Tag Archives: Mobile Alabama

“Hammerin’ Hank and Joltin’ Joe” – A Tale of Two Heroes

27 Jun

 I am just finishing up very interesting literary bios on Baseball legends Henry Aaron and Joe DiMaggio. I was pretty surprised to learn they actually had a great deal in common. Both came from lower class urban backgrounds (Joe in SF and Hank in Mobile). Each man’s father worked on the waterfront (Joe’s Pop was a common fisherman, Henry’s Dad labored as a ship builder). Both smoked heavily throughout their careers and had public reputations of being cold and aloof. Both were jealous of more flashy stars of the era (Joe was often overshadowed by Ted Williams, while Hank played in the long shadow of Willie Mays). Each man was married twice. Both loved watching Western movies. Each player was a natural with amazing God-given baseball talents. Both shied away from the media due to their fear of looking uneducated. Neither man graduated high school. And guess who Hank’s idol was as a child? Yup, Joltin’ Joe.

Now for the differences. Joe was a drinker, Hank was not. DiMagg beat his wife, Henry did not. Henry was humble, DiMaggio’s ego was massive. Joe hung around mob figures, married a Hollywood starlet (Marilyn Monroe) and, by all accounts, whored around a good bit. Henry, on the other hand, was a quiet, commited family man. And perhaps most telling, Hank has put his retirement years to good use by doing a lot of community service and civil rights work. Joe, conversely, spent his golden years yearning for the spotlight and chasing the almighty dollar via an unending string of autograph schemes with shady partners. The infamous Mr. Coffee TV campaign was not exactly a great career move either for a man of Joe’s professed class and dignity.

Both books are well written, although the DiMaggio story bogs down a bit after the passing of Marilyn Monroe. Perhaps the most fascinating revelation was regarding “Joltin’ Joe” and NYC’s mafia. DiMaggio was allegedly “watching” three suitcases filled with cash for a local mob friend. When that associate was rubbed out, Joe kept the suitcases and used the countless thousands for spending loot over the next decade or so. Years later, when a major earthquake shook Joe’s native San Francisco, DiMagg managed to deftly cross thru the police tape and enter his luxurious townhome by the Bay. He was later spotted by witnesses leaving the scene toting a rather large, bulky suitcase.

Lesson learned? Our heroes are obviously not perfect. Joe and Henry were surely amazingly gifted athletes, but flawed human beings (DiMaggio certainly more flawed than Aaron). So how do you want to be remembered? I would suggest living your life as if your future biographer is always at your side. Not easy, but surely something to think about — and strive for.

Meeting Willie Mays & Hank Aaron

18 Apr

Hank Aaron Stadium – Mobile, Alabama (April 14, 2010)

Crowd gathering for Hank Aaron’s childhood home dedication. A star-studded group of baseball personalities make the trip to Mobile for the festivities. The guest list included Reggie Jackson, Willie Mays, Commisioner Bud Selig, Ozzie Smith, Rickey Henderson, Bruce Sutter, Bob Feller, and others.

Southern Belles were all gussied up for the big event.

Hank’s home was re-located to Gas Light Park on stadium grounds.

Hank shaking hands with local VIPs & politicians. He looked great.

It was a pleasure to squeeze Henry’s strong right hand.

The exterior & front porch of Hank’s boyhood home, originally built by Hank’s father.

Video exhibit inside the recently renovated home.

Hank Aaron’s “Jackie Robinson Legacy Award.”

Visitors gaze at the extensive collection of Aaron memorabilia.

One of Hank’s nicknames was, of course, “The Hammer.”

Family stove and brick-a-brack once used in the Aaron home.

More of Hank’s awards and memories.

Trophy recognizing Hank’s record setting 715th homer.

Hank was pretty intense when he had a bat in his hands.

Henry’s #44 Braves uniform and portrait (above)

I was gladly re-united with my old pal, Bob “Rapid Robert” Feller. Bob and I first met about 13 years ago when I was the GM of the Meridian Brakemen professional baseball club. Feller once served on the USS Alabama battleship, which now resides in Mobile Bay. “Rapid Robert” was voted baseball’s greatest living pitcher a few years back and you won’t get an argument from me.

Bullet Bob Feller could bring some serious heat way back in the day.

It’s the great “Say Hey Kid” – Willie Mays!

Willie getting ready to toss baseball to anxious fans.

I chatted with Willie as he relaxed in a beautiful Bentley ragtop. He was tired after traveling 12 hours from his home in Northern CA. Willie said he flew from SF to Dallas, Dallas to New Orleans, and then drove from New Orleans to Mobile. Willie apparently does not do small airplanes. What a sweet old guy he turned out to be – I really enjoyed our brief time together. Mays recently had eye surgery for cataracts and doesn’t see very well any more. Plus it was a sticky spring day in Mobile and the intense sun was starting to get to him. It was cool seeing him in a Mobile BayBears hat.

For more pictures from this once in a lifetime event, go to the following link:

http://www.photoshelter.com/c/apexmediawire/gallery/20100414-AL-Hank-Aaron-Childhood-Home-Museum-dedicated/G00008NK0hQPmqQU/?_bqH=eJwLz3NJzPNL9UuuTCx3T0mzTPEsDQzPi0z3C0y3MrKwMjWwsnKP93SxdTcAAgs_b4OMwIDcwsBQtQCQqJq7Z7y7o4.Pa1AkNkUAXGgcFA–&_bqO=27

Our First Trip to Felix’s Fish Camp

10 Sep

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We finally made our first, long-overdue trip to Felix’s Fish Camp on the Mobile Bay Causeway. It is one cool looking joint — reminds me a little of the House of Blues in North Myrtle Beach, SC from the outside.

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“Rustic” is almost an understatement when describing the exterior. It’s rusty, weathered, and, well, almost unsightly when viewed from the outside. The palm trees and blue skies do help to brighten things up a bit!

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The neon sign is sweet – especially when the letters light up one at a time!

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After some debate, I opted for the massive Crab Cakes made with local Gulf crab meat and perched atop two fried green tomato slices. They were also accompanied with a couple of corn-laden hush puppies and some amazing dipping sauce. To our delight, it was “Comeback Sauce” – a concoction we first became familiar with when we resided in the great state of Mississippi. It’s rich, just a bit tart, and a tad chunky. How to describe it? Maybe a kicked up tartar sauce? It’s damn good … I CAN tell ya that!

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My side dish was a Baby Lima and Cream Corn Succotash. Not too bad.  

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Apparently the crab cakes aren’t the only big thangs in L.A. (Lower AL).

www.felixsfishcamp.com

This Hash is Truly “Heavenly”

27 Aug

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A Garden and Gun magazine reader’s poll mentioned a certain candy made by nuns right here in the Mobile Bay area. I was excited about it … but kinda ticked off that no one here in Mobile had steered me in their direction previously. Oh well, the Lord works in mysterious ways.  

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The Visitation Monastery is a beautiful place, that’s for certain. So peaceful. You do indeed feel the spirit’s presence as you roam the grounds shaded by massive live oaks. The stately building you see directly above is actually the gift shop. The store is chock full of religious objects, books and jewelry. They also happen to make some divinely inspired candies.

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Although the little devil perched on my shoulder urged me to try the thin mints, I ultimately purchased two boxes (one small, one large) of the Heavenly Hash. Now if you’re a Yankee, you might be thinking, “What in the hell is Heavenly Hash?” Others may just be familiar with it as an ice cream flavor at their corner scoop shop. It really is a candy, people … and a spectacular one when created by hands touched (or perhaps guided) by God.   

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You might call it a Holy Trinity: Fresh Milk Chocolate, local Pecans, and homemade Marshmallows. Blend them together and you have yourself a tasty mess of Heavenly Hash. The small box is just for me. The big box is for a church supper this Friday night. Talk about your matches made in heaven!

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Praise the Lord and pass the hash! When did you last hear that?

http://www.visitationmonasterymobile.org/

Dark and Stormy Should be Mobile’s Drink

23 Aug

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The Dark and Stormy is the official drink of Bermuda. That is set in stone. However, I would like to nominate this refreshing cocktail as the official beverage of the City of Mobile, AL. Why? Because it rains so doggone much here. And it’s hot. And humid. An incredibly humid during the months of May through September. And if you happen to get caught up in a hurricane, this libation will take the edge off and help you weather the storm. So … do I have your vote?

A Dark and Stormy (or Dark ‘n’ Stormy) is an alcoholic highball style cocktail popular in many British Commonwealth countries, such as Australia and Bermuda. It consists of dark rum and ginger beer over ice. The local rum is usually used, for example, Bundaberg in Australia or Goslings in Bermuda. [1]The drink is also popular in Rhode Island, particularly Newport.

Barritts, a Bermudian brand of ginger ale, has the essential bite without a burn, and is almost always used as the base for the Dark ‘n’ Stormy at bars and restaurants in Bermuda. [6] The trademark only allows it to be made with a measure (1.5oz) of Black Seal Rum and ginger beer to taste. It is optionally accompanied by a slice of lime.

Pour the rum into a glass over ice. Pour the Bundaberg Ginger Beer over it. Squeeze in the lime wedge and drop it in. [7]

While the Dark ‘n’ Stormy is traditionally made with dark rum, one variation nicknamed the Light ‘n’ Stormy uses 10 Cane, a light rum. Combine 1 1/2 oz. 10 Cane rum with 1 1/2 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice and 6-8 oz. Blenheim’s Pink Cap Ginger Ale over ice.

ginger beer

INGREDIENTS
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Place several ice cubes in a tall glass, such as a collins, and add rum.
  2. Top with ginger beer, add a lime wedge, and stir.

Roussos is Closing — BUMMER!

21 Aug

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This is sad news, folks. Good eats — and even better people!

Fifty-five years after it served its first shrimp on the Causeway, Roussos, now located just south of Interstate 10 in Daphne, will serve its last dishes this weekend.

The family restaurant, which has survived destructive storms and three moves, hasn’t been able to weather a shriveled economy and will close it’s doors for good at 3 p.m. Sunday after one final lunch service.

 

“We just made this decision this week,” Georgia Roussos, who runs the business her parents founded with brothers Jimmy and John, said Friday. “It’s been a difficult decision to make.”

George and Zenia Roussos opened the restaurant, a seafood place with a Greek bent, on the Causeway in 1954.

When Hurricane Frederic destroyed the eatery in 1979, the business relocated to Mobile’s Fort Conde area. In 2004, four years after George died, his children moved Roussos to the Eastern Shore Centre in Spanish Fort. Four years after that, they moved it to its present location in Daphne on U.S. 98 near the entrance to the Lake Forest Yacht Club.

“Our business here in Daphne was very strong until last fall,” Jimmy Roussos said in a news release. “It is a good location and the area was very supportive. Then the economic downturn really hit us hard, like it has a lot of restaurants.”

Around October the restaurant began seeing changes in their customers, Georgia Roussos said. They came less frequently, $10 lunch tabs became $7, diners began cutting out extras like wine and desert.

The family hopes to continue operating its catering business after the restaurant closes, but they’ve yet to find a location to work from, said Georgia Roussos, who began cashiering at the restaurant as a teen in the 1970s and whose own children had there first jobs in the kitchen. Someday, she said, the restaurant might even be able to reopen.

“This is without a doubt the toughest decision our family has ever made,” John Roussos said in the release. “The restaurant isn’t a just job to us. It is our way of life.”

Brick Pit in Mobile is Still Really Great Stuff

16 Apr

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We first visited the Brick Pit some 15 years ago and we were duly impressed. A return trip last week proved that very little had changed — and that is a very good thing! Why mess with pure porcine perfection? The cracked and aged sign seen above is in exactly the same place and still features the same half-assed effort at censorship.  

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The big oak tree located just inches outside the Brick Pit’s smokehouse is a little taller now — and a hell of a lot smokier. Frankly, the grand ole tree doesn’t seem to mind. And why should it? I wouldn’t fuss a bit if I could sniff up that wonderful aroma of burning hickory and pecan all day.   

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The roadside sign also remains unchanged – Old Glory still flies proudly!

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The actual structure looks a tad more rickety than it did way back in 1995. My wife Eileen commented that it seemed a good deal more smoky too, which in BBQ terms means the building has finally been “broken in.”

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They don’t sell cold brew at the Brick Pit – just sweet tea and Coke products and a lot of it. But owner and all-around good guy Bill Armbrecht promotes a casual BYOB policy, which is clearly advertised just outside the main entrance to the Mobile eatery. I trust these folks own stock in the company that makes Sharpie markers.

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Just about everyone (including yours truly) has claimed a little space on the interior walls. But strategic chunks of the vertical real estate are reserved for images of Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant and other Crimson Tide football heroes. Yes, this is without a doubt a Bama joint … but they treat everyone (including Yankees) to good old Southern hospitality and top notch “Q.”

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That’s BBQ chicken swimming under that layer of delicious blanket of Brick Pit sauce. We think the BBQ sauce here is some of the best in Dixie. The expertly smoked bird ain’t all that bad either!

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The pulled pork plate comes with a generous portion of BBQ pig meat with some tantilizing charred end pieces. The sauce (offered in mild and hot varieties) is served warm and that is always a welcome touch. My order was served with some crispy cole slaw, baked beans, and a fat slab of Texas toast.  I quickly polished off the Q before topping off my tank with the sides. You have to have your priorities in order. And, before I forget, make sure you try the banana puddin’ for dessert … oh yeah, baby!

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This sign, which has also been around for well over a decade, was created in reaction to the opening of the Mobile franchise of Dreamland BBQ. Founded in Tuscaloosa, Dreamland now has outlets all over the Southeast USA. The Brick Pit and Dreamland have squared off for many moons now, but there is obviously enough business to go around. In other words, this is serious BBQ country, folks!

The Brick Pit is simply one of our favorite BBQ dives in Dixie. We highly recommend it and encourage you to visit soon and often. Tell Bill and the gang that we invited you over. I know they will appreciate it — there are some really nice folks at the one and only Brick Pit!

www.brickpit.com