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Baseball and TCM Movie Musings On The Eve of Birthday 78

I celebrate my 78th birthday tomorrow Saturday June 27th. I think I was born around 530p in the afternoon because my mother told me her water broke when she was listening to "Information Please" on the radio and she had to miss the end of the show. (No head sets or new media back in 1942).  

 

(Last blog I raved about "Woman of the Year" that came out in 1942 and opens with an "Information Please" show being broadcast.  Could I have remembered that from the womb?

Cue "Twilight Zone" music, please.)

 

I'm not big on numbers except for computing batting averages in my head. To think that all year I've been talking about riding on 77 Sunset Strip when actually I completed 77 years on this planet a year ago. 

 

(For younger readers, "77 Sunset Strip" was a hit ABC TV show of the 1950s, starring Efrem Zimbalist Jr,. son of the world-famed classical violinist, plaiying a detective, of course.  His assistant was Edd Byrnes playing richly-coiffed Kookie and teeny boppers screamed at him, "Kookie, Kookie, lend me your comb!")

 
So this year I was actually spinning my records at 78 revolutions per minute, hoping that of course I stayed on the spindle and didn't careen sideways. I got through year 78 OK although I do continue to have some issues about losing my balance when walking and had some minor plumbing repair done in September.

 

I'm ready for whatever the "new normal" this year brings. I hope to be comfortably residing  at 79 Wistful Vista, home address of radio's legendary Fibber McGee and Molly, known in real life as Jim and Marian Jordan from Peoria, Illinois.  

 

As you probably know by now, there will be some semblance of a baseball season starting on either July 23 or 24. It will consist of 60 games with all of them in both leagues played regionally to minimize travel in a still-raging time of Covid-19.

 

So the Mets and Yankees will play their four division rivals 10 times each and their five cross-division rivals four times each. Details of the post-season are still being ironed out.  

 

To call the final matchup a "World Series" annoys me. But that is a minor criticism compared to the health risks to the players and the continuing distrust between owners and players. 

 

I hope there will be no serious injuries to rusty players who might over-exert themselves at the beginning of a short season.  I think I will watch some of the TV games more as a clinician than a fan.  

 

I still don't see leadership on either side of a sport that has declined in attendance the last few years and has a fan base whose average age is 57. It remains the most beautiful of sports, but the length of games and a now-boring routine of strikeouts-home runs-walks are serious problems.    

 

John Sherman is one owner who deserves great credit for agreeing to pay all his minor leaguers for 2020 even though there will likely be no minor league season.  Interestingly, Sherman is the newest owner on the block.

 

He was wise enough to listen to his general manager Dayton Moore who won a World Series in 2015 and knows the importance of minor league development. Unfortunately, MLB still wants to terminate a quarter of the minor league teams and the first of what I'm sure will be several lawsuits was filed last week to protest the short-sighted policy.

 

According to thorough reviews of all 30 owners in an Andrew Baggerly piece in the "Athletic" and a two-part Axios Sports study, Sherman is one of the least rich owners. Worth "only" a little over a billion dollars, made primarily in the hydrocarbon business.

 

John Sherman should not be confused with another less financially endowed owner, Bruce Sherman of the Marlins. This Sherman made a lot of his money buying newspapers and ultimately dissolving their companies. Derek Jeter has a slice of the team but not that much.  

  

I like Baggarly's trenchant phrase to describe most of the 30 men who own MLB franchises:  "Inheritance plus the magic of compound interest." It may be hard to believe, but guess which team's ownership group enjoys the most longevity in today's game? The Yankees. George Steinbrenner bought the team in 1973 and his younger son Hal, 51, is the managing partner. 

 

Another interesting tidbit in Baggerly's chronicle is that Phillies owner John Middleton traces the origins of his wealth to a cigar store that his ancestors founded in Philadelphia before the Civil War. A century and a half later, Middleton was the owner who before the 2019 season openly admitted to spending recklessly to sign free agents Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto.

 

Enough about the owners.  Nobody ever paid to see them, did they?  

 

With no games to watch or listen to on radio, and already getting out of the habit of searching scores on my radio on the quarter-hour, my great companion has remained TCM.  And the Monday and Thursday evening "Jazz on Film" series throughout June didn't disappoint.

 

I misspelled director/photographer Gjon Mili's name in the last blog.  As host Eddie Muller says, Mili's 10-minute "Jammin' The Blues" (1944) is the best short introduction to jazz.  The effortless flip of drum sticks from Sid Catlett to Jo Jones in the middle of a blues number remains one of the most compelling moments in both jazz and film.

 

Papa Jo Jones had one of the great smiles in jazz and it was an elegant touch for "The End" to appear over his smiling face. 

 

While on the subject of my boo-boos, I was mistaken that Hoagy Carmichael's lovely song 'New Orleans" appeared in the movie of the same name that aired last night (June 25).  

"Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans" was one of the featured tunes.

 

Although playing a maid in her only real full film role, Billie Holiday acted convincingly and sang of course with great conviction. Louis Armstrong was a strong presence in the film playing himself.  (He was called "Satchmo" in the film and it was a popular nickname but he much preferred to be called "Pops".) 

 

One of the enduring pleasures of TCM is that you can stumble into a film with no knowledge and be totally enraptured.  I knew nothing about Howard Hawks's  "I Was A Male War Bride" 1949.  If you can believe Cary Grant as a French army captain in post-WW II Germany, you will enjoy the belly laughs in this film.  Its satire of military bureaucracy is also quite telling. 

 

It was part of Ann Sheridan Tuesday nights in June, and it may be the best role ever for that spunky, alluring, and talented Texas who fought the Warner Studios for better roles, even once being suspended for a year.  She and Grant worked well with each other; he was a real trouper as the victim of most of the pranks.

 

The last Ann Sheridan night in June will be Monday June 30 at 8p  "City of Conquest" 1940, also starring James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart as a prize fighter willing to risk blindness to help his brother pay for his education.  Elia Kazan makes a rare appearance as actor.

 

Here are some tips for the first 10 days of July with Mondays being Tony Curtis Night.

On M July 6 at 1145p "The Vikings" is on in which I believe the man born Bernie Schwartz in Brooklyn says, "Yonder is the castle of my father."  Please correct me if I'm wrong.

 

The weekend of July 10-11 has some juicy double bills.

F July 10 8p John Ford's rare comedy, "The Whole Town's Talking" 1935 with Edward G. Robinson playing a mousy bank employee AND a gangster;  followed at 10p "Arrowsmith" 1931 adaptation of Sinclair Lewis' powerful novel.

 

Sa July 11 8p "Dr. Strangelove" 1964 followed at 10p by the earlier more light-hearted but still pertinent satire, "The Mouse That Roared".

 

That's all for now--please keep your cool both physically and politically and always  remember:  "Take it easy it but take it!"  

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

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Thoughts on Winter Meetings, Hall of Fame Selections, and Doug Jones' Greatest Save

Though more and more it seems to me that these meetings are like a Made for TV event without much action, the Yankees certainly stole the show with the one-sided trade for the Marlins’ slugger Giancarlo Stanton.

Derek Jeter has certainly gotten off to a rocky start as the face of the Marlins, a team saddled with debt and a new stadium that doesn't draw fans. Why should they come because they've seen stars from their past 1997 and 2003 World Series winners sold off and in Stanton's eight years as a Marlin the team never experienced a .500 season.

Jeter didn't even attend the Orlando meetings. He was spotted in a luxury box at Monday night's Dolphins-Patriots game. It is a shame that commissioner Rob Manfred worked overtime to arrange the sale of the Miami franchise to Jeter and the real money man Bruce Sherman, a hedge fund executive whose last enterprise was buying and then selling or disbanding newspapers.

As an Orioles fan realizing that the glow of the Showalter-Duquette revival years starting in 2012 ended with a thud in 2017, there is foreboding that the trades of third baseman Manny Machado and star closer Zach Britton might be inevitable. Both can walk at the end of 2018 and so can manager Showalter and gm Dan Duquette and team leader and genuine Baltimore community presence center fielder Adam Jones.

It is doubtful that Machado can be signed to a long-term contract that could reach the $300 million level. Even in his off-year of 2017, he hit .259 with 33 HRs and 95 RBI along with his usual string of defensive highlights at third base.

He is represented by Dan Lozano of the Beverly Hills Sports Council who represents Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson also eligible for free agency after 2018.
A few years ago Lozano got Angels owner Arte Moreno to give Albert Pujols that lavish 10-year contract.

Since California needs a third baseman it wouldn’t surprise me if the Angels get into the bidding for Machado or Donaldson. Machado supposedly would like to play shortstop, his original position, but the Angels are set at short with the gifted Curacao native Andrelton Simmons.

The White Sox’s incumbent shortstop Tim Anderson is not an All-Star and the Chicagoans are supposedly seriously interested in Machado. But they won't part with the blue chip pitching prospects Lucas Giolito and Michael Kopech the Orioles covet.

With the trade of Chase Headley back to the Padres, the Yankees have a hole at third base. Yankee fans have dreamed of getting Machado (and the Nationals Bryce Harper also eligible for free agency after 2018). But would the Orioles trade within the division?

They did it in 1976 on the dawn of free agency after the historic Messersmith-McNally arbitration decision. (See the opening chapter in my first book, “The Imperfect Diamond.”) The Yankee farm system is deep but whether they would aid the Orioles as they did in 1976 trading future Oriole stalwarts pitchers Scott McGregor and Tippy Martinez and catcher Rick Dempsey for pitchers Doyle Alexander and Ken Holtzman and catcher Elrod Hendricks seems doubtful to me.

Southpaw Zach Britton had a record-breaking almost perfect 2016 regular season but injuries marred his 2017 campaign. How long can he continue to throw his magnificent bowling ball-like 95 mph sinker? That is the big question for evaluators.

It might make sense for the O’s to keep Britton through at least the July 31 trading deadline. Machado may be beyond the Oriole budgetary capacity and could be gone before spring training.

My suggestion is that the O's should re-up Adam Jones as soon as possible. He is a genuine fan favorite and respected member of the Baltimore community. His center field defense may have slipped a little but offensively he has been quite consistent. He’ll strike out a lot but he’ll also produce consistent numbers in the 20-plus HR and 80-plus RBI category.

While they are at it, the O's should extend Jonathan Schoop who had a breakout year at second base. Another Curacao native, Schoop might take the home team discount because he has been with the organization since he was 16.

More baseball news of note recently has been the election by a Hall of Fame veterans committee of two Tigers stalwarts, shortstop Alan Trammell and bulldog starting pitcher Jack Morris. Trammell was the model of consistency in the field and at the plate.

One of the greatest tributes he ever received came from Oriole manager Earl Weaver. When Cal Ripken Jr. moved from third base to shortstop early in his career, Weaver’s simple advice to him was “watch Trammell.”

Jack Morris won 254 games in his career, mainly with the Tigers where he was a key part of their 1984 World Series winners that went wire-to-wire after a 35-5 start to the regular season. I will never forget the enormous bear hug exchanged between Morris and catcher Lance Parrish after Morris's no-hitter that same magical year of 1984.

Maybe Morris is most remembered for his 1-0 10-inning shutout for the Twins over the Braves and John Smoltz in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.

The regular election to the Hall of Fame will be announced in late January with the Braves’ switch-hitting third baseman Chipper Jones considered a shoo-in during his first year of eligibility. Slugger Jim Thome with his-600 plus career HRs and no taint of steroid use has a chance on his first try, and Vladimir Guerrero who came close last year might get the call as well.

The Ford Frick media award will go to Bob Costas who has served baseball with dignity and class for over four decades. Originally from the New York City area, Costas received his degree from Syracuse University’s powerhouse communications department and then St. Louis became his adopted home.

I love the story that when Costas first went to Stan Musial’s restaurant he left a tip of $3.31 in honor of Musial’s career batting average. That Musial wound up his career with 3630 hits, 1815 at home and 1815 on the road, has always been to me the gold standard for that elusive thing called consistency.

One political note of promise occurred on Tuesday Dec 12 when Democrat Doug Jones won the Alabama US Senate race against the alleged child predator and unrepentant Neanderthal Roy Moore. I like to think that Jones’s narrow triumph will go down in the history of our currently beleaguered republic as a Save far more valuable than the estimable reliever Doug Jones’s 303 career saves in his major league career from 1986-2000.

While I wait for spring training, basketball does involve me somewhat. Columbia’s men’s basketball record is 1-9 but they are young and are playing reasonably close games. Ditto for Wisconsin’s 5-7 record and 1-1 in Big Ten. As Tug McGraw said, “Ya gotta believe,” right?

So always remember: Take it easy but take it!  Read More 
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