As the World Series is closing in, it’s time to remember a little bit.
Does anyone remember Grantland Rice? He authored quite a few books about sports. And he is the guy who said:
“It’s not whether you win or lose. It’s how you play the game.”
That’s how we used to feel about our national pastime.
Ebbets Field, over looking Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn, New York, was my field of dreams. Harry Truman, then Dwight Eisenhower would issue special remarks about the significance of each new baseball season. It was bi-partisan stuff and it pulled Americans together in the love of that greatest pastime.
Each spring, hope sprung eternal.
Growing up as a kid from Brooklyn, there were my beloved Dodgers. The Bums, one of 16 teams in the Major Leagues. Eight teams in each league playing a 154 games during the regular season. We could identify the players on all the teams, including the batting orders. We respected opposing players, like Stan “The Man” Musial, Willie Mays, Henry Aaron, Mickey Mantle, and Bob Feller. Rivalry wasn’t war. It was part of the game and you cheered the winners, even when it wasn’t your team.
A young Vin Scully, Mel Allen, Red Barber, Harry Caray, and Jack Buck were prominent voices carrying the games across the country. St. Louis was the west coast. Virtues — not vices — were extolled. The pennant winners went directly to a September World Series.
Most games were played during the day, giving kids a chance to follow everything. World Series champions were special guests on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Too often, they were the dreaded New York Yankees, but we still applauded. They were heroes. We respected them for their prowess. That was baseball when our world was young.
Everything has changed. Nowadays, there are too many teams and many more games. The season is like a Eugene O’Neill play, a long day’s journey into night.
The Prez Race has become like the modern baseball season. Spencer Tracy’s “fictional” Boston Mayor foretold these changes in “The Last Hurrah”, 60 years ago. You can see the section of that movie HERE at this TCM Movie site.
Tracy’s candidate would just be shaking his head now. It has all come true. Truer than true and worse than we imagined possible.
There’s the monumentally long regular beisbol season. You do everything you can to reach the post season. Lots of players are injured or burned out by the time the season’s winding up (or down, depending on which teams you are following) to the big finale.
The Post Season is the General Election race.
The World Series are the final campaign days. The hottest team of the moment will win it all with the best strategy — and a little luck.
Dwight David Eisenhower, president and previously, Allied Commander for WW2 (and the only U.S. President to also have won an Oscar) wanted to be a baseball player. Another time, another world.
JFK was a game changer.
Obama was Jackie Robinson.
Orange Head — Ty Cobb wins it all!!
In beisbol jargon, next year is 2020.
Grantland Rice is turning over in his grave.
Let’s sign some good free agents. Maybe next season we’ll get a win!!
I wasn’t feeling well, but Marilyn was insistent. “Autumn is short,” she pointed out and urged me to take a couple of hours and come out. Autumn is a flash of color and then, it’s gone.
After all, tomorrow, it might rain. I agreed.
We both took pictures — enough to last a while. Autumn will be longer on Serendipity than this brief season will be in New England.
Men can shop. I shop. Moreover, I am a highly competitive shopper. This is Guy Shopping, in three scenarios.
I’m one of those guys who, if shopping “solo,” can zip through the aisles, getting everything on the shopping list. Sometimes I time myself. It’s like a “Wide, Wide World of Sports” event for me. As I exit the supermarket, cart full of groceries, I look at my watch, a big smug — almost “45-ish” smile on my face. I quietly proclaim in a “Howard Cosell-Marv Albert” way, “Yesssss!!”
I’m on my game as I begin shopping. First stop — Produce. As I check over the tomatoes, a cougar lady in stilettos, low-cut tank top and stretch jeans — strikes up a conversation about how nice it is to see a man knows how to handle tomatoes. I switch into my TV guy mode, wrap the chat, and move on. Next aisle, it’s the “groupies.” Folks who grew up watching me on TV. They’re blocking my access to the pasta sauce, and other canned goods. I do two or three minutes of my greatest hits and move on.
The deli section is always difficult. There are inevitably two or three people buying a quarter pound of everything. They must taste a piece of each item to make sure it’s quality stuff. Oy!!
Now, I’m trying to make up ground. Taking short cuts through various aisles and BAM — elderly people, crying kids and a Mr. Know- It-All, blocking access. I silently curse their birthrights and smile my TV guy smile.
Finally, finally I’m at the checkout counter. Groceries bags are lined up in front of my stuff on the counter. The “hot and cold” bags are clearly open to be used for frozen food, meat, and so on. I slowly and clearly explain how the bags should be used. You know — perishables into the “hot and cold” bags. Please pack evenly.
I always bring extra shopping bags so I don’t have to lug overloaded bags up two flights of stairs.
What was I thinking? It’s like I was speaking Klingon. Outside, I repack stuff at the car, loudly cursing the gods. The drive home is slow. Very slow. Probably the same folks who blocked the supermarket aisles.
I enter the supermarket and eyeball the “self check out” section. Do I have the smarts? I promise myself to try. I can do it. Fast forward — I approach the checkout counters, eyeball the “self check out” counter. No! I don’t have the courage. No true grit. Maybe next time.
Note: I omitted the folks who still ask why I don’t have “my people” shop for me. Yeah!
I am feeling melancholy. Melancholy, angry, frustrated and, as the whip cream atop my cake, the rheumatism is beating my body like a drum. I bet many of you feel the same way.
Yesterday, someone complained to Marilyn about the lack of good news. That’s part of my problem. So much bad news everywhere.You can’t escape it!! People who complain about the lack of good or happy news on TV are too familiar to me. During my working years, strangers would confront me — face to face — and demand I put happy news on TV newscasts. They blamed me for their depression.
“How come you can’t put nice stories on the air, Garry…stories with happy endings?”. The question dogged me for more than forty years in the biz. Yesterday’s complainant was bummed by the current lack of happy news. A network newscast devoted itself entirely to the Las Vegas tragedy.
Hey, how about a funny, quirky, “Charlie Kuralt” type of story? There must be some bizarre stuff out there not counting the White House occupant. Maybe.
Through the years, I’ve always turned to baseball in times of crisis. It’s my life long passion, beginning as a kid in 1940’s Brooklyn. However, I’ve also used baseball as my retreat from reality. Many folks do the same thing. No prescription medications needed. No weed or booze required to shut out the bad stuff.
This year, baseball has come to the rescue again. Right on time.
It’s the post season! Let the games begin!
The series that will eventually take one team — maybe our team — to the top of the world, Ma! A World Series championship!!
It’s already underway. The Yankees (“The Baby Bombers”) took the wild card and moved on to play the Cleveland Indians after defeating the upstart Minnesota Twins in the American League Wild Card one-game-takes-all, while in the National League, Arizona took the wild card 11 to 8. Tonight, the real play-off games begin for the American League and next up, the National League hits the field.
This current wild card format — a single game and an entire season goes down the drain for the loser — is grossly unfair. Baseball isn’t a “one game takes all” kind of game. At least they should have a three-game series. As usual, it’s all about the money. TV revenue puts more dinero into the pockets of baseball owners.
Next up are the Division Series first round. In the American League, the Yankees will play the Cleveland Indians while the Boston Red Sox face the Houston Astros. In the “Senior Circuit”, the Wild Card winner meets the Washington Nationals — while last year’s heroes, the Chicago Cubs, go to La-La land to play the Dodgers.
It’s kind of like the old “64 Thousand Dollar” quiz show except no one knows the answers (excluding the 1919 Chicago “Black” Sox). The league championship series will follow. Best of seven when the two league winners meet for the World Series. Hopefully, baseball’s new champion will be crowned before the snow begins.
The Boys of Summer are now the Boys of Autumn as the temperatures drop. It’s a time that evokes so many memories on my baseball time line through life. A time line that began when Harry Truman was in the oval office, baseball played 154 regular season games and two (out of 16) teams went directly to the World Series.
Marilyn and I have a friend who’s also a die-hard baseball fan. Sophie or “Soph” as I affectionately call her just exchanged emails about post season predictions which included my remembrance of days as a young reporter and time spent with the legendary Casey Stengel. I’ve excerpted a bit from 1962 when the Ol’ Perfesser was managing the fledgling New York Metropolitans.
“Soph, Casey Stengel (And, Perry White) used to say “Judas Priest” a lot. I usta ask Casey how he put up with the “defense” of Marvelous Marv, Elio Chacon, Choo Choo Coleman and the other original “Amazin’ Mets.” Casey would look at me, tousle his full head of white hair, squint and say, “Judas Priest, young fella. You got a glove?”
One day, I brought my authentic Duke Snider mitt with me and showed it to Casey. He says, “Judas Priest, young fella, can ya hit a little?”.
I laughed. Casey cackled.”
On with my post season predictions. The Yankees beat the Twins after our email exchange. So, we are in the present.
- My heart is with the Boston Red Sox, but my brain says otherwise.
- I think the Indians will edge out the Yanks in the ALD series.
- Houston will beat Boston in their ALD series.
- The Indians will outlast Houston in the ALC series and repeat as American League Pennant champions.
My Swami brain is swirling faster than a three-card monte dealer.
The Cleveland Indians will beat the NL pennant winner (Washington? L.A.?) in the World Series.
Cleveland will win its first World Series in 69 years. The ghosts of Larry Doby, Bob Feller, Early Wynn, Al Rosen, Al Smith, Vic Wertz, Bobby Avila, Herb Score, Bob Lemon, Al “The Gay Senor” Lopez, etc. will celebrate on their field of dreams.
I predict Cleveland’s Cory Kluber will get the AL Cy Young award while his teammate Jose Ramirez ( 2nd-3rd baseman) will get the MVP. Mike Trout, still the best in baseball, will get votes but he couldn’t drag his team into the post season. Jose Altuve, Houston’s “Peewee Reese” slugger, will also get a lot of MVP votes as will Aaron Judge.
Aaron Judge is probably the new face of baseball. Even if you’re a lifelong Yankees “hater,” you have to love this young slugger who is the perfect face for the “Breakfast of Champions” picture. Judge’s 52 home runs as a rookie is mind-boggling!! Judge will be a no-brainer for “Rookie of the Year.” The Red Sox newest hero, Andrew Beintendi will also get a few votes.
Manager of the year will be either Tito Francona or Paul Molitor. Tito has the great team. Molitor managed the long shot Twins into the post season after losing 100 games last year.
I think the ALCS will be the real World Series. Houston and Cleveland are terrific teams.
LeBron James will proclaim Cleveland as the sports hub of the nation.
45 will disinvite WS MVP Jose Ramirez from the White House celebration.
Tito Francona will tell 45 what he can do with his golf trophy.
Take 2 and go to left …
I heard these lines recently in a movie. They made me laugh.
“Isn’t it too early to be drinking?” he said.
“No,” she said. ” I’m awake.”
The line had stayed with me many years after the laughter faded, replaced by memories of work, reporters, bars, and pubs from New York to Saigon.
As a reporter, I covered Presidential politics from 1962 to 2001. From JFK to Bush, Jr. As a newbie reporter, I saw veteran correspondents fueling up with multiple Bloody Marys as we began our day on the political or campaign trail. I was impressed. During my rookie year, I summoned up enough courage to question one famous reporter who had begun his career working with Edward R. Murrow. He was on his third Bloody Mary — in one 10-minute period.
“Isn’t it too early to be drinking?” I asked, slowly and politely.
The veteran reporter who’d covered FDR, World War II in the trenches, and the McCarthy Hearings, among other assignments. He looked at me for a long moment, then finished his drink.
“Is it too early to be drinking?” he repeated my question and ordered another Bloody. “No, I’m awake!”
I shook my head in amazement and admiration. He was clearly fortifying himself for the day to come. It would be another long day on the road. Cold, dreary, and filled by interviews with people from pompous to angry to clueless when asked about election issues and the candidates.
I remember one fellow decked out in a hunting outfit, cradling a shotgun. He sneered when answering my questions. When finished, he said “Figures the media is not tellin’ the truth. A Negro askin’ me stuff about that Catholic in the White House. That’s what’s wrong with our country.”
The veteran reporter had overheard the conversation. He gave me a wry smile.
Years later, I shared the story with “Tip” O’Neill, Speaker of the House and a personal friend. He laughed so hard the bar seemed to shake. Then he looked angry for a moment, patting me on the shoulder with a huge sigh.
“Garry,” he said, “Here’s looking at you, kid!” The Political Legend smiled as we clinked glasses. “Some days, it’s never too early to start drinking,” O’Neill concluded. And ordered one more round.
I wonder about “eye-openers” for those covering last year’s Presidential race and even more about how those trying to cover “news” in this insane political year are managing. These days, for those who still drink, maybe it really is never too early to start drinking.
A friend took me to a Red Sox Game at Fenway Park. It was the middle of April, so there was a chill in the wind. I layered up and topped it off with my retro Brooklyn Dodgers tee-shirt. It was Jackie Robinson day. Everyone was wearing the fabled #42.
April is the beginning of the new baseball season, when hope springs eternal. Anything could happen. The haves and have-nots are equally in the race. For me, it’s also when I open the cookie jar of memories, mentally racing around the bases to those days when I listened to our boys of summer on the radio.
Vin Scully was a 20-something rookie broadcaster, calling his first season of Brooklyn Dodgers games.
The Korean “conflict” dominated the radio news, which preceded the important stuff, baseball. The Brooklyn Dodgers were “America’s Team” in 1950. Vin Scully was a new breed of sports broadcaster. He mixed in stories about President Truman’s desegregation of our Armed Forces and “discontent” about the integrated Dodgers’ team.
Scully used phrases like “Goodnight, sweet Prince”, after Jackie Robinson turned in another memorable game amid jeers from rabble-rousers. It was curious to this young fan who dreamed of becoming a team-mate of Jackie Robinson, Peewee Reese, and Duke Snider. I’d wear Dodger Blue with pride, I promised myself.
Vin Scully’s word portraits of the 1950 Brooklyn Dodgers often seemed at odds with the tabloid accounts of the New York Daily News and Daily Mirror. Their sports sections only talked about the games, the heroes, and the goats. I glanced at the front pages — boring stuff about politics and social upheaval.
I thought it would be wonderful if they played baseball all year round and the stories would always be about the Bums and the dreaded New York Yankees. Heck, it would be terrific to listen to Vin Scully and not those other people talking about grown up stuff. Scully even mentioned things we were studying in school and made them sound exciting. I’ll never forget his referring to April as “the cruelest month.” I’d steal that line a zillion times.
A couple of decades later, opportunity opened the door to meetings with Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, and other fabled Boys of Summer. Campy was friendly and outgoing, eager to share stories with a newbie reporter. He would say, “Life is good, young fella. You gotta appreciate it.”
Jackie Robinson would glare at Campy as he wove the stories of good times with the Dodgers. Sometimes, he would interrupt Campanella with a sharp, “Enough, Roy. Enough of that fiction.”
Robinson would turn to me, his eyes blazing, seemingly angry. “Life isn’t a ball game, young man,” he once said. Then, he gently patted me on the shoulder, noting that I was a good conversationalist and listener. It was a bit confusing. It happened that way several times.
People like Campy, Peewee Reese and even a reluctant Duke Snider would share that Jackie Robinson was a very complicated man on a mission.
PBS is again running Ken Burns’ two part portrait of Jackie Robinson. It goes beyond myth and legend to examine Robinson, the man. The man from Cairo, Georgia was so much more than the athlete who broke baseball’s racial barrier. The inner turmoil, anger, frustration, and multiple health issues took Robinson from us way too early, at age 53.
This week, Vin Scully is also being honored as he begins his 67th and final year as the voice of the Dodgers. Scully, at 88 and counting, still sounds like that young story-teller I listened to in 1950.
1950. So long ago. A time of innocence for many young boys like me.
Another year rolled around. It’s late September, the end of the 2017 season.
Vin Scully retired and though the world is not running short of commentators for baseball, no one can match his style, his class, his understanding of the game, or the poetry he added to his commentary.
On a positive note, the Sox are in it, hopefully taking the Eastern Division this week. It’s been a bumpy ride all season with (ironically) great pitching and intermittent hitting. They are on television, right now as I write, down one-nothing in the fifth inning to the Cincinnati Reds. It’s still early. We’ve been pulling games out from behind all season. Maybe this is another.
Baseball has been a saving grace for me during this otherwise disgraceful year of political ugliness and international ill-will. I wonder if a World Series win would fix it? Somehow, I doubt it.
We need more than a ballpark win this year.