Write someone a letter. It’s cool

From as far back as I can remember, I liked writing letters as a means of staying in contact with out-of-town and/or faraway friends. It might have had something to do with the fact that my father and his four brothers and two sisters had a schedule where they would, once a week, write (or call) one of the other siblings. While we lived in the same town with one of those aunts and two of those uncles, the other uncles lived in — in no particular order — Arizona, Illinois and New York while my other aunt was a nurse in Puerto Rico. I think it was the Puerto Rican stamps and postmark that intrigued me; or maybe I just like words.

I have, in my desk at work, a letter I wrote to my late sister and her husband when I was in the ninth grade. In it, I talked about Christmas shopping for my mother and how my grades fell just a bit short of the Honor Roll and how I was going to work harder.

I loved the literature and reading (and writing) classes in high school, so when I moved on to college, it was only natural that I got a job at the student newspaper, where I was Sports Editor for two years. It was there, also, that I had a friend on the baseball team who called San Diego home and impressed the hell out of me one day when he showed me a baseball signed by then San Diego Padres pitcher Randy Jones. Up until then, my brush with fame was (were?) the annual Republican picnics in Kent County, Michigan (my dad was a politician back then) where Congressman Jerry Ford would always show up and hand out silver dollars to all the little shavers. (Unfortunately, I did not keep them; they would be worth quite a bit of money these days.)

Anyway, back to the Randy Jones thing. A few weeks after Don showed me the signed baseball, Sports Illustrated featured Randy Jones on its cover with the tagline “Threat to Win 30.” I figured, hey, if my friend could get a baseball signed, why couldn’t I get an SI cover signed. I sent the cover with a letter and the requisite SASE (Self Addressed Stamped Envelope) to Randy Jones ℅ The San Diego Padres and lo and behold, a couple of weeks later it came back. Signed. That, fortunately (or unfortunately, as my wife was wont  to say) was the start of a lot of letter writing to athletes and others who appeared on the covers of Sports Illustrated. When I finally begin to unload my collection via an on-line auction website late last year, my count was up to 366 signed Sports Illustrated covers. I’ve got other stuff, too, including a signed baseball by Mo Vaughn that I caught when he hit a grand-slam home run against the Tigers in 1994, and a World Cup ticket stub that bears the signature of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. I met him when some folks I know in Holland invited me to join them and their German pen pals for a game at Soldier Field in Chicago.

To cut this rambling short, I still write letters, but mostly, nowadays, to a select few that I enjoy watching on TV or in movies. I don’t hold high hopes for responses, but every now and then I do include an SASE just in case. Which brings me to a letter I got in the mail just the other day. Flashback to “The Twilight Zone,” and an episode from 1960 titled “The Mighty Casey.” The story is about a crummy minor league baseball team, well, here’s what I found on wikipedia: “Mouth” McGarry, the manager of a broken-down baseball team on its last legs, allows a robot named Casey to play on his team. Casey has the ability to throw super-fast balls that cannot be hit. Eventually, after Casey is beaned by a ball and given a physical examination, the National League finds out and rules that Casey must be taken off the team because he is not human. Casey’s inventor, Dr. Stillman, gives him an artificial heart to have him classified as human. Now that Casey has human emotions, he refuses to throw his fast balls anymore. He says that he feels empathy with the batter and does not want to ruin the batter’s career by striking him out. With the team sure to fold soon, Dr. Stillman gives McGarry Casey’s blueprints as a souvenir. Glancing at them, McGarry suddenly has a brilliant idea, as he and the scientist set off to create an entire pitching staff of “Casey” robots.

Casey was played by a guy named Robert Sorrells, who also had  parts in a number of other TV shows (Gunsmoke, Ensign O’Toole) and was in the movie “Fletch,” playing Marvin Stanwyk. I liked Sorrells in The Twilight Zone so I did some internet digging and I found a story about him and other not-so-famous famous people at http://notveryfamous.blogspot.com.

Further digging resulted in … 

(Sorrells) was arrested for shooting two patrons in Simi Valley’s The Regency Lounge (California, USA) on 24 July 2004. One of the patrons, Arthur De Long, died from a gunshot wound to the back, while the other patron, Edward Sanchez, is in serious condition from shots to the face and back. He was sentenced to 32 years to life in prison for shooting a man and seriously injuring another. [July 2005] He was arrested for murder in Simi Valley, California. [July 2004].
Still, I appreciated his acting skills in “The Mighty Casey” and other things, so I wrote to tell him as much while wondering how I could provide moral support and the like. I mean, he’s 80-some years old, how dangerous could he be anymore. Imagine my surprise when the other day I got a letter with a Robert Sorrells return address from the Donavan State Prison in San Diego.
He wrote:
Dear Lee
Thank you very much for your kind words. When I did “Casey” I was just a green kid and it was my first good part. We shot it in East Los Angeles and in a park called “Wrigley Field.” Crazy, huh? Jack (Warden, who played Mouth McGarry) and I were a generation apart. You asked if you could help me! I would deeply appreciate it if you would make a small donation to either A.S.P.C.A or P.E.T.A in your name for me.
Than you
The letter also included an autograph on the picture I printed out of him standing next to Jack Warden.
How cool is that, huh?
I guess what I’m finally getting at is that letter writing should not be a lost art. With everyone texting and sending messages via Facebook and Instagram and whatever other social media thing you’re a member of, hey, why not find some time to write a letter. Why not visit that “not very famous but should be” blog spot and get some information about an actor or actress you once saw and maybe forgot about? As for me, I’m not sure where to get in touch with either of Mr. Sorrells’ favorite pet charities, but you can be sure that next time I go to the store, I’m buying a big bag of dog food to donate to the Humane Society. It’s the least I could do for my new friend.



Still time for W. Michigan Golf Show

The following information is a press release from the West Michigan Golf Show. I spent about four hours there on Saturday and I’m sure I missed some booths. Given that I’m thinking about retiring, I would like to play more golf. Lots of things to sign up for and lots of stuff is being given away. So. Go.

With its theme of “making golf fun for everyone,” the 26th annual West Michigan Golf Show tees off on Friday at DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids. As seasoned golfers know, a good caddie can enhance one’s playing experience by not only toting one’s clubs but also lending friendly advice and guidance out on the links. So, in homage to caddies past and present, let us provide a similar holistic service and lessen one’s burden when walking the paved fairways of the Golf Show.

Pre-round tips: best place to park is under DeVos Place. Enter off Michigan St NW or Lyon Ave. NW. The Rapid line 11 bus stops in front of the Show. Get there early if you want to be one of the first 100 patrons receiving a free sleeve of golf balls. On Friday, the first 500 ladies receive a free gift bag. On Saturday morning from 9-11, there’s a $5 Pancake Breakfast.

Hole 1: Just inside the main entrance and included with a paid admission, stop and register for a free magazine subscription: receive a one year (12 issues) subscription to Golf Digest or a one year (33 issues) subscription to Golf World (both valued at $7)!

Hole 2: Play more local golf: at the entrance pick up your Local Golf Loyalty Card which rewards those playing 10 or more rounds in ’14 at participating courses with a FREE admission to the 2015 Show!

Hole 3: Check out West Michigan’s major tournaments in 2014: The Senior PGA Championship returns to Harbor Shores GC in Benton Harbor on May 22-25 (Booth #1605); and the Meijer LPGA Classic debuts at Blythefield CC (# 1117) on Aug. 4-7 (#1119)

Hole 4: Plan your spring/summer golf getaway at some of these award-winning Michigan resorts: Boyne (#1310) Black Forest (#1227), Crystal Mt. (#1332), Forest Dunes (#1552), Garland (#1662), Grand Traverse (#1316), Shanty Creek (#1505), Thoroughbred (#1133), Treetops (Par-3), Tullymore (#1326), and Yarrow (#1110). And yes, there’s more!

Hole 5: Visit some out-of-state golf destinations: Alabama Tourism (#1111); Bright Leaf, KY (#1204); Florida Golf (#1012); French Lick, IN (#1207); Indiana Golf (#1241); Hot Springs, Ark. (#1202); King’s Creek, Williamsburg, VA (#1011); Walnut Creek, IN (#1336) and more.

Hole 6: Stop at the Bridgestone Golf Ball-Fitting Challenge (#1526) and find out the best ball for your swing speed and game. Using a sophisticated computer system — the Science Eye Launch Monitor — allows Bridgestone to enhance your performance in a free fitting session.

Hole 7: Whether you play golf just for fun and recreation or want to play in more tournaments, stop at the Golf Association of Michigan booth (#1100) and learn about its incredible values on its Gold Card Membership, offered at half-price for first time members as a “Golf Show special.”

Hole 8: Nifty putter gadget: Clearline Putter Sight (#1628) is a six-inch putter attachment that magnets to your putter shaft to assist in lining up putts.

Hole 9: Nifty putters: Ember Luxury Wood Putters (#1201) are hand-made using 50 exotic woods and engraved with the golfer’s name. RadiusRoll Milled Putters (#1341) come in two different head styles—Blade Style and Hybrid Mallet Style—and are manufactured and assembled in the USA.

Hole 10: Speaking of putting, sink a straight 15-foot putt at the Odawa Casino $10,000 Putting Contest (north end, next to #2004) and qualify for the finals on Sunday. If the finalist sinks a 50-foot putt, ten grand is awarded. Talk about a skin! For more fun, visit the Odawa Casino booth (#1333).

Hole 11: Take in a seminar: At the Pfieffer Lincoln Seminar Stage you’ll find: Lou Guzzi, 2013 PGA National Teacher of the Year; Bobby Wilson, four-time National Senior Long Drive Champion; Brian O’Neill, Director of Instruction at Boyne Academy; and Kevin McKinley, Treetops and Get Golf Ready—how to get anyone into a game for a lifetime.

Hole 12: Shop ’til you drop: Maple Hill (#1036, 1037, 1043, 1536) is the kingpin of local golf retailing and remains a must stop at the Golf Show.

Hole 13: Queue up and take a free golf lesson: Courtesy of the Michigan PGA (#1650) and Boyne Resorts, pick up an early season tip from a teaching professional (Hitting Net area).

Hole 14: What’s the latest equipment from Adams and Ping? Visit Scott Lake Golf & Practice Center (#1527) and also ask about its “Think Pink” ladies golf tournament. And more new clubs will be at the Manufacturer’s Demo Area, including Mizuno, Yonex and Bridgestone

Hole 15: Every golfer dreams about being a Tour pro with a fancy courtesy car so stroll over to the 2014 Lincoln models on display (#1305 & Stage): MKZ, MKX and the MKT. And coming this summer at Pfeiffer Lincoln: the 2015 Lincoln MKC, its first small luxury crossover.

Hole 16: Got kids? Get ’em excited about the game and head to The First Tee of West Michigan booth (#1515) for junior fun and games as well as its 2014 educational program information.

Hole 17: Tee it up at the ever-popular Treetops Par-Three Challenge: compete at an actual golf hole for closest to the pin prizes provided by Treetops and hope to make an ace on Sunday afternoon and earn $25,000. Don’t care to compete? Well, watch the action from the bleachers with a snack and beverage in hand.

Hole 18: Okay, you may not play like a pro but you can still dress like one. A popular booth for golf apparel is the Resorts of Tullymore & St. Ives (#1326-7).

19th hole: Plenty of concessions inside DeVos Place including an apt Scotch bar! Hey, one more thing before we go: don’t forget to tip your caddie!

* * *

Held continuously since 1989, the West Michigan Golf Show is sponsored by Treetops Resort, Pfeiffer Lincoln, Odawa Casino Resort, Golf Association of Michigan, Boyne Resorts, and theMichigan PGA. As always, several charities will benefit from the Show, including Patriot Golf Day, Racing Awareness and the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

Produced by ShowSpan Inc. and held at DeVos Place, the West Michigan Golf Show’s hours until 7:00 pm, Saturday and 10:00 am-5:00 pm, Sunday. Tickets are $10 for adults, $4 for children ages 6-14, and children 5 and under are free. Tickets will be available at the door.