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"Sitting On A Bench On Broad-Way" (with apologies to Otis Redding): Thoughts On MLB Season So Far + Go see "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"

Spring has sprung in NYC in all its glory.  As I was marveling at the beautiful buds blooming all over my UWS neighborhood (Upper West Side) and sipping my morning coffee while sitting on a bench on an island on Broadway, I started to hum Otis Redding's classic tune, "Sitting On The Dock of the Bay". 

 

OK, my mind has odd synapses but you got a problem with that?!  You see, I was in Madison, Wisconsin on the foggy Sunday night of December 10, 1967 when word came that Otis Redding's plane crashed into Lake Monona three miles short of Four Lakes Airport. 

 

Otis was only 26, and seven of his bandmates perished with him. He had just recorded "Sitting On The Dock of the Bay" which according to many websites was the first posthumous #1 hit.  

It was a very sad day for American music and the best spirit of the 1960s.  RIP Otis - we will never forget you.

 

As for the baseball season so far, it's been pretty wonderfully wacky.  Unless you are fans of the Tigers and Orioles and Rockies and Diamondbacks and Marlins who are sinking fast as I predicted.

 

Believe me, I didn't want to be a prophet and don't want to be a prophet. But a new ownership in Baltimore can't come fast enough. Alas, until there is "cost certainty" on the business side of the franchise, all that's left is rooting for individuals.  

 

I hope southpaw John Means is morphing into an ace. He's already spawned a T-shirt, JOHN MEANS BUSINESS.  I like my idea of MEANS FINDS WAYS.  

 

I cross fingers that Trey Mancini doesn't think he needs the jump-start the offense all by himself.  Just great to see him recovered from colon cancer and ready to play every day.

 

I guess because the season is so long, there's always hope for a turnaround.  

The Oakland A's have proved that, starting 0-6 and 1-7 and then all of a sudden they have won 12 in a row.

 

With two more against the Orioles - and more next week in Oakland - they could be flying high by May. Don't think they are that good, but double-digit winning streaks cerrtainly mean something.  

 

Kudos to veteran manager Bob Melvin - to me somewhat of an Anthony Perkins-lookalike and always a calm presence  - who has steered the ship to far smoother waters. 

 

Returned Bosox manager Alex Cora also quickly turned around Boston.  After they lost three in a row at home to the Woerioles, they ran off nine in a row. Since then, it hasn't been so easy for them.  

 

Surprising Seattle has played everyone hard, including the Red Sox. Much too early to see any patterns in the season yet.  But nice to see Seattle and Kansas City playing so well.

 

One thing is clear - the Padres and the Dodgers are developing a fierce rivalry.  We'll see if the Padres can stay so intense against other teams.  In between their two series against the Dodgers they went home and got swept by the Brewers.    

 

The key point at this early time of season is staying near .500. And then get ready to surge in the warmer months.  Of course, easier said than done - like most things in life.

 

When the Yankees fell to five below .500, the angst in NYC was epidemic.  Suzyn Waldman, John Sterling's sidekick on Yankee radio broadcasts (and who hosts pre-game interviews),  has perceptively noted, "In NYC there are 162  one-game seasons." 

 

With the Yankees beating up on the Indians and soon the Woerioles, they could be at .500 by the time you read this.  (If you think I'm trying to jinx them, you're right.)

 

On the cultural scene, I went to see "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" in a real movie theatre last week, the venerable Paris Theatre just south of Central Park and the Plaza Hotel. "Venerable" meaning it was opened in late 1950s. 

 

The audience was sparse but to be expected on a weeknight with people wisely still cautious about going indoors to a theatre.  Free popcorn and soft drinks were available.

 

Chadwick Boseman's last performance is a don't-miss experience. His electricity opposite Viola Davis is mesmerizing.  Glynn Turman as the piano player in the band also shines as does the whole cast.  

 

Netflix now owns the Paris Theater and I hope it is streaming the movie all over the world.  The talkback at the end between the film's director George C. Wolfe and playwright Tony "Angels in America" Kushner is very stimulating. Not that I agree with everything they say.    

 

Do see the movie and discuss it and the talkback seriously.  If we can ever get beyond the cliche that "slavery is America's original sin," the works of the late August Wilson - who wrote the play on which the film is based - are an essential place to start.  

 

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

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Thoughts On The First 10 Days of the Baseball Season + "Oliver Sacks: His Own Life" (corrected title) + TCM Tips

It sure is nice to have a full baseball season back, cross fingers that Covid can be fully controlled. The great thing about a 162-game season - or maybe only 154 (the way it used to be from 1903-1960)  -  is you can't win them all. 

 

And get ready folks - here comes another cliche:  The best teams always lose at least fifty and the worst ones win fifty. It's how you do in the other 60+ that determines what cream will rise to the top in October.

 

The ability to bounce back from losses - simply flush them out of the mind - is so essential to baseball which is like no other sport in the length of its schedule.  

 

Full credit to the Red Sox and the Braves who started 0-3 and 0-4. Now the Bosox have won six in a row (after games of Apr 11). They are the only team over .500 in the AL East. The Braves, too, have neared the .500 line after their opening losses.  

 

Get ready for another cliche (but like most cliches it is true):  A pennant is never won in April but you sure can dig an awfully big hole for yourself in April. The Oakland A's started 1-6, but they got a couple needed wins in Houston so they can still harbor hopes of contention.  

 

Until starting rotations are settled, no need to panic. If If If you have the able arms and don't ruin your bullpens too early in the season. 

 

The return of Alex Cora as Red Sox manager certainly steadied the team after the Orioles swept them in Fenway in the first series of the season. Cora was suspended for the 2020 season for his part as bench coach in the Houston sign-stealing scandal.

 

It is ridiculous to make projections on the basis of nine games except that the LA Dodgers have only two losses and look like they are primed to defend their crown.  

 

Don't know if the Red Sox are true contenders but they have certainly been impressive in sweeping the Tampa Bay Rays at home and returning the favor by sweeping the Orioles on the road.  

 

Slugger J.D. Martinez in the last year of his contract is off to a sizzling start and third baseman Rafael Devers's hitting is making people forget for the time being his defense.  If they get pitching, they'll be interesting to watch.

 

Ah, the Orioles or the Woerioles as I call them in my darkest moments.  I said in my last post that it would be a miracle if they won three games in a row all season because their pitching looked so weak.  So they sweep Boston and pitch fairly well in losing two out of three to the Yankees.  What do I know, huh?

 

They competed fairly well on the mound for most of the first two games in the rematch against Boston.  But usually reliable Cesar Valdez couldn't get the save on Sat night and they lost in extra-innings. They got blown out in the final game of the series, the one time the pitching looked totally outmatched. 

 

Speaking of extra innings, I will never get used to extra innings starting with a runner on second base. They might as well as have a Home Run Derby to decide a game. I'd rather have a tie than this artificial idea.

 

On the non-baseball front, I highly recommend the documentary "Oliver Sacks: His Own Life" directed by Ric Burns (Ken's equally talented brother).  Sacks' fame was secured when he wrote "Awakenings," his study of psychologically challenged people that became a movie starring Robin Williams. 

 

There is a very brief clip of Sacks meeting Williams in the editing room, but the strength of the film comes from its rendering in aching detail the story of Sacks' struggle from his earliest days to find meaning in his life and the world.

 

He was the son of two gifted English doctors of Jewish heritage who expected him to become a doctor. He did but he always was a loner.  He remained close to his mother even after she was horrified at his homosexuality.  I was very moved by the story of his arrival and adventures in America during the free-spirited 1960s.

 

Check your PBS schedules for when it might re-air.  It is also available via free streaming through May 7.  Google:  Oliver Sacks: His Own Life  

 

Here's some TCM tips for the next couple of weeks:

M Apr 12 8p "It's Always Fair Weather" (1955)  Gene Kelly, Cyd Charisse, Michael Kidd, co-director Stanley Donen.

Originally intended as "On The Town" reunion, this is choreographer Kidd's lfirst appearance on screen.

 

W Apr 14 4p "Ladies In Retirement" (1941) - Ida Lupino plays another noirish role with Elsa Lanchester and Evelyn Keyes.

 

Sa Apr 17 4p "Mildred Pierce" (1945) always worth re-seeing with Joan Crawford as mother and Ann Blyth as daughter you wouldn't want to have - Jack Carson and Zachary Scott are wonderful secondary characters

 

Sun Apr 18 6a "Mr Deeds Goes To Town" (1936) I always get moved by Gary Cooper's pain when he gets humiliated by the press.  It may be Capra-corn but I think it holds up.  Maybe you'll get pixillated. 

 

Sun Apr 18 "The Naked Spur" (1953) dir. Anthony Mann.  Jimmy Stewart hunts Robert Ryan with the underappreciated Janet Leigh. 

 

Tu Apr 20 6p "Pal Joey" (1957) - Sinatra as a louse with that great Rodgers-Hart score

 

W Apr 21 2p "Pete Kelly's Blues" (1955) - directed and starring Jack Webb - one of the better 1920s jazz-based films with Peggy Lee and Ella Fitzgerald, Janet Leigh again (not one of her best roles) and Edmond O'Brien

 

Th Apr 22 starting at 8p - back-to-back-to-back  "The Producers", "Psycho", "The Public Enemy" where Cagney hits Mae Clarke with the grapefruit

 

F Apr 23 145p "Rasputin and the Empress" - early 1930s - featuring three Barrymores, John, Lionel, Ethel

 

Sa Apr 24 130p "The Sea Wolf" (1941) - dir. Curtiz, with Lupino-Garfield-Edward G Robinson at top of their game.

   based on a Jack London story so it was never made into a sit-com 

 

Su Apr 25 945p "Somebody Up There Likes Me" (1956) dir. Robert Wise one of the greats and oh-so-versatile.

Paul Newman plays Rocky Graziano. He didn't get top billing but he was on his way. Sal Mineo Joseph Buloff got greater billing. Steve McQueen in minor role and sportscaster-onetime NY Titans owner (pre-Jets) Harry Wismer plays himself.

 

That's all for now.  Remember to stay positive, test negative, and take it easy but take it! 


 

 

 

 

 

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