Dogs in Coats

Running by the Farmington River this afternoon, among dogs in coats and people in sparkling new running shoes and clothes, a few things popped in now that 2014 is out of its misery.

  • Any year that takes Tony Gwynn, Robin Williams, Jann Hooks, CA.LoneStar.0620.sc.3.$Elizabeth Pena, Harold Ramis, & Philip Seymour Hoffman way too early wasn’t really intent on playing fair from the get go.

  • hqdefaultThe NYPD ends the year with a slow-down and the overall crime rate plummets. At a time when the police union is renegotiating its contract. Brilliant strategy, could end up reminding people of the Great Elevator Operator Strike of 1972.

  • This year finally impressed upon me the truism that anyone who responds to a question with, “Look, it’s been working this way for twenty years . . . ” is not worth listening to.

  • The U.S. discovered the Islamic Statekh-five . . . an entity that has arisen countless times since the Koran was written. ISIS is hardly something new, despite what Congress, the State Department, President and political pundits . . . nothing’s a secret if Charleton Heston has already made a movie about it – a war Churchill fought in – right?

  • MLB Photos ArchiveBaseball appointed a special committee to look at Hall of Fame candidates from the 60s and 70s who didn’t get in. In doing so, Major League baseball was basically admitting that,hey, the HOF voting process was (is) not only antiquated but the enfranchised included drunks, wife beaters, outright conmen, and, worse of the worse, ink-stained keeper of the keys wonks who could agree on only one thing – Babe Ruth was not a first ballot hall of famer. So what happened? The new guys didn’t vote anyone in. Tony Oliva not a HOFer? Louis Tiant? Minnie Minoso? Richie Allen? Get voters with a clue, please.

  • Softbank is releasing a robot that can read450086876 human emotions next month. They look cute, seem smart, responsive, would probably be really cool to have if they had fur and were warm blooded. Developed and marketed by people who have never seen a science fiction movie . . . ever. I’m not interested and I recognize that my reluctance will not be noted after the apocalypse when a handful of human survivors serve their robotic masters.

  • 018-marlon-brando-theredlistThe NY Times has been all over the mess that is Rikers Island. Mess probably not being the right term for something international civil and prisoner rights organizations would be looking into if it wasn’t in the United States. They’ve focused on the head of the Corrections Officers Union as the chief problem – a guy whose friends call him a bully. He has a propensity for showing up at the homes of his political opponents carrying sidearms (the plural is not a misprint). He claims he’s not trying to intimidate, he’s just being a peace officer. “I’m the union head… and a peace officer,” I can hear him explaining to Kurtz. To which the Kurtz in my head answers, “You’re neither . . . you’re a glorified babysitter with the morals of an underfed weasel . . . ” It gets worse.

  •  My theory that the root of the world’s problems gunnyisn’t race, economics, or a host of other likely candidates but bullies bullying the bullies that bully the regular folk gets stronger every day.  Unfortunately, I think I’ll be able to prove it this year.

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Dear Everyone . . .

Brooklyn-excelsiors-1860

I greatly appreciate the fact that people are reading and enjoying William Hanlin’s Civil War . . . many readers have been thoughtful enough to point out some rogue punctuation and spelling – for which I take full responsibility. Thanks for pointing them out, they have been fixed (most likely). However, please, please, please stop correcting Base Ball to baseball —- for many, many years, baseball was base ball. William Hanlin loved baseball – it was base ball when he played, it remained base ball to him always, so it’s base ball in the books (and yes, he does get to play during the war).

Thanks …

Lou and the 24 Hour Sports Cycle

lou_2Just a quick thought or two on the 75th anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s “Luckiest Man” speech. It occurs to me, as I flip through the morning sports channel news – a time consuming exercise on any cable system – that a great part of the elegance of Gehrig’s farewell was what happened immediately after he said goodbye and continued for almost two years until his death: Nothing.

A stoic man said goodbye, left as gracefully as anyone has ever left anything and …. that was it. No days of interviews along with a 24 hour loop of the speech; no hosts of doctors endlessly conjecturing off a few facts; no knee jerk blame tossed arbitrarily; no upset fantasy baseball players; no ‘why didn’t the Yankees trade him before this’ radio chatter . . . no anything.  And it wasn’t as if the man moved out to the Mayo Clinic to escape the big city glare, he stayed at his home in Riverdale, a few miles from Yankee Stadium.

Elegant. I’m hoping it still is after the sports nation gets through with it today.

By the way, if you love baseball and think you know a lot about Lou Gehrig but haven’t read Johnathan Eig’s book The Luckiest Man, you don’t.

McCain Speaks Out!

john_mccain240Last week, a bitter, frustrated, angry John McCain (is that redundant?) could finally take no more and snapped about the :

No-class act by a bunch of overpaid, immature, arrogant, spoiled brats! “The[y] are idiots”

There are, of course, any number of overpaid, arrogant, immature brats in McCain’s immediate universe and the sentiment applies so well to all so many of those in the news these last few weeks . . .

. . . . yet despite all the places it could have gone, McCain’s wrath was expended on a more worthy adversary than the Tea Party, Congress, Obama, Democrats, the GOP, Harry Reid combined – The Los Angeles Dodgers.chi-dodgers-diamondbacks-pool-celebration-2013-002

The Dodgers clinched the National League West Pennant last week in Arizona. Their clubhouse celebration exploded outward late in the night and a dozen or so Dodgers, including Cuban wunder-kid Yasiel Puig, made their way to the swimming pool in dead center field and dove in.

Apparently the pool was filled at the time with holy water for this act of desecration drove McCain over the edge.

Please understand, if McCain chooses to vent his spleen at a bunch of very happy, fairly drunk twenty-something baseball players rather than the fully grown adults sitting all around him all day that should, normally, be his business and who cares.

Normally. But here’s what disturbs me about the Senator’s outburst – lack of context: On June 11th the Diamondbacks were in first place, 7.5 games in front of the last place,  eight games below .500  Dodgers. The Dodgers were the laughing stock and object lesson of baseball -flamboyant over-spending underachievers…..

…. up 2-0 in the bottom of the fourth behind their ace, Ian Kennedy, the Diamondbacks looked about to add another nail to the Dodgers very ornate coffin. Then Kennedy hit the Dodger’s prized rookie, Yaseil Puig, in the face. . .  the Dodgers immediately tied the score….

… 2-2, bottom of the seventh and,

That’s Zach Greinke, one of the best pitchers in the National League Kennedy headhunted, with predictable results.

The Dodgers won that game, went 45-15 over the next two months, buried the Diamondbacks and the rest of the West on the way to the playoffs this week, Arizona finished 11 games out.

McCain took no note of this in his little diatribe. Nor did he note that the Dodgers didn’t go pool diving until well after the crowd and done-for-the-year Diamondbacks were long gone from the park.

This history is a little over three months old, McCain – a baseball fan – overlooked it and knee-jerk reacted to something immeasurably trivial compared to two 90 plus MPH fastballs to the head.

Coming from a man so vociferously pushing military intervention in Syria, Iran, etc., where history goes back just a little further than 3 months and issues are a little more intricate and convoluted than a beanball war,  I find this more than a little disconcerting on several levels – his surprise the Dodgers might be somewhat perturbed and resentful toward the Diamondbacks; overlooking the implicit moral – let sleeping dogs lie or you pretty much get what you deserve  . . . .

Almost as disconcerting as selling tickets to sit in a pool at a major league baseball game.

The Cardinals Meet

vatican b & W and cards

With the Cardinals meeting to select the new Pope it’s time to flashback to another Papal election in simpler days, 1958 . . . . the Cardinals assembled with this now famous line from perennial All-Star Ken Boyer: “C’mon boys, let’s put this Pope thing to bed and get back to playing ball.”

The concave, however, dragged through 11 ballots before the ‘no-one-is-happy-about-it’ compromise selection of Angelo Roncalli. A block of Cardinals led by Wally Moon, Al Dark, and Vinegar Bend Mizell filibustered for days before Stan Musial and Fred Hutchinson rallied the troops and forced a consensus.

Sadly, the effects of the concave lingered throughout the season and the Cardinals finished in fifth place, 20 games behind the Milwaukee Braves.

pope paul

In 1963 the Cardinals selected Paul VI in six, short, contentious free ballots. Perhaps not coincidentally, the 1964 Cardinals were 6 1/2 games out of first place with 12 games to play and engineered one of the greatest comebacks in baseball history to win the 1964 Pennant on the last day of the season.   They defeated the Yankees in seven games to win the World Series.

Some called it a miracle.

John Edwards and The Rocket

In this town you’re innocent until investigated. – Christopher Plummer to George Clooney in Syriana.

I have about ten other things to write this evening but could not let the news of Roger Clemens‘ acquittal pass without comment – especially coming on the heels of the John Edwards acquittal.

As with most things in the legal world these days I have a slightly different take, one I never would have believed or supported seven, eight years ago.

It’s really pretty simple, though no less disturbing for that simplicity, in Roger’s case the US Attorney’s office took five years and millions of dollars to go after an athlete because he may have tried to extend his career by taking steroids and HGH, then ‘obstructed and perjured himself to Congress’. Clemens, in turn,  lost five years and millions of dollars in legal fees defending himself – an option not available to 98% of the US population.

Put aside for a moment the inanity of the obstruction charge – did the Rocket somehow stop Congress from enacting a string of baseball laws? (Can one even begin to imagine what baseball would look like under a Congressional mandate?)  – and the fact that there are 435 men and women in the greater Washington DC area obstructing Congress on a daily basis think of what was brought to bear on Clemens.

Forget the lying to Congress charges – a law that clearly does not apply to government employees;  forget the fact that not a single commentator in any forum monotonously carrying on with the kind of righteous indignation that in a perfect world would be reserved for real issues would hesitate for a millisecond if told that if he took a pill he’d get to play major league baseball; forget that the physical evidence had been kept in a Pepsi can for years by a guy even the prosecution called a tainted witness; forget the mistrial where the US Attorney’s Office ironically tried to cheat to prove Clemens cheated; forget all that.

The important thing – the only thing – to take away from this and the Edwards acquittal is that any one of us under similar circumstances – even knowing he is innocent-  has to take a plea agreement, as Clemens was offered two years ago.  I’ve discussed the (awful) mathematics of the indictment- plea-trial process before, without Russ Hardin and his team, Roger pleas, takes 6 months or so, a fine and probation – same with Edwards.  With some resolve and lots and lots of money, Clemens and Edwards won out over what were, really, pretty poor cases.  These are n, however, not ‘regular people’ results. These are ‘people- who- can- match- the -Government’s- resources’ results -that’s the disturbing thing, though it will be lost under all the sports talk radio angst.

I have to respect Roger, however, he could have pled to fibbing to Congress, probably been sentenced to home arrest like Barry Bonds (got to imagine you can’t even get to all the rooms in Clemens or Bonds houses in six months) and moved on with his life five years ago.  Instead, he spent millions on a defense and risked years in prison to defend himself.

To what end, I have no choice but to wonder today? Acquitted in this case means he goes home, his reputation is shot, there is not a sports radio know-it-all on the east coast, at least, who is going to ‘buy’ the jury’s decision.

Innocent until investigated indeed.  It’s not over by a long shot, either, Clemens is eligible for the Hall of Fame in November – the airwaves will be alight in endless debate: Does Roger deserve to be in the company of Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, et al.?

Moose Musings

Yankee great Moose Skowron died a few weeks ago.  Really good ballplayer on really great teams with a really great nickname.  I was too young to see him play, though I remember hearing snatches of the 1962 World Series in kindergarten (hard to imagine today, the World Series  watched and heard through snippets here and there, at school, work, in transit).  This did not stop me, however, from growing up very aware of who he was and how he fit in – seamlessly – with the Yankee dynasty of the ’50’s and early ’60’s. By the time I was ten, the Red Sox just becoming relevant again, I knew that Moose was the steady, consistent, Yankee first baseman for eight seasons – in which he played in seven World Series. And was absolutely a stone-cold killer clutch hitter.

All these facts I learned from my Yankee loving father, a man who embodied the line that rooting for the New York Yankees was like rooting for U.S. Steel.(Bank of America today?)  I, of course, grew up to hate the Yankees, reveled when they were so awful through elementary and junior high, got a little nervous in high school when they started inching up on the Sox and Orioles (I loved those Oriole teams), went into full panic mode in college in ’76 when Chambliss hit the homer, was polished off in ’78 even though I professed to be a Dodger (read The Boys of Summer, had no choice) and Oriole fan, managed to survive until the inevitable fall of the ‘Steinbrenner-who-needs-a-farm-system’ built Yankees and remained safe until Joe Torre showed up. (Irony- one of my favorite childhood players, we were all awed by a guy who could catch, play third, and win a MVP.)

What I did not learn about Moose in my home was that he was traded to the Dodger’s in ’63, was hurt, had a miserable regular season, ended up – on the backs of Drysdale, Koufax, Maury Wills, and Tommy Davis – in his eighth World Series in nine seasons and tore the Yankees apart.  For my father (and almost every Yankee fan I’ve ever met, of any generation) Moose ceased to exist the moment he no longer wore pin-stripes.  Win a MVP, Gold Glove, hit .385 in the Series against the Yankees, cure cancer, be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize – if it’s accomplished outside the Bronx, it does not count or matter.

I read Peter Golenbock‘s Dynasty: The New York Yankees 1949-1964 (one of the great baseball books) in college and really liked Moose.  Which completely destroyed several of my fervently held , decade old conceptions about the man and player.

For back in ’67, while Moose was finishing up his career with the Angels – who were intimately involved in the Sox winning the pennant – I, shades of things to come, invented a back story for the Moose who by then had been held up for the almost ten years of my life as a paragon of efficient, ruthless, cold-blooded, joyless, success.

It was simple and made complete sense – Bill ‘Moose’ Skowron, All-Star first baseman, was, in fact, the same Moose who had beat on Archie, annoyed Veronica and Betty (Veronica, by the way – Mary Ann and Betty Ruble, just to be thorough), and alternated between blind obedience and outright hostility to Reggie. He had grown up to join the most famous gang of bullies in America outside the Gambino family – with a far better winning percentage.

Not to be, though, reality was not very lyrical here – Moose was 5’11”, 195, much less a moose than Bullwinkle; was a gentle, nice guy; got the nickname as a kid when he got a hair cut that left him pretty much bald and the neighborhood started calling him Mussolini (it was the ’30’s folks).

So no Archie connection, another childhood myth shattered, self-created as it may have been . . .  although, wasn’t Reggie’s last name Mantle?

Charlie Brown’s musings on the final out of the 1962 World Series