Archive for the Baseball Category

PISSANTRIES, POLITICS, AND A GORGEOUS MISTRESS

I generally keep my notes for future essays in my head but in some cases on an old dictating machine on my desk. Two of these notes appeared simultaneously and I thought that there were enough similarities that they could be married together. The first essay has to do with the ancient word for an insect, “pissant.” That explains the first word in the title. The second word, “politics,” is also related to the pissantries. The third entry in the title is “a gorgeous mistress” named Kimberly Bell, who was the mistress of Barry Bonds, the home run king, for many years. I will take each subject separately but from time to time you may see how they have become married.

The word “pissant” is an older term which refers to an insect. The insect is an ant that seeks the feet of humans and animals. The word “pissant” is far from a vulgarism. It is a living creature, just as bedbugs and gnats are living creatures also. Pissants dart from one section of the body to another and are generally just plain miserable. They are hard to swat and the pressure from the swatter is sufficiently great to move them to safety.

As I have related in earlier essays, my parents were quite religious. But they had frequently identified politicians who were bothersome as pissants. Unfortunately, that word is no longer in common usage because of the advance of insecticides that destroy the pissants in their nests. And so we see that the pissants became largely worthless creatures who now no longer bother us, but who have also disappeared from the latest dictionaries.

During the last few months, there have been inaugurations of several Republican governors in the Midwest and now one in Maine who have qualified for the title of pissant extraordinaire. Apparently these governors have made compacts which they have set out to rule the bargaining rights for state workers. They have set out to achieve these ends by all means fair or foul. In the state of Maine, the new governor there has declared that a mural in the state labor department is offensive to him and must be moved. Yet the mural, consisting of perhaps 13 panels, depicts workers in Maine building boats, fishing, and doing all of the other things that require labor in the state of Maine. The panels have existed for some time but now the new governor has decided that he is an art critic who wants them moved or put in storage. His complaint is that when businessmen come around to the department of labor, they will conclude that the panels prejudice the department against business.

In the Midwest, we have such governors as Scott Walker in Wisconsin and the governor of Ohio named John Kasich, who have passed legislation denying state workers the ability to bargain their wages. As someone who knows a little bit about labor relations, I view this as a temporary situation because given a bit of time these governors will be recalled or defeated in the next election. But these governors clearly qualify as pissants. If my parents were alive today, which they are not, they would identify these governors as clear examples of pissantries. They are making buzzing sounds as pissants do. The results of their labor are nil. These governors, including the Midwestern ones and the one in Maine, deserve to be terminated like bedbugs or gnats. But their time will come in recalls or in elections.

Well, so much for pissantries and politics. It is now time to turn to Kimberly Bell, who was Barry Bonds’ mistress for several years. I suspect that some of my readers may wonder who this Barry Bonds is. I will tell you.

Barry Bonds is the son of Bobby Bonds. Both of them were famous baseball players. Barry Bonds, according to baseball records, is the greatest home run hitter of all time. I dispute that, as do many others, because it is reasonably clear that Bonds had the help of steroids as he compiled his home run record. But then as his playing career drew to a close around 2007 or 2008, Barry Bonds was implicated in a steroid scandal involving not only himself but a star swimmer in the world Olympics. The swimmer was a female and, at the time, she admitted her use of steroids and was sent to jail for a short period of time, say two years. But old Barry Bonds wanted once to tough it out and in the process lied, or so it is alleged, to a grand jury about his intake of steroids. And that is what the trial that is taking place as I dictate these lines on March 24, 2011 is all about.

Bonds contends that he took no steroids but that his trainer gave him a combination of flax seed and another thing called Cream. The federal government has witnesses who will testify that they have seen Bonds injecting himself or having a trainer perform that service. At this early point in the trial, it would seem to me that the evidence against Barry Bonds is reasonably overwhelming.

But hovering in the background is a witness for the federal government who will deliver, it is alleged, some damning evidence. We all know that Barry Bonds’s feet jumped by two or three sizes and that the muscles in his arms expanded greatly during a winter off-season when he said that he was not taking steroids and the government said that he was. But regardless of his arm measurements and muscles and the size of his feet, we now come to Kimberly Bell, whose testimony will be extraordinary.

It is an established fact that Kimberly Bell was the mistress of Barry Bonds. There seems to be no dispute on this point. On the other hand, Miss Chicka, my wife, contends that Barry Bonds had a wife as well as the gorgeous mistress. I contend that a man can have a mistress regardless of his marital status but there are those who contend that mistresses apply only when there is a marriage involved. I regard this question as being a pissant one which shall give me the license to say that these two essays are married. In any case, we know that Kimberly Bell was a long-time mistress of Barry Bonds. During that association, there must have been occasions when sexual relations took place. Now we are told that Kimberly Bell is prepared to testify in this federal trial that she is certain that Bonds took steroids because the size of his testicles shrunk. I am not an expert on these matters but I advise all of my readers to pay close attention to the reports from San Francisco having to do with Barry Bonds’s testicular size.

When Kimberly Bell testifies and states that the size of Barry Bonds’ s testicles has shrunk, the defense attorney defending Mr. Bonds should have a field day. In the first place, he will probably taunt the government for not calling Barry Bonds’s wife to testify about the size of his genital equipment. We can believe that the wife had known Barry Bonds longer than the mistress had, and thus a good comparison of before and after taking steroids would be available. But Mrs. Bonds, if there is such a person, is not on the witness list for the government.

Let’s go back to the cross examination of Kimberly Bell. It would be very interesting to know how she had determined that Mr. Bonds’s testicles had shrunk. For example, did she take measurements before and after steroid use was attributed to Mr. Bonds. The defense attorney might inquire of Miss Bell how the size of Mr. Bonds’s testicles compared to other persons, male, that she had observed. This all goes to the point of whether the witness was an expert on the size of male testicles. Then the witness might be asked to provide the jury with the current size of Mr. Bonds’s testicles. She may also be asked whether the shrunken testicles occurred quickly or whether it was a matter of gradual disappearance. But throughout his cross examination the defense attorney is always at question for failure to produce Mrs. Bonds, if there were one. It would seem to most observers that his wife would be in a better position to testify as to the size of this equipment over a long period of time than his mistress.

But the fact of the matter is that the government is going to rely upon the testimony of Kimberly Bell. Because she was merely a mistress of Barry Bonds, it may cause some on the jury to question her value as a witness. Nonetheless, I am advising my readers that they should follow the daily reports from San Francisco to see how the cross examination of Miss Bell proceeds. For all I know, we may get a high definition exhibit of Mr. Bonds’s private parts.

I would make a prejudiced juror in this case because I do not believe that Barry Bonds is entitled to be called the home run king. That title belongs to Henry Aaron, who compiled his record with the Milwaukee Braves and then the Atlanta Braves. He used no steroids. Aaron is a gentleman who was moved to congratulate, not very warmly, Bonds when Aaron’s home run mark fell to second place. Henry Aaron is a credit to the game of baseball. Barry Bonds is a predator in the records of our national pastime.

Well, there you have my thoughts on pissants and politicians such as the governors in the Midwestern states and Maine, as well as my thoughts on the testimony of Kimberly Bell. I regret that I did not become a lawyer. It might have offered me the opportunity to cross examine Kimberly Bell. I would suspect that the lawyer who does the cross examination will remember it for the rest of his life and use it in after-dinner speeches for many years to come. But more than anything else, my notepad is empty and my brain has been relieved of carrying these two potential essays around. That in and of itself makes writing these two essays more than worthwhile. To think that I have informed my readers about pissants and Kimberly Bell’s testimony fills me with joy unending.

E. E. CARR
March 27, 2011

~~~

This one has a sister essay from about a month later that’s also worth a read.

An interesting fact about pissants (which are just wood ants) is that they get their name from their smell; their nests smell like urine, due to the construction material and the formic acid that the ants produce. Incidentally, the resemblance to these ants was what inspired the name of the “Formics,” which are the evil aliens in everyone’s favorite Mormon Sci Fi book, Ender’s Game. (Turns out that ol’ Orson Scott Card is a direct descendant of Brigham Young himself, who knew?). Anyway that series is pretty terrible but it does involve a space war against what I’m now realizing is a race of scientifically advanced pissants, which adds a fun spin to the series.

I regretfully have nothing to contribute regarding the size of Bonds’s testicles, but I think it’s pretty screwed up that he’s allowed to keep the home run record.

PLAYOFF GREED

In recent weeks, the sporting scene has been dominated by the National Football League Playoffs. Under the present system, playoffs are the most important part of the long NFL schedule. The regular schedule is largely incidental.

Teams play a 16-game schedule starting late in August. Each team is given a bye week when no game is played. Prior to the schedule, two exhibition games are played, so it is an endurance to last from the first game to the final encounter. Now that is the regular schedule.

Ah, but the last game is only the prelude to the playoffs. Curiously and cruelly, playoff games when the players and the clubs have most at stake, are played in the cold and snows of January. This year, there were games in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Boston, Massachusetts, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. None of those towns qualifies as a resort area with placid weather. In the final games at Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, the weather registered less than 20 degrees on the Fahrenheit scale. Snow in great quantities fell the Saturday before the Sunday game. The player’s hands were clearly affected by the cold. Throws from quarterbacks often fluttered in the brisk wind as they were released.

These are inhumane conditions for the players as well as for the fans. And it all happens because of greed. In former days, the team that led the win-loss column at the conclusion of the regular schedule was crowned the champion of that particular year. The season ended in December. Then because of greed, a playoff system was installed, with a Super Bowl as the climax. If a team successfully negotiated the playoff routine, it will have played as many as 22 games before the season is finally ended.

A long season dictates injuries to the players and cuts short their careers. But it means many more bucks for the owner’s wallets. The need to be bigger and stronger and to have more endurance is a set piece for drug ingestion by the players.

The point is simple. To drain more revenue from football fans, the playoffs were invented as a post-season device. As a result, the most important games of the season are played in sub-freezing temperatures often in rain or snow storms. Observers will note that when the ultimate game is played, that is the Super Bowl – the site becomes a more temperate location in Florida or some other warm place. Philadelphia and Boston are the contestants in the 2005 Super Bowl. No one in his right mind has suggested playing the game in those two Northeastern cities. If that is true, why is it that the games that precede the Super Bowl are played in the frigid temperatures of January? The only answer is greed. Injuries to players and the deleterious effects on their careers take second place to the inordinate desire to fill the owner’s coffers with dollars. The same desire applies as well to the television networks.

The answer, my friends, is greed, greed, greed. There is no other answer to extending the season far past its logical and normal limits. If the players falter, the owners say, “Let’s get some new players.” In the end, greed makes this an immoral system. Some people are reminded of the old Grecian and Roman games done for the entertainment of the royalty. In those games, some contestants lost their lives. In the course of thousands of years, some progress has been made. Players don’t lose their lives; many of them hobble from injuries for the rest of their lives.

The Canadian Football League wraps up its season in November. We have a lot to learn from our northern neighbors.

We turn now from football in January to the baseball World Series which comes to an end, given a share of luck, the last days of October or in early November.

All of the disabilities of the post season football playoffs are found in the current playoff system in baseball. Each league, the National and the American, competes in three divisions. The team having the second best record then becomes the fourth playoff team. That is called the “wildcard” team. If they have a string of successes, they can become the champion of baseball, regardless of the standings of the other clubs after a 162 game schedule. The Boston Red Sox did exactly that in 2004.

The most important games are played – AT NIGHT – in late October to determine the winner. Playing night baseball in October means an inferior brand of baseball because of the cold. Pitchers who can’t get a proper grip on the ball are often wide of the strike zone. Performing in cold weather at temperatures of 40º or less is nothing short of asking for an injury. But the playoffs put big money into the owner’s pockets. It is a system of absolute greed. The television networks share in this greed.

To keep up with the pressures of professional baseball, players often resort to drugs. This year we find admissions by Jason Giambi of the New York Yankees and Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants. Gary Sheffield of the Yankees has long been suspected of taking performance enhancing drugs. Ken Caminetti who had a Most Valuable Player career in baseball, lost his life at age 41. Caminetti admitted using drugs. Jason Giambi has developed a tumor. His output has diminished severely. The Yankees owe Caminetti $80 million dollars under his contract which they cannot shed. The point is that greed is driving the players and the owners. That is a deplorable development.

In another act of greed, the American League now has had for several years a system called the “designated hitter.” The pitcher, who is usually the poorest batter, does not come to the plate. His place is taken by a designated hitter. The DH has no other duties but to bat for the pitcher. He does not appear as a fielder. His only job is to bat in place of the pitcher.

The idea of the DH is to encourage home runs which allegedly draws more fans to the ball parks. In the American League, baseball strategy takes second place. Bunting, the hit and run, and the stolen base are concepts that give way to the desire for the long ball or the home run. Watching an American League game is an exercise in futility. Strategy is for that other league. In the American League, we employ hitters like Jason Giambi or Edgar Martinez or other washed up players who can no longer handle a fielding position. The game of baseball is greatly diminished when strategy gives way to the greedy desire for the home run.

Two other professional sports leagues exist in this country and in Canada. They are the National Basketball League and the National Hockey League. Each plays an 82 game schedule battling the inclement weather of winter when it comes to intercity travel.

The basketball league has by my latest count 30 teams. It includes teams such as Sacramento, Memphis and Charlotte. We are down to only one club in Canada, that being in Toronto. In college basketball, there is a tournament called the Sweet Sixteen which takes place late in March or early in April. Colleges may play a 40 or 50 game schedule. But the pros, after an 82 game schedule, are just warming up for the playoffs.

The fact is that a club which finished first in its division has to do it all over again in the playoffs. Playoffs my friends, are for greed. Long after the baseball season, which starts in April, we have basketball and its playoffs extending into June. If everything goes well, the basketball champions of the NBA are crowned in the first two weeks of June. With exhibition games and the regular season starting in September, the schedule goes on for nine or ten months, an inordinate amount of time. As in the case of professional football and baseball, all the drawbacks about players taking performance enhancing drugs to perform at peak levels for such an extended season apply. The same goes for player injuries. It is all done for lining the pockets of television networks and the basketball owners. When the players falter, the owners discard the players and find others to take their place. It is all about greed, greed greed.

Last year, the playoff system in the National Hockey League produced the championship round in the early part of June. The contestants were Winnipeg and Tampa Bay. The final games were played – in June – in Tampa Bay. Objective observers must find that the hockey championship in June in Tampa Bay is a ridiculous development. Ice hockey in June in Tampa Bay is perhaps the ultimate oxymoron.

There is no NHL 2004-05 hockey season so far this year. Greed has gotten to everyone. The players want to be free to earn unlimited salaries. On the other hand, the owners insist on a “hard cap” on salaries. All indications would lead one to predict that the NHL 2004-05 hockey season will be cancelled. That is somewhat of a crime, but clearly and unequivocally, the loss of the NHL season is a function of greed.

So we find greed everywhere in professional sports. Innocence is a forgotten commodity. The prospects are for more greed – not less. Just this winter, baseball owners, including the New York Mets, signed free agents to exorbitant contracts. So the owners desire for more revenues will continue to grow.

Where will it end? It will end with lesser clubs in such places as Oakland, Kansas City, Buffalo or Orlando with owners having to say – this game is too rich for my taste. Perhaps it will end with mega-millionaires such as George Steinbrenner or Madison Square Garden’s Jim Dolan controlling an unhealthy collection of players. If that is the way professional sports are headed, then good old fashioned greed wins the day.

But there is a lesson in the debate over the 2004-05 NHL season. Greed may well force a reduction in the towns where professional sports are played. Greed may force a season to be cancelled as in the case of this year’s hockey season. In the end, in spite of exorbitant fees to see a professional game, the losers will be the fans – who paid all this money to support the structures of professional sports. The fans don’t deserve that sort of treatment, but greed is the active ingredient here.

We will have to see what happens, but you may be sure of one thing. The fans who pay the bills will be the ones to be hurt. This is where greed has gotten us. If greed is one of the seven deadly sins, it richly deserves that designation.

E. E. CARR
February 5, 2005

~~~

Seems like you could avoid most of these problems with climate-controlled stadiums. Or at least a change of schedules would make sense — if we have to have a nine-month season, why not START it in February, so you can wrap things up in October? That way you have increasingly good weather for the bulk of the season, ending in fall before it gets too cold. Having athletes play their most important games in the worst conditions doesn’t make much sense at all.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK Part 12 – The Yanks, The Giants and The Brooklyn Dodgers

When it was determined that essays would become a permanent fixture in my life, it was apparent that my long term love affair with baseball would result in a piece about what used to be called, “America’s Pastime.” And so this is a baseball story. No politicians, no preachers, no cats or pets, just baseball.

When I tell you about the St. Louis Cardinals and the St. Louis Browns, and the Kansas City Blues and Royals, the Chicago Cubs and White Sox and the old Washington Senators, don’t be misled. I tell you about those other teams as a means of bringing the New York Yankees, the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers into this little tale about baseball. Hence, because those three New York teams figure prominently in this story, it qualifies as Part 12 of the New York, New York series.

I suppose I have been watching too much of Cardinal Law of the Boston Archdiocese in his testimony about priestly abuse of boys and young men. His testimony has been televised and reported in newspapers. So to ease my conscience, I will disclose and confess that from the age of four, I have actively disliked the New York Yankees. “Actively disliked” comes in at the most benign level of my assessment of the Yankees. It gets worse as we go up the scale. When I spend much time thinking about the Yanks, my dislike increases many fold. I suppose Cardinal Law may banish me to purgatory for the sin of Yankee dislike.

I am not so much of a red hot baseball fan anymore, but given a chance to cheer, the Mets and the St. Louis Cardinals would find me among their rooters. Cardinal Law would still be on my case because I am not a fan of the Boston Red Sox, which I believe is a venial sin.

This is not a completely happy account of the love affair that has gathered me into its clutches. My affair with baseball started in October, 1926 when the Cardinals beat the Yanks in the World Series. In recent years, the love affair has offered blemishes and disillusionment to all its fans. For as long as I can remember, the Yankees have represented full throated and unabashed arrogance. In the old days, the Yankees beat up on the St. Louis Browns and the Washington Senators, poor clubs that could not afford outstanding players. Today, the Yankees vent their spleen upon the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Royals, two minor league teams masquerading as major league clubs.

The owner of the Yanks is George Steinbrenner, a wealthy man who spends so much on his club that no one else can keep up with him in baseball. His all time hero is George Patton, the World War II general who slapped a soldier suffering from shell shock and combat fatigue, accusing him of malingering. How’s that for a hero!

A second disillusion beyond arrogance in baseball has to do with permitting greed and childish behavior to intrude on a game that was once America’s best. In these days when the average major league ballplayer is paid $2.5 million per year, and when the owners are insisting that cities build them a ballpark to their specifications either free of charge or at minimal expense to the owners, I would say that former fans and customers are entitled to default on their love affair with baseball. And if you watched the 2002 World Series on television, you may have noticed that with commercials filling every opportunity, the games lasted 3½ – 4 hours instead of the normal 2½ hours needed to play a game. So greed is everywhere.

So much for greed in baseball for the time being. In the second paragraph of this essay, it was promised that the New York teams would be introduced by reference to several clubs in the Midwest and the Washington Senators. And with that thought in mind, we ought to start with the two St. Louis clubs, the Cardinals and the Browns, mainly because I was born in Clayton, Missouri, some eight miles from Sportsman’s Park where both St. Louis clubs played.

My feelings about baseball came upon me when I was only four years old. That would have been in 1926 when my father was building a new house in Richmond Heights, Missouri, right next door to Clayton. He did most of the work himself to save on contractor costs. All five of the surviving Carr children moved into that house. My brothers who were 11½ years older in one case and nearly 13 in the other, were big fans of the St. Louis Cardinals, a National League baseball team. To a lesser extent, they also rooted for the local American League club, the Browns.

For the first time since the Cardinals came into existence, they won the National League pennant which gave them the right to oppose the American League Champions in the 1926 World Series. Their opponents were the formidable New York Yankees. The Yankees had been to the World Series several times before. For the Cardinals, this was their maiden experience.

It was the American League’s turn to host the first two games of the Series and the last two games of the seven game contest, if the Series lasted that long. Many observers looking at the St. Louis pitching staff predicted a fairly short series, perhaps concluding in a Yankee victory in five or six games. The reason for the pessimism had to do with the age of two Cardinal pitching mainstays and the relative youth of one pitcher who had pitched 258 innings during the 1926 season leading naysayers to say he was overworked.

Flint Rhem was the youngest man at age 25 on the Cardinal staff. He is the one who had pitched so many innings in compiling a 20 win, 7 loss season. Pitching only in the fourth game of the Series, Rhem lasted only four innings and gave up seven hits. Maybe the critics were right about being overworked.

Bill Sherdel, a 29 year old left handed pitcher, worked in the first game and in the fifth game, losing both by only one run in each game. You must remember that before 1960, a 30 year old player was considered an old man. That was particularly true for pitchers.

Jesse Haines was by 1926 standards, an ancient man at 33 years. Haines, a right-hander, threw a knuckle ball. He pitched one inning in the first game, nine innings in the third game and six and 2/3 innings in the seventh game. Not so bad for an old man.

Grover Cleveland Alexander was acquired by the Cardinals from the Chicago Cubs around mid-season. Most sports writers and ball players called him Pete. At age 35 he was a relic and to top it off, he was often thought of as a fellow who had an active interest in whiskey bottles. During the 1926 season, Pete Alexander won 12 games and lost 10 games, a not very outstanding record.

When all things are considered, it is no wonder that critics discounted the Cardinal pitching staff because of overwork, advanced age or mediocre records during the regular season.

In the first two games in New York on October second and third, a Saturday and a Sunday, the Cards split with the Yankees. The old man, Alexander, who resisted the efforts of Temperance preachers, pitched nine innings in the second game and won it.

The Series resumed on Tuesday, October 5th for three games in St. Louis. When those games were finished, New York had won two of them, giving them a commanding three games to two lead with the series returning to the Yankee home field for Saturday and Sunday games.

On October 9th, a Saturday, old Pete Alexander pitched another nine innings for the Cardinals and won to tie the series. At this point, he was entitled to think that he had done more than his part for the Cardinals. According to legend, Pete tied one on that night in New York. It was Saturday and Alexander had done his work very well.

In the final game on Sunday, October 10th, Jesse Haines started and pitched until two men were out in the seventh inning. At that point, the Cardinals were protecting a 3 – 2 lead, but the Yankees had Babe Ruth, Tony Lazzeri, Lou Gehrig and Bob Meusel in their lineup. All of those sluggers could end a game with one swing of the bat.

In the seventh inning, Jesse Haine’s pitching hand was so bloodied that he could pitch no more. Remember, I told you he was a knuckleballer, but that is a misleading term. The knuckleball is thrown using the tips of three or four fingers. The ball is not gripped by the knuckles as one might imagine. Haines had loaded the bases with Tony Lazzeri coming to the plate. Lazzeri was a very feared hitter in the American League. When Haines could go no more, a problem of the greatest magnitude was presented to Rogers Hornsby, the Cardinal manager and second baseman.

Hornsby wanted to call Pete Alexander into the game to face Lazzeri with the bases loaded. But he knew that Pete had won two games in the Series and that he had pitched nine innings only the day before. On top of all that, Hornsby had reason to know that Alexander was suffering a monumental hangover. But Hornsby decided that the Yankees would have to beat the best he had, so he called Pete Alexander to the mound.

The results of that relief appearance are remembered by just about everyone in St. Louis and the Midwest who was alive at the time. Alexander struck out Lazzeri to end the seventh inning and then went on to blank the Yankees in the eighth and ninth. My memory tells me that with two outs in the ninth inning with Babe Ruth on first base, he took off for second base in an attempt to steal a base. The Cardinal catcher was Bob O’Farrell. He threw out Ruth by a “country mile,” as we used to say in Missouri. And so ended the 1926 World Series. David had slain Goliath.

We had one radio in our house in those days, an Atwater Kent. When Ruth was thrown out, St. Louis went wild and my two older brothers were in another world. My two sisters were caught up in the excitement. Even my parents who understood very little about baseball, responded to the joy of their children and of their neighbors. In the final analysis, there was so much commotion over the Cardinal victory over the Yankees that I, a four year old, have that event imprinted on my mind as my very first memory. So when I say that I have been involved with the game for many years, perhaps this will establish my bona fides as a long time aficionado of the game. If my calculator is correct, this past October marks the 76th year of my attraction to baseball. Maybe that’s too long for a love affair to last, but if it is all over, my reaction is one of sadness with a touch of anger. Greed does that to fans.

St Louis was a good place for a baseball fan to grow up. The excitement about the Cardinals was felt as far away as Tennessee, Kansas, Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma. It was commonplace for fans from distant places to sleep in their cars and trucks so they would gain an advantageous spot in the ticket lines and to avoid the cost of hotel space. When the Cardinals played the Philadelphia Athletics in the World Series of 1930 and again in 1931, the Clayton Grammar School had a radio in its auditorium. In 1934 when the Cardinals beat the Detroit Tigers, school was largely dismissed while we listened to a radio in the assembly hall. So I was not alone as a fan. Just about everyone, old and young, were Cardinal fans. And these were the grimmest years of the Great Depression.

During all this time, there was a second major team in St. Louis called the Browns. They played in the American League. Before the success of the Cardinals, the Browns were the favorites of the fans, particularly in 1922 when they almost won the pennant. In that year, the Browns won 93 games, but the New York Yankees won 94 games. So the Browns finished one game off the pace. In those years, there was no artificial device such as the “Wild Card Team.” Your team either finished first or it went home after the last game. The Browns missed by a whisker to the hated New York Yankees.

Nobody wanted to admit the obvious fact that St. Louis did not have a fan base that would support two major league teams. Attendance at Browns’ games was not enough for the club to survive much less flourish. These were the years of the Great Depression followed by World War II and fans in the seats were hard to come by. As a holder of a Knot Hole Gang membership, I saw the Browns seven or eight times per year because they had few sellouts, so seats for kids were usually available.

The Browns produced some genuine stars during this period. George Sisler, the Browns first baseman, is a member of baseball’s Hall of Fame. Junior Stephens, Jack Kramer and Harland Clift were such good players that the Browns were forced to sell them to more affluent teams just to keep the franchise in St. Louis. The operator of the Browns in those years was Phil Ball. He hung on as long as he could, and then sold the club to Bill DeWitt. When the chance came to sell the club to Bill Veeck, DeWitt grabbed it. Bill Veeck was a showman. As such, he raised the hackles of other American League owners who were a stuffy lot. In the end, they forced him to sell the club to well heeled suitors in Baltimore. And so the Browns became part of the history of baseball.

When Veeck took over the franchise, there was a little saying about the Browns. You may recall that St. Louis was famous for shoes and for beer. So the saying was:

“First in Shoes,
First in Booze,
And last in the American League.”

Bill Veeck was a good man. Before he was forced out, he brought in a one armed outfielder, Pete Gray, to play center field. On another occasion on a Sunday afternoon, he signed Eddie Gaedel, a 3’ – 10” midget. Late in the game, Gaedel was sent up to hit. He bent over to minimize his strike zone. The Detroit pitcher, Bob Cain, pitching to catcher Bob Swift, came nowhere near Gaedel’s strike zone, so he walked. Gaedel was barred from competing after that game by American League owners. All this, of course, was in keeping with Bill Veeck’s efforts to boast attendance. In the end, his fellow owners forced him out. Veeck was a good man. His fellow American League owners were troglodytes.

Greed, purely and simply, was the reason that the Browns were forced to sell out to Baltimore interests in 1953. As we go forward, there will be other examples of greed by players, owners, broadcasters and by other commercial interests such as real estate developers who want to move a tract to provide a new home for a baseball stadium.

Perhaps at this point, this essayist ought to reveal once more his prejudices and preferences about baseball. I am a National League fan. None of that designated hitter foolishness that is the practice in the American League. If we have designated hitters, can aluminum bats be far behind? And how about designated runners or managers?

Of course, I have a prejudice against the Yankees because of their unspeakable boorishness which goes back to the 1920’s in my personal experience. When the Yankees came to St. Louis to play the Browns, they made it clear to sports writers that they could play the Browns and still have time to get in a game of golf before sundown. There were no lights in ball fields at that time. For any club to beat the Yanks, especially in the World Series, was a great source of pride and accomplishment. Unfortunately, I must say that the Yankee attitude continues to this day in the person of their owner, George Steinbrenner. His sources of income are much greater than any other club by virtue of his being in New York. He uses that income to buy players that other clubs cannot afford. Before the 2002 season started, Steinbrenner offered the Oakland first baseman $17 million per year. All other bidders were scared away by the exorbitant bid. As usual, he got his first baseman. And he largely ruined the Free Agent market.

This year when major league baseball finally got around to revenue sharing, the Yankees were way out in front in terms of total payroll – as everyone knew they would be. Preliminary estimates of the Yankee revenue that must be shared, comes to between $25 million and $50 million. To offset this loss of income, Steinbrenner has decreed that hostesses in the Stadium Club and the elevator operators who take customers to the Club will be fired. Announcements of last week report that approximately 25 low level employees, including people who work on maintaining the field will also be fired. Everyone knew that Steinbrenner would turn to his little people instead of denying several million dollars to Roger Clemens, his 40 year old pitcher who wants $12 million dollars in salary in addition to a $10 million delayed payment to return to the team in 2003. So you see, the high-handedness continues.

While I am in the business of sharing prejudices, it is fair to say that the anger generated in St. Louis was directed almost exclusively at the Yankees. When the New York Giants came to call, they brought with them Walker and Mort Cooper and Johnny Mize, former Cardinal ballplayers. Relations with the Giants were almost always civil even when Leo Durocher, that firebrand, was their manager.

When the Brooklyn Dodgers called at Sportsman’s Park, it was quite difficult to get a seat. That park had vertical posts to hold up the roof. The ticket sellers tried to avoid having fans sit behind a post on ordinary games. But when the Dodgers came to town, every seat was sold, whether it had a clear view of the field or not.

Season tickets were unheard of for working stiffs like myself. I did have one big advantage. Tickets for today’s game and for the next opponent were sold at the Arcade Building in Downtown St. Louis. If I had a few bucks on me, I would go to the Arcade Building on my lunch hour and buy tickets. There were 152 games per year in a major league baseball season. If my math is about right, each team in the eight team league, would play the other 18 times. Nine games would be at the other team’s ballpark and nine would be at home. They were almost always played in sets of three per visit, so the Dodgers would visit Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis on three occasions and the Cardinals would visit Ebbets Field a similar number of times.

While the Dodgers were great rivals of the Cardinals, and vice versa, there was never any bad blood between the fans in those two cities. We looked forward to seeing the Dodgers because they had excellent ballplayers such as Carl Furillo, and Preacher Roe and Gil Hodges. On the other side of the coin, I am inclined to say that the Cardinal’s Stan Musial could have been elected to Borough President of Brooklyn at any time during his Cardinal career.

The manager of the Dodgers from 1934 through 1943 was a colorful character named Charles Dillon Stengel, better known as Casey. Stengel kept the players loose. They played for Casey without reservation. On one occasion, Stengel caught a small bird in his dugout and put it on top of his head under his cap. When an umpire made a questionable call, Casey went out on the field to protest. In the midst of the argument with the umpire, Casey took off his cap allegedly to scratch his forehead and of course, the bird flew away. Even the umpires laughed.

Casey Stengel brought those antics to Sportsman’s Park and every one loved him. The games between the Cardinals and the Dodgers were hard fought but they always had a leavening of good fun. We may not see those kind of games ever again.

So to put the reaction of St. Louis fans to New York baseball, it is clear that Cardinal and Browns fans regarded the Yankees as flat out mean. The Giants were a good team and St. Louis fans applauded for them, and particularly for the Cooper brothers and Johnny Mize, former Cardinal ball players.

Ah, but the Dodgers. They were our favorite visiting team. If there were jeers, it was all in good fun. When a Dodger player made a good play, he heard applause from St. Louis fans. Casey Stengel loved to needle the fans in St. Louis. When they could, they needled him right back.

So, it is clear. The Dodgers were our favorites. The Giants were welcomed by St. Louis fans. But the Yankees, with their superior attitude, were beyond the pale.

A small aside here, if I may. In the lean years for the Browns of 1925 to 1935, one of their pitching mainstays was George Blaeholder, a right hander with no great credentials. Over an 11 year career, Blaeholder had 104 wins, 125 losses with a 4.54 earned run average. Those statistics marked him as a run of the mill pitcher. During his major league career, he struck out 572 batters, again a modest total for an 11 year span of years. But the American League knew Blaeholder as the man Babe Ruth could not hit. Worse than that, Babe Ruth often struck out against Blaeholder. No one knows what spell old Blaeholder had over the Yankee “Sultan of Swat,” but St. Louisans rejoiced when old George struck out the Babe once again. I suppose we all took whatever joy we could when the Yanks came to town.

For many years, the Cardinals had been owned by Sam Breadon, also the owner of a north side Ford dealership. Everyone seemed to trust Breadon and he was well liked. When age caught up with him, he sold out to Robert Hannigan, the Post Master General in the Truman Administration. Hannigan knew very little about baseball. He apparently was interested in profits. Before long he sold out to Fred Saigh, who also knew even less about the game. Saigh set out to exploit the Cardinal name and by 1951 or thereabouts, was convicted of a federal crime and went to jail. So you see the Cardinals fell on hard times because of the absolute greed that afflicted the owners who came after Sam Breadon. It was during these years that, for me, the romance went out of baseball. Greed had started to take over. And it is still there.

That’s enough about St. Louis baseball. In July of 1951, I was offered a job by AT&T in the new Area Headquarters in Kansas City. I took it and moved to a nice community called Prairie Village, Kansas. If nothing else, I liked the name of the town. In my estimation, Kansas City is an attractive town with a “can do” attitude.

I knew that the Yankees had long owned the Kansas City Blues, a club in the top tier of the minor league system of baseball. The Yanks had not given up their superior ways. When they wanted a ball player from the Blues, they took him. Obviously, as the owner of the franchise, they were entitled to do that but a sense of decency should have prevailed here. If the Blues were in a dog fight with the club from Omaha, for example, perhaps the Yanks could have waited a week or so. But that’s not the way the Yankees worked.

In 1955 when major league baseball came to Kansas City and the Royals (named after a cattle show) succeeded the Blues, the Yankees still treated the newcomers as a farm team. Whenever they wanted someone from the Royals roster, it was always worked out with what seemed to be Yankee castoffs being part of the arrangement.

So you see in St. Louis and Kansas City, the Yanks were never viewed in a neutral light as were the New York Giants or in a favorable light as was the case of the Brooklyn Dodgers. They were viewed as the enemy.

In 1953, I accepted another AT&T move to Chicago. We lived on the north side of town which is generally considered National League and Cubs territory. Wrigley Field is on the near North Side of Chicago. People living below the Loop, that is on the South Side, were generally considered White Sox fans.

The Cubs had an intense rivalry with the New York Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals. Their rivalry with the Brooklyn Dodgers did not reach the intensity of their games with the Giants. Wrigley Field was a small ballpark seating about 38,000 fans. It has posts obscuring the view of many of its fans. But it is a wonderful way to see a ballgame. Until four or five years ago, Wrigley was unlighted. There was no better way to spend a lazy afternoon than at the Wrigley ballpark.

The White Sox park was quite a distance from my north side home. In the two years I lived in Chicago, I believe there were only three or four White Sox games that I attended. The ball park was in a depressed area. Parking was a problem because it was never clear that my car would be returned unharmed. But I watched the White Sox games on television with Jack Brickhouse, Chicago’s beloved announcer.

When the Yanks came to Chicago, they did it with the same display of aloofness and boorishness. White Sox fans regarded the Yanks as enemies. That attitude extended to the White Sox ownership which seemed to refuse to trade players with the Yanks. I suspect that Yankee fans would say that there were no players on the White Sox teams that they could use. And that may be true, but I’m here to tell you that there was absolutely no love lost between the fans or the ownership of the Chicago White Sox and the Yankees.

I stayed in Chicago only two years. I enjoyed my time there immensely. The people in that part of the Midwest are genuine. They work hard and play pretty much the same way. Chicago is a place I treasure.

In 1955, I came to AT&T Headquarters in New York City. In baseball terms, there was a three way war going on. The Giant fans couldn’t abide Dodger fans and looked down on Yankee rooters as front runners. Dodger fans actively disliked – or even hated – the Giants. The Dodger-Giants rivalry was so great and so consuming that Dodger fans seemed to pay little attention to the Yanks. As for the Yanks, they went their own self-satisfied way paying attention to no one but themselves. They were disliked by Dodger as well as by Giant fans.

When it comes to arrogance, which the Yanks always had, they even surpassed themselves when it came to dealing with Casey Stengel, their very successful manager. The Yankees had hired Stengel after he had completed his work with the Dodgers.

After the 1948 season, the Yanks must have been in desperate straits. They hired Casey Stengel who had always been a National League player and manager. Stengel guided Yankee fortunes from 1949 until 1960. During that time he took the Yankees to the World Series in ten different seasons. His team won the World Series on seven of those occasions.

After the 1960 World Series which the Yanks lost to Pittsburgh, Casey Stengel was told by Yankee management, to use his own words, “”My services would no longer be needed.” In short, Stengel was fired. In 12 seasons, Stengel had taken the Yanks to the World Series ten times, a winning percentage of 83%. But Stengel’s services “would no longer be required.” I think I have made my case for Yankee arrogance adequately. The attitude the Yankees had may have been attributed to the team’s management. While I was greatly turned off by the teams attitude, I liked Phil Rizzuto, Yogi Berra and Hank Bauer.

In 1966, I accepted a posting in Washington where my work was of a lobbying nature. Washington was a wonderful experience. Part of that wonderment came from a recently started ball club called the “Senators.” The original Senators had taken off for greater gold in Minneapolis at the end of 1961. Washington was without major league baseball in 1962 but an expansion club came into being for the 1963 season.

To build attendance, the Senators would permit children to be admitted for one dollar, or perhaps it may have been two dollars on Saturdays. Adults paid only three or four dollars. A young widow from Venezuela with five children lived across the street from us in Bethesda, Maryland. Our kids played with the Venezuelan children. On quite a few occasions, we would gather up our two kids and two or three from the widowed neighbor and take them to the ball game. That was great fun as the Venezuelans take their baseball seriously. And they even liked the Griffith Stadium hot dogs.

The star of that expansion Senator team was a young first baseman named Mike Epstein. When he began to call himself “The Super Jew,” he seemed to become more popular. The expansion Senators finished last, of course, but Saturday afternoons at Griffith Stadium with a bunch of little kids and “The Super Jew” are something I will long remember. All the kids, the Venezuelans and my kids thought Mike Epstein was great stuff. I was glad to see him do his thing.

Being in the American League, the Yankees dominated the Senators in Washington just as they are now doing to the Tampa Bay team which is not a major league team by any stretch of the imagination.

In 1969, I found myself again in New York just in time to join in the rooting for the Mets who won the World Series that year. I have rooted for the Mets and the Cardinals all these years, but my efforts have only occasionally been rewarded.

Sometimes the Mets are hard to be interested in. For example, they have a right fielder who cost them two good players and who makes $11.5 million per year. In the 2002 season, he hit for an average of .215. Good outfielders hit .300 or more – and this fellow is paid $11.5 million. The Mets pay their shortstop more than $6 million per year and he insults the fans and sulks. Their second baseman makes $8 million per year and often appears lost. The new left fielder is paid $4 million per year and often appears clueless when he tries to catch a fly ball in left field. Well, I suppose you can’t win them all.

I told you when you started this essay that it was about baseball. If I started in 1926 for the Cardinal-Yankee World Series that year, it means that using the standard depreciated ordinary life tables that I have been at it for 76 years. That is a long time no matter how you measure it. On the other hand, I’ve had 76 years of enjoyment and great fun from baseball. Even during the World War II years, arrangements were made to bring World Series scores to troops in Africa, Europe, the Orient or wherever American troops were asked to serve.
I came fairly close to missing the 1942 World Series because Spanish speaking carpenters who were building the base at Camp Luna near Las Vegas, New Mexico, had little or no interest in baseball matters. I joined the United States Army in the summer of 1942 and soon found my way to “The Land of Enchantment,” New Mexico. It may have been enchanted but it had no radio in that whole military base at Las Vegas. When we were able to get the civilian carpenters to ask about the score between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Yankees, they would go home and report to us the next morning. The World Series was not big news in New Mexico particularly among Spanish speaking people, but I learned a little about Espanol. The Cardinals won the 1942 World Series.

I still follow baseball, but in recent years the greed has seriously depressed the fun that the game provides. As I said earlier, greed cuts across lines between management and players. This year some owners are saying the they are going to cut back on player salaries. When salaries come down to a manageable level, I’d like to be around, but I’m afraid that day will not arrive during my lifetime.

Earlier in this essay, I had spoken about Grover Cleveland Alexander, the Cardinal pitcher in the World Series of 1926. When Tip O’Neill was the Speaker of the House of Representatives, he invited Ronald Reagan to lunch in his office. Reagan had recently been sworn in as President of the United States. In a tour of his office, O’Neill pointed to his desk and said that it had been used by Grover Cleveland. Grover Cleveland was one of Reagan’s predecessors as a President of the U. S.

Reagan said, “Oh yes. I know all about him. I played him in a movie about his baseball career.” O’Neill said he meant Grover Cleveland, the former President. Reagan dismissed him by repeating that he had a good time playing in the movie about Grover Cleveland Alexander. O’Neill gave up.

If I am still hanging in there perhaps it is because I never went to see Reagan playing Old Pete Alexander. If people of Jewish faith can say “Next year in Jerusalem,” then I think it reasonable for Mets or Cardinal fans to say next year is our year. We’ll have to see.

So starting in 1926, I have been involved in New York baseball. I had exposure to it in St. Louis. I saw how the fans of Kansas City reacted. I came to know how fans in Chicago and Washington responded to the New York team. And of course, from the time I first came to New York in 1948, I could see for myself what New York baseball was all about.

From the standpoint of someone who grew up in the Midwest, there was great sport about the game. When the Cubs or the Pirates came to town, there was a spirit of good sportsmanship and spirited competition. When the Giants showed up it was all business. When the Dodgers came to Sportsman’s Park, there was joy all over St. Louis. But when the Yankees came to town, they were usually greeted with sullen hostility because of the superior attitude that St. Louisans perceived.

Well, even with Yankee arrogance, my affair with baseball which has now lasted more than three quarters of a century, has been a very rewarding experience. I know we feel let down by teams such as the 2002 Mets. Ah, but here I am in November looking forward to next Spring when the home plate umpire will again say, “Play Ball.” I am ready now to resume my love affair with baseball even though I know it may all turn out badly. But on the other hand, who knows? We will have to see.

E. E. CARR
November 8, 2002

 

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS ABOUT BASEBALL

Sven and Ella Lernevall of Bandhagen, Sweden, are dear friends who may not always comprehend some of the facts that American baseball lovers take for granted. So these few additional thoughts may be worthwhile.

Until 1954, the major Leagues of American baseball lined up in this fashion:

NOTES:
*For a year or two they were called the Boston Bees. That name did not sit well for fans in the Northeast.

**They were called originally the Trolley Dodgers. By the time I came along, it was simply the Dodgers.

The two St. Louis teams were named originally after colors. In the 1880’s, Chris von der Ahe operated an elaborate beer garden. To help his beer garden along, he sponsored a baseball team. They wore brown uniforms and hence, were called the Browns. No big mystery there. In Missouri, we are plain spoken folks.

In 1899, the Cleveland Spiders moved to St. Louis. The Spiders wore uniforms with red piping. Two stories exist. A sports writer in St. Louis named Willie McHale, began calling the team the Cardinals after the color of their piping on their uniforms. In the other story, a female fan remarked that the color of the uniform piping was cardinal and suggested that name to replace the former name of Spiders. A few years later, the club put images of cardinal birds on the front of their uniforms. A hundred years later, those images and that nickname still exist.

Now about St. Louis. In 1763, Pierce LaClede and Auguste Chouteau chose a site on the west bank of the Mississippi River just south of the mouth of the Missouri River as their new fur trading post. It was named for Louis IX of France. The population, customs and type of government remained predominantly French well into the 19th century. Because the French did not play baseball, they had to be replaced with citizens who understood the intricacies of the well known Infield Fly Rule. Jim Reese is the savant who knows everything about this basic American concept of justice.

The citizens of Iraq also are ignorant of the Infield Fly Rule. This constitutes a “material breech” of the United Nations agreement with Iraq. It also gives George Bush a complete reason to launch his massive retaliation against such infidels. The message to all countries is: you mess with the Infield Fly Rule at your own peril.

~~~

I just spend several minutes trying to figure out if “Cardinal Law” is a pun on the St. Louis Cardinals, and if such a pun is actively used by the fanclub of that team. Under punny Cardinal Law, presumably, supporting any non-Cardinal team would be considered a sin. But some cursory Google searching turned up no results, which tells me that this interpretation of Cardinal Law is unique.

It’s worth noting that this is both the longest essay in the history of the site, having trumped the essay immediately before this one (part 11 of the series), AND it’s being published on baseball’s opening day, 2016. Let’s just say that I planned it that way all along.

Anyway, so concludes the 12-part series on New York. I’ve been a big fan, and particularly enjoyed all the essays specific to the friends he made there. Even this baseball essay was great, though it was never really my (or either of my brothers’) cup of tea, because it’s fun anytime someone can write so passionately about something they care about.

LILA

AT&T Long Lines had its headquarters at 32 Sixth Avenue in New York City. At its peak, that building housed about 10,000 employees with telephone operators accounting for about 80% of that total. Because the operators and the telephone craftsmen worked around the clock, the Company provided two cafeterias and one dining room. The dining room doesn’t figure in this story so we can forget it.

The main cafeteria was on the 9th floor. It provided 24-hour service. There were no places to eat anywhere close to 32 Sixth Avenue, particularly at night, so the cafeteria was the only place to go. Operators and craftsmen who worked evening and midnight tours relied on the 9th floor cafeteria for a hot meal. All of these conditions applied up to about 1970. Conditions changed during the 1970’s, but that is part of another story.

The 9th floor cafeteria had rails to support the trays. It was about 70 feet long to get from the soup at the start to drinks and the cashier at the end. This was a busy place all day long what with meals being served and rest breaks as well.

When I met Lila in 1950, she always seemed to work at the far end of the line, near the cashier. From that vantage point, she could see how the line was moving and if needed, Lila would move somewhere up the line to help out. In baseball terms, Lila was sort of a utility player.

Lila was a black woman. She was self assured and quite comfortable talking to customers and the other members of the dining service staff. In short, Lila was a proud person who felt she was as fine as any of the big shots she served. And she was. The only drawback about Lila was that she lived in Brooklyn and was a ferocious booster of the Brooklyn Dodgers. As a devotee of the St. Louis Cardinals, I saw Lila’s devotion to the Dodgers as a serious character flaw. What she thought about my devotion to the Cardinals was expressed in loud terms as I pushed my tray down the 70 feet of the cafeteria line.

I first showed up in Lila’s cafeteria line in 1950. At the time I was President of the Long Lines Telephone Workers Union (Local #5) in St. Louis. That spring I had been elected to one of the five memberships on the national contract bargaining committee. The talks in 1950 were only about a week long as we bargained a new military leave agreement.

When I first met Lila, I was accompanied by Averill Hildebrand, a Traffic representative on the Bargaining Committee. Averill came from Kansas but had worked at 32 6th Avenue for several years. Averill introduced me to Lila and told her that the members of the bargaining committee were in New York to try to make things better for Long Lines people. Word about what brought union people to New York spread quickly up and down the Dining Service line. Whenever we came there for lunch, the servings were quite large and we were greeted with big smiles.

Lila wanted to know if we could get her a big raise that year. I explained that in 1950, we were only dealing with the Military Leave agreement, but that if she wanted to join the Army, we would see that she would be cared for. Next year, 1951, was when we would deal with wages. Lila filed that away in her head and when I showed up to bargain again in 1951, she was all over my case.

As soon as I met Lila, she asked where I came from. I knew where she came from. When I told her St. Louis, she asked about the Cardinals. I told Lila that I hoped the Cardinals would win every game, especially against the Dodgers. Well, that started the uproar that lasted until I left New York in 1963.

During that first go around with Lila in 1950, a very embarrassing misplay happened to the Cardinals during a game at Ebbets Field. For many years, the Cardinals employed Mike Gonzales as their third base coach. Mike came from Cuba and returned to Havana after the season. Obviously, this was before Castro came to power. Mike had previously been a catcher for the Cardinals and, one way or another, had never really mastered the English language.

In a game with the Dodgers at Ebbets Field, a Cardinal base runner reached third base. The next batter hit a short fly to right field. I suspect the Dodger right fielder was Carl Furillo, the strongest arm in the league. In any case, the fly was so short that anyone could have thrown out the runner trying to score.

Gonzales saw the short fly to right and yelled to the runner, “No Go.” That was Mike’s way of saying hold the base. Unfortunately, the runner heard only the “Go” part of Mike’s instructions and took off for home. He was thrown out by 15 or 20 feet. That story got to the Daily News, the Mirror and all the other New York papers. So when I started down the line at lunch the next day, Lila started berating me. “Doesn’t anyone in St. Louis speak English?” That was the start of all the abuse and Lila never let me up.

In the bargaining on the big contract in 1951, everyone joined with me to see that the Dining Service workers were treated better than in the past. Averill Hildebrand, Ernestine Locknane from Cincinnati, Joe Darling from Utica, New York and Carl Peters, the National Director all said that we wanted fair treatment for the dining workers. After the bargaining ended, it was about 7:30AM. We had been up all night. Some of us went to the cafeteria for breakfast. Lila, who didn’t know the terms of the new contract, left her station and came out to sit with us and to thank us. That made the whole bargaining experience worthwhile.

Ah, but that didn’t stop the abuse. I was gone from New York for four years and had been promoted to a management job. I had moved from St. Louis to Kansas City and then on to Chicago. In the spring of 1955, I found myself again in New York. When lunch time rolled around on my first day back, my colleague John Finn and our boss Dick Dugan suggested that we eat in the 9th floor cafeteria. With moving to New York and a new job to master, I had for the moment forgotten Lila. But not for long.

As soon as I put my tray down on the rails at the start of the serving line, old Lila yelled, “What? You back?” That was followed by loud cackles. She hadn’t seen me for four years but Lila was all over me. I didn’t know John Finn or Dick Dugan well at all and I was a little concerned what they would think of Lila’s needling. I was much relieved when both men said that Lila had been picking on them for years and that it was a pleasure to give her somebody else to bite at.

Lila, as I hope you can tell, was one of my big friends in New York. We often talked about going to a Dodger-Cardinal game together but I’m sorry to say, it never happened.

At the end of the season in 1958, the Dodgers announced that they were moving to Los Angeles. They had experienced two or three bad seasons before Walter O’Malley, the owner, decided to look for greener pastures. Ordinarily, this would be a reason to even up with Lila but the fact was – and is – that baseball belongs in Brooklyn. Even now, the Mets have a new Class “A” club there, the Cyclones, and they sold out their new stadium (7500 seats) every game. So far from wagging my finger at Lila, I felt almost as bad as she did. So I put my arm around her shoulders and told her that maybe things would get better. I even offered her a chance to root for the Cardinals. She politely declined.

When the Dodgers left town, Lila felt as though she had been disowned. But she still greeted me with the same old style and the same old cackles. Sometimes she would yell to me, “Here come Stan the Man” (a reference to Stan Musial) or maybe it would be “Hello big man.”

I left Long Lines in 1963 and the Company greatly reduced the Dining Service hours a few years later. I’m sorry to say I don’t know what happened to Lila. I hope that she got a pension and naturally, I hope that she is doing well. For all those years that I knew Lila, she added a lot of sparkle to my life. Wherever she is, I am indebted to her for that.

E. E. Carr
September 10, 2001

~~~

Daw. I don’t have too much to say about this one, aside from the fact that this is exactly the kind of friendship that Pop was always making. His ability to recall decades-old baseball stories is also striking. Similarly, it’s nice that even though she served thousands of employees, Lila still remembered Pop after several years.

ON GOLF, CIVIL WAR, AND VIRGINS

-Three Disparate Thoughts

Growing up during the great American Depression, it was my view that golf was an elitist sport. There were a few driving ranges around, but public golf courses were few and far between. Jobs also were few and far between and money was a problem at every step of the way.

Golf was played mostly at suburban country clubs where the men smoked expensive cigars and drank premium whiskey. About as close as I would ever come to a country club was to get a job as a caddy or someone working in the kitchen. And so it was that I developed no great interest in golf or in golfers. I did not harbor hostility toward golf or golfers, but I simply have had no interest in them over the ensuing years.

While I maintained a disinterest in the subject of golf, I do know of course who Tiger Woods is. He seems to have won many major tournaments and is perhaps the established star in all of golfdom. During the latter part of March, Tiger Woods gave an interview to Ed Bradley of Sixty Minutes on CBS Television in which he stated his philosophy. He said that the idea of playing golf was to win the tournament of course, but winning was only part of the procedure. Woods said that he “liked to kick their butts” even after he won the tournament. He went on to say that if he and Bradley were playing a game of cards, it was Woods’ intention not only to win the game but to “kick Bradley’s butt” as well. I was fairly astounded at this remark because it reflected an attitude that I had not associated with Tiger Woods. And it shows no generosity at all. It seems to be of a sadistic streak worthy only of the vice president, Mr. Cheney. It seems to me that winning is important but that kicking butt is a cause for eventual retribution.

Two thoughts came to mind as I heard Tiger Woods talk about kicking Bradley’s butt.

In perhaps 1935 during a grade school softball game, I was the catcher. When our pitcher threw a fast ball by one of the opposing batters, I held the ball out in front of the batter after he swung and missed and said something to this effect, “Is this what you were looking for?” The umpire was a gentleman named Mr. Payne who was widely beloved in the Clayton, Missouri public school system. Mr. Payne just turned me around and delivered a short lecture to the effect that I should never ever show up an opponent in that fashion. If the batter swung and missed, so be it. That was to the credit of our team. But to show him up by exhibiting the ball was needless and tended to make enemies. In all of my catching career after that time, I never ever showed the ball to a batter who had swung and missed. Mr. Payne made his point quite well.

The second thought that comes to mind has to do with an election in which I ran for the union presidency. In late 1949 in St. Louis, I was the vice president of Local 5 of the Federation of Long Lines Telephone Workers. The president was a man named Gordon “Pete” Sallee. Things were not progressing well in that local, so in the election of late 1949, I ran against Pete Sallee for the presidency and won it. Using Mr. Payne’s example, I went out of my way to make sure that Pete Sallee did not feel as though I were gloating or anything of the sort. Quite to the contrary, it was my intention to make a friend out of Sallee. As time went on, he and I became close friends and, indeed, until his death in 1970, whenever I visited St. Louis, I made it my business to have lunch or dinner with Pete Sallee.

I had no intention, ever, of making Pete Sallee feel as though I were intent upon kicking his butt. It is my belief that Tiger Woods would profit by taking the same view as I took back in 1949. Winning is important but kicking butt is not what sportsmen do. They should be magnanimous to the losers.

—————————————————————————————-

Now we turn to civil war, this being Iraq in the case in point. For a year or more, our man in Iraq was Ayad Alawi. He was our appointed Prime Minister of Iraq and he was selected largely because of his being secular. He was not publicly identified as being Sunni or Shia. He was a secularist.

Late in his career, when there was an election to be held in Iraq, Alawi was invited to the White House for a photo op, during which he “conferred” with George Bush. Alawi also addressed a joint session of Congress reading a speech prepared for him by the White House. Apparently Alawi had no chance to read the speech beforehand, as he made several errors when he spoke even though he is a fluent English speaker.

Nonetheless, Alawi ran in the January elections in Iraq as a secularist, and was handed his head by the religious parties. My recollection is that he got no more than 12 to 15% of the vote while the religionists ran off with all the rest. Now that Alawi is no longer in power and has largely been rejected, the current administration is trying to distance itself from him.

A week or two ago, Alawi observed that with all of the deaths taking place in Iraq from bombings, shootings, stabbings, strangulations, and beheadings that indeed a civil war was in progress in that country right now. Our Commander-in-Chief, Mr. Bush, violently disagreed, saying that there was no civil war in Iraq and that things were going swimmingly and that progress was being made on every front.

My guess or belief is that if you have a few bucks to bet on the outcome of the unrest in Iraq, put your money on Alawi and the case for civil war. Bush is simply whistling past the graveyard, knowing that a civil war in Iraq looms. Alawi is in Baghdad and Bush is in Crawford. Again, I tell you if you have a few dollars to wager, go with Alawi.

——————————————————————————————

Now we turn to the virgin element of this essay. It had been my intention to write a humorous essay on the Muslim belief having to do with virgins in Paradise. As you may recall, every martyred Arab is entitled to up to 100 virgins to be put at his disposal once he enters Paradise. My thought in the proposed essay is that so many Iraqis are being killed that there is a terrible strain on the inventory of virgins in Paradise. I also wanted to point out that in the Koran there is no specification that the virgins be young. They are simply to have protected their virginity and that is all that matters. Consequently, the paucity of young virgins is such that middle-aged and elderly women have to be given to the martyrs to make up their quota of 75 to 100 virgins. I had intended to comment on the possibility of civil unrest occurring not only in Iraq, but also in Paradise because the martyrs would be complaining about being assigned virgins who had passed their 60th or 70th or 80th birthdays.

At the time I was contemplating this essay, there appeared to be a modicum of humor attached to it. Now, however, the situation is so dire in Iraq, not only for the Iraqi nation, but for the U.S. as well, that I fear that any attempt at humor in this situation is debatable. Consequently, the story about the elderly virgins has been dismissed and we’ll try again another day. Nonetheless, in spite of all the foregoing doubts, I am still struck by the Muslim belief that there is no homosexuality in Islam. No gays, no lesbians, and no transsexuals. What would happen if indeed, a gay Arab became a martyr and was given 100 female virgins for his use in paradise? What in the world would he do with them? As you see, I do not hold with the view that homosexuality does not occur in the Islamic faith.

Well, there are my thoughts about golf, civil war, and virgins. They are not cataclysmic thoughts but the meanderings of an old guy’s mind on a Sunday afternoon when daylight saving time takes effect. Maybe tomorrow, with the start of the baseball season, my spirits will improve and we will have something decent and humorous to include in the essays that I will send you.

E. E. CARR
April 4, 2006

~~~~
Kevin’s commentary: Gay guys tend to get along with women pretty well, as far as I know. Presumably the martyr in question would just get 100 buddies to chat or go shopping with, or whatever the equivalent of that is in heaven.

More on Pop and virgins here, here, and here.

Reading this, it strikes me that I’d be very curious to hear what Pop would have to say about good ol’ ISIS these days. He certainly knew a good deal about the region, and presumably would call them out for being horrible, horrible people but stellar marketers. Seriously, ISIS doesn’t even have to fall back on the hundred virgins thing — they’re attracting tons of people with just the promise of basically indiscriminate violence.

Regarding the thoughts about baseball, I was struck by a bit of a cross-generational epiphanies. I’ve never been much of a sportsman but recently I took up a competitive videogame which pits two teams of five against one another. The circumstances of the game sometimes align such that the team that is ahead can entirely forego completing the objective necessary to win the game, and instead sit in the other team’s base and kill them over and over. The game penalizes anyone who leaves before aforementioned objective is complete, so when this situation arises the losing team is basically just forced to sit there and watch their butts get kicked for upwards of ten extra minutes. It is the most shining example that I can think of about playing not to win, but instead playing for the chief objective of humiliation, with the victory as a side benefit. The people who do this sort of “camping” are widely regarded as tremendous assholes, at least, which is nice — not very many people are with Tiger on this one.

“I’M EVERYBODY” – VERNON LUDLOFF

It may very well be that this essay should be entitled “Back to the Future.” In my current situation, I am of course unable to see the action taking place on television. I listen to the dialogue on television and in many cases, I can determine who the speaker may be but in other cases I have to ask my wife or other people around me as to who is the speaker.

In baseball games, which I have long prized, I miss the beauty of a fielding gem or the swing of an expert batsman. On the other hand, I do not appreciate the chatter that comes from television announcers that has very little to do with the game in progress. It seems to me that there is idle chatter having nothing to do with the game that takes place until the proceedings are finished. Tom Seaver and Keith Hernandez, two Met heroes, are examples of announcers who chatter endlessly about other things than the ball game taking place in front of them.

I said that this essay ought to be about going back to the future and that had to do with my replacing the television set with a radio. In the 1926 World Series, the Saint Louis Cardinals defeated the New York Yankees in seven games when Grover Cleveland Alexander struck out Tony Lazzeri in the ninth inning and my home town, Saint Louis, went absolutely wild. My recollection of the celebration of that game is the first memory that I have in my memory bank. From that time on, I have been a fan of radio and now I find that the people on radio broadcasts are much more to the point and have fewer distractions such as interviewing fans and asking which kind of ice cream do you like at the ball park.

Growing up in Saint Louis meant following the Cardinals, and to a lesser extent the Browns, religiously. The games were broadcast live from Sportsmans Park where both the Cardinals and the Browns played. When the Browns or Cardinals were out of town, the telegraph reporters gave summaries about the state of the game to the announcers in the Saint Louis radio stations. These reports would have been about the score of the game and it might even include such things as who hit a home run and who struck out whom and so forth.

On days when the Cardinals or Browns were out of town and there was no local game, telegraphic reports were sent to the radio studio and it was up to the announcer to recreate the game using his imagination. The announcer might say that the pitcher is winding up and he is ready to throw the ball, but then there might be an interruption in the telegraph process and the announcer would be stuck there with the pitcher holding the ball for several seconds. Under this arrangement, the announcers were able to give very artful demonstrations of the play in progress even though they had not seen it.

Remember, these were Depression times and the radio stations could not afford to send their announcers to the games being played in other cities. They had to rely on telegraphed reports. Hence, the need to recreate the ball game.

During most of the years as I was growing up, there were two announcers in Saint Louis who were the sports directors of the station and who were also the announcers of the ball games of the Saint Louis Cardinals and the Saint Louis Browns. On KMOX, a powerful station, the sports director was a man named France Laux. Further down the dial was a radio station, WIL, where the announcer was Johnnie O’Hara. Laux was a straightforward announcer who, I suspected, had no sense of humor at all. He had trouble recreating the games that were sent to him by telegraph. O’Hara, on the other hand, was a gregarious fellow who seemed to love recreating the games right out of his mind as he got a telegraph report. If the telegraph report said that the pitcher threw a strike, O’Hara would say that he wound up and that he delivered a spitball to the outside corner. That is clearly not what the telegraph report said, but that was what O’Hara colored it to be.

France Laux also, as sports director of KMOX, had a program called “Stars of Tomorrow.” In that program, Laux would visit neighborhood industrial teams and high schools and would interview their star players on a cumbersome piece of equipment that would record their thoughts which he would play later on his sports program. At that time it was a very complicated process. On this one occasion, when I was playing in an industrial league game on a Sunday, France Laux appeared early in the proceedings to interview our fleet center fielder, Vernon Ludloff. Laux would start the interview by saying, “And what star of tomorrow do we have here?” The star of tomorrow would say his name and would then say hello to everyone. In this case, France Laux asked Vern Ludloff, “What star of tomorrow do we have here?” and Ludloff got his script mixed up. Vernon was supposed to say, “Hello everyone, I’m Vern Ludloff.” In point of fact, Vernon said, “Hello Vernon Ludloff, I’m everybody.” France Laux did not use that quote on his broadcast that evening or any other evening. So I guess that Ludloff fell from the stars of tomorrow array.

In recent years, on television there is a tendency to use attractive young women who know nothing about the game being played, and ask them to give a two-minute report in-between innings or, in football games, between periods and time-outs. Even the best broadcasting team that I know of, which consists of Jon Miller and Joe Morgan, have been inflicted by their management with this device. On occasion when the attractive young woman begins her spiel, she will often fail to end it before the next batter comes to the plate. So far, that sort of arrangement has not come to radio. It afflicts only television. These young women are nice to look at but they add nothing to the game; indeed they detract from the game.

My New York grandchildren gave me an XM Radio for Christmas in 2005. On that radio, I can hear classical music, a better class of country music, music from the 1930’s and 1940’s, as well as ball games from all over the country. Because it is a satellite radio, I can keep track of billiard games on the moon, cricket games on Saturn, and pool playing on Venus. It is a remarkable radio that has provided me with unheard of pieces of important information.

So in the end my problem with my eyesight is not all that bad because I get a better description of the games from radio. There is more straightforward talk about the game in progress as well as the rumors involving the players such as trades and that sort of thing that may be taking place at the time. Actually, at this point, while I do not have an option to watch television, I must say that going backwards many years to the radio broadcast has its merits. I don’t miss television all that much any more and I have come to again appreciate the skill of the radio announcers. And finally, I must admit that without radio I would not have been able to hear Mr. Ludloff tell everyone that he was everybody. That memory is 65 or 66 years old and it is nowhere near being forgotten. So if you go to Saint Louis and run across Vernon Ludloff, please tell him “I’m everybody.”

E. E. CARR
June 6, 2006
Essay 196
~~~
Kevin’s commentary: The essay of the beast: 6/6/06! I was thinking as I read this essay that if Pop went back to the future with his satellite radio, I suppose that I’ve gone “forward to the future” by completely replacing television in my life with the internet. However, even internet broadcasts of games that I follow have unfortunately been afflicted by the “interview babes” who know next-to-nothing about what’s happening, and are rather there chiefly to be seen. So I guess that department is a win for the radio all around.

Pop’s memory continues to astound. I would be hard-pressed to come up with the names of any local media personalities from Austin, and that was only six years ago. I guess I really just never had much reason to pay attention to them, and I preferred music to talk shows whenever I was in my car, which of course was the only place where I was ever exposed to radio.

As far as ol’ Vernon is concerned, I wonder what he’d think if I told him that upon reading the title to this essay, I thought I was about to get an essay about a profound philosophical observation. I expected to hear Pop’s take on a person making a statement about, perhaps, empathy for others. But no, he was a not-quite baseball star who couldn’t keep his lines straight — which honestly makes for a better essay anyway, most likely.

TAKE ME OUT TO THE AFRICAN BALL GAME

The title of this essay is a bit misleading because at the time this game took place, Africans played no baseball at all. On the other hand, it is a celebration of a game played by GI’s late in 1944 or 1945 between two clubs whose managers disliked each other with such intensity as to border on hatred.

The game was played on a dusty diamond located on the British airbase at Accra, Ghana. Ghana, at that time, was called the Gold Coast. By the time the game was played, the Americans at this joint British-American base far outnumbered the Brits and, in effect, it was more of an American base than a British base. Nonetheless, we drove on the left-hand side of the road and we were paid in British West African pounds sterling.

Both teams had to make the ball last for the entire game and, if my memory is correct, we were furnished only a choice of two bats. Gloves were hand-me-downs that had to be returned to the Recreation Department at the end of each game. The stands holding the spectators could accommodate about 20 or 30 persons. The benches for each club were strictly nothing more than benches; they had no backs. One was arranged along the third baseline and the other was along the first baseline.

The leaders of the two clubs could not have been more unlike each other. The leader of the “Office Workers” was a man named John Lewis whose forces went to work in the offices of the administration wearing freshly-pressed khakis. The leader of the “Overloaders” was dressed in fatigues and his men did the manual loading of cargo aboard the many airplanes that flew out of Accra to bring supplies to the European front on one hand and to the Japanese front on the other. The head man of the Over Loaders was known as “Red” Sabbatis. Red came from the Boston area and was celebrated because he had once signed a minor league contract with either the Boston Red Sox or the Boston Braves.

Somehow or other, long before I arrived at Accra, there was bad blood between John Lewis and Red Sabbatis. The games between the two clubs were used to express that anger.

John Lewis was an older fellow, probably in his late thirties or early forties. How he ever got into the military is something I do not know. But John was a very straight-laced fellow who argued with umpires and expected to win every argument. I had no animosity toward John Lewis, but on the other hand I had no warm feelings for him. It gave me a degree of pleasure to beat his club.

Red Sabbatis, on the other hand, was a working man’s kind of fellow whom everybody seemed to like. I liked Red quite a bit. I liked Red even though he played shortstop, which was one of the positions that I had often played. All things considered, Red was a natural born leader not only of the ball club but of his Overloaders’ work crew working on the flight line.

The catcher on the Overloaders was a left-handed fellow named Prozak. I never recall hearing him referred to as anything but Pro or Prozak. If he had a first name, it escaped me. Prozak had been a six foot four inch left-handed pitcher and an outfielder and a first baseman in the semi-pro ranks and also had been given a tryout by one of the clubs around the Boston area. Prozak was very close to Red Sabbatis. Prozak caught the pitcher on the Overloaders using a first baseman’s mitt. Unfortunately, catcher was the other position that I normally played. So the options of playing shortstop or catching were denied to me because of the seniority rule and the fact that the manager played one of those positions.

Somewhere along the line, there was a fellow named Shorty who stood probably a little less than five feet tall. Shorty rolled his own cigarettes and appeared to always have a hangover. Shorty attended most of the ball games played at this dusty field and, from what I could gather, he understood baseball quite well.

The third baseman on the Office Workers’ team was a fellow who let you know that his background included wealth and a college education. He wasn’t particularly snooty about all of this, but he seemed to reflect the thought that he was a little bit better than the rest of us. I never knew his name or at least I can’t recall it, so we will refer to him as Van Cleef.

The rest of this cast includes Walter Bednar, a pitcher from Cleveland who was a thoroughly lovable guy. The third member was Eddie Boyce, an infielder from Brooklyn who was a little touchy because he spoke pure Brooklynese. When he addressed two people, for example, he would refer to them as “youse guys.” I liked Eddie Boyce quite well.

As it turned out, Walter Bednar, Eddie Boyce, and myself came to Accra late in the proceedings because we were returning from our Detached Duty in Italy with the Twelfth Air Force.

The Overloaders were an established team when we reported to Accra. The three of us played on another team for a game or two, with which Red Sabbatis made an offer to the three of us, to join the Overloaders. Walter Bednar became the pitcher, Eddie Boyce became the third baseman, and I was required to play second base, a position I thoroughly disliked.

The game was called softball but in point of fact the ball was anything but soft. It was simply a larger version of a baseball. It could be hit for more than three hundred feet and the ball stung if caught without a glove.

Because Accra is only five degrees above the Equator, the sun shines most of the time and the weeds grow all of the time. Games could be played late in the evening. The sun and the rain in the Equatorial Zone provided lots of rain which meant that the vegetation grew at an alarming rate all year long.

That takes us to the field itself. There were tie-downs for each of bases which meant that they were held in place fairly firmly. There was no pitcher’s mound, of course. The field was dusty most of the time except when it rained. The outfield was an interesting piece of work. In right field, a road ran along the edges of the field and on each side of the road were two drainage ditches, perhaps two and a half to three feet deep. Because of the vegetation that grew in those ditches, it was difficult to find out exactly where the ditches were. It was not unusual to see an outfielder back up and slide into the ditch and largely disappear.

In center field, about 350 feet from home plate, was the base morgue. The morgue was associated with the base hospital and there were some center fielders who were wary of the morgue and did not like to chase balls hit in that direction.

In left field, there was an obstruction very much like the wall in Fenway Park in Boston. The base at Accra had a large hospital which was built in a series of separate wings. Most of the wings or wards were about 100 to 125 feet in length and extended from a central structure. In this field at Accra, there was a ward that extended for about 70 feet into fair territory with the remainer of the ward in foul territory. The patients in this ward had no radio or television, of course, so they watched our ball games with great interest. That wing was a place where patients with venereal disease were treated. Soldiers have a wry sense of humor and always referred to the venereal disease wing as the “country club ward.”

Well, that is enough about the circumstances of the game that is under discussion here. Late in the game, John Lewis’s Office Workers had tied the score and had men on first base and on third base. The runner on third base was the disliked Sergeant Van Cleef, the wealthy man. Apparently John Lewis had flashed a signal from his perch on the bench, which he never left, to the runners for a double steal. Walter Bednar fired a fast ball to Prozak and the runners on first base and third base took off. Prozak came up firing to me. His throw had all of the earmarks of a major league fast ball. I caught the ball running in, about chest high, and fired it back to Prozak. With great good fortune, the ball was caught in Prozak’s mitt, six inches above the ground in front of home plate. An instant later, Van Cleef slid in to home plate and was called out because of the fact that Prozak had the ball and Van Cleef slid into it.

I was astonished when John Lewis, an argumentative fellow, did not dispute the call. I was also amazed that Van Cleef simply got up, dusted himself off, and walked to the bench. There was absolutely no argument that he was out and Lewis and Van Cleef accepted that fact. I was greatly surprised that they didn’t dispute the call.

In all of my baseball playing career, my throw to Prozak was probably the hardest I ever threw and certainly it was the most accurate one in my history. When we gathered around the pitcher to discuss the runner on second base, I had thought that Sabbatis and Prozak would praise my throw that saved the run. In point of fact, those two men simply took the point of view that that’s what I was expected to do and they offered no praise whatsoever. Eddie Boyce and Walter Bednar patted my behind and said, “How to go!”

That night in the barracks, Shorty, the guy who looked as though he had a perpetual hangover, was describing the game to three or four other GIs who lived in that barracks with all of us. Shorty contended that the throw from Prozak to me and my throw back to Prozak were the hardest that he had ever seen in his life. And he was full of admiration. When I walked by, Shorty asked me had I seen the game. When I told him that I was the second baseman, Shorty had trouble believing it. Prozak was probably six inches taller than I was and a lot heavier, so he could understand a throw coming from Prozak to me but my return throw was launched by a smaller fellow and Shorty simply could not believe that a man could throw that hard.

But now we come to the moral of this long story. In all of the games played by the Overloaders for the rest of that year, neither Prozak nor Red Sabbatis ever mentioned the throw. I was not dismayed by their failure to comment but I thought that the play on Van Cleef was worthy of attention of some kind. While those two teammates offered no praise whatsoever for the play in question, praise came from a very unexpected source.

In the mess hall, I was eating my dinner out of my mess kit and facing the back of the mess hall. I was distracted when someone tapped me on the shoulder and sat down opposite me. He complimented me on my throw to Prozak. Of all things, it was John Lewis, the Manager of the Office Workers whom the Overloaders genuinely disliked. Lewis sat down to eat his meal, dressed in his usual freshly-pressed khaki uniform, and started to discuss the game. Within a few minutes, along came Van Cleef with his mess kit, and sat down beside me. He touched me on the back and complimented me on throwing him out.

I was never particularly attracted to John Lewis and Van Cleef but I did not hate them as Sabbatis and Prozak did. I thought they were a little “uppity” but I let the matter rest there.

So the moral of this story about an African baseball game is that you never know where praise might come from. Similarly, those who are expected to give praise may not do so. This may not be the most startling revelation, but there it is. From that date forward, I looked at people in a little different light. If John Lewis and Van Cleef were decent men, which they were, then there must be hope for the rest of mankind.

And by the way, my memory tells me that the Overloaders won that game by one run. The men in the “country club” ward were greatly pleased with the outcome of this African ballgame.

E. E. CARR
May 26, 2006
Essay 191
~~~
Kevin’s commentary: I… I don’t have any experiences like this. There seems something so pure about it, I don’t know. The kind that bleeds nostalgia, that I’ve only ever seen in movies. Something that you can only get with a bunch of guys who need a distraction in a place a long way from home. I also think that this essay is actually helped by the dictation style; Pop’s voice comes through incredibly clearly.

Maybe stuff like this is still happening around me, and I’m just so far removed from the sporting world that I don’t see it? Seems likely. I guess it doesn’t help that I’m largely useless in any sport where you have do something that isn’t about running really quickly. Since baseball already has designated hitters sometimes, maybe I should propose the position of designated runner.

MAIL CALL

This essay has an air of inevitability about it. If a pitcher stands on the mound and expectorates on the baseball, the batter should know that the next pitch will inevitably be a spitball which will start out at waist level and sink to his shoe-tops by the time it crosses the plate.

There is also an inevitability about essay writing. If an event happens only once in 61 years and involves the Girl Scouts, it is inevitable that an essay must be written about it. The unwritten essay will say to the author, “If you don’t write me, I will write the essay myself.” And so there is a degree of inevitability about this essay. Let me try to tell you about it.

Soldiers of every nation will tell you that, next to going home, they look forward with great anticipation to receiving mail from there. That, of course, is why this essay is entitled “Mail Call.” In my case it ordinarily took at least two to three weeks for a letter mailed from my home in St. Louis to reach me in the African and Italian theaters of war. I am speaking of course about the Second World War.

The letters were collected at a military post office in Miami, Florida called an APO which means Army Post Office. Following the APO was a three digit number which directed the mail to the proper location. For example, When I served in Italy or in Africa, my mail was always addressed to the APO number in Miami. I assume the clerks at the APO in Miami separated the letters by the APO number into the varied designations and placed them into heavy canvas sacks. From that point on, they started a torturous journey involving several countries.

The planes that carried the mailbags were usually C-87’s which were the cargo version of the B-24 bombers. The first stop was Borinquen Field in Puerto Rico. The second stop was at Georgetown, British Guyana. The enlisted men’s barracks at Georgetown had small lizards that crawled over the supporting beams for the roof. I made three trips through Georgetown and never enjoyed a nights sleep there in any case.

The next stop was over jungle growth so heavy that if an airplane were lost there, it would be almost impossible to find it. The tall trees and the jungle growth would seem to simply absorb it. The flight from Georgetown was aimed at Natal, Brazil. If fuel was running a little low, the airplane could put in at Belem, Brazil or at a place called Fortaleza. At Natal, Brazilian salesmen were permitted to enter onto the flight lines to sell such things as perfume and their Natal boots. I bought a pair of Natal boots but never wore them on a flight. If it were necessary to use a parachute, when the chute opened, in all likelihood the boots would come off the feet. Consequently, I flew wearing Army high top shoes.

From Natal came the first ocean hop to a little known place in the South Atlantic called Ascension Island. It is a one mile square island which consists almost entirely of volcanic ash. A runway had been constructed amid the ash heaps which permitted it to a have a long runway. If the airplane missed the center line of the runway, there was a good chance that it would scrape the sides of the channel with one of its wingtips. Ascension Island, as I have said before, is one of the five loneliest places in the world. It was a British possession when the Americans took it over largely for the use of Pan American Airways. Today, that island does not even appear on most maps. I suspect that it is without inhabitants and no one seems to care about it anymore.

From Ascension Island to the next stop was Accra in British West Africa in a country called the Gold Coast. Since the early 1960’s, that country is now called Ghana.

When the mail reached Accra, it was separated into two sets. One shipment went north into North Africa and the Italian theatre of war, with several stops on the way. The second shipment headed eastward to the foot of the Himalayan Mountains to be delivered to those troops fighting the Japanese. Many stops along the way occurred at American bases at such places as El Genina and El Fasher in the Darfur region of the Sudan. It ended with delivery to the forces in the eastern-most province of India called Assam.

The arrival of mail at a post overseas occurred about once every 10 days. But if we were very lucky, there might be a weekly delivery. But on average, the mail arrived between ten days and two and one half weeks.

In those days there was no e-mail, of course. The only means of correspondence was letters and postcards. In late 1943 or 1944, the post office developed a thin sheet of paper called a V-mail. V-mail is a single thin piece of paper onto which you could write your message and fold it so that there was no envelope required. Mail in those days cost only three cents for a first-class letter. I believe that those V-mails addressed to soldiers required no postage.

Weight was very important because the mail was carried on cargo planes. The mail usually was an added starter after the rest of the cargo had been loaded. If there was no room for mail on the first flight, it had to be held for subsequent flights, which accounts for the delay in delivery. Obviously, the drawback to using V-mail was that the writer could not say much at all on one small tissue-like piece of paper.

When mail arrived at a base, the word would spread very quickly. The sack would be taken to the squadron headquarters and at lunchtime or when the work was finished for the day, the squadron clerk opened a window in the Quartermaster’s Office and then yelled “m-a-i-l c-a-l-l.” Within instants, perhaps forty or fifty men would show up right outside the window. As the squadron clerk called your name you were expected to answer out “Hyoh.” It was never a case of saying “I am here” or “That’s for me.” Everyone learned that the proper response was the single syllable “Hyoh.”

If your friends were away on a mission or at work, it was a solemn duty to claim their mail and to bring it back to the tent or barracks. On top of that, whenever the missing soldier returned to the tent or barracks, it was appropriate to tell him that he had some mail waiting for him. That would cause everybody’s face to light up.

Getting the mail from the squadron clerk was not always an easy task. It required that the mail be passed overhead from one hand to another until it reached the proper recipient. Once it was in the recipients hand, it was a sacred duty to take the mail back to your tent or barracks and to distribute it where it could be found easily. The point here is that receiving mail in the army was an extremely important operation. One did not walk around the base with a letter for another soldier carelessly tucked into his pocket. That would have been a gross error in etiquette.

Well now that I have told you about the importance of mail to soldiers, I will tell you a little about a mail delivery that I received on November 8, 2006. I knew that Veterans Day would come along in a few days but I was not paying any attention to it. On November 8, 1945, I receive my honorable discharge from the American Army. As Veterans Day, formerly called Armistice Day, came and went over these six decades, no one made a fuss about it. There were no congratulatory telephone calls or postcards. Perhaps there might have been a march now and then by the local American Legion Post or the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post, that is about as far as it went.

In all those 61 years since my discharge from the American Army, no one ever said to me that they appreciated my service in our Armed Forces. But to be honest, I never expected anyone to offer good wishes on Veterans Day. When the Second World War came along, I thought it was my duty to volunteer to serve in our Armed Forces. It was as simple as that and after my discharge I had no relationship with the armed forces. I do not attend reunions nor did I ever join a VFW Post or a veterans organization of any kind. I had done my duty and it was my intention to get on with life.

This November 8th was a different story. One afternoon the doorbell rang and my wife answered. Two Girl Scouts from Troop 132 of the Glenwood School asked my wife if a veteran lived here. She replied that that was the case. At that point the Girl Scouts gave my wife a small bag with a letter and some presents. The presents were a large pencil with stars and stripes on it and a lapel pin. In addition there was a magnetic marker to hold things against the refrigerator, for example. It also had a flag on it.

When my wife read me the letter that the Girl Scouts had written and presented me with their gifts, tears came to my eyes. After all of these sixty-one years, the Girl Scout Troop 132 of Glenwood School remembered. How can any old soldier not show some emotion when he receives such a gift? It is no wonder that my eyes had some tears.

Here is the letter that the Girl Scouts wrote to me:
mail call 1 resized

Here is the letter that I dictated to my wife in response to the letter from the Girl Scouts:

Girl Scouts of America
Millburn Troop 132, Glenwood School
Short Hills, New Jersey

Your gift brought tears to my eyes.

In the summer of 1942, I volunteered to join the United States Army. I was honorably discharged more than three years later, coincidentally, on November 8, 1945. Your gift was delivered on the 61st anniversary of my discharge.

I am very appreciative of your gift because in all of those years from 1942 to the present, no one has ever given me a gift for my service in the United States Army. I thank you very much. And I will treasure your gift for as long as I am around.

All best wishes to the Glenwood Girl Scouts, Troop #132.

Stay strong,
signature

 

And finally, here is the letter that my wife attached to my letter:

To the Girl Scouts of Troop 132,

Ed Carr, my husband is an essayist. He wrote the attached essay “They Never Betrayed Me” to tell his daughters – for the first time – what had happened on the air raid that led to his imprisonment and his subsequent rescue by the Italian Partisans. Perhaps this will give you a flavor of what our fliers endured during World War II.

I am also including a VHS tape having to do with a plaque in New York that honors some of my husband’s co-workers at AT&T who were killed in World War II. This tape was made as part of a project of the Library of Congress in Washington to preserve the memories of WWII.

Perhaps the essay and the tape will give you a better idea about my husband’s service in the American Army. He is too modest to send these, but I will. My husband, who is now blind, was very touched by your gift.

Best regards,
Judith A. Chicka (Mrs. E. E. Carr)

So you see, when the Girl Scouts delivered their letter to me, it was inevitable that I should have a response. It was inevitable that I would write them a letter telling them how much I appreciated their gifts. I am certain that those two Girl Scouts will grow up to be good and thoughtful citizens. They were thoughtful in this case to have remembered me for my service in a war that, from their standpoint, must be thought of as a prehistoric conflict. If there were tears associated with these developments, I would say that they are well deserved.

Now about that spitball pitcher. The spitball was outlawed several years ago but it is alleged that a good many pitchers still throw it. If you are ever in a batter’s box and you think the pitcher is going to throw you a spitball, it is recommended that you move up in the batter’s box and try to hit it before it starts its downward flight. The chances are that you will miss the spitball but unfortunately that’s the very best advice that I can give you. There are teachers who rail against the use of the word spit, but for all of the years that I have been associated with baseball, I have never heard of a pitcher throwing an expectoration pitch. So spitballs and inevitability are the backbone of this essay.

E. E. CARR
November 14, 2006
Essay 216
~~~
Kevin’s commentary: A favorite’s favorite. Good on the girl scouts for remembering, and on Pop for replying. I’m a little annoyed at myself in the past for not saying anything over years and years of Veteran’s days (I was pretty self-absorbed at 16) but I’ve done a little bit better recently. Reading about the war — and the linked essay in particular — definitely opened my eyes a little bit.

That said, “They Never Betrayed Me” is a very intense essay for a bunch of girl scouts. Conversely, the first part of this essay was a really nice window into some of the few brighter moments during the war. I wonder if instant communication takes anything away from the happiness of getting mail these days. I doubt it.

FADING TO GRAY

As this essay is being started, it is a cold, rainy, Sunday afternoon in late April. It means that most people are home bound which is the bad news on a Spring weekend. The good news is that the Boston Red Sox took three straight from the New York Yankees over the past three days which makes the record read for the young 2004 American League season, Red Sox 6, Yankees 1.

The city of Boston does not have a grip on my psyche as my original home is probably more than 1300 miles away. The Red Sox players seem like pleasant fellows from what is seen on the television screen. Taking one Yankee player with another, they generally seem like decent people. Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posado, Hideki Matsui and Alex Rodriguez look like men who would make good next door neighbors. The problem is that all those affable Yankees play for the most despicable figure in sports, George Steinbrenner. The Yankee owner plays in the largest U.S. market and has more money than anyone else in baseball. When Steinbrenner covets a player on another team, he makes it known that he would be able to pay that player much more than he could make with his current team, so the player or his agent angles for a trade or waits until he can become a free agent and the Yanks can sign him. The Yankee payroll for 2004 is now at $183 million for its 25 player roster. They pay Rodriguez $25 million per year. Jason Giambi, the ham handed first baseman, is paid at the rate of $17 million per year. And so it goes.

Steinbrenner is the rich kid who is unwilling to compete with everyone else on a fairly even footing. He is the guy who wants to buy the whole candy store. He is the owner who wants to win every pennant and every World Series. And so my heart is buoyed by his Yankees loosing six of the first seven games played with its foremost rival, the Boston Red Sox.

It would have made me happy to produce another essay about baseball, a subject that is well known to many of us. But that is not to be. This essay is about the possible blindness that could overtake this old essayist someday before his ancient body gives out. My mind has no room for messages from angels or from the Holy Ghost, and the thought that some preternatural event may take place is similarly doubted. On the other hand, the similarities in the current situation with the situation in April, 1994 are too striking to dismiss. On that occasion, the left eye was blinded in an effort to perform a trabeculectomy. Now the same situation tends to loom for the one remaining eye.

Before we go further, there are two or three points that should be made. A few years back, Harry Reasoner wrote a book called, “Before the Colors Fade.” Reasoner was a popular television personality and was one of the first interviewers along with Mike Wallace and Morley Safer on the Sunday CBS program, “60 Minutes.” Reasoner sensed that his life was drawing to a close and wanted to say some things to his family and to his viewers. Unfortunately, Reasoner was right. He died not long after “Before the Colors Fade” appeared in bookstores.

If somewhere down the road blindness should overtake me while my bones are still ambulatory, there will be no need to publish something about my take on life. The file cabinets here are filled with my views on a large variety of subjects. If anyone wishes to explore what my thinking may have been on subjects such as religion or politics or war or baseball, my essays are immediately available. In essence, my memoirs have been written over a period of more than 45 years in letters, speeches and more recently, in essays.

So point one is that even if total vision loss eventually occurs, my work is basically done. Everything that needs to be recorded has largely been recorded, so there is no need to be greatly concerned as ophthalmologists become an even more prominent part in my life.

Now that is point one. My work of recording is now largely done. The second point is that NO ONE should feel sorry for me. The problem of glaucoma has been present in the Carr family for many years. In other words, it was clear to me that sooner or later, glaucoma would probably take a more serious bite out of my eyes. If you look at it as old soldiers do, there is merit in taking life one day at a time. If there is life upon awakening, that is an occasion for joy. If my sight holds up for a few more days, then that is also a cause for some joy. If, somewhere down the road, it fades and perhaps gives out, then we will have to face that eventuality when it happens.

Glaucoma has plagued my father and my siblings for many years. At the age of 60, my father could no longer work and became housebound by his blindness. The best surgeons in St. Louis, the Post brothers, operated several times on my father’s eyes, but in the end he became blind. There were five Carr children who lived past childhood. All five contracted glaucoma. In at least one case, my brother’s vision had been so reduced as to approach blindness. In 1969 at the age of 47, glaucoma took root in my eyes. So no one should feel sorry because of any “sudden development.” It has not been “sudden” at all. It has been expected for all my adult life.

My view is that as my 82nd birthday approaches, the ability to read, to write and to drive a car are still with me. No matter how you cut it, that is 22 years beyond the mark reached by the father of the Carr clan. So you look for upbeat factors wherever they can be found.

So point two is that the possible approach of vision loss is not a recent development. Quite to the contrary, incipient blindness has always been an unhappy consideration in my mind. And people around me should be happy that it has been held at bay for such an extended period.

Now the third point has to do with events in April, 1994. Glaucoma is an inherited disease or ailment. It doesn’t come from over-eating or drinking to excess. Some preachers, nuns, rabbis and prominent politicians have glaucoma. It can’t be prayed away or legislated into oblivion.

Simply put, the eye contains a fluid called aqueous humor. The humor flows throughout the eye and empties through the trabecular meshwork. It the drain becomes blocked, pressure in the eye increases. Unless the pressure is released, damage to the optic nerve will take place and loss of vision will occur.

All of this buildup in pressure is unaccompanied by pain of any sort. My father had no warning. When he realized his sight was in jeopardy, the progression was far down the road and surgery seemed to be his only option. All of this was in the 1930’s. For the five Carr children, all of us were painfully aware of what might happen to our eyesight and we moved to deal with it. Unfortunately, even with first class treatment, glaucoma often proceeds.

Now, there is the sense that surgery which may again be required. That brings back memories of the unfortunate experience that occurred in April, 1994. For nearly three and a half years, my AT&T duties had taken me to Washington, D.C. That would have been from February, 1966 until September, 1969. My duties involved dealing with officials of the U. S. Government, which many people call “lobbying.” It is tempting for me to say that lobbying with politicians gave glaucoma to me, but that is not a very convincing case.

When my wife and two daughters returned to New Jersey, we settled in Short Hills primarily because of the superior Lackawanna Railroad connections to New York City. At that time, the leading ophthalmology group around here was the Short Hills Ophthalmology Group. There were three principals: Gerald Fonda, John Kennedy and Charles Ball. All were products of the New York University School of Medicine.

Before leaving Washington, an ophthalmologist there had told me that my eyes had “incipient glaucoma.” That was not good news, but it was expected news. So when we were settled in the Short Hills house, it became my business to visit John Kennedy, one of the founders of the Short Hills Ophthalmology Group. My relations with Kennedy were cordial and productive.

In 1992 or there about, John Kennedy said he had had enough and elected to retire. His successor was a young fellow who also came from NYU. His name was Richard Robbins. In the next year or so, Robbins and Ball performed cataract surgery on both eyes, with the left eye posing a continuing problem. After a time during which Robbins tried drugs and laser treatments to get the ocular pressure down, particularly in the left eye, Robbins concluded that surgery to perform a trabeculectomy would be necessary. He was an NYU graduate who came well recommended by John Kennedy, so there was no effort on my part to seek a second opinion.

The object of a trabeculectomy is to carve out an exit that will improve the flow of aqueous humor fluid out of the eye, thus reducing the pressure. The man Robbins selected to perform the trabeculectomy was Ivan Jacobs of the Eye Care and Surgery Center in Watchung, New Jersey. Robbins was asked by me if he would trust his sight to
Ivan Jacobs. After some pause, Robbins said he would. It is my belief that Robbins could not have known much of Jacobs’ work which probably accounted for his hesitancy in answering my question as to whether he would trust Jacobs with his own eye sight.

In any case, Jacobs set out to perform the trabeculectomy. There was an introductory meeting with Jacobs at which time he seemed to regard patients as bothersome. It is quite obvious that his attitude as well as his so called “Surgery Center” should have turned me off, but things had progressed this far, so they went ahead.

On April 1, 1994, Jacobs started with the trabeculectomy. Perhaps 8 or 10 minutes into the operation, my ears picked up Jacobs whispering that a choroidal hemorrhage had taken place. That was the end of the trabeculectomy and the end of sight in the left eye.

The third point to be made here is that pressure in the one remaining eye is reaching levels that will probably soon take a toll on the optic nerve. Dr. Eric Gurwin is doing everything to bring the pressure down short of another surgical trabeculectomy. If those efforts are unsuccessful, then this may be a replay of April, 1994 – with a better outcome to be hoped for.

The efforts of Dr. Gurwin to avoid the need for surgery are substantial. It goes without saying that my case is in much better hands with Professor Gurwin rather than with Richard Robbins and Ivan Jacobs.

So the three points to be made as an underpinning to this essay are that if loss of vision occurs, my memoirs have been written. There is not much more to say. Secondly, no one should feel sorry for me. If it happens, it has been a long time coming and at my age, there is not a lot that needs to be seen anymore. And finally, the third point is the progression of events in the one remaining eye today that seem to be closely following the April, 1994 script. We hope for a better outcome.

Before we proceed further, you may find your mind tingling about the name of my earlier ophthalmologist, Richard Robbins. You may recall in an essay of mine, that Robbins was convicted by his own admission of guilt in fondling females in his care. He was spared jail by probation, but he was labeled a sex offender, an appellation that will stick with him until he dies. His practice has been sold and it is unclear what he is doing in terms of employment.

With all that background established, it is time to look at the next step. Aside from a regimen of drugs, Eric Gurwin has introduced a device called a “Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty” commonly called an “SLT.” According to the brochure, “SLT works by using laser light to stimulate the body’s own healing response to lower your eye pressure.” If SLT works, then surgery may be avoided. If it fails to work, that puts me pretty much back where we were. In any case, it’s too soon to tell. Let’s see if Professor Gurwin has something else up his sleeve. If he has, that’s all to the good. If there is nothing short of surgery, perhaps it will go better than in 1994. Dr. Gurwin has suggested that if surgery is required, he will send me to a hospital in Philadelphia. Such a hospital is a far cry from Ivan Jacobs’ Surgical Center in Watchung.

If darkness eventually overtakes me, it won’t make me happy, but it is something that can probably be dealt with. Consider this story of the Lackawanna Ferry and the total blackout that occurred in New York City late in 1964. It could have been 1965, but my guess is that the total shutdown of electricity happened in November, 1964. And consider my initial response to a stroke in 1997, which will be discussed later.

In the blackout, street lights did not work. Elevators did not run. Subways stopped in their tracks about 5:45PM. In short, nothing electrical worked. On that occasion, it was my custom to board the Lackawanna Ferry to carry myself and other passengers across the Hudson River to Hoboken, New Jersey, there to catch the Lackawanna Railroad. This was before the Carr family moved to Washington, so my destination was New Providence, New Jersey. It was warmer than usual that evening, so it was inviting to sit outside. On the second deck of the ferry, which was unlighted, it was possible to sit outside with illumination coming from lights ashore. As it so happened, there was a seat at the very rear of the ferry which provided an unobstructed view of Manhattan. Looking to my left, it was possible to see a long distance up the river to the George Washington Bridge. Looking to the right, it was possible to see almost to the tip of Manhattan. The thought occurred to me about how lucky commuters on the Hudson River Ferries were and the secondary thought was about how peaceful it was. This, of course, was before we were underway. In any case, travel on ferries has my complete endorsement.

As Manhattan Island was being admired, everything went completely dark. To the best of my knowledge, there were no lights to be seen anywhere. Absolutely none. It never dawned on me to look to the west where the Jersey shore was alight as usual. Manhattan absorbed me as it must have for other commuters. In my case, however, staring into the pitch darkness on the New York side of the river, it occurred to me that blindness had set in. The immediate problem was getting off the ferry if my eye sight was gone. Before long, it became apparent that the lights on the ferry were working and indeed, my eyesight was normal, which was a great relief.

During those instants or minutes when there was nothing to be seen, it was not my desire to scream that my sight was missing, but rather, it was my rehearsing how to feel my way to find the steps to get down to the first deck and to seek help in getting me on the train to New Providence when we reached Hoboken.

As was said, if blindness happens to me, there will be no attempt to curse the darkness, but rather, my efforts will be devoted to dealing with the new eventuality.

Now the stroke story. A few days after the 1997 stroke, the outcome was far from clear. The stroke had not bothered my limbs up to that point, but my speech was pretty mangled. The thoughts that formed in my brain either refused to come out in speech, or it often came out in an unintelligible fashion. Later, it appeared that the stroke had caused a lesion in the brain which results in aphasia, the condition which causes garbled speech or completely forgetting what one wishes to say.

On a Sunday morning, Carl Shepherd, one of my sons-in-law, came to see me at Overlook Hospital in Summit, N. J. We walked around the floor of the hospital. It seemed to me that being able to walk with Carl Shepherd immediately after a serious stroke, was good news. If my speech was screwed up, so be it. As an old soldier would say, “Hey man, we’re still alive so anything is possible.” Don’t count your losses; count what you have left.

As time has gone on, there have been wrestling matches with aphasia. Sometimes aphasia wins, but now, aphasia more often comes out on the short end of the stick. As in the case of supposed blindness on the ferry, it is always my view of seeing how an ailment or a disability can be dealt with as distinguished from giving in to it and calling on the Gods to take care of things.

If worst comes to worst and somewhere down the road my sight should disappear, there is much to be said for dealing with that eventuality if it happens. There will be no histrionics and no one will be asked to pity poor old Ed. Old Ed has lived a long life kept in working order by the efforts of the Summit Medical Group and other physicians. The working order includes a heart by-pass operation performed by Eric Rose at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York, a new aortic valve arrangement donated by a pig and installed by Alfred Casale in Morristown. Also there is a pacemaker placed by Andrew Beamer, formerly a student at Duke University and a resident at Brigham and Woman’s Hospital in Boston. If Gurwin can pull the eyesight trick off, we will be well ahead of the game and Eric Gurwin will be a hero. Nonetheless, this essay is being written now in case anything should go astray.

My essays almost always end with a reference to where they began. In this case, we snuck into blindness by using baseball as a peg to hang the story on. Most baseball players, particularly hitters, have sharp eyes. There are no poorly-sighted ball players. If Professor Gurwin gets all of us through the next few months and avoids vision loss or even blindness, perhaps George Steinbrenner may be asked by me to sponsor a team in a vision impaired league. My job will be Umpire in Chief. My duties will be performed without glasses. Steinbrenner is often an owner with limited vision for the people he hurts. Maybe ownership in a vision impaired league is what Steinbrenner always needed.

Now as to my happiness for the Red Sox early in the 2004 season. Boston is a good club and it has a very nice manager. And Boston is a very nice city. But my heart has always belonged to the St. Louis Cardinals, perhaps the only perfect team in a perfect city in organized sports. There may be some quibbles about that from one Cubs fan, we all know, but those are the facts, plain and simple.

E. E. CARR
April 25, 2004
Essay 99
~~~
Kevin’s commentary: It is at amazing to me that Pop possesses a level of introspection that is sufficient to exactly predict how he would react to a major change to his lifestyle. He said “If darkness eventually overtakes me, it won’t make me happy, but it is something that can probably be dealt with… there will be no attempt to curse the darkness, but rather, my efforts will be devoted to dealing with the new eventuality.” As far as I know, this is pretty much exactly how things shook out.

However, I can’t help but find it a little funny that despite predicting his emotional reaction to what could justifiably be called a “crisis” to the tee, Pop also thought that his “work of recording is now largely done” before he had even hit the triple digit point in the essays. Of course close to eight hundred essays were written in total. As of right now, five hundred and eight of them are available on this website. It is a guarantee that the rest will be available within one year of today (which is actually May 30th, not May 25th).

This is the first essay in a series about blindness, both before and after it occurred.  You can find the introductory essay here, and the subsequent essay here. The existence of this series may be surprising given that Pop said in this essay that there was “no need to publish something about my take on life”  Even champions of introspection can’t bat a thousand all the time, I suppose.

THE 0-FER FACTOR

The Salvation Army, the Baptist Young People’s Union, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Luther League (Missouri Synod) have approved this essay only on the ground that I disclose that it is a political and not a baseball essay. But to make my point it is necessary to call on the practice of baseball as an analogy.

Until the mid 1950s, major league baseball regularly played double headers on Sunday afternoons. Before long, greed overtook the owners and that practice was largely stopped. Today, we find that double headers are rarely played and, if they are, two admissions are charged. Formerly when double headers occurred on the schedule, they were played with a half-hour intermission between the two games and the spectator could enjoy seeing two games for the price of one. Now, however, if there is a double header, the owners charge for an afternoon game and a second charge will be required for the evening game with a three- or four-hour intermission between the games.

Now let us say that a player is having a bad day and let us say that he is indeed playing a double header. In the first game, this unfortunate player will strike out five times. In the second game, he will foul out twice and be called out on strikes in his final time at bat. So for the day he will not have any hits in ten trips to the plate. In baseball terms, every commentator will tell you that he went “0-fer ten”. In proper English, the middle word “fer” is a corruption of the connecting phrase “for,” but it has been pronounced this way since Abner Doubleday invented the game.

It is most likely that a player who is having such a bad day a bat, will then have a terrible day in the field because he is thinking about his batting performance. A ball will go over his head and another ball will go through his legs. On another play he will throw to the wrong base and in another case he will overthrow the infielder. So you see, an “0-fer” is a terrible disease to acquire.

In the last few weeks, the Bush administration in Washington has gone 0-fer ten or 0-fer fifty, if a proper account is maintained. Here are three examples in which the administration was either struck out, called out or, if they were lucky, fouled the third strike into the catcher’s glove.

In the first instance, we have been told over the past year, primarily by our intellectual President, that Iran is a terrible threat to all of us. They have been developing, as he says, “nucular” weapons and fully intend to drop those “nucular” weapons right in the middle of Times Square. Now only two weeks ago, our lovable President informed us that we were flirting with World War III. All of this was done of course to persuade the American public to back a military operation against Iran. The modus operandi was remarkably similar to what had been employed when the Bush administration invaded Iraq. So you see, World War III was right on the horizon.

But then last week there came a National Intelligence Estimate, called an NIE, compiled by the 16 agencies in the United States government that are in charge of spying. Unanimously, the 16 agencies concluded that in 2003 – four years ago – Iran had stopped its nuclear program. In short, for more than four years Iran posed no nuclear threat to the United States or to anyone else. The indisputable fact is that they had stopped working on a weapons program that could threaten us, Israel, of any of the neighboring countries. When the NIE came to light last week, the first week of December, the wind went out of the sails of the Bush administration. All of the business about preparing for the Third World War became hollow. There was no Third World War, nor was there a “nucular” threat from Iran. So in effect after four years when the Bush administration should have known that Iran was not working on a nuclear weapons project, we were belatedly informed – not by the Bush administration but by the NIE – that Iran was not “the axis of evil” as they had been portrayed by Bush himself. There was no World War III on the horizon. In effect, George Bush, Richard Cheney, and the rest of the neo-conservatives had whiffed at the plate. Clearly, they had missed every pitch by a mile. And so every American is entitled to say that in the case of the non-nuclear threat from Iran, Mr. Bush was 0-fer for three or four seasons, and should be released outright.

Then we have the case of the missing tapes of torture. For years, the Bush administration, particularly the president himself, has insisted that we do not torture anybody. In spite of all of the evidence to the contrary, the Bush people insist that waterboarding is not torture. Waterboarding induces a sense of drowning. A person with a heart condition could die before his torturers could stop the procedure. Ahhh, but Mr. Bush contends that this is not torture. If this is not torture, this old soldier must ask just what in the hell is it? Answering my own question, I say it is torture, pure and simple.

Bush’s nominee to succeed the late Alberto Gonzales as the Attorney General of the United States, Mr. Mukasey, twisted himself into knots before the Senate Judiciary Committee, trying to say anything but that waterboarding was torture. He did this for obvious reasons. The New York Times disclosed on December 18th that his predecessor, Gonzales, as well as David Arrington, Mr. Cheney’s Chief of Staff, among others, were aware of the destruction of the tapes and did nothing to stop it. Arrington has the job that Scutter Libby used to call his own. Mukasey knew that in the long run, there will be serious charges that waterboarding is indeed torture and that the people who conducted that exercise may well find themselves in jail.

Nonetheless, the tapes of the torture of those two or three prisoners have been destroyed and now investigations are underway by the Congress and by a joint CIA-Department of Justice probe. What this case calls for is an independent prosecutor. Can anyone expect that the CIA will investigate these charges honestly when they were the people who applied the torture and then destroyed the tapes? The answer is that this story is rigged. The fact is that the United States does torture its prisoners, which is a barbaric custom. It guarantees that our military personnel, when they are taken, will be treated exactly in that same way.

So we see the baseball analogy still applies in that, in the destruction of the tapes of the torture sessions, we have another instance of the administration striking out. In this case they did not even manage to foul off the ball. They simply were called out on strikes. So that’s two strikes.

Now finally we have had a speech by Mitt Romney, a presidential contender from the Republican Party. Mr. Romney is a Mormon and he was billed as having planned to make a speech explaining his Mormon faith. The fact is, he did none of that. He did not explain, for example, how the angel Moroni impregnated Mary, the mother of Jesus. Nor did he explain why the angel Moroni told Joseph Smith that in his back yard near Palmyra, New York, he would find golden plates that Mr. Smith, with the help of heaven-sent spectacles, would translate into the Book of Mormon. When Mr. Romney spoke, the rest of us were hoping to hear how in the world any sane man could believe in bizarre garbage such as this. Ahhh, but there was none of that. Instead, Mr. Romney spoke for about 20 minutes and the burden of the speech was as follows: “Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom.” Most commentators, or nearly all of the commentators, on the evening news were as baffled as I was by Mr. Romney’s non-witty epigram. My freedom requires no religion at all. The women of Saudi Arabia under the Wahhabi influence in that nation enjoy all kinds of religion but they are not free to drive or even to leave the house without the permission of a man. Basically the widely hailed speech by Mitt Romney was a dud. Anyone who votes for Romney will be on his own to discern how the Angel Moroni impregnated Mary, the mother of Jesus. So here is another strikeout. In this case, the batter was simply called out on strikes before he left the dugout.

In the great game of baseball, three strikes and you’re out. Well, three people have taken three strikes and so the side is retired. And so as your life progresses, I hope that World War III does not happen to you, nor do I wish that you should ever be non-tortured, as the Bush administration says, and I hope that in the end, you will be able to figure out what in the world Mr. Romney’s non-witty epigram was all about. Perhaps, dear readers, only the Angel Moroni could explain all of this. I want to be first in line to hear what he has to say.

E. E. CARR
December 9, 2007
Essay 276
~~~
Kevin’s commentary: When you’re young and just learning to write, teachers often have a go-to form for essay writing. They say you should start with an introduction, move to three body paragraphs, and then conclude the body paragraphs in a way that references the introduction. It clearly is a writing style that is not fit for every scenario, but it is nice to see that it suits this essay so well.

The essay had predictive power, too. It held that someone who has a terrible time at bat will go on to produce a bad showing in the field later that game. After being elected twice — a double header, certainly — the administration followed up with poor performance clear to the bitter end.