Saturday, November 19, 2016

Christmas City of the North parade was canceled once, but not due to adverse weather conditions...

Santa Claus waves to spectators during
a wintery Christmas City of the North Parade
on Friday. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune
By Jim Heffernan

KBJR-TV, which has sponsored the Christmas City of the North parade for nearly six decades, proudly announced on Friday that it would not cancel the popular procession ushering in the holiday season due to the blizzard swirling around the downtown Duluth parade route.

As the storm intensified Friday afternoon and people began wondering if the parade would go on, the station went to facebook with the announcement: “Weather has never caused us to cancel the Christmas City of the North Parade in 58 years, even in worse conditions than today.”

The parade went on, and quite successfully under the circumstances, just as it has every year in the past…except one time. Yes, it has never been canceled due to the weather, but it was canceled on Nov. 22, 1963, the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

As a fledgling newspaper reporter (I had been working at the Duluth News Tribune for about a month), I was assigned to find out, on what was probably the most intense news day of the 20th Century, if the scheduled Christmas City of the North parade would go on that night.

Call WDSM (KBJR’s predecessor call letters, a TV-radio station owned by the same company that owned the newspaper), I was told in the heat of the busy local coverage of the assassination.

I called. Nobody answering phones there knew what to say, or what to do. Finally I got through to Robert J. Rich, general manager, the top dog at the time. The parade will go on, Rich determinedly told me, in no uncertain terms.

The terms were not so certain about an hour later, however, when WDSM called me. The parade would not go on, they announced, out of respect to the fallen president.

So yes, the Christmas City of the North parade has never been canceled due to the weather. But it was canceled once, due to the murder of a president of the United States. As well it might have been. Had to be.

Check out today's Duluth News Tribune coverage of last night's parade HERE.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

My Life in Baseball...

Joe DiMaggio and Dorothy Arnold
By Jim Heffernan
 October 1939 – I am born. A month later Joe DiMaggio, “The Yankee Clipper,” marries Duluth native Dorothy Arnold, who was Dorothy Olson when she grew up here, but took a stage name when she went to Hollywood, where they met. I know nothing about this at the time because I am one month old.

Baseball season 1941 – Joe DiMaggio has a 56-game hitting streak, but at age 2 I know nothing about it. Also that year, in an event considered by many to be of lesser interest, the United States enters World War II, but I know nothing about that either.

Spring-summer 1949 – I make my debut as an outfielder and at-bat strike out king at a neighborhood playground. Memorable moment: I am in left field with my brother’s old leather glove on the wrong hand (I am left handed, he is not) and wonder, what am I doing here? A neighborhood group of friends plays some form of baseball just about every day in summer. I hate it, but go along.

Around that same time – My father takes me to a few Duluth Dukes Northern League games at Wade Stadium and admonishes me for not watching the action on the field, but rather eyeing hot dog vendors. I am given a Dukes sweatshirt, which I wear, but with no commitment.

Entrance to Wriggly Field, Chicago
June 1951 – On a visit to Chicago to see relatives, I attend my first (and almost only in life) major league baseball game between the Chicago Cubs and Boston Braves (later Milwaukee Braves and after that Atlanta Braves), sitting in the 60-cent bleachers, admiring the vines along the fence at Wrigley Field but not paying much attention to the game. Like the outcome.

The year 1954 – I notice that Joe DiMaggio marries Movie star Marilyn Monroe who sang
Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe
“Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.” She wasn’t singing about baseball diamonds. They divorce nine months later, possibly when Joe found out.

Rest of 1950s -- I ignore all baseball except in movies like “The Babe Ruth Story” and “Kill the Umpire” both starring character actor William Bendix who looks nothing like Babe Ruth.

Entire 1960s – I begin a journalism career and am required to “help out” the sports desk on busy nights, shocking the sports editor with my lack of knowledge of baseball (and other sports except ping pong).

Late in the 1970s – After work I play “catch” with my young son, who takes to baseball like a duck takes to water (and I take to clichés) and becomes involved in Little League. I am forced to watch entire games because I am chauffer.

Sometime in 1984 – I view the Robert Redford baseball movie “The Natural” and love it. When discussing it with co-workers on the newspaper sports desk I learn that true baseball lovers hate the movie, which explains a lot.

Around that same decade – I accompany my son to a couple of Minnesota Twins games at the old Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, one of which goes a monotonous 12 innings. I notice a romantic couple in the stands. He kisses her on the strikes.

Jump to October-November 2016 -- The Chicago Cubs win their first World Series since more than 20 years before I was born, defeating the Cleveland Indians. I do not watch on television. I know nothing about the teams, like why the Indians are demonstrating against pipeline construction in North Dakota.