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A Moving Farewell to Hank Aaron + No New Inductees In Cooperstown (updated on Feb 2)

For those who missed it, I am glad that mlb.com has put up a link to the very moving Hank Aaron memorial MLBTV broadcast live from Atlanta on Tuesday Jan 26.  So many heartfelt emotions were expressed.  Here's a partial list.

 

"I wanted to be like him, to dream like him," remembered former outfielder Marquis Grissom.

 

"Chipper, I fear no man when I have a bat in my hand," was Aaron's answer to a question posed by Hall of Famer Chipper Jones about tough pitchers he faced. 

 

Dusty Baker told how Hank promised his mother that he would take care of him when he turned down a college athletic scholarship to play for the Braves. Hank followed through, sometimes providing tough love.

 

Fighting back tears, current Braves manager Brian Snitker thanked Aaron for giving him his first managing job in 1982 when Hank was farm director.  He always cared about everyone on the roster, Snitzer said, especially the grinders who didn't have the big bonuses. 

 

John Smoltz told a story that epitomized the competiveness at the heart of the Hall of Famer. In Cooperstown not long ago, Aaron, Joe Morgan, and Frank Robinson were using walkers to get to a function.  Someone playfully shouted, "Down the stretch they come!"

 

With a look in his eye that Smoltz never forgot, Aaron roared from behind to win that race.

 

RIP to those three gallant men and all of the 10 Hall of Famers lost in last 10 months.

Long live Willie Mays who will be 90 on May 6 and is the oldest living Hall of Famer.

 

As expected the Hall of Fame announced on January 26 that the baseball writers have not elected any new members.  Curt Schilling again came closest falling 16 votes short.

 

As a post-season performer, he was excellent, playing big roles in the 2001 Diamondback and 2004 Red Sox world titles.  He also is the only pitcher in history to have over 3000 strikeouts with fewer than 750 walks.  

 

But if the "character" clause means anything - I understand many feel it doesn't belong - Schilling's incendiary right-wing comments have undoubtedly cost him votes. He supported the January 6th insurrection of the Capitol and is known to possess quite a collection of Nazi memorabilia. 

 

He now wants to have his name removed from the next ballot, the last year he and Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will be eligible.  He says he is "mentally done" and will entrust his immortality to the veterans committees.

 

Interestingly, Marvin Miller, who was elected posthumously last year, also asked numerous times to have his name removed from the ballot.  Jane Forbes Clark, chairperson of the Hall of Fame, refused those requests, but has indicated she may be open to Schilling's wish.

 

Certainly no one in the establishment wants to sit through a possibly explosive tirade from the right by the volatile righthander.  Fear of what Marvin Miller might have said from the left was a definite factor in why he wasn't voted in during his lifetime.

 

I probably won't live to see the day when a functioning majority of those in power realize that a baseball diamond is a wonderful model for good governance. But I hope youngsters take heed:  You can hit an occasional homer down the foul lines but up the middle and into the gaps is the best route to success.    

 

The Hall of Fame's induction ceremony will be held on Sunday July 25th, dependent on sufficient recovery from the pandemic.  Last year's winners will be honored:

Derek Jeter and Larry Walker and the veteran committee selections Marvin Miller and Ted Simmons.

 

The broadcasters enshrined will be last year's winner Ken "Hawk" Harrelson - proving you can go a long way with schtick - and Al Michaels. The writers will be last year's winner the late Nick Cafardo and the estimable Dick Kaegel. This ceremony will likely be held on Saturday Jan 24.  

 

Looking forward to new players on the 2021 ballot, Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz are the huge names on the ballot.  Though neither failed any tests for PEDs, rumors circulate widely around them, especially A-Rod.

 

RHP Tim Hudson seems like a possible "clean" candidate.  Had great years with contending Braves and Athletics teams and the W-L record really grabs me: 222-133, 3.49 ERA in a PED time, good BB-K ratio 917/2080.  Only 1-4 in 7 post-seasons but a decent 3.69 ERA and steady 22-53 walk-strikeout ratio.

 

Torii Hunter with 2478 hits, great defense, and definite leadership qualifications will deserve some attention. The .277 BA and .331 on-base percentage will be used against him.

 

Let the arguments begin. But morphing Monty Python, Argument is fine, Abuse is in another room and not in my house. 

 

Looking ahead to February, I still believe that the greatest sentence in the English language is:  "The pitchers and catchers have reported to spring training."  But with the pandemic still sweeping through Arizona, local authorities have urged MLB to push back the opening of the camps until late February.

 

No word yet on whether MLB will respond to this plea.  And no signs that the warring camps of MLB management and an angry MLBPA not interested in any curtailed season and cut pay are any closer to basic rules for 2021 - eg. whether the NL will use the DH - let alone a new Basic Agreement that expires the end of 2021. 

 

Always remember: Take it easy but take it, and always stay positive, test negative!  Got my first vaccine shot relatively easily on Jan 23 with second one slated for Lincoln's birthday (my mothers' 119th) Feb 12.  

 

 

 

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Hey, Dr. Fauci, There Were Giant Fans in NYC Too! + More Thoughts on Baseball, Movies, and Music (revised to note that Sat May 9 is day for "Ace in the Hole" on TCM)

Dr. Anthony Fauci has deservedly become a voice of sanity and hope in these increasingly nervous times.  The former Upper East Side Regis Prep School point guard is also a great baseball fan who has switched to rooting for the world champion Washington Nationals after growing up as a Yankees fan.

 
Yet when he recently told James Wagner of the New York Times that in the 1950s "everybody in Brooklyn was either a Dodger or a Yankee fan," I reacted with horror: "Have you never heard of New York Giant fans, dear doctor?" 

 

As I post on Willie Mays' 89th birthday on May 6th, let me remind him that there was a third team in NYC with a history that predated either Yankee pinstripes and Dodger blue. And Willie Mays more than deserved to be in the same company as Mickey and the Duke. Alvin Dark could hold his own in all-around play with Pee Wee and Phil.  (But I'm not going to going to bat for Wes Westrum over Campy and Yogi.)

 

It's true there weren't as many of us New York Giant fans, but there were plenty scattered around the five boroughs of NYC and neighboring suburbs. Including future Hall of Famer Joe Torre raised close to Fauci in Bensonhurst deep in the heart of Brooklyn.

 

"Nobody's perfect," Dr. Fauci, and please continue doing your good work of trying to talk truth to power about the public health quandary we find ourselves in. 

 
"Nobody's perfect", of course, brings to mind Joe E. Brown's classic closing line in Billy

Wilder's hilarious farce "Some Like It Hot" (1959).This Sat May 9 at 8PM, there is a deserved prime time showing on TCM (Turner Classic Movies) of Wilder's rarely seen earlier film "Ace In The Hole". 

 
It was released in 1951 the year after his big success with "Sunset Boulevard" (1950). 

Kirk Douglas plays a newspaper reporter banished to New Mexico from NYC. A mine accident traps a worker underground, and Douglas seizes this opportunity to make a national story at the expense of the poor victim. 

 
Douglas reportedly urged Wilder to soften his character a little bit, but the director was unrelenting.  He wanted to make a mordant statement about mass culture and he sure did.  The film pretty much bombed at the box office in the U.S., but made more money in France released as "The Big Carnival" (1955). 

 
One more TCM tip in the coming days. In a rare back-to-back showing, on Monday May 11 at 8PM and 1045PM, George Nierenberg's joyous tap dance documentary, "No Maps On My Taps" (1979) will be shown. Tap masters Sandman Sims, Bunny Briggs, and Chuck Green get deserved acclaim. 

 
Some of the music in the doc. is provided by Lionel Hampton who once told me when he wasn't traveling, he often coached first base for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues. 

 

Speaking of the Monarchs and the Negro leagues, an absorbing and intelligent read is Jeremy Beer's award-winning biography, OSCAR CHARLESTON (University of Nebraska Press). 

Glad to see too that Oscar was honored with a plaque in his home town of Indianapolis.

 

I have no crystal ball on when we might see live baseball in the States again. In their thirst for live sports, ESPN has made a deal with the Korean Baseball Organization for late night coverage Tu through Su plus playoffs..

 
On Monday night May 4th I stayed up late to watch an opening night game. And whatdya know?   There was a rain delay!   It was only a half-hour pause, and for the few innings I could stay awake I was treated to crisp defensive play and good pitching. Fan noises were piped into the empty stadium which may happen here if there are indeed games in the USA in 2020.

 

In the meantime, let's cherish our memories of games and heroes of the past. And keep hoping we'll have a future of fresh games to look forward to sometime soon.

 

As Dr, Fauci described it beautifuclly a few days ago, you're at a game and "just watch things go slowly and then all of a sudden explode with a couple of line drives off the wall."  And if home runs follow, your adrenaline goes up tenfold!  

 

Until that happy moment, now more than ever, Take it easy but take it!  

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