The Flanders family

A few years ago, I started to try to trace my family history back as far as I could go. I had several surnames to try — Doyle, Coughlin, Borders, Flanders, Lay and others. Flanders is the last name of my grandfather, Bernie, after whom my son is named. It’s also my mother’s maiden name. I was eager to try to trace it, except for one small problem. My grandfather knows nothing about his family. And I mean nothing. He knows the names of his parents, and there it ends.

Imagine my surprise, then, when just a few weeks of digging turned up a goldmine of family history. Turns out the Flanders clan has been exhaustively researched, and I was able to link my branch to the main trunk of the family tree. My ninth-great-grandfather, Steven Flanders, came to Massachusetts in the 1640s, and the line has been traced all the way from then to now.

The only problem was that no one seemed to be talking to anyone else about all these distant cousins we all have. So I decided to jumpstart the conversation with a Web site, newsletter and e-mail list. You can find out about all those things at flandersfamily.org. Enjoy!

Bruuuuuuce!

Jen and I went to see Bruce Springsteen last night. She’s a huge fan, and I was along for the ride, having never been much of a fan (although I really dug The Rising). Bruce is on a solo acoustic tour to promote his new album, Devils & Dust. Here’s what he played (tunes marked with * were played last night for the first time on this tour):

  • Prove It All Night*
  • Reason to Believe
  • Devils & Dust
  • Empty Sky
  • Long Time Comin’
  • Black Cowboys
  • 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)*
  • Leap of Faith*
  • State Trooper
  • Nebraska
  • Maria’s Bed
  • The Line
  • Reno
  • When You’re Alone*
  • You’re Missing*
  • The Rising
  • Darkness on the Edge of Town*
  • Jesus Was an Only Son
  • If I Should Fall Behind
  • The Hitter
  • Matamoros Banks
  • Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?
  • My Best Was Never Good Enough
  • The Promised Land
  • Dream Baby Dream

For me, the only weak link in the show was Reason To Believe, which was so distorted and nonmelodic that you couldn’t understand the words or the tune. Very cool effect, though, with Bruce singing through a distorted harmonica and pounding on an amplified footboard. Highlights included 4th of July, which was beautiful; Maria’s Bed, which rocked; You’re Missing, which still chokes me up; Jesus Was An Only Son, which I found very moving despite my obvious disagreements with the ideology, mostly because of the good stuff he said about parents and kids; and Dream Baby Dream, which was one of the coolest show closers I’ve ever seen.

All in all, a very cool show, and I’m glad I went. Jen was quite surprised. She had no idea where we were going, and didn’t figure out who was playing until we got right up to the arena (which has no sign out front) and heard a little of The Rising playing on the sound system outside.

JEN: “Y’know, this is getting a little annoying, actually.”

(Takes two more steps, hears music.)

JEN: “Is this Bruce?”

JASON: “Yup.”

JEN: “It IS?!?! Now I’m excited!”

While you’ve still got Bruce on the brain, check out this excellent interview of Bruce, done recently by author Nick Hornby (Fever Pitch, High Fidelity, A Long Way Down). Thanks to Jeff Vrabel, himself a fine music columnist, for the link.

Ed McBain, R.I.P.

Jen and I are both big fans of the 87th Precinct novels of Ed McBain, a.k.a. Evan Hunter, a.k.a. Salvatore Lombino. I read today that he passed away on July 6. Here’s Adam B. Very’s remembrance from Entertainment Weekly:

Without Evan Hunter, a.k.a. Ed McBain, there would probably be no Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue, or Law & Order. The prolific novelist, who died of cancer July 6 at 78, essentially invented the American police procedural with a single pulp paperback.

The book was 1956’s Cop Hater, and it marked a decisive turn in a varied career. Hunter, born Salvatore Lombino in New York City (he changed his name to avoid discrimination), had staked his first literary claim two years earlier with his semiautobiographical The Blackboard Jungle, a look at the life of an inner-city high school teacher. It was made into a popular 1955 film starring Glenn Ford and Sidney Poitier.

When he penned Cop Hater, Hunter invented the McBain pseudonym to protect his reputation as a serious novelist. But it turned out to be the book that established his legacy in pop storytelling. Set in a fictitious big city, the crime story eschewed the lone PI hero that had long defined the genre and instead meticulously chronicled an entire precinct’s pursuit of a murder case. The book was a big enough success to yield 54 follow-ups over the next 50 years, the best of which were crafted with unpretentious, unflinching authority. (The final installment, Fiddlers, is due in September.) And the author amusingly nodded to his alter ego’s fame by having the two ”coauthor” the 2001 novel Candyland.

For all his influence on other crime novelists and his movie legacy (which included the screenplay for The Birds), Hunter may have made his most lasting impact on TV. ”He established so many conventions that came to be gospel,” says NYPD Blue cocreator David Milch. ”If someone came to me and asked how to write a police procedural and they hadn’t already read Ed McBain, I’d tell them to take a hike.”

© 2005 Entertainment Weekly

Vintage Base Ball Report: Silver Base Ball Park Best Nine vs. Sackets Harbor Ontarios

The rain held off, the fans held out, and the players held up for a great game of vintage base ball at Sackets Harbor. Every year during the Can-Am Festival, a team made up of players from the four teams in the Silver Base Ball Park League travels to Sackets Harbor to play a local team. The rain that was forecast never materialized, and we were all treated to a beautiful display of sportsmanship and good humor.

First Inning: The Silver Base Ball Park Best Nine got off to a running start. The very first striker, Scott “Handyman” Hand, tallied an ace. He was followed by team captain Tony “Tiger” Brancato, who also tallied an ace. The best nine went back to the bench with a two-ace lead over the Ontarios. The Ontarios weren’t so lucky, ending the first inning with a duck egg.

Second Inning: Once again the Best Nine showed their mettle, putting three aces on the board via first-year player Ken “Rolling” Stone and veterans “Jockey” Jim Sears and Kevin “Longarm” Owens. So it was back to the bench again, now with 5-0 lead. The Ontarios answered, with Brian “Doomis” Loomis finding his way back to home plate to put the Ontarios on the board. (Speaking of which, there was a board this year, just one of the many great steps forward by this Sackets Harbor team.)

Third Inning: For the third straight inning, the Best Nine tallied an ace, as Scott Hand rounded the bases again and put the Best Nine up 6-1. With the Ontarios suffering their second scoreless inning, the first-time fan might have been forgiven for expecting an easy outing for the Best Nine. As is so often the case at Sackets Harbor, though, the home team took a few innings to get the feel for the rules and the style, and then they came out swinging.

Fourth Inning: No one knew it at the time, but the third inning was the last in which the Best Nine would tally an ace. As it turned out, though, their defensive play was a good as their early striking had been, particularly the acrobatic team captain, Mr. Brancato. But the Ontarios were ready to start hitting, with Ryan “Dutch” West and the Derwin brothers — Ryan “Red” and Randy “Ranger” — all tallying aces, reducing the Best Nine’s lead to two runs. Score: 6-4.

Fifth Inning: The Best Nine put two men on base in the fifth, but neither reached home. The Ontarios saw their first three batters retired, and the inning was over.

Sixth Inning: It was three up, three down for the Best Nine, and eight up, three aces for the Ontarios. John “Mad Dog” Robinson tallied his first ace of the day, Randy Derwin his second, and Scott “Rabbit” Robinson his first to put the Ontarios ahead 7-6.

Final Score: Ontarios, 7 – Best Nine, 6. And that was how it ended up. Despite putting nine men on base between them, neither team tallied another ace, and the Ontarios won a spirited game. Kudos to “team owner” Marty Maxson and coach Errol Flynn, who were sporting natty new Ontarios uniforms at the game. Also a big round of applause to tallykeeper and Silver Base Ball Park League goodwill ambassador Dick Terboss (and his wife, Dorothy) who helped set up the game from the Mumford end. At the Sackets end, a hearty “huzzah!” to Don Payne, who’s really helping to take the Sackets organization into the future. The word on the street is that the Ontarios hope to fully outfit a team for the 2006 National Silver Ball Tournament at Genesee Country Village. I hope we’ll see them there, and I can’t wait to travel back to Sackets Harbor next year!

The Cranes on the Cape

When I was a kid, I spent some fun vacations on the Atlantic coast of Massachusetts (my home state), including in Plymouth and on Cape Cod. This summer, for the first time in years, I went back there. And this time, I brought my own family along.

We stayed in Brewster, in a house my parents rented. It was close to Sheep’s Pond, where we went on the first sunny day. Massachusetts is filled with small lakes — called “ponds” by the locals — and some actual ponds, also called “ponds” by the locals. (The most famous of which is probably Walden Pond, favored site of Henry David Thoreau.)

Early in the vacation, Jen and I left Bernie with my folks and made our annual pilgrimage to my hometown of Lenox, Mass., to see James Taylor play his July 4 show at Tanglewood. Wonderful, as always. His band this year included Rochester’s own Steve Gadd on drums; Larry Goldings on piano and organ; Lou Marini of the Blues Brothers on sax; and the great Arnold McCuller on backing vocals. I also got to see my first fireworks over Stockbridge Bowl, an old Berkshires tradition.

One thing that really surprised me about the Cape was the food. It wasn’t very good. Particularly the seafood. From what I’ve read, the Cape has been so overfished that most of the seafood you get there is flash-frozen far away and shipped to the Cape, making it about as much a seafood paradise as, say, Pittsburgh. Plus, it’s incredibly overpriced. I went to the Kream -N- Kone for a fried clam platter with onion rings and fries. The price: $19.99. You’re welcome.

If you’re going, there’s at least one other thing to avoid — the ZooQuarium in Yarmouth. The name alone should have been a warning. And when we pulled up and discovered that it was housed in a huge concrete bunker, we should have turned tail and fled. But for some reason we plunked down $30 to get in to what was essentially a petting zoo with a sea lion. It was like paying $30 to go to Petco for the afternoon. And Bernie’s not a big fan of loud noises, so the main attraction — a sea lion show in a big concrete auditorium — sent him running back outside in about 10 seconds. Traveling tip: Avoid the ZooQuarium.

On the plus side, the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History was wonderful. The museum itself was closed when we went, but we walked the trails, which were beautiful. If the trails are any indication of the quality of the museum, it would be worth a visit. The John Wing trail (named after an early white settler of the area), wound across a marsh and a cranberry bog before crossing a small island and ending at a secluded beach. Absolutely gorgeous.

We also had fun in Plymouth, one of my old summer haunts. (And the town where I famously spent a week at the age of about 7 eating Ding Dongs and candy at my grandparents’ house, and returned from vacation as round as a basketball, much to my parents’ chagrin. They made me jog every night for a week or so, but natural growth eventually took care of the weight.) Bernie and Jen and I went to Plimoth Plantation, a living museum which houses a 17th-century settler village and a Native American village. My one comment about the Plantation is that I’d like more third-person interpretation in the settler village. It’s interesting to talk with actors playing the part of 17th-century pioneers, but when you ask them how they did a job without a drill and they respond “I know not of this tool,” it doesn’t really answer your question. Overall, though, a really interesting trip, even in the rain with a two-year-old.

We also went to the Mayflower II, a replica of the original that was built in the late 50s as a postwar sign of friendship between the UK and US. The boat sailed from the UK to the US when it was built, and it has sailed several times since. I remember going there as a kid and learning this deathless humor: April showers bring May flowers, but what do May flowers bring? Pilgrims. (I’ll be here all week. Try the Indian corn.)

When I used to go to Plimoth Plantation as a kid, I always fantasized about my family having arrived on the Mayflower, which of course they didn’t. In the intervening years, though, I discovered that my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather (that’s nine “greats”) Stephen Flanders came to Massachusetts in 1638. The Flanders line goes through my maternal grandfather Bernard (after whom my son is named) and my mom to me. At Plimoth Plantation, when I looked through many of the books on early settlers of Massachusetts, my family was in there. So that was pretty hip.

If you go to the Cape, make sure you go see some games in the Cape Cod Baseball League. One out of every six former college players in Major League Baseball played in the Cape League, which is the premier college summer league in the country. Jen and I read The Last, Best League by Jim Collins, which tells the story of the 2002 Chatham A’s. We went to a couple A’s games, and they were everything we’d imagined. Future stars, before all the hooplah. Don’t miss it. (To get a little taste, you can listen to Cape League games online.)

Vintage base ball begins at Silver Baseball Park

The 2005 season of the Silver Base Ball Park League opened with a record-setting 26-run performance by “Dirty” Jim Feuerstein’s Knickerbockers, who emerged victorious in a spirited match against Steve “The Colonel” Michener’s Rochesters.

According to Knick catcher (and unofficial historian) Blaise “Freight Train” Lamphier, that 26-run mark eclipses the previous record of 25 runs scored by the Live Oak. In a lovely moment of base ball symmetry, the Live Oak scored those 25 runs against the Knickerbockers back on September 1, 2001 in the league’s inaugural season.

Several players started the season yesterday by tallying aces (runs). The following Knickerbockers players rang the bell:

  • Scott “Handyman” Hand: 2
  • Harvey “Kid Brooklyn” Shapiro: 3
  • Nathan “Stitches” Shapiro: 3
  • Casey “At Bat” Beeley: 3
  • Blaise “Freight Train” Lamphier: 1
  • Jim “T-Bone” Cook: 4
  • Billy “Bear” Donofrio: 2 (in his first-ever game, after playing just 5 innings)
  • Tim “Kid” Zimmer: 4 (in 5 innings)
  • Bryan “Tiny” Little: 1
  • Matt “Pins” Zimmer: 2 (in 5 innings)

For the Rochesters:

  • Jeremy “Junior” Sadjak: 3
  • Steve “Stubby” Devito: 1
  • Dave “Wild Oats” Nesbitt: 1

Sunday featured a double-header, with a women’s match preceding the men’s match. The day kicked off with a parade into the ball park, with members of five of the six teams joined by the “mayor” of the village, soldiers in Union Army garb, and local luminary Curt Smith, who delivered the opening remarks.

The day also saw a reenactment of the classic base ball poem Casey At The Bat by Ernest L. Thayer. This was the first such reenactment at Silver Base Ball Park (though Mark Ballard has given stirring solo recitations in past years) and I imagine it won’t be the last.

Speaking of Casey, the last time Mark recited it was during the championship game of the National Silver Ball Tournament last year. This year’s tournament runs from August 12-14 at Silver Base Ball Park, and it will feature teams from across the country, including the Rochester Grangers from Michigan (runners-up in the 2003 tournament) and the Melrose Pondfeilders from Massachusetts (runners-up in 2004). (And no, “pondfeilders” is not a type-o.) If you’ve ever wanted to experience vintage base ball, you’ll find no better chance than the National Silver Ball Tournament.