Abe Lincoln, Museums

The big reveal of Springfield, Illinois Abraham Lincoln scholar Wayne C. “Doc” Temple’s collection of Native American Indian Artifacts at the Richwood, Ohio History Museum.

On Thursday, March 9, 2023, I visited the Richwood, Ohio History museum and library with my wife Rhonda S. Hunter. We dropped off the Temple family collection of Native American Indian artifacts collected over the course of at least two decades from @1900 past World War I. The compilation, contained in an old can of Cocoa, had not seen the light of day for nearly a century. Doc, Springfield Illinois’ premiere Abraham Lincoln scholar for over 60 years, also wrote the definitive book on the subject in 1966, Indian Villages of the Illinois Country: Historic Tribes, and several scholarly articles and papers on the subject for the University of Illinois. The artifacts were dug in the farm fields in and around Richwood Ohio so it seemed fitting that Doc’s collection go back to their place of origin. We were as happy to deliver them as the museum officials were to receive them.

Doc’s arrowhead collection had been stored in this cocoa box for a century.
Rhonda Hunter with the piece from the collection that Doc recalled specifically. I believe it is a hammer or tomahawk head.
Richwood Museum staffer Dustin Lowe and Alana E. Hunter with Doc’s collection.
Abe Lincoln, Civil War

99 Birthday Cards for Doc.


February 5, 2023.

Friends, please consider joining me in a project celebrating the 99th birthday of the Dean of all Abraham Lincoln scholars from Springfield, Illinois:

Dr. Wayne C. “Doc” Temple.

I have been working on a biography of Doc for some time now. For nearly 70 years, Doc has researched, written, and published more than 20 books and over 300 articles on Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, Indigenous tribes, and Midwest history. Along the way, Doc has graciously volunteered his time, knowledge & wisdom with countless students and scholars along the way. Most of today’s Lincoln scholars have consulted Doc for facts in their work.

This will be Doc’s first birthday since losing Sandy, his wife of 42 years, last March. Doc is a member of America’s greatest generation having fought bravely for the United States in the European theatre, once actually standing in an open road firing a Thompson Sub-machine gun at a German fighter plane strafing his unit. He is an amazing man.

I ask that you join me in sending a birthday card or friendly note to Doc (he doesn’t do e-mail) in time for his 99th birthday (February 5, 2023) in care of the address below. Please share this humble announcement to your page and we’ll see if we can’t get 99 cards for Doc’s 99th birthday. His personal archives will be donated to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield and these birthday cards will be preserved among that collection. Thank you for your consideration.

Wayne “Doc” Temple

c/o Books on the Square

427 East Washington Street

Springfield, IL 62701


Doc’s historical resume is unchallenged. In my opinion, he is our nation’s greatest living Lincoln scholar. I am just one of the legion of Lincoln scholars he has helped and encouraged along the way. Doc served as chief deputy director of the Illinois State Archives for over 50 years (1964-2016), Secretary-treasurer of the National Lincoln-Civil War Council during the 100th anniversary Centennial years (1958-1964),  and editor / associate of the Lincoln Herald since 1973.

I have listed Doc’s “resume” below. As you can see, it is quite impressive.

Doc’s education credentials & historical resume:

AB cum laude, University of Illinois, 1949; AM, University of Illinois, 1951; Doctor of Philosophy, University of Illinois, 1956; Lincoln Diploma of Honor (Illinois’ highest civilian award), Dean of history at Lincoln Memorial U., Harrogate, Tennessee, 1963. Wayne Calhoun Temple has been listed as a noteworthy Historian by Marquis Who’s Who.

Curator ethnohistory, Illinois State Museum, 1954-1958; editor-in-chief, Lincoln Herald, Lincoln Memorial U., 1958-1973; associate editor, Lincoln Herald, Lincoln Memorial U., since 1973; also director department Lincolniana, director university press, John Wingate Weeks professor of history, Lincoln Herald, Lincoln Memorial U., 1958-1964; with, Illinois State Archives, since 1964; chief deputy director, Illinois State Archives. Lecturer United States Military Academy, 1975. Secretary-treasurer National Lincoln-Civil War Council, 1958-1964.

Member bibliography committee Lincoln Lore, since 1958. Honorary member Lincoln Sesquicentennial Commission, 1959-1960. Advisory council United States Civil War Centennial Commission, 1960-1966.

Major Civil War Press Corps, since 1962. President Midwest Conference Masonic Education, 1985.

Doc’s books include:

Lincoln the Railsplitter 1961. (listed in the top 100 Lincoln books ever written)

Stephen A. Douglas, freemason Stephen A. Douglas, Freemason.

Abraham Lincoln and Others at the St. Nicholas.

Lincoln’s Confidant: The Life of Noah Brooks (The Knox College Lincoln Studies Center) by Wayne C. Temple, Douglas L. Wilson, et al. / Nov 30, 2018

Abraham Lincoln: From Skeptic to Prophet 1st Edition by Wayne C. Temple (1995)

Alexander Williamson: Friend of the Lincolns (Special publication)

Lincoln’s Surgeons at His Assassination Hardcover – October 29, 2015


Lincoln-Grant: Illinois militiamen Lincoln-Grant: Illinois militiamen

Indian Villages of the Illinois Country: Historic Tribes (Scientific Papers, Vol 2, Pt 2)


Sponsor Abraham Lincoln Bay, Washington National Cathedral. Member Illinois State Flag Commission, since 1969. Trustee, regent Lincoln Academy Illinois, 1970-1982, Bicentennial Order Lincoln, 2009.

Board governors St. Louis unit Shriners Hospitals for Crippled Children, 1975-1981. Commissioning committee, honorary crew member and plank owner United States Ship Springfield submarine, since 1990. Honorary crew member United States Ship Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier, since 1989.

With United States Army, 1943-1946, general Reserve (retired). Fellow Royal Society Arts (life). Member National Rifle Association, Knight Templar (Red Cross Constantine), Lincoln Group District of Columbia (honorary), University Illinois Alumni Association, Illinois State History Society, Board of Advisors, The Lincoln Forum, Illinois Professional Land Surveyors Association, Illinois State Dental Society (citation plague 1966), Reserve Officers Association, Lincoln Fellowship of Wisconsin, Iron Brigade Association (honorary life), Military Order Loyal Legion United States (honorary companion), Military Order Foreign Wars United States, Army and Navy Union, Masons (33 degree, Meritorious Service award, grand representative from Grand Lodge of Colorado), Shriners, Kappa Delta Pi, Phi Alpha, Phi Alpha Theta (Scholarship Key award), Chi Gamma Iota, Phi Beta Kappa, Tau Kappa Alpha, Alpha Psi Omega, Sigma Pi Beta (Headmaster), Sigma Tau Delta (Gold Honor Key award for editorial writing), Zeta Psi.

Creepy history, National Park Service, Travel

The Devils Tower.

Original publish date September 23, 2021

Over the last couple of weeks, I detailed a long-lost Indiana landmark known as the Hoosier Slide in Michigan City. This giant mound of sand became a tourist attraction when visitors discovered that they could slide down its slopes on slices of cardboard or fragments of cloth like a sled on a snow mound. The Hoosier Slide disappeared from the northern Indiana landscape around World War I after it was purchased by the Ball Brothers Corporation in Muncie to furnish the distinctive blue tint for their popular Ball Brand fruit jars.
Continuing that theme, it was 115 years ago this week (Sept. 24, 1906) that President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed Devils Tower in Wyoming as the nation’s first National Monument, under new authority granted to him by Congress in the Antiquities Act. The Antiquities Act resulted from concerns about protecting mostly prehistoric Native American ruins and artifacts (aka “antiquities”) located on federal lands. The United States Congress designated the area a U.S. forest reserve in 1892 but in the ensuing years, the threat of commercial development and the removal of artifacts from these unprotected lands by private collectors, whom Teddy famously referred to as “pot hunters,” had become a serious problem. Making this a high-priority goal for Teddy’s second term.
Although Devils Tower (apostrophe purposely omitted) might not ring any bells in your house, it was so important to Roosevelt that he designated it for protection before he established the Grand Canyon Game Preserve by proclamation on November 28, 1906, and the Grand Canyon National Monument on January 11, 1908. Devils Tower, also called Bear Lodge Butte, is part of the Black Hills mountain range located above the Belle Fourche River near Hulett and Sundance in Crook County, northeastern Wyoming. The tower, technically called a “monolith”, was formed from cooled magma exposed through erosion. It stands 1,267 feet tall; 867 feet from summit to base (5,112 feet above sea level) and encloses an area of 1,347 acres.

The oldest rocks visible in Devils Tower National Monument were once part of a shallow sea during the Triassic period 250 million years ago which saw the rise of reptiles and the first dinosaurs. Devils Tower, hails from the Jurassic in age, about 200 million years ago, which ushered in birds and mammals. The Tower was here 150 million years before the Rocky Mountains and the Black Hills were formed. It is easy to imagine that the thought of dinosaurs roaming around Devils Tower may well have sparked Teddy Roosevelt’s vivid imagination, thus leading him to designate it as the country’s first National Landmark.
Fur trappers may have visited Devils Tower, but they left no written evidence of having done so. The first documented Caucasian visitors were members of Captain William F. Raynolds’s 1859 expedition to Yellowstone. Sixteen years later, Colonel Richard I. Dodge escorted a US Government Office of Indian Affairs scientific survey party to the massive rock formation and coined the name Devils Tower. The misnomer was created when his interpreter reportedly misinterpreted a native name to mean “Bad God’s Tower”. The Indigenous Native American people had many names for the outcropping including Bear’s House, Grizzly Bear Lodge, Bear’s Tipi, Home of the Bear, Bear’s Lair, Tree Rock, Great Gray Horn, and Brown Buffalo Horn.
According to the lore of the Lakota tribe, the traditional names for the tower came after a group of girls went out to play and were spotted by several giant bears, who began to chase them. In an effort to escape the bears, the girls climbed atop a rock, fell to their knees, and prayed to the Great Spirit to save them. Hearing their prayers, the Great Spirit made the rock rise from the ground towards the heavens so that the bears could not reach the girls. The bears, in an effort to climb the rock, left deep claw marks in the sides, which had become too steep to climb. Those are the marks that appear today on the sides of Devils Tower. When the girls reached the sky, they were turned into the star formation known as the “Seven Sisters.”
Another version tells that two Kiowa Sioux boys wandered far from their village when Mato the bear, a huge creature that had claws the size of teepee poles, spotted them and wanted to eat them for breakfast. He was almost upon them when the boys prayed to Wakan Tanka the Creator to help them. They rose up on a huge rock, while Mato tried to get up from every side, leaving huge scratch marks as he did. Finally, he sauntered off, disappointed, discouraged, and hungry. The bear came to rest east of the Black Hills at what is now Bear Butte. Wanblee, the eagle, helped the boys off the rock and back to their village. A painting depicting this legend by artist Herbert A. Collins hangs over the fireplace in the visitor’s center at Devils Tower.

This painting depicts a different Cheyenne narrative about the Tower, where a man rescues his wife from a giant bear with the help of his six brothers. NPS / Herbert Collins

In a Cheyenne version of the story, the giant bear pursues the girls and kills most of them. Two sisters escape back to their home with the bear still tracking them. They tell two boys that the bear can only be killed with an arrow shot through the underside of its foot. The boys have the sisters lead the bear to Devils Tower and trick it into thinking they have climbed the rock. The boys attempt to shoot the bear through the foot while it repeatedly attempts to climb up and slides back down leaving more claw marks each time. The bear was finally scared off when an arrow came very close to its left foot. This last arrow continued to go up and never came down.
Wooden Leg, a Northern Cheyenne, related still another legend told to him by an old man as they were traveling together past the Devils Tower around 1866. A Native American man decided to sleep at the base of Bear Lodge. In the morning he found that he had been transported to the top of the rock by the Great Medicine with no way down. He spent another day and night on the rock with no food or water. After he had prayed all day and then gone to sleep, he awoke to find that the Great Medicine had brought him back down to the ground. Devils Tower is still considered to be sacred ground which has caused distress among the Native American tribes who described the Devils Tower designation as offensive. However, the name was never changed.
In recent years, climbing Devils Tower is on many a bucket list. The first known ascent of Devils Tower occurred on July 4, 1893. It is credited to a pair of local ranchers, William Rogers and Willard Ripley. They completed this first ascent after constructing a ladder of wooden pegs driven into cracks in the rock face. About 1,000 people came from up to 12 miles away to witness this first formal ascent of the tower. Rogers’ wife Linnie ascended the ladder two years later, becoming the first woman to reach the summit of the tower. An estimated 215 people later ascended the tower using Rogers’ ladder. It was last used in 1927 by stunt climber Babe (”the Human Fly”) White, a roaring twenties daredevil who climbed skyscrapers all over the country for publicity.

Daredevil Babe “The Human Fly” Barnstorming Broadside.

Rogers and Ripley’s climb jump-started a sport climbing industry at the tower that continues to the present day. Over the course of thirty years, the ladder, located on the southeast side of Devils Tower, fell into disrepair. Today, what remains of the ladder begins about 100 feet above the ground and ascends from there to the summit. Sources vary on the original length of the ladder, some accounts say it was 350 feet while others say 270 feet. In the 1930s, the decision was made to remove the lower 100 feet of the ladder for safety reasons. The ladder can still be seen from the trails around the monument.

William Rogers & William Ripley in 1893.

In 1941, Devils Tower became front-page news. Daredevil George Hopkins parachuted onto Devils Tower to settle a bet. His intention was to repel down the slope via a 1,000-foot rope dropped to him after a successful landing on the butte. To Hopkins’ horror, the package containing the rope, a sledgehammer, and a car axle to be driven into the rock as an anchor piton for the rope. As the weather deteriorated, a second attempt was made to drop equipment, but the rope froze in the rain and wind and could not be used. Hopkins was stranded for six days, exposed to frigid temperatures, freezing rain, and 50 mph winds before a mountain rescue team reached him and brought him down.
Today, hundreds of climbers scale the sheer rock walls of Devils Tower via climbing routes covering every side of the prehistoric landmark. All of them must check in with a park ranger before and after attempting a climb. No overnight camping at the summit is allowed; climbers return to base on the same day they ascend. Because the Tower is sacred to several Plains tribes, including the Lakota, Cheyenne, and Kiowa, many Native American leaders objected to climbers ascending the monument, considering this to be a desecration. Because of this, a compromise was reached with a voluntary climbing ban during the month of June when the tribes are conducting ceremonies around the monument.
The tower has a flat top covering 1.5 acres and its fluted sides give it an otherworldly appearance. Its color is mainly light gray and buff. Lichens cover parts of the tower, and sage, moss, and grass grow on its top. Chipmunks and birds live on the summit, and a pine forest covers the surrounding countrysides below. Additionally, Devils Tower National Monument protects many species of wildlife, such as white-tailed deer, bald eagles, and prairie dogs, the latter of which maintain a sizeable population at the base of the monument.

All of this is well and good and obviously, had the Hoosier slide been likewise protected, we may still be sliding down the massive sand dune in northern Indiana today. But movie buffs everywhere recognize Devils Tower for another reason. The 1977 movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind used the formation as the bellwether of its climactic scene. It soon became the film’s trademark logo. Its release was the cause of a large increase in visitors and climbers to the monument. Today, the otherworldly pull and Hollywood fame of Devils Tower has made it a cultural waymark.
With the funds from the film’s creation, the owners of the surrounding land were able to open a campground and restaurant to host climbers, sightseeing fans of the landscape, and movie buffs. Campers are welcome to hike and climb the tower twenty-four hours a day, and at night they’re treated to a showing of Close Encounters on a screen at the base of the landmark. According to the brochure, “Visitors leave with a new appreciation for the unique rock formation and a deepened curiosity about our place in space.”
And, for an added “new appreciation”, although Teddy Roosevelt is considered to be the “father” of the National Park System, you might be interested to learn that during his two terms, President Obama established more monuments than any President before him with 26, breaking the previous record held by President Theodore Roosevelt who had 18. In short, on both accounts, it was a bi-partisan land grab for the good.

Baseball, Politics

John Glenn & Ted Williams: The Flying Leathernecks.

Ted Williams and John Glenn

Original Publish Date March 3, 2022

On February 16, 1953, a wounded fighter jet approached the airfield at Suwon, Korea. The plane’s radio was inoperable, its hydraulic system gone, and it was trailing smoke and bleeding fluids. Its streaming 30-foot ribbon of fire all indicated serious danger. The pilot brought his hobbled midnight-blue F9F Grumman “Panther” jet in for a dangerous wheels-up belly landing, skidding the length of the tarmac in a cloud of sparks and debris. An already tense situation became worse as the nose promptly burst into flames below the cockpit. The trapped aviator blew off the canopy, struggled out of the plane, and limped away as fire and rescue crews quickly blanketed the burning aircraft with foam. The plane was a total loss but the pilot survived.
Later, the airmen at Suwon learned they had just witnessed the dramatic escape of the most famous flying leatherneck in Korea; Captain Theodore S. Williams, better known as Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox. Williams was arguably the best baseball hitter of all time. “Teddy Ballgame” was a six-time American League batting champ, two-time AL MVP, and the last man to hit .400 for a season. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966 five years after hitting a homerun in his last at bat.

Ted Williams.

His stats as an airman were equally impressive. Ted flew 39 combat missions in Korea and his planes were hit by enemy fire three times. On this mission, as with many, Williams was flying as wingman for his squadron’s operations officer, John H. Glenn, Jr.: Ohio’s Mercury astronaut, former senator, and 1984 presidential candidate. Glenn and Williams were both Marine pilots during World War II but did not know each other well. Shortly after Pearl Harbor, Glenn dropped out of Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio, and enlisted in the Marines. Williams joined the Marines at the end of the 1942 season after leading the league with a .356 batting average.
The two met and became friends in Korea. Glenn flew 63 combat missions in Korea and was nicknamed “Old Magnet Ass” because of the number of flak hits he took on low-level close air support missions. He returned to base with over 250 holes in his plane twice. But on that Feb. 16th mission, Williams’ plane was the one that took the heavy hits. When Glenn saw that his wingman’s plane was on fire, he flew to Williams’ wingtip and pointed up. The duo went up into thinner air and the fire went out.
Other pilots gestured for Williams to bail out but the slugger wouldn’t do it. Ted was 6-foot-4 and thought his knees might “catch the hatch” during ejection and that would be the end of his baseball career. Instead, Williams flew back to the base, zeroed in on the runway, and skidded to a stop. The hall of famer leaped from the cockpit and ran from the plane just as the aircraft caught fire again.
While much is known about Ted Williams the ballplayer, little is known about Williams the Marine pilot. In January 1942, Williams was drafted into the military, being put into Class 1-A (Available; fit for general military service). A friend suggested that Ted appeal his classification to the governor’s Selective Service board, since Williams was the sole support of his mother, arguing that he should be reclassified to Class 3-A (Men with dependents, not engaged in work essential to national defense). The “Splendid Splinter” was reclassified to 3-A ten days later.
Afterward, the public reaction was extremely negative. Quaker Oats stopped sponsoring Williams, and Williams, who previously had eaten Quaker products “all the time”, never ate Quaker products again. Williams took more flak by signing a new contract with the BoSox for $30,000 in 1942. That season, Williams won the Triple Crown, with a .356 batting average, 36 home runs, and 137 RBIs. On May 21, Williams hit his 100th career home run, and the next day he was sworn into the US Navy Reserves. Williams grew up in San Diego (a “Navy town”) and aviator Charles Lindbergh was one of his childhood heroes. Williams later noted that he first became interested in flying after seeing the Navy’s majestic lighter-than-air ship “Shenandoah” as a kid.

Naval aviation cadet T. S. Williams was sent to Amherst College in Massachusetts for a 90-day stint in preflight training, described as “Officer candidate school with a crash course in advanced science.” The school is where prospective pilots were whipped into shape, learned how to be military officers, and studied basic theories of how airplanes operated. Those cadets who did not wash out were then moved to Chapel Hill, N.C., for three months of preflight training. While the academic load was more strenuous, here the pilots actually got to fly airplanes. Ground-school training included subjects like engines, ordnance, aircraft characteristics, aerodynamics, and navigation.
Here the cadets flew small two-seat, single-engine, high-wing Piper NE-1 “Grasshopper” trainers to acquire the skills to fly an airplane. Next, Ted Williams was sent to the “Naval Air Station Bunker Hill” in Kokomo (Now Grissom Air Force Base) for basic flight training. There he learned more theory but also spent time flying Vultee SNV and North American SNJ trainers over the skies of Central Indiana. Upon graduation, Williams opted for the Marine Corps and moved south to Pensacola, Florida for advanced flight training as a fighter pilot.
Williams learned about tactics and weapons as he practiced advanced navigation, aerial combat maneuvering, and formation flying. His athletic ability, steady hand, and excellent eyesight made him a very good pilot. In fact, he was good enough to set the Marine gunnery record at Jacksonville. Williams once again was having an outstanding “rookie” season. Williams played on the baseball team (along with his Red Sox teammate Johnny Pesky) while in pre-flight training with the Civilian Pilot Training Course. While on the baseball team, Williams was sent back to Fenway Park on July 12, 1943, to play on an All-Star team managed by Babe Ruth. Upon meeting Williams the newspapers reported that Babe Ruth said, “Hiya, kid. You remind me a lot of myself. I love to hit. You’re one of the most natural ballplayers I’ve ever seen. And if my record is broken, I hope you’re the one to do it”. Williams later said he was “flabbergasted” by the incident, as “after all, it was Babe Ruth”. In the game, Williams hit a 425-foot home run to help give the A.L. All-Stars to a 9–8 win.

Ted Williams aka The Splendid Splinter.

Williams went on active duty in 1943 and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps as a Naval Aviator on May 2, 1944. In mid-1944, Marine aviation in the Pacific was on the wane. Japanese fighters had all but disappeared from the skies, and the days of dogfighting fighters crisscrossing the skies over the “Solomons Slot” were gone. With fighter pilots no longer in high demand, the most promising student aviators were made flight instructors, and that is what happened to Ted Williams.
When, in the summer of 1945, Ted finally received orders for the combat zone, he was in San Francisco. On September 2, 1945, when the war ended, Second Lieutenant Theodore S. Williams USMC was in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii playing baseball in the eight-team Navy League alongside Joe DiMaggio, Joe Gordon, and Stan Musial. The Service World Series games featuring Army versus the Navy attracted crowds of 40,000. The players said it was even better than the actual World Series between the Detroit Tigers and Chicago Cubs that year.
Williams was discharged by the Marine Corps on January 28, 1946, in time to begin preparations for the upcoming baseball season. For the 1946 season, Williams hit .342 with 38 home runs and 123 RBIs. He ran away as the MVP winner and helped the Red Sox win the pennant. That season, Williams hit the only inside-the-park home run in his Major League career and topped that with the longest home run in Fenway Park history, at 502 feet (the landing zone marked by a single red seat in the Fenway bleachers).
The name Theodore S. Williams was swapped from the list of inactive reserves to active duty on January 9, 1952. As the Korean War heated up the Marines desperately needed pilots and the 33-year-old married father was one of the best. Williams returned to active duty six games into the 1952 season. After hitting a 2-run home run in his last at-bat to beat the Detroit Tigers 5-3, Williams traded his uniform for a flight suit.
Although initially bitter at being called up (he’d only been in a plane once since World War II ended), Williams realized that going to Korea was the right thing to do. Still, Williams believed his call-up had more to do with the publicity it would generate for the Marines than the true need for his services. Right before he left for Korea, the Red Sox held a “Ted Williams Day” at Fenway Park. Williams was given a Cadillac and a memory book signed by 400,000 fans. The governor of Massachusetts and the mayor of Boston were there and at the end of the ceremony, the fans in the stands held hands and sang “Auld Lang Syne” to their hero.
Williams reported to Willow Grove (Pa.) Naval Air Station for flight-refresher training and then headed to Cherry Point, N.C., for ground school before transitioning into jets. From there, Williams traveled to Pohang on Korea’s eastern coast in early 1953. Captain Williams flew 39 combat missions, sustaining heavy enemy on many occasions, and he was awarded three Air Medals before being sent home with a severe ear infection and recurring viruses in June. Williams was formally discharged from active duty on July 28, 1953, the day after a cease-fire in Korea went into effect.
Williams’ squadron commander at his North Carolina training station said of him, “He was a spoiled-brat… He had too much money and had too many people rooting for him.” Unlike Williams, Major John H. Glenn, Jr. remained in the Marines after World War II. In Korea, it would have been easy for Glenn, the operations officer in Williams’ squadron in charge of assigning pilots to their daily missions, to adopt the same attitude toward Williams but he never did.

John Glenn

In the early 1950s, Glenn was a hotshot Marine pilot no one outside the military had ever heard of. In the early 1950s, Williams was one of the most famous big-league players on the planet. In his 1999 memoir, Glenn described Williams as anything but a prima donna. “I had just joined the squadron and was sitting in the pilots’ ready room one day when he walked in and came over and introduced himself,” Glenn writes of their first meeting. “I had been a baseball fan since I was a boy, and meeting Ted was a thrill.”
Glenn described Williams as a pilot, “He was just great. The same skills that made him the best baseball hitter ever — the eye, the coordination, the discipline — are what he used to make himself an excellent combat pilot.” As for their shared sky duty in Korea, Glenn describes, “We would be over one of their supply roads. Then we would drop down and follow the road back toward the front, hoping to catch their troops and trucks in the open . . . We leapfrogged, with one of us flying at treetop level and the other at 1,000 or 1,500 feet above and behind in order to see farther down the road and relay advice to the `shooter’ on targets ahead. We would switch positions every 10 minutes.”
Williams later described Glenn as “Absolutely fearless. The best I ever saw. It was an honor to fly with him.” In his memoir, Glenn emphasizes his fondness for Williams and recalls how the famously zipper-thin Williams developed an appetite for the fudge Glenn’s sister-in-law would send through the mail. “Ted and I flew together a lot,” Glenn recalled, “Ted flew about half his missions as my wingman. He was a fine pilot, and I liked to fly with him.”
Williams’ two major career disruptions for military service eventually cost the slugger nearly four years of playing time at the very peak of his career. Most articles about Williams focus on his sports achievements, hardly mentioning his military service. The only question usually asked is, “Where would Ted Williams be in the record book had he not lost four prime baseball seasons serving his country?” It may be more accurate to ask, “Where would the United States be without men like Ted Williams?” Ted’s baseball achievements take a backseat to his performance as a “Flying Leatherneck.” Williams was a baseball star for nineteen years and a proud Marine for five. In the words of Senator John Glenn, “Ted may have batted .400 for the Red Sox, but he hit a thousand as a U.S. Marine.”

John Glenn Mercury Astronaut
Baseball, candy, Pop Culture

The God Squad versus the Garbage Pail Kids.

Original Publish Date March 17, 2022

Looks like Major League baseball is on again. Right now, diehard hardball fans are on their knees thanking the baseball Gods that this Billionaires versus Millionaires battle is over and the season is set to start. I usually try and write a baseball article every Spring to kinda kick the season off and get my head on straight. But this year, since baseball fans are all “prayed out”, I thought it might be appropriate to write a story with a religious tint: The San Diego Padres God Squad versus Topps Garbage Pail Kids.
The Padres became a Major League franchise in 1969, but the namesake team was in existence long before then. The Padres’ first season came in 1936 in the Pacific Coast League after Hollywood Stars owner Bill Lane opted to move his team to San Diego. Lane built a stadium on the waterfront in downtown San Diego and gave birth to a new team that would carry its moniker to the Major Leagues and into the 21st century.
The “Padres” name is a tribute to the city’s history. It was the Franciscan Friars who founded the first Spanish colony in southern California. “Padre,” of course, is Spanish for “Father” (or “Friar”). Their mascot is the “Swinging Friar,” a sandal-clad Padre swinging a bat. They were known as the perennial cellar-dwelling team that often traded away their best players for little in return. That all changed in 1985. The 1986 defending National League champion Padres, led by manager Dick Williams, were coming off the best season in franchise history. The Padres’ gregarious owner, McDonald’s magnate Ray Kroc, had died the previous year.
The Topps Trading Card Company, Inc. (founded in 1938) was best known as the leading producer of American football, baseball, basketball, ice hockey, soccer, and other sports and non-sports-themed trading cards. After being privately held for several decades, Topps offered stock to the public for the first time in 1972. The company returned to private ownership in 1984 when it was acquired in a leveraged buyout led by Forstmann, Little & Company, a private equity firm specializing in leveraged buyouts.
Although both the Padres and Topps were hopeful about the upcoming season, things were about to come to a head between the two entities. The Padres were led by a group of young idealistic pitchers whose strong Christian faith would earn them the nickname of “The God Squad.” The pitchers were Eric Show, Mark Thurmond, and Dave Dravecky and together they comprised three-fifths of the Padres’ starting rotation. Their strong religious ideology, coupled with their even stronger anti-Communist leanings, made them the darlings of organized religion, the John Birch Society, and local media.
Press conferences in the Padres clubhouse often devolved into a discourse on political conservatism and a lecture on the evils of Capitalism. The Padres pitchers were proud members of the John Birch Society, a right-wing group that had become infamous in the ’60s by warning of communist infiltration of America. By the time of its resurgence in the Padres locker room, they were viewed as a fringe group and these Padres hurlers as fringees spouting political dogma.
Once these pitchers’ quotes were published in newspaper stories and columns, they began to creep across the entire country. The reaction was electric, like the first time Colin Kaepernick took a knee on the sideline. The most vocal of the “God Squad” Padres was 28-year-old Eric Show, the team leader in victories. In 1984 Show was Birching  (the society’s word for political evangelizing)  all the way through the Padres’ run to the World Series.

San Diego Padres Eric Show,

Show, a skinny pitcher with a prominent mustache, resented the stereotype that baseball players should be unthinking robot athletes. In the Birch Society’s New American magazine, he listed his hobbies as “philosophy, history, economics, astronomy, real estate, political affairs, business management — and, of course, God.” Show was a good pitcher (he is still the Padres’ all-time wins leader with 100), known for his fastball and his slider.

28-year-old Dave Dravecky went from the team’s best middle-reliever with 9 wins in 1984 to a 13-game winner in the starting rotation in 1985. Dravecky became a born-again Christian while playing Double-A ball in Amarillo, Texas in 1981. Padres players regarded him as an ideal teammate and moral conscience of the clubhouse . One teammate described Dravecky as having angel wings. Dravecky once told a reporter: “I think if Jesus Christ were in my shoes, he’d be one of the most aggressive pitchers around.”

Mark Thurmond, 27, a second-year pitcher out of Texas A&M, was definitely the quietest of the trio. Thurmond flip-flopped with Dravecky over those two seasons, winning 14 games as a starter in 1984 then moving to middle-reliever where he won 7 games the next year. In August of 1984, Thurmond, Show, and Dravecky were guests of honor at a giant “anti-sin” rally that took aim at abortion and homosexuality in San Diego. Most members of the Padres were content to ignore their teammates’ views on religion and politics. And in a baseball desert-like San Diego, fans didn’t seem to mind as long as they could hang on to that World Series appearance from the year before.
Instead, in 1985, baseball fans and players alike found a common nuisance to rally against. For that was the year that the Topps company came out with their Garbage Pail Kids cards. Cards is a misnomer though. Garbage Pail Kids was a series of sticker trading cards originally created to parody the wildly popular Cabbage Patch Kids dolls from the same era. Each sticker card featured a Garbage Pail Kid character having some comical abnormality, deformity, and/or suffering a terrible painful fate/death with a humorous wordplay character name such as Adam Bomb or Blasted Billy. Collectors will recall the card backs that featured puzzle pieces that together form comic murals, humorous licenses, awards, and comic strips.
Garbage Pail Kids characters, with names like Luke Puke, Slobby Robbie, Oozy Susie, Fat Matt, and Messy Tessie, were the talk of the schoolyard in the mid-1980s. During those first couple of years, Topps exercised restraint by holding back a few cards deemed too offensive to distribute. One reject was of a baby in a pickle jar; another, of a kid receiving Garbage Pail Kids cards like Moses receiving the 10 Commandments, another zonk featured a little girl and her dog standing near a pile of feces, and one, this writer’s personal favorite veto, depicted Abraham Lincoln with bullet holes through his top hat and a copy of a Slaybill in his hand.
The first Garbage Pail Kids were released in June 1985 and sold for 25 cents a pack. They were sold in slick-looking displays featuring the atomic detonation of Adam Bomb’s own head. Kids were hooked immediately. With a sense of humor straight out of Mad magazine, stores couldn’t keep the cards in stock. Garbage Pail Kids came out at a time when kids were buying up disgusting toys like D. Compose, the action figure that could open its rib cage to reveal entrails, Slime, the gelatinous green goop that got into carpets and never came out, He-Man Masters of the Universe Stinkor, who carried a very unpleasant smell. No doubt about it in the mid-1980s, gross toys were becoming big business.
The series was the brainchild of Pulitzer Prize-winning New Yorker magazine cartoonist Art Spiegelman. Garbage Pail Kids cards were known variously as Bukimi Kun (Mr. Creepy) in Japan, The Garbage Gang in Australia and New Zealand, Les Crados (The Filthies) in France and Belgium, La Pandilla Basura (The Garbage Gang) in Spain, Basuritas (Trashlings) in Latin America, Gang do Lixo/Loucomania (Trash Gang/Crazymania) in Brazil, Sgorbions (Snotlings) in Italy, Havurat Ha-Zevel (The Garbage Gang) in Israel, and Die Total Kaputten Kids (The Totally Broken Kids) in Germany. The cards inspired an animated television series and a live-action movie, The Garbage Pail Kids Movie, in 1987.
The 1985 series included characters like Junkfood John, Valerie Vomit aka Barfin’ Barabra, Gory Laurie, Drillin’ Dylan the nose-picker, Stuck Chuck the Voodoo doll, Rundown Rhonda (flattened by a steam-roller), and Woody Alan a wooden doll be-scarred by saw marks, nail/screw holes and a woodpecker pecking a hole in his head. Because the characters looked like Cabbage Patch Kids, the company was sued and forced to forfeit the royalties and change the design. Garbage Pail Kids were banned in many schools; teachers cited them as class distractions. A group calling themselves Parents Against Sadistic Toys (or PAST) successfully lobbied several Toys ‘R Us locations to stop selling the cards in their stores.
Enter the San Diego Padres “God Squad.” It was about this time that Padres players Show, Dravecky, and Thurmond stopped signing baseball cards. Not all cards mind you, only those cards produced by Topps. The trio continued to sign cards from fans made by the Fleer and Donruss card companies, but inquiries by mail were sent back unsigned with an explanatory note. “Dear Collector: I am sorry but I do not autograph Topps baseball cards. The Topps company prints the Garbage Pail kids cards which I am strongly opposed to. For this reason, I do not endorse their products by autographing their baseball cards. I am sorry for the inconvenience. Sincerely, Dave Dravecky.”

Note to fans from Houston Astros Bob Knepper.

Soon other players around the league took the same posture. The San Diego Padres Dan Boone, NY Yankees Mike Armstrong, Baltimore Orioles Storm Davis, Houston Astros players Bob Knepper and Jeff Calhoun adopted the same practice. Calhoun’s note to fans was a little stronger in tone than Dravecky’s. “If you have seen these cards you know they are very graphic in depicting violence, dismemberment, and other very grotesque things. I am in utmost disagreement with this and the adverse effects they can have on children, especially in this day of declining moral values. I encourage you to join me, and an increasing number of ballplayers, in voicing your protest to the Topps company.” Calhoun ends his note with the mailing address of the Topps company.

By 1988, the handwriting was on the wall for Topps Garbage Pail Kids. That year Mexico banned all Garbage Pail Kids as part of an Export and Import Law outlawing all representations of minors “in a degrading or ridiculous manner, in attitudes of incitement to violence, self-destruction or in any other form of behavior antisocial.” After an adverse lawsuit from Original Appalachian Artworks (makers of Cabbage Patch Kids), and a movie that bombed, despite selling some 800 million cards, the fad seemed to have run its course. Topps released a total of 15 sets of Garbage Pail Kids. By the time a 16th set was nearly completed, they opted not to release it due to a lack of interest. In the ensuing years, Topps sporadically continued the production of Garbage Pail Kids in limited numbers.
After Dave Dravecky was traded to the San Francisco Giants in 1987, he resurrected the God Squad with teammates Scott Garrelts, Atlee Hammaker, and Jeff Brantley. These players eschewed the hard-partying lifestyle of many of their teammates, preferring instead to hold Bible studies in their hotel rooms while on the road. After the God Squad vacated San Diego, reporters asked future Padres Hall of fame reliever Rich Gossage for his thoughts on the issue. Goose responded, “Heck, it’s just like being a Catholic, I guess.” After Gossage was traded from the Padres, he created a controversy of a different kind aimed at the owner of his former team by saying, “Joan Kroc is poisoning the world with her cheeseburgers”.
The Padres God Squad played together for parts of two seasons before splitting for other teams. Ironically, God Squad leader Eric Show became a victim of the moral decay he so strongly railed against. After his baseball career ended in 1991, he began using meth and cocaine. In 1994, Show died in a rehab center after ingesting a speedball (a mixture of cocaine with heroin or morphine taken intravenously or by nasal insufflation). In 1988, while pitching for the Giants, Dave Dravecky was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in his left arm. A year later, he made a dramatic comeback, only to have his humerus bone shatter in his second start; his arm was later amputated, ending his career. Mark Thurmond pitched six more seasons in the bigs before retiring to Texas to sell insurance. Nowadays, the “God Squad” and “Garbage Pail Kids” seem tame compared with our net-driven society. But back in the mid-1980s, it was the talk of the town

Dave Dravecky after the loss of his arm.