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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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Observations from Teny Ymota and Me On Frank Robinson and "Roma" (with correction on date of F.Robby's first MLB managing job)

Pitchers and catchers report to spring training this week! And if that isn't enough good news, I ran into an old dear friend, Teny Ymota, while waiting on line late last week to see on a movie theatre screen in Greenwich Village the acclaimed film "Roma".  (Netflix is streaming this film but I recommend getting the full experience on a big screen.)


Teny like me is a big Orioles fan and a lover of the game far and wide.  We shed a tear and shared our memories of the great Frank Robinson who was the final piece of the Baltimore World Series championship teams of 1966 and 1970 that also won pennants in 1969 and 1971. 


Frank was not easy to get to know but he exuded the will to win in every pore. Not many superstars who desired to manage would go to Puerto Rico to get experience but F. Robby did.  Teny Ymota saw him down there winning titles for the Santurce Crabbers and marveled at his leadership skills. 


In 1975 Frank Robinson became the first black MLB manager for the Cleveland Indians. Still active as a DH in the second year of the AL's innovation, he homered to win his first game.

Loving his Orioles experience above all others, he later went down to Rochester to manage its Triple A affiliate the Red Wings. 


He resurfaced as the SF Giants manager in the early 1980s and took over as Orioles skipper early in the 1988 season after the team under Cal Ripken Sr. lost its first 6 games.  They would lose 15 more in a row - a dubious record of 21 losses to start a season.  Yet his 1989 Birds contended for the pennant until the last weekend of the season. 


Robinson was never long without a job.  He always was in demand for his no-nonsense evaluation skills and leadership abilities. He managed the Montreal Expos in its last years and came with the franchise to skipper the Washington Nationals in its first years.    


He epitomized the baseball-rich area of Oakland, California as well as anyone.  He played baseball at McClymonds High under coach George Powles, who had served in Mississippi during World War II and had seen the deprivation of black people in the Deep South.


Frank Robinson's HS baseball teammates included future MLB standouts Vada Pinson and Tommy Harper and a basketball teammate was future basketball Hall of Famer Bill Russell. He was 83 at the time of his death.



I didn't know what to expect from "Roma", but Teny Ymota and another dear friend had recommended it highly.  I wasn't disappointed because the film is really an epic view of the world as seen through the eyes of one family whose man of the house abruptly departs.


A great film or novel creates a world that the viewer/reader gets immediately swept into. So it happened for me (despite sitting in a cramped theater with excruciating knee pain and a boorish guy in front of me who sang the praises of Trump when he couldn't get to his seat as fast as he wanted). 


"Roma" is set in the Mexico City neighborhood of Roma in 1971. I found myself quickly drawn into the world of the mother, her children, and especially her servant.  Deservedly both the mother (Marina da Taviro) and servant (Yalitza Aparicio, a newcomer to film who I don't think is related to Hall of Fame shortstop Luis Aparicio) are both nominated for Oscars.


So is director Alfonso Cuaron who directed Oscar-winner"Gravity". Guaron's camera is far-ranging. You viscerally gasp at the crowded streets of Mexico City and get soothed by the ocean waters outside the city. Nominated for 10 Oscars, "Roma" deserves a lot of them. The music from the car radios deserves kudos and adds to the film's relentless forward motion.  


After we shared our exhilaration at the movie, I asked Teny Ymota for his baseball views.  Unlike me, he has seen a lot of the world, especially Latin America.  He's glad that after years of indifference to the international market the Birds are making more of a commitment to scouting regions outside the United States. 


Like me, though, he isn't optimistic that Baltimore can become a contender any time soon. 

It will take time to develop the contacts and commitment to the local Latin American areas that give them a better chance of landing promising talent. 


Teny Ymota is a fairly elusive fellow and when i asked when we might meet again and inquired if that was his real name, he was non-committal. He shrugged his shoulders to both questions. 


Well, I'll keep asking and you keep reading because I hope to get the answers real soon.

 In the meantime always remember:  Take it easy but take it!  

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