Baseball Hall of Fame?

First, congratulations to David Ortiz, for his first ballot election to the Hall of Fame. This is a well-deserved election and to those Baseball Writers who did not put him on their ballot–you are idiots.

However, I do not write to congratulate Mr. Ortiz. I am writing to ask how long the Hall of Fame will continue to allow the Janus-faced to elect the inductees.

Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGuire and, I am sure, others will never be elected because of their alleged involvement in using PED’s (Performance Enhancing Drugs). Note, I say alleged because no court of law, or, non-politically motivated body has ever found these men guilty of using PEDs. Innuendo, rumor, perception etc. are not facts and, self-serving statements of those facing criminal liability are not exactly convincing.

A bit of history might be in order, so I will start with this:

In 1994, the baseball players struck when the owners attempted to cap their salaries while those same owners wanted to keep all of the revenue from any local broadcasts. As a result of the strike, the World Series was canceled. This cancellation and the public perception that billionaires (owners) fighting millionaires (players) over more money was an unforgiveable reason to cancel the World Series. Added to this was the ever increasing popularity of the NFL, NBA and College Football and baseball was in danger of becoming nothing more than a way to fill the summer gap, at least at the major league level.

While the owners had given lip service to banning the use of PEDs in 1991, after the 1994 strike, the owners and writers quickly ignored their policy and the owners made sure there no mechanism for enforcing the ban was even attempted until late 2003, or early 2004. By that time, Roger Clemens had won his 300th game (June, 2003). Mark McGuire had his 70th home run (1998), with Sammy Sosa hitting 66 home runs in the same year and Barry Bonds had hit his 73 home runs (2001).

What does this matter? Well, the home run races that occurred post 1994 and prior to the implementation of any mechanism for enforcing the alleged steroid ban, and the pitching efforts of many like Clemens, quite honestly, saved baseball and kept it from being relegated to an also ran in sports.

The owners, with the help of television and the Baseball Writers–the keepers of the Hall of Fame gate–all promoted the home run race, touted Clemen’s feats and enjoyed the benefits of these accomplishments. The owners counted their money and the baseball writers pushed and shoved each other out of the way in order to be the ones to get “the interview” and nary a one was outraged by the possibility of PED use.

By the time the “outraged”, “shocked” Baseball Writers and team owners decided to make PEDs an actual priority, their wallets and/or writing portfolios had been made fat by the benefits of the efforts of these mentioned and other players.

Even knowing some of the alleged PEDs were used for nothing more than helping players recover from injuries quicker, or recover from the physical stresses of a 162 game season, the writers and owners, with the help of politicians, continued their new attempts at headline grabbing.

So now that Clemens, Bonds and the other are off the ballot for the Hall of Fame, having watched in futility as the baseball writers postured (and I am sure with the unstated support of the owners) and, unless the veterans committee brings them in years from now, the Baseball Writers can puff their chest about protecting the integrity of the game.

The Baseball Writers and owners with there contrived shock and outrage, are like Claude Raines’ character, Captain Louis Renault, in Casablanca, when he shouted that he was shocked gambling was going on in “Rick’s” only to have his winnings delivered as he was closing Rick’s down.

So congratulations to the owners and Baseball Writers, you have now saved yourself from looking in the mirror and admitting that you enjoyed the benefits of the work of these men, waited until they had, effectively, saved the game, your incomes and jobs, only to then demonstrate your faux outrage, all the while hoping those of us, who were merely fans, would cheer you on.

You, ladies and gentlemen, are in this writer/fan’s opinion not worthy of baseball.

‘SEGREGATION NOW, SEGREGATION TOMORROW, SEGREGATION FOREVER”?

“Segregation Now, Segregation Tomorrow, Segregation Forever”

George C. Wallace, 1963

          The title to this are words spoken during one of the worst times in this country’s history and, yes, I was alive and living in Alabama, going to a segregated public school and in a town where there were separate “accommodations” (I love that terminology, sounds kind doesn’t it) with “colored and white” restrooms, water fountains, places on the bus, schools (separate but unequal despite the Supreme Court’s rulings) and, as we know, all was right with the world.

          A note here—if you are nodding your head to agree with the last sentiment about everything being right with the world, look up sarcasm in the dictionary or “Google” it.

          If you notice, I did not mention separate but equal voting rights, because even those which were guaranteed by amendments—it took one for black men and a second for women no matter their color—the rights were systematically denied with poll taxes, literacy tests and gerrymandering. (Gerrymandering is now an art form, but more on that at another time.)

          Having started with George Wallace, we should look at the more recent revelation from Mitch McConnell. In justifying his vote to deny voting rights legislation to come to the floor of the United States Senate he said in response to a question about his position, “Well the concern is misplaced, because if you look at the statistics, African American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans.” 

          Mr. McConnell, one question, Are they separate but equal, or are you more of a segregation now, segregation forever man? Maybe you and your brethren who would deny voting rights, or blithely look the other way while someone else does the heaving lifting of denying voting rights that were won after years of struggle, prefer to believe that your hubris goes unnoticed.

          The proposed legislation in Congress is designed for the sole purpose of undoing the highly partisan, at this point Republican (Republicans today sure seem to look, act and talk like Jim Crow Democrats) efforts to reduce voter participation of minorities and those who might have their jobs endangered when they take time to exercise what is set out in the Constitution as a “right”. These laws have even gone so far at to make it a crime to give water to someone who is waiting in line to vote. Really, it’s illegal to give water to someone? What part of your Bible approves of this?

          I have come to the conclusion that you Mr. McConnell and the remaining members of the Senate who voted to block bringing voting rights to the floor for an up or down vote more likely belong to the Jim Crow era and are like the people who drew up the Alabama Constitution of 1901 (which remains our unwieldy governing instrument) and which was designed to make segregation (discrimination) part of the legal fabric. If your deeper true feelings were expressed you might be heard to say as was said in the Selma Times in 1895, “The Times is one of those papers that does not believe it is any harm to rob or appropriate the vote of an illiterate Negro. We do not believe they ought ever to have had the privilege of voting” Or, you could be more like John Knox, who in his support for denying suffrage to the “Negro” said there was “in the white man an inherited capacity for government, which is wholly wanting in the Negro. Before the art of reading and writing was known, the ancestors of the Anglo-Saxon had established an orderly system of government. . .the Negro on the other hand, is descended for a race lowest in intelligence and moral perceptions of all the races of men.”

          You and your lackies claim that you are merely protecting the sacrosanct filibuster. We know that’s a lie. The filibuster is not a constitutional construct, rather it is a rule device that was created, almost by accident in the early 1800’s and was little used until the mid-20th Century when it reared its head to oppose—wait for it—voting rights and civil rights legislation.

          There it is in a nutshell, the use of the filibuster has been, throughout its existence, primarily a tool to deny people their fundamental rights.

          Now, so it can’t be said, I point out a problem without offering a solution, I propose the following:

  1. Anyone can register to vote up to 7 days before any election—some effort should be required of one seeking to vote, there is no necessity to spoon-feed;
  2. Election day should be a holiday and not one of the pretend holidays where everyone is expected to work, or alternatively, voting should take place over a two-day period.
  3. Any employer who makes voting by employees difficult would be subject to being charged with hindering the vote.
  4. With the holiday, or two-day, voting, the necessity of early voting could be limited to those situations where people have a medical need or work situation that would have them out of town and unavailable.
  5. Also, party primaries, those that prohibit cross-over voting should be paid for by the parties, not the general public. Democrats should not have to pay for Republican primaries, nor Republicans for Democratic Primaries. The General Election is the obligation of the respective governmental entities and there should be sufficient precincts to assure that everyone, who wanted to, could in a reasonably short period of time.

Now, Mr. McConnell, you and your buddies can continue believing there are African-Americans and another group called Americans and admit your bigotry, or you can prove me, and the public in general, that you are better than that. I am betting on your inherent bigotry to win.

Truth in Politicking? Hahahahaha! —

What might that sound like? A section of the May — July 2019 exhibition, Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow, And Green, by Rirkrit Tiravanija, at The Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC. Photo taken by author. What if politicians told the truth? Try to imagine it. Hilarious, right? Not funny haha though, angry funny. Our fury […]

Truth in Politicking? Hahahahaha! —

Open Letter to Congress — Heavy is the Head that Wears the Crown – Katy Ferry Writes

We, the people of the District of Columbia, would like a few words. While the world watched in horror, residents of the capital city were shuttering businesses, running for cover, and watching as rioters, foaming at the mouth like rabid dogs, overran our backyard.
— Read on katyferrywrites.com/2021/01/11/open-letter-to-congress-heavy-is-the-head-that-wears-the-crown/

FOR GRANTED

It’s almost 7:30 a.m. and I am sitting on the porch listening to the post-Sally hum of the few generators in my neighborhood.

Yes, we still have no power. Don’t let anyone tell you that underground utilities are a guarantee for quick return of electricity, because there are factors in storms, apparently, that even underground utilities can’t solve. Other than the whole power thing, we are fine. Will throw away the refrigerator contents today, since cooling left us a while back.

Despite the relative cool of the post-Sally days, sleeping remains problematic mostly because the air isn’t moving. We will survive this inconvenience reminding ourselves that compared to Frederick—16 days without power in sweltering heat and Katrina—4 days of sweltering heat, and loss of power to various other storms, this is a walk in the park.

It got me to thinking, however, about how comfortable we have become. Can you imagine the conditions that the personnel of, say, Doctors Without Borders experience?

These teams of medical people and those who support them work in drought torn, war torn, famine ridden places where running water is a fantasy and sewer systems don’t exist. They see starvation, disease and death at a level that we, in our comfortable life have no ability to comprehend and, quite honestly, we don’t want to think about.

Even in places in this country like Appalachia where poverty, despair and unemployment are at a level that is talked about only in hushed tones, because this can’t be in the “richest country in the world”.

Well, the truth is, we take our comfort for granted.

Maybe we shouldn’t.

PRESSURE RAMPED UP

I wrote the other day about how people were preparing for Hurricane Sally and how, even in the stressful run up to the storm, people were polite and courteous.

We are now a couple of days post the storm and I have had occasion to get out for a bit, in part to rubberneck and in part to search for coffee, since the power is out at my house and I don’t deal well with coffee deprivation. Note: Carpe Diem Coffee Company, a locally owned coffee shop, is open and serving.

More to the point, Mobile, which ended up on the “good” side of the hurricane (I love it when the weather people talk in those terms) is somewhat of a mess. Trees are down across major roads, trees have fallen into houses, traffic lights on major thoroughfares are out and random debris is all about us.

With many neighborhoods remaining without power and people seeking ice, gasoline and new food—refrigerators now have to be emptied—people, for now anyway, seem to be keeping their sense of southern hospitality.

Intersections, even the major ones, that have no traffic signals are being treated at four-way, sometimes five-way stops, and traffic flows relatively smoothly. Lines at the few places that are open are politely handled and the conversation is almost always an expression of concern—did you have much damage, do you have power, is your family okay.

As we move further away from Sally’s landfall and the debris piles grow and power remains out, I am sure that humors will be tested, especially as people return to work and have to deal with the fallout from being disrupted in both their professional and personal lives.

The people here continue to remind me that living in the south, particularly Alabama, and, more particularly Mobile, is a privilege and, as I have heard on occasion—the occasional hurricane is the price we pay for living in paradise.

I end with this reminder to the people who report the weather—there is no good side of a hurricane, there may be worse sides, but there is no “good” side.

WHEN THE PRESSURE’S ON

 It’s Tuesday, September 15, 2020, and as I sit at my desk here in Mobile, Alabama, we are awaiting Hurricane Sally to make up her mind as to the direction she will choose—the Alabama/Mississippi line, straight up through Mobile, through Mobile Bay or over into Baldwin County on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay.

No matter the path Sally chooses, we can count on a few things: television weather people dramatizing the potential (I know they have a hard job, somewhere between calm and the sky is falling, but most of us just want the details), rain, in this case lots of it; wind—in this case not as much as initially feared; power outages—duh, it’s a hurricane and crowded grocery stores.

It’s about the latter that I write.

I went to the grocery store yesterday—the Publix in midtown (Florida Street and Old Shell Road). It was crowded. I got the last cart that was inside and people, masked people, were everywhere.

It had all the makings of people with short tempers and belligerent attitudes fighting over bread, toilet paper, paper towels, hot dogs, snack foods and on and on. The aisles were crowded, and certain areas, would have been well-served to have an officer directing traffic.

But, low and behold, I saw no ill-will. None, zip, zero. To a person, stressed though they may have been, there were smiles, nods and hand gestures to indicate that one should go ahead. People with baskets full of items smiled and waved those people with one or two items ahead, (well the eyes were smiling, anyway) and, as those who live in Mobile know, the mix of people in midtown is white, black, Hispanic, Asian, rich, poor, white collar, blue collar, retired, Democrat and Republican. Yet, during this time that is stressful for any number of reasons unrelated to “Sally”, with those stresses sometimes causing friends to become former friends, if not enemies, “Sally” reminded us that this City by the bay had survived for over 300 years through multiple hurricanes, wars and disease, because when the pressure is on, we become a community that cares about each other.

I don’t know what damage may be suffered at the hands of Hurricane Sally, but I know this: with the pressure on, civility seems to step up, at least here in Mobile.

TURN LANES

Turn Lanes–those, apparently novel, mid to late 20th century ideas that were supposed to make driving a safer more efficient method of getting around cities seem to have turned into something altogether different.

I live in Mobile, Alabama, a reasonably large city of about 200,000, in the city itself, but with a greater population in the metropolitan area, probably nearing half a million, so as you can imagine, we have turn lanes on most of our major roadways, including a few on one of our major east/west roads that largely remains 2, that’s right 2 lanes, but that’s another story for another time.

My present frustration with turn lanes is on the section of Airport Boulevard from its intersection with Old Government Street to about Florida Street. This stretch of road is about 2.5, maybe 3, miles in length with two lanes each direction running east and west and, yes, a turn lane in the middle. Much of this area comprises what is known as the “Loop” which is a designation from the days of street cars and is a description of the area in which the street cars made their loop from what was then the western reaches of the city to head back downtown to service the business district.

The Loop is, now, said to be in midtown, but quite honestly midtown is probably 3 or 4 miles further west by now.

Nonetheless, there is a great deal of traffic in this area and apparently, based on driving skills, a great number of people have trouble with the concept of the turn lane.

Turn lanes are marked, usually with yellow lines, and most have signage of some sort ranging from overhead signs, to delayed green traffic lights and arrows drawn on the lanes themselves. These lanes are wide enough for a motor vechile to fit and thereby allow the traffic that does not seek to turn, at the particular place in question, to continue its journey.

Designers, however, did not account for the drivers of 2020. So, in order to bring things up-to-date for would-be drivers of 2020 and those who appear to be driving without knowledge of the design intent, let me provide this primer.

Turn lanes are not for: parallel parking, diagonal parking, passing, driving long distances, playing chicken, texting, arguing, typing addresses into your GPS, map reading, or any of a large number of various social interactions. Turn lanes are for—turning.

When using a turn lane, you should: have some idea as to where you are going–see parking above, as in deciding where you intended to go; plan your turn far enough ahead to be completely in the turn lane thus not having the front end of your vehicle blocking an oncoming lane, or the rear end of your vehicle doing the same, or, on occasion, blocking non-turning traffic in both directions. What this means is that your mental operation of “Oh damn, I meant to go there”, does not give you the right to dart into the turn lane at such an angle so as to render your vehicle a roadblock for three two or three lanes of traffic.

Using the turn lane, and I can’t emphasize this enough, does not mean that you do not need to use your turn signal.

Use of the turn lane does not mean that you can turn across oncoming traffic on a whim; the rules of the road and common sense dictate otherwise. Also, please note that if you are in the turn lane with your left turn signal on, you may not, at your leisure, turn right across two lanes of traffic just “because” and then be upset that someone blows their horn, or gives you the finger–you earned it.

To summarize: Turn lanes are good, they are for turning and they will help you make your trip safely and quickly so long as you, and others, don’t drive like idiots.

MOVING FORWARD

MOVING FORWARD

I have contemplated, for a while, what “Great Again” means in Trump’s world. My conclusion, based on what he says and what he does, is that he promises a return to a time that, if you were white and, more or less, middle class and up, existed only in our minds and the protected comfort of our homes, families and friends.

The promise of Trump’s “Great Again” suggests that he is going to return us to a time of “Father Knows Best”, “Make Room for Daddy” and “Leave It to Beaver” where the worst thing in our life is the occasional Eddie Haskell to get us into “mischief” or if “Kitten” were to stomp her foot. Anyone of us who watched those shows knew that they were not realistic, then, much less now. We did not live in a time where every problem resolved itself in half an hour. Not everyone lived in the perfect family with its 2 or 3 perfect children who only showed respect.

What most of us remember is the relative safety of our lives and my friends and I remember being able to ride our bicycles all over town to the pool, once it re-opened after the polio vaccine made it safe again, to play baseball, football or other sports, to visit our friends. The most dangerous thing was crossing Highway 280 and the most difficult was riding up the hills on Columbus Street without having to walk your bicycle.

The Great Again being promised did not exist if you were poor, or, especially, black.

During my childhood—I am in my 70’s now—there were posted signs pointing out white only water fountains, restrooms, waiting rooms and the like, with the attendant “colored” signs designed to make sure that everyone knew there were separate rules. We went to segregated schools. Remember this was a time of “segregation forever”, where the politicians refused to comply with the law and blamed minorities for their failures—sound familiar.

If black people lost track of their “place”, there was the KKK to burn a cross and remind them of their place, there were church bombings to make sure these same black people knew there were consequences to their uppity actions, when black people marched peacefully asking only to be given the rights guaranteed by the Constitution, they were met with fire hoses, police dogs, tear gas and police batons.

While there were schools that were supposed to be “separate but equal”, the schools while separate were certainly not equal. The schools made available to black children were, more often than not, rundown, poorly heated and ill-equipped. When school books were provided, the schools for black children were often given too few books, not to mention out of date books.

When the U.S. Supreme Court declare “separate but equal” unconstitutional and ordered the desegregation of schools, it took decades and, often, the National Guard, to enforce the law. Quite honestly, desegregation continues to be an issue for a wholly different set of reasons.

These same black people were called dogs, rats and all manner of subhuman in order to send the message that they weren’t like “real Americans”, namely, white people. Those descriptions are now used by the man promising “Great Again” to describe immigrants and, while he talks in terms of people who come to this country illegally, he has thought nothing of using those terms to describe anyone with a foreign, especially Hispanic, sounding name—remember the Federal Judge, who was an American citizen, by birth, but came from Hispanic roots.

The Great Again being sold is a promise that cannot be kept, but serves only to play to fears. We have politicians who call Hispanics the same names that their predecessors called black people and who refer to African countries as “shit holes”, because they do not have the benefits we enjoy and, oh yeah, they look different than the one’s doing the talking. What “Great Again” is really saying is, “When will these people learn their place.”

My concern with the “Great Again” concept is that the rhetoric that drives it has nothing to do with great, it has to do with calling upon the fears and prejudices of a time that exists only in our childhood memories. Memories driven by our very protected upbringing, memories that allow us to conveniently forget how others, who looked different, lived during that time. Great Again plays that tune now and directs it against a new group that the powerful seek to marginalize.

The time of “Great Again” also included the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. And Robert F. Kennedy and, of course, five little girls in a Birmingham church. That doesn’t even count the people killed in the voting rights campaigns.

Lest we forget, the War in Vietnam happened in the “Great Again” time longed for by so many. It, as we now know, was based on a lie, but nonetheless over 58,000 men and women died there. It, also, led to protests and the sometime violent conflict between protesters and police. Those protestors were called names and met with violence—remember Kent State.

If your “Great Again” means people who look, speak, or think differently; whose politics disagree with yours, or who you want to “know their place”—and that place is most certainly not living in your neighborhood, going to your church or aspiring to something better than they have now, then your definition of great is seriously distorted.

The “Great Again” mentality would have us believe that the world had no oppression, no violence, no disagreement during the time of segregation and “white” & “colored” rules, when “people of color” were systematically denied the right to vote, serve on juries and boundaries were gerrymandered for the purpose of denying certain people representation. The “Great Again” being sold today is a promise devoid of truth.

If denigrating people with stereotypes and prejudice is what it takes to be “Great Again”, count me out and if you, as someone who holds yourself out to be a decent human being, thinks it’s okay, then I suggest you take a look in the history books and then in the mirror.

NOTE: I first started this essay when most attacks were directed at the people coming across the southern border, but in the last several weeks, it is clear that the unresolved issues, particularly, of the integration into our communities of the same people who faced dogs and firehoses during my childhood, dog us even now.

“Great Again” would have us believe that it is the answer, but “Great Again” has this week sought to stoke the fears of those who were “safe” with the idea that “those people” are coming. “Great Again” suggests that it has the answer, but in real time “Great Again” has shown us only confrontation and oppression, using mercenaries to kidnap peaceful protestors off the streets, using troops and tear gas for a photo op at a church that “Great Again” does not attend.

Great cannot be achieved by going back, or doing something again. Great can only be achieved by going forward, by acknowledging that problems continue to exist, by admitting that no one person has all of the answers and by realizing that the “Great Again” being sold is nothing more than a repackaging of old failed ideas.

John F. Kennedy, when talking of going to the moon, said we would do it, not because it was easy, but because it was difficult and we did the difficult. Going forward to be actually great and achieve the promise of this country will be difficult. It will require vision and fortitude and the “Great Again” being sold now, has neither. It is a dangerous look backward.