Holiday Newsletters from
Stew Thornley and Brenda Himrich




25th wedding anniversaryMickey and Jeter proved to be excellent mousers this year. We had more mice than usual around our place, and a few got in but didn’t survive long. Brenda worked extra hard at eradicating the mice outside because she hated coming downstairs in the morning to discover mouse entrails and viscera. Good for the guys, and they had as much fun as ever this year.

Like everyone else, Brenda and I spent more time at home, and I didn’t travel anywhere until September when we resumed training activities at work (drinking water program at the Minnesota Department of Health) and got to go to hot spots such as Duluth and Moorhead. I’m still working, still enjoying it, and I intend to keep working until they whiz me off.

Brenda continues to take painting classes with Dorene (my brother David’s wife) and they went on a retreat to northern Wisconsin to paint nature stuff. They planned a 10-day trip to do that in the Cotswalds in England in October, but the pandemic postponed that until next spring. Brenda also painted a picture of us crossing the Stone Arch Bridge, where we got married in 1996. It’s below.

For our 25th anniversary in May we had family and friends over so we could celebrate the event (photo to the right) and then have a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity (advertised as a game for horrible people—and it is).

Brenda and I were happy to have another full season of baseball this year. She again did the field-timing coordination for Twins games (it’s that clock you see above the bullpen at Target Field that she operates to make sure the managers don’t take too long with mound visits and that they don’t start a new inning before they get all their commercials in). I did the usual of official scoring and computer entry for Gameday. Since the Saints became affiliated with the Twins this year, I also did those duties for some of their games at CHS Field. With the baseball season over, I’m now back with basketball, doing the official scoring for the Timberwolves. I’ve been doing more and more things with the Minnesota Gophers. In addition to the usual—some public-address announcing and official scoring for baseball—I’ve been filling in on other sports, including operating the shot clock for basketball, timekeeping and scoreboard for hockey, running the scoreboard for football and soccer, and whatever else. (Soccer scoreboard is hard to screw up, but I have demonstrated that it is doable.)

On the writing scene, a book I wrote on Twin Cities baseball parks is out and on the shelves. Also, Minnesota Historical Society Press has revised and updated Baseball in Minnesota, which I wrote in 2006, and the new version came out in time for the big shopping season.

While all has been good for us, that hasn’t been the case for everybody, including my best buddy at work, David. He was playing with his daughter in July and fell off a playground slide, resulting in a serious spinal cord injury up near the neck. He’s been in Regions Hospital and Courage Kenny Institute and has worked hard on therapy and getting some function back. I’ve been able to visit him, and we snark and laugh just like we always have; it always makes me feel better. David can move his arms but is still working to get back the use of his hands, which will make a huge difference in his independence. He has promised me that when he is able, he will give me the finger. That’s my Christmas wish. I’m looking forward to it because it will be the most thrilled I’ve ever been to get flipped off.

Happy holidays!

Brenda and Stew

Brenda painting of us on the Stone Arch Bridge

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Past Newsletters


Family Photo1997


With pre-printed cards and labels, we’ve automated just about every aspect for mailing our holiday cards, so we thought we’d top it off with one of those tacky holiday form letters with news about all we did over the past year. First off, we posed for a family picture with our cat, Ponce (which you’ve probably figured out by now). We’re still amazed we came up with one shot in which we were all looking toward the camera at the same time. Ponce is doing well, although he had quite a summer of horking up fur balls. Our carpeting took such a beating we almost considered selling our house (but finally decided against it). We’re completing our first full year at our townhouse in Roseville and still really like the place (except for the barf stains in the carpet).

Brenda did the Iron Man bike ride in late April, knowing it would be her last bike riding for a while since she had knee surgery scheduled for April 30. She had blown out the ACL in her left knee in December 1995 playing racquetball and was finally getting it fixed. It was an ordeal for awhile after the surgery, but she did get a temporary handicap parking permit. It was really cool when we went to the grocery store or Menards, being able to park right up front. I even suggested she have her other knee operated on so we could get another permit; she wasn’t as enamored with the idea and suggested a few things I could have operated on if I was so gung-ho to get another handicap parking permit.

We had some nice trips this year (one of them even together). Brenda was to go to Dallas for a convention in May (and would have seen the Yankees play the Rangers from a private suite at The Ballpark in Arlington), but her doctor vetoed the trip. In August, she did get to go visit her friend, Deb Lund, on Whidbey Island in the Puget Sound. She also went to Washington, D. C., in March and got to see a play at Ford’s Theatre.

I went lots of places and picked up a new hobby: visiting notable gravesites. It started in March when my friend, Paul Rittenhouse, and I went to see the Gophers in the Final Four in Indianapolis, where we also went to Crown Hill Cemetery and saw the graves of John Dillinger and Benjamin Harrison. In June, when Paul and I went to the national convention of the Society for American Baseball Research in Louisville, we got all over Kentucky and Tennessee, visiting graves and seeing minor league games in Nashville and Louisville. Right after that, over Fourth of July weekend, I took a baseball trip out east (seeing the Mets in New York, Phillies in Philadelphia, and a minor league game in Trenton). During the days, I got from New York to District of Columbia (and a lot of points in between) and managed to squeeze in trips to 56 notable graves, including 8 Baseball Hall of Famers, 5 presidents, 2 presidential assassins, 2 secretaries of state, 1 gay Vietnam veteran (whose tombstone reads, “They gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one”), 2 vice presidents, 2 Supreme Court Chief Justices, 1 drunken Yankee manager, 1 five-star general, 1 Union general, 1 Civil War photographer, 1 good witch, 1 Marine Corps Band director, 1 heavyweight boxing champion, 2 North Pole explorers, and 1 cross-dressing FBI director. In New York I also visited the former site of the Polo Grounds, a historic baseball stadium I’ve always been fascinated with. The site, which is beneath Coogan’s Bluff on the northern edge of Central Harlem and right across the river from Yankee Stadium, has a plaque marking the approximate spot of home plate. This was enough to renew my interest in the Polo Grounds to the point that I’ve been researching the stadium’s history ever since. If all goes well, there may be a book that comes out of it.

I made it back to New York in September, this time with Brenda, my mom, and a friend, George Rekela. We went to a couple of exciting games at Yankee Stadium (Yankees won both in extra innings) and made it to Ellis Island for the first time. We stayed at the Gramercy Park Hotel, which meant we had access to Gramercy Park, which has a locked gate and is open only to residents in the area. The Gramercy Park area has always been one of my favorite parts of New York, and it was fun to finally get in the park. George and I flew home on Monday afternoon while my mom and Brenda stayed to go to Opening Night at the Metropolitan Opera (one of Brenda’s longtime dreams). They saw Carmen and also saw Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton, who also attended the opera opening. Everyone sang the national anthem before it started (apparently to make them think they were at a baseball game), so Brenda now reminds me that she has sung at the Metropolitan Opera.

I also saw Bill Clinton (without Hillary) in November. I was in D.C. for the National Association of Government Communicators convention and went to see Clinton place the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Veteran’s Day.

Other than that, it’s been a quiet year. Happy Holidays.

Stew and Brenda

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Mount Rushmore1999

It’s been a pretty good year (meaning no major disasters or felony convictions) so we decided to do another one of those tacky holiday newsletters. Here goes.

Our cat, Ponce, is doing fine. We have him trained to get off the carpet and on to the linoleum before he horks up a hairball (every so often, like once every 10 times). Other than that, he’s still making a living by being cute (something I can no longer get away with).

Brenda and I are taking a Spanish class together. She was already pretty fluent before she started, so she’s way ahead of me. We try to stay in practice by occasionally speaking Spanish to one another although we’re polite enough that we don’t do this if other people are around (unless we’re gossiping about them, of course). We’re not planning any trips to Spanish-speaking areas. Last summer, though, I got to try out a few words (such as “Cuanto cuesta?”) in Mexico. My friend, Paul Rittenhouse, and I were going from Phoenix to San Diego and stopped to walk across the border in Mexicali. We took a short cut to get back and somehow missed the customs checkpoint. There was a U. S. border guard waiting for us when we got back into California. He informed us that we had made an illegal border crossing and were in the country illegally. He threatened to make us walk back and go through at the right place. He also threatened to put us in the back of his truck, which made me a bit more nervous. As it turned out, he did neither which, I guess, means we’re still in the country illegally.

Brenda and I had some fun trips this year and, once again, a few of them were even together. We went to Iceland in March. Most of the time we spent in Reykjavik although one day we got into the interior and visited Thingvellir, where the Althing (the first Parliament) was established a long time ago. We were going to go farther, but the driving on the snow-covered roads in the mountains was pretty treacherous so we headed back into town.

In October, we went to South Dakota, where Brenda is originally from. She was born in Mobridge, so we explored that area. On the way, we stopped in Antelope Valley—in Grant County not far beyond the state line with Minnesota—where my Grandpa Hubbard’s family was from. My great aunt Mary, who died about a year ago just a few days before her 91st birthday, wrote about this in her book, Memories of the Pasque and Prairie, which she had had published on her 80th birthday. One of the things Aunt Mary wrote of was a bridge that crossed over a stream that connected Round Lake with Punished Woman Lake. We found the lakes and the stream that connected them. I pulled a large rock out of Punished Woman Lake. We hauled the rock home, and it is now in our garden. (Note to the Hubbard side of the family: I’m enclosing a picture of me on an abandoned concrete bridge over the stream with Punished Woman Lake behind me.)

Punished Woman Lake

It was a lot of fun for both Brenda and me to trace our prairie roots. We also went to the Black Hills and then to Devils Tower in Wyoming.

Brenda had the chance to trace some other roots in July when we were in Nebraska. In a cemetery in Lincoln, we found the graves of some of her ancestors who had come from Russia.

As for other trips, Brenda went to a convention in Toronto and saw an inter-league game at SkyDome between Toronto and the Montreal Expos. She noted that it was one of the few times she had gone to a major league baseball game and not heard the Star Spangled Banner played or sung.

In addition to a bunch of Twins games, I got to games this year in Tampa Bay, Miami (Florida Marlins), Arizona, San Diego, and Denver. We saw a few games at the Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix while we were there for the convention of the Society for American Baseball Research. Mark McGwire homered in one of the games, but the most excitement came the next night in the game between the Cardinals and Diamondbacks that the entire convention group attended. Randy Johnson of the Diamondbacks struck out 14 batters but lost the game, 1-0, to Jose Jimenez of the Cardinals, who pitched a no-hitter. Later in the year, I saw Eric Milton’s no-hitter at the Metrodome, so it was a pretty good year for seeing no-hitters. A couple of friends and I also made our annual trip to watch the Gophers football team on the road. We picked a good one to go to this year as we were at Penn State on November 6 when the Gophers upset the Nittany Lions, 24-23, on a field goal as time ran out.

Brenda is still at Metro Transit and has been doing two jobs—her own and that of her boss, who retired last April. Brenda was named acting safety manager. She won’t know until next year if she’ll be hired for that position or not; either way, though, she’ll be happy since she’ll be back to having only one job.

Brenda also took part this year in the Ironman bike race. The last time she did it was in April 1997, just a few days before she had knee surgery. She was really happy that her knee was strong enough that she could do the race again.

Meanwhile, I’m still at the state health department, doing various things such as training and public affairs work (I’m the “Paid Flak”) for the state’s drinking water program. I like it a lot, and it still leaves me time to write in my spare time. I’m continuing to do sports biographies for a children’s book publisher in New Jersey. This year, they came out with a new series of sports books, designed for third-graders. The books are only 3,000 words long, and they’re pretty quick and easy to write.

My bigger writing project has been a book on the Polo Grounds, the long-gone stadium in New York City that had been home to the New York Giants baseball team since the 1880s. I finished most of the writing last year. This year (as well as most of 1998) has consisted of checking the mailbox each day, hoping for news from a publisher (and hoping that the news would be good). Sometimes the news would be good, sometimes not. I had been working with one publisher for nearly 10 months, as they sent the manuscript out to external reviewers for their comments. Finally, in May, I got the final news from the publisher: they decided not to publish it. It was a downer, and I gave myself a week to wallow in self-pity. I then sent out proposals to another 11 publishers and got a couple of bites. Once again, the waiting game continued as they sent it out to reviewers. Finally, in September, I got an acceptance and a contract offer, which I accepted, from Temple University Press. I’ve dealt with other publishers before, but this has been the most grueling process I ever have been through with any writing project I’ve done. At least it had a happy ending. The book should be out next year. Its primary market, of course, will be in New York, but it should end up in bookstores elsewhere, including here in Minnesota.

I’ve also continued my graveyard exploring, visiting the gravesites of notable people, especially Baseball Hall of Famers (I’ve now been to 85 Hall of Fame graves). A few years ago, I left a signed note at Babe Ruth’s grave (it said, “Babe, you’re the best”), and I found out from someone that the note ended up in a display at the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum in Baltimore. Also, the baseball reporter from City Pages did a profile on my graveyard exploring. Brenda got quite a kick out of it since she says the reporter really had me pegged. One of his descriptions was that I had “the slightly rumpled look of a college professor . . . ” When I saw the reporter later, I told him that I didn’t think it was necessary for him to use the word “slightly.” I always thought I had a more fully rumpled look, and I’m pretty sure Brenda agrees. In case you’re interested, I think the article is still on the web at

Anyway, that’s it from here. Hope to hear from you all soon, either through your own tacky holiday newsletters (which I always enjoy reading) or some other means.

Stew and Brenda

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I am taking the lead and writing our annual letter from Stew and me. Since Stew has always kept you informed as to our cat’s activities. I am pleased to say that Ponce has been barfing with much less frequency. For a while, I had feared that he might have an eating disorder that caused him to purge. He has, however, developed bald spots. When I first noticed these I rushed the protesting animal to the vet, only to be told that the bald spots are caused by him licking himself because he is neurotic. I paid $35 to be told something that everyone knows: cats are neurotic.

This summer I hardly saw Stew at all. He once again had a press pass for Twins games. He covers them for Total Sports, and he made it to nearly all the Twins’ home games. Also, he was asked to write a brief history of the Twins for their 40-year anniversary. The book was for kids and was a giveaway at one of the Twins games. They weren’t as popular as the bobble head dolls, but it was pretty cool.

When Stew was not at the Metrodome he was traveling around the country going to ball games in other cities and visiting state capitols and graveyards. He’s now been to every capital except Juneau and has also kept up his hobby of visiting the graves of famous people, especially Presidents and Baseball Hall of Famers. He’s now been to the graves of all the presidents who are currently dead and about 130 Hall of Famers. Stew also got press credentials from major league baseball to attend the All-Star Game in Atlanta as well as the season-opening series in Tokyo between the Mets and Cubs. He’s beginning to get a reputation with major league baseball. Let’s hope that is a good thing. (He invited me to come along to Japan with him but I went to Portland, Oregon, for work at the same time. Portland might not be as exciting as Tokyo but it was still pretty nice.)

We did get to do some traveling together. In May we went to New England and New York and saw a couple of Yankees-Red Sox games at Yankee Stadium. We also took an exciting trip in November to Amsterdam, Edinburgh, and Paris with side trips to the Highland countryside in Scotland and the French countryside along the Normandy coast. Though the cities were exciting and the museums interesting, I got the biggest thrills out of walking through the heather where 10,000 Scotsman and British loyalists were buried and strolling along the now-peaceful beaches of Normandy. I never understood the attraction of old battlefields till I visited these places and felt how heavy they are with memories.

As I write this Stew and I are preparing to go back to New York City. The purpose of this trip to promote his new book, Land of the Giants: New York’s Polo Grounds. He has a book signing set up for the main Barnes and Noble store and some radio interviews to help promote the sale of the book. For those of you who don’t know it, the Polo Grounds was a ball park in New York that was home to many clubs, including the New York Yankees before they moved to their current stadium and, of course, the New York Giants. It has been great for Stew to have a book with a broader audience than Minnesota sports history, which has been his area of expertise to date.

Our next big trip will be a baseball tour to Cuba next February. We’ll be going to some games in Cuba’s National Series and seeing other things of baseball significance as well as a lot of other sights.

For myself I will say that I am too happy for my own good. After over a year of working in an acting position, I have been promoted to Rail and Bus Safety Manager. Now I am getting more money and only doing one job. In addition to Portland, I’ve been to New Orleans to learn more about rail and bus safety. I have been heavily involved in fatigue and transit issues and have asked to speak on the subject on twice outside of our Metro Transit organization.

I hope that all you are doing well and will keep in touch even if you are crazy and neurotic like my cat.

Happy New Year!

Brenda and Stew

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Brenda did our newsletter last year, but I’m back at the word processor this season. I think the opening to the last one I did said it was a good enough year to send a tacky holiday newsletter since we had had no “major disasters nor felony convictions.” I’m happy to report that this is once again the case, although for a while this year, we weren’t sure about the latter.

Usually, Brenda and I get our picture taken together on a vacation and use that for our holiday card. This year, though, we never ended up in the same photo, so there’s no card. All you get is this letter, which, as is traditional (and you know how big I am on tradition), will start with a story about our digestively-challenged cat, Ponce. Over the past couple years, Ponce has found a way to warn us when he’s about to hork up a hairball. If we hear a low, yowling sound out of him, we quickly get him off the carpeting and onto the linoleum (which is much easier to clean) in the foyer or kitchen. Last August, I was unwinding after a Twins game when I heard him yowl. I grabbed Ponce and threw him in the foyer. But he didn’t appear to be sick. He kept yowling, rushed back to the patio doors, and started shrieking. I finally realized Ponce was mad because something, probably another cat, was on the patio. I chased off the other cat and Ponce chilled out. The same thing happened the next night. As I was reading after a Twins game, I heard Ponce yowl. I went to the patio doors, flipped on the outside light, but didn’t see anything. I turned and said, “There’s nothing out there, Ponce. What’s the problem?” Ponce’s response? He barfed on the carpet. I guess the lesson is to never try and understand your cat. The vocabulary for “I’m upset because there’s an intruder on our patio” and “I going to yak up another hairball on your nice carpet” sounds too much alike to try and differentiate. By the way, Ponce turned 14 sometime in July. We’re not sure of the exact date, and neither is he.

The best trip Brenda and I took this year was a baseball tour to Cuba in February. With about 20 others, we spent a week riding a bus through Havana and other parts of Cuba, attending games in the Cuban Winter League and taking part in other activities of baseball significance. What a great place to go in February. The weather was great, and the people down there were just as warm. As for our fellow travelers, we all got along great, and that’s one of the big reasons the trip was so good. Brenda described Havana as “a lot like New Orleans, only without the decadence—the old colonial buildings, the open season on pedestrians daring to cross the street, and the music everywhere. Havana has the best ice cream in the world. The local people have to stand in line for hours to get the ice cream, but tourists can have it in any restaurant.”

Since the U. S. has restrictions on its citizens traveling to Cuba, we went through Toronto to get to Cuba and back. Our plan was to go without the U. S. government knowing about it. However, we were intercepted by immigration officials as we were coming back to the U. S. from Canada. With Plan A having blown up in our faces, we switched to Plan B, which was to claim general license authorization for the purposes of professional research. It took several months, as well as the intervention of our Congressional representative, Betty McCollum, but the U. S. Treasury Department—the agency that regulates travel of U. S. citizens to Cuba—finally determined that we had qualified for general license authorization. That was a big relief since we each could have faced a fine of $55,000 (although the average fine for such a violation is only $7,500).

In Cuba, we visited the grave of Baseball Hall of Famer Martin Dihigo. Over the last few years, I’d been visiting the graves of Hall of Famers and had been wondering how I’d ever get to Dihigo’s. After getting there, I decided it would be possible to get to all the other Hall of Fame graves. (I’m hoping to do a book on this and thought it would be nice to complete the circuit.) I had a busy summer visiting graves, even attending the funeral of one Hall of Famer, Lou Boudreau, after he died in August. If all goes well (meaning if no one else dies in the meantime), I’ll finish them off next month.

One of my graveyard trips took me to Louisiana last January. I got to New Orleans and visited the new D-Day Museum and also went to the Aquarium of the Americas, which is home to their famous otters, Bucky and Emma. Brenda had also been to the aquarium when she was in New Orleans the previous September and saw the otters. One of the otters, whom she presumed to be Emma, was swimming around with a tube. Brenda became alarmed because it looked like Emma’s foot was stuck in the tube. She summoned aquarium officials, who told her two things:

Brenda was pretty embarrassed, but I thought it was pretty funny (in addition to illustrating the decadence of New Orleans that Brenda spoke of earlier), so I made a point of visiting the aquarium. Bucky was still swimming around with his tube. The other visitors were pretty amused by it all, and I managed to get a nice picture of Bucky with his tube. (I thought about using that photo for our holiday card, but Brenda finally convinced me that it might not be appropriate.)

Bucky the Otter with his tube
Appropriate or not, I finally decided to include
this picture of Bucky with his tube.

When she’s not trying to assist aquatic wildlife, Brenda is still the Safety Manager for Bus and Light Rail at Metro Transit. She really likes her job and is excited to be a part of light rail coming to the Twin Cities. The trip to Cuba also revived her interest in re-learning Spanish, so she joined a Spanish-speaking Toastmasters club and got elected president.

As for me, I’m completing my ninth year as a Health Educator in the drinking water program at the Minnesota Department of Health. I was on strike for the first two weeks in October, which—other than not getting a paycheck—was a pretty interesting experience. I’d get there at 5:30 in the morning, hang out with other strikers, walk around the block with a picket sign, eat a lot of donuts (brought by our engineers, who weren’t allowed to strike), and go home and take a nap at 9:30. Not a bad life. Too bad you can’t make a living doing that.

Even when I’m not on strike, I like my job, and it leaves me enough time to do a lot of sports research and writing on the side. I’m also still doing “cybercasting” of Twins games, entering pitch-by-pitch data and having it sent out to the major league baseball web site (, so that people can follow the game on the web. Whether I’ll be doing it again next year depends on if the Twins are still here.

I made it to 73 of the Twins’ 81 home games this season and also got to regular-season games in Boston, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Milwaukee, Chicago (Cubs at Wrigley Field), Kansas City, and Houston. The real highlight, though, was going to Yankee Stadium for the three World Series games played there in late October and early November. The Yankees won all the games played in New York—two of them in extra innings after they had tied the game with a two-run homer with two out in the ninth. Unfortunately, the Yankees couldn’t win any of the games in Arizona and still lost the World Series. It was a great experience, though. I had media credentials from major league baseball, so I was able to go on the field and into the clubhouse and attend the interview sessions before and after the game. They also had a lot of free food.

As for next year, Brenda’s planning on continuing her Spanish classes and doing some interesting travel, even to non-Spanish-speaking countries, like Sweden. I’m planning on attending a lot of ball games (although I’m not sure where yet). And Ponce’s planning to continue destroying our carpeting, hairball by hairball. It’s nice that we all have a hobby.

Hope all is well with you. Stay in touch.

Happy Holidays, and God Bless the Whole Doggone World (not just the U.S.A.).

Stew and Brenda

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Yosemite National Park2002

Greeting to Friends and Family,

It is my turn to write the annual newsletter for Stew and me. I shall follow tradition and begin with the adventures of Ponce, our 15-year-old cat. Ponce’s barfing was much better this year (meaning not as often). I attribute this to his fancy new water dish, complete with a tiny flowing waterfall, causing him to drink more water, and to his being frequently lubed with these new kitty treats, which he loves to eat only because he doesn’t know that they contain kitty laxative.

Last February, Stew and I went to Alaska for a long weekend in Juneau and Sitka. It rained the day we were in Juneau. It also snowed that day in Sitka and, when we arrived in Sitka the next day, we were greeted with sunny skies on top of six inches of fresh snow. We tromped through the snow in Sitka National Cemetery to see the grave of Charles Paddock, one of the runners featured in the movie Chariots of Fire. Speaking of cemeteries, the previous month Stew completed his quest of visiting the graves of all the Baseball Hall of Famers (at least all the dead ones). It’s 184 graves and a book on it is now in the works.

Another trip we took was over Labor Day weekend to all four of the Maritime Provinces—Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick. In Newfoundland, we went to Cape Spear, the easternmost point in North America, as well as Dildo Pond. In Halifax, Nova Scotia, we went to a cemetery that contains the graves of some of the victims on the Titanic. On Prince Edward Island, we saw the grave of Lucy Maud Montgomery, who wrote Anne of Green Gables. We also had a McLobster in Moncton, New Brunswick.

There was at least one happy election this year. Stew was elected national Vice President of the Society for American Baseball Research. We went to Boston at the end of June for the national convention, where he began his term. Every morning, we began the day with a walk past several cemeteries loaded with famous people.

Prior to the convention, Stew and I went to Cape Cod. We rented bikes and rode to the beaches. We had lobster bisque at this quaint little roadside restaurant. I was not able to identify any trace lobster meat, however, since there was this smell like the bottom of an aquarium. I imagine that the remainder of the liquid consisted of the tank water where the lobsters were stored. It was almost as good as the McLobster in New Brunswick.

Once again this year, Stew worked for major league baseball (, doing “webcasting” of Twins games from the press box at the Metrodome. He also went to a lot of games in other cities, including the All-Star Game in Milwaukee. Stew received a press pass, which irritated Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune and WCCO Radio. However, it was a good thing Stew was there because Sid had already left when the game went into extra innings, and Stew was the only one still there to do a live report with Dark Star on WCCO. Stew also tried interviewing Barry Bonds but got blown off. “Barry Bonds blew you off?” I said when Stew told me. “Who does he think he is?” Stew replied, “Barry Bonds.” Stew had better luck with interviews with Willie Mays and Rachel Robinson, Jackie Robinson’s widow, following a press conference held earlier that day.

In November we went to San Francisco. Stew was there on state Health Department business, working with the Environmental Protection Agency on a program to help teachers teach kids about the science of safe drinking water. Stew was instrumental in developing the program here in Minnesota, where it has been very successful. (It even won a national education award.)

When Stew was done with his work in San Francisco, we went to Yosemite National Park. (The photo on the card is us in front of the giant Sequoias in Yosemite.) The trees were our favorite part of Yosemite, which was made famous by Ansel Adams. Shoot, even I can take spectacular photos in Yosemite. Did you know that there is a cemetery at Yosemite Park, and can you believe that we did not stop? I cannot remember the last time that we went on a trip and didn’t stop at a cemetery. Somehow it just didn’t feel complete.

Speaking of photos, I’ve continued my new hobby of taking pictures and even entered some nature photos into a contest. I won a few ribbons, including one for the photo below, entitled “Sitka Swan.” I’m also practicing my Spanish and was president of the Los Lagos Toastmasters Club (all meetings in Spanish) and was named the club’s Toastmaster of the Year.

Sitka Swan

In other news, I sent 50 cards to my sister, who turned 50 this year. The irony is that when I was making my purchase at Hallmark, I was asked for the first time in my life if I wanted to take the senior discount.

On the home front, my year has been spent renewing friendships on the golf courses and bike trails and uniting with my South Dakota family. It is nice to remember your roots.

Happy holidays and stay in touch.

Brenda and Stew

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As always, we start our tacky holiday newsletter with news of our cat, Ponce, who turned 16 this year. Brenda thinks he has retired from a life of hunting and gathering, but he’s still pretty feisty. And he had a good check-up at the vet, so it looks like he’ll be with us for a while longer. Since we don’t yet have to worry about final arrangements for Ponce, we decided to take care of our own. Our big purchase this year was a grave at Lakewood Cemetery. This came up because I’m doing a book for Minnesota Historical Society Press on the gravesites of notable Minnesotans, which will be out next fall. I’ve always loved Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis, and we had thought about getting a plot there before. With the book on gravesites, I figured I’d need an author photo, and getting a cemetery plot so I could pose in front of my own grave seemed like an interesting (and tax-deductible) way to do it. So we bought one.

Brenda and I took a lot of trips, and, once again, a few of them were even together. In March, as part of the book project, we visited graves in Duluth and up the North Shore, going all the way to Thunder Bay. The next day we came back to Duluth and saw the Gophers women’s hockey team in the Final Four in Duluth. We had media credentials and had a good time, even though the Gophers lost to Harvard in the semi-final round. In August, we worked our way out to Montevideo and then back along the Minnesota River, visiting sites related to the Dakota War of 1862. Interesting stuff.

As for trips on our own, Brenda had a great weekend in her hometown of Winona, visiting a couple of old friends, Patty Walsh and Barb Pellowski. I made it to New York for the first time since the 2001 World Series, when I saw the Yankees win three straight. This time, though, they got swept in a four-game series by Toronto. It was still fun. I always love New York, even when the Yankees lose. There were a couple road trips with the gang, one down to St. Louis in August to see the Cardinals with a side trip to DeSoto, Missouri, site of my first job in radio announcing, to visit the grave of Pinkney Cole, the station manager at KHAD and one of the meanest people I ever knew. I’d been looking forward to visiting his grave ever since I worked for him 28 years before. We also went to see the Gopher football team play at Ohio University in September and worked in a bunch of National Park sites as well as baseball games in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati (new ballpark there), and Cleveland.

Brenda came with me to my 30th high-school reunion in August, which was a lot of fun, connecting with old friends and making some good new ones. Other than an all-70s reunion in 1996, this was our class’s first reunion since 1983. Brenda’s stayed busy with her photography and won a few more awards, including one of a turtle. She also wracked up more than 300 miles on her bike and a bunch more miles on the golf course—a nice way to spend the summer. Much of my summer was spent, again, in the Metrodome. I’m still doing “cybercasting” of games for, the website of major league baseball, transmitting pitch-by-pitch data that immediately goes out to their site so you can follow a game on-line. Beyond that, we’re still at our regular jobs—me at the state health department and Brenda at Metro Transit, where she is looking forward to being a part of the first light-rail journey, which will be next April 3.

My other big news this year was achieving one of my goals in life. Last February on a Saturday morning, I went to Old Country Buffet at 10:30, paid the breakfast fee and had breakfast, then munched my way all the way through lunch until dinner, which I ate. I brought a lot of work to do (but stopped short of hauling out a laptop), and a few friends stopped by throughout the day to dine with me. Somebody bet me a free breakfast that I’d get kicked out, which I wasn’t, so I got another free meal out of it for another time. I heard about this one guy whose goal is to lie under a Dairy Queen spigot and pump the ice cream straight into his mouth. Hope he achieves it someday.

Ho, ho, ho,

Brenda and Stew

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Ponce on his ramp2004

Stew and I started 2004 with a home improvement project, making our home ADA accessible for kitty cats. Ponce turned 17 this year and was having trouble making the leap onto the ledge in the bedroom window, so we designed and built a ramp he can use to get up there and catch the afternoon sun. He loves it.

Early in 2004 Stew was contacted by ESPN television. They were looking for someone to interview about the 1950 Minneapolis Lakers game that they lost by a score of 19-18 as a result of stalling tactics by the other team. They set up the interview at a studio in town and said they would send a car for him. However, Stew turned down the car offer and drove himself. Later he learned that they would have sent a limo. He has never ridden in a limo. Now he regrets his decision.

For excitement this year at work I was part of the opening of the new Hiawatha Light Rail. My job was to plan how to deal with crowds so the platforms would be safe. The biggest security incident that day involved two lost children. Platform announcements gave a description and the Transit Police had them found within 15 minutes. For me the scariest incident was when my boss called me on the radio to tell me there was someone on the track. (He was watching on the cameras.) I turned around and there was a toddler in the middle of the tracks. The father got to the child before I did and all was well. The rail was open. Fifty thousand people came to see it and no one was hurt. I slept well.

Since the Yankees were only scheduled to come to Minnesota once during the regular season, Stew and I went to Florida to see them play a weekend series against Tampa Bay in May. Stew also got to the grave of Hoyt Wilhelm, which made him current again with his quest to visit all the grave sites of members of the Baseball Hall of Fame. (However, with presidential graves, he’s now one short after the death of Ronald Reagan.)

During the summer, Stew had a goal of attending all the Twins’ home games which he did, along with games in many other places. One was a minor-league game in Edmonton, Alberta, when we took a road trip to the Canadian Rockies. I always wanted to drive out across the plains and see the canola fields and the mountains growing on the horizon. Driving to the mountains was incredible, but I was surprised how the mountains just seem to suddenly be there. We saw some mountain goats who defied having their pictures taken by the angle of the sun. They are pretty smart. There was a big dumb elk by the side of the road that got me really excited. Later there was an even bigger and dumber one that had traffic backed up for miles and I got an even better picture.

However, the best wild life pictures I got were in North Dakota. We didn’t rollerskate in a buffalo herd, but we came close. The ranger at the entrance to Theodore Roosevelt National Park said that we should not get out of the car. At the campground facility, though, Stew got the inside scoop on the location of the buffalo herd. It had trapsed through the campground the night before. We found the herd, but the bright light outside and the dark inside the car required one to lean out an open window to get a decent shot. When we came across a small calf close to the road, Stew had to get out of the car. My job was to watch his back. The calf started to get up and was so cute I had to take a picture, too. In the mean time the great “karmani” papa buffalo started making noises that were a cross between a moo and a growl. I suggested to Stew that he get back in the car, but he didn’t need that bit of advice.

There was yet another attraction that got Stew out of the car. Buffalo leave really big pies, and a few were right in the middle of the road. Stew got out to take a “before“ picture, then slowly ran over it, and got out again to take an “after” picture. A little later was another huge one that Stew drove through, going about 30 miles per hour, causing it to splash all over the rental S.U.V. we had. The rental contract said we needed to keep it clean inside; fortunately, it didn’t say anything about the outside.

Buffalo pie before being run over Buffalo pie after being run over

I have had to adjust recently to be being the wife of a celebrity. Stew’s latest book came out in October to a plethora of media attention. This is the gravesite book, Six Feet Under. So far, Stew has been on FOX 9-TV morning show, WCCO Radio, All Things Considered on MPR, Cities 97, and in several newspapers, including City Pages and a couple articles in the Star Tribune. One photo of him at our grave site (remember last year’s holiday card photo?) in the Star Tribune showed my name quite prominently. I had to return several calls to friends to assure them I was not dead yet. I also had to get used to the fact that everyone knows I am 50 and a year older than Stew. Many of you helped or accompanied Stew on some of his quests for gravesites across Minnesota, so it has been especially fun to be a part of the promotions. Which is why we had a Six Feet Under open house in November, which produced some interesting cakes:

Six Feet Under cake Six Feet Under cake
Six Feet Under cake

As usual, this letter is arriving early in the holiday season. Stew and I will be skipping much of the fuss about Christmas this year and are heading back to Florida to explore the Florida Keys and go to Dry Tortugas National Park. Think of us, and we will be thinking of you as we snorkel and watch for sea turtles.

Brenda and Stew

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The northern terminus of U. S. Hwy. 1 in Fort Kent, Maine2005

Our cat, Ponce, turned 18 this summer, but the weird thing is that it’s now like we have a one-year-old in the house. He started yowling in the middle of the night and waking us up on a regular basis, so our strategy became one of walking him around and tiring him out before bedtime, just like parents of a newborn, so that he’ll sleep through the night. We’re thinking about getting a treadmill for him, because we’re getting more worn out from this than he is. And all that walking still doesn’t stop him from yowling. Beyond that, he’s very healthy, so we have a few more years of this to look forward to.

Brenda and I went on a few trips together this year, including the Society for American Baseball Research convention in Toronto. The Yankees were in town that weekend, so we went to three games and saw the Yankees beat the Blue Jays twice. Brenda also went to Toronto Island, rented a bike, and stumbled across a nude beach. Over Memorial Day weekend, we went to Maine and drove U. S. Hwy. 1 all the way to Fort Kent, its northern terminus. Last December, we were in Key West, Florida, the southern terminus of Hwy. 1, so we decided to get to the other end. We really like Maine, and this time we saw a moose while we were there. In November, we went to Keweenaw peninsula on the upper peninsula of Michigan. Separately, Brenda went to Phoenix for work (where she gave a presentation on the award-winning video she had produced on distracted driving), and I went to a communications conference in Austin, Texas. I also made a couple baseball trips, including a driving trip to Atlanta during the first full week of July, when I was out of work because of the shutdown of state government. The shutdown didn’t affect me much because I had a lot of vacation time, but some of my co-workers really were hurt by it. I also went on a Gophers football trip to Indiana in November with my usual gang of traveling buddies. On the way down, we stopped in Milwaukee and saw the grave of The Crusher, who had died only two weeks before. I poured a Miller beer on the grave for him.

As for work, same stuff. Brenda is still at Metro Transit, and I’m at the Minnesota Department of Health. On the side, I’m still writing (and have a book on the history of baseball in Minnesota coming out next spring) and doing datacasting of Twins home games for

I continued to play on a Metro Transit softball team in St. Paul and hope to do so again next year. However, in August, in our end-of-the-season tournament, I collided with the other team’s first baseman, went flying, and landed on my right side. I didn’t think it was that bad at first, but it turned out that I broke my wrist and elbow. I managed to stay out of a cast—just a splint—even though the orthopedist wanted me to have a cast, especially after I came back after five weeks and the x-rays showed that the wrist hadn’t healed much. I told him that the physical therapist he had referred me to had been having me doing stretching exercises for the past few weeks, and the orthopedist freaked out. He had intended for the therapist to work only on my elbow, not my wrist, and he certainly hadn’t wanted her stretching the wrist. So once we got all that straight, the healing was able to take place. It was my first time playing after I had turned 50, so I guess you could say I’m feeling my age.

Brenda and Stew

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Four Corners, where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona Meet2006

The perennial star of our holiday newsletter, our cat Ponce, died 10 days before Christmas last year. The house was very empty without him, so it helped to have a getaway vacation to the southwest a week later. We went to national parks in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, and Arizona, and also went to Four Corners, where we got our picture taken for the holiday card on the spot where four states come together.

On St. Patrick’s Day, we got two new kitties, a pair of littermates named A-Rod and Jeter. Since then, the house has been full of life, laughter, and lots of toys. In addition to the large assortment of stuffed mice, strings, and grocery bags, there are fuzzy balls, jingle balls, sparkly balls, flowing balls, flashing balls, and plain old ping pong balls. The toys are spread out all over the house until they get knocked into the black hole under the stove. When one of those toys is retrieved, it achieves most-treasured status for a day and is worthy of wrestling over. A-Rod and Jeter are co-captains of the U. S. Feline Olympic Bathtub Ping Pong Ball Hockey Team. They practice everyday. They also have their own web site at with lots of pictures and news of their activities.

Stew has had almost as busy a year as the cats. Last spring, the Minnesota Historical Society came out with his book, Baseball in Minnesota: The Definitive History. Stew enjoyed the speaking and signing gigs, but he had to schedule them in-between cybercasting Twins games for and being the official scorer for the St. Paul Saints. He and I found some time to go to the Society for American Baseball Research convention in Seattle and took a few days to go to British Columbia. We celebrated my birthday with all of Canada at a minor league baseball game in Vancouver on Dominion Day and then took the ferry to Victoria. Stew now has another book out, with co-author Marc Hugunin, on the history of basketball in Minnesota. He continues to visit graves of Baseball Hall of Famers, which made for a busy year. The Hall of Fame inducted 17 members from the Negro Leagues, and all of them were dead. Stew had already been to a few of them, including two on our Cuba trip in 2001, so he didn’t have to go back to them. But he got to seven of the new ones, who are buried between Washington and New York, when he went to his government communicators convention in Baltimore in May and has been making other trips to get to some of the others.

Stew’s mother and I went to many Twins games together this year, and this kept me busy along with biking and golfing. I have also been involved with the Harriet Alexander Nature Center. I am secretary of the Board. We have big plans to save the marshlands and rebuild the boardwalk so that city kids don’t grow up to be environmentally disabled. At our Earth day Wildrice Festival, some of the kids asked me if they could take some sticks home. Of all the activities we had organized for them, they liked collecting sticks and playing with them more than anything. Coming from homes with immaculate suburban yards, sticks were foreign to them. This made me realize what a great childhood I had, with rivers, lakes, and woods all within easy reach.

Here is hoping you have a year filled with great things.

Brenda and Stew

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Confluence of Mississippi and Missouri rivers2007

Greetings Friends,

Our kitties, A-Rod and Jeter, will be two years old in December. They like to sleep curled up with me, and sometimes it’s a little challenging to get some sleep, especially with Jeter (who is the big one) plopped right over my face. But I guess I don’t mind it too much because my favorite days are those that start with Stew waking me up and pulling the cats off of me so that I can get out of bed. As for the kitties’ namesakes, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez had good years for the New York Yankees, even though they didn’t win the World Series. We went to Kansas City in September to see the Yankees play. The Yankees won all three games, and A-Rod (the Yankees’ one) hit four home runs. We were very happy that he won the American League Most Valuable Player award and that he’s going to be staying with the Yankees.

Stew and I had some other varied travels this past year. I went with him to in the Insight Bowl in Tempe, Arizona, where the cold damp weather made me remember I am not much of a football fan. The game didn’t help either since the Gophers blew a 31-point lead and lost the game. We did get to visit with Stew’s cousin there and see her studio, where she creates metal sculptures. In July, we went to St. Louis for the Society for American Baseball Research convention. We drove down early so that we could explore the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi River (which is the photo on the card). Since I was born on the Missouri River and grew up on the Mississippi River, I felt very connected to the place.

The new baseball excitement at our house was Stew’s opportunity to be one of the official scorers for the Minnesota Twins. I am very proud of him, but I sure would not want to have that job. He has to decide if a play is a hit or an error and he gets second-guessed a lot. His mom and I like to go to the games he is scoring and see if we would make the same calls. Of course we always thought he was right, but there were lots of others who were more than willing to let him know they thought he was wrong. Even so, I know he is looking forward to next season.

When the Twins weren’t at home, Stew took several trips. His biggest one was a driving trip out east to visit graves and go to baseball games. He ended up in New York and saw two games at Yankee Stadium, which will probably be the last time he’s there since the Yankees are getting a new stadium after next season.

I started taking tap dancing at the dance studio where my niece, Stephany, graduated from and is now teaching. I started out doing it for the exercise and as an excuse to get closer to my niece, but I ended up dancing in the annual show last June. It was fun and terrifying. Will I do it again? Time will tell.

I had an adventure in the boundary waters last winter with Stew’s cousin, Sheryl. We also went to the Bayfield Apple Festival where I drove a rental car on the ferry to Madeline Island. For a few terrifying moments we were out on the lake full of white caps, the car tilting back and forth, spray on the windshield, and my foot pressed down hard on the brake peddle while we tried to figure out how to engage the parking brake. We survived but the rental company charged us for the fingernail imprints on the dash.

We had a great year, full of adventure and fun and warm fuzzy creatures. As I said, my days begin with trying to get out from under the cats and end with A-Rod warming our feet while Jeter snuggles near my chin and with his strong melodic purring, singing me to sleep with a kitten lullaby.

Brenda and Stew

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A-Rod and Jeter - December 20072008

Hi Friends and Family:

I am very lucky lady. Not every woman can say that she has Jeter and A-Rod fighting over who gets to sleep with her. As you can see from their holiday team photo, these chunks wrestling can be very distracting if sleep is what you are after. Thanks to an automatic feeder, which really helps control their food intake, the boys are getting less chunky and more hunky. The diet seems to be working for them and me. We also found out that one of the kitties is lactose intolerant. A couple times I put milk out for them. There later turned out to be evidence that at least one of them didn’t digest it well. So no more milk for them.

Beyond keeping the cats healthy, we’ve had a fairly productive year. We took up Nordic walking, served as election judges on November 4, an interesting experience, and went on a great trip in August to Vermont. The first night we stayed at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont. The next morning, when I was at breakfast, I sat at a table next to Johannes von Trapp, who was sitting with his wife and a friend. They were discussing Johannes’s sister Maria. (Johannes and Maria still own the lodge.) Apparently Johannes and Maria had been in Paris, but Johannes had gotten fed up with the private jet loaned to them and had taken a commercial flight home from Paris without Maria or his luggage.

Later that day, we went to Derby Line, Vermont, where there is a library/opera house. If that was not enough to attract our attention, the building sits on the U.S.-Canadian border; there is a line going right through it. It’s pretty cool with the library on the first floor and the opera hall upstairs. The stage is entirely in Quebec and most of the seats in Vermont. We roamed around the town after leaving the library/opera hall. There is a customs checkpoint on the main highway, but there didn’t appear to be anything to keep people from freely passing back and forth on the side streets. When we got back to our vehicle, Stew took one of the side streets into Quebec, made a couple of turns, and came back into Vermont on another side street, then headed for the freeway to get out of town. Before we got to the freeway, however, the border patrol showed up behind us with lights flashing. Stew pulled over, and even before the officer had reached our window his back-up had arrived and we were surrounded. We acted like the confused tourists that we were, and it worked. The friendly officer let us off with a warning but added that coming back from Canada without stopping at customs could result in a $5,000 fine. Thankfully Stew resisted the urge to say, “Shoot, that’s nothing. We were facing a $55,000 fine when we came back from Cuba a few years ago.”

Stew had better luck beating the system earlier in the year. Getting free food is better than winning the lottery for him. Therefore, the one item left on his life-list, after spending an entire day eating at Old Country Buffet (done in 2003), was to crash a funeral just for the food. In February a co-worker tipped him off to a church funeral in Maplewood that was followed by the traditional church basement lunch, complete with a hot dish and some lime green Jell-O, the kind of stuff you only see in a church-basement bean feed. Stew says that now that he has completed all his life’s goals, he has nothing else to keep him going. Good thing he has baseball and me.

Stew went on a bunch of baseball trips this season and I could not keep track of him. One trip I do remember was his trip to New York in July to see the All Star Game at Yankee Stadium, his last trip to that park. A good friend of his, Dan Levitt, called him up and asked if he wanted to join him on an all-expenses-paid trip to see the All Star Game. They had prime seats for the game and stayed in a suite at the Trump Towers, overlooking Central Park. They flew out on Tuesday and came back on Wednesday. Stew felt like a real jet setter.

When Stew is in town it is easier to know where he is. He worked nearly every Twins home game either doing the Game Day datacasting for or the official scoring. As the official scorer, he had a call sent into Major League Baseball by the Twins to be reviewed. He had called an error on the Toronto third baseman, which meant that Michael Cuddyer of the Twins didn’t get a hit. The Twins thought he should have received a hit and appealed the decision. It took two weeks for the review to be completed, but his call was upheld, which was a relief to him.

I had some tough decisions to make this year as Manager of Bus Safety for Metro Transit, too. When the highway department made a mistake and painted the shoulder lanes too narrow on Interstate 94, I made the recommendation that Metro Transit buses would not use the lanes. When the highway department was informed, they took quick action and scheduled the re-striping for the next weekend. Sure enough, I forgot the project and drove on the freeway, getting stuck in a big traffic jam caused by the re-stripping. I figured I had no one to blame but myself for that. I consoled myself with the realization that I can still stop traffic.

Stew’s biggest news right now is that he is the backup official scorer for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Stew seems to like being the bad guy everyone gets mad at. Even though scorekeeping in basketball isn’t nearly as stressful as baseball, you do have a lot to keep track of, with all those points, fouls, and time outs. If you mess up you could really create a mess that would delay the game and get a lot of people mad at you. I am reminded that Stew was a rowdy kid, and people were mad at him all the time. Maybe that’s why he likes these jobs—he misses being the bad boy troublemaker.

Virgin Louisa Liece with Stew Thornley Virgin Louisa Liece Body Slamming Stew Thornley
Posing with and getting body slammed by The Virgin Louisa Liece

Just before Halloween a big group of us went to a Haunted Hayride north of the Twin Cities that was also supposed to feature midget wrestling. When we got there, there were no midgets, but Buck “Rock ‘N Roll” ZumHofe, one of the All-Star Wrestling people from the 1970s and 1980s, was there. Even though he was 57, he is still wrestling and promoting shows where he also sells really good homemade fudge. I had never seen wrestling before in person. They had a ring set up in the middle of this big farm building, and we could stand right up against the ropes to watch the wrestling. The first match we saw involved two women, The Virgin Louisa Liece against Mystik. After the match The Virgin and Mystik came into the ring and announced that you could have your pictures taken with them. The Virgin looked right at me and said, “I’ll body slam your husband for five dollars.” I immediately opened my purse and discovered I was short, I mean I didn’t have enough money. I borrowed $5 from Stew so Stew could get body slammed. The Virgin picked Stew up and, on the count of three, slammed him down. When I heard the crash on the mat my first reaction was, “You broke my husband!” Stew said it took him a couple seconds to determine if he was broken, too. He really felt his spine rattle, but he was able to get up on his own. I cannot believe we had to sign a waiver to ride on the hayride but not to get body slammed. Just good clean Halloween fun, I guess.

Brenda and Stew

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Observation Deck of Rockefeller Center2009


All is well in the Himrich/Thornley/Jeter/A-Rod family. Our kitties are great and don’t cause us much trouble except that sometimes when I’m lying in bed, they come up and walk around and step on things that are better left un-stepped on, but, other than that, they are very sweet. And they don’t barf much.

Brenda and her sister, Deb, went to Costa Rica for a week in November. Brenda took a Spanish class to help refresh her Spanish and studied up on the history of Costa Rica. She and Deb went on a zip line that took them back and forth across a tropical ravine above and sometimes through the treetops, just like Tarzan. Brenda was scared at first to the point of feeling sick but after the third ride couldn’t wait to do it again. She saw toucans, red macaws, two- and three-toed sloths, vipers, and boa constrictors.

Green Eyelash Viper Arenal Volcano
Above is a green eyelash viper, a really poisonous snake, and the Arenal Volcano, which Brenda and Deb could see from their room. Below are other pictures from Costa Rica, including a brown pelican sailing over the Pacific Ocean during a sunset and four toucans.
Brown Pelican and Sunset over the Pacific Ocean Four Toucans
Flowers and Plants Tree

Brenda and I went to New York in June to see the new stadiums of the Yankees and Mets and had a terrific time. We saw two exciting games at new Yankee Stadium, both won by the Yankees (who went on to win the World Series, in case you missed the news). We got to one game at Citi Field, the Mets’ new stadium, and Johan Santana pitched for the Mets. We also went up to the top of Rockefeller Center for the first time and got our holiday card picture taken on the observation deck. The nice thing about going to the top of Rockefeller Center instead of the top of the Empire State Building is that you can see the Empire State Building from Rockefeller Center. Right after we arrived in New York we went to a Saturday matinee of The Jersey Boys at the August Wilson Theater. We had center-stage seats just five rows back from the stage, and the play was as good as everybody said it was.

Another trip we took together was to Arkansas in June to see the grave of a newly dead Baseball Hall of Famer. After we got to the grave, we drove through the Ozarks and then up to Kansas City, where we went to a Twins-Royals game. We took my new car, which has satellite radio, so we had tunes all the way, mostly without commercials and obnoxious disc jockeys. I like my new wheels—it’s a Burgundy Red Toyota after having had a white car for six years—and the back seats fold down so I can fit a bicycle in there. That’s helped me to bike a lot more this year, since I can throw it in the car and go to fun places, such as Lake of the Isles and Calhoun and Harriet.

I made it to all of the Twins home games this year, doing datacasting for for half the games and official scoring for the other half. It was a normal year in terms of official scoring: some easy games and some that generated controversy, but I didn’t have any scoring decisions appealed to Major League Baseball, as I had last year. I did the datacasting for the tiebreaker game against Detroit, an exciting 12-inning Twins win, and was the official scorer for the playoff game against the Yankees, which was the final game played at the Metrodome. A few days later, a group of us got a tour of Target Field, the new stadium, and saw our vantage point from the press box, which is a nice one. In addition to that, I’m a backup again as the official scorer for the Minnesota Timberwolves and have done a couple games already this season.

Brenda had a good year at work. Metro Transit won a National Safety Gold Award, and the Metropolitan Council recognized her for that and other contributions. I was able to attend the meeting when she was presented with a plaque. Brenda spent more time on the golf course this year than on her bike, but that netted her another trophy from her golf league. She says her personal trainer has given her drives their old power back.

This year I took up skydiving again. I had made a few jumps in 1976 and 1977, all static-line jumps (where a cord attached to the inside of the plane automatically rips open and deploys the parachute for you). I’ve always wanted to do it again and be able to free fall for more than 12 feet. Finally, last winter, I decided that if I was ever going to take it up again, I better do it this year. Now there is an accelerated free fall program in which a jumpmaster hangs on to the student as they jump out of the plane together, then releases the student and hovers nearby in case the student does something dumb like forgetting to pull the ripcord. We jump at 13,000 feet and pull at 5,000, so you get to free fall for about 50 seconds.


My first two jumps went pretty well. I returned a week later, and my first jump of the day, which included a 180-degree turn, was okay. I went back up for a Category D jump, which involves doing a 90-degree turn toward the jumpmaster, who is hovering, then a forward motion toward the jumpmaster. The 90-degree turn went okay, but as I tried to move forward, I started spinning like a helicopter blade. I somehow got my ripcord pulled and made it to the ground safely—one thing about skydiving; you always make it to the ground—and resisted one of the strongest urges I’ve ever felt: to go home, get in bed, pull the covers over my head, and never come out. However, I figured if I left, I’d never come back, so I hung around and went up again, which was one of the hardest things I’ve done in a long time. The drop zone was really busy so I wasn’t able to go back up for a couple hours. Every second of waiting was excruciating, and it was especially nerve-wracking getting back into the plane. When we got to 13,000 feet, I jumped, did my turn, went for the forward motion—and spun out of control again. I was discovering that dropping like a rock isn’t as easy as it looks. I made some more jumps over the spring and summer, and they went a little better, although I still haven’t mastered the forward motion. I’m planning to go back and try again next year.


After Brenda was so excited about the zip lines she was on in Costa Rica, I thought she might want to try skydiving with me. She said no. Brenda is a pilot and apparently still believes that there is such a thing as a perfectly good airplane. (Note to family: my mom is getting an edited version of this letter with these paragraphs deleted. Please don’t tell her I started skydiving again. It will just make her worry.)

Happy Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, New Year, and Festivus.

Brenda and Stew

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Jeter and A-Rod2010

Our cats, Jeter and A-Rod, are great but they are a handful. Jeter refuses to get into his kitty carrier because he knows it means he’ll be going to the vet. I purchased a new carrier for him. It was a lot larger so I thought it would be easier to get him into it, but he seemed to know it really was a dog kennel. Not buying a dog kennel for a cat is not the only thing I learned about cats this year. I also learned not to give a cat one kernel of popcorn and expect him not to stalk you while you are enjoying the rest of the bowl while you watch TV. Did you know cats sit very still and watch their prey until they see their opportunity to pounce? Jeter saw his chance and leaped onto my lap, shoved his head in the bowl, displacing most of the popcorn, and shoved as much popcorn in his mouth as would fit before he jumped down. I could do nothing to defend myself against such ferocity. Now I take my popcorn out on the patio, a bit problematic since it has snowed.

As for A-Rod, he has become too brave for his own good. He used his speed to rush past me when I opened the door that leads from the kitchen to the garage. He explored the previously uncharted (to him) nooks and crannies of the garage. I had to hit the panic alarm for my car to scare him enough to have him run back into the house.

I have now joined the club of those who have visited all 50 states. Stew and I went to Charleston, South Carolina, in February. South Carolina was one of two states (Idaho being the other) that I hadn’t been in. We got bumped from our Detroit to Charleston flight and were flown into Columbia instead. Delta Airlines then paid for a taxi to get us to Charleston. It was quite a mess, but Stew and I each got an $800 voucher from Delta. We used part of that to go to Boise in July so that I could get into Idaho and complete my 50 states. In Idaho, we went to an archeological site on the Snake River, Harmon Killebrew’s boyhood home in Payette, and a Boise Hawks minor league baseball game.

Brenda entering Idaho
Brenda coming out of the Boise airport and entering her 50th state.

We also used the Delta voucher to get our plane tickets for Atlanta, where the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) convention was held. The exciting news out of the convention was that the 2012 SABR convention was awarded to Minneapolis. During the convention I rented a car and drove to Savannah to see a childhood friend of mine, Pat Walsh Straub. We had a great time eating lunch in a haunted historic pirate hideaway. Also, Georgians get my vote for the worst drivers in the country. The evidence is all over: wheels, bumpers, fenders, and other pits of cars left strewn along the roadway.

I had a couple other trips this year. One was to Cleveland to speak about the dangers of distracted driving. The Twins were in Cleveland too, so I went to the game and saw them beat the Indians. From my seat I got a great picture of two nuns in traditional habits attending the game. They were sitting a few rows in front of me silhouetted by the field below. It reminded me of the movie “Major League.”

Stew went to Bethesda, Maryland, in May for the annual communications school of the National Association of Government Communicators. He had a chance to roam around D. C. a bit and go to a Washington Nationals game, where he saw the center fielder for the New York Mets hit an inside-the-park home run and later start a triple play. During the school, NAGC announced that it would have its 2011 communications school in St. Paul, so it’s been a good year for Stew in luring national conventions to the Twin Cities.

Cristian Guzman hitting into a triple play
From the press box, a shot of Cristian Guzman of the Nationals hitting into a triple play.

Another trip came up unexpectedly. Stew was informed that he was the 2010 recipient of the Tony Salin Memorial Award from the Baseball Reliquary in California. The Tony Salin Award is for commitment to preserving baseball history, so it was a nice honor for him. They flew him to California for the ceremony, and I tagged along. It was my first time in LA so Stew wanted me to see Hollywood—Hollywood Forever Cemetery, that is. We stayed on Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, which is an interesting area. Later we drove over to see the Rose Bowl, and I drove back so I could cruise Colorado Boulevard and feel like the Little Old Lady from Pasadena.

The Induction Ceremony was in Pasadena. I was very proud. In addition to the Tony Salin Award, an award is presented to the best fan. This year that award went to Sister Mary Assumpta, a Cleveland Indians fan who appeared in “Major League.” She was not at the game where I took the picture—she shares her season tickets—but it was fun to meet a movie star. She is a known in Cleveland for bringing fresh cookies to the Indians at the beginning of every home stand. They are Nun Better Cookies and were served at the ceremony. You can get them on-line.

Stew took an impromptu trip in November. He and others had been trying to track down the gravesite of a former Negro League player who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2006. Someone finally discovered the cemetery this player was buried in. It was in Chicago so Stew drove down there to see it (even though it’s unmarked but they’re raising money to get a marker) and get the GPS coordinates of the spot before it got covered with snow.

Stew’s mom and I really enjoyed the season at the Twins new stadium. We went to a bunch of games together, including a playoff game against the Yankees. Phyllis was in a Twins jacket and I was in a Yankees jersey, so KARE-11 interviewed us and put us on the news that night. Stew also enjoyed the new ballpark. He has a great perch in the press box for when he is doing the official scoring or the datacasting for As the official scorer, he had another call reviewed by Major League Baseball, the third time in four years he’s had that happen. Like the other times, MLB sided with him and upheld his call. He was happy about that, but it’s stressful when it happens.

Stew and I had a great year and wish you all a warm and safe holiday season.

Brenda and Stew

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Mickey and Jeter Stew and Brenda at Angel Stadium
Mickey, Jeter, Stew, Brenda

Our big news is a new addition, Mickey Jerome, whom we got in October. Two months earlier, we lost A-Rod, who was five-and-a-half and a litter mate of Jeter. On Saturday, August 27, I got up and discovered A-Rod dead on the upstairs floor. We had a necropsy done and found out he had a chronic heart condition and died of acute heart failure. We took Jeter in for an echocardiogram, in case it was genetic, and were happy that he checked out fine. We were planning on going kitty shopping in late October, but then we saw a picture of a cat named Jerome on Facebook through the friend of a friend whose folks in Big Lake had taken in a stray pregnant cat who had a small litter on August 15. We went to Big Lake and got Mickey (we had decided on this name already and decided to keep his original name as a middle name) on October 19, which was also the eve of Mickey Mantle’s 80th birthday. Mickey got to listen to the first game of the World Series on the radio as we drove home, although he fell asleep stretched out between my shoulders on the back of my neck.

Mickey and Jeter Jeter
Mickey Jeter and Mickey
A-Rod in the picture above. The photos above that are of Mickey and Jeter.

We love Mickey and Jeter, but we miss A-Rod, who had already given us a few more gray hairs (maybe justice for one of us) during the year. In July, the day before we were leaving for Los Angeles, A-Rod fell off the high ledge from our upstairs loft. Brenda thinks he may have been after a mosquito. She heard a thump, checked it out, and saw A-Rod on the floor. She was afraid he had broken his jaw and took him to the vet. The only thing he broke was a tooth, and he seemed to be doing fine and had no trouble eating. Brenda reconstructed the scene and thinks he hit the side of his face on the bannister as he hurtled downward. Fortunately, I had a sweatshirt hanging over the bannister, and that may have softened the impact.

Skydiving sing in BaldwinI couldn’t get too upset with A-Rod because he wasn’t the only one in the family injuring himself with falls from high places. I hadn’t skydived since 2009 because I was wobbly in free fall, especially when I tried a forward-motion maneuver, which caused me to spin out of control. This year I signed up for sessions with a personal trainer at the YMCA, and she worked with me on strengthening my core muscles, which would help with stability in the air. She was right. I went to the drop zone in Baldwin, Wisconsin, and jumped on Memorial Day and then again the following Saturday. I was more stable and did the forward-motion maneuver without spinning. I felt pretty good about that. I pulled my ripcord around 5,000 feet in the air and began floating to the ground.

I didn’t line up my approach right and came down a bit off-target, in an alfalfa field adjacent to the drop zone. That was okay, but then I messed up the landing. I flared my canopy (pulling the steering toggles to bring down the sides of the canopy) too early. I compounded the error by unflaring. I don’t understand all the aerodynamics of this, but the people at the drop zone said this collapses the canopy. I still had 15 feet to go and did a dead drop to the ground. I felt rattled and a little sore, but I didn’t think there was anything wrong. However, I didn’t feel like getting up. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t. They took me to the hospital in Baldwin, Wisconsin, and found that I had broken a vertebra (the T-12 one). They transferred me to Regions Hospital in St. Paul, and I was there for three days. I had to wear a body brace for a couple months. It was a little hot and uncomfortable, but I figured it was better than not being able to walk, so I considered myself lucky. I also got a lot of autographs on the brace from the people in the press box at Target Field and elsewhere.

Baby RobinsThis summer Brenda noticed a robin’s nest with three eggs in one of our shrubs. Soon after three robins were born. About a week later Brenda bought some worms to put out for the family. She stored the container with the worms in the refrigerator and labeled it because she was afraid I might think it was ramen noodles or something. I was afraid that, by feeding them, the babies would bond to us and we’d be responsible for their upbringing. However they seem to be off with their real mom and dad, so all is well.

Brenda and I made our trip to Los Angeles (having the kitty sitter come in twice rather than once a day so that she could give A-Rod his pain medication) and went to the Society for American Baseball Research convention. We got to a Dodgers game and an Angels game (and got our picture taken together at Angel Stadium). Next year the convention will be in Minneapolis. I got back to L. A. in September to see the Gophers play Southern California. We also went to a couple of Twins at Angels game while we were out there.

Brenda made a few trips this year, including a transportation conference in Washington, D. C., where she made a presentation in October. A week later she and her friends Lisa and Ellen got away for a weekend down in Lanesboro, Minnesota.

Official ScoringI spent the baseball season doing either the datacasting or official scoring for Twins games. The official scoring went well although, as usual, there were a few bumps. I had a scoring decision overturned by Major League Baseball from an error to a hit in April. It was the fourth time I had a call reviewed by MLB, but this was the first time I had one overturned. I changed a call on my own in late June after a Dodgers-Twins game. The Dodgers won 15-0, but after the game the Dodgers were mad because of an error I called in the fourth inning. They thought it should have been a hit for their batter. I looked at the play again and decided it was too tough a hop for the shortstop to handle, so I changed the call to a hit and told the reporters in the press box. Normally this isn’t a big deal, but the reporters started buzzing because this meant the Twins had now set a team record for the most hits allowed (25) in a nine-inning game and started changing their story leads. I was mentioned in the newspaper game accounts in the Minneapolis and Los Angeles papers. LaVelle Neal of the Star Tribune wrote that the Dodgers were so devastating they kept collecting hits after the game was over.

I also did a lot of official scoring for the Timberwolves last season and even got to sit across the court from Kim Kardashian when Kris Humphries was in town with the Nets, but everything is on hold now since the league has locked out the players.

Ho ho ho and Happy Holidays.

Brenda and Stew

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Brenda, Stew, Jeter, Mickey2012


A lot happened this year, but we were happy that life with our cats, Jeter and Mickey, was uneventful. They didn’t destroy themselves or each other or the furniture (too much). Mickey’s getting to be a big boy—he had his first birthday in August—and Jeter remains a big boy. They get along well, and we even got them to squirm into a photogenic position for a photo.

The big thing for us this year was that my mom died October 20. She was doing pretty well and staying active until July, when she had trouble breathing and went to the hospital. Other than a brief return home (about 12 hours before she had another breathing episode), she was in the hospital for about six weeks. Her heart was going on her, and we knew she was nearing the end. She wanted to get home and did and still had some good times. She got to a last Twins game with Brenda and went on a nice picnic with David and Dorene (my brother and his wife). She still had a good bit of energy until early October, and she kept plugging along. On Friday, October 19 she didn’t get out of bed. Brenda went over there and called the rest of us. By the time we got there, Mom wasn’t responding. By chance, this was the night of the monthly family card game. We were thinking about calling it off but didn’t. People came over with their food and, instead of going upstairs to the party room, we stayed in Mom’s apartment. It seemed a little irreverent to have a party there, but our family has never been too conventional, and it was really nice having a lot of family members around. She died early the next morning.

Mom was lucky to have two such great daughters-in-law as well as a lot of other good friends and family who often visited and helped her out. We had a nice service for her at Lakewood Cemetery in November and got to see a lot of folks we don’t often see. That’s one of the things I like about funerals and memorial services (that and the food). All of this was a reminder to me of what a great family we have. Many thanks to those of you who came to the service, sent best wishes, and/or donated to the memorial fund in her name at Friends of the Hennepin County Library. More than $1,500 came in, and that will keep a lot of people reading, which would make Mom happy. In addition, Norton Stillman (my first publisher, who became a great friend of the family) had a tree planted for my mom in the Millie Stillman Forest in Israel.

Other than that, it was a pretty calm year. No skydiving incidents, but I’m still feeling the effects of the bad landing I made last year, so I’ve been going to Physicians Neck and Back Clinic, where they work me out pretty well twice a week. Looking for something else to do, I tried trap shooting but instead settled for cribbage as my primary sport and joined a cribbage club. One night I finished first and won $145. However, it still lacks the rush of skydiving.

Brenda and I didn’t go anywhere to get to the Society for American Baseball Research convention because this year we hosted the convention in Minneapolis, which was a great time. We went to Cleveland in August to see the Yankees in a weekend series. Brenda’s travels were all about connecting with friends. She was off to San Antonio in June for a wedding in the Winona Walsh family, then to Winona for a 40-year Cotter class reunion, and, the weekend of the memorial service for my mom, she shuttled back and forth for a reunion with some friends in Red Wing.

I got to the annual convention for government communicators, which was in Arlington, Virginia, this year and was able to get to a couple Washington Nationals games. In July I went to Miami because the Marlins have a new stadium, an overdone monstrosity that makes you feel like you’re in a Chuck E. Cheese. I also saw the Yankees in Kansas City in May and went back to Kansas City for the All-Star Game in July. We had our guy trip in November to see the Gophers play at Nebraska. We’ve been to all the Big Ten stadiums now, but while we were in Nebraska, we got the news that the Big Ten is going to be adding more schools to the conference. While in Nebraska, we also followed the Connie Kunzmann murder trail in Omaha. Connie Kunzmann was a player in the Women’s Professional Basketball League who was murdered next to a cemetery (as good as any place to go) and dumped in the Missouri River in 1981. We went to all the sites, including where Connie lived in Omaha and the home of her killer, who was released from prison in 1990. He didn’t appear to be home, and I wasn’t planning on talking to him anyway, but I may do an article about the murder.

In February I went to New York for a meeting of official scorers at the Major League Baseball headquarters. Best meeting I’ve ever attended, and a lot of the others scorers said the same thing. It’s a pretty select bunch, and we all enjoyed spending time with each other. The season itself was challenging. Because of a new system MLB has for appealing scoring decisions, a lot more scoring calls got sent in by players and teams for review than in past years. We all survived it, although Joe Torre, who has to review the scoring decisions that get appealed, probably was pretty frazzled by how busy he was.

I enjoyed the baseball season, as always, and am now back with basketball doing some of the official scoring for the Timberwolves. I did the book for an exhibition game in Fargo. The team had a bus for us (scorer, stat crew, dance team, and a few others), and we made the round-trip in one day, crashing as best we could on the bus ride home, getting back about 1:30 in the morning. I told Brenda I slept with the entire Timberwolves dance team. She wasn’t impressed.

Happy Holidays.

Brenda and Stew

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Mickey and Stew Jeter and Brenda
Mickey, Stew, Jeter, Brenda

The weather this summer was so great we decided to allow Jeter and Mickey to have some outside time. Mickey had some adventures on the leash in the neighborhood. He tried hunting birds, but the human at the other end always scared them away. The results were the same with frogs and bugs. He much prefers riding on Stew’s shoulders or in the car. Jeter stayed out of harm’s way by watching from the stoop. He remembers being shut out of the house when he was a kitten and is still a little gun shy of the great outdoors.

The travel year began with Stew and me going to New York in May. We went shopping on Fifth Avenue. I never thought I would write those words. I learned that Stew has good taste in something other than women. He also has good taste in jewelry.

I am very proud of him. The purpose of the trip was for him to attend a meeting of the Major League Baseball (MLB) Official Scorers. He was selected to be on the MLB Official Scorers Advisory Committee, so we had to go out a day early for him to attend a meeting at the MLB Headquarters. He also is writing the introduction and a section on scoring rules for a case book they are putting together.

By getting out there ahead of most of the other scorers, we were also able to go to a Yankee game. Over the next two days while he was in the meetings, I rented a bike and rode around Central Park. I was able to attend a dinner with all of the scorers one night.

Stew also went to Montreal in October. The Timberwolves played an exhibition game there, and he was the Official Scorer. In addition to the basketball game, he was able to go to a Montreal Canadiens hockey game.

I went to Savannah with my sister and wine country in Michigan with my friends. My sister Deb and brother Steve and I had unexpected trip to the Black Hills for a funeral of our cousin Mark Himrich. He had been recovering from a stroke and was once again fishing and hunting. Sadly, he had another stroke. I hope the warmth of Christmases past bring comfort to family.

In the spring, baseball once more was central to our lives. Stew worked every Twins home game either as the Official Scorer or the cybercaster for I was grateful for the company of friends from work and SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) who attended games with me. I missed Phyllis very much this season. Like her, I am a loyal fan and enjoyed all the games I attended, win or lose.

The Thornleys had a family tradition of going out to breakfast with Phyllis on Sundays. With Stew’s brother, wife and U of M student-nephew, we have continued this on a monthly basis, more or less. Being with family is a great way to start the week.

Happy Holidays.

Brenda and Stew

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Times Square2014

We all had our adventures this year. Mickey got locked out overnight last summer. He apparently slipped out on us, and we went to bed without checking to see that both cats were in. It was scary when both didn’t come out for breakfast the next morning. We couldn’t find Mickey inside, so Brenda brought his food outside and called for him. He finally emerged, scared and a little mosquito-bitten but otherwise okay.

Jeter got a trip to the vet when Brenda noticed blood on the sheets where he had been sleeping by her. Jeter checked out okay, and Brenda finally figured the blood might have been her own, from where Jeter had scratched her on the legs. Other than a stressed-out cat and a vet bill, everything was okay.

Brenda was visiting with friends in Milwaukee in June when she fell and broke her right arm. She was a real trooper and got through the whole thing very well, although she was sorry that it meant a summer without golfing and being able to ride her bike.

I had been having pain in my right hip since October 2013. The doctors kept sending me to physical therapy and finally had an MRI done on the hip in mid-August. The pain was being caused by a growing tumor in the cartilage of the hip. A biopsy showed it to be malignant, although there was good news in that a scan showed that the cancer had not spread. On October 1, I went in for surgery that lasted 13 hours. They got the entire tumor out but had to, in addition to replacing the hip, take out part of the pelvis and also some muscle. Nine days after the original surgery it was discovered that the hip had dislocated from its socket. Three days later I had another three hours of surgery to relocate the hip.

We were then able to start physical therapy, and the progress has been pretty good. I got great care in the hospital with the nurses and therapists and was there for a month, getting sprung November 1. Brenda was busy, seeing me at the hospital every day and setting up things at home so I could return. She got a hospital bed for the living room, so I can operate mostly on the first floor, and I’m amazed at all she got done while still going to work and carrying out other things in her life.

I’m now home-bound. A nurse and physical therapist are coming in for a few weeks, but my primary caregiver is still Brenda. I can get out for church, medical appointments, and haircuts (that’s all I’m allowed while they are sending in nurses and therapists to the home), but it’s nice to be home.

I did violate my house arrest by going to the Gophers-Ohio State game on November 15. The Gophers were nice enough to issue a credential for Brenda, so she could be with me and help me out. Brenda enjoyed watching the game from the press box, especially since it was warm. (Outside it was snowing and 15 degrees.) It was great seeing so many people I hadn’t seen in a while, and the Gophers even made an announcement in the press box welcoming me back. It was very nice.

We’re getting through this together, and there are lots worse things that people go through than this, so we are grateful. Friends and family also help a lot. Our uber friend Jerry Janzen has stood out. Among a lot of other help, he’s now picking me up for church (Faith Mennonite Church in Minneapolis), a group I enjoy and one that is really committed to peace and justice.

Brenda and I had to bail out on a trip to Mexico City. The Timberwolves played there in mid-November, and I was going to be the official scorer. However, the surgery meant we had to cancel.

Fortunately, I got through the entire baseball season before surgery. The highlight was the All-Star Game, and I was one of the official scorers for that, a big thrill. Brenda and Jerry Janzen went to the game together and were also asked to be part of the group that unfurled the giant flag during the national anthem before the game. They were on the field as the lineups were introduced for both teams and then unfurled the flag. I enjoyed watching them do that as much as anything that happened that entire All-Star weekend. It was a great time, going to Fan-Fest (I was on a couple panels there), the Futures Game, celebrity softball game, home-run derby, all leading up to the All-Star Game, which was a good one. A perfect time.

Brenda and I had a couple trips together. She came with me to New York in February for our annual meeting of official scorers. I was busy with it all. I’m part of the Official Scoring Advisory Committee and had to come out a day early for some pre-meetings. I led some sessions on scoring rules, and I’ve been busy for a while writing the rules section for a case book we are developing for the scorers. Brenda kept herself occupied, including by going to the opera, and we had some time to roam together, including to Central Park, Times Square, and the new World Trade Center.

In late July we went to Houston for the Society for American Baseball Research convention, a good time.

Shortly before my surgery I had a guy trip to Dallas. Four of us went down to see the Gophers play football at Texas Christian in Fort Worth. We also went to two Texas Rangers game and did other sightseeing, including the Branch Davidian compound outside Waco. We also went to Dealey Plaza and the Sixth Floor Museum, which is in the Texas School Book Depository overlooking the plaza. We followed the trail of Lee Oswald after Kennedy was shot, going to his rooming house, to the intersection where J. D. Tippit (the police officer) was shot, and the theater where Oswald was captured. It was a great trip.

This was a busy year for books. I hooked up with a new publisher, The History Press in South Carolina, and did a history on the Twins, which came out last spring. The biggest book project is one on the Saints with Minnesota Historical Society Press. MHS Press wanted a book on the historic and the current Saints in conjunction with the Saints’ new ballpark. I finished it the day before I went into the hospital, and it should be out by next spring. I also worked with the Twins, writing the copy for a book on their memorabilia that came out during the season. And I have an anthology on the Polo Grounds; I had fallen behind on that one as I worked on the other projects, but I got a lot done on it while I was in the hospital and am back on track with that one. I’m kind of booked-out at this point.

Brenda had spent the entire year organizing a family reunion in Custer, South Dakota, in late September. I was afraid my surgery might interfere, but the timing worked out well. I had planned on going with her, but we decided it would be best for me to stay at home. She rode out to the Black Hills with her brother and niece and had a great time. One of the highlights was that while they were there was one of the two times during the year when visitors are allowed out onto Crazy Horse. They hiked up the back side of the monument and were able to walk out onto Crazy Horse’s arm.

Brenda got back with a day to spare before my surgery. I’m really glad she was able to make the reunion.

Happy holidays, everyone.

Brenda and Stew

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Picture from Faith Mennonite Church in Minneapolis2015

Dear Family and Friends,

Tradition has it that the Himrich/Thornley Holiday Newsletter begins with a cat tale. This one ends with me going shopping for new earrings. It begins with the discovery of kitty barf in the dining room caused by Jeter, presumably caused by him eating the stuffing out of an old favorite toy mouse. Having removed the offending barf, I began to pick up the remains of the toy only to discover that (you guessed it) it was the remains of a real dead mouse. Hence the trip to the mall.

Everything is getting back to normal, and everything is different. We are thriving, healing, changing, and grateful. I think that sums up surviving Stew’s cancer surgery, major changes in my job at work (much less OSHA stuff), Stew becoming a Mennonite, learning they got all the cancer and that the nerves in his leg are not likely to come back, and me thinking of retiring in 2016 (maybe).

I am aware that some of you have nominated me for Sainthood for taking care of Stew during this year. Since Saints are supposed to be selfless, I thought I would share some of what’s in it for me. While acting as Stew’s personal assistant I received first class treatment from the Twins along with a pass to watch games from the press box. The guys there even gave me a nickname. I received similar treatment from the Timberwolves, where I had a close encounter with Ricky Rubio. During warm up he came very close to running into Stew and his walker. I came close to throwing myself on him (Stew’s not sure if I mean him or Rubio by that). That’s my story and I am sticking to it.

Mickey and Jeter - November 2015
Mickey and Jeter

I was able to go back to Milwaukee for a do-over of the girls’ weekend that was disrupted by my broken arm last year. In February Stew had been home for a couple of months. He and I were able to go to New York for his annual meeting of the MLB Official Scorers. Good thing his friend the gynecologist (who is also an official scorer) was there since he was able to go into a pharmacy, flash his doctor’s credentials, and get a prescription that Stew needed. In June, we went to Chicago for another baseball trip with the Society for American Baseball Research. Chicago was more fun as Stew was still using a walker in New York and needed more help (I was a nervous Nelly).

Overall, it looks like last year was a bump in the road. Here’s wishing you peace, happiness, and health for the Holidays and the New Year.

Ok. The nickname I got from the guys in the Twins press box was Windy. Guess why.

Brenda and Stew

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Stew and Brenda with Bob Davids Award2016

Stew and I have good news, good news, and more good news.

As tradition mandates, the first story in our annual letter is about our cats. Mickey and Jeter are doing fine, but Jeter, our larger orange tabby, needed surgery for a gland issue. Around this time, we found out Stew would need more surgery because a couple of the screws in his rebuilt hip had broken. With all this going on, I became concerned that Jeter was having more problems and rushed him back to the vet. The diagnosis was that Jeter was fine and that I was once again transferring my anxiety about Stew to the cats. Since the cats are more agreeable to being squished into a box and rushed to the doctor, this is a relatively heathy coping mechanism. Jeter disagrees.

In late July we went to Miami for the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) convention. At the banquet they presented SABR’s biggest honor, the Bob Davids Award (, named after the organization’s founder and presented to someone for contributions to SABR and baseball research. We were sitting at the back of the room when the announcement was made and were both surprised when we heard Stew’s name called. As he hobbled up to the front of the room, I followed to help him up the steps to the stage. He pulled me up with him, so I stood next to him as he accepted the award. It was an incredible moment for us to share.

Stew’s surgery wasn’t going to happen until October because they were building a new device to insert in him. That was convenient because it meant he could get through the entire baseball season, doing the official scoring and also the datacasting for We then learned he would need two surgeries. The first was to take out the broken hardware and insert a spacer, a temporary device that also oozed anti-fungus medicine to clear out an infection in there.

Brenda’s retirement party

In between his two surgeries, Stew was able to attend my retirement party at work. I was so proud to have him by my side as so many people turned out and said wonderful things about me. I specifically recall the big honcho saying that I was leaving after having made the organization a safer place. There is no higher praise in my book. They also said I was fun. That was a surprise to me as I was always telling people not to light grills inside, race their office chairs, eat food in lead-contaminated areas, or plan a party on a crowded rail platform. I always thought I put had a wet blanket on all their fun.

Stew had his final surgery November 21 and is at home recovering. I call him Rocky because he’s had as many hip surgeries as Rocky has had movies. He also had two operations last spring, one in February to do some minor work but it required an overnight stay in the hospital. A couple weeks later I kicked him out of the house for a week because I was having the kitchen floor redone (it looks great, by the way). Stew went to Florida for spring training. While he was there the incision from the latest surgery started leaking. He managed to get home (finding that sanitary napkins can work just fine for men, too) and went straight to the hospital for more surgery. But we hope everything is fixed now and that we’re past all that.

If you have been counting, I have probably mentioned more than three good things. That’s life. Our 2017 is full of great plans already, and I am happy that you are all a part of that. We wish you peace and joy.

Brenda and Stew

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Our cats, Mickey and Jeter, are great, as usual. However, we may have stressed them out with a nine-day absence in March (more on that below). On the eighth day, Jeter attacked our cat sitter. She emailed us and let us know she wouldn’t be returning. At least we were only a day away of returning and being reunited with our guys, who were as sweet and lovable as ever.

Brenda, in her retirement, has been more active than I have with a midday golf league, art classes, and a new job with Major League Baseball. MLB created a new position in the press box: BOSS, which stands for Balls, Outs, Strikes Spotter. She has a computer in which she enters the balls, strikes, and outs (hence the name of the position) as well as runs, hits, and errors and the position of baserunners. This information goes to various places, including onto the graphic you see when you’re watching the game on TV. She sits in the press box two seats from the official scorer (which might be me) or right next to the Gameday datacaster (which also might be me, depending upon the game), so we’re spending more time together.

Stew and Brenda in GuadalajaraWe both got a warmup for the season in March when we went to Guadalajara for the World Baseball Classic (the picture is a selfie we took there). I was the official scorer, and Brenda was in the press box to relay announcements of my scoring decisions in Spanish. Venezuela, Mexico, Italy, and Puerto Rico were the teams in this pool, so we got to see Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Salvador Pena, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Felix Hernandez, and others. There were seven games, including a tiebreaker game in which Venezuela came from behind on a home run by Miguel Cabrera in the ninth inning to beat Italy. It was wild, with some long games and long days, and a bit overwhelming at times.

We went to New York in June for the Society for American Baseball Research convention. We got a special tour of Brooklyn from a native, John Labombarda of Elias Sports Bureau, who took us to where he played baseball against a future star, Shawon Dunston, and to his favorite New York pizza place, Spumoni Gardens. The Yankees were out of town that week, so we had to settle for seeing the Mets during the convention, but we also had a big group that went to Coney Island to see the Brooklyn Cyclones play.

It was our second time in New York this year since we had our usual meeting of official scorers there in January, and we are now preparing to go back for the scorers meetings next January.

The baseball season was exciting with the Twins doing so well. It was a smooth year in official scoring although I had one scoring decision overturned (my first since 2014) by Major League Baseball when I called an error on Alex Gordon of the Royals and MLB changed it to a hit. I accept the change, although I still say Gordon should have caught that ball.

Things are good for me health-wise. I even got a scooter paid for by my health coverage (and I hope someday everyone can have good health coverage). It’s a good thing I’m good, because Brenda will have a hip replacement in January. My turn to be the care giver. Happy holidays, all.

Brenda and Stew

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We started the year with Jeter having diabetes. He was really sick, and on the first Saturday in January Brenda rushed him to the kitty hospital, where he stayed for three nights. Now we have to give him an insulin shot twice a day when he eats (and also have to keep Mickey from eating his food). It’s working, and the guys are doing well. Brenda was concerned enough about Jeter that she stayed home from New York at the end of the month when we had our meeting of official scorers.

Brenda training on the pitch clockThe following weekend she went to Houston. Brenda is again doing the BOSS (Balls, Outs, Strikes Spotter) at Twins games, and Major League Baseball wanted BOSS operators cross trained as field timing coordinators (FTCs), who operate a clock to show the time between innings and between batters. The FTCs came to Houston to train for what they thought would be the coming of a pitch clock in 2018. However, the day all these people arrived, the news came out that there would not be a pitch clock used in 2018. Nevertheless, they kept the folks around and went ahead, as planned, with having them operate a pitch clock at a college tournament held at Minute Maid Park, where the Astros play.

Brenda did both BOSS and FTC duties during the season. As FTC, she had to make a note of batters who took too long to get into the batter’s box. She was the FTC in the Twins’ last game of the season, when the focus was on Joe Mauer, who was playing his last game. When Mauer led off the bottom of the first, he got a standing ovation, causing him to take some time to wave to the crowd. Brenda wrote him up with a violation for taking too long to get into the batter’s box. She’s such a hard ass.

Brenda delayed a hip replacement so she could go to Houston for the training. She had the hip done later in February and was out of the hospital in two days and has been doing well ever since. We got to switch caregiver roles, and I got to take care of her a bit, although it wasn’t nearly as good as the care I’ve gotten from her with all my stuff in the last few years.

We went together to Puerto Rico in April for a two-game series between the Twins and Cleveland. We left after three straight games at Target Field were snowed out and arrived to enough heat and humidity that I almost missed the snow. Since it was a Twins “home” series, I was sent as the official scorer. The games were good, the second one going 16 innings, getting us back to our hotel so late that by the time I finished my paperwork, it was time to leave for the airport. It was a great experience, though.

Sitting with the scouts in the Cape Cod League

Another trip we took together was out east to visit our friend, John Gregory, in the Boston area. We all went to a Red Sox game as well as minor-league games in Portland, Maine, and Lowell, Massachusetts. Our favorite, however, was a game in the Cape Cod League. We went to a game in Brewster, Massachusetts, and enjoyed the atmosphere there more than any other place. The place was loaded with scouts, who invited me to sit with them behind the plate (Brenda got a picture of that), where they had their radar guns and evaluation forms. We would like to go back and stay on Cape Cod for a week, going to a different place and game every night.

As usual, it’s been a good year filled with lots of stuff. In addition to a lot of baseball, Brenda has been registering voters with the League of Women Voters and taking classes in Spanish and water color. (One of her paintings, which she made into a card, is below.) But, best of all, she has been using her new hip to golf and ride her bike.

Happy holidays!

Brenda and Stew

Card made by Brenda

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Festive Greetings to All,

Mickey and JeterAn alarming event occurred one morning this year as I crossed the dining room toward the kitchen. I saw a mouse lying on its side. I quickly determined it was dead. Since there was no blood, my hypothesis was that Jeter killed it, as he is quick when it comes to dispatching vermin, and Mickey likes to play with the corpse. I texted Stew at work, and he responded, “That was a real mouse? I thought it was a toy and kicked it out of the way.” So the body had been moved, which nullified the hypothesis. A forensic search identified the actual kill site, where it was necessary to conduct a biohazard cleanup. Glad my skills are still of use in retirement.

In January I joined Stew on his trip for the Major League Baseball Official Scorers meeting in New York. While he worked, I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Right after that trip I went to Houston for additional training for my summer job at Target Field. One of the things I do is the field timing to help keep the game moving along. I am very diligent. Last year I wrote up Joe Mauer for not being in the batter’s box on time. He was waving his cap to the crowd, which was giving him a standing ovation in his final game. No matter, I wrote him up. This year I wrote up one of the junior p. a. announcers, who get to announce the batters for one inning. One kid stumbled through a name, which delayed the batter from getting in the box. Don’t mess with me.

Stew and I went to San Diego for the Society of American Baseball (SABR) convention. I did a lot of walking keeping up with Stew on his rented scooter. Of course, we also found time to drive around the area to go to the graves of a couple Baseball Hall of Famers (Duke Snider and Tony Gwynn.)

With our SABR friends, we went to a lot of townball games and a minor-league game in Cedar Rapids where our friend, Emma Charlesworth-Seiler, was the plate umpire. Emma is in her third year of umpiring in pro ball. She is only the seventh woman to umpire in the minor leagues, and she did a great job.

Stew took a road trip with a couple others to see the Gophers play football at Rutgers in New Jersey. He did all the driving, and they came straight back after the game, 1,200 miles in 23 hours. Stew said he did get a half-an-hour nap at a rest stop in Indiana, but he wore himself down so much that he ended up with pneumonia a few days later. He said he wouldn’t do something that stupid again. (I’m not sure if I believe him.) Even though he got pneumonia, we got to celebrate him being cancer-free for five years.

We did some home updates with new carpet, new fireplace, and new rollout shelves in the kitchen. I am looking forward to spending more time at home in December. We hope this season finds you happy and well and wish you the best for next year.

Happy holidays!

Brenda and Stew

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Festive Greetings to All,

One World Trade CenterOur cats, Jeter and Mickey, are making sure we know who is running our house. I was in Florida, visiting my sister in Fort Myers and going to a Twins spring-training game, leaving Stew and the guys to take care of themselves. Stew sent me an email that Jeter and Mickey wouldn’t leave him alone when he was trying to eat lasagna (the boys are real lasagna monsters), so he finally took his dinner into the bathroom, shut the door to lock them out, and ate in there. I said he could have just put the cats in the bathroom and shut the door until he finished eating. He said he didn’t even think about that.

We had to cancel some trips because of the pandemic, including one to Baltimore in June for the Society for American Baseball Research convention. Also, my sister and I were going to go to Puerto Rico in February, but we had to call that off because of the earthquake there. Instead, I went to Florida later in the month to stay with her and her husband in their winter place. Before that, Stew and I did get to New York for the annual meeting of the official scorers. While there, I got to go to the opera and Stew spoke to the New York Giants Preservation Society on the Polo Grounds baseball stadium, which he has written two books about. We also got to the top of the One World Trade Center for the first time and got our photo taken together (left). I walked around the city while Stew attended the first day of his meetings, which were held in the new headquarters building at Major League Baseball in midtown Manhattan. The next day’s meetings were at the MLB Network studios in New Jersey. They bussed the scorers out there. I puttered around New York and flew home separately since Stew flew home out of Newark, which was close to where they were having their meeting. As always, we love New York.

Stew has still been working this year and has spent a lot of time at the Health Department helping out with case investigations and contract tracing for COVID. Stew is thinking about retiring and keeps saying he might do it in the “next year or so,” although he says he might keep saying that for the next year or so or more. He still likes his job. He also likes being in the KMA Club, something he learned from his dad. If at some point you no longer like it, you can say “Kiss my ass” and go retire. I sometimes think he’d like to go out that way.

Even during the pandemic, I was able to get together with my golf group and play nine holes every Monday morning. I bought a new electric-assist bike, a Pedego, which I love and I’ve done a lot of biking, by myself and with others. I have been taken painting classes, which have been on Zoom rather than in person for the past few months. I was also an election judge for both the primary and general elections this year. Stew and I went on some Black Lives Matter marches this year (I march, he rides his motorized scooter) and done other racial justice things.

We both still have our baseball jobs. I was at Target Field to do the field timing coordination. Stew did official scoring, but all the scorers this year had to do it remotely, so he was doing it in his home office, watching the game on television. He also has a special computer video feed and some replay capabilities. He communicates to people in the ballpark and others through Slack, telling them if he is calling a play a hit or an error. He’d much rather be at the ballpark. For the games he wasn’t scoring, he got his own credential from the Twins and attended games in person. At the end of August, he also got a credential from the Toronto Blue Jays, who played this season in Buffalo, so he went out there for a weekend series between the Blue Jays and Orioles. He saw three really good games and also enjoyed going to major-league games at a stadium where we had once attended a minor-league game in 1992.

Happy holidays!

Brenda and Stew

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