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SchmuckFest 2006

Just a quick report on yesterday's Schmuckfest, the charity fundraiser for Kids of American Legion Baseball that we've been helping promote. Luis Gonzalez, Dusty Baker and Hall of Famer Bob Feller were mercilessly roasted - on a spit - by local comedians at the El Zaribah Shrine Auditorium in downtown Phoenix, before an audience of 400+ rabid baseball fans, and many former players.

Sadly, I couldn't make it, but Mrs. Snakepit was there, with her designated role being to keep said rabid baseball fans from bothering the special guests too much. [By her account, something of a task and a half, where a cattle-prod would have come in handy, given the piranha-like action.] But Gonzo, Dusty and Bob bore it all with implacable good humour, and also signed more than 60+ baseballs, which were sold for $50 each - and were ripped out of Chris's hands almost as soon as she entered the room with the boxes. Add in a silent auction as well, and the amount raised for charity was in five figures, though they're still tallying the actual sums.

Chris was also in charge of a team of child ushers, dressed in baseball uniforms, and to try and keep things in check, during the event, the special guests would only sign items brought to them by the children - so if you wanted something autographed, you had to give it to the ushers. However, the cocktail hour beforehand was a bit of a feeding frenzy. At that time, access to the guests was supposed to be limited to the "VIP" ticketholders ($1,000/seat), but they seemed to bring in their friends...who then brought in their friends...who had fifty baseball cards that must be signed.

I'm sure that must really have sucked, but Chris couldn't say enough about how impressed she was with their patience to the guests. This was especially so in regard to Dusty Baker: "The nicest, sweetest guy in the universe. He's such a family person, and so approachable" were her exact words - and if you know Chris like I do, you'll be aware she does not gush like that easily!

Feller, too, was remarkably animated and sharp; hope I'm like that when I'm 87. His career is amazing, running from 1936-1956 with one team, the Cleveland Indians. He won the AL Triple Crown in 1940, including a no-hitter and led the league in wins six times, and strikeouts seven. His numbers would have been even more insane if he hadn't missed all but four prime years, at age 23-26, fighting in World War II, where he got five campaign ribbons and eight battle stars.

As for Gonzo, Chris spent a lot of time talking to his agent, who runs Gaylord Sports. It seems Luis is very keen to stay here in Arizona, but the team are less enthusiastic. Though the good point was made that you need to balance the positive impact Gonzo has on the bottom line - in ticket sales, merchandise and franchise good will - against his actual negative cost. There's probably no other player on the roster whose loss would actually impact attendance; even a thousand off per game, over the course of a season, would run into the millions, in tickets sales alone, never mind concessions and souvenirs.

Must also mention the Schmuckfest's tiny mascot, Mark Trombino - 39 inches tall, but as full of life as anyone - and, of course, Frank Schmuck (yes, that's his name!), who put the whole event together, as part of his tireless efforts in community service and charity fundraising. All told, it was a roaring success, and will hopefully take place again next year. Better yet, I might even get to go... :-)

Chris with Dusty Baker and 60's White Sox pitcher Joe Horlen