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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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TCM Jazz and Other Films Keep Me Grounded As Baseball Blows A Big Chance

I've always loved the adage, "Jazz, baseball and the Constitution are the greatest  achievements of American culture."  I first heard it from the gifted cultural historian/American Studies professor Gerald Early. 

 

No matter its origins, the important thing is the essential truth. All three institutions have endured attacks, most seriously the Constitution these days under our out-of-control President.

 

Let's make sure we are registered to vote in November and use our precious voting franchise. 

 

Meanwhile, the 30 franchises of Major League Baseball have missed a golden opportunity to return to the field by the Fourth of July.  It could have provided some semblance of normality in a country that is wracked by the virus epidemic, soaring unemployment, and police killings of unarmed black citizens.    

 

Instead, the owners under their commissioner Rob Manfred and the leaders of the Major League Baseball Players Association have trotted out their decades-old worn playbook of labor rhetoric. They cannot decide on payment to the players for what will obviously be a shortened season.

 

Manfred, who has been in baseball since the collusion cases against free agents in the 1980s, insists that he has the right to force a season upon the players.  It looks like he may invoke that draconian measure of barely fifty games and then expanded playoffs to satsify TV.   

 

I really wonder whether MLB will ever recover its once-hallowed place in our country. Attendance was sinking before the three enormous social crises erupted.

 

Even before the crises, Manfred had tried to impose the reduction of more than a quarter of minor league baseball's 160 franchises. Under his deputy with the eerily appropriate name of Morgan Sword, it looks like MLB will get its way by default because there will be no minor league season in 2020.

 

Like so much of America these days, it is a sad situation in baseball, made sadder by the wounds being self-inflcted. 

 

So I'm finding solace these days in Turner Classic Movies (TCM), especially its salute to Jazz in Film every Monday and Thursday night in June. 

 

I was pleasantly surprised this past Monday night to see Eddie Muller, the host of the indispensable "Noir Alley" series on TCM (Sat night at 12M and repeated Sun 10A), as guest host. To comment on the films "A Man Called Adam" (1966) starring Sammy Davis Jr. with Cicely Tyson, and Kirk Douglas in "Young Man with a Horn" (1950), Muller invited the talented and accessible pianist Monty Alexander to join.   

 

There were worthy and memorable moments in both films. As Hollywood creations they couldn't be totally convincing, of course.  But the Jamaican-born Alexander, who still occasionally comes into the New York jazz club Birdland, had much to say and talked about "glad-i-tude" for making music.   

 

 I am posting this too late for most of you to catch tonight Th June 11 two classic bio-pics, "The Glenn Miller Story" at 8p (with Jimmy Stewart) and "The Gene Krupa Story" at 10p (with Sal Mineo).  

 

And for you night owls at midnight, there will be al rare Benny Goodman film "Sweet and Low Down" (1943), not to be confused with the Woody Allen film with Sean Penn with the same name. 

 

Mark down Mon June 15 on your calendars. At 8p one of the great noir films with a score by John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet, "Odds Against Tomorrow" (1959).  

 

"Odds" is a very timely film because it is about a bank robbery where two of the gang, Harry Belafonte and Robert Ryan, don't like each other for racial reasons.  (Off-camera they became great friends and were active in the civil rights movement of the time.) 

 

At 10p on June 15, "Farewell My Lovely" (1975) with Robert Mitchum and Charlotte Rampling.

And at midnight Ida Lupino stars as a singer in "The Man I Love" (1946). 

 

I haven't abandoned sports. On Su Jun 14 TCM presents two outstanding movies that use track and field to make profound points about society:  8p Oscar-winning "Chariots of Fire" followed at 10p by "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner."

 

I can't say enough about the value of repeated watching of good movies. Here's a sample of what I've seen lately on TCM. 

 

**"Woman in the Window" 1944 film directed by German exile Fritz Lang. Edward G. Robinson plays a psychology professor at "Gotham" U. who begins the film lecturing his students on murder, unjustified and justified.

 

As he heads to a faculty lounge he passes by an alluring painting of a woman in the window of a storefront. The fellows in his club, including Raymond Massey as a big shot lawyer, talk about how they'd love to meet that woman.  

 

When he leaves the club, Edward G. again walks by the painting and voila! who's there in the shadows but Joan Bennett "the woman in the window".  Since Edward G's wife has taken the kids to the country, he goes out for a drink with Joan and you can kinda guess the rest.

The murder is justified but it is a murder and there are complications. 

 
**John Garfield in "Pride of the Marines" (1945) and the evergreen "Best Years of Our Lives" (1946).  They were both shown on Memorial Day and they brought to life the sacrifices that World War II soldiers endured - Garfield's blindness and the loss of Harold Russell's hands.  Russell, not an actor but who performed memorably, remains the only person ever to win two Oscars for the same movie. 

 

His girl friend Wilma was played in her debut by Cathy O'Donnell who later would shine in the 1948 "They Drive By Night" with Farley Granger (later remade as "Thieves Like Us" by Robert Altman).  O'Donnell wound up marrying director William Wyler's older brother, who was 24 years older than Cathy.  The marriage lasted though they died within months of each other in the late 1960s.  

 

I hope you get a chance to see some of these films one day and also the jazz films this month.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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