Answer Man

This is why Randi Naughton hasn’t been anchoring the Fox 2 morning show

Q: Why hasn’t Randi Naughton been anchoring the KTVI morning show lately? Is she on vacation or is it something more serious?

P.S., of Carlyle, R.C., of Belleville, et al.

A: You don’t have to be a St. Louis Cardinal flamethrower or take a bruising hit into the boards to wind up with a bum shoulder. Even a former sports reporter like Naughton can suddenly have the problem put her on the sidelines.

Calling her right shoulder “a mess,” Naughton says she was diagnosed with a torn rotator cuff, bone spur and the largest calcium deposit her doctor had ever seen. Now, after surgery and rehab, she is looking to return to the airwaves sometime this month. Until then, you’ll have to settle for the Twitter picture of her in her sling soaking up the sunshine on the patio.

“Hoping to soon hear word on my return so I can once again come back & torment ... er ... work with (my colleagues),” she joked last Tuesday.

If you weren’t familiar, the Niagara Falls, N.Y., native is the fifth of seven children and made her way to St. Louis in the late 1980s. After a part-time stint for two years, she came on board full-time at KTVI in 1994 and soon became the station’s weekend sports anchor, covering the Blues and Cards during the era of Hull and McGwire. She moved to the morning show in 1999, but also contributes to the Fox Files, Contact 2 and Fit on Fox, among others.

If you have a youngster who has ever questioned you about the Tooth Fairy, you might want to check out her children’s book, “The Tooth Fairy Palace.” An admitted “bird-nerd,” she also enjoys golfing, her three golden retrievers, cat and fish pond, veggies and the color red.

Q: Recently when temperatures neared 80 degrees, I heard a bluejay, mockingbird and mourning dove. The next day when near-30 temps returned, the birds were gone. This week, when it was above 50, they were back, along with some robins. How do birds know when severe cold temperatures are just around the corner?

J.R., of Millstadt

A: Bird-brained has become synonymous with stupid, but our feathered friends are just as smart as I am when the mercury drops.

When it’s cold and blustery, you usually won’t catch me out walking or biking. When it’s sunny and 60, you will. I don’t need Dave Murray to tell me to stay parked in front of the fireplace. If I sense it’s getting colder, I head downstairs for the stationary bike.

It’s no different for birds, according to Birds & Blooms in Milwaukee. When it’s frigid, they fluff out their feathers, slow their metabolism and hunker down in a tree cavity or evergreen where you may not notice them. When they sense the temperature climb, they return to more normal activities. Even robins wait out Old Man Winter if there’s enough food to forage.

Hands-on experience: Meeting Robert Wadlow, Alton’s gentle giant, may have left a lasting mark on Belleville’s Marilyn Linton — and she hadn’t even been born yet.

It was 1933, and Marilyn’s mother shook hands with the 8-foot-11 Wadlow when he visited The Bootery in Litchfield.

“She was pregnant with me at the time,” Marilyn wrote in an email. “When I was born, it appeared I had large hands and feet. She always told the story that she felt I was marked by the Alton giant.”

Wooden heart: When I recently wrote about a couple of Reis lumberyards in Belleville, it appears I had barely scratched the surface.

“By my count, the family was associated with at least 20 different lumberyards in St. Louis and the metro-east,” Paul Reis, the grandson of John Reis, wrote me. The history seems to go back to Bartholomew Reis, who immigrated to St. Louis in the 1830s and by the 1850s owned lumberyards in St Louis and Belleville.

“The Valentine Reis named in your article who owned the planing mill also was a general contractor. His firm constructed a number of larger buildings in the area, including the former First National Bank building on the Public Square, portions of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital and the East St. Louis City Hall of 1896.”

And I remember another Paul Reis, who owned and operated Grimm and Gorly florist in Belleville for 45 years.

Catting around: Thanks to the caller who alerted me to the local “Black Panther” tie, but I think he jumped the gun just a bit.

He said he was surprised I didn’t mention that East St. Louis native Reginald Hudlin was part of the team that created the African hero. I had to chuckle because I know that while the Harvard grad has always been supertalented, he was just 4 years old when the Panther went on the prowl for the first time in Fantastic Four Nos. 52-53 in the summer of 1966. Hudlin’s contribution did not come until 2005, when he wrote the first 38 issues of the comic’s volume 4 and turned it into an animated series for Black Entertainment Television, the network he headed from 2005 to 2008.

Today’s trivia

In what city would you find the first Catholic cathedral built in the United States?

Answer to Sunday’s trivia: It’s a good bet the casual baseball fan doesn’t know much about Russell Aubrey “Lena” Blackburne as a player. The light-hitting infielder toiled off and on for 20 years in the majors from 1910 to 1929, hitting just four home runs while compiling an anemic .214 batting average. But in the mid-1930s, he made a discovery that has earned him a mention in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.. A baseball, you see, can’t be used fresh out of the box. They’re too polished and slippery to grip properly for that killer curve or slider. So before every game, dozens of balls are rubbed with official Lena Blackburne Baseball Rubbing Mud, now used by every major and minor league team. Although the company won’t say where Blackburne discovered the stuff, guesses are that it was from the banks of a tributary of the Delaware River near Blackburne’s longtime home in Palmyra, N.J. Soon, it replaced the tobacco juice, shoe polish and other gunk once used to prepare balls. It isn’t dirt-cheap, though. Just a 32-ounce container runs about $50, although a little apparently goes a long way. It’s been reported that Major League Baseball spends just about $25,000 on the stuff each year.

Roger Schlueter: 618-239-2465, @RogerAnswer

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