SPORTS

IF I WERE A BASKETBALL COACH. . .

     What qualifies me to write about basketball? Not a whole lot, compared to long-time coaches, big-time players, and serious analysts.
        But I did play basketball in high school and college, and in between jobs one year I worked as a Math and English tutor and assistant basketball coach at McDonogh School, of which I am an alumnus. The head coach was dealing with a serious leg injury, and I was called upon to help. We had a winning season in the Maryland Scholastic Association’s A Conference, that included the major public high schools of Baltimore.
        Since then I have continued to be a fan of the sport. Before she died Margie urged me to continue ordering our two season tickets to the Princeton University basketball home games, and I have being faithfully attending the games, usually with my son Woody or occasionally with a friend, when Woody can’t be there.
The Princeton women's basketball team is currently ranked
 No. 16 in the Associated Press poll
        It has been a special joy to watch the 23 and 0 Princeton women play. As I write this they are currently the only undefeated college team in the nation and are ranked sixteenth by the AP and 17th in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll.
        I like watching games with Woody, because we both focus on the game and our conversation is all about what is happening on the court. We both are distracted by fans at sporting events who talk about everything else but the game. Woody is comfortable with my analytical observations, and I am with his.
        All that said, I have come to some conclusions about the sport that if I were coaching I would stress with my players. I don’t know whether or not today’s coaches would agree with all or any of my “basic rules for basketball players,” or if they even think about them. I would have to conclude that some coaches must not, because their players seem to violate one or more of these rules in every game I have ever watched.
        So for the record, here are Dick Armstrong’s eight Do’s and Don’ts for Basketball Players:
        1.  Never foul an opposing player who is in the act of attempting a three-point shot. The percentages are against his or her making the basket, and it is not worth the risk of sending the shooter to the foul line for three free throws if the shot is missed, or for an extra free throw, if the shot is made. Defensive players who leave their feat in jumping toward the shooter are likely to foul a savvy three-point shooter, who can easily draw the foul.
        2.  Follow up your own three-point shots. The shooter has an advantage on a long rebound, because he or she is in the best position to gauge how the ball is going to bounce on a missed shot. Too often the shooter stands there momentarily holding the pose or even turning away and heading back down the court, instead of thinking “Rebound!” One of the other back court players can guard against the other team’s fast break.
        3.  Don’t commit a quick foul after a turnover. So many players become overly aggressive after making a mistake and they commit a reach-in or some other needless foul. It happens all the time at all levels, high school, college, and professional.
        4.  Don’t hold for the last shot at the end of a period, especially when you are behind. Hardly anyone agrees with me on this, but if I were coaching I would tell my players to try to score as quickly as possible, in hope of getting one or more offensive rebounds if you miss, or a defensive stop and another chance to score. Too often teams hold the ball until there are about nine or ten seconds left and end up having to rush their shot or failing to get off a good shot. I disagree completely with that strategy, except in very specific (and infrequent) situations, before which I would call a timeout to discuss the strategy.
        5.  Don’t try to dribble through a zone defense. The defensive players are usually collapsing on the ball. So move the ball. Use head and hand fakes and pass to an open player, as the offensive players should be continually moving to the open areas. When you are being double-teamed  or triple- teamed, somebody has to be open!
        6.  Be aware that the team that is behind will start pressing. It seems that teams with a large lead are often slow to recognize and adjust to the stepped up defensive play of the other team. They commit turnovers and sometimes fail to get off a good shot, and suddenly the other team is back in the game. The team that is ahead at half time should anticipate that the defense is going to tighten up, and the team with the lead must do the same, at both ends of the court.
        7.  Avoid unnecessary and meaningless fouls away from the ball. Too many fouls are committed by players who are not figuring in the immediate play. Most happen when players are jockeying for position. Learn to do that without fouling, or at least to reduce the likelihood of a foul.
        8.  Beware of cross court passes in the back court, especially against a zone defense. They are susceptible to being intercepted, and the result is usually a fast break and a quick lay up by the other team. Pass quickly to an open player, of course, but the best way to avoid an interception of a pass is to fake somewhere else first.
        There are exceptions to almost every rule, but as the saying goes, “It is the exception that proves the rule.”

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COMMENTS ON DEFLATEGATE

The quarterback and his coach
         I have mixed emotions about the "deflategate" controversy. I don't like the rush to judgment against Bill Belichick and Tom Brady that has characterized much of the discussion on the social media and public media.Too many commentators are acting as if the Boston coach and his quarterback are guilty until proven innocent.
        On the other hand the fact that eleven of the twelve footballs used by the New England Patriots in their AFC Championship win over the Indianapolis Colts on January 18 were found to be below the allowed air pressure range does raise questions. How did it happen? Did someone tamper with the footballs? Did either Brady or Belichick know about it, or have anything to do with it? Why is it taking so long to find out, and is there anything to the rumor that the culprit was an equipment manager?
        Could the drop in pressure have been weather related? There have been conflicting opinions   offered by scientists about that possibility. Regardless of the cause, did the deflated footballs give the Patriots an unfair advantage over the Colts? I seriously doubt it. The lop-sided score is enough of an indication that the Patriots were the far better team that day both offensively and defensively.
        It disturbs me that the National Football League has not completed its investigation by now, announced the results, and put the whole thing to rest, so everyone can focus on the what they ought to be focusing on: the Super Bowl!
        Many of the Belichick bashers are assuming his guilt because of his previous involvement in "spygate," when the Patriots were found guilty of videotaping the defensive signals of the Pittsburgh Steelers in a game between the two teams on September 10, 2007. Belichick claimed that what he did was not in violation of the rules, but he was fined the maximum amount of $500,000 for his role in the affair, the biggest fine imposed on a coach in the history of the NFL, and the Patriots were hit with a $250,000 fine plus the loss of a first-round draft pick (see Spygate).
        It is believed by some that stealing the opposing teams signals has been in the past a more common practice than has ever been admitted. The Patriots just happened to get caught. So did the Denver Broncos in 2010 (see Broncos Fined).
        This issue reminds me of a panel discussion on NBC radio in which I participated way back in 1964 on the subject of "Morality in Sports" (see "My Reactions to 42") It was moderated by former Major League catcher and then a sportscaster, Joe Garagiola, and the three panelists were Jackie Robinson, myself, and a gentleman who was the current president of the Police Athletic League of New York. One of the questions raised was the moral legitimacy of stealing the other team's signs. We all agreed that it was an expected part of the game. That's why baseball teams take so many precautions to try to prevent their signs (signals) from being detected.
        Garagiola then asked, "What if the home teamed planted someone with binoculars out in the center field just for that purpose?" We all agreed that would be going too far. Admittedly football and baseball are different sports, but their attitudes toward stealing the other teams' signals are entirely different.
        For a refreshingly different perspective on the "deflategate" controversy, take a moment to watch what this Eyewitness News commentator had to say about the issue. He is absolutely convinced that Tom Brady was involved, but for this broadcaster, What's the big deal?
        To which many others would reply, "It's a big deal if it's against the rules!"

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REFLECTIONS ON THE RAY RICE INCIDENT

Janay and Ray Rice holding press conference
        Domestic violence is a serious problem in our culture. It is usually hidden from public view. Not so in the case of Ray Rice.
        The recently released video taken by a security camera, showing the Baltimore Ravens’ star running back knocking his then fiancee Janay Palmer unconscious in an elevator back in February has evoked a storm of outrage at the act itself, outrage at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s failure to investigate the incident more thoroughly after seeing an earlier video of Rice dragging her out of the elevator, outrage at the League’s initial lenient disciplinary action of just a two-game suspension for Rice, and outrage at the Ravens’ management and coaches for not immediately denouncing the act more forcefully.
        Even though the couple had had a physical altercation in Atlantic City and had both been arrested by the police and then let go, and even though the couple are now married, and even though the athlete has publicly denounced and apologized for his own actions, and even though Janay is outspokenly supportive of her husband, nothing has assuaged the public anger generated by this incident.
       Following the surfacing of the second video showing what had transpired inside the elevator, the consequences were immediate and much more severe. Rice’s contract with the Baltimore Ravens has been terminated, his lucrative commercial endorsement deals have been canceled, his jersey is being taken off the shelves in sports stores, and the NFL has suspended him indefinitely. As their final degrading gesture, the Ravens have offered his former fans the opportunity to exchange their Ray Rice jerseys for some other number. The once popular gridiron hero has been publicly disgraced.
        Even though Rice deserves to be punished for his brutality, and he certainly has been, there is something that bothers me about the press’s and public’s vengeful attitude. It feels more like a vendetta. Too many people appear to be driven by a desire more for punishment than for rehabilitation and reconciliation, no matter that from all reports Rice’s behavior had been exemplary before this incident, no matter that his conduct on this occasion was apparently alcohol related, no matter that Ray is quite remorseful about what he did. He is currently in a year-long rehab program that deals with spouse abuse, anger management, and related behavioral issues. .
        There is a degree of hypocrisy in the comments I've read or heard from some commentators, for they ignore the beast that lies hidden within themselves and all of us, a beast that is always ready to rear its ugly head, if the provocation is sufficient.  It can happen to the mildest persons. We've all seen how road rage can be triggered in an instant. A man or a woman who is normally even-tempered can be suddenly provoked into a shouting match or even a physical brawl. I witnessed one of those two nights ago, involving a usually dignified and self-controlled elderly gentleman. I’ve seen spectators after one beer too many get into free-for-alls at sporting events, and say and do things they never would do under normal circumstances.
        Ray Rice and his wife are already paying a heavy price financially, professionally, and personally for what he and everyone else knows was a terribly wrongful act of violence. The concern now, however, should be how to help them both to learn from this most regrettable experience, rebuild their lives, and fulfill their marriage vows. I am glad to see that many of their friends are finally coming to their support, not by excusing them but by forgiving them.
        But forgiveness does not seem to be much of a public virtue in our society these days.

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MY FIRST AND LAST PITCH

        Last Friday night, August 8, the Baltimore Orioles and their fans (43,743 paid) had a huge celebration at Camden Yards, marking the club’s 60th season in the American League.
        As the Orioles’ first Public Relations Director and the last surviving member of the original front office executive staff, I was given the great privilege of throwing out the first pitch before the game between the Orioles and the St. Louis Cardinals. That was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me and my family, all four generations of us!
        My sons and grandsons captured the moment on their cell phone videos and cameras, including the two photos to the right. After being anxious not to embarrass myself by throwing an errant pitch, I somehow I managed to get the ball over the plate. That was a great relief, and from then on I could relax and enjoy the game.
        The Orioles obliged with a resounding 12-2 victory over the Red Birds in an offensive tour de force featuring six home runs. The O’s are currently leading the Majors in that category. The post-game show was spectacular, as the largest group of  Orioles’ Hall of Famers ever to gather were introduced and their exploits dramatically displayed on the big screen and even more amazingly on the wall of the famous Camden Yards Warehouse. Among the legendary diamond heroes were the five living Orioles in the Cooperstown Hall of Fame, Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray, Frank Robinson, and Cal Ripken.
A spectacular celebration!
        It was a remarkable visual history of the A. L. Orioles’ first sixty years, and for me a nostalgic backward leap across those years to my time as the Orioles’ P.R. Director. How well I remember Brooks Robinson when he joined the Orioles as a rookie in 1955. We all believed he was headed for greatness.
        Most of the spectators stayed for the entire post-game show, which ended with a brilliant laser-light and fireworks display, aided by the flashing of what seemed like a thousand cameras throughout the ball park.
Legendary Orioles Eddie Murray,
Brooks Robinson, and Frank Robinson
at the Hall of Fame luncheon
        Earlier in the day my son Woody, who had driven with  me down to Baltimore the day before, and I were invited guests at the Orioles' Hall of Fame luncheon hosted by the Orioles Advocates. There we had an opportunity to mingle with the players. Woody was thrilled to be able to sit next to his boyhood hero Brooks Robinson at our lunch table, and I sat next to my long-time friend Billy Hunter, who was the only player there who had played with the very first Orioles’ team in 1954. It was great to reminisce with Billy and Brooks about those beginning days.
   I have Bill Stetka, the Orioles’ Director of Alumni Relations and chief organizer of the celebration, to thank for the honor of being part of it. Bill and his colleagues did an amazing job! They had planned everything down to the most minute detail, and from that morning till late that night things could not have gone more smoothly or more precisely on schedule.
I have Bill Stetka (L) to thank for being here.
       There is much more to tell about that unforgettable day, but I shall limit myself to just one ironic anecdote. This year actually marks the Baltimore Orioles’ 62nd season in the American League, counting the two seasons in 1901 and 1902, before the franchise was moved to New York City. After a half century in the International League the Orioles returned to the American League when a group of Marylanders headed by attorney Clarence Miles acquired the St. Louis Browns franchise. Richmond, Virginia, was awarded the International League franchise vacated by Baltimore.
        I have been arguing for years that the current Orioles should not be linked to the St. Louis Browns (see The Orioles were Never the Browns) but to the earlier Baltimore teams who were first called "the Orioles" way back in 1883! How ironic that part of the pre-game ceremony, before I threw out the first pitch, was the presentation of a plaque from representatives of the St. Louis Browns Historical Society and Fan Club congratulating the Orioles on their 60th Anniversary and expressing their appreciation for the historical bond between the two baseball clubs!
        I had visited with the gentlemen at the luncheon and found them to be very pleasant. Though it was very much on my mind, I certainly was not about to mention my pet peeve to them on that occasion! But some day they and the rest of the baseball world will have to come to the rude awakening that the Orioles were never the Browns! I know, because I was there at the start.

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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. 

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MEETING OF PHILADELPHIA SABR CHAPTER

Dick Armstrong, former executive with the 
Philadelphia Athletics, speaks to a  SABR 
Day 2013 crowd on January 26, 2013, at 
Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA. The 
event was hosted by the Connie Mack
 Chapter.  (Courtesy of Rock Hoffman)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Connie Mack Chapter): More than two dozen SABRen attended the Philadelphia Connie Mack Chapter’s SABR Day program on a cold, frosty day at the Peck Alumni Center of Drexel University. The program was varied and exciting and the food plentiful, filling and delicious. Kudos to planners Rock Hoffman and Dennis Link for planning the program. Rock emceed and Dick Rosen and Seamus Kearney gave us an update on the planning progress of SABR 43 in Philly this summer. Dick Armstrong, first PR man for the Philadelphia Athletics, earned the keynote speaker status with a delightfully delivered presentation of his experiences with the A’s and the Baltimore Orioles. He enlivened his presentation with the first public playing of a recording of “The Connie Mack Swing” by the Philadelphia Police and Fireman’s Band at Shibe Park in 1950. A great slideshow of his PR career enhanced his great feel for baseball history. He received the only standing ovation of the day and afterward I heard many say that we could have listened to him for another hour. Brian Engelhardt gave us a lively presentation of the games played by the Lee McPhail-led Reading Brooks & Chicks against major league teams in the early 1940s. Brett Mandel, who often told us that he’s running for City Controller, spoke of his experiences with the Ogden Raptors of 1994, touching on tobacco [many in minors still use], steroids [inherently unfair], baseball fashion [likes stirrups] & his Field of Dreams comments [Ames vs Lansing families; planned youth baseball complex]. Dick Rosen gave us his remembrances of Earl Weaver [“you got 5 minutes”] & the connection between Weaver and Andy Cohen. Philadelphia’s Chief Inspector, Stephen Gallagher informed us on how Citizens Bank Park got built and lending us a progression of photos showing its construction. He fascinated us with his esoteric building industry knowledge during the Q&A. Tom O'Brien gave us a sabermetric presentation on looking at wins/losses through the prism of Linear Percentage Method. Steve Glassman elucidated on those players who played on four teams in a year. Ira Levinton gave us his interpretation of the lineups of two successful Phillies eras: 1976-83, 2006-11. Robin Roberts Jr. spoke eloquently and entertainingly on his father, the senior and a great pitcher. Did you know that Roberts had 25 saves in his career and that his favorite food was liver and onions? James Hawking gave us a couple readings from his historical novel, "Strikeout," that included a passage weaving in the lyrics from “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Jim Reese, an unabashed Yankees fan, gave us an account of his “hobby” — identifying dates of Yankees ticket stubs during the era 1923-73. Peace in your Life and a World Series in Philly. — Seamus Kearney

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BASEBALL AS A ROAD TO GOD?

        Baseball ase 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.  

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IS IT POSSIBLE TO LOVE TWO AT THE SAME TIME?

By Bob Golon
Special Contributor

Baseball teams, that is, lest anyone get the wrong idea!

Back in 1960, I was a baseball-obsessed eight-year old, fully devoted  to the likes of Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, and of course, the inimitable Casey Stengel. I took my second trip to Yankee Stadium that year, and arrived early enough to gasp, as ball after ball flew into the stands during batting practice. Nothing could be so good!

I suffered my first broken heart in October, 1960, when Bill Mazeroski’s home run went flying over the Forbes Field fence, denying the Yankees the World Series. That disastrous (from  my point of view)  loss was  followed immediately by the firing of Stengel. But along came Ralph Houk to replace him. Roger Maris hit 61 home runs in 1961, and Whitey Ford won 25 games while losing only 4 that year. My heart mended quickly.

In late 1961 it was announced that this new team in New York being planned for 1962, the Mets, were hiring my beloved Casey Stengel to be their first manager. Hmmmm, pause for thought. As the 1962 season began, I now realized that I often had two games to watch on TV, which was especially convenient when one of them was rained out or was being played late at night on the West Coast.

The 1962 Mets, even though a dreadful club, simply provided me with more baseball! It was a chance to see National League stars like Willie Mays and Stan Musial, and besides, they never played the Yankees. Where was the conflict? There was none, in my young mind.

I lived and died with these two clubs as a young man. The hollow feeling of the Yankees' futility, which began in 1965, was soon replaced by the utter euphoria of witnessing the Mets’ World Series “miracle” trouncing of the thought-to-be-invincible Baltimore Orioles in 1969. Thurman Munson, Tom Seaver, Bobby Murcer and Jerry Koosman were equals in my mind and heart.

So, it was no surprise that last night, as I was driving home from the Trenton Thunder game, I tuned in the “subway series” finale on the radio. I was immediately appalled that the Yankees could not touch Dillon Gee for more than one run. When  Joba Chamberlain bounced a pitch that set up the Mets insurance run in the eighth inning, I cursed under my breath. Yet, just two seconds later, I felt happy for the upstart Mets. They remind me of the 1967 Mets: one very good young pitcher (Matt Harvey) among a not so talented young team.  Yet those ’67 kids accomplished great things within two years.

Maybe these kids will, too.

They say you can’t root for two teams, but I am living proof that you can. Tonight, I can go back to being “myself” again. Go Yanks! Go Mets! The TV remote will be where it always is, squarely in my hand, switching between my two loves

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HISTORIC FAN SURVEY

        Way back in 1954 the Baltimore Orioles conducted the largest fan survey in the history of Major League baseball and the first of its kind ever taken. The survey covered a stretch of twenty home games over a two-month period, during which approximately 2,500 questionnaires were distributed on a random basis throughout Memorial Stadium. More than 2,400 completed forms were returned, representing an amazing response of close to 97%! Without going into detail about the carefully supervised and deliberate procedures we followed, I want simply to say that having studied public opinion polling and having conducted numerous surveys for various clients and organizations, including the Philadelphia Athletics and their farm club in Portsmouth, Ohio, I made sure that approved polling methods were used throughout the massive project.        
        From 100 to 150 carefully designed questionnaires were distributed by the well instructed ushers on each date at the start of game and collected by the third inning. Those who received the forms were most cooperative and seemed delighted to have an opportunity to participate.
        Not having computers at our disposal, the massive amount of information gathered took us several weeks to tabulate. The results were first reported publicly at a major press conference, with colorful charts to portray the highlights graphically. It had taken about two hours to present the full report to the Board of Directors. The results were also summarized and published in a 24-page booklet, attracting huge interest throughout the country. The Sporting News, for example, featured this two-page cartoon spread on the story: 

        The survey had a tremendous impact on baseball in general, as club owners had tangible evidence concerning all the factors that influence attendance and determine spectator enjoyment.
        "What conclusions can be drawn about the 'average Baltimore fan'?" we asked in the final section of the survey. Among other things we found that the average fan was about 39 years old, a high school graduate, a white collar worker who earned slightly over $5,000 a year, and who usually had driven to the game by car from home with two other persons. Chances were three out of four that the fan was from the greater Baltimore area, came to three times as many games during the season than his or her out-of-town neighbors, and had probably been to no more than two other Major League ball parks, the most likely two being Washington and New York.
        We discovered women did not travel as far as men to see a game and that women were slightly below the over-all average in income and education. We were surprised to find that a lower percentage of women came to the games by car, and that of the entire number of female respondents only one had driven by herself! On the other hand, a higher percentage (94%) of the women surveyed came with one or more persons.
        In 1954 women were far more loyal to the home team than men, 70.4% as opposed to 51.3% listing the Orioles as their favorite team! In most other categories the percentages for women were similar to the over-all results.     
        Many things have changed in the nearly sixty years since that survey was taken, but some things are remarkably the same, because baseball fans are still baseball fans.
   
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THE LEGACY OF RITA KAY THOMAS
By Bob Golon
Special Contributor

Rutgers University President Robert Barchi looks on as
 newly appointed Athletic Director Julie Hermann takes
questions. (A. Evans/AP)
        As a Rutgers’ alum, a former employee, and an aficionado of all things Scarlet, I have high hopes that yesterday will be remembered as a good day for Rutgers and its beleaguered Athletic Department. Julie Hermann was announced as the new Athletic Director. Her appointment is being called “historic,” as she becomes the first woman Athletic Director in the University history, as well as one of only three women currently serving in that capacity at BCS level schools.
        After the Mike Rice fiasco and the fallout that followed it, I was beginning to wonder if the otherwise positive historic nature of the Rutgers athletic program could ever again be appreciated. After all, good old RU is the “birthplace of college football” in November, 1869. It has a men’s basketball final four appearance in its distant past, as well as national championships and numerous tournament appearances in its storied women’s basketball program.
        It should be understood, however. that Ms. Hermann is not the first woman “pioneer” in Rutgers athletics history. The trail was blazed for her and others by a remarkable woman named Rita Kay Thomas. Ten years ago I had the privilege of being one of the archivists at Rutgers who arranged Rita Kay’s donated papers, and they reveal the historic nature of her accomplishments.
        Title IX, the law that prohibits sex discrimination in education, was passed in 1972. Seeking to comply with the new regulations, then athletic directed Fred Gruninger hired Rita Kay Thomas in 1975 as the first Director of Women’s Athletics and Assistant Athletic Director. Perhaps understated and definitely under-appreciated, Rita Kay set out on the difficult task of building and maintaining a successful women’s athletic program. She succeeded despite many times having to deal with the inherent discrimination against women’s athletics, while fighting to create separate but equal facilities and programs for all of the women’s sports teams. Under Rita Kay, the women’s basketball program, coached by Theresa Grentz, became a national power, winning the AIAW national championship in 1982.
        Like Julie Hermann, Rita Kay was a natural athlete herself, and despite the enormity of her job at RU, she was able to also serve as head coach of the women’s tennis team. Later, in 1993, Rita Kay became head of the University’s NCAA compliance program. She retired in 2001, after 29 years of service to Rutgers.
        In recent years, Rita Kay Thomas waged a battle with cancer, which she unfortunately lost this past October. Ironically, Julie Hermann’s responsibilities at her former position as Associate Athletic Director at the University of Louisville sound much like the responsibilities that Rita Kay had at Rutgers. It is too bad that Rita Kay Thomas could not have been alive see yesterday’s announcement, because she certainly deserved to be in that room.
        Rita Kay Thomas must be smiling down at Julie Hermann and Rutgers University today. 

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FOR THOSE WHO LIVE IN GLASS HOUSES
By Bob Golon
Special Contributor to "Minding What Matters"

Sergio and Tiger exchange a brief handshake
after the match (AP photo). 
        At the completion of yesterday’s Mother’s Day festivities, about 5PM, I settled in front of the TV to see what sports were on. Mid-May is a great time for this. Major League Baseball is finally starting to sort itself out from the Spring Training malaise, do-or-die hockey games are being played, and the NBA playoffs are in full flower. 
        But the most compelling event of the weekend was played at the TPC Sawgrass Golf Course at Point Vedra Beach, Florida – The Players Championship of the PGA. For the first time since 2001 Tiger Woods prevailed in this event, but, like anything involving Tiger these past few years, it was not without controversy.
        On Saturday, Woods and Sergio Garcia of Spain were locked in an epic struggle at the top end of the leader board. On the par-5 second hole, Woods, after receiving clearance from one of the tournament marshalls that Garcia had completed his shot, committed the sin of reaching into his bag to select his club, causing a loud gasp from the gallery. The only problem was that Garcia was

still in the middle of his swing. Supposedly distracted by the noise of the crowd, Garcia hit an errant shot, causing him to lose a stroke that he might not have lootherwise.
        Garcia’s reaction was sure to please the Tiger-haters out there, most of whom are the same people who insist on seeing the President’s birth certificate. And yes, I know all about Tiger’s past indiscretions in his personal life, our collective judgment of which should be cause for at least some of us look in the mirror occasionally. 
        In any case, Garcia stomped down the second fairway like a petulant 5-year-old, glaring at Woods. Afterwards, he moaned to the press about that dastardly Tiger Woods. Unfortunately, Woods answered him back, which is about the only incorrect thing Tiger would do on this weekend.
        During Sunday’s final round, Tiger could do no wrong, until his double-bogey on hole 14 deadlocked the match between him and three others, including the aforementioned Sergio Garcia. One by one, the other golfers fell back, until it was (of course, it had to be!) a two way tie between Garcia and Woods with two holes to go.
        Woods made it through the hellacious par-3 17th hole in good order, salvaging a par by two-putting the green. It was now Garcia’s turn to keep pace. After he hit his tee shot, the gallery gasped again, like the day before, only this time because the ball found nothing but the lake beside the green. Penalized two shots, Garcia tried his tee shot again. Again – doink! – into the water. Again, a two-shot penalty. In a matter of minutes, Sergio Garcia was hopelessly out of contention, with Wood’s gallery cheering mightily.
        I don’t know with which cliché to wrap up this article: “Don’t ever grab a Tiger by the tail,” or “People in Glass Houses Shouldn’t Throw Stones.” On this Sunday anyway, they both applied.


* * * * * * *

THE GREATEST COACH I'VE EVER KNOWN 

Herbert E. Armstrong
1893-1984
     The scandalous behavior of so many coaches we have been reading about lately and a while back has caused me to ask myself, What would my father think of all this? In my younger days I played for and 
worked with many great coaches, but I have to say that my Dad was the greatest coach I have ever known. He was a coach of coaches, many of whom would say the same thing of him, if they were alive today.
        I could spend many pages backing up that statement, but I’ll simply say that my father was an amazing analyst of every sport he coached. He could decipher, articulate, and communicate the mechanics of every individual move or team play in a way that enabled players and teams with mediocre talent to hold their own against opponents with much greater talent and size. He amassed an amazing record over the years, and his exploits were legendary in the state of Maryland, where he was revered by his players and respected by everyone in the athletic world.
        I wonder what my father, if he were alive, would think about the coaching profession today and how it has changed. He would not believe the salaries of coaches, which like those of professional athletes have skyrocketed. Many “big time” college coaches are being signed to seven-figure contracts. Some football coaches are paid more than the presidents of their universities!
        Television can be credited or blamed, depending upon your point of view, for this development, because it has made celebrities of coaches. To be sure, television has impacted all aspects of every sport, usually but not always for the best, and in my view its effect on coaches’ and players’ salaries is not one of the better ways. Given the alarming increase in poverty in our nation and the growing gap between the rich and the poor, I think the exorbitant salaries of some professional athletes and coaches are morally outrageous.
        That’s not to denigrate the importance of athletics or the coaching profession. Coaches, especially high school coaches, have a tremendous influence on the character development of the young people under their charge. Some of the most valuable lessons of life, like the importance of teamwork, self-discipline, hard work, loyalty, and sacrifice, and how to deal with defeat and success, are learned on the athletic fields. My values were shaped there more than in the classroom.
        My father recognized that and took it seriously. He attended a football coaches conference one year at which one of the speakers jokingly made reference to what he called “a character building season,” meaning a losing season. The remark and the laughter that followed it infuriated my Dad, who rose to challenge the speaker with the comment that every season should be a character building year! His timely objection was greeted with immense applause.
        That’s who he was —a man of integrity, a man of character, for whom honesty was a quality to be expected not commended. He believed character building should be every coach’s foremost responsibility. He himself taught by word and by example. I can imagine how upset he would be by the behavior of some coaches today, the chair-throwing Bobby Knights and the abusive Mike Rices of this world, who for many folks give the coaching profession a bad name.
        Today it’s all about winning. My Dad wanted to win as much as anyone. And he was a winner. But he never sacrificed his values on the altar of personal acclaim, or let expediency compromise his principles. He was humble and modest, fair in his reprimands and generous with his praise. He was always eager to give others the credit they deserved, especially his colleagues. That’s why his fellow coaches and players admired and respected him so much, and why they gave their all for him. 
    
* * * * * * *

A NIGHT IN EAST BROOKFIELD
September 14, 2012, East Brookfield, MA
Senator Connie Mack III (C)  poses with
my son Woody (L) and me (R) at the
celebration of  the 150th anniversary of
his grandfather's birth.

        Last weekend my son Woody and I were privileged to take part in a celebration of the 150th anniversary year of the birth of Connie Mack in the town of East Brookfield, Massachusetts. I was one of several speakers at the program on Friday night, which was devoted entirely to the life and times of “the Grand Old Man of Baseball.”
        The first speaker was Senator Connie Mack III, whose father, Connie Mack, Jr.,  I had known and liked very much, when I was working for the Philadelphia Athletics. We had a wonderful opportunity to reminisce and chat at dinner preceding the program. He was only ten when his famous grandfather died, and so was most interested in my recollections of his Dad and of the man we respectfully called “Mr. Mack.”
        The next speaker was Connie Mack’s biographer Norman Macht, with whom I have been exchanging phone calls and e-mails almost every day. He is working on his third volume, which will cover the final years of Mr. Mack’s life, including the period when I was with the A’s. I was so glad to be able to put a face with the voice of my hitherto unseen correspondent, who has been focusing on this biographical project for twenty-seven years! He will have written well over two thousand pages by the time the third volume is published. It was a special treat to be able to visit at some length with this fellow octogenarian, whose biography of Connie Mack is a one hundred year history not only of baseball but of America.
        Norman’s task that night was to cover the early years of Connie Mack. Woody and I were wondering how he would condense his vast knowledge of his subject into a twenty-minute talk, but he did a splendid job, sprinkling his historical time-line with humorous anecdotes. He was followed by Dick Rosen, President of the Philadelphia Athletic Historical Society, of which I am a Life Member. It was he who had issued the invitation for me to speak. I welcomed the chance to visit with Dick before and after the program.
        Dick Rosen had planned the well-coordinated program for that night, and was serving as Emcee. He had assigned himself the daunting task of covering Connie Mack’s years as manager of the Athletics. In those fifty years the Mackmen won nine American League pennants and five World Series.
        Following an intermission, Dick introduced me as “the last surviving member of the Philadelphia Athletics front office executive staff.” (That’s what happens if you live long enough!)  My topic was “Memories of Mr. Mack.” Since I was the only one there who had actually worked for Connie Mack, I was able to share my personal impressions and tell some stories, which the audience seemed to enjoy. I finished by reciting the poem I had written about the Athletics’ famous double play trio (Joost to Suder to Fain).

        Before leaving the stage, however, I told the audience they were going to hear something that no audience had ever heard before or in all likelihood would ever hear again. “What are the chances,” I asked, “of your having the person who sixty-two years ago wrote the theme song of Connie Mack’s Golden Jubilee celebration, The Connie Mack Swing, here in person to play it for you?” With that, the original sheet music was projected on the large screen, and I sat down at the piano near the front of the stage and played the song, as the audience clapped in rhythm.
        When I finished, Senator Mack was the first to leap to his feet. Never before have I ever been given a standing ovation for my piano playing! Maybe that’s what I need to do to sell copies of my book, because after the program people were lined up to buy autographed copies of A Sense of Being Called.    
        There was also time to visit with folks, before Woody and I had to continue on our way to Albany, New York, where we would spend the night en route to Cooperstown, which Woody had never visited before. I was scheduled to participate in the Sunday worship service at the First Presbyterian Church of Cooperstown, where my daughter Elsie is Pastor.
        Woody and I hated to miss the big doings in East Brookfield on Saturday, including the parade and other special events, but the folks there understood and sent us on our way that night with gracious words of appreciation for our having driven up from Princeton to participate in the Friday night program.
        It was a most memorable event for me, as I turned back the pages of time and relived once again my days with Connie Mack’s A’s.
        Woody enjoyed it, too, even though he is a died-in-the-wool Phillies fan!


* * * * * * *

GO, ORIOLES!

        The reasons for my silence are rather complex, but let me try to explain. First of all, as one who has suffered through fourteen straight losing seasons with “them Birds,” I have to admit that I’ve been holding my breath throughout the summer in anticipation of another collapse, like the ones that have occurred in recent years after the Orioles have got off to a good start. I was enjoying it while it lasted.

        And then it looked as if it were going to happen again, when the O’s started falling off the pace in mid-season and soon found themselves ten games behind the red-hot Yankees. Meanwhile, the pesky Tampa Bay Rays were hanging tough, and Oriole fans like me were thinking, “Here we go again!”
Adam Jones hits an 11th inning two-run homer on
September 19 to give the Orioles a win over the
 Seattle Mariners and their 15th straight extra-inning
victory. (Ted S. Warren AP Photo)
        But lo and behold, they clawed their way back from their ten-game deficit, and today they are twenty-one games over .500 and fighting for the lead in their division! Along the way they have won fifteen straight extra-inning games and a slew of one-run games, while their closer, Jim Johnson, is leading the Majors with 45 saves.
        So why not write about it? Having been an Episcopalian for thirty-one years before realizing that I was predestined to become a Presbyterian, I must confess that I have never completely lost touch with my Anglican roots. Many Episcopalians like me are a bit superstitious, although we won’t admit it. So we resort to various euphemisms, like not wanting “to tempt fate” or “to presume we can know how the future will unfold” or “to impose our will on God.”
        But all baseball players are superstitious, and as a former player as well as an erstwhile Episcopalian, I didn’t want to jinx the Orioles by glowing about how well they are doing. And as a committed Presbyterian I certainly do not believe in gloating about it! Not that my writing about it would precipitate a disastrous losing streak, but too often it just seems to work out that way.
        So I’ve held off—until now! Regardless of what happens the rest of the way, the O’s have given their long-suffering fans something to cheer about. Whether or not they win their division or secure a wild card berth, it has been an amazing season for the Baltimore Birds. And Buck Showalter has my vote for “Manager of the Year” for the way he has turned around a team that with a few exceptions is made of up no-names, has-beens, yet-to-be’s, with players coming and going throughout the season, including a parade of twenty-six pitchers!

        So, allow me to put in writing what I’ve holding back for too long:

                                 GO, ORIOLES, AND MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU!





* * * * * * *

THE UNIQUENESS OF BASEBALL
  
        I like all sports. I’ve played many different sports and I like to watch any sport, whether I ever played it or not. But I have a special place in my heart for baseball, not just because I was involved in that sport for several years as a minor league executive and then as the public relations director of two different  Major League teams, but because there is something unique about baseball.
          Any sport can be exciting for its fans to watch, and to excel in any sports demands athleticism on the part of the participants, strategic awareness, and a high degree of physical, mental, emotional, and attitudinal discipline. Natural ability is important, of course, but determination and hard work can sometimes compensate for a player’s lack of natural ability. Coaches appreciate players who are always hustling, always giving the best they have to give.
          What, then, is unique about baseball? For one thing, it’s the lore. To a larger extent than any other sport baseball lends itself to story telling. Again, I will agree that every sport has its lore —stories of its heroes and heroines, stories of its memorable characters and their crazy antics or incredible exploits, stories of impossible victories and improbable feats and indelible defeats.
          But baseball abounds in stories, especially humorous stories, because while it is a team sport, there is so much interaction among individual players with their teammates, their opponents, their managers and coaches, the  umpires, the fans, the front office, the press, the media reps. Baseball lends itself to the development of “characters.” Other sports have them, too, but not to the same degree as baseball, which was the ideal environment for the Yogi Berras, and the Dizzy Deans, and the Casey Stengels, and the Bobo Newsoms, and the Earl Weavers, of my era. That may not be as true today as it was back then, but the stories still abound. There are plenty of characters around; they’re just not as funny, and that may be a product of our times.
          Yes, baseball lends itself to story telling, and to poetry, and to song. That’s why there have been so many baseball movies, and why Ernest Lawrence Thayer’s immortal, Casey at the Bat, is an eternally favorite poem to recite for appreciative audiences of all ages, and why everyone knows and likes to sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
         There is something unique, too, about the very nature of baseball. It combines action and drama, and even one-sided games can be exciting, for individual feats can be appreciated, and individual and team records can always be set or broken, no matter what the score, or even because of the score! There is always something for the spectators to watch, and while it is a team game, there is constant action by individuals or combinations of individuals, and for those who really know the game, strategic moves by the managers, coaches, and players on both sides. Will the batter be taking or hitting on this pitch? Should the infield play back in double play depth, or in to make the play at home, or halfway to enable them to go either way, depending where and how hard a ground ball might be hit? Should we bunt, or hit and run? Should we walk this batter intentionally?  Is it time for a pitching change? etc., etc., etc.
         A real fan knows that every player on the team in the field has something to do on every pitch. They are not just standing there waiting for a ball to be hit in their direction. They have to be thinking about all the countless possibilities that can occur with every pitch, and what each of them has to do in any and every situation, backing up or covering a base, getting into position for a relay, calling for another player to make the catch, signaling to another player about taking a throw, holding runners on to prevent a steal or playing off the base for wider coverage, and so on.  There is constant secret communication taking place among the players, and with the manager and coaches. I was explaining all this to a friend at a game one night, and she exclaimed, “My goodness! I had no idea there was so much going on all the time!”
          Every sport has its statistics and records, but baseball has more than its share of them. That’s another part of its uniqueness. I would argue that baseball fans follow the pitching, batting, and fielding stats of their favorites players and teams more closely than do the fans of other sports, and there are far more to follow than in most other sports. Baseball fans are constantly evaluating and comparing the strengths and weaknesses of team personnel, and they do not hesitate to express their agreement or disagreement with managers and coaches. That’s one reason why fantasy baseball leagues are so popular.
          For those who know the game baseball is fun to watch on television, because television, with its zoom cameras, split screens, instant replays, and other current techniques can capture so well the drama of the game. But of course, the best fun is to be had at the ball park. Fans can sit back and take it all in —except when a foul ball comes your way, and everyone near you wants it just as much as you do! They can and do interact with other fans, the venders, the mascots, and to some extent  before and after the game, especially in the minor leagues, with the players. Of course, the ultimate enjoyment is to see your team win, especially when they come from behind to do so.
         Because of the unpredictability of the many possibilities that can occur on every pitch, the game lends itself to grandstand managing to a greater degree than most other sports. Should we bunt, or hit away? Should the batter take a strike or do you give him the green light on a 3 and 0 pitch? With two men on base, should we pitch to this guy or walk him to get to the next batter, whom we may have a better chance of getting out? So it goes throughout the game, as the fans strategize with one another, and the banter is enjoyable and often hilarious.
          Another unique aspect of baseball is the reality that the game is never over until the final out. You don’t run out of time in baseball, the way you do in football or basketball, when the clock is winding down and there is no chance of catching up. Lop-sided scores in other sports are much more boring than they are in baseball, for the reasons I’ve already stated. In baseball there is always, to quote a line from the aforementioned poem, “the hope that springs eternal within the human breast.”
          Still another way in which I think baseball is unique is the degree of athleticism required to excel at it. Let me reiterate what I said at the outset: to excel in any sport requires a high degree of athleticism. But to excel in baseball, it can easily be argued, requires a greater variety of athletic skills than does any other sport.
          To start with, baseball players have to be able to run, hit, field, and throw, and that is true of at least eight of the nine positions on a team. Pitchers in pro ball are not expected to be able to hit well, although some do. Each of those basic skills has a variety of sub-skills. Running includes base-running,  base stealing, knowing when and how to slide, running to field batted or thrown balls, running to cover a base, or to back up a play, or to receive a relay.
          So, too, throwing is a highly demanding skill, requiring infielders, for example, to be able to throw accurately from any position, often off balance, or while running in the opposite direction from the target base. For pitchers throwing is a more specialized skill, requiring different grips,  arm motions, and changes of speed  that cause the ball to curve, flutter, dip, rise, or move in other ways that make it difficult for a batter to hit.
          Fielding requires speed, agility, and superior eye-hand  coordination, especially of infielders, including the pitcher, who have to react instantly and be able to catch a ball on a short hop or however it comes to them. They may have to field a bunt or slow roller with their bare hand and throw it accurately to first base or wherever in one motion. Pitchers have balls hit back at them at 150 miles an hour from less than sixty feet away.
          Batted balls take longer to reach the outfield, but they can still be traveling at tremendous speed and outfielders have more territory to cover. For that reason they have to make instant calculations as to where they need to get to in order to catch a long fly ball. They have to judge the trajectory of the ball in order to arrive at the catchable point before or as the ball gets there. They can easily tell whether to start to the left or to the right, but a ball hit right at them can present a difficult challenge: whether to go in or go back, whether the ball is catchable or one that must be played on the bounce, whether to leap for it or play it off the wall, whether to play it safe or dive for it. Outfielders need strong, accurate throwing arms.
          Catchers have to receive balls coming at them at tremendous speeds and doing all kinds of tricks, with a batter swinging at it and possibly tipping it; they have to be ready to throw to any base to try to prevent a base runner from stealing; and they have to be to quick enough on their feet to be able to field a bunted or mis-hit ball near home plate and fire it rapidly to the appropriate base to throw out a speedy runner.
          Batting a baseball may be the most difficult athletic skill of all (see post of  July 17, 2012). At what other skill is an athlete considered a star who is successful  only 30%  of the time? None that I can think of, yet a baseball player with a .300 batting average is considered to be a good hitter!
          There is much more to be said about the various skills required of a baseball player, but I hope these brief descriptive comments will warrant my assertion that baseball is unique in terms of the number of athletic skills required of its players.
          Finally, and perhaps most important, baseball is unique in its relation to America. Since its beginning in late 1790s and early 1800s, the history of baseball has been inextricably linked to the history of our nation. It has impacted and been impacted by the great social and political  issues that have challenged our nation, such as racial equality, women’s rights, unionization, and interstate-commerce law. It has reflected the development of other industries, like transportation, radio and television, the computer, and sports medicine.
          Baseball has been called America’s national pastime, and I think it still deserves that distinction precisely because it is so intertwined with our history and so reflective of our culture. That opinion is bolstered by the sheer number of young people and adults playing the game. With the expansion of the Major Leagues, the rebirth of the Minor League baseball, the innumerable grade school, junior high, senior high, college teams, sandlot teams, and rec teams, extremely popular age-specific programs, like Little League, Babe Rube League, and American Legion baseball, tournament baseball, summer baseball camps, and many other organized programs, more people are playing and watching baseball now than ever before.
          There is much more to be said about the uniqueness of baseball, but I’ll rest my case for now. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the subject.


 * * * * * * *

THE FALL OF AN ICON

          Jerry Sandusky will bear the penalty for his sins, but death spared Joe Paterno the shame of his disgrace. He did not live to see his once untarnished reputation destroyed. He never dreamed  that the mention of his long revered name would now evoke from many public observers only anger, bitterness, and disgust. He’ll hear no newsboy tearfully accost him with, “Say it ain’t so, Joe! Say it ain’t so!” The icon has been roughly yanked from his lofty perch and thrust into the shadows of shame.
         The fall of Joe Paterno is the outcome of an intense investigation by the law firm of former F.B.I. Director Louis Freeh, who was engaged by the Penn State Board of Trustees to conduct an independent investigation. The report concluded that Head Football Coach Paterno, Athletic Director Tim Curley, Vice President Gary Schultz, and President Graham Spanier did indeed conspire to conceal Sandusky’s behavior from the proper authorities. The report indicated that the iconic coach had twice lied to the grand jury in testifying that he was unaware of what was going on.
         The Paterno children understandably resent the vilification of their father. They wonder why the focus is not solely on Sandusky and what he did. One can understand their loyalty to their father. They like so many other Paterno fans feel the public outcry against their father is not only misplaced but unfair and without sufficient evidence.
         For those of the opposite view, however, the extent, severity, and duration of Jerry Sandusky’s abuse of boys make the failure to report his criminal behavior all the more egregious. If the Freeh report is correct in its findings, Joe Paterno is now posthumously paying the penalty for his own concealment of the dastardly crimes and for his influencing others to do the same. His illustrious career ended with his being ignominiously fired, and now his celebrated statue has been torn down, his coaching records from 1998 through 2011 have been obliterated, his once honored name has been permanently disgraced and his iconic image indelibly stained.
         There is no debate as to whether anyone who had any part in the cover-up should be indicted. We can expect that the justice system will see to that. The level of everyone’s guilt and the degree of punishment will be determined in court. The principal culprit, Sandusky himself, has already been found guilty of 45 charges of child sex abuse and is facing possible life imprisonment. He has not yet been sentenced.
          In the meantime, the NCAA, acting on the Freeh Report, has imposed unprecedented sanctions on Penn State and its football program, including a sixty million dollar fine, banning the University from participating in any post-season bowl game for four years, drastically reducing the number of scholarships they will be allowed to offer entering students, wiping out of all of Penn States’s football victories from 1998 through 2011 (111 wins), and freeing current team members or previously committed entering students to transfer and play for other colleges. Penn State President Rodney Erickson accepted the terms presented by NCAA President Mark Emmert in preference to having the football program shut down completely.
         The NCAA is clearly making an example of Penn State and sending a strong message to all of its constituents, many of whom are as guilty of over-emphasizing athletics as Penn State, that flagrant misconduct will be severely punished.
         Many Penn State loyalists, however, are questioning the severity of the NCAA’s sanctions, which in their opinion are penalizing too many innocent people, who had nothing to do with or any knowledge of the Sandusky cover-up. To those who feel this way, I want to say that while I share your sympathy for the innocent, that’s the usually way sin works. Individual sins have corporate implications. The sins of a few individuals impact the whole body of which they are a part, in this case Penn State University.
         In Penn State’s case, one might ask furthermore, How innocent are the innocent? Or to put it another way, are all the innocent totally innocent? Were they not part of the Penn State football culture that lionized Joe Paterno to the point that he became more powerful than the President of the University? How many of the “innocent” contributed to that culture by blindly sanctioning it or by refusing to speak out against it?
         Sandusky’s sins were Sandusky’s sins, but Joe Paterno’s sins were Penn State’s sins.
The legendary coach refused to retire when he was asked to, and when he finally did, he reportedly negotiated an incredibly lucrative deal for himself and his family.
        All idols have feet of clay, and as the Bible states very forcefully, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” To quote an old familiar saying, “There is so much good  in the worst of us and so much bad in the best of us, that it ill behooves any of us to find fault with the rest of us.” Joe Paterno was a victim of his own success. He became much too powerful, and as Lord Acton once said, “All power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
         Joe Paterno was a good man, a generous man, man of faith, a man of integrity. Any good person can make a mistake, and he made a serious and prolonged one, a mistake of judgment, a mistake of misplaced values. Those who knew Joe Paterno admired him for his good qualities, one of which was loyalty. He was loyal to his coaches. He was loyal to his players. He was loyal to his friends.
         It was, ironically, that good quality which got him into trouble, for his loyalty to his friend and assistant coach Jerry Sandusky blinded him to his loyalty to the truth and to his duty. Protecting Jerry Sandusky was more important than protecting the boys Sandusky was victimizing!
        And shielding the University from public scandal was more important to the Big Four, Paterno, Curley, Schultz, and Spanier, than the lives of the young boys who were still being victimized by a person they knew to be a child molester of the worst kind.
         That’s the awful tragedy of Joe Paterno and all who had any part in the cover-up. That’s the tragedy of Penn State, a great university scandalized by the sins of one of its assistant coaches, and by the failure of its greatest hero and three key administrators to do what they should have done to stop the abuser.
         Penn State will recover. I pray the victims of Sandusky’s abuse will as well.

* * * * * * *

MY PERSISTENT PET PEEVE (for baseball fans only)   

    The recent All Star Game stirred up a pet peeve I have been harboring for many years. I do not like the Designated Hitter Rule. I never did, I never will. Here’s why: a) it was established on what I believe to be a false premise; b) it eliminates decisions that make the game more challenging for the players and more fun for the fans; and c) it denies a whole group of players (pitchers) the opportunity to experience a most important aspect of baseball and to exercise a key skill of the game ---BATTING!
         Let me elaborate a bit on each of these points. The underlying premise is false. I don’t know any real baseball fans who feel that hitting is all that makes a game interesting and exciting. It is true that a home run is always a thrill for fans —when it’s a member of their team who hits it!  Hitting, and base running, and scoring runs are an exciting part of the game. But so are pitching, and catching, and fielding, and defensive strategy.
         There is nothing more dramatic than a good pitchers’ duel. The drama builds with each inning, and seeing a possible no-hitter in the making will keep fans on the edge of their seat. A spectacular catch can bring the crowd to their feet as quickly as a home run. Great fielding is exciting to watch and it demands tremendous athleticism. I always like to get to a game early enough to watch infield practice. The choreography of that universal, rhythmical routine is beautiful to see.
It’s not an either-or situation between the offensive and defensive aspects of baseball. Both are important, and to be a good baseball player one needs to be proficient at both. Baseball demands many different kinds of physical skills.
         And that’s the point. The designated hitter rule implies that hitting is more important and more enjoyable for the fans than the other aspects of the game, and that is not true for me and any other real baseball fans I know. What you like at the moment, and what you want to happen at the moment, depends upon for whom you’re rooting. If your team is at bat, you want hitting. If your team is in the field, you want good pitching and stellar defensive play. If it doesn’t matter to you who wins, you will admire and applaud offensive and defensive excellence on either side.
         The designated hitter rule, furthermore,  removes an important strategic aspect of the game: Do you remove the pitcher for a pinch-hitter, or to you let him hit because you want him to go another inning? Do you let him hit away, or do you have him sacrifice the runner from second to third? Pinch hitting has always been an important part of the game, and players are substituted for defensive purposes as well. But in the old days, and in the National League today, players were expected to bat as well as to field, as long as they were in the game.
         The designated hitter rule has strategic implications as well, involving the substitution and positioning of players, but from my perspective there is something artificial about the rule. It smacks of the platoon system, which is okay for football, but not for baseball in my book.
         That brings me to my third and most important reason for opposing the designated hitter rule: it denies a large group of professional baseball players the opportunity to bat. The assumption is that pitchers can’t hit, so why not let somebody who can? The reason pitchers in the National League, which has no designated hitter rule, generally don’t hit as well as other players is that they don’t get as much chance to bat or to take batting practice. Starting pitchers are in the line-up at most every four or five days.  Relievers’ appearances vary in frequency and in duration, so they usually have even fewer opportunities to bat.    
         I wonder if I’m the only person who likes to see pitchers take their turn at bat. I love it when the “sure out” gets a base hit, or drives in a run, or draws a base on balls, or lays down a good sacrifice bunt. You never know when something good might happen. I like to see pitchers hustle down to first when they connect with the ball, and I enjoy watching a pitcher take a good cut at the ball, even though he strikes out.
         There have been many good hitting pitchers over the years, and many sports pundits have offered their lists of the greatest of these. You can do your own research on that subject. I simply want to point out that more often than not pitchers were the stars of their high school teams at the plate as well as on the mound. That was certainly true in my day. Those who went on to play in college or professionally as pitchers probably had natural hitting talent that could have been nurtured, even though they would not have as much opporunity to develop it, for the reasons I’ve already stated.
         Smart managers make sure their pitchers can bunt, because their ability to advance runners makes the decision of whether or not to pinch hit for them a lot easier. As an aside, I have always wondered why so many Major Leaguers can’t bunt. Every player on my high school team was expected to be able to bunt and could bunt whenever called upon to do so. It was no big deal. Now in the Majors players are getting high fives if they can lay down a successful sacrifice!  And probably because so few can, teams don’t try to advance runners they way they should.
         There are sure-fire ways to score a run when needed, but managers are either unaware of them or unwilling to try them. For example, with  runners on first and third and one or no outs, if one run is needed, a bunt down the first base line will score a run every time. How so? The first baseman is holding the runner at first and therefore cannot possibly field a sacrifice in time to throw the advancing runner on third out at home plate. My father, who was the greatest coach and baseball strategist I’ve ever known, used to call it the “safety squeeze,” because the runner on third does not have to break with the pitch, as one does in a typical squeeze play, but instead takes a slightly bigger lead off third, but hesitates just long enough to make sure the ball is on the ground and heading toward first, before breaking full speed for home.                                                                                                                               
         So why can’t a pitcher who can bunt be allowed to bat with men on first and third and one or no outs and one run is needed? I’ve seen pitchers bunt for base hits in that situation! That would be much more exciting than seeing a pinch hitter ground into a double play! Fans love it when pitchers contribute to their own cause!
         These, then, are my reason for opposing the designated hitter rule. I’m an American League fan, having worked for two different American League teams during my baseball days. But on this issue I am with the National League 100%!


* * * * * * *

THE MOST DIFFICULT SPORTS SKILL

         What is the most difficult skill to master in all sports?
         To be really good at any sports demands a high degree of skill from the players. But some skills are more difficult to master than others, and therefore more impressive. Every sport, furthermore, has its limits of achievement, a “possibility range, “ if you will, that no human being can exceed.
         Athletes are constantly striving to push the limits, to run faster, to jump higher, to lift more, to throw farther, to break whatever the existing record may be. To break any long-standing record in any sport is always a huge challenge and extremely difficult.
         But that’s not the kind of feat I have in mind. What I am asking is, of the routine skills demanded of the players in any sport, what is the most difficult to do well? Granted achieving excellence in any sport is extremely demanding, what skill in which sport is the most difficult to master?
         It takes a great deal of skill to play golf well, but many professional and amateur players do. The winners of tournaments break par consistently. Polo is a difficult sport. Having to hit a ball while astride a galloping steed is a daunting prospect, but skilled polo players manage it remarkably well. Wrestling, swimming, rowing, running, weightlifting are all physically demanding, but not inaccessible to the average person who is willing to train and be taught the basics.
         There are many sports that almost anyone can play, like tennis, bowling, volley ball, croquet, ping pong, badminton, touch football, and bocci ball, but not everyone plays them well. In every sport people’s skill levels vary immensely, but the physical demands are not prohibitive for the average person to perform at some level.
         Team sports and especially contact sports require a greater variety of physical skills, some more than others, and certain positions are more difficult than others to play. I don’t know how hockey goalies can stop a puck being shot at them from close range, or lacrosse goalies a ball being fired at them by players who can whip the ball at the net with lightning speed from any angel. Soccer goalies have a larger net to defend but a much larger ball to stop. But good goalies in each of these sports manage to stop a high percentage of shots, and in a typical game there are far more saves than scores
         Given these realities, what then is the most difficult skill in any sport? I raised this question with my son Andy and grandson Seth, both rabid sports fans, over lunch recently and without hesitation Woody replied “Hitting a baseball!”
         That precipitated a lively discussion, at the conclusion of which Seth and I concurred with Woody that hitting a well pitched baseball is surely one of the most if not the most difficult feat in all sports. A batter has a fraction of a second to react to a ball coming at him from sixty feet six inches away with unpredictable trajectories and at varying speeds of up to 100 miles an hour. Even if he connects successfully, there are nine opposing players whose mission is to see that he doesn’t reach first base safely.
         That is certainly impressive, but here is the most convincing argument in support of our conclusion. At what other skill in any other sport is an athlete considered exceptionally proficient when he or she is successful only 30% of the time? The three of us could not think of one, but in baseball a player with a .300 batting average is considered a good hitter!
          That was our unanimous conclusion. What are your thoughts on the subject?
* * * * * * *

THE MASQUERADE


Sports fans, especially basketball fans, will love this one!
Click on the link below and be sure to watch the video to the end.


* * * * * * *


AN UGLY MEMORY FOR BALTIMORE COLTS FANS

As a sequel to my earlier post, “The Baltimore Orioles Were Never the Browns!,” in which I was critical of the moves of the Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles and the New York Giants to San Francisco, I want to cite another egregious example of the betrayal of a community by the owner of a sports franchise.    
I’m referring to the infamous (in the eyes of Baltimore football fans) Robert Irsay, the owner of the former NFL Baltimore Colts, who stealthily moved the organization lock, stock, and barrel, out of Baltimore in the wee hours of the morning of March 29, 1984. Fifteen Mayflower moving vans had arrived late the night before in order to accomplish the move to Indianapolis before the State of Maryland could seize control of the team under an “eminent domain” bill passed overwhelmingly by both the Senate and the House of Delegates of Maryland and signed by Maryland Governor Harry Hughes later that same day. The vans departed by different routes, so that they could not be intercepted by the Maryland State Police.
The mayor of Indianapolis, Bill Hudnut, whose deputy had negotiated the deal with Irsay, was elated by the coup. I had succeeded Bill as Pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church of Indianapolis, when Bill was elected to the U. S. Congress. After being defeated in his bid for a second term, he ran for Mayor of Indianapolis and served very effectively for four terms. He continued to worship at Second Church, and though we differed politically, we got along very well.
I also knew and liked the president and C.E.O. of the Mayflower Company, John B. Smith, who had joined Second Presbyterian Church while I was Pastor there. I mention these relationships to help explain why I had mixed emotions about the Colts’ move to Indianapolis. I was happy for my former congregation, who like the rest of Indianapolis, were thrilled to be getting their own NFL team to play in the city’s new domed stadium.
Johnny Unitas
At the same time I was angry about the move from Baltimore, having been a Baltimore Colts’ fan since their earliest days in the All America Football Conference. I must confess that my anger for Baltimore trumped my joy for Indianapolis, and like the late great Johnny Unitas, the Baltimore Colts’ legendary quarterback, I have never been able to root for the Indianapolis Colts. When in 1996 Baltimore again acquired an NFL franchise, I had no difficulty shifting my loyalty to the newly named Baltimore Ravens.
The Colts’ surreptitious move had triggered a long, drawn out legal battle, which went all the way to the Supreme Court. Despite the ultimate settlement resulting in the dropping of Maryland’s efforts to force the NFL to return the team to Baltimore, the departure of the Colts left a bitter taste in the mouths of Baltimore Colts fans. They resented the move, knowing the city had made a generous offer to try keep the Colts in Baltimore. More than that, they resented what they felt was the purloining of the name which had identified their team for decades. To add insult to injury. the Indianapolis Colts would have the same uniforms, the same colors, the same insignia as the Baltimore Colts!
  Ironically, when Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell decided to move the team to Baltimore, to be called the Baltimore Browns, there was such an uproar from the Cleveland fans  that the NFL, in approving the move in 1996, ruled that the Browns’ name, colors, and history belonged to Cleveland. For once the powers that be got it right! Hooray for the Cleveland fans!
Baltimore fans, in the meantime, were hoping their new team could again be called the Baltimore Colts, but the Irsays nixed that idea! A fan contest resulted in their being named “the ravens,” an appropriate moniker for a team representing the burial place of Edgar Allen Poe.
Baltimore fans are used to calling their team the Ravens now, and I doubt if they would want to switch back to calling them the Colts, even if they could. But the question I asked in my earlier in my earlier article remains: Who owns the name of a sports team, the franchise operators who own the business or the fans who pay the freight?
How do you feel about it?


* * * * * * *

THE ORIOLES WERE NEVER THE BROWNS

The Orioles were never the Browns! As the first Public Relations Director of the Orioles I can testify to the fact that neither those of us connected with the club or the fans of Baltimore ever thought of ourselves as a continuation of the Browns. We were a new franchise, a new ball club, an entirely new organization, and our history was tied into the long history of Baltimore Orioles baseball, not St. Louis baseball.
The St. Louis Browns had their own history. Unfortunately their story came to an end in 1953. There’s no need to tack on Baltimore’s history to their history.  To read something like the following is really annoying to me:

When the Orioles were the St. Louis Browns, they played in only one World Series, the 1944 matchup against their Sportsman's Park tenants, the Cardinals.    

That’s a quote from a current Wikipedia article on the "Baltimore Orioles.'' Here’s another from the same article:

        The Baltimore Orioles are a professional baseball team based in Baltimore, Maryland in the United States. They are a member of the Eastern Division of Major League Baseball's American League. One of the American League's eight charter franchises in 1901, it spent its first year as a major league club in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as the Milwaukee Brewers before moving to St. Louis to become the St. Louis Browns. After 52 mostly hapless years in St. Louis, the Browns moved to Baltimore in 1954 and adopted the Orioles name in honor of the official state bird of Maryland. 

Memorial Stadium, home of the American League Orioles from 1954 until they
 moved to Camden Yards, following the 1991 season. The once proud stadium
has since been demolished.
That last sentence is totally false! The Browns did not adopt the name "Orioles." The new owners of the Baltimore franchise assumed the name.
        Note that the article traces the Orioles’ history back even to the Milwaukee Brewers, but I can’t fault the anonymous author of the article, because he or she is just repeating the commonly accepted version of things. But the commonly accepted version of things needs to be corrected!
Baltimoreans take no pride in the fact that Hugh Duffy of the old Milwaukee Brewers is in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Yet he along with several former Browns’ are grouped with the Orioles Hall of Famers under the general heading “Baltimore Orioles Hall of Famers”! That’s ridiculous! The Orioles were never the Browns, and the Orioles were never the Brewers!
        When the group of Marylanders led by Attorney Clarence W. Miles purchased the St. Louis Browns franchise in 1953, the Browns ceased to be. The new owners also purchased the International League Orioles from their owner, Jack Dunn III, part of whose compensation was the guarantee of a permanent front office position with the new Major League organization.
        The city of Richmond, Virginia, was awarded the International League franchise vacated by Baltimore. The owners of the new American League franchise had no intention of calling their new team anything else but THE ORIOLES.
Don Larsen, a former Brown
pitcher, who, after a 3 and 21

season with the Orioles, was

traded to the Yankees, where

he pitched a perfect game in

the 1956 World Series vs.

the Brooklyn Dodgers.
        Seventeen of the former Browns players were retained by the new Orioles General Manager, Arthur Ehlers, and team Manager Jimmy Dykes. For these players, as for all other professional baseball players, their individual statistics include their time with any and all teams for whom they played, including the Browns.
        The Major League Orioles’ team records, however, date from 1954, their first season in the American League. Now here’s where baseball historians, the Baseball Hall of Fame, and The Baseball Encyclopedia (the Holy bible of Major League Baseball), are all completely wrong, in my view. In adding up the team records of the current Orioles, they include the St. Louis Browns’ records, as if they were a continuous franchise!
        If the records of the present team are to be linked to those of any other American League team, let it be to the 1901 and 1902 American League Orioles. That franchise, incidentally, was moved to New York, but the Yankees were never the Orioles! Rather the Orioles joined the International League, where they remained for 51 years!
Oriole Park on 29th Street, where the International League Orioles played
until the ball park burned down the night of July 4, 1944. They then moved
to Baltimore Municipal Stadium, which was converted into a baseball park
 in ten days under the supervision of Orioles Business Manager Herb
Armstrong. The AAA Orioles outdrew ten of the Major League clubs
that season!
        Furthermore, before the original American League Orioles, there were the National League Orioles from 1892 to 1900! To complete this historical outline, Baltimore’s first professional baseball team made its debut in 1872, when they obtained a franchise in the second year of the National Association of Profession Baseball Players, the first organized baseball league, commonly referred to as The National Association. They were known then as “the Canaries,” also referred to as the “Yellow Stockings” or the “Lord Baltimores.”                    
        Their three-year history in that league ended rather ignominiously and even scandalously, so that organized baseball did not return to Baltimore until 1882, when the city joined the newly formed American Association, which was started to rival the seven-year old National League. It was in 1883 that they became known as “the Orioles,” and Baltimore’s professional baseball team, whatever the league, has been called that ever since.
        There is another aspect to my argument that needs to be pointed out. Who owns a team’s nickname? Since I’m not an intellectual properties attorney, there are legal issues here about which I’m not qualified to speak.  But I can express my opinion about the moral/ethical implications. As a PR person, I worked hard to build the loyalty of our fans. The Orioles were their (the fans') team. They were Baltimore’s team. They were the Baltimore Orioles.
        Perish the thought, but if the franchise is ever moved, I think it would be wrong for the owners, be they new or the same individuals, to take the nickname with them. The nickname belongs to the community, in my opinion. If it doesn’t, it should. I realize that other communities could name their team “the Orioles,” but that should not preclude a new Baltimore team from becoming the new Baltimore Orioles, if that’s what the fans want.
        Maybe there’s a time factor here that should be figured into any decision related to a community’s claim to the nickname of its sports teams. If a city has been linked to a team’s name as long as Baltimore has to the Orioles, the fans of that city should have the first claim to that name as long as they want.
        When Walter O’Malley moved the Dodgers to Los Angeles, he had the legal right to move the franchise, but I don’t think he had the moral right to call them the Dodgers. Because of their long association with Brooklyn, they should have been called something else. To the Brooklyn fans, they were their Dodgers!  Nor should the team records of the two franchises be combined! The Brooklyn Dodgers had their records and the Los Angeles Dodgers have theirs.  Brooklyn fans can take no civic pride in L.A.’s accomplishments.
        If in the unlikely event that Brooklyn should ever again acquire a Major League franchise, and if the fans so desire, they should have the right to call themselves the Brooklyn Dodgers again. I feel the same way about the Athletics and the Braves and every other team that moves. The name belongs to the community! Baltimore got it right, so let's not muddy the Crab Town waters by saying the Orioles were once the Browns. No! The Orioles were always the Orioles.
        So when Horace Stoneham, at the encouragement of Walter O’Malley, moved the New York National League franchise to San Francisco, even though he continued to be the owner, and even though he may have trademarked the name of the team, they ceased to be the New York Giants. Again, the records of those two franchises should not be combined.
        In the case of the Browns, the franchise was acquired by new owners, and as stated above, the Browns ceased to be. It would have been wrong, in my opinion, for Baltimore to call its new team “the Browns.” The Browns belonged to St. Louis, and that’s where their memory, as the Browns, should rest in peace. The franchise was buried in St. Louis, not in Baltimore.
        The Baltimore Orioles were never the Browns! Who will join me in spreading that word?



* * * * * * *

MR. MET WAS NOT THE FIRST M. L. MASCOT!

Mr . Met is credited by the Mascot Hall of Fame with being the first Major League costumed mascot.                                                                                                     
Mr. Met                                                                                                                                                     
WRONG! Ten years before Mr. Met or any other Major League mascot appeared there was MR. ORIOLE! The New York Mets mascot was conceived in 1963 and made his debut in 1964. Mr. Oriole was hatched in 1954! 

Here's the story in brief. I was the first Public Relations Director of the Orioles, having joined the club a few days after the St. Louis Browns' franchise was purchased by a group of Marylanders headed by Clarence Miles, a prominent Baltimore-Washington attorney, in the Fall of 1953. There was much to be done in establishing the new Major League organization, especially when our new home, Memorial Stadium, was still under construction.

An early priority was to develop a stylized Oriole for use on our baseball caps, stationery, and various concessions items. We announced a contest, inviting local artists to submit their versions, the winner to receive a cash prize. I was looking for a jaunty but likable bird, one with plenty of personality. Several excellent entries were received, but one set stood out above all the rest. They were submitted by Jim Hartzell, a cartoonist for the Baltimore Sun.   

We named our new mascot "Mr. Oriole," and his perky bird face was quickly popularized. About the same time I wondered if would be possible to create a costume that would replicate the expression and appearance of Mr. Oriole, so that a three-dimension version of the bird could cavort on the field and in the stands during the games. My high school friend and teammate Johnny Myers knew a costume designer whose name was Tinker, a relative of the famous Chicago Cubs shortstop Joe Tinker. After examining the sketches of Jim Hartzell, Mr. Tinker excitedly accepted the challenge, and within a few weeks had produced a handsomely made costume. I prevailed upon Johnny to be the first "Mr. Oriole," because, as I jokingly put it, "he had the legs for the part!"

Johnny Myers
Mr. Oriole as he appeared  in the
1955 Baltimore Orioles Sketchbook
 
Early in the 1954 season, when the strikingly colorful bird made his first public appearance at Memorial Stadium following a proper introduction over the public address system, the fans went wild. Mr. Oriole cavorted with the fans and the players to everyone's delight, but the pièce de résistance was when he whipped out from beneath one of his feathered wings  a trumpet, which he could play through his beak. Johnny was an excellent jazz musician, and the effect was sensational! We had the only trumpet-playing bird in captivity!


I don't know what ever happened to the original Mr. Oriole.  I left the Orioles at the end of the 1955 season in order to enter Princeton Theological Seminary to study for the ministry. Apparently the costume disappeared along with many other invaluable materials, including front office files and records, when the Birds moved to Camden Yards. It is hard to imagine how an object that large could vanish. I don't know how long it has been missing. It might be in someone's garage or basement. I'm the last surviving member of the first front office executive staff of the Orioles, so there's no one I know who can shed any light on the mystery, including Johnny Myers, who died prematurely.

The irony is that when I called the Orioles Public Relations Office to see if they could help. the person I talked with had never heard of Mr. Oriole. "Our mascot is The Bird," he declared almost belligerently. "He was hatched in 1979!"

"I've got news for you," I replied as pleasantly as I could. "The Bird had a predecessor named Mr. Oriole, who was hatched in 1954!"


* * * * * * *

THEIR RECORD STILL STANDS 

       There are more than a few baseball fans still living who remember Connie Mack and his Philadelphia Athletics, winners of nine American League pennants and five World Series. The Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society is doing a great job of keeping their memory alive. I happen to be the last surviving member of the Athletics' front office executive staff, having served as the A's Public Relations Director.
        Baseball historians recall the Athletics' stellar second base combination of Eddie Joost and Pete Suder, with Ferris Fain at first base and Hank Majesky at third. From 1949 through 1951 they set a double play record that remains to this day, despite the shorter season in those years. Their exploits were celebrated in this poem, which I sent out as a press release  Other players contributed to the record, of course, but because my poem was a take-off on Franklin Pierce Adams' famous poem* commemorating the Chicago Cubs' famous trio Joe Tinker, Jonny Evers, and Frank Chance, I focused on the A's three key infielders and called it Joost to Suder to Fain. The poem appeared in newspapers throughout the baseball playing world. It is included in my third volume of poetry, entitled If I Do Say So Myself.
 
*The actual title of Adams' poem is Baseball's Sad Lexicon, but it is best known by the recurring line, "Tinker to Evers to Chance."


         JOOST TO SUDER TO FAIN

Voluminous prose has been written by those
who have this one thought to advance:
that the greatest combine in the double play line
was Tinker to Evers to Chance.

Those three famous Cubs were surely not dubs.
Their fielding was something sublime.
They were far and away the class of their day,
the double play kings of their time.

But they’ve since been dethroned and partly disowned.
No longer as kings do they reign.
For a new DP team is ruling supreme,
known as Joost to Suder to Fain.


These sensational A’s have perfected their ways
to the point where they lead all the rest.
As twin killings go, three years in a row
they’ve ranked as the major leagues’ best.

There’s never a worry; they’ll comply in a hurry,
when a quick double play is desired.
A roller or liner just couldn’t be finer,
you can bet that two men are retired.

You may already know what the record books show,
three years they’ve continued to shine,
all others surpassing this record amassing:
a total of six twenty-nine!


Eddie Joost rings the bell as a shortstop as well
as a mighty good man with the stick.
To select someone who has an arm that’s as true,
it would be an impossible pick.


On second there stands “the man with the hands.”
If a ball’s hit to Pete there’s no doubt.
You never need look, jot it down in the book,
it’s a cinch that the batter is out.

A hitter’s accursed with Ferris on first.
There’s no one as clever as he,
in spearing a bounder or sizzling grounder
and completing that tough three-six-three.

A long time from now, when they’re telling of how
so and so could get two with no strain,
we’ll think of the days of Connie Mack’s A’s,
and of Joost and Suder and Fain.




                       JOGGING

When I first started out on my jogging career,
to a friend I remarked with a smile,
"If I jog every day, by the end of the year
I'll be able to run a whole mile!"

I decided to start at a pace I could keep,
so I'd have something left at the end.
I'll admit it was tough, and those slopes seemed so steep---
how much effort I had to expend!

Not a few of my colleagues thought I was insane,
and they simply could not comprehend
why a person my age should submit to that pain.
"But it's worth it," I'd say, "in the end."

For my heart and my lungs were now functioning well,
  and my weight was where it ought to be.
It was great to feel fit, and my friends now could see
  that it sure had done wonders for me.

Later on I decided to enter a race
just to see how it felt to compete.
I was not too concerned about where I would place;
just to run was enough of a feat.

That experience taught me a lesson or two
that I'll carry the rest of my days:
In the race they call life, do not quit till you're through,
  for the ones who go on earn God's praise.

I've seen people who run with severe handicaps.
I've seen runners much older than I.
I've felt the respect in the cheers and the claps,
when someone in a wheel chair rolled by.

The most wonderful thing about running, you see,
is the fact that you set your own goal.
So no matter how fast or how slow you may be,
to succeed is within your control.

You may shuffle along, even stagger about,
in your desperate fight to survive.
But I'd rather do that than give up and get out,
for a quitter can never arrive.

It's a matter of starting, and doing your best
      to finish each race that you run.
If you stay in the race and trust God for the rest,
      you can say at the end, "I have won!"
  
(from If I Do Say So Myself, by Richard Stoll Armstrong,
CSS Publishing Co.)


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