians from “Spirit Mountain,” their sacred grounds, because there’s silver in that thar hill. The Evil Rancher leads his hired hands through a canyon pass that looks much more like Utah than it does anyplace between Texas and Abilene, but why should the scriptwriter know anything about geography? Innocent Indians, who take no notice whatsoever when the Lone Ranger rides into their village which sits on top of a butte at the least convenient point from which to gather water, have walled off part of the canyon with a barricade of vertical logs sunk into the ground. It would have been easier to stick two logs in the ground at each side of the canyon and then stack the rest inside the form, but whatever. When Evil Rancher and his men attack, some of the Indians climb the short rise around the wall, while others take the trouble of climbing up one side and down the other of the log barricade. These climbing Indians must have failed basic training or something. Certainly, the writer failed to explain why, having gone to the trouble of building a barricade, the Indians were making such a fuss about getting in front of it instead of staying behind it.

I could go on, but it only saddens me to think that the Lone Ranger has righted wrongs throughout the Old West for all these years, but has never come close to arresting the writers whose assault on reality is a crime in and of itself.

(The trailer for this movie appears below; in fact, the entire movie is available on YouTube, which shouldn’t be surprising since a recording of what I had for breakfast this morning is probably now available on YouTube. Watch until the end at which point you’ll notice that Silver gets top billing. It’s possible that Silver did the editing on this film.)

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Boots Launch a Big Success

Thank you to everyone who made the launch of Boots Poffenberger: Hurler, Hero, Hell-Raiser such a big success. Joan and Jerry Knode were wonderful hosts providing an array of refreshments (still marveling at the banana bread, Joan!) and more importantly, a welcoming atmosphere. Indeed, it was like old-home week for those who gathered to hear my presentation on Boots, as many in the audience knew the former big leaguer. (Even as I am writing this, I have received a call from Laco Anderson saying that he saw people there that he hadn’t seen “in 40 years!”)

It was especially heart-warming to see many friends who didn’t know Boots, but came out to support me. There were friends from Charles Town, Winchester, Stephens City, Waynesboro, PA and Columbia, MD, meaning that the greater four-state area was well-represented.

Again, thanks to Joan and Jerry Knode, to Laco Anderson whose heart-felt remarks added a wonderfully personal touch, to Jeff Cline for an outstanding publicity campaign (his Facebook photo album of the event may be found here), and to my wife Martha for handling all the book transactions leaving me free to talk and sign.

In fact, the launch was such a success that Joan has asked me to come back for C & O Canal Days in August. I’ll be signing in the Town Hall from 11:00-1:00 on Saturday and presenting my talk on Boots at 1:00 on Sunday in the Town Museum after which I will also be signing books.

Again, it would be a great help if you would leave a review on Amazon. The more reviews, the higher the book is ranked in Amazon’s calculations and that means the more people who will get to know Boots. You need not purchase anything from Amazon, just have an account. Log in and leave your review. Click here to go directly to Boots’ Amazon page.

As I said in my talk, if the folks gathered at the launch on Sunday feel that Boots Poffenberger: Hurler, Hero, Hell-Raiser creates the sense that Boots has never left, then I will consider the book my biggest success. Of course, the extent to which the book is successful with the public is as much Williamsport’s success as it is mine.

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