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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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The Nearing of Spring Training Will Mean A Lot In A Time of Loss

The new year has not started well for me personally.  On the first Sunday in January, my ex-wife died after a courageous two-year bout with cancer. Willie Nelson's lyric about not getting "over" deep losses but getting "through" them is so true.

 

It's also true that grief comes in waves. Tears flowed again yesterday morning when reading Robert Semple's tribute on the Sunday NY Times editorial page to his former colleague the great columnist Russell Baker who died on January 21 at the age of 93. 

 

Baker loved to drive Buicks, a sensible middle-class car, Semple recounted. When he 

asked Baker's neighbor if he still drove a Buick, he was told yes - it was still in front of his house waiting for his return. Boy, was that ever a poignant description for the loss survivors feel. 

 

Baker's legacy is huge.  His memoir "Growing Up," about his transition from rural Virginia to Baltimore, is a classic. His occasional commentary on sports was always humorous and trenchant. 

 

One particular column I remember was his deft put-down of George Steinbrenner when the volatile Yankee owner apologized to the city of New York after the Yankees lost the 1981 World Series to the Dodgers.  Baker noted that he had lived in NYC for many years and no one had ever apologized to him for anything. 

 

I learned of another passing this weekend when Peter Magowan died at the age of 76, my age (gulp!)  The former owner of the SF Giants saved the team from transfer to another city in the early 1990s and supervised the building of the sparkling new ballpark on SF Bay.

 

I remember Magowan speaking some years ago at the Bergino Baseball Clubhouse in Greenwich Village. (The clubhouse, alas, closed last year.) Magowan was born in New York City and like yours truly was a New York Giants fan.

 

He posed a great trivia question:  Can you name the six future MLB managers who were in uniform as players for the momentous Bobby Thomson game on October 3, 1951? (The day incidentally lthat future Hall of Famer Dave Winfield was born.) 

 

Speaking of the Hall of Fame, I have no objection to any of the four newest members who will be inducted into the shrine at Cooperstown on Sunday afternoon July 21.  The late Roy Halladay got in on his first try as did Mariano Rivera who is the first unanimous entrant.  (Derek Jeter, the only likely slam-dunk electee in the upcoming 2020 class, should be the second.) 

 

Mike Mussina's 270 wins with only 153 losses and a great walk-strikeout ratio of 785:2813 earned him my hypothetical vote.  Like Catfish Hunter and Greg Maddux, Mussina will go in with a blank cap on his plaque.

 

He didn't want to choose between his first team the Orioles, where he toiled his first 10 years, or the Yankees where he spent his final 8 years, winning 20 games for the first and only time in his last season. 

 

Halladay will wear a Blue Jays cap though he threw a perfect game and a playoff no-hitter for his last team the Phillies.  His stats of 203-105 W-L, 3.38 ERA, and 592:2117 BB-K ratio jump off the page. 

 

His willingness to demote himself to the lowest minor leagues early in his MLB career to retool his mechanics is a testimony to his desire to excel. So sad and even maddening that his desire to compete led him to fly his private plane to an early death at the age of 40, leaving a wife and two small children behind. 

 

No need to explain why closer extraordinaire and no-nonsense compeitor Mariano Rivera got elected unanimously. 

 

Edgar Martinez, the one hitter going in on the writers ballot, was a rare career .300 hitter in this age of the what-me-worry? whiff. Lifetime BA .312, slugging AV: 515, 2247 hits, and also extremely rare these days:  a positive BB:K ratio of 1253:1202. 

 

He is the first primarily designated hitter going into the Hall but that shouldn't have been used against him.  He was a feared hitter whenever he played, and like Halladay he demonstrated an exceptional devotion to his craft. 

 

He used to do eye exercises for at least a half hour before every game.  Hand/eye coordination is not just a God-given gift, it must be practiced and honed. 

 

Glad I could end this blog on an up note.  Back to you again on the eve of spring training that opens the earliest on Feb 11 and Feb 12 for the A's and Mariners who will be opening the season in Tokyo the next-to-last week in March. 

 

Before I sign off, let me heartily recommend Robert Caro's mini-memoir in the Sept. 28, 2019 issue of the New Yorker magazine.  It is filled with wisdom about the practice of journalism and writing and the search for truth. 

 

As always, take it easy but take it!  And oh yes on the trivia question here's a hint:  There was one Dodger and five Giants in player uniform on 10/3/1951 that became MLB skippers.

Answer next time.

 

 

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