Saturday, March 24, 2018

Daily Rainfall Observations from SW Alabama for Sat., March 24, 2018

Rainfall (Past 24 Hours): 0.00 inches.

Week to Date Rainfall: 1.00 inches.

Month to Date Rainfall:  2.65 inches.

Spring to Date Rainfall: Trace amount.

Year to Date Rainfall: 10.35 inches.

Notes: Today is the 83rd day of 2018 and the fifth day of Spring. There are 283 days left in the year.

Readings taken at 0700 hours Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line and south of U.S. Highway 84, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834N Lon 87.30131W. Elevation 400 feet above sea level. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-4, Station Name: Excel 2.5 ESE.

Friday, March 23, 2018

'WALK TO MORDOR' UPDATE: 1,753 miles down and 26 miles to go

Mount Doom!

I continued my (virtual) “Walk to Mordor” during the past week by logging 15 more miles since my last update. I walked/jogged five miles on Monday, five more on Wednesday and five more today (Friday). So far, I’ve logged 1,753 total miles on this virtual trip to Mount Doom, and I’ve got 26 more miles to go before I reach Mordor. All in all, I’ve completed about 98.5 percent of the total trip.


In relation to Frodo Baggins’ overall journey to destroy the One Ring at Mount Doom in Mordor, I’m on the 27th day of the trip past Rauros Falls, which is March 22 on the Middle Earth calendar. I left off my last update on March 21 at Mile 1738, which was 13 miles into their travels that day, and one mile from where they rested after finding a cistern with muddied water in the bottom. Two miles later, at Mile 1740, they camp just off the road at the end of the day on March 21 and hear a horse-messenger gallop by during the night.


They begin March 22’s travels by breaking camp and returning to the road to continue their journey. Frodo ceases to speak at this point and begins to stumble as he fights against the influence of The Ring. Four miles later, at Mile 1744, the stop to rest.


Three miles later, at Mile 1747, they stop to eat. Mount Doom is due south from this point, so they leave the road and turn toward it. Four miles later, at Mile 1751, the stop to rest again. I’ve covered two miles past this point, to Mile 1753, at the next significant milestone comes to miles later at the end of the day’s travels. It’s here, at what’s known as the “Dreadful Nightfall” that they only have half a bottle of water left. Frodo sleeps fitfully, and Samwise Gamgee sleeps very little. Sam does, however, see the gleam from Gollum’s eyes outside their camp.


For those of you reading this for the first time, I began this “Walk to Mordor” fitness challenge on Jan. 1, 2015. Using a book called “The Atlas of Middle-Earth” by the late Karen Wynn Fonstad, fans of “The Lord of the Rings” created this challenge by mapping out Frodo’s fictional trek to Mordor, calculating the total distance at 1,779 miles. They also used the original "Lord of the Rings" text to outline the journey, so you can follow their route by keeping up with your total mileage.


The folks who worked out the nuts and bolts of this virtual journey have divided it into four parts. It’s 458 miles from Hobbiton to Rivendell, 462 miles from Rivendell through Moria to Lothlorien, 389 miles from Lothlorien down the Anduin to Rauros Falls and 470 miles from Rauros to Mount Doom. (Those locations should sound very familiar to “Lord of the Rings” fans.) The hobbits averaged 18 miles a day, but if you walk (or jog, as I sometimes do) five miles a day, it’s possible to cover 1,779 miles in a year.


If you’re interested in learning more about the “Walk to Mordor Challenge,” I suggest you check out two Web sites, and Both of these sites provide a ton of details about the challenge, including how to get started.


In the end, check back next Friday for another update and to see how much closer I am to Mordor. I hope to knock out at least 10 more miles next week, and I’ll include all that in my update next week.

Today in History for March 23, 2018

Alabama Attorney General Richmond Flowers

March 23, 1066 - The 18th recorded perihelion passage of Halley's Comet took place.

March 23, 1400 – The Trần dynasty of Vietnam was deposed, after 175 years of rule, by Hồ Quý Ly, a court official.

March 23, 1692 – In connection with the Salem witchcraft trials, Salem Marshal Deputy Samuel Brabrook arrested four-year-old Dorothy Good.

March 23, 1699 – Botanist, horticulturist and explorer John Bartram was born in Darby, Pennsylvania Colony.

March 23, 1743 - Handel's "Messiah" was performed in London for the first time at the Covent Garden theatre. It was presented under the name "New Sacred Oratorio" until 1749.

March 23, 1775 – During the American Revolutionary War, Patrick Henry delivered his speech – "Give me Liberty, or give me Death!" – at St. John's Episcopal Church, Richmond, Virginia. The speech was delivered to the Second Virginia Convention, a meeting of American colonial leaders, and Henry urged them to ally themselves with besieged Boston. There were 120 delegates at the meeting, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Henry.

March 23, 1806 – Thomas Wesley Simpson Jr., an early Conecuh County, Ala. settler and Freemason, was born in South Carolina. Simpson died at the age of 54 on June 1, 1861 and was buried in the Burnett-Donald-Simpson Cemetery at Belleville.

March 23, 1806 – After traveling through the Louisiana Purchase and reaching the Pacific Ocean, explorers Lewis and Clark and their "Corps of Discovery" began their arduous journey home after passing a wet and tedious winter near the Pacific Coast, happily leaving behind Fort Clatsop and heading east for home.

March 23, 1814 – Judge John K. Henry was born in Hancock County, Ga. He moved to Alabama in 1819 and was elected Circuit Court Judge in Butler County in 1860. He was elected in 1884 to represent Butler and Conecuh counties in the State Senate.

March 23, 1823 – A mail route from Hartford, Ga. to Sparta, Ala. was established.

March 23, 1835 - Charles Darwin reached Los Arenales in the Andes.

March 23, 1839 - The first recorded printed use of "OK" [oll korrect] occurred in Boston's Morning Post.

March 23, 1857 – Fannie Merritt Farmer was born in Boston, Mass. She’s known for publishing the first cookbook in American history that came with simple, precise cooking instructions.

March 23, 1860 - Husband poisoner Ann Bilansky became the first and only woman hanged by the state of Minnesota on this date.

March 23, 1861 – A flag was presented to the Claiborne Guards at the Masonic Hall in Claiborne, Ala.

March 23, 1861 - Fort Chadbourne, Texas was abandoned by Federal forces

March 23, 1862 – The First Battle of Kernstown, Va. marked the start of Confederate General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson's Valley Campaign. Though a Confederate defeat, the engagement distracted Federal efforts to capture Richmond. Jackson’s troop losses included some 80 killed, 375 wounded, and 260 missing or captured, while the Union lost 118 dead, 450 wounded, and 22 missing.

March 23, 1862 – During the Civil War, skirmishes were fought at Smyrna, Fla.; and in the vicinity of Carthage, Mo. A Federal operation was also conducted between Point Pleasant and Little River, Mo. The Federal siege of Fort Macon, in the vicinity of Beaufort, N.C. began.

March 23, 1863 – During the Civil War, U.S. Grant wrapped up several days of consultations in Cincinnati with William T. Sherman. Grant headed for Washington to get to work and Sherman headed back for Nashville to plan his campaign that would include the March to the Sea through Georgia. A seven-day Federal operation out of Fayettesville, Ark. began, and an eight-day Federal operation began against Jacksonville, Fla. A Federal operation began in the vicinity of Ponchatoula, La.

March 23, 1863 – During the Civil War, skirmishes were fought with Indians along the Eel River in California; at Ocklockonnee Bay, Fla.; at Danville, Ky.; in the vicinity of Rocky Creek, N.C.; at Thompson’s station and near La Grange in Tennessee, on Davis’ Mill Road; at Benton, Ark.; and on the Little River Turnpike, near Chantilly, Va. An attack was carried out on the Warrenton, Miss. batteries by the Albatross and the Hartford, below Vicksburg, Miss. A nine-day Federal operation between Bloomfield and Scatterville in Missouri began, and a Confederate attack on Williamsburg, Va. was repulsed.

March 23, 1864 - An 11-day Federal expedition began in the vicinity of Camden, Ark.

March 23, 1865 - U.S. President Abraham Lincoln boarded the "River Queen" with his wife and son Tad. The first family was headed to General Grant's headquarters at City Point, Virginia.

March 23, 1865 – During the Civil War, “Spurling’s Raid” into Conecuh County, Ala. began.

March 23, 1865 – During the Civil War, skirmishes were fought in the vicinity of Dannelly’s Mills, Ala. and along the Neuse River at Cox’s Bridge, N.C. A two-day Federal operation between Donaldsonville and Bayou Goula in Louisiana began.

March 23, 1881 – French author Roger Martin du Gard, who won the 1937 Noble Prize in literature, was born in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France.

March 23, 1885 – During the Sino-French War, the Chinese victory in the Battle of Phu Lam Tao took place near Hưng Hóa, northern Vietnam.

March 23, 1886 - Some dogs chased three fine deer into Monroeville’s corporate limits on this Tuesday morning, and “had it not been so near to the court house, it is probable that they might not have escaped to tell of their adventure,” according to The Monroe Journal.

March 23, 1886 - A negro woman was burned to death on Mr. Cassel Garrett’s plantation near Midway in Monroe County on this Tuesday. She was endeavoring to extinguish the fire, which had caught the fence from a burning tree, when her clothing became ignited and the poor woman burned to death before assistance could reach her.

March 23, 1887 - Writer Josef Čapek was born in Hronov in what is now the Czech Republic. He is best known for inventing the word “robot.”

March 23, 1889 - U.S. President Benjamin Harrison opened Oklahoma for white colonization.

March 23, 1896 - Miss Hortense Deer, who had been attending school at Pensacola, returned home to Monroeville on this Monday. The presence of small pox in Pensacola alarmed her parents, who advised her to return home.

March 23, 1899 – Writer Louis Adamic was born in Blato in what is now Slovenia.

March 23, 1903 - W.S. Oliver, a prominent merchant, and also Mayor of Repton, was in Evergreen on this Monday on business.

March 23, 1905 – The Monroe Journal reported that Monroe County Deputy Sheriff B.H. Stallworth arrested a man on charges of carrying concealed weapons and also on the belief that he was one of the men involved in the shooting of Prof. Claude Hardy near Pine Apple, Ala.

March 23, 1905 – The Monroe Journal reported that Miss Callie Faulk had returned home to Monroeville, Ala. from Bay Minette, where she’d been teaching for several months. Now back in Monroeville, she planned to join her sister, Miss Jennie Faulk, in operating a millinery business.

March 23, 1909 - British Lt. Ernest Shackleton found the magnetic South Pole.

March 23, 1909 – Theodore Roosevelt left New York for a post-presidency safari in Africa. The trip was sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution and the National Geographic Society.

March 23, 1911 – The Conecuh Record reported that Capt. Lewis had been arrested in connection with the death of his brother, Andrew Lewis, who was shot and killed in Brooklyn, Ala. that week. Capt. Lewis, who was the only person present at the shooting, claimed it was suicide.

March 23, 1912 - Alabama author Wernher Von Braun was born in Wirsitz, Germany. Von Braun, a rocket scientist, is generally regarded as the father of the United States space program.

March 23, 1913 – California novelist Jack London wrote to six writers, including H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw, asking how much they were paid for their writing. London, who grew up in extreme poverty, always claimed that his chief motive for writing was money. He told his colleagues, “I have published 33 books, as well as an ocean of magazine stuff, and yet I have never heard the rates that other writers receive.”

March 23, 1915 – The temperature dropped to 31 degrees in Evergreen, Ala.

March 23, 1916 - On this Thursday night, in the auditorium in Monroeville, Ala., a concert was scheduled to be given under the auspices of the local Music Club. The program was to “be furnished by a gifted violinist and several other artists from Selma and other towns, and you may expect an evening of genuine pleasure,” The Monroe Journal said.

March 23, 1918 – Reuben F. Kolb of Kolb’s Battery passed away at the age of 78. He was buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Montgomery, Ala.

March 23, 1918 – During the First World War, on the third day of the German Spring Offensive, the 10th Battalion of the Royal West Kent Regiment was annihilated with many of the men becoming prisoners of war.

March 23, 1918 - At 7:20 in the morning, an explosion in the Place de la Republique in Paris announced the first attack of a new German gun, the 210-mm Pariskanone, or Paris gun, which had a 118-foot-long barrel and could fire a shell the impressive distance of some 130,000 feet, or 25 miles, into the air.

March 23, 1925 – In H.P. Lovecraft’s fictional work, “The Call of Cthulhu,” the surviving crew of the Emma, which had commandeered the “Alert” after the “Emma” was lost in a battle the day before, discovered an island in the vicinity of co-ordinates of 47°9′S 126°43′W—despite there being no charted islands in the area. They had the misfortune to encounter Cthulhu itself. With the exception of Johansen and another man, the remaining crew died on the island, but Johansen was apparently "queerly reticent" about the circumstances of their death.

March 23, 1932 - The Monroeville baseball team went to Brewton on this Wednesday, and the final score was 11 to 0 in favor of Brewton.

March 23, 1933 – The German Reichstag passed the Enabling Act of 1933, making Adolf Hitler dictator of Germany.

March 23, 1935 – Novelist, poet and translator David Slavitt was born in White Plains, N.Y.

March 23, 1942 – The U.S. government began moving Japanese-Americans from their West Coast homes to internment camps.

March 23, 1943 - Alabama author Winston Groom was born in Washington, D.C.

March 23, 1943 – Major League Baseball first baseman and designated hitter Lee May was born in Birmingham, Ala. After starring in baseball and football at A.H. Parker High School in Birmingham, May, who was known as the “Big Bopper,” went on to play for the Cincinnati Reds, the Houston Astros, the Baltimore Orioles and the Kansas City Royals.

March 23, 1952 – Science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson was born in Waukegan, Illinois.

March 23, 1955 – Mobile, Alabama’s Milt Bolling had a career-threatening injury when he broke his left elbow in a Spring Training baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals after he had already won the starting role at shortstop for the season. He was expected to return after six weeks, but ended up playing in only six games for the entire season. By the time Bolling got a clean bill of health, he had lost his starting job to Don Buddin for the 1956 season.

March 23, 1956 – National Book Award novelist Julia Glass was born in Boston.

March 23, 1959 – Catherine Ann Keener was born in Miami, Fla. She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for her role as Harper Lee in 2005’s “Capote.”

March 23, 1961 - One of the first American casualties in Southeast Asia, an intelligence-gathering plane en route from Laos to Saigon was shot down over the Plain of Jars in central Laos.

March 23, 1962 - The Evergreen Quarterback Club was scheduled to give special recognition to all of the school’s outstanding athletes and all phases of sports at Evergreen High School at a sports banquet on this day in the school cafeteria. The D.T. Stuart Sportsmanship Trophy was to be presented, and the guest speaker was to be Richmond Flowers, a candidate for Alabama attorney general. The Rev. Tom Tidwell was president of the EHS QB Club.

March 23, 1968 - Kathy Johnson reigned as 1968 Miss Lyeffion High School, having been crowned before a capacity audience at the Miss Lyeffion Beauty Pageant on this Saturday night.

March 23, 1970 - Prom Peking, Prince Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia issued a public call for arms to be used against the Lon Nol government in Phnom Penh and requested the establishment of the National United Front of Kampuchea (FUNK) to unite all opposition factions against Lon Nol.

March 23, 1971 - The Boston Patriots officially announced their name would change to the New England Patriots.

March 23, 1976 – Major League Baseball pitcher Joel Peralta was born in Bonao, Dominican Republic. He went on to play for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the Kansas City Royals, the Colorado Rockies, the Washington Nationals, the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

March 23, 1976 – Journalist and author Jayson Blair was born in Columbia, Md.

March 23, 1976 - Actress Michelle Monaghan was born in Winthrop, Iowa.

March 23, 1976 – NFL center Jeremy Newberry was born in Antioch, Calif. He went on to play for the University of California, the San Francisco 49ers, the Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers.

March 23, 1976 – Actress Keri Russell was born in Fountain Valley, Calif.

March 23, 1977 – The first of The Nixon Interviews (12 would be recorded over four weeks) were videotaped with British journalist David Frost interviewing former United States President Richard Nixon about the Watergate scandal and the Nixon tapes.

March 23, 1985 – NFL running back Maurice Jones-Drew was born in Oakland, Calif. He would go on the play for UCLA, the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Oakland Raiders.

March 23, 1991 - The London Monarchs beat the Frankfurt Galaxy, 24-11, in the World League of American Football's (WLAF) first game.

March 23, 1992 - Author John Hazard Wildman died in Mobile, Ala.

March 23, 1992 - The 47th Annual Conecuh County 4-H and FFA Steer Show was scheduled to be held on this Monday at the Evergreen Cooperative Stockyard Livestock Arena. The exhibitors of steers were to be Michael Lambert, Vanessa Stuart, Courtney Cook, Jeff Myers, Jonathan Jernigan, Shannon Pugh, Will Cook, Wendy Stacey, Shannon Ballard, Chip Stacey, Britt Ward, Amy Ballard and Jennifer Pettis.

March 23, 1992 - Monroe Academy won its fourth straight baseball game on this Monday, after losing its first two games of the season, when the Volunteers pounded Wilcox Academy, 14-2, in Camden. Prior to the win over Wilcox, the Vols upended Greenville Academy, 15-5, on Tues., March 17, at MA, then drilled Lowndes Academy, 15-7, on Fri., March 20, at MA. Standout Monroe players in those games included Nick Ackerman, Coleman Clark, Shanandoah McLaurin, Stephen Newsome, Johnny Pickens, Billy Rice, Landry Sawyer, Brent Terry, Mitchell Turberville, Sam Ulmer, Tommy Weatherford. Gary Caldwell was MA’s head baseball coach.

March 23, 1998 – During a closed, executive session, the Conecuh County Board of Education interviewed three candidates for the vacant Hillcrest High School head football coach position.

March 23, 1998 - The movie "Titanic" won 11 Oscars at the Academy Awards.

March 23, 1999 - Bestselling author Thomas Harris delivered his 600-page manuscript for his new novel, “Hannibal,” to Delacorte press.

March 23, 2001 - Mir, the Russian space station, met its fiery end on this day, as it broke up in the atmosphere before falling into the Pacific Ocean near Fiji.

March 23, 2003 – The Battle of Nasiriyah, the first major conflict during the invasion of Iraq, occurred.

March 23, 2009 – NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver John Stallworth, a native of Alabama, was announced as becoming part-owner of his former team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, as part of the Rooney family restructuring ownership of the team.

March 23, 2010 – President Barack Obama signed into law the Affordable Care Act, the most sweeping piece of federal legislation since Medicare was passed in 1965.
March 23, 2013 – Major League Baseball pitcher Virgil Trucks, a native of Birmingham, passed away at the age of 95 in Calera, Ala. At the time of his death, he was one of the oldest living former major league players. During his career, he played for the Detroit Tigers, the St. Louis Browns, the Chicago White Sox, the Kansas City Athletics and the New York Yankees.

March 23, 2015 – Former Leroy High School and Auburn University wide receiver Sammie Coates was featured in a five-page story by Andy Staples in Sports Illustrated.

Daily Rainfall Observations from SW Alabama for Fri., March 23, 2018

Rainfall (Past 24 Hours): 0.00 inches.

Week to Date Rainfall: 1.00 inches.

Month to Date Rainfall:  2.65 inches.

Spring to Date Rainfall: Trace amount.

Year to Date Rainfall: 10.35 inches.

Notes: Today is the 82nd day of 2018 and the fourth day of Spring. There are 284 days left in the year.

Readings taken at 0700 hours Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line and south of U.S. Highway 84, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834N Lon 87.30131W. Elevation 400 feet above sea level. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-4, Station Name: Excel 2.5 ESE.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

What is now called Evergreen, Ala. was originally settled in 1819

Historical marker outside Old L&N Depot in Evergreen, Ala.

This coming Wednesday, March 28, will be a significant day in the history of Evergreen in that it will mark the 143rd anniversary of the City of Evergreen’s official incorporation. In other words, it’s the city’s birthday.

According to the historical marker that was placed in front of the Old L&N Depot in downtown Evergreen by the city and the Alabama Tourism Department in October 2010, the City of Evergreen was officially incorporated as a municipality on March 28, 1875. However, the marker also mentions that what is now called Evergreen was originally settled in 1819 by James Cosey, George Andrews and the Clough (or “Cluff”) brothers. At that time, Evergreen was known as “Cosey’s Old Field.”

According to B.F. Riley’s 1881 book, “History of Conecuh County, Alabama,” what is now Evergreen was a “tangled wildwood, reveling in dense thickets of briar and cane, with the jungles infested by the native deer, wolf, bear and wildcat. The tiny streams, that still wind their way through different portions of the village, were then strongly barricaded on either side, with impenetrable brakes of cane. And such was the nature of the soil, which skirted the streams, that it was peril to man or beast to tread upon it.”

When Cosey, an old soldier from Georgia who’d been wounded in the Revolutionary War, and the Cluff brothers, also from Georgia, first arrived, they located within what’s now Evergreen’s city limits, but Andrews, who was from South Carolina, pitched a tent on a hill beyond a small branch west of Evergreen. Other settlers soon followed with their families, including William Jones Sr. of Georgia and George Foote of South Carolina.

“Living contiguous to the vast swamps which border Murder Creek, this settlement was peculiarly exposed to the inroads of the bear, the wildcat, the deer and turkey,” Riley wrote in his book. “The bear and wildcat preying upon the pigs, and the less offensive deer and turkey riotously assailing the ripening grain of autumn.”

Conditions began to improve in the young town as more settlers moved in, including Blanton P. Box, Chesley Crosby, John Crosby, Benjamin Hart, Nathan Godbold, Garland Goode, Churchill Jones, Jephtha V. Perryman, James Tomlinson, Nicholas Stallworth and the Reverend Alexander Travis, who was the uncle of William Barrett Travis, from the famous Battle of the Alamo.

The Rev. Alexander Travis is credited with changing the name from Cosey’s Old Field to Evergreen. Early citizens wanted to name the town after Perryman, but he declined the honor and Travis recommended that they call the town Evergreen because the “verdant foliage that abounded.”

In those days, Sparta was the county seat, but the county seat was moved to Evergreen in 1866 after much of Sparta was burned during the Civil War. Prior to the Civil War, Belleville and Sparta were both larger than Evergreen, but the completion of the Mobile & Montgomery Railroad, which later became the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, changed all that.

It goes without saying that much has changed in Evergreen since those early days, but the city has managed to maintain much of its early charm. Its residents still enjoy a laid back atmosphere, and, for the most part, folks get along just fine. Only time will tell if the city will hold a special event in 2019 to mark the 200th anniversary of Evergreen’s first settlement or if they’ll have something in 2025 to mark the 150th anniversary of the city’s incorporation.

What's the title of your favorite all-time book about baseball?

Two of my favorite things in the whole wide world are baseball and books, so it should go without saying that I enjoy reading books about baseball. I’ve read many such books over the years, and this week I figured I’d run down a few of my favorites.

One of my all-time favorites is “The Boys of Summer” by Roger Kahn. This book is generally considered to be one of the finest baseball books ever written, and it’s mostly about the Brooklyn Dodgers of the 1950s, before the team moved to Los Angeles. Much of this book is also about Jackie Robinson and the trials he faced while breaking the “color barrier” of Major League Baseball.

If you’re looking for a great, funny baseball book, I highly recommend “Ball Four” by Jim Bouton. Bouton was a Big League pitcher in the 1960s and when his career ended, he wrote “Ball Four” as a tell-all-type book about his experiences in the Majors. This book caused a huge scandal when it was released in 1970 because it contains more than a few wild tales about some well-known baseball players.

Another great baseball book is “The Code” by Ross Bernstein, which examines baseball’s unwritten rules and traditions. This book goes into great detail about how Major League teams and players police their own game. You’ll never watch a game the same way again after reading this book.

Perhaps the greatest baseball novel ever written is “The Natural” by Bernard Malamud. Most of you have probably seen the motion picture version of this story, which featured Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs, a baseball star whose career is derailed by a woman who shoots him in a hotel room. It’s often said that the book is better than the movie, and that’s definitely true when it comes to “The Natural.”

If you want to read about the seedier side of professional baseball, I recommend “Game of Shadows” by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, a pair of San Francisco Chronicle investigative reporters who blew the lid off the Barry Bonds steroid scandal. This book takes an in-depth look at the world of performance enhancing drugs and the lengths that professional athletes will go to gain an edge. This book had a huge impact on pulling Major League Baseball out of the “Steroid Era” and is likely the condemning document that will keep Bonds and others out of the Hall of Fame.

Every youth and high school player in the reading audience needs to read “The Science of Hitting” by Ted Williams and John Underwood. Williams, aka “The Splendid Splinter,” was the last Major League player to hit over .400, and this book is his how-to book on how to hit a baseball at the highest level. I read this book about 10 years ago, but I wish that I’d read it when I was about 13, so I could have applied some of its lessons.

Last, but not least, if you don’t want to read any of the books mentioned above, check out “501 Baseball Books Fans Must Read Before They Die” by Ron Kaplan. As the title implies, this book contains descriptions of over 500 of the greatest baseball books ever published and it’s sure to contain a little something for every baseball fan.

Today in History for March 22, 2018

Richard Hickock and Perry Smith.

March 22, 1457 – The “Gutenberg Bible” became the first printed book.

March 22, 1508 – Ferdinand II of Aragon commissioned Amerigo Vespucci as the chief navigator of the Spanish Empire.

March 22, 1621 – Wampanoag chief Massasoit signed a treaty with Plymouth colonists, the first treaty between white European colonists and a Native American people.

March 22, 1622 – In an incident commonly referred to as the “Jamestown Massacre,” Algonquian Indians killed 347 English settlers around Jamestown, Virginia, a third of the colony's population, during the Second Anglo-Powhatan War.

March 22, 1713 – The Tuscarora War came to an end with the fall of Fort Neoheroka, which effectively opened up the interior of North Carolina to European colonization.

March 22, 1739 – Nader Shah occupied Delhi in India and sacked the city, stealing the jewels of the Peacock Throne.

March 22, 1765 – The British Parliament passed the Stamp Act that introduced a tax to be levied directly on its American colonies. It was the first direct British tax on the American colonists and sought to raise funds for a standing British army in America. The legislation levied a direct tax on all materials printed for commercial and legal use in the colonies, from newspapers and pamphlets to playing cards and dice. It was repealed on March 17, 1766.

March 22, 1790 - Thomas Jefferson became the first U.S. Secretary of State.

March 22, 1794 - The U.S. Congress banned U.S. vessels from supplying slaves to other countries.

March 22, 1814 – General Andrew Jackson joined Col. Williams of the 39th Regiment at the mouth of Cedar Creek in present-day Talladega County, Ala. and built a fort, which Jackson named after Williams.

March 22, 1815 – U.S. Army General Ferdinand Leigh Claiborne died in Natchez, Miss. at the age of 45. Born in Sussex County, Va. on March 9, 1772, he entered the Army as an Ensign in 1793, and was promoted to Lieutenant in 1794 and Captain in 1799. He resigned his commission in 1802, and moved to Mississippi Territory, where he owned a plantation and operated a store. Claiborne also served as Brigadier General of the Mississippi militia and saw action against the Creek Indians in Alabama. In addition, he served in the territorial legislature, often as Speaker of the House. During the War of 1812, he returned to the Army as commander of a regiment with the rank of Colonel. In 1813, he was promoted to Brigadier General, and he commanded a brigade. After the war he returned to his Mississippi plantation with his health impaired by his wartime service, and he died just days after his 43rd birthday. He is buried in the Trinity Cemetery in Natchez, Miss.

March 22, 1817 - Confederate General Braxton Bragg was born in Warrenton, North Carolina. Bragg commanded the Army of Tennessee for 17 months, leading them to several defeats and losing most of the state of Tennessee to the Yankees.

March 22, 1818 – English-Australian explorer John Ainsworth Horrocks was born at Penwortham Lodge, near Preston, Lancashire.

March 22, 1820 - U.S. Navy officer Stephen Decatur, hero of the Barbary Wars, was mortally wounded in a duel with disgraced Navy Commodore James Barron at Bladensburg, Maryland.

March 22, 1862 - Confederate Cavalry Commander Turner Ashby attacked Union troops that were moving out of Shenandoah Valley. The Confederates lost the Battle of Kernstown, Va. the next day.

Marc 22, 1862 – During the Civil War, an 11-day Federal operation began against Indians in the Humboldt Military Division of California. Skirmishes were fought at Independence and Post Oak in Missouri and at Kearnstown, Va. The British vessel, the Oreto, embarked from Liverpool, England for Nassau, in the Bahamas islands, where she was sold to the Confederacy and renamed the CSS Florida.

March 22, 1863 – During the Civil War, skirmishes were fought near the head of the White River in Arkansas; at Mount Sterling, Ky.; along the Big Black River in Mississippi; at Blue Springs, close to Independence, in Missouri; near Murfreesborough Tenn.; and out from Occoquan, Va. at Selecman’s Ford.

March 22, 1864 – During the Civil War, skirmishes were fought with Indians along the Eel River in California; south of Mayfield, Ky. at Fancy Farms; at Langley’s Plantation in Issaquena County, Miss.; at Corpus Christi, Texas; and in the vicinity of Winchester, Va.

March 22, 1864 – During the Civil War, the notion of coming up behind Vicksburg, Miss. by working guns ships and troops through Mississippi Delta waterways was officially abandoned on this day. The twisting jungle-like waters simply would not accommodate the boats.

March 22, 1865 – During the Civil War, a 33-day Federal cavalry operation began under the command of Union Brigadier General James Harrison Wilson. This raid included the Battle of Selma, Ala.

March 22, 1865 – During the Civil War, skirmishes were fought at Stephenson’s Mill, near Salem, Mo.; at Black Creek, Hannah’s Creek, and Mill Creek, in North Carolina; in the vicinity of Celina, Tenn.; in the vicinity of Patterson Creek Station, West Virginia.

March 22, 1869 - The Dale County Courthouse in Newton, Ala. burned, and the county seat was moved to Ozark in 1870.

March 22, 1873 - Slavery was abolished in Puerto Rico.

March 22, 1886 - Capt. W.B. Kemp of Kempville was in Monroeville on this Monday.

March 22, 1895 - The first private screening of a motion picture took place in Paris at a conference of the Society for the Development of the National Industry. About 200 people attended, including Léon Gaumont, director of a prestigious photographic supply company who would go on to become a movie pioneer in his own right.

March 22, 1899 - Author Lella Warren was born in Clayton, Ala.

March 22, 1902 - The meeting of the Geo. W. Foster Camp of Confederate Veterans was postponed until this Saturday at 3 p.m. Every member was urged to attend as they planned to conduct business of the utmost importance, the Monroe Journal reported.

March 22, 1903 - Niagara Falls ran out of water due to a drought.

March 22, 1903 – The Rev. C.S. Talley filled his regular appointment at the Monroeville Methodist Church on this Sunday morning. The evening service was interfered with by rain.

March 22, 1904 - The first color photograph was published in The London Daily Illustrated Mirror.

March 22, 1904 - A patent was issued for a "baseball catcher."

March 22, 1906 – The Monroe Journal reported that another rural free delivery mail route had been established in Monroe County, Ala., designated as R.F.D. No. 2. It ran from Snider on the Manistee & Repton Railroad and served an extensive territory around Jones Mill. Several post offices in the neighborhood were discontinued.

March 22, 1906 – The Monroe Journal, in news from the Activity community, it was reported that Dr. A.G. Stacey’s new drug store was nearly complete.

March 22, 1906 – The Monroe Journal, in news from the Pineville community, reported that Lee Andrews had nearly finished two terms at the Medical college in Mobile, Ala. His examinations there were scheduled to end around April 5.

March 22, 1908 – Western writer Louis L'Amour was born in Jamestown, North Dakota. His first novel, “Westward the Tide,” was published in 1951. Over the next three decades, L’Amour wrote more than 100 novels, selling 320 million books worldwide, and is considered the finest writer in the Western genre.

March 22, 1915 - After six months of battle, the Austrian garrison at Przemysl (now in Poland), the citadel guarding the northeastern-most point of the Austro-Hungarian empire, fell to the Russians.

March 22, 1916 - The Monroe County Medical Society met on this Wednesday “with an unusually large attendance of physicians of the county. A number of able papers were read and discussions had on subjects of special interest to the profession.” Later that night, “an eloquent banquet was served at the Crook Hotel, covers being laid for some 15 or 18 including a few invited guests among whom ye editor had the honor to be numbered,” according to The Monroe Journal.

March 22, 1924 – USA Today founder Allen H. Neuharth was born in rural South Dakota.

March 22, 1925 – In H.P. Lovecraft’s fictional work, “The Call of Cthulhu,” the Emma encountered a heavily armed yacht, the Alert, crewed by "a queer and evil-looking crew of Kanakas and half-castes" from Dunedin, New Zealand. Despite being attacked by the Alert without provocation, the crew of the Emma were able to kill the opposing crew, but lost their own ship in the battle. Commandeering the Alert, the surviving crew sailed on and made an unexpected discovery the following day.

March 22, 1928 - Miss Ethel Raye, principal of the Burnt Corn School, left for her home in Garland on this Thursday afternoon. She planned to return in a few weeks when the measles epidemic was over, to finish out the school term.

March 22, 1930 – Composer and songwriter Stephen Sondheim was born in New York City.

March 22, 1931 – H.P. Lovecraft completed his novel, “At the Mountains of Madness,” which was originally published in the February, March and April 1936 issues of Astounding Stories.

March 22, 1931 - William Shatner was born in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. He gained worldwide fame and became a cultural icon for his portrayal of James T. Kirk, Captain of the USS Enterprise, in the science fiction television series Star Trek (1966–69).

March 22, 1938 - Bobby Jones, 13-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. R.H. Jones, sustained fractures of both arms just above the wrists at noon on this Tuesday when the bicycle which he was riding collided sidewise with a truck driven by Richard Brassell. The accident occurred on Perryman Street where Shipp Street intersects in Evergreen, Ala. Jones and a number of other boys were riding toward the business section of Perryman while the truck was going north on Shipp Street. Neither saw the other in time to avoid the collision. Jones, when he saw that a collision was inevitable, threw out his hands to catch the weight of the impact which caused fractures of both arms. Both bones of the right arm were broken while only one was broken in the left. The ligaments of the left were badly injured it is said. He also received a number of other minor bruises and sprains.

March 22, 1939 - Author G. C. Skipper was born in Ozark, Ala.

March 22, 1939 - John J. Putnam, 34, sports editor of The Birmingham Post for 12 years, died at a hospital following an operation. He had been ill for several weeks. Before coming to Birmingham, Ala., Putnam was a reporter with The Muskogee (Okla.) Phoenix and on the sports staff of The Tampa (Fla.) Tribune.

March 22, 1941 – Evergreen, Ala. native Robert James McCreary died at his home on Lexington Road in Montgomery. He was engaged in the wholesale lumber business for many years, moved to Montgomery in 1972 and operated the R.J. McCreary Lumber Co.

March 22, 1941 – Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins was born in New York City.

March 22, 1947 – Best-selling author James Patterson was born in Newburgh, N.Y.

March 22, 1948 - "The Voice of Firestone" became the first commercial radio program to be carried simultaneously on both AM and FM radio stations.

March 22, 1952 – Sportscaster Bob Costas was born in New York City.

March 22, 1952 - Second Lt. William E. Dantzler, the son of Samuel A. Dantzler of McKenzie, Rt. 2, received his gold bars at commissioning exercises for Army Officer Candidate Class 42 at Fort Riley, Kansas. Lt. Dantzler graduated from Evergreen High School in 1948 and entered the Army in October of that year.

March 22, 1954 – The Western Auto Store on West Front Street in Evergreen, Ala. caught fire and “threatened the West Front Street business district momentarily and did considerable damage to the Western Auto Building.” The store was owned by M.B. English, and the building was owned by the W.K. Horton Sr. Estate.

March 22, 1956 – Around midnight, James Richard Merritt, 23, of Cincinnati, Ohio escaped from the Conecuh County Jail in Evergreen, Ala. by using a magnet from a small radio to get a file that he used to saw the bars out of his cell’s window.

March 22, 1957 – In an incident attributed to the “Dragon’s Triangle,” a U.S. military transport plane vanished southeast of Japan.

March 22, 1958 - Hank Williams Jr. made his stage debut in Swainsboro, Ga. at the age of eight.

March 22-29, 1960 - The trial of Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, the subjects of Truman Capote’s book “In Cold Blood,” took place at the county courthouse in Garden City, Kansas. They were both convicted of the mass murder after the jury deliberated for only 45 minutes. Their conviction carried a mandatory death sentence during that time.

March 22, 1962 – The Monroe Journal reported that Jesse Crutchfield, Chief of Police for the City of Monroeville, was on a leave of absence due to ill health, according to an announcement made that week. Crutchfield said that his doctor had advised him to take a leave of absence until April 15.

March 22, 1962 – Tallassee Tribune publisher Herve Charest Jr., a widely-known Alabama weekly newspaper publisher, civic worker and humorist, was scheduled to be the featured speaker at the annual meeting of the Evergreen Chamber of Commerce on this Thursday night at the Evergreen Recreation Center. W.T. (Jack) Wild was Chamber president.

March 22, 1962 - Frisco City High School’s senior football players were scheduled to play next year’s team on this Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. Coach Lefty Anderson said about 31 boys participated in the spring training and that this night’s game would wrap up the Whippets’ spring drills.

March 22, 1962 – The Monroe Journal reported that Frisco Sportswear had announced plans to build a 42,000 square foot addition, of which 6,400 square feet was to be used to enlarge the pressing and packing facilities, at its plant in Frisco City. The 35,600 foot addition was to be used to enlarge the sewing and shipping capacity. L.B. Weingarten, plant manager, said the initial phase of the new structure was to be completed and in use within 60 days.

March 22, 1962 – The Monroe Journal reported that Monroe County High School Coach James R. Allen had been named one of five high school coaches to coach the South Team in the annual North-South all-star high school football classic at the University of Alabama on Aug. 9.

March 22, 1965 - Bob Dylan's first electric album, "Bring it All Back Home," was released.

March 22, 1965 - The State Department acknowledged that the United States had supplied the South Vietnamese armed forces with a “non-lethal gas which disables temporarily” for use “in tactical situations in which the Viet Cong intermingle with or take refuge among non-combatants, rather than use artillery or aerial bombardment.”

March 22, 1966 - Lee Roy Jordan, former All-American at the University of Alabama and a graduate of Excel High School, was scheduled to be the guest speaker at the Monroe County High School Tiger Booster Club on this Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at the Monroe County Courthouse. Jordan was playing professional football with the Dallas Cowboys in the National Football League. R.C. Otterberg was president of the Tiger Booster Club.

March 22, 1968 - President Lyndon B. Johnson announced the appointment of Gen. William Westmoreland as Army Chief of Staff; Gen. Creighton Abrams replaced him as commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam.

March 22, 1968 - Monroeville Police Chief O.D. Godwin turned in his badge during a three-hour special called meeting of the Monroeville City Council on this Friday night, with the question as to whether he resigned or was dismissed hinging on a technicality in procedure. The council minutes stated that he resigned while Godwin said he was fired. Regardless of whether he resigned or was dismissed, Godwin qualified the following day as a candidate for City Council, Post No. 1, opposing incumbent B.C. Hornady.

March 22, 1972 - The second movie version of Alabama author James H. Street's story "The Biscuit Eater" was released.

March 22, 1975 – A fire at the Browns Ferry Nuclear Power Plant in Decatur, Alabama caused a dangerous reduction in cooling water levels.

March 22, 1976 – Actress and producer Reese Witherspoon was born in New Orleans, La.

March 22, 1976 - Wayne E. Johnston, Conecuh County Treasurer and clerk to the County Commission, was appointed absentee voting officer for Conecuh County in the primary elections that year by Circuit Judge Robert E.L. Key. The appointment was made on this Monday, being necessary because Circuit Clerk Leon A. Salter, who would normally serve in that capacity, was a candidate for re-election.
March 22, 1982 - Twenty-six senior citizens were injured and their church bus destroyed when it flipped and landed in a 12-foot-deep median south of Evergreen, Ala. The group from the First Baptist Church of Boaz was en route to Bellingrath Gardens south of Mobile about 2 p.m. when the driver lost control of the 1972 Chevrolet bus about 10 miles south of Evergreen on rain-slick Interstate 65. All passengers of the bus were injured. Six passengers were admitted to D.W. McMillan Memorial Hospital in Brewton, and five others were admitted to Evergreen Hospital. One woman was transferred from Evergreen to St. Margaret’s Hospital in Montgomery.

March 22, 1984 – The Evergreen Courant reported that Pvt. Tracy L. Hawsey, the son of Jimmy A. and Glenda Hawsey of 113 Desplous St. in Evergreen, Ala., had completed an ammunition storage course at the U.S. Army Missile and Munitions Center and School at Redstone Arsenal. Hawsey, a 1983 graduate of Evergreen High School, would eventually be elected Conecuh County Sheriff.

March 22, 1986 – John Shepard Salter, 89, of Evergreen, Ala. died in a VA hospital in Montgomery after a long illness. He was a World War I veteran and a retired employee of the City of Evergreen. Born on May 3, 1896, he is buried in the Jones Chapel Cemetery at Flat Rock.

March 22, 1987 – Major League Baseball first baseman Ike Davis was born in Edina, Minnesota.

March 22, 1991 – The Creagh-Glover Family Cemetery near Catherine in Wilcox County, Ala. was added to the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage.

March 22, 1993 - Cleveland Indians pitchers Steve Olin and Tim Crews were killed in a boating accident in Florida. Bob Ojeda was also seriously injured in the accident.

March 22, 1994 - The NFL announced the addition of the two-point conversion. It was the league's first scoring change in 75 seasons.

March 22, 1994 - Sammy Pettis and Aaron Pettis killed a large turkey while hunting near Castleberry on this day. The turkey had a 10-/14 inch beard, one-inch spurs and weighed 17-1/4 pounds.

March 22, 1997 – The Comet Hale-Bopp had its closest approach to Earth.

March 22, 2002 - Excel High School opened area play on this Friday in Excel with 6-1 and 13-3 wins over McIntosh High School in a doubleheader at Murphy Park. Junior right-hander Neal Jordan picked up the win in the Panthers’ 6-1 decision over the McIntosh Demons. In the 13-3 win, Ryan Smith picked up the win on the mound, scattering three hits in four scoreless innings of work. Other standout Excel players in those games included Josh Black, Kyle Holder, Chase Reeves, Michael Whatley, Blake White, Josh Wiggins and Derek Wiggins.

March 22, 2006 – Three Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) hostages are freed by British forces in Baghdad after 118 days of captivity and the murder of their colleague from the U.S., Tom Fox.

March 22, 2012 – Buddy Raines discovered the “Mystery Track of Loree” in a field adjacent to his home in Conecuh County, Ala.