Monday, April 21, 2014

Ted Williams

Ted Williams broke into major league baseball with the Boston Red Sox on April 20, 1939. Because there is so much going on in today’s world and because baseball plays such a minor role in today’s world, that anniversary went unnoticed. Even in Boston, the big news yesterday was today’s Marathon—and that’s all right.


Ted Williams wanted to be known as the greatest hitter ever and the general consensus is that he was. By its very definition, being the “greatest” anything puts one on a very lonely plateau. You are separated from the common man by your uncommon skill and the common man is separated from you.

While Ted Williams wished to isolate himself from everyone else when it came to hitting a baseball, in every other sense, he was very much a part of the world we all live in. And that might be his greatest legacy. He never allowed his greatness to exclude him from responsibilities that even those who are not great must perform.

Many athletes, today and in the past, as well as singers, actors and other famous “stars” use their celebrity as a ticket to be aloof. Maybe they have that coming. Maybe everybody deserves a private life, but taken to an extreme, many stars abandon the real world for a fantasy world where only the rich and famous live.   

The problem is not so much that they lose contact with the real world but that the real world is unable to connect with them. The common man cannot touch greatness. 

  In World War II and again in the Korean War, Williams went from being the greatest hitter ever to being a fighter pilot trainee and then a fighter pilot. The standard line applied to this action is that he was patriotic enough to do his duty, but that it prevented him from setting records that might be unapproachable even today. But there is something else that needs to be recognized.

In 1941, there were just 400 major league baseball players and Williams was arguably the best. But there were millions of soldiers and sailors, and tens of millions more people supporting the war effort. For five years, in two wars, he wasn’t one of them—the 400; he was one of us—the millions.   

My mother became a part of this team of proud Americans from all walks of life who put their lives on hold to serve their country. Of course, she wasn’t coming off of a .406 season, but everyone gave up something. When she joined, she became a teammate of her future husband, her brothers and brothers-in-law, and Ted Williams.

In fact, she was trained as an airplane mechanic and like Williams, was stationed at Pensacola. Although she was just a very casual baseball fan, she did grow up just 25 miles north of Boston, and so was familiar with the Red Sox and with Ted Williams. But baseball wasn’t a big part of her life. Certainly my father and uncles were bigger fans.

Nevertheless, when I was growing up she would tell us about her Navy days in Pensacola, stories that almost always included, "Ted Williams was stationed there at the same time.

She could say this because Ted Williams chose not to stay up atop the mountain, but rather to come down in the valley with the rest of us. It was good of him to do this, no matter how many hits and home runs he lost. But it was good for everybody else to have him on their team.





Thursday, April 10, 2014

Alms for the rich, Alms for the rich—that's money talking

I wrote this article last Thursday after reading the morning paper. It seems that there were several articles and columns that, although not intentionally, appeared to be related. I tied them all together and sent it off to the paper. Then I checked my email and learned they wished to publish “Here comes the sun, let’s use it,” which I had sent in several weeks earlier

Now I can understand why everyone likes a good dinosaur story. They're so cuddly as little plastic play toys. And if you can tie dinosaurs into global warming, they are almost irresistible.  

The problem is that this piece, because it refers to specific articles in the paper, has a shelf life of about three days. I'm posting the story on the blog because I firmly believe this story has to go somewhere, and there just aren't that many options for this one. The links should take the reader to the original articles.


The American Revolution is what you get when intelligent men and women are willing to risk everything they have to be free.

The French Revolution is what you get when the rich and powerful become so arrogant that the poor and weak are willing to risk everything just to get even.

There was no middle road in the days leading up to the French Revolution because there was no middle class. Too bad because a middle road, a road of compromise, could have prevented the revolution from happening and maybe saved some heads in the long run. But you need a middle class to have a middle road.

Middle class gives revolution a bad name. Its people are comfortable, have enough money to eat, dress and live well, and enough education to recognize how well off they are. They have enough morals to treat one another fairly and enough drive to try and get the better of one another. The last thing they want is a revolution. A long, hard fought revolution can knock someone right out of the middle class and into the bread lines.

While it’s hard to have a revolution with a strong middle class it’s pretty easy to have one without a middle class. In fact, the absence of a middle class is what usually causes a revolution, although no one wants to look too deeply into this fact.

Thursday Pilot contained a wealth of information about what’s going wrong in our country. Americans don’t like to hear about class warfare because it sounds so un-American, as well as something only the poor would promote. But class warfare is universal and as old as the Appalachians. Americans would do well to understand this. The same people who don't want to hear about class warfare probably don't want to hear about the French Revolution.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Here comes the sun, let's use it

 Sun coming up on the USS Corpus Christi Bay in 1971 in the South China
Sea. Maybe it's time we get more out of sunrises than pretty pictures. 

This article appeared in the April 5, 2014 Virginian-Pilot. There seems to be an abundance of facts on the subject of climate change and global warming, and countless ways to deny the facts. You won't find any facts in this piece so there isn't anything to deny.

THERE ARE numerous differences between man and dinosaurs. In general, dinosaurs were bigger and did nothing but eat and sleep all day. Humans do that but also watch TV. 

We know, with near certainty, that dinosaurs did not wear clothes and that they spoke mostly in grunts and groans.

Oh, and one more thing. Dinosaurs couldn’t reason.

So, whether it be a looming ice age advancing or a speeding asteroid closing in, all they could do was twiddle their fingers and wish they had thumbs so they could raise their fists in anger at their impending doom.

We can be reasonably certain that there was nothing they could do to stop the ice age, asteroid or any other catastrophic occurrence. Because there was nothing they had done to set them in motion.

Sometimes you just are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Luckily, we’ve come a long way, baby, from the dinosaur days. We can do something when something needs to be done. We know from the movies that there are several ways to handle an approaching asteroid. But asteroids don’t appear to be the immediate problem.

The immediate problem seems to be the melting ice caps and rising sea levels. We might not know the cause, but obviously something is going on with the climate.

Thank God, we’re not dinosaurs. Thank God, we can figure things out. Thank God, we can do something. The problem, what seems sometimes like the biggest problem, is getting everyone on the same page. There is a lively discussion about whether man is causing this climate change — a discussion the dinosaurs never had.