Don Hoak was a professional baseball player for 11 seasons. From 1954-1964 Hoak played for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates and the Philadelphia Phillies. By all accounts he was a nice man and a decent player who had a career .265 batting average.
In real life Don Hoak probably never intentionally scared a child. Little did he know one day this baseball card would affect one superstitious, naive, ignorant kid.
One day when I was about 7-years-old I acquired some old baseball cards from the 1960s from my grandfather. I showed them to an older boy and when he came to Don Hoak he said, “you know, he’s dead,” as he handed the card back to me.
Well I stared at the card and I got the willies. An actual shudder ran down my spine.
“Dead? What do you mean, dead?” I said.
My simpleton mind knew what dead meant, but I did not have much real life experience with death.
All I knew was that I was holding a dead man in my hand. How could he be dead? This card is only a few years old and he couldn’t have been an old man?
“How’d he die?” I needed to know.
“I don’t know but he died a few years ago (1969)” my companion said. Then he added, “He may have been murdered.”
Wellllll now I was transfixed for about a full minute. This simple 1964 Topps baseball card of a smiling ballplayer took on new meaning. Continue reading →
President Trump Won’t Throw Out The Ceremonial First Pitch On Opening Day
Donald Trump in 2004 throws out the ceremonial first pitch photo: Kathy Willens AP via Newsday
The major league baseball season opens this weekend on Sunday, April 2, 2017.
Though it might have been “great” or “terrific,” President Trump will not throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Washington Nationals opening game on Monday, April 3.
Probably because rudeness has become our nation’s new normal.
President Barack Obama threw out ceremonial first pitches and was booed by thousands of fans. It’s almost certain that if President Trump were to show up at opening day, the jeers would be deafening.
There was a time in this country, not very long ago where the office of the President of the United States was shown respect, even if you vehemently disagreed with the president’s policies or even loathed him. The president showing up at baseball’s opening day was an occasion to celebrate our national pastime and have the president participate in a tradition. Continue reading →
To call George Carlin a comedian would be a narrow definition of who he was. My best description would be: a brilliant social commentator with observations wrapped in comedy aimed at the masses to induce critical thinking with laughter.
Normally we abstain from profanity on this web site. You can say a lot without having to resort to vulgarisms. But integral to George Carlin and his performances was his use of profanity. If the truth is wrapped in profanity, then the truth will be voiced here.
Here is the late George Carlin’s explanation of who runs America and reminds us that we are not members of “the club.”
MLB About To Introduce Two Ridiculous Rule Changes To “Speed Up” The Game.
Why The Changes Are Bad And What They Should Do Instead.
These fans watching baseball in the 1940s don’t look bored at all. That may be because the average length of a 9 inning baseball game in the 1940s was about 2 hours and 15 minutes.
Baseball is a slow and boring sport. The games are too long. There is not enough scoring.
These are some of the complaints that have been lodged against the National Pastime.
The only part I’ll agree with is that the games are definitely too long.
MLB executives and the players union are trying out two changes this year in the minor leagues to speed up the game. After trial periods, it is likely these changes will be permanently adapted in the major leagues. They may indeed speed up games by a few seconds. For the vast majority of games these changes will have little effect and do more damage than good to the overall structure of baseball.
There are other changes that would be more practical and easy to implement to dramatically shorten all games without changing baseball itself. I’ll discuss that after we review the two proposed MLB rule changes.
The first proposed rule change is that a team will be able to declare an intentional walk without the pitcher throwing any pitches. The pitcher’s manager will just signal for an intentional walk and the batter will go to first.
The second rule change is even sillier. In extra inning games, starting in the tenth inning each team when they come to bat will start the inning with a man already on second base.
So why are these changes beyond foolish?
Let’s look at the first proposal, the announced intentional walk. Although it sounds like an easy strategy to walk a batter intentionally, it is sometimes not so simple to throw four balls that are nowhere near home plate.
There are pitchers, such as the Yankees Dellin Betances, who when called upon to execute an intentional walk, every ball they throw can be an adventure. A wild pitch is always a possibility. Lobbing the ball to the catcher is hard for some pitchers. There are also quite a number of pitchers who throw the ball too close to the plate, so the batter can swing at the ball. Every now and then you’ll see something that you rarely see. Here are just two recent examples.
Miguel Cabrera drives in a run on an intended intentional walk.
Gary Sanchez of the Yankees nearly hits a home run on a pitch that was meant to be a ball.
As I pointed out many pitchers really have a hard time throwing a ball intentionally outside of the strike zone when the situation is called for. This is far more common than you might imagine. Wild pitches can change the outcome of a ballgame, especially with runners on base as seen here in multiple cases:
Then there is the opposite effect, where the defense pulls a tricky play.
In the early 1970s I recall seeing Reds superstar Johnny Bench get fooled at the plate. It happened on the biggest stage possible; game three of the 1972 World Series.
Bench had a 3 and 2 count when A’s manager Dick Williams paid a visit to the mound. Williams talked with pitcher Rollie Fingers and catcher Gene Tenace and made it seem like Williams told Fingers to intentionally walk the dangerous slugger. Because as Tenace returned to the plate to await the next pitch from Fingers, Tenace, stood up, put his hand out calling for an intentional ball four.
And guess what? Tenace jumped right back behind the plate and Fingers threw a slider for strike three, stunning Bench and everyone watching. It was a deft move you don’t see very often.
I couldn’t believe that I found the moment on YouTube.
In 1996 Dennis Martinez and Tony Pena of the Indians, successfully pulled the same move on Blue Jays star John Olerud.
It’s true, these flubs are extremely rare, but they do occur. The automatic intentional walk is a shortsighted rule change and ends up removing strategy from the game.
One other thing: how does the new rule go down in the record books? Will the pitcher be credited with four pitches thrown? What happens when you are at three balls and one strike, do you just declare the walk when you want to intentionally pass a batter or does the pitcher still have to throw a pitch?
The second rule change of starting the inning of an extra inning game with a man placed on second base to begin the inning is simply ludicrous.
No nail-biters anymore, no strategy – it’s just get this game over with. This is what MLB is saying.
Joe Torre, MLB’s Chief Baseball Officer, is in favor of bringing the rule to the major leagues if the minor league experiment works.
Torre said, “Let’s see what it looks like. It’s not fun to watch when you go through your whole pitching staff and wind up bringing a utility infielder in to pitch. As much as it’s nice to talk about being at an 18-inning game, it takes time.”
Really Joe? How many games went to 18 innings or more in the past ten years? How many times did a manager use their whole pitching staff?
In the entire history of Major League Baseball there have only been 46 games that have gone more than 19 innings. On average less than 10 games per year last 15 innings or more. If a manager goes through his entire pitching staff, well he’s not a good manager. Believe it or not many fans enjoy marathon games. It’s the time of those exciting games that gets people sleepy, not the number of innings.
If you want to ruin baseball then this rule change is perfect.
By the way: how would the scoring work for putting a runner on second? Idiotically.
The pitcher didn’t allow the runner on, so why penalize him and the team when a ground ball to second for an out advancing the runner to third and then a fly ball can result in a run. The pitcher and the team was essentially defensively effective, but could lose the game.
This rule is MLB being lazy and coming up with a dumb solution just to shorten games and appeal to younger fans with limited attention spans. It’s like MLB took a page out of the NHL rule book with hockey’s overtime shootout to decide tie games. That adjustment has been horrible for hockey and its fans.
Now what are the ways to speed up baseball games significantly?
Change # 1 – Enforce rule 5.07 (c) of the Major League Baseball rule book which states: “When the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball. Each time the pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call “Ball.”
The 12-second timing starts when the pitcher is in possession of the ball and the batter is in the box, alert to the pitcher. The timing stops when the pitcher releases the ball. The intent of this rule is to avoid unnecessary delays. The umpire shall insist that the catcher return the ball promptly to the pitcher, and that the pitcher take his position on the rubber promptly. Obvious delay by the pitcher should instantly be penalized by the umpire.
Did you realize rule 6.02a (8) says:
If there is a runner, or runners, it is a balk when: The pitcher unnecessarily delays the game;
Have you ever seen that enforced? I haven’t. But I’ve seen pitchers call the catcher to the mound six separate times for one batter or take over 30 seconds between each and every pitch.
I’ve noticed and counted the time between pitches in many games. Most pitchers take between 22 -27 seconds to throw a pitch after receiving the ball back from the catcher. Some pitchers are agonizingly slow, like the Dodgers Pedro Baez (over 30 seconds between pitches) and Kenley Jansen (27 seconds between pitches). There are many hurlers who can transform their own fielders into a trance-like state with all that inactivity.
There’s no excuse for this. Watch R.A. Dickey or Mark Buehrle pitch and the game moves at a brisk pace. Unfortunately they are the exceptions. Most pitchers take wayyyyy too long between pitches. Put up a pitch clock and give the pitchers a little leeway- 15 seconds and have them throw the pitch or call it a ball. Figure saving at least 5 seconds per pitch with 260 total pitches being thrown. total time shortened per game: minimum 26 minutes Continue reading →
A 1920 Essay From Dr. Frank Crane About Democracy and Indifference
The United States is more polarized than it has ever been.
Very few Americans are feeling indifferent about our democracy these days. Americans have strong feelings one way or another about many issues. Yet many people feel powerless to affect the way our democracy operates. The question many are asking is, “is democracy dead?”
We have two political parties who generally do not represent the best interests of the people. Instead they stick along party lines on all issues. What makes this charade even more distressing is that our “representatives” are bought and paid for by corporations, PACs and lobbyists. Distracted by partisan politics, Americans become complacent and indifferent to the underlying problem – corruption. This is not a new phenomenon.
Dr. Frank Crane (1861 – 1928) was a Presbyterian minister, well known across the country as a columnist, author and lecturer about positive everyday living and home grown wisdom. He wrote this essay, Democracy and Indifference in 1920.
While the specifics of graft and corruption have changed since 1920, the fundamentals have not. We still have a government that answers first to corporations, trusts and grafters.
Dr. Crane’s short essay is worth repeating (punctuation and capitalization as originally printed):
Democracy and Indifference
The suicide of Democracy is indifference. The trouble with the USA is not too much politics, but not enough.
A Monarchy or a Government by Trusts by Bosses or by Grafters will work itself because there is a class whose self interest keeps them on the job It is their bread and butter. Also jam.Continue reading →
In 1914 Muslim-American Writer Achmed Abdullah Warned The World That Islam Would One Day Violently Take On Europe and America
Achmed Abdullah (1881-1945) was not a psychic, but over a hundred years ago he foresaw the future of Islam’s battle with the West.
Abdullah was born on the borderland between Afghanistan and India. Of mixed parentage, Abdullah was raised Muslim. He claimed to be educated on the continent and received a college degree in England, though the schools Abdullah supposedly went to have no record of him being there. Abdullah immigrated to America sometime around 1910. College degree or not he was well versed, educated and opinionated.
In the mid-teens he became a writer of some note, penning many articles for major magazines. Over the course of his writing career he wrote over two dozen books and by 1920 was also writing for the cinema. His two most famous screenplays are The Thief of Baghdad (1924) starring Douglas Fairbanks and The Lives of A Bengal Lancer (1935) starring Gary Cooper. Abdullah’s autobiography, The Cat had Nine Lives (1933) is extremely dubious as he professed to be related to Russian royalty among many of his unsubstantiated claims.
Early in his writing career Abdullah wrote a piece of non-fiction that you can tell is from the heart. In this story, he tells of the racial prejudice he encountered in his travels around the world. He recounts the historic injustices inflicted upon Asians and Muslims. Abdullah writes of his frustration with Christian and Western civilization’s assumption of superiority over any other culture. Abdullah saw the west’s attitude as racist and driven by subjugation and greed. Ironic, considering Abdullah was on his way to making a very good living from Western civilization.
From the article:
“You Westerns feel so sure of your superiority over us Easterns that you refuse even to attempt a fair or correct interpretation of past and present historical events. You deliberately stuff the minds of your growing generations with a series of ostensible events and shallow generalities, because you wish to convince them for the rest of their lives how immeasurably superior you are to us, how there towers a range of differences between the two civilizations, how East is only East, and the West such a glorious, wonderful, unique West.”
Abdullah’s article “Seen Through Mohammedan Spectacles,” was published in October 1914 by a very influential monthly scholarly magazine, The Forum.
The 13 page article which can be read here in its entirety, ran just months after the outbreak of World War I.
The article is forgotten today. Now is a good time to re-read it to better understand long held grievances from a non-western perspective. Continue reading →
We’ve all heard of road rage, how about road-pedestrian rage?
Today the problem in New York City seems to be aggressive drivers nearly mowing down pedestrians who have the right of way. Sometimes it’s the opposite problem – pedestrians strolling into oncoming traffic when the traffic light is against them. Typically because the pedestrian is so caught up in their personal device that they completely ignore their surroundings.
In 1968 the confrontations were much simpler.
End of Round One
New York: With tempers a bit short on this steamy morning in New York City Nov. 12th thsi pedestrian at left finds himself in an unusual position – prone – at 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue. He got that way after taking exception to a chauffeur’s driving ability. The driver got out of his car, flattened the pedestrian and continued on his way. The storm continued unabated. Credit: UPI telephoto 11/12/68
A few of the things seen along 13th Avenue in Brooklyn on a sunny day in April 2015.
In our first photograph at the corner of 39th Street and 13th Avenue, a once elegant building has been neglected and altered to detract from its original beauty. Portions of its roofline have been unmercifully lopped off at the building’s corner. Some of the ornamental features are still there, even the original building name. You just have to look for it. Near the roosting pigeons on the faded red roof just below what was certainly once an ornate cupola: The Abels and Gold Building.
Simon Abels and Louis Gold were Brooklyn real estate developers at the turn-of-the-century. The Abels Gold Realty Company developed and controlled buildings around the Borough Park and Bay Ridge neighborhoods. By the 1930’s Abels Gold Realty were gone. This building is the sole reminder of their real estate legacy.
Next, if you look down at the street at the same intersection, you will notice there used to be a trolley running along this stretch of road turning from 13th Avenue on to 39th Street. This small section of track was peeking through the asphalt.
Now the city talks about bringing back light railway (electric trolleys) to Brooklyn in areas that have limited transportation options like Red Hook along the Brooklyn waterfront. Continue reading →
There is a myth that the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro was an excellent baseball player during his collegiate years. It was claimed he was so good that major league scouts were following him. He was even offered a major league contract.