SHAD’S TALE: A Fictional Retelling of a True Baseball Disappearance

The following short story was drawn, inked, and colored by Jim Mosley based on my scribbles and script. It originally appeared in Home Brew, a collection of comic book tales published in 2014 and based on St. Louis to mark the city’s 250th birthday. The book can still be purchased here. The entire six-page story has been reprinted here with the blessing of Handsome Jim on what would have been Babe Ruth’s 120th birthday.

Derrick Goold

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An Experiment in Experience Journalism

JUPITER, Fla. — During my senior year at Mizzou, I finally got to take a class I’d been eying since entering the School of Journalism. I don’t recall the number — it was somewhere in the 300s — but I do remember the unofficial title we had for it: our immersion project.

An exercise in long-form journalism, the semester’s assignment was to plant yourself inside a story, wallow in it for more than a month, and then emerge with a deep, penetrating and, in some cases, personal story about the experience. In short, the idea was to immerse yourself in the story. Today, we might call this embedding. Students would work at shelters. They would ride along with a high school team for a season. They’d go through a round of cancer treatments with the family of a patient. I spent my semester entrenched in the Kenny Hulshof campaign for Congress, and by the end I was able to chronicle from behind closed doors how a Republican won Missouri’s ninth district for the first time in more than Continue reading

The Day the Picayune Was Born

TOWER GROVE — One afternoon in Lafayette, La., I had some time to kill before meeting New York Yankees great Ron Guidry at his night job with the Bayou Bullfrogs and, as luck would have it, the Cajun capital had a bookstore built for killing time.

This was my first full year out of college and my first full summer at The New Orleans Times-Picayune. A news tip from a friend who knew about my dream of covering baseball had taken me west over the Atchafalaya to Lafayette and Guidry’s home for a story on Louisiana Lightning’s unexpected role with an independent league baseball team in his hometown. By sheer luck, the day I spent with Guidry was the 20th anniversary of his 18-strikeout game in 1978, the centerpiece of one of the best season’s by a pitcher since Bob Gibson set the standard in 1968. Gator was a colorful host and we agreed to meet at the ballpark so I could sit in the bullpen with him “and his boys” during the game. He just needed a few hours to clean up, finish chores … fish, whatever. The hours I spent with Guidry are a story for another day.

This is about the hours I spent away from him — and the book I found as a result. Continue reading

A Field Guide to Embedded Journalism

Photo by Alyssa Schukar of The Omaha World-Herald taken in Afghanistan on April 7, 2011, after she and my friend Joe Morton, a writer, were in a firefight with a National Guard squadron with which they were embedded. To understand the scale, consider that's an armored vehicle and a National Guardsmen in silhouette to the vehicle's right.

SILVER SPRING, Md. — After showing me video he shot from the war zone and telling me the stories of life as an embed, friend Joe Morton — the Joseph Morton, Washington correspondent for The Omaha World-Herald — came upon this photo taken by his colleague, Alyssa Schukar.

“This is my favorite,” he pointed.

The photo, shown big enough to fill a laptop screen, is striking. There is a solitary figure in the distance next to an immense and armored vehicle, and yet both are dwarfed by the landscape around it. The mountains rise up in three levels like rolling waves, one almost more impossibly tall then the next, and they overwhelm the image. Joe explained to me that that’s why he likes it. The picture shows the impenetrable terrain the military is dealing with in Afghanistan — even as it serves as a metaphor for the war effort itself. The enormity of the challenge is difficult to comprehend let alone tame. There is also the possibility that this picture means a lot to Joe because of when it was taken and what it represents: survival.

I had the chance today to catch up with Joe, a dear friend from college, at the start of a whirlwind trip to Washington, D.C. Today started with the final morning of Winter Warm-up. Then it was off to the airport to catch a flight to D.C. where on Tuesday I’ll join the Cardinals on their visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and follow them to the White House for the customary reception champions get with the president. A seat, I’m told, is waiting for me in the East Room. From the White House, I have approximately four hours to race to BWI, write a story, and catch the last flight to St. Louis out of the Beltway so I can make the family vacation to Curacao.

On my mark. Get set. Here we go. Continue reading

This Time They Didn’t Boo

DOWNTOWN — No adventure into Twitter is complete without some verbal shrapnel. Criticism, sometimes unfounded and always unflattering, is part of the medium, and stepping out into Twitter, like reading the comments at the end of a story or wading into my inbox, is done with the understanding that there will be as many thorns and roses.

That said, the shots are two-dimensional, and though some of them can be caustic they all can be deleted, forgotten, trashed, scrolled past. Some come with names, but even then they’re impersonal. The computer between us empowers the harshest critics just as it gives me a buffer.

Boos are different.

I did not know this until experiencing them.

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The Extinction of C, X and Q

TOWER GROVE — More than a 100 years, long before the title “futurist” probably existed, a civil engineer John Elfreth Watkins Jr. wrote an article predicting what life in America would be like in the year 2000. This wasn’t the floating cars of “Back to the Future II” or the Big Brother of Orwell, but apparently legit attempts to scan the horizon for what would happen next.

“These prophecies will seem strange, almost impossible,” the article begins.

BBC News took a look this week at some of the predictions in Watkins’ article for Ladies Home Journal from 1900 to see how close he came to foretelling the future. (You can see a scan of the original article here.) As BBC points out, he got some right, ludicrously right:

“Wireless telephone and telegraph circuits will span the world. A husband in the middle of the Atlantic will be able to converse with his wife sitting in her boudoir in Chicago. We will be able to telephone to China quite as readily as we now talk from New York to Brooklyn.”

“Photographs will be telegraphed from any distance. If there be a battle in China a hundred years hence, snapshots of its most striking events will be published in the newspapers an hour later.”

“There will be air-ships. … They will be maintained as deadly war-vessels by all military nations.”

Some were way off:

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A Cow Clicker Economy

TOWER GROVE — It is virtually impossible to keep up with all the memes and themes in my little seamhead corner of the Internet, and so it was with some embarrassment that I plucked a copy of Wired off the rack yesterday and thumbed my way to a story on a fad I knew little about, Cow Clicker.

I had seen the cows around Facebook or scattered on other dot-com pastures. I had no idea what they were.

Jason Tanz’s article charts how Cow Clicker’s inventor, Ian Bogost, set out to parody online games like Farmville only to accidentally find success alongside the repetitive-clicking games he sought to mock. Cow Clicker is what it says it is. Simply, clicking cows. The more often you click your cow, the more rewards you earn. You can add friends to your pasture so that their clicks are now your clicks, and that, as the article points out, led to some unexpected strategy in this rudimentary game: Recruiting the best clickers to your online pasture became competitive. Early in the article, Bogost’s belief that video games can do more than invite clicks, they can indeed enact change is set forth: “He sees them as tools to educate and enlighten,” Tanz writes, “to ‘disrupt and change fundamental attitudes and beliefs about the world.'”

Nestled far deeper into the article is where that belief leads.

It’s called “gamification” and we see it everywhere. What are frequent buyer programs but games for businesses to give the consumer a sense of accomplishment? In the article, it points out that Google News now has badges. I know that several of my friends collect badges on their iPhone for the beers they’ve had. (I can go right now to Untappd and see that someone I do not know is drinking a beer I do not recognize to earn a badge I’ve never heard of. Cheers!) On Klout, we are rewarded for regular visits as if following a link is some sort of achievement. This will be my 10th entry here at WordPress and when I press publish the little sidebar will give me a pat on the back for reaching another milestone. I plan to put this latest virtual merit badge on my virtual sash in hopes that someday I’ll virtually pass it on to my son as a virtual heirloom. On thousands of Facebook games, we’re given points for keeping up routines such as watering crops, plucking carrots, challenging friends to a soccer game, paying actual money, and … oh, wait, if you’ll excuse my 20 minutes is up and I really need that +5 training points on the new baseball game or my team is going to be too weak to play today.

Phew. Just made it.

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