A Birthday Party Gone Terribly Wrong: A few words about Corey Hall

When senseless gun violence takes a good life


If you ask me, I bet Corey Hall couldn’t wait to see his friends and family at Ballpark Village on Sunday night.

He was turning 38 years old, had a lawnmower business getting ready to hit its busy season, and was a newlywed. A hard-working father, Hall was going to kick back and enjoy in downtown St. Louis at an event perfectly titled, “Eat, drink, chill.”

Hall never left Ballpark Village. He was an innocent bystander caught in the crossfire of a scuffle between two other people, resulting in gunshots being fired his way. Corey Hall was shot in the head and died at 2 a.m. early Monday morning. A birthday party gone terribly wrong.

Quite frankly, I’m beside myself right now. I’m angry. Pissed off in the worst way.

Let me get this out of the way before you jump to assumptions or roll your eyes: I didn’t know Corey or any of his family members. We were two regular dudes abiding the law in a city that is getting ripped to shreds by senseless violence. There’s no cure or simple way to stop it either. I didn’t know Corey, but I feel I like do today sadly.

I am father, husband. and 36 years old. I spend way too much time around Ballpark Village driving for Uber. Last Tuesday, I was a matter of yards away from where Hall was, watching a game in the AT&T Rooftop Deck. It could have been me if those two people had ran into each other a different night.

You see, that’s what you do when tragedy happens to someone that you don’t know. The first thing you do is attach it to your own life and wonder what if. It’s too scary to focus on for too long, so you shift your focus to the family and friends torn apart by the tragedy. I can’t imagine Hall’s parents or his wife. The idea of his kid growing up without a dad, not knowing the reason why his dad was taken so soon.

A father shouldn’t bury his kid, but the kid shouldn’t bury his old man without knowing why he died. Hall died for no reason other than someone feeling tough and protected by carrying a gun on their person. I wonder why you can’t get into a baseball game across the street with a gun, but you can walk into a place of business right across the street. A simple metal detector would have stopped this. Well, maybe.

I don’t have answers. I’m simply mad and sad about an innocent man dying. In September, an innocent family man died in Philadelphia, and I wrote about it here. It pissed me off and I made a comment on Facebook that I regretted. I won’t do that here because there are no real answers.

I won’t say ban guns. That doesn’t work. Taking away guns doesn’t help hard-working people who like to own a weapon to protect their own or just feel safe. A gun in the right hands isn’t a bad thing.

I also don’t think it should be incredibly easy to acquire a gun. A tighter more complex protocol wouldn’t be too invasive and may weed out some of the mad souls who shouldn’t own a weapon. Such as, if you get an assault charge or domestic battery or anything having to do with violence, your ability to carry should be restricted. Start somewhere and go from there.

Honestly, I don’t know what the true answer is. The Ballpark Village shooting is a sad occurrence that places another black eye on the city of St. Louis, and that’s a shame, because most nights, the venue lights up like a Christmas tree, bringing revenue and good times to the city.

One would think it was a safe place to enjoy a birthday. Corey Hall thought it would be on Sunday. He was 38 years old, married, a father to two kids, and had a good local business. Anytime a proud STL native dies in the name of senseless violence, it’s a tragedy.

This violence isn’t limited to St. Louis though. It’s a common event all over the globe. Everywhere. People shoot others for no reason other than rage, jealousy, and ignorance. How can you stop something that’s spreading every single day? When the higher-up authority decides to truly take a look and alter old rules.

I wouldn’t want their job. It surely won’t be easy to figure out.

I’m just a writer who took to the keyboard to write about a good soul lost too soon. A proud South City native who hates seeing violence rip his city apart.

I’m not at a loss for words, but I sit here without a solution. I’m powerless.

That’s all I got.

Jose Fernandez: Baseball lost a true stud 

Miami Marlins righthanded phenom Jose Fernandez threw his last pitch on Tuesday, September 20th against the Washington Nationals. He completed eight innings and struck out 12 batters from one of Major League Baseball’s best lineups. The kind of game baseball appreciators would have seen for years from the talented kid who was always smiling. 

On September 25th, he died tragically in a boating accident. He was 24 years old. Far too young to die. When you least expect it, death and life come together in an ungodly fashion and take a bright young person away. Nearly two years ago, the fine young St. Louis Cardinals talent Oscar Taveras died in a drunk driving car accident. The feeling this morning is eerily similar. A shot to the stomach. 

The baseball world lost a true stud. What is a stud? When someone is merely doing their job and it becomes an event to watch them do that job, that person is a stud. When Fernandez pitched, it was an event. Akin to a Saturday night PPV boxing match or playoff game in October. 
On July 28th, Fernandez faced the Cardinals for the last time and surrendered 5 runs and lost. A fellow Cuban star connected to Fernandez’s path, Aledmys Diaz, hit a home run off of him. It was a true event to watch the two childhood friends square off. You could take away the other players on the field and leave the pitcher, catcher, and the hitter standing between them at the plate and it would be electrifying entertainment. 

There should have been more Fernandez and Diaz showdowns. More back and forth talent contests. Fastballs clocking in close to 100 mph taking their chances with premium bat speed. Man, that’s just tough to swallow. 

That is the kicker. We will never know what Fernandez could have been and it’s painful. He had the makings of Felix Hernandez with a dash of Max Scherzer and Carlos Martinez thrown in for good measure. His MLB career will conclude with a 38-17 record, 2.58 ERA, and 589 strikeouts in just 471.1 innings. His ERA+ was 150, which is ridiculously unfair to hitters in any ballpark. He averaged 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings. 

He was the kind of pitcher who made the best hitters in baseball glare back at him after a strikeout as if they were mentally calling the baseball police for the pitcher  being especially mean to their bats. Fernandez was a special talent. 

More so, he was a budding family man. His young wife is expecting their child and Fernandez couldn’t have been more excited. In an Instagram post showing off his wife’s beautiful baby bump, he talked about the journey a kid would take them on and preached, “family is first.” He wasn’t just a talented athlete. Fernandez had his priorities straight and was a good guy. 

He was heavily involved in a charity foundation that fought cancer and raised awareness for its victims called Live Like Bella. He wanted to do good things. This is a guy who saved his mother from drowning when they were defecting from Cuba. It didn’t matter if there was a baseball diamond or not, Fernandez brought his A game every single day of his life. 

Now, he is gone. Way too soon. 24 years old isn’t long enough for anyone, but Fernandez made a dent in his short yet robust life. 

I’ll remember the fiery competitor that was easy to admire and respect. 

I’ll remember the smile that illuminated a packed stadium every time it stretched. 

I’ll remember the look on a hitter’s face when he was overmatched by a Fernandez offering. 

Most of all, I’ll remember the kid’s heart that seemed larger than life. 

Jose Fernandez was on top of the world, and now he is out of it for good. 

Take a few moments today. Watch some highlights. Watch him pitch. It will make you feel better about the game of baseball. 

Gordie Howe: Worth traveling back in time for

There will never be another hockey player like Gordie Howe. He passed away after 88 hard fought years.

When I finally catch up with Doc and the DeLorean, there are a few places I am going.

I am going to watch Bob Gibson act like a wizard on the pitching mound at Busch Stadium in 1968.

I am going to watch Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier fight like warriors in the “Thrilla in Manila” in 1975.

I am also going back in time to watch Gordie Howe play hockey.

“Mr. Hockey” finally gave out Friday at the age of 88 years young. He went peacefully and surrounded by his loved ones. This world was no longer fit for his presence. Howe, a legend for the Detroit Red Wings and owner of four Stanley Cups and the gusto of a war ship, is someone every hockey fan should know about and understand. Continue reading “Gordie Howe: Worth traveling back in time for”

David Bowie: An Artist for All Ages

The world lost a music icon on Sunday with the passing of David Bowie.

David Bowie is dead, gone from the world at 69 years young after an 18 month battle with cancer. What he leaves behind is a legacy that few can touch and a musical influence that will last for decades. Bowie wasn’t just a musician or artist. He was an island of memories, events and love swirls. I didn’t grow up on Bowie or listen to every single song he produced but I knew of him.

If you were a fan of music in general, you knew David Bowie. He lurked around everybody’s music interests, tempting them to take the fall for his distinct brand of music.

Bowie told millions of people to dance. He told you to be a hero. He made you wonder who Major Tom was. “Space Oddity” got inside your head, it wasn’t leaving for days, You’d spend the next week whispering it or humming to it. The best musicians, true artists, carve out a spot in someone’s cerebellum and buy up real estate there, slowly hooking them into your persuasive vices.

There was John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Joan Jett, and Kurt Cobain. Musicians who didn’t follow an influence. They created one themselves and demanded others to follow. Bowie did that and didn’t let it consume him. He enjoyed the game, match making and soul defying contest that the world of a rock star provided.

He seemed to warn us that one day he would gone.

“Nothing will keep us together. We can beat them. Forever and ever. Or we can be heroes for just one day.” 

The “Heroes” video says it all. A man wearing a leather one piece outfit unzipped with a tan tank top underneath, waving his body around and standing in a black box singing about being heroes and living in the now. Bowie didn’t look like everyone else. He had several colors of hair and his personality seemed to stretch farther with each decade. He looked bendable, like he would easily disappear at any moment. He was one of those people who could wear any outfit and get away with it.

For over 40 years, Bowie worked in several different genres, like a cure waving through nightclubs on a hot Saturday night. Glam rock, soul, hard rock, punk, and electronica. He blasted onto the scene with Ziggy Stardust in 1972. Bowie had fun with the media and toyed with his sexuality every time he released another he sported a new look. Instead of just being a singer, he became the characters and stories inside his albums.

On January 8th, he turned 69 and released his 25th album, Blackstar. One more hat tip to the world before he called it a night and departed this rock. When someone dies, people wonder what happens to their legacy or how they will sit in people’s minds. It’s like a house with no owner. With Bowie, people can rest easy knowing he lived a full life and did it his way, with style and grace.

Most people just try to keep living and move to the beat of the drum. For several musicians, Bowie was the drum. Just search “Heroes” and listen to the endless covers of a classic song.

“I can remember. Standing by the wall. The stars shot up over our heads. And we kissed so nothing could fall.”

“Heroes” was released on an album of the same name, in 1977. Five years before I was born. Once I heard it, there was no forgetting it. Nearly 40 years later, it’s potency hasn’t wavered. In another 40, it will still mean something to a new generation of kids. That’s the true work of an icon.

(In case you missed it on KSDK)

Robert Loggia: A classy face of cinema

The movies lost a great player on Friday. My tribute to Robert Loggia.

A gangster named Frank Lopez in Scarface. A toy company CEO in Big. A priest. A wise man. A dozen cops. Two dozen other gangster roles. For over 64 years and 230 different movies and television roles, Robert Loggia was a face of cinema you couldn’t forget. General Grey in Independence Day! Loggia played three different characters on the 1970’s series, The Rockford Files. Charlie’s Angels. Starsky and Hutch.You name it and Loggia played it.

He was FBI agent Nick Mancuso for over 20 episodes. He was Coach Wally Rig in the Scott Bakula football cult classic, Necessary Roughness. Loggia, after five hard years of battling Alzheimer’s Disease, passed away Friday at the age of 85 years young. He earned every one of them and his work in the land of make believe to live on for decades. You can watch his movies on Netflix tonight if you wanted. He wasn’t in it for the fame and glitz. Loggia was a true actor. A worker. Hard edged and passionate.

Born and raised in New York City, Loggia broke into acting at the age of 21 years old and did more than four projects per year. Like Christopher Walken, he didn’t care what the role was. He just did it and did it well. In a way you would remember. No one will ever forget Loggia’s raspy laugh and street wide smile and cackle. It was a signature part of every role he played.

He never stopped working. In 2015, he had four releases planned and has three incomplete films slated for post production as this is typed. The only thing that could have kept Loggia off a set was his lovely wife Audrey, whom he was married to since 1982. What St. Louis and Missouri film fans may not know is that Loggia graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a journalism degree in 1951, the year he started acting. He served in the army and spent time on Broadway.

Nothing scared Loggia when it came to life or film. He was a month shy of his 86th birthday when he passed. The film world owes a debt to him. How many actors can you think of have acted in over 200 films or TV shows? How many have played in so many and elevated every single one they were in?

Loggia was a classic face of film, someone you see and smile knowing that the part he is playing will be played with fierce attention to detail and the authenticity that a film fan covets.

Stop by Netflix tonight and watch these Loggia aided films. Wide Awake, Over the Top, or the holiday film, An Evergreen Christmas.

Tommy Hanson: Gone too damn soon

Former Braves pitcher Tommy Hanson passed away at 29 Monday. A sudden brutal loss.

Tommy Hanson was 29 years old. Six years ago, he was one of the game’s brightest young pitching talents. He made his pitching debut with the Atlanta Braves on June 7th, 2009. He won 13 games that season, compiling a 2.89 and finishing 3rd in NL Rookie of The Year. He won 45 games during his first four seasons before shoulder injuries struck him down. He hadn’t appeared in a Major League game since 2013. He was pitching for the San Francisco Giants in the minors this past season. Late Monday night, NBC Sports confirmed  via an MLB source that Hanson had passed away after catastrophic organ failure.

On Sunday, Hanson went into the hospital after experiencing trouble breathing. Earlier Monday evening, Hanson fell into a coma. A variety of tests were run but to no avail. There were no prior events that could have prepared his family or his friends for this kind of situation. According to all sources available, Hanson didn’t have any previous serious issues other than getting his shoulder 100 percent and getting back to the Majors. This is worse than tragic. This is unfair.

Any time an innocent 29 year old dies, it’s a sad story. Everybody should reach 30. Everyone should get that chance. Hanson didn’t do drugs. He didn’t drive drunk or hurt anyone. He was a baseball player. He was a guy who didn’t give up when the league told him he couldn’t make a comeback. The Braves traded him to LA for current Cardinals pitcher Jordan Walden. Hanson spent an injury plague 2013 season with the Los Angeles Angels before pitching minor league ball for the Texas Rangers, Chicago White Sox, and the Giants the past two seasons.

In 2014, debuting with the Charlotte Knights, Hanson talked about having two weeks in between jobs after the Rangers released him where he was throwing baseballs against a fence and with his wife rolling the ball back to him. All he could think about was getting back to the big show.

That’s life. It can be so simple minded and goal driven at one moment and then it can be gone. For Tommy Hanson, it all started at Redlands East Valley High School in California. After moving there from Tulsa, Oklahoma, Hanson started his career. He was drafted in the 22nd round in 2005. He would be the #2 prospect in the Baseball Prospectus. After it all fell apart, Hanson never stopped pitching.

If we can learn anything from Hanson’s passing, it is make every moment count. There’s a clock on your life and we never know when it’s going out. You can be healthy as ever at one moment and then gone. It’s a privilege and not a right. It’s also not fair. It doesn’t matter if you know him or not. It doesn’t matter what his views were. It doesn’t matter. He’s gone and it’s sad.

Rest in peace, Tommy Hanson. Gone too soon.

One Year Later: Oscar Taveras’ death can still be a lesson

Forget baseball. Learn from Oscar’s mistake off the field.

Taveras_1280_4v5j1r9j_ory7b0beYou can have sympathy for the weak, the strong, but not for the devil. What about the devil inside us all?

A year ago, young Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras drank five times the legal limit that the Dominican Republic allows drivers, got into his sports car with his girlfriend and went for a drive on wet rainy roads. It’s a bad decision to drive during a thunderstorm or during a serious downpour. It’s even worse if the driver is impaired, under the influence or swimming in the influence.

It’s almost like the tale is already concluded wen the engine gets turned on. Taveras crashed his car. In the process, Taveras died and so did Edilia Arvelo, who was just 18 years old. Forget baseball here. Put it away. Put the idea of what a supremely talented Taveras could have done with another 5-10 years. It’s not important. As much as fans try, sports can never touch life and death yet only exist as a comfortable metaphor and detour. Continue reading “One Year Later: Oscar Taveras’ death can still be a lesson”