Answer Man: Did Dizzy Dean serve up drinks in East St. Louis?

News-DemocratMarch 14, 2014 

I have several mementos from Dizzy Dean's tavern at North 13th and Lake streets in East St. Louis. Can you tell me when that tavern was in business and how much these things might be worth? I never knew ol' Diz had a place over here in Illinois. -- Dave of Mascoutah

Neither did he -- at least not the Jay Hannah "Dizzy" Dean who notched a 30-7 record in 1934 and won four consecutive National League strikeout crowns from 1932 through 1935 for the St. Louis Cardinals.

So maybe you'd better pour yourself a stiff drink before I deliver the bad news. OK, ready? You wouldn't get to first base trying to pass off your stuff as valuable memorabilia. The "Dizzy" guy who ran the tavern was another Dean entirely, according to both the East St. Louis city directories and East St. Louis historian Bill Nunes.

In fact, his name is listed as Deans, not Dean, so your things should have the apostrophe in a different place: Dizzy Deans' Tavern. Perhaps that's what saved him from being taken to court by the Cards' Hall-of-Famer, although I suppose people may not have been so lawsuit-happy 60 years ago.

In any case, James Deans was listed for years as a salesman for Niederer Dairy as he made a number of moves around East St. Louis with his wife, Marie. By 1948, he had opened a liquor store at 1332 N. 13th, which by 1955 had become Dizzy Deans' Tavern.

With his family living in part of the building, Deans ran the popular watering hole for about a decade before it underwent a number of name changes -- The Chuck Wagon Tavern in 1964 followed by Queen the Tavern and Ruth's Lounge. Now, a Google satellite photo shows an empty lot there, but if you want to see a picture of the place in its prime, turn to page 229 in Nunes' "East St. Louis: An Illustrated History."

The real Diz wouldn't have had much time for the Hot Stove League at the tavern, anyway. Despite his fractured English, Dean became a much-loved baseball announcer, broadcasting for the Birds and the Browns from 1941-48 before moving on to the Yankees, Mutual, ABC, CBS and finally the Braves.

Of course, when one teacher complained of his constant use of the word ain't, the Lucas, Ark., native reportedly replied, "A lot of folks who ain't sayin' 'ain't,' ain't eatin'. So, Teach, you learn 'em English, and I'll learn 'em baseball."

Recently, your paper has been running stories about how Charter Communications now is requiring its customers to get a new gizmo in order to watch their televisions -- even if they have a modern digital TV. I do not subscribe to either cable or satellite, but what I'm wondering is this: When stations switched to digital, I bought a converter box so I still could use my old analog TV. Does this mean that I will have to spend more money on a new converter box, too? Some people tell me I will. -- J.F., of Fairview Heights

If you enjoy "The Price Is Right" on your old TV, I have an answer sure to please your wallet: You'll be able to keep on watching everything from "Downton Abbey" to old Batman reruns without lifting a finger.

Here's the deal: When the analog-to-digital switch was made in June 2009, Charter customers didn't have to do anything even if they owned analog televisions. Charter converted the signals before sending them into their customers' homes. So while you were plunking down money for a special box, all Charter customers had to worry about was keeping their remotes from between the sofa cushions.

But even back then, Charter warned that this bargain would have a time limit -- three years or so. Now, that day of reckoning is here. Charter is implementing an all-digital service that will require its customers to use a set-top box that will descramble its encrypted digital signals.

At first, a single box will be free, but customers will pay $6.99 a month in one, two or five years depending on their level of service. The boxes are available at Charter offices in Belleville, Maryville and Alton.

Meanwhile, you apparently will be able to keep using your current box until your TV dies -- but, as Charter would argue, you'll miss out on the hundreds of channels and the more than 12,000 video-on-demand options to which its customers now will have access.

Today's trivia

Who was the first St. Louis Blue to score 50 goals in a season?

Answer to Thursday's trivia: It sounds like the opening skit to the Broadway musical "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," but The Battle of the Herrings was a very real skirmish during the Hundred Years War. For nearly five months, the English had been laying siege to Orleans in north-central France. On Feb. 12, 1429, the French attempted to stop an English supply convoy. The convoy included 300 carts and wagons filled with crossbow arrows, cannon and cannonballs -- and barrels of herrings, because the English soldiers wanted to observe the meatless days during the approaching Lenten season. Despite being outnumbered, the English routed a combined force of 4,000 French and Scottish soldiers.

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or rschlueter@bnd.com or call 618-239-2465.

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