Up & Down The Rock

Time for Change: I’m not a big advocate of firing the manager every time things aren’t going right, but it was time for Don Baylor to go simply because the Cubs weren’t making any progress under him. They were stuck in gear, going nowhere. A shakeup was needed.

And to Andy MacPhail’s credit, he gave the Cubs a good shake, replacing Baylor with Bruce Kimm, manager of the Triple-A Iowa Cubs in Des Moines, and handing over the general manager duties he had been doing to Jim Hendry.

There is no reason to believe Kimm and Hendry are miracle workers, but if they are common-sense guys, maybe they will start getting rid of some of that high-priced talent that is not producing.

Spend the money on some good, young arms and some younger players who are hungry to play and win. For as long as I can remember, the Cubs have traded away youth for players on the down side of their prime. Starting with Lou Brock, their recent history is loaded with those kind of deals. It’s time for that to change.

It isn’t “Wait ‘Til Next Year” time yet, and the Cubs still can move forward both on and off the field in the second half of the season. When you’re at the bottom, there’s only one way to go. They need to start playing with some fire and not just go through the motions. Maybe Kimm and Hendry can light fires equal to the blazes out West.

Boy, am I the eternal optimist or what? Hey, if you’re going to follow the Cubs, you have to be optimistic.

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A Role Model: Ted Williams was one of those larger-than-life characters you wanted to be like when you were a kid. I had his baseball cards., and later I bought some of his signature fishing equipment from Sears. I think I still have a couple of old Ted Williams reels and maybe a rod lying around.

Shoot, I even wore No. 9 when I played high school baseball in the mid-1950s. Part of that was because my dad also had worn No. 9, but I figured the same number as the “Splendid Splinter” might help, and it certainly wouldn’t hurt.

What impressed me most about him as I grew into manhood was the kind of career he could have had had he not gone to war twice as a Marine aviator, flying prop jobs in World War II and jets in Korea. He was John Glenn’s wingman on combat missions in Korea.

“There was no one more dedicated to this country and more proud to serve his country than Ted Williams,” said the former senator and astronaut.

Despite missing five seasons, he had a lifetime batting average of .344, with a high of .406 in 1941, and 521 career homers. He won the Triple Crown twice and was a two-time MVP. Joe DiMaggio, who hit safely in 56 straight games, called Williams “the best pure hitter I ever saw.”

Ted Williams, baseball’s last .400 hitter, dead at 83 after years of heart problems.

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Local Trivia Question No. 21: Yes, there were two locations for the Green Parrot snack shop/restaurant — one at 623 Bruce St. near old Roosevelt Junior High School (now Haskell) and one at the triangle of Whitman, Ridge and Grant maybe 15-20 years ago. I don’t know if the same people owned them, but they were some years apart.

Readers who knew it was on Bruce: Carol Rall, Al Gabel, John Hamaker, Steve Schuder, Bud Willsley, Harry “The Bird” Wilson, Marian Stenholm, Audrey Walton and Lee Barrie.

Readers who knew it was at the triangle: Gene Dameier, Donald T. Loucks, Richard K. Reeves, John Butler and Sue Seidel.

Mary Lou Yankaitis and The Over 50 Singles Club knew about both.

I mentioned last week that some folks confused the Green Parrot and Green Shutters (question No. 18). The Green Shutters was at the southeast corner of Rockton and Auburn. It became Skeet’s and then Beaky’s.Trivia question No. 22, with a deadline of July 10, is who was Rockford’s first mayor in what year?

Trivia question No. 23, with a deadline of July 17, comes from Marian Stenholm, who is very good on local trivia: What was on the northwest corner of Kilburn and Auburn in the late 1930s and early 1940s (this is very tough)?

Henry “The Bird” Wilson and Lee Barrie knew No. 20 was Berlin Avenue. Gene Dameier also knew and added this: “During World War I there was a lot of anti-German feelings due to the war, and no one wanted Berlin in our city, so the name was changed to Rockford (Avenue).”

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An Economic Boost: Don’t expect me to criticize Mayor Doug Scott because he said he would like to see a riverboat casino in Rockford because I’d like to see one, too. It would save me a lot of driving.

My gripe is that Illinois should knock off the riverboat stuff and build them on land. Gambling is gambling, and being on water doesn’t change that. Who are we supposed to be fooling? What 19th century thinking.

And Scott is right when he said it would be a big boost to the local economy, a huge boost that this area sorely needs. If not a casino, from where is any kind of economic boost going to come? I don’t see long lines of businesses at Rockford’s tollway exits waiting to get off, or flights coming in one after another at Lesser Rockford Airport.

But if Beloit gets a casino first, it’s all over down here, except for jobs. All the big money will stay north of the state line.

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Here We Go Again: It’s never too early to start thinking about Chicago’s other major sports heartbreakers — Da Bears.

As a fund-raiser, Baltic Hunting and Fishing Club of Rockford has purchased two season tickets for all home games, including preseason games, plus a playoff option. Chances are $5 each, and available by calling the Baltic Lodge at (815) 965-8132 or Pat Dodge at (815) 874-2944. The drawing to determine the winner will be Aug. 4 at 4:30 p.m. at Baltic Lodge.

Keep in mind that the Bears this season will play in Illinois’ Memorial Stadium in Champaign while Soldier Field is being renovated. It’s a longer drive, but you could go down the day before, stay overnight and make a weekend out of it.

I haven’t checked it out, but I would bet Illinois would have some home games on Saturdays before the Bears use the stadium on Sundays.

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Beloit Geri’s Back: Reader Steve Schuder tipped last week that Geri’s Hamburgers is back in business in Beloit, Wis., with carhops on roller skates delivering the food after you order. Remember Geri’s? They had stores in Rockford, Beloit and Janesville up until the late 1970s or early 1980s.

The one in Beloit is at its old location of 1006 Park Ave., north of Beloit College. It has been refurbished and looks good. Eric Newnham, who owns Denali’s in downtown Beloit; his father, Les; a brother, Chuck, and a friend, Tony Oxendine, are co-owners of the Geri’s, and they say they would like to acquire other old Geri’s.

That’s the third drive-in uncovered this year that still has carhops. Earlier ones were Bing’s on South Main, Rockford, and Mr. C’s Family Restaurant on West State, Rockford. Mr. C’s used to be Burger Basket and before that was a Dog & Suds (there still is at least one Dog & Suds, in Ingleside, a northwest suburb).

If you’re ever traveling in the South or West and see a sign for a Sonic drive-in, don’t pass it up. Good food, and they’ll make up just about any ice cream creation you come up with. Good ’50s music on the speakers.

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A Water Cruise: On the subject of food, my wife and I tried out the Sunday brunch champagne cruise on the Pride of Oregon riverboat out of the Riverside Restaurant and Paddle Wheel Inn on the north edge of Oregon, just off Illinois 2. It was good food and a nice two-hour cruise on a neat boat — certainly one you don’t expect to see on the Rock River, 100 tons, 102 feet long and two stories tall.

There was a couple on board from Rock Island, and that surprised me because the Quad Cities offers all kinds of dining and cruising from the lower Rock to the Mississippi River. They said they wanted to see some of the “up-river” scenery.

The Sunday brunch cruise is two hours, one hour toward Byron and one hour back. Cost is $26 per person and $18 for children under 12. Sightseeing only (no food) is $12 for adults and $7 for children. The boat boards at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

There also are luncheon ($24, beef bordelaise, board at 11 a.m.) and dinner ($30, prime rib, board at 6:30 p.m.) cruises Monday through Saturday. The boat is in the water April 1-Nov. 15, and can be rented for private events such as weddings, reunions, etc.

The complex has the river boat, the on-shore restaurant and a good-sized motel overlooking the river, plus there is another restaurant close-by. Call (800) 468-4222 or (815) 732-6761 for more information.

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