Friday, June 28, 2013


       On Tuesday the Supreme Court by a 5-4 vote declared Section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act unconstitutional, thus paving the away for red states to pass laws restricting the voting rights of African Americans and other minorities. The court taketh away.
       The next day the Court, again by a 5-4 vote, declared the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional, which decision in effect guarantees same sex couples the same rights under the law that heterosexual couples enjoy. The court giveth.
       In refusing for procedural reasons to rule on an appeal against California's Proposition 8, which banned same sex marriage, the Supreme Court Court, once again by a 5-4 vote but with a different alignment of justices, in effect paved the way for California to become the thirteenth state to allow same sex marriage. The court giveth a little more.
        So now we await the impact of these decisions. Will Congress act to pass new legislation to restore the Federal government's role in protecting the rights of all citizens to vote? Will more states
pass laws to legalize same sex marriages?
        We'll see.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013


        How can any fair-minded person not be concerned if not outraged by this morning's action of the Supreme Court in throwing out the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965?  By a vote of 5 to 4 the conservative justices on the court, despite their rhetoric, showed their total insensitivity to and lack of concern for the African Ameraicns and other minorities who will be adversely affected by their action.
        I hope the justices are listening to the reactions of those for whom their ruling is a serious set-back to the equal voting rights they struggled so long to attain.  The fact that voting rights activists are so outspokenly opposed to their ruling should tell them something!
        It is one more glaring example of the fact that racism is still alive and well in America. That Justice Scalia should defend the decision to eliminate Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act by referring to it as "the perpetuation of a racial entitlement" is utterly astonishing.  
        We who were infuriated by the egregious voter suppression efforts of so many Republican-controlled state legislatures in the last election have every right to be terribly concerned about the next election, when those states will have free reign to pass any legislation they have a mind to. State voting laws will still be subject to review by the Justice Department, but only after the fact, when the damage has already been done.
        Given the experience of recent elections, the constitutional rights of millions of Americans will be violated, unless we the people do something about it. We must let our voices be heard. One way to do that is to sign the petition that is already being circulated by Credo. Click here to read about it and to become a citizen sponsor of a constitutional amendment to restore the protective provisions of Sec. 4. 
        To read more about today's Supreme Court action, click on the following links: NY Times; Daily Beast; Huffington Post.


       I enjoy watching flash mobs. Have you seen this one? Click here, turn up the volume, and enlarge your screen.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


By Bob Golon
Special Contributor

        My life-long affection for baseball history began long ago on Sunday afternoons. My father would pack my mother and me into the car at our Kearny home. Our firs stop would be at his favorite Kearny Avenue deli to pick up a barbecued chicken (made with Lawry’s seasoning salt, a recipe that I use to this day) and, along with a container of my mom’s homemade iced tea, we’d head to a parking lot adjacent to Newark Airport. There I was allowed to engage in one of my favorite pastimes – watching the big planes taking off and landing at the airport, at very close range.
Ruppert Stadium, Newark, NJ
        Many times on the way home my Dad would stop at an abandoned baseball stadium with huge light towers in Newark’s Ironbound section, the old Ruppert Stadium. After parking the car, he would tell me stories about the Newark Bears baseball club of his youth in the 1930s – of Tommy Henrich, Charlie Keller, Joe Gordon, Marius Russo, and other stars, and of those magical times when the AAA affiliate of the New York Yankees was one of the dominate teams in minor league baseball. From those days on forward, I always wished for a rekindling of baseball in the city of my birth, Newark, New Jersey.
Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium, Newark, NJ
        In 1999 the “Bears” finally did return to Newark and a brand new, 35-million-dollar Riverfront Stadium, financed by Essex County. The stadium was the dream of ex-Yankee and Newark native Rick Cerone, who also sought to rekindle his father’s memories of the Bears.
        It has not gone well, however. Low attendance has plagued the Newark Bears from the very beginning. Playing in the high-level, independent Atlantic League, the Bears struggled to attain a thousand fans per game, while the nearby Somerset Patriots, also in the Atlantic League, were drawing five thousand or more every night.
        Forced to leave the Atlantic League, the Bears became members of the Can-Am League, another independent league whose quality of play is a grade below that of the Atlantic League. But in the minor leagues the level of play should not matter so much. The “affordable family entertainment” factor does, however, and even though the current Bears ownership and staff have done a good job of sprucing up the stadium and providing a bona fide minor league experience, the plain and simple fact is the community does not support the team.
James Gandolfini
        Last night, I sat, with 313 other dedicated souls at Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium, watching the Newark Bears lose a doubleheader to the New Jersey Jackals. Around 8:30 PM they announced over the public address system the death of James Gandolfini, star of the “Sopranos” television series. As they proceeded to play the Sopranos theme, I looked at the Stickel Bridge towers beyond left field, the backdrop of so many Sopranos Essex County based scenes. I was immediately overwhelmed by the empty seats, and the eerie feeling of the loss of some of my personal New Jersey icons – the Bears, James Gandolfini, and my Dad’s memories.

        But, I’ll keep going back. 


        Baseball as a road to God? I can buy that.                                                      
        I haven't yet read John Sexton's book, but my friend George Betz sent me John Timpane's review of it in the June 9, 2013, Philadelphia Inquirer. You might want to check it out. If the book is as good as the review, it ought to be worth reading. 
        My Dad taught me to throw and catch a ball when I was two years old, and I have loved baseball ever since. I thought it would be my life-long career, but God had other plans.
        In my own book, A Sense of Being Called, I have recounted the story of how I got from professional baseball into the ministry. It's not exactly an illustration of what John Sexton has written about, but it explains why I am intrigued by his title and look forward to reading his book.  

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


      A few days ago the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released the results of a recent study indicating that using voice-activated hands-free wireless technologies like Blue Tooth and Siri while driving may be even more dangerous than using a hand-held iPhone. It’s easy to understand why texting with a cell phone while driving can be terribly dangerous, but to hear that using hands-free technology is equally if not more dangerous is quite surprising.
        I haven’t read the report, but the news item made me wonder if that means we shouldn’t talk with passengers while driving. Why is talking on Bluetooth any more dangerous than talking to someone sitting next to you in the front seat?
        In either case, it is certainly true that while driving you must keep focused on what you’re doing. Distractions can be hazardous, but ordinary conversation doesn’t have to be a distraction.
People have been talking while driving since they first started using automobiles.

Saturday, June 15, 2013


”When I was a boy of 14,” wrote Mark Twain, “my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around.  But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much (he) had learned in seven years.”  (Quoted from an old “ Reader's Digest”)
Tomorrow we honor the fathers of our nation, though Father’s Day has become another   commercial promotion. Millions of greeting cards are still being mailed or hand-delivered, despite the huge increase in the use of on-line greetings and e-cards. It’s the fourth largest card-sending occasion, according to the Greeting Card Association that represents the greeting card industry.
Despite the commercialism, it is appropriate and good for us to honor our fathers and to celebrate the estate of fatherhood. To the best of my knowledge the United States was the first nation in the world to do that. The precise origin of Father's Day in our country is not certain, as the idea of honoring fathers on a special day was actually begun independently in several places, each locality thinking it was starting something new. Certainly one of the first and foremost promoters of the day was Sonora Smart Dodd, of Spokane, Washington, who, not surprisingly, came up with the idea while listening to a Mother’s Day sermon in 1909.
She wanted to honor her own father, a courageous, selfless, and loving man, so she

Friday, June 7, 2013


        I told my Facebook friends that in response to my post on America the Beautiful someone  asked me what's my favorite place to visit. I said that there are many, but if I had to name one it would be Cooperstown, NY. I think there are more things to do and see in that beautiful little town than any other small town in America.
National Baseball Hall of Fame
        Let me justify that statement by describing some of the highlights, starting with the most obvious one, the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The Museum is simply amazing, with constantly changing exhibitions that are a marvelous history not only of baseball but of America. Equally impressive and of even more interest to baseball historians and researchers is the Hall of Fame Library, which is a matchless source of information.
        But the Baseball Hall of Fame is not the only attraction that Cooperstown has to offer. There is also the Farmers' Museum and Village, where a visitor could easily spend a half a day experiencing a rural America village on land that has been a working farm since 1813, originally owned by James Fenimore Cooper.
Glimmerglass Opera complex
        Diagonally across the road from the Farmer's Village is the impressive Fenimore Art Museum,  where one can view the works of Howard Pyle and the entire Wyeth family, and many other art treasures.
        Journey a few miles further on the same road and you come to the spacious grounds of the hugely popular Glimmerglass Festival (formerly the Glimmerglass Opera), with performances of operas and musicals featuring renowned vocalists like Nathan Gunn, who is starring in Camelot this summer. In the nearby Glimmerglass State Park you can visit the Hyde Hall State Historic Site, the handsome estate built by George Clarke (1768-1835). It is said to be the largest privately owned mansion built in the United States between the Revolutionary and the Civil Wars.  
       On the opposite edge of town from Glimmerglass are two quite different sites well worth visiting. One is the Ommegang Brewery, which you don't have to be a beer lover to enjoy. You can have a great lunch there, and then take a guided tour of the property. During the season thousands of contemporary music lovers gather on the spacious property to attend outdoor concerts featuring top bands and vocalists from New York and elsewhere. 
        Returning to town you can, for a complete contrast, stop by the lovely Carefree Gardens Nursery, where you can get a healthy meal of home grown organic foods at the Origins Cafe and hear about the wonderful work the two enterprising young female owners are doing to educate the broader community about healthier eating and living.   
Fly Creek Cider Mill
       Just north of town is the village of Fly Creek, which you must visit before leaving Cooperstown, to see the Fly Creek Cider Mill, whose products are shipped all over North America, It is a great place to shop for gifts and to have a snack. Their homemade caramel apple pie a la mode is out of this world! We've made a lot of people happy with the things we've given them from Fly Creek!
Dreams Park
        Here is something that will stagger your imagination: from the time school is out until it begins again in the fall, every week a new horde of eleven hundred twelve-year-old-and-under baseball players with their coaches and parents descend upon Cooperstown's Dreams Park to compete in a week-long tournament. Believe or not, there are twenty-two fenced in baseball fields on the huge property, with ample parking for cars and buses, lodging and restaurants for the participants and their accompanying adults. It is a mammoth operation, and of course they all want to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame. That helps to explain the Hall's 350,000 visitors every year! 
High rope course at the Clark Center
       Another impressive complex is the Clark Center, a very large sports, fitness, and recreational center, with a swim meet size indoor pool, a fine gymnasium with an indoor running track, bowling alleys, squash courts, a table tennis room, a sizeable and well-equipped fitness room, expansive athletic fields, and many other facilities.
        Just to drive in and around Cooperstown is a delight. The tree-lined streets, the lovely houses, the stately churches, the restful parks and picnic areas, and the surrounding wooded hills and meadows, would be enough of an attraction in themselves. To top it all off, the town is situated at the southeastern end of beautiful Lake Otsego, and during the summer season any visit there should include a boat ride on the lake. It takes only about an hour, during which the passengers are given a very informative and most interesting narration over the P.A.system. It's just a short walk from the boat dock to a picturesque little park, where you can view the source of the Susquehanna River.  
Doubleday Field, Cooperstown, NY
        There are plenty of motels, elegant inns, charming bed and breakfast homes, and attractive restaurants. It's fun to stroll up and down Main Street and window shop or patronize the many souvenir shops and other quaint stores. Just off Main Street is Doubleday Field, where the Hall of Fame Classic is played. It's also the home field of the Cooperstown Hawkeyes of the 10-team PGCB League. There's a farmers' market near the center of town, where two days a week you can purchase the fresh produce of local farmers.
        Another treasure up the hill from Main Street is The Smithy. Built in 1786 by Judge William Cooper, the founder of Cooperstown, it is the town's oldest building, having survived the great fire of 1860. It is now a multi-arts center, with a gallery displaying the works of contemporary and traditional artists, and a courtyard for concerts, theatrical productions, and other events.  
The back porch of the Otesaga Hotel
        Not far from the center of town and overlooking Lake Otsego is the majestic Otesaga Hotel, a luxurious resort hotel, where my wife Margie and I have sat in rocking chairs on the huge back porch on summer evenings to listen to band and orchestra concerts by very talented local musicians, and where we love to eat in the delightful Hawkeye Grill. The food is delicious and surprisingly reasonable, especially in the off-season. Golfers love the Hotel's beautifully manicured eighteen-hole course. 

        Cooperstown is a very cosmopolitan community with year-round programs of various cultural interests. Most of its citizens are well educated and are socially and environmentally conscious. There are active service clubs, a fine public library, an excellent public school system, a large fire department, and the 180-bed Bassett Medical Center, a regional hospital, which is one of the top forty health care centers in the United States.
        All this in a town of fewer than 2000 permanent residents! There are, of course, many people from surrounding communities who are employed in Cooperstown, and with the constant flow of tourists, especially from Memorial Day to Labor Day, one gets the feeling of being in a much larger community.
        I should mention that Margie and I love the scenic drive through part of the Catskills and the Adirondacks to Cooperstown.  It's not a place you drive through en route to somewhere else. It's a destination! There are any number of ways to go, via so many country roads through the mountains; or you can go most of the way on Interstate Highways, with only the last 20 miles or so on a two-lane road.                                                                                                                                           
First Presbyterian Church
        Do you wonder why I think it is the most unique small town in America and my favorite place to visit? There are other interesting places to visit in the area, but I hope I have listed enough of them to justify my choice. And I haven't even mentioned the fact that my daughter, the Rev. Elsie Armstrong Rhodes, is pastor the First Presbyterian Church of Cooperstown. It was she who introduced us to many of the places I've mentioned in this post as well as others I haven't mentioned, although we had visited Cooperstown more than once before she was called there.
         If you haven't been there, why don't you plan a visit? If you do, by all means visit the Baseball Hall of Fame, but be sure to stay long enough to take in as many of the other attractions as you can.

Monday, June 3, 2013


        For two decades I participated every summer in the national conferences of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. In the first fifteen of those years that always included the conferences at the YMCA of the Rockies near Estes Park, Colorado, on the edge of the Rocky Mountain National Park. Within a few years additional conference sites around the country were added to accommodate the rapidly growing program, including Ashland, Oregon, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, and Henderson Harbor, New York. Today there are scores of campus and conferences served by a staff of more than four thousand instructors, and the FCA is the largest sports program in the world.
       Although I am a Trustee Emeritus of the National Board, I'm not as actively involved in the FCA as I was for many years on both the national and the local level, having helped found four local chapters, and having served in just about every role in the summer conferences, from huddle leader to song leader, from platform speaker to devotional leader, from editor of the camp newsletter to Conference Dean. In my book A Sense of Being Called I have related the story of how I came to be involved in the FCA at the very beginning of the program.
        But that's not what I want to talk about in this article. Rather I want to talk about our country, about America the Beautiful. This is not about politics, or sports, or music, or any of the other topics I'm usually writing about. The reason I mentioned the FCA and my participation in the national summer conferences was to explain how it came about that my family and I in the course of the first ten of those fifteen years were in every one of our contiguous forty-eight states.