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About Time for Kim Ng, My Proposed Baseball Changes, More TCM Tips

As we approach the year-end holidays, let's cross fingers that those who didn't practice social distancing and mask-wearing over the Thanksgiving holiday don't pay an awful price and infect others.

 
As for my Thanksgiving, I made my first trip to the North Fork of Long Island staying in Greenport, a scant 80 miles from the Big Apple. The onetime seaport town is on the upgrade with many tasty restaurants and stores while maintaining its cozy maritime flavor.

 
A first-ever trip to nearby historic Shelter Island was also memorable. After a short car ferry ride, with Maria smoothly at the wheel, we found ourselves riding on the undulating roads of that precious slice of land. Even passed a Shelter Island Country Club and golf course "open to the public".   

 

Meanwhile, the best news out of baseball came a week before Thanksgiving when Kim Ng was named the general manager of the Miami Marlins. 

 
Ng (pronounced Ang) will be the first woman to reach that exalted level in major league baseball, and she is probably the most qualified person ever to reach the top. 

 
After starring as a softball shortstop at Ridgewood High in New Jersey and the University of Chicago, she entered baseball as a White Sox intern and has risen rapidly in the ranks. She was a top assistant to Yankee GM Brian Cashman during their most recent dynasty in the late 1990s through 2001.  

 
Since early this century Ng has worked in top level MLB's executive positions while always being on the short list of GM candidates. She didn't let her failure to win other openings get her down. 

 

The oldest of five Ng girls, she brings a universally respected love of baseball in all its nuances. Kudos to Derek Jeter, Marlins president and part-owner who witnessed Ng's abilities first-hand while playing for the Yankees, for encouraging Bruce Sherman, the Marlins principal owner, to break the glass ceiling. 

 
In this time of great uncertainty, no one knows for sure when the Marlins and the 29 other MLB teams will start the 2021 season.  It seems unlikely that a full 162

game can be played which is fine by me. 

 
The season is far too long anyway.  So to steal from columnist Jimmy Cannon, here's my "Nobody Asked Me, But" list of changes I'd like to see in baseball's future.

 

**CHANGE 1:  A regular season of a maximum 154 games or even 144, 140, or fewer.  Baseball did very nicely with 154 games from 1903 to 1960 and every team playing every other in its league 22 times, 11 at home and 11 on road. 

 

Of course, with expansion from the 1960s through the late 1990s, we now have

30 teams and 6 divisions and additional wild cards. Commissioner Rob Manfred reportedly wants 14 teams to make the playoffs in the future.

 

If we continue to devalue the regular season, I say at least let's shorten it.  

 
**CHANGE 2 - I'm not a knee jerk advocate of "cancel culture," but I can see the value in adding a more deserving name to the MVP trophy than baseball's first commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis.  Landis didn't create baseball segregation but he sure tacitly enforced it.   

 
Why not honor the late Frank Robinson who is still the only man to win the MVP in both leagues?  First with the Cincinnati Reds in 1961 and then the Baltimore Orioles in 1966.

 

He played the game hard and passionately. The first Black manager in MLB with the Cleveland Indians, he was a very creditable manager for other teams. 

 
As an Oriole fan, I still think F. Robby's Game 6 tagging up and scoring from third base on a very short fly ball to Vic Davalillo in center field to extend the 1971 World Series to a seventh game is one of the greatest hustle plays I've ever seen. 

 

**CHANGE 3  Instead of starting an extra-inning game with a runner on second base and no one out, the gimmick currently used, why not allow for ties in the standings?  Hockey has lived with it for generations.  Even pro football allows for it.  There are enough games in a baseball regular season that a tie won't seem

like a devastating loss.  

 
**CHANGE 4  Modify the DH rule so a National League pinch-hitter can be used for a pitcher one time in a game without the pitcher being forced out of the lineup. Sadly, I guess the designated hitter in the AL is with us for the indefinite future.  

 
I have never thought that the disparity in the rule between the leagues was a detriment.  Except that American League pitchers were at a great disadvantage when they had to hit and AL teams lost a presumably big DH bat when the rule was not in effect in World Series road games. 

 

These changes won't guarantee any immediate uptick in spectatorship and participation.  But the more the drama of the game of running and throwing and

outguessing hitters instead of overpowering them is emphasized, I think the better the chance there will be of a resurgence of interest. 

 

And now before I bid adieu, here's some December tips for films on Turner Classic Movie. You never know what gems pop up on TCM.

 

On Sun night Nov 29, I stumbled into "Running On Empty" (1988 dir. by Sidney Lumet) with the marvelous cast of Judd Hirsch, Christine Lahti, River Phoenix, and Martha Plimpton. The fictionalized film based on the actual travails of radical activists living life on the run after violent anti-imperialist activities in the late 1960s/early 1970s holds up very well.

 

So here's my recommendations for early December on TCM:  

 

Th Dec 3 8p "Baby Face" (1933) Barbara Stanywick rises to the top using her

feminine wiles and encouraged by a mentor who quotes Nietzsche! Left in the dust in small roles are John Wayne and Douglas Dumbrille. 

 

Sat Dec 5 starting at 330p if you are into marathon watching or recording, 

Billy Wilder's "The Apartment" with Lemmon, MacLaine, MacMurray;  "It Happened on Fifth Ave," a progressive fantasy from 1947 set during the housing storage; "The Maltese Falcon" this week's "Essential"; followed by the first "Thin Man" and Eddie Muller's Noir Alley choice, "Tomorrow Is Another Day" with Ruth Roman and Steve Cochran. 

 

Sun Dec 6 is a mini-marathon starting at 6p with "Christmas in Connecticut" with Stanwyck and Sidney Greenstreet, and then two films with Marilyn Monroe, "The Seven Year Itch" with Tom Ewell and "Gentleman Prefer Blondes" with Jane Russell.

 

Fri Dec 11 8p is a 2015 documentary "Marsha Hunt's Sweet Adversity" about the blacklisted actress who used her later career to foster good causes.  She has drawn effusive praise from Eddie Muller which is as good a recommendation one can get. 

 

That's all for now on baseball and film.  Always remember:  Take it easy but take it!

 

 

 

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Post-Election Musings on Politics and Baseball + TCM Tips

Wherever you may be as you read this blog, I hope your spirits are good.  We'll

need every bit of inner resolve to meet the challenges ahead politically, socially, and as sports fans banned from attending any crowded events in near future.


Shortly before 1130AM Eastern Standard Time on Saturday November 8th, horn-honking jubilation broke out in NYC, Philadelphia, Chicago and other blue enclaves, mainly urban, around the country.   


I was seated at my desk where I am typing right now.  Don't have a window facing the street which accounts for the lovely quiet isolation of this apartment. 

I received a call from my significant other dear Maria with the good news.

 
I found out later that just a few blocks from me - above Lenny's Bagel shop

on the northwest corner of 98th Street and Broadway - musical comedy star Brian Stokes-Mitchell raised his window and started to serenade the crowd

with "America the Beautiful" and maybe two other numbers. 


Of course, we must endure Trump's Presidency until January 20th.  His better-than-expected electoral showing has emboldened his refusal to concede.  So as broadcaster Bob Murphy advised in late innings of a tight Mets game, "Fasten your seat belts."  


Speaking of the Mets, new owner Steve Cohen "won" his press conference on Tuesday the 11th with a pledge to make the team he always has rooted for, "iconic". That means constant contention and a World Series title within 3 to 5 years or else he'll be very "disappointed."   


To his credit Cohen has already pledged to hire back at full salary Mets employees who were furloughed or cut back during the early stages of the pandemic. 

 
New president Sandy Anderson, back for a second tour as a top executive in Queens, added to the good will by saying it was "highly likely" that rookie manager Luis Rojas will return as skipper in 2021. 


I think it was Alderson who promised a new "collaborative culture" for the Mets.

With no game results until next April - at the earliest given the accelerating pandemic - I call this the silly season of words and promises that always sound nice but can they be believed?

 

I cross fingers that Cohen will not be like most owners who enter baseball with humility saying they will leave it to experts who know the business.  Six months later though they know everything.  See under Steinbrenner, George.  

 

I just hope there is a semblance of a regular season on all levels.  Too

early to tell with the second wave of the virus sweeping into NYC and almost every state of the union.  

 
I continue to find solace in the old black and white movies on TCM - Turner Classic Movies.  Saw one I never heard of last week - "The Sport Parade" (1932)

embarrassingly once known as "Free, White, and Twenty-One."

 

Rising star producer David Selznick received a major credit for this film. It is a

curiosity not a great work but has some merit. 

 
Underrated Joel McCrea plays a star Dartmouth football end who instead of going into journalism with his quarterback (William Gargan) turns to pro football.  He 

flops at it and does turn to journalism for a while. 

 
Then he is coaxed by his blustery agent (Walter Catlett) into becoming a pro wrestler.  Of course since this is Hollywood, there is a love triangle involved, Marian Marsh being the wooed young woman. 

 
An amusing feature of the film are three short sports announcing segments delivered by the always wry and hilarious Robert Benchley. 

 
I couldn't find many upcoming sports-themed films on TCM except that "Woman of the Year" (1942) returns on Sun afternoon Nov 22 at 1:45p EST. 

 

An opening scene with sportswriter Spencer Tracy in the press box sets the stage nicely for the conflict between Tracy and Katherine Hepburn, playing an internationally-famous journalist, a role patterned after Dorothy Thompson.

 

"Woman of the Year" was the first Tracy-Hepburn film.  It also features in a small role Minor Watson as Hepburn's father.  Eight years later Watson did a creditable job as Branch Rickey in "The Jackie Robinson Story".

 
Other films of great value include (all times EST):

Sat Nov 14 2p "In A Lonely Place" (1950) perhaps best film about a writer if a very flawed one starring Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame, Nicholas Ray dir.   

 

Later on Nov 14 at 8p  "Ball of Fire" (1942) Gary Cooper as staid linguist falls for

Barbara Stanwyck with Dana Andrews as her other guy. 

 
Midnight - repeated Sun at 10A - Noir Alley presents "Fear" (1946) a 54-minute take on "Crime and Punishment" - 1946 considered by many best year ever for movies in USA. 

 
M Nov 16 8p "Diary of Anne Frank" (1959) - part of Shelley Winters Mondays in Nov.

11:15p "Odds Against Tomorrow" (1959) best jazz-themed film, set in NYC.

 
Tu Nov 17 back-to-back-to-back in afternoon three 40s classics

1p "Maltese Falcon" 1941,  3p "The Big Sleep", 5p "Treasure of Sierra Madre"

Home runs and championships are not the only things that can be back-to-back!


Wed Nov 18 8p "Body and Soul" 1947 - one of the great boxing movies with

John Garfield and the gorgeous talented Lilli Palmer


Th Nov 19 two American films about racial issues from the late 1940s that I've never seen:

8p "Lost Boundaries"

10p "Home of the Brave"  


F Nov 20 8p Elia Kazan's circus movie "Man On A Tightrope" (1953) with Gloria Grahame and Terry Moore (the actress not the Cardinals outfielder)

 
Sa Nov 21 8p "2001" this week's Essential 

Midnight/repeated at 10A Sun - "Kiss Me Deadly" 1955 - Robert Aldrich directs this Mickey Spillane story with Albert Dekker/Juano Hernandez (so unforgivably forgotten)/Paul Stewart

 

Later on Nov 22p

1:45p "Woman of the Year"


8p Woody Allen's "Bananas"  followed by 945p Marx Brothers' "Duck Soup" 1933 

 

More than ever, Take it easy but take it!"

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