Monday, August 22, 2005


More Bad Craziness at Lake Hootchiecootchie; Combating the Spanish Connection

NOTE - I wrote this back in 2001 after reading a story in the Wall Street Journal about a guy who killed a deer with his bare hands. I tried to picture how a beatnikesque Joe Friday would have tackled the case.

The story you are about to read is based partly on actual events, partly on conjecture, and partly on bullshit that I heard around the watercooler. All names have been changed on advice of our attorney, Rod Fitzwell.

Among the many units of the U S Department of Agriculture is the Animal and Plant Health Services. It safeguards the health and quality of animals and plants and protects the consumer by means of federal and state meat and poultry inspection. Through the efforts of their hard-working men and women, Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy or, as it is more commonly referred to, “Mad Cow Disease” has not been a problem here in these United States. More recently, the Animal and Plant Health Services has banned the importation of Spanish Clementine oranges. It took these steps to prevent an infestation of the Mediterranean fruit fly after Medfly larvae were discovered in crates of the fruit in four states.

But this didn’t stop the laws of supply and demand. Desperate “juicers” still needed their orange fix. And there were plenty in the Spanish underworld willing to start a black market for the contraband Clementines.

All Souls Day. Seven forty-five AM. My partner Phil Mateleven and I were assisting the Interagency Major Crimes Unit with their War on Citrus. We were setting up a buy for some of the forbidden fruit with two guys from Barcelona when a call came to my desk.

“IMCU,” I answered.

“Yes. I’m looking for Lieutenant Mack Donald.”


“This is Nancy in Commissioner Selig’s office. The Commissioner would like to see you right away.”

“Why? Is someone rebroadcasting baseball games without his express written consent?”

“No, I’m with the police commissioner’s office. He says it’s urgent.”

Eight thirty-eight. Mateleven and I are waiting in the commissioner’s office at the Wierdsville Hall of Justice. He takes his coffee black. I prefer iced tea.

“Mack!” Commissioner Selig boomed in his basso profundo voice, “I need you and Phil to take care of something important for me.”

“Sure, commish. What’s shaking?”

“I want you guys to look into a killing that took place over by Lake Hootchiecootchie.”

“A homicide at Lake Hootchiecootchie. How come I haven’t heard anything about it?”

“Because it wasn’t a homicide. The victim was a young buck-“

“Was it an accident?”

“No! The victim was a buck. Buck! A deer, a male deer!”

“Isn’t it hunting season right now?”

“It’s rifle season, but this deer was beaten to death.”

The commissioner filled us in on the rest of the details. The suspect, a housepainter named Slats Jablonski, was being held over at the county lockup. Under the state’s Uniform Wildlife Code, Section 5682985-0X, he was looking at a $2,000 fine, five days in jail, and loss of hunting privileges.

“Lieutenant,” Selig continued, “you have to help me on this one. Jablonski’s attorney called Congressman Gladhandler and he’s putting the screws on the department.”

“I’ll do what I can, Bud.”

Nine forty-seven. Phil and I question Jablonski in one of the county lockup’s institutional-gray interrogation rooms. A burly man in his early forties, he claimed that the killing was in self-defense.

“I swear, lieutenant, I tried to scare the deer away but it came charging at me? What would you do in my situation?”

“Mmm-hmm,” I mumbled, “this buck was small. It only weighed 150 pounds. You’re over 200. It wouldn’t have harmed you.”

“You’re not much of an outdoorsman. Are you, copper?”

“No sir.”

Jablonski recounted the incident. Around noon on Tuesday, he was looking for stray fishing lures along the shore of Lake Hootchiecootchie. After hearing stirring in the brush along the bank, he turned around to see a deer staring at him. He tried to scare it away, but the buck charged him.

Catching it by the antlers, Jablonski drove the young six-pointer into they lake. He hung on and eventually the deer fell. He applied a scissors hold and whacked it with chunks of driftwood, gouging an eye in the process.

Then, after putting a headlock on the deer, he garroted it with his belt. “You’re Slats’ bitch now!” He screamed.

The battle apparently over, Jablonski walked back to his stepside parked a quarter of a mile away. He hadn’t gone far when he heard something behind him. Wheeling around, Jablonski saw the deer, belt flapping at his throat, drawing a bead on him. He snatched the belt and pinned the deer. There was a two-by-four lying nearby. Slats used it like a hammer beating the deer’s head repeatedly until it finally expired. Then he loaded it into the bed of his truck.

There were no eyewitnesses.

One fifteen PM. Mateleven and I went to the Medical Examiner’s office over by Mercy Hospital. The coroner was Doctor Wendy Churchill. Since she had no knowledge of veterinary forensics, Harry Dobbs DVM was called in.

“Lieutenant, Sergeant. It’s good to see you. I spend most of my time investigating infectious diseases in wild animals. However, the Fish and Game Department will occasionally request a necropsy when poaching is suspected.”

“This isn’t a poaching.”

“Indeed, it isn’t. I read Sergeant Mateleven’s preliminary report. The necropsy corroborates Mister Jablonski’s story. But there’s more.” Dobb’s motioned at a set of X-rays. “Look here. This is the left hind leg. The bone is shattered so badly that it tore through muscle. And over here, on the right side of the pelvis, more broken bone. This suggests that this deer was the victim of an automobile accident.”

“So?” I asked.

“Lieutenant Donald,” the vet explained, “Deer in the wild usually flee when humans come near. The main exception to this rule is when bucks are in rut. That’s their mating season. But judging by this buck’s baby teeth, it’s eighteen months old and too young to rut. That rules this theory out. However, injured and sick deer have been known to defend themselves if they feel threatened.”

Geez! Ask a guy what time it is and he gives you the history of watch making. Dobbs continued.

“The significance of the lower body traumas is that this deer was injured prior to his fatal encounter with Jablonski and, therefore, more prone to attacking humans.”

I looked over at Mateleven. “Phil, call all the departments in the Lake Hootchiecootchie area. See if there were any car versus deer incidents recently.”

“If there were, it might clear Jablonski.”


Three twelve. Phil and I hit paydirt with a call to the Hootchiecootchie Shores PD. On Monday, a motorist named Kevin Semft had been driving to work on Lakeshore Road. About a half mile from the spot where Jablonski had his wrestling match with the buck, Semft heard something slam into his minivan. He stopped and saw a deer with antlers shuffling off the road, dragging its hindquarters. The damage to the minivan was in the ballpark of two large.

Slats Jablonski was cleared of all wrongdoing. The Fish and Game Department issued him a “highway kill” permit under Uniform Wildlife Code Section 5632975-0W. This permitted Jablonski to keep the animal. Because of the necropsy the only extant portion of the deer that remained were the antlers. Jablonski mounted the antlers on a plaque along with the belt used to kill the young buck.

Cristobal Pizzarro and Hernando Guevara y Martinez were arrested for smuggling banned agricultural products into the United States; a federal offense. Tried and convicted in US District Court, the case was later thrown out on appeal.

I’m Lieutenant Mack Donald and this has been Wierdsville, man!

Saturday, August 20, 2005


Evicting The Bad Lieutenant

My buddy TV Erik sometimes chides me for not reviewing movies at the Netflix page, Well, I decided to start reviewing them. Last week, I saw The Bad Lieutenant for the first time and found it disturbing, yet very interesting.

(Synopsis and review from the New York Times)

The narrative is quite minmalist, perhaps impressionistic. It reminds me of Open Water from a couple of years ago in that respect. We know nothing about how the Lieutenant got where he was or even his name.

I understand that Admiral Will is a fan of the movie. And my buddy Hugo reccomended this movie years ago. In any case, one thing that attracted me to the film was Harvey Keitel. Man, I'll watch most anything with him in it.

The next flick that I saw from my Netflix queue was Diner. I may write something about it here, I may not. But I will say this: Netflix gives me the opportunity to view alot more DVDs than the corner video store used to.


7 Down

NOTE - This is a short story I wrote a few years ago. I decided to try and revise it this summer but haven't got around to it yet. One of these days, I'd like to get some crime writing published, be it fiction or non-fiction. Enjoy.

The waiflike blonde reporterette faced the camera. She began to speak. “Local fisherman Hal Cahill was the first to discover Jordanna Zweig’s mutilated body this morning, shortly after eleven. Zwieig, a 23 year-old hairstylist, was last seen Saturday afternoon as she was leaving her job at the Wild West Salon in the Buckland Mall. Although State Police have not confirmed anything, her killing appears to be the work of the Mall Rat. This would be the seventh killing since February linked to the serial killer. The State Police nicknamed him the Mall Rat because all of his victims were last seen alive at Hartford area malls. So far, very few clues…”

“Nance, can I grab another Molson, please?” Irv Townshend’s voice drowned out the news report from the TV overlooking the Alamo Bar. He was seared next to Roger DeCarlo, the proprietor who was working on his third crossword puzzle of the day. Both men were in their mid-thirties. Roger was a former NFL place kicker. In his former life, Irv was a naval officer in the Gulf War. Although Rog was a self-proclaimed “acrossianado”, he was not above seeking an occasional clue from a friend. Irv, whose brain was a font of useless knowledge, was usually more than happy to oblige.

“Hey Irv,” said Roger, “What was the name of the first sub to cross under the North Pole? It’s eight letters and starts with an ‘n.’”

“Dude, that was the Nautilus.” Irv replied.

“Thanks, much. I knew that I could count on an old salt to solve that clue.”

“Actually, I already did that puzzle this afternoon. There’s something real freaky about it. Are you almost finished with it, Rog?”

“Everything except the lower right hand corner.”

“Cool! Check this out. The puzzle actually makes reference to the latest Mall Rat killing.”

“Get the fuck out, Irv! It does not.”

“It does too.” Irv pulled a yellow highlighter out of his shirt pocket and marked three words. “Look. 55 Across – Severed, 28 Across – Beauticians, 7 Down – Limbs. Severed beauticians limbs. That’s eerie, man!”

“Aw, c’mon. That’s got to be a coincidence, Irv. These crosswords are syndicated from New York or Chicago. Plus, this was printed before the police found this Zweig chick’s body.”

“Actually, the Monday and Wednesday crosswords in the Courant are done by some freelance guy name Matt Dawson. He’s probably local. And the fact that this crossword puzzle was printed before the body was discovered indicates, to me, that this Dawson guy either murdered the girl or knows who did.”

“You watched too many Colombo episodes growing up. If your hare-brained theory is correct, then Dawson probably inserted clues to the other killings in his earlier puzzles.”

Irv stroked his chin, thoughtfully. “I have about a years worth of Courants bagged up over at my condo. We could go through them and see if Mister Dawson has dropped any more clues about the Mall Rat.”

“What do you mean by we, Irv? I have a wife and daughters that I have to go home to.”

“Yeah, but the puzzle addict in you wants to do this. Look man, I’ll make a friendly wager on this. You give me fifty if there’re more clues in the puzzles, I’ll give you fifty if there aren’t.”

“Make it a hundred.”


The Alamo closed down for the night around one. Roger followed Irv to his condo by the industrial park. It was a clear autumn night. The cloudless sky sucked up any remaining heat from the earth. All of the trees on the roadside had been stripped down to their skeletons. T. S. Eliot was full of shit. November is the cruelest month. At least it is in New England.

In one of Irv’s closets, he had bags upon bags of newspapers. The two went through the bags and clipped out all the stories about the Mall Rat. Since the killings started back in February, they had to go through a lot of stories. They taped them into an old notebook, like it was a junior high current events project. Then, they took all the Tuesday and Thursday papers. These contained the solutions to the Monday and Wednesday puzzles. Each guy grabbed about half the solutions and went through them to see if they contained hidden messages.

“Irv, the newsprint fumes must be getting to me. I’m starting to see messages in these puzzles. Check out June 13th. 5 Down – Guillotine, 45 Down – High School, 71

Across – Cheerleader. Two days later they found Sandy Clinch’s headless body over in the Wethersfield Meadows.”

“Yeah, on March 7th I have Barmaids Torso Removed. That was probably Patty Gonzales. All they found was her skull.”

“Man, this is one sick fucker. What’s he trying to do? Build some ideal woman out of these different parts?”

“Not only is he sick, he’s a cocky mofo, too. On October 12th he taunts the police. Six of the entries make these two sentences: ‘Crime Spree Remains Unsolved. Detectives Idiots.’”

By now, the sun was starting to come up. “What do we do now, Irv?”

“I don’t know about you, but I’m getting some shut-eye. Let’s gather this shit together after we wake up and take it to the State Police Homicide Unit.”

State Police Major Brian Boyle was in a foul mood. There had been a serial killer on the loose in Greater Hartford for nine months and his unit had made no progress in tracking him down. It had to be a him. The prototypical serial killer was a sociopathic white male in his mid-twenties or early thirties. Meanwhile, he was catching hell from the brass, the press, and the general public. He was pacing in his office on Thursday afternoon, when his AA knocked on his door.

“Major, there’s too gentlemen here to see you. It’s about the Mall Rat.”

“Of course it’s about the Mall Rat!” he bellowed, “Every crackpot in central Connecticut is playing Sam Spade, thinking they’ve solved this case that we pros haven’t been able to crack.”

“Shall I send them in?”

“Sure, go ahead. What do I have to lose?”

Irv and Roger entered the major’s office, gave him the notebook, which contained the newsclippings and puzzles, and explained to him what they discovered. Boyle just sat there, glaring at the two.

“Why don’t you go down the hall and see Detective I Don’t Give A Rat’s Ass and Lieutenant I Could Care Less. Of all the crackpots theories I’ve heard this is the worst. Everyone around here thinks they’re Sherlock Freakin’ Holmes or something. Get the hell out of my office!”

The two amateur sleuths were taken aback by Boyle’s reaction. They left his office and were heading out of the State Police barracks. Irv and Roger were almost at the front door when they saw a young man in a three-piece suit pick up a phone. “Hello, this is Detective Matt Dawson.” He answered. Both Irv and Roger almost fainted.

They were still shaken up as they drove east on I-84. “No wonder Boyle didn’t want to see our evidence.” Roger said. “It implicates one of his very own detectives. That’s kind of like finding out that the Pope is a devil-worshipper.”

“Yeah,” replied Irv, “This Mall Rat case gets weirder and weirder. First, we find out the killer is publishing clues in the paper, then we find out he’s a cop. What do we do now?”

“I don’t know about you, but I’m laying low for a while. I think that I’ll disappear down to my brother’s place in D.C. before Boyle decides do make me disappear for good.”

Three days later, there was a house fire in South Windsor. The fire consumed ninety percent of the house and

killed the one resident. His name was Matt Dawson. The Fire Marshall found no evidence of foul play


Is George Blanda the nexus of the football universe?

A few years ago, some Craig Fass and two of his buddies at Albright College in Pennsylvania invented a popular game about the actor Kevin Bacon. The object of the game was to start with an actor or actress and connect them with Bacon in the fewest links possible. People are linked if they appeared in the same movie. A “Bacon Number” was assigned to the actor based on the fewest links necessary to connect them with Kevin Bacon. For instance, Telly Savalas was in “Kelly’s Heroes” with Donald Sutherland. Sutherland appeared in “Animal House” (and “JFK”) with Bacon. Therefore Sutherland has a Bacon Number of 1 and Savalas has a Bacon Number of 2. In fact, the game has inspired the Oracle of Bacon website at the University of Virginia. The Oracle uses as a database for its actor and movie data.

This isn’t an entirely new concept. Since the 1960s, sociologists have suggested that every person is connected to every other person through an average of six acquaintances. Paul Erdos, a prolific Hungarian mathematician, invented the Erdos Number. Every academic who collaborated on a paper with Erdos was assigned an Erdos Number of 1. Every co-author of these collaborators has an Erdos Number of 2. And so on, and so on. The Erdos Number became the forerunner of the Bacon Number.

Four years ago, I wrote an article at Baseball Primer (now Baseball Think Factory), suggesting that Mike Morgan was the center of the baseball universe. It turns out that I was wrong. Since then, Sean Forman has added an Oracle of Baseball section to his website, and it has been shown that the most linkable baseball player is either Early Wynn or Bobo Newsom (any baseball player can be linked to Bobo in five links or less, while there are 87 that require 6 links to get to Wynn.) In any case, Bacon isn’t the best center of the Hollywood universe. Rod Steiger is. I think that I failed to account for the fact that Mike Morgan is a recent player. So, while he (or Rickey Henderson) may eventually become the center of the baseball universe, he ain’t there yet.

When it comes to football, I think that I have the center of the universe pegged and I think that I found a way to prove it. I’m sure that many folks would guess George Blanda off the top of their heads. The quarterback/placekicker had a 27-year career that neatly straddled the middle of pro football history. Ever since I wrote that Morgan article, I’ve thought that Blanda would be the perfect choice for the center of the football universe. But I couldn’t think of a way of proving it. Then, a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon the website. I don’t know much about the site (it may be a Justin Kubatko project, but I’m not sure), but it has listings for all players, not just skill players. It may be feasible to run a query of the database to determine who the most linkable and least linkable football players are. I’m no database expert, but I know that there may be some out there who are football fanatics and may try to tackle (no pun intended) this project.

Just fooling around with Blanda, it only takes three steps to get him to 2004 (Blanda played with punter Ray Guy, who played with Howie Long, who played with Tim Brown.) It only takes four steps to link Blanda with George Halas as a player (Blanda played with Sid Luckman who played with George Musso, who played with both Red Grange and Bronko Nagurski, who both played with George Halas.) So, the recently retired Brown has a Blanda Number of 3 while Papa Bear’s Blanda Number is 4.

Let’s play the “Blanda Game” with a couple of Hall of Famers. Jim Thorpe played with Mickey McDonnell on the 1928 Chicago Cardinals. McDonnell played on the AAFC Miami Seahawks in 1946 with Lamar Davis. Davis played on the 1949 Baltimore Colts with Y. A. Tittle. Tittle and Blanda were teammates the next year on the Colts. Thorpe’s Blanda Number is less than or equal to 4. (There may be a quicker link. I haven’t done exhaustive research on this.) Steve Young has a Blanda Number of 5. Young played on the 1985 Tampa Bay Bucs with Steve DeBerg. DeBerg was the QB in San Francisco when O. J. Simpson was a Niner in 1978. One of O. J.’s teammates on the Bills his rookie year was Tom Flores. Fred Biletnikoff chain-smoked for the 1966 Raiders when Flores played there and later was a longtime teammate of Blanda’s.

So, is George Blanda the nexus of the football universe? Crawling the Databasefootball data may determine whether or not he is. Blanda has around 450 teammates in 1100 teammate-seasons. The other candidate that comes to mind is Earl Morrall. Morrall played for 21 seasons with 6 different franchises. I’m not sure what the record for most franchises played for, but it may be held by Tillie Voss. Voss played for 11 teams in the 1920’s, but I’m not sure what the franchise continuity was in those days. Voss was too early in pro football history to make him that linkable, in any case. Morton Andersen, and Gary Anderson have both been kicking since I started high school, but they are two recent in football history to link quickly to the real old-timers. Kickers, punters, and quarterbacks seem to be prime candidates for connecting other players. There are a few linemen with lengthy careers. But a lot of them seem to stay in one place for their careers.


Kevin Bacon has a Blanda Number of 3. Kevin Bacon was in In the Cut (2003) with Julius LeFlore. Julius LeFlore was in Rocky III (1982) with Carl Weathers. Weathers was a linebacker for the Raiders in 1970 and 1971.

Paul Erdos, arguably, has a Blanda Number of 7. Erdos and Hank Aaron both received honorary degrees from Emory University the same year. Aaron played with Dennis Menke for the 1965 Milwaukee Braves . Denis Menke played with Hal McRae for the 1972 Cincinnati Reds. Hal McRae played with Bo Jackson for the 1986 Kansas City Royals. Jackson played with Howie Long on the Los Angeles Raiders. As mentioned above, Long was a teammate of Ray Guy who was Blanda’s teammate.

Larry Bird has a Blanda Number of 6. Bird played with Danny Ainge, who was a Toronto Blue Jay third baseman before joining the NBA. Ainge was a teammate of Dave Stieb, who later played with Bo Jackson. And so on and so forth.


I'm back!

After a year and a half hiatus, I decided to start another blog. Previously, I wrote Baseball History and Pigskin Ponderings but I hope to have this one cover other topics, as well. I recently finished up a short biographical piece on Jim Willoughby for the Boston chapter of SABR and decided that, hey, maybe I can start writing again. Stay tuned.

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