FlagBaseballRegardless what “boys of summer” you choose to root for during the months when the thermometer registers in the eighties regularly, when sun block and barbecue are the smells of the days, when the sun sets later allowing children to play longer; once the September morns shift to thoughts of pumpkin-carving, then frost on the pumpkin and the half-year trek is completed and what we used to call the pennant races decided, you cannot help rooting for the boys from K.C. and their remarkable run.  It is something special to see them make the playoffs for the first time in twenty-nine years—I was a senior at the University of Connecticut watching game 7 of that series on a portable Motorola black and white TV with rabbit ears in a dormitory called John Phillip Sousa House room B-204 that evening.  A year later, my bad boys, the 1986 Mets would win the World Series and the Royals achievements this year restore hope and faith that the Mets will win again before my arteries are too crusty to be aware of it.  It also brings a ray of hope that more television viewers will choose the World Series over regular season NFL football and that networks like FOX can air World Series games earlier in the day for the benefit of schoolchildren so that they can become fans of what we once called the national pastime.

The Kansas City Royals have not lost a single postseason game in 2014.  First of all, they did not finish in first place in their division, the American League Central.  They were one of two Wild Card teams, the two teams with the best win-loss record of non first place teams who have to square off in a single-game play-in for the privilege of being bracketed with the best team in the league.  They won the play in game, swept the Los Angeles Angels, the team that had the best record in all of baseball, three straight in a best of five.  Then they swept the Baltimore Orioles four straight in the best of seven League Championship Series.  The Royals, a quintessential underdog—reminds me of a more innocent time when the 1969 Miracle Mets overcame 5,000 to one odds and made a believer, of Mister Earl Weaver.

I would like to label the 2014 KC Royals an old-fashioned underdog.  But they are actually a modern-day underdog.  When the World Series began in 1903 until 1968, which for elder statesmen like me does not seem like forty-six years ago, there were no playoffs, only the World Series.  Teams were grouped altogether in their respective leagues, and the first place team in each league played the World Series in the warmth of early October under the falling orange leaves, not in the chill of late October where bare, leafless trees dot the landscape.  Even from 1969 to 1993, teams were grouped into only two divisions (not three) and the East and West champions played a best of five series becoming best of seven in 1985, for the privilege of playing in the Fall Classic.  As remarkable a run the boys from K.C. had, in the past, under the original two systems, they would have cleaned out their lockers at Kaufman Stadium, headed to their permanent homes, and that pentagonal electronic board in centerfield with the crown atop would have displayed the message WAIT TILL NEXT YEAR for the benefit of the fans in attendance of the final home game on the 2014 regular season schedule.

When I first became a fan of the game in 1968 at age six, the term Pennant Race referred to the regular season; 162 games in 180 days to determine the best in the business of two rival leagues who never butted heads until the World Series except for an exhibition game in July often referred to as the mid-summer classic.  And the term Fall Classic was an exclusive term for the best of 7 game World Series.  Back in the days, you proved you were the best team in your league out of 162 games and then to be World Champions, you simply had to win four more and had seven chances.  Today, the Fall Classic is October baseball (and in some seasons could spill into early November) in its entirety.  Younger generations of fans no longer refer to the regular season as the pennant race, simply, the season.  The pennant race does not start until the postseason begins.  The play-in games and League Division Championship Series have become the plot, the League Championship Series the climax, and the World Series, the denouement.

Long before social media and smart phones, the only portable devices I had growing up in the late sixties and seventies was something called a transistor radio.  Mine was a Realtone silver and black with a big-round dial you fine-tuned with a side-wheel to the desired station and you could listen to it through holes in the case or plug in a white cord to a small hole and stick the other end in your ear.  The Magnavox version in turquoise blue was also popular.  I would fall asleep listening to Tom Seaver, Tommie Agee, and Ed Kranepool playing a late night game in San Francisco with Juan Marichal, Willie McCovey, and the great Willie Mays with old-time play-by-play transmitted on an analog device.  Better static-free quality is available on a smart phone or I-Pod with radio capability, but the desire to listen in the spring and summer when it is just one of 162 just isn’t felt by this generation.

As expensive as regular season tickets may be, a middle-class family has a better chance of taking a child or family to a regular-season game than a postseason game.  A modern child would have a better chance of getting into it if the regular season were once again the pennant race.  And become more of a fan, and in particular, a fan of the game as well as a fan of their favorite team, if it were first place or nothing.  But alas, that is a relic of my past, just like a dinner date with face-to-face conversation with the other party, not getting a word or two in-between while checking in with personal devices.

Baseball has a chance to surpass football in the month of October for two reasons; the scrutiny of the spousal abuse scandals among its players which may ultimately cost its commissioner his job and the proposed changes in the rules, such as eliminating kickoffs and just placing the ball first and ten on the twenty and eliminating the PAT (point after touchdown)—a team scoring a touchdown could either go for a two-point conversion or simply tell the referee “take seven!”  Unfortunately, all sports is on the decline, America is on the decline, and its young citizens have different priorities in life.

Can the 2014 Kansas City Royals send a message to this generation that hope always springs eternal albeit they were made by a modern playoff system?  As old-school as I am about the game of baseball, they would appear to be the best hope we have.

baseballHOFThe regular season has come to a close and the postseason opens tomorrow (Tues. 9/30/14).  Derek Jeter’s twenty-year Hall of Fame baseball career has come to a close.  Although I am a Mets fan and my second favorite team is anybody who can beat the Yankees, I have to tip my hat Jeter, a hero of the game, and there are so few left.

When I was a mere lad of eleven, I saw one of Willie Mays’s last games in 1973 in a Mets uniform albeit in the HOF as a New York/San Francisco Giant.  I did not see the beginning of Willie’s career as that was in 1951 and I was born in 1962, but I saw Willie retire in 1973 and I saw Derek’s entire career from rookie year to retirement.  Using baseball, our national pastime with a few quirks such as the designated hitter and the challenge-reviews, remains ubiquitous in time, I have been on this earth for a long time.

Perhaps Willie was the greatest of my contemporaries.  He was a five-tool player who played for the love of the game.  I would have to see the backs of both final year bubble gum cards of the two players side by side to be able to tell you who was the better ballplayer.  I think Willie would win as the better ballplayer, but Derek was by far the better athlete. 

Willie’s final season with the Mets was in 1973; a baseball season that was off the bell-curve with the Mets in last place in the National League East for more than half the season, climbing over everyone and in first place on August 30th, and winning the division title with a record of 82-79 with one un-made-up rain out in Chicago.  Willie’s contribution to that campaign was at best ignominious.  He struck out a lot, his speed diminished; he was even losing the ability to make his signature basket-catch in centerfield.  A rookie named Don Hahn played more games in centerfield including in the playoffs against the Cincinnati Reds and the World Series losing to the Oakland A’s in seven games.

Derek was a contributor right to his last game in Boston and in the last game he ever played in pinstripes in the Bronx, got the hit that drove in the winning run.  Not all changes in the game are positive, but one thing that has changed a lot is the way the twenty-first athlete is conditioned; he can stay in good shape in his forties and still make it happen on the field, court, or ice.  If you look at photos of Ty Cobb or Grover Cleveland Alexander, they looked old when they were young,  They were both great ballplayers whose HOF induction when the Hall in Cooperstown opened in 1939 was well deserved, but ballplayers of that era were not athletes; they were weathered men playing a kids game.

With the game tainted by PEDs, overexpansion, postseason play going up against more-popular regular season football, Derek Jeter was the first hero of Major League Baseball since the Say Hey Kid and will probably be the last for a while.  I can never be a Yankee fan, but I tip my cap to the great Derek Jeter—see you in Cooperstown.

American-Flag1I started The 7 Train to discuss the American Dream and how it can be revived for generations to come.  I do not discuss a lot of foreign policy because it is a different “art form” as it were.  I do believe in a few basic premises: America must have a strong defense against its enemies and a positive relations with its allies to sustain as a nation, that what we do economically impacts us on the world stage and vice versa, and it all comes back to the economy anyway.

Like most Americans, I do support the president’s handling of ISIS and that ISIS must be stopped.  I believe he may have waited too long to get in the game, but remember, putting young Americans and youngsters from allied nations in harm’s way is a big deal; so you can’t blame him for being cautious and you always have the answers in hindsight—no leader can run the government with all vision focused in the rearview mirror.  President Obama has been scrutinized by some Republicans in Congress, as well as Democrats, for starting a war without Congressional approval.  Let me say for the record the last formal declaration of war was on December 10, 1941 in response to Pearl Harbor three days earlier and the start of World War II.  The Korean Conflict, The Viet Nam Conflict, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom, even The War on Terrorism in general have all been true police actions instigated by the President using his Commander in Chief power assisted by the UN Security Council.  Presidents Truman, Kennedy, Bush 41, and Bush 43 have all pressed the military in service somewhere in the world since the last formal declaration of war.

ISIS is among the most horrific groups of people in the world and they have demonstrated this time and time again with beheadings of non-militant, non-hostile people throughout the world in all walks of life—including their own Arab Muslims.  I believe any president of either party would have instigated this with or without Congressional approval.  I think President Obama has implemented the one and only Hobson’s Choice in this matter, I only question if we can really accomplish our mission without boots on the ground.  I think there will ultimately be boots on the ground and the next president, Republican or Democrat, will have to keep those boots there for a while.  For those of us born before 1980, possibly those born before 2000, we may not see the end of this conflict.  ISIS will come and go, but there will be others.

How does this affect the economy and the American Dream?  Well, if America doesn’t defend its freedom and ceases to remain a free nation, there is no more American Dream.  The American Dream is on life support, but it is far from dead.  I have blasted time and time again that a balanced budget is one of the requirements to revive it; well, a balanced budget is also required for a strong national defense.  George Washington warned us against permanent alliances, and yet NATO and others were established after WWII.  Containment of Communism was the reason back in the days, but even in the Post Soviet Union era of Life on Earth, our alliances have not warn out their usefulness and although they can be an inhibitor at the domestic level, they have grown into a necessity.  George Washington also believed it was important for congressional approval on matters of war, and sure, I would prefer for everyone to be on board.  But with the rift between the two political parties, congressional approval has become a precious gemstone.   This was part of the problem I had supporting Ron Paul in 2012 is that he stated at the debates he attended before dropping out of the presidential race that we should only go to war if declared by Congress.  It is obvious we could not risk further strengthening of ISIS and wait for Congress who went on recess.

To give credit where credit is due, then President Bill Clinton did balance our budget when leaving office in 2000.  Then came 9-11 in 2001 and we had to go after the Taliban; Osama Bin Laden and those who destroyed the Trade Center Towers.  Experts say the possibility of another attack on American soil has become eminent; I don’t want to believe that but we cannot live in a vacuum, even if we are helping the economy and rebuilding the American Dream within the boundaries of such a vacuum.  It almost represents the final nail in the coffin for ever achieving a balanced budget; as long as we have enemies in the world, we will always have to accrue debt; the stronger we are in the world financially, the more our enemies want to bring us down.

The conflict between Arab Muslims and Jews dates back to the eighth century.  Since the State of Israel was established in 1948 and since the United States has been its biggest ally in the world, most Arab states and terror groups would have been satisfied for at least some Israeli land be sacrificed for the Palestinians, or the more extremists to have Israel and the Jewish population out of the Middle Eastern part of the world.  With the long-range missile and weapon technology today, most want both Israel and the United States off the planet.  Unfortunately, this may require commitment by the Unites States until the day Jesus Christ or any messiah you may believe in returns.  I suppose it is the most global of all prices we must pay for freedom.

Back in the US, it is imperative the legislative branch share the responsibility with the executive branch in this matter.  This is all members of both houses of Congress, Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, allies and adversaries of the sitting president.  Many did not want a vote on a formal declaration before the recess because they did not want to be held accountable if something goes wrong.  In fact, the bill that authorized the air strikes was combined with a commitment not to shut down the government the next financial crisis.  This way if we do not get the results we desire, any Senator or Congressman can simply reply with I didn’t vote for [this], I just wanted to avoid shutting down the government.  In Ken Burns latest work The Roosevelts, both Teddy and Franklin fought for their causes and developed and implemented methods that came with no guarantees.  Both men were willing to take responsibility if things went awry.

I continue to support most of the conservative agenda to restore this great nation to its lofty status.  But as important as the what and the how is the who.  We need people who share our conservative beliefs, but we need different people who will hold themselves accountable if [we] are wrong and it just doesn’t work out.  We need to not only validate and determine if we are right and the liberals are wrong, but we also need to verify that the machine or algorithm we built to implement our vision was built right and be accountable if it is flawed.  The ISIS crisis is serious business and we are stymied on moving forward as long as they are a threat.  It is time for all of us to come to the aid of our own parties, and then unite we are all God’s Children first, Family Members second, Americans third, and everything else such as Republicans, Mets fans, and the like forth and below.

I can honestly say I have been to Hell and back.  In 2005, I took a Caribbean cruise with my family and one of the day tours we took at a stop in the Grand Caymans was the town of Hell.  It is basically a tourist attraction named for the razor-sharp rock formation that looks like what Satan’s fiery den can be imagined to look when the sun casts a reddish hue on the rocks.  Basically, we ate ice cream and mailed post cards from Hell’s post office so our friends and family could say the received post cards from Hell.  But this quaint little rest stop in the Grand Cayman is simply a way to build more memoires on a Caribbean cruise.  The real Hell on Earth is much closer to home.  You cannot experience Hell on Earth until and unless you visit Centralia, Pennsylvania.

 

Razor sharp rock formations found in the town of Hell, Grand Caymans.  They take on a reddish glow like the Devil’s den when the sun hits them just right.

I’ll give you a disclaimer, I personally have not visited Centralia and quite frankly, I am a little deterred from doing such as the toxic gases emanate from the ground and the ground can give way and suck you down to your death at any time.  To anyone who visits Centralia, it could be the last place you go and the last thing you do.  Much of what I base this is another blogger who actually made the trip.  I was curious about what the lowest zip code in the nation is and I had learned that Centralia, PA had their zip code revoked.  The once thriving coal-mining town has been reduced to a borough of Ashland, PA and mail to any remaining Centralia resident must now be addressed GENERAL DELIVERY, ASHLAND, PA 17921 for what’s left of the Centralia fire department to pick up and deliver to those die-hards.  (The town applied for zip code 00000 and can be used for packages handled by UPS or Fedex).The pictures alone freak me out and make me think hard of what the Books of Revelations have in-store for us.  Was what happened in Centralia a living harbinger for the rest of us Americans to pay heed?

Pennsylvania State Road 61 aka Locust Street, Centralia, PA circa 1959, when it was a town with people and local businesses such a store, a saloon, and a gas station, just down the hill known as Silent Hill en route to the residential neighborhoods.  Once a booming mining town for anthracite coal.

The town was founded in 1866 as a coal-mining town and had close to 1000 residents.  On May 27, 1962, in attempt to clean up for a Memorial Day parade (before the Monday Holiday Bill in 1973, Memorial Day formerly Decoration Day was celebrated on May 30th regardless of day of the week), trash was hauled to a landfill on the west side and set on fire (before recycling and the environmentalist movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s, incineration was the most popular way to get rid of rubbish).  The landfill dump was very close to an abandoned mine and the fire from the dump seeped underground and ignited some anthracite coal below the ground and started a chain reaction resulting in an underground fire that to this day, burns below the entire town of Centralia and is expected to continue to burn for another 250 years.  While anthracite coal is harder to ignite then regular black coal, once ignited, it is even harder to extinguish.

Abandoned houses in Centralia when they were still standing.

When you think of the term ghost town, this is what you usually imagine.  Abandoned buildings, houses, general stores, saloons, sheriff’s offices and jails, railroad stations, etc. still intact as though the town could still function if the people returned and the eerie feeling of ghosts haunting the place trying to scare you out of their valhallas and let them rest in peace.  Centralia is now the exact opposite; most of the buildings, all of the town center is gone, razed over the last 30-40 years, and yet some people, seven (7) to be exact, still live in Centralia.  This makes it even eerier.

What the main drag looks like now with no buildings and hot steam rising on ground so hot it will light a match on contact.  Some of the tree trunks are bleached white in color due to the hydrogen sulfide and other toxic gases.

 

What Route

What Route 61 looks like now.  A big crack in the middle as heat below the groundcaused the pavement to shift.  Adolescents typically spray paint graffiti along what is left of the pavement.  Photo courtesy of  Jason Frank Rotherberg.

When you think of Hell and try to imagine what it would look like based on how described by a priest or minister at a Sunday sermon you once attended, you think of people crying, mashing of teeth, and being completely engulfed in flames 4000oF and being tortured by Satan for eternity.  Man-o-man am I glad I got saved and spend a day, let alone an eternity, in a place described by those God-fearing preachers.  But Centralia is more of a Purgatorial hell with the flames below, the cellars of the remaining residents’ homes so warm furnaces are not required for winter heat, and the appearance of eternal loneliness of a place abandoned.  Taking a trip through Centralia, even through pictures, and you have a working preview of Armageddon.

Vent pipes have been installed to relieve the town of toxic gases and prevent it from getting so hot below ground that would cause the town to be sucked under like the world’s largest sinkhole in history.

I mentioned seven people still live here.  Many people left in the mid 1960s and 1970s but there were still close to 100 people there in 1981, when a young boy was visiting his grandparents, among the last of the hardy Centralians, and almost fell into a sinkhole in the backyard.  With the carbon dioxide smoke bellowing out from this hole, the boy would have died if it weren’t for the fact that another child was able to pull him out just in time.  The smoke from the sinkhole was so thick and dense, it could be seen miles away from drivers on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  That same year, the town’s last mayor who lived above the gas station died when overcome by toxic gas from a vent pipe nearby in his sleep.  The state of Pennsylvania decided Centralia has become uninhabitable and ordered an evacuation of all residents.  By 1984, most of the remaining residents did leave, but a few insisted on staying upset by the state’s possible ulterior motive.  The state proposed to dig a huge trench and pump mega-gallons of water into the trench in a last-ditch effort to put out the fire at the cost of $660 Million with no guarantee.  The remaining residents believed that the state no longer cared about Centralia but after the fire was out, excavate all the remaining coal and make huge profits with no intention to replenish the strip-mined land because the town was dead.  A court settlement resulted in the remaining residents being allowed to live out their lives in Centralia and once the last member of a certain household is dead, the house will be immediately bulldozed.  Once the last resident is dead, the town will be completely condemned and closed off.

The sinkhole Todd Dombrosky fell into and would have died if another child wasn’t there to pull him out.

Signage warning people not to enter Centrailia.

A nasty letter to Governor Corbett by remaining Centralia residents on how the state government makes draconian budget cuts but spends money to force out remaining residents.  As the late Speaker Thomas Patrick O’Neill once said—all politics is local.

The real mystery to me is why these seven people insist on staying in a place that is beyond a ghost town, but an entrance to Hell.  They have all lived in Centralia before that fatal day on May 27, 1962 and have family histories dating back almost a century before.  They cannot drive anywhere.  Mail, food, and supplies have to be picked up and delivered by the fire department.  They won the right to stay in their homes but they are trapped in their homes.  They almost never leave town and if they do, the fire department has to escort them out and back in as all roads leading into Centralia are blocked off.  Why not live somewhere else?  Perhaps they are protesting the government’s plan for the coal and want to make them put it off as long as possible—a strange type of sacrifice.  Perhaps they fact that they are exempt from paying any taxes of any kind for the rest of their lives.  Or perhaps they supported the dump fire to clean up the town and feel they should remain in this Hell on Earth to pay for their sins.

Today, all that remains standing are the homes the seven people still reside, a general store used as a supply hut, and the St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church, now boarded up, but a religious shrine to the town that once was.

St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church, the final vestige of God’s omnipresence in Centralia, PA.  Boarded up and not used by the remaining seven residents as they have no priest.

One of the last inhabited homes in Centralia.  Brick buttresses had to be erected on both sides to ensure it will withstand as it is no longer stable on its foundation.  Christmas and other lawn decorations that nobody really sees, a rusted out mailbox not used since mail has to be brought in by the fire department, and a red fire hydrant.  You think there is nothing wrong until you go in the backyard and look straight ahead at the creepy steam rising from the ground.

The Oddfellows Cemetery where many deceased Centralians are buried.  An eerie place as smoke rises from the tombstones at times symbolic of the death of Centralia.  Some flags placed on gravesites still wave as little to nobody visits these graves.

A time capsule was buried in 1966 after the town’s 100th birthday.  Families of relocated and departed Centralia residents will be returning on May 27, 2016 to open the capsule after 50 years.  Coal mining equipment, books, oil lamps, and other family heir looms are in this capsule.

I see Centralia as a time capsule of the American Dream from the time it was born to the time became unimportant to most Americans. Centralia is a microcosm of what the entire world can become if we are not careful.  We need to educate a generation to survive limited government intervention, take it upon themselves to respect Mother Earth and be its good stewards, and live purpose-driven lives without government entitlements.  The coming of Christ or any messiah you may believe in is imminent, guaranteed, and I hope lessons can be learned by studying Centralia, PA.

FlagBaseballIt has been a long time since the game of baseball had a good story to relay to its fans.  There was Jackie Roosevelt Robinson breaking the color line in 1947.  There was Roger Maris hitting #61 in 1961 breaking Babe Ruth’s record for home runs in a season and thirteen years later in 1974, Hank Aaron’s 715 breaking the storied lifetime record not tainted by steroids or other PEDs.  There was Willie Mays’s catch off the bat of Vic Wertz in game one of the 1954 World Series at the Polo Grounds and the 1969 Miracle Mets led by Tom “Terrific” (Seaver).  Overexpansion and PEDs have severely hampered good news in the national pastime.  I will always be a fan because I remember how it used to be.  Today in October, regular season football gets better TV ratings than the World Series.  Now most fans of all teams boo and hiss at the new rule for catchers blocking the plate and those challenges leading to video reviews lengthening games that are already too long.  But in August of 2014, some good news found its way through.

To find this news, you do not look at the Major Leagues, or even the minors, or college or high school.  You look toward the Little League World Series at a thirteen year old pitcher named Mo’ne Davis.  Davis throws 70 mph (a thirteen year old is not expected to throw 90), and has a curveball major league pitchers compare to their own.  But what makes the Mo’ne Davis story interesting is that Mo’ne is a thirteen year old girl.

Mo’ne Ikea Davis is from Philadelphia, PA and played for the Taney Dragons, making it to the Little League World Series played in Williamsport, PA.  In a regional LLWS game, she shut out her opponent from Nashville, TN 4-0 and pitched to a complete game victory.  A phenomenal feat for a girl in a sport that has permitted girls since the mid 1970s, but few have actually enrolled and even fewer have even achieved to this level.

Though anything speculated about a thirteen year old little leaguer ever comes to fruition, such speculation can make the aforementioned problems of the game seem secondary for a while.  Three years from now on April 15, 2017 will mark the seventieth anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color line.  As sports fans resistant to change, we never think about the gender line.  But if a woman were to play Major League baseball someday, wouldn’t it be fitting if Mo’ne Davis would be that player when she is in her twenties.  She has an unforgettable name and current major leaguers are complimenting her on her stuff.  I personally am not optimistic I would see a woman ballplayer in my lifetime and I am not sure how I would feel about a game I would like to see back to its roots with the abolition of the designated hitter and video review, but on the other hand, it is just what the game is hungry for to renew fan interest and restore the pastime to its lofty status.  I do believe if it is going to happen, the first female ballplayer would be a starting pitcher.  While position players and closers have to suit up and play or be ready to play every day, a starting pitcher only has to do so every fourth day.  A woman cannot share a locker room or a shower with men—accommodations would have to be made outside the clubhouse and a special are where the men would have to be fully dressed would have to be established for team meetings.  It will be easier if to make the accommodations only every fourth day—especially on the road where the franchises are not obligated.  But I believe fans would root for Mo’ne to succeed.

Jackie Robinson played in the Negro Leagues before Branch Rickey signed him to a contract to play with the Brooklyn Dodgers.  The Negro Leagues were not minor leagues; they were the major leagues for players who could not play in THE Major leagues due to skin color restrictions dating back to 1900.  Currently, there are no women’s professional baseball leagues in existence so unlike Robinson, Davis would require more nurturing in the minor leagues.  At age thirteen, she would be starting eighth grade and that would be about five years to graduate high school.  Her parents want her to go to college and she is interested in attending the University of Connecticut in Storrs (my al ma matter) which has become a big women’s basketball school.  With no women’s baseball program in existence in the NCAA, not sure where she could play.  The Cape Cod may allow her to play, but is a two month season enough to nurture a premier pitcher?  And signing her right out of high school is very unlikely.  Even AAA all stars are not guaranteed to be good enough to play in the show, and the odds of an owner taking a chance on a woman with no place to play baseball after age 18 are slim at best.  Several baseball circuits would have to break their gender lines before MLB.

The only major sport fully integrated with respect to gender in America is professional basketball, but women do not play on NBA teams; the NBA created a subsidiary called the WNBA where women play on the men’s courts in the summer when the men are between seasons.  Those of us caught in the fairy tale would like to see her strike out the likes of Mike Trout, Mark Textiera, and David Ortiz; or whoever replaces them in the next decade.  That is the only way for such a move to give the game of baseball the kick in the butt to make the news and get fans from all over the country to fill MLB ballparks even if their local teams are not in contention.

If she finds a way to stick with baseball, Mo’ne Davis would be the perfect one to break the gender line with her repertoire of pitches and clean living, as far as we know.  Let us keep Mo’ne in our thoughts whenever the news on the national pastime is negative and where the game is going in the future.

ctMy home state of Connecticut will be having a Republican gubernatorial primary this coming Tuesday, August 12, to determine who will challenge Democrat incumbent Dannel Malloy.  Mr. Malloy cannot say no to taxes and has not made any improvements on the deficit, job creation, or the state economy since he was elected four years ago.

The race includes the favorite; a man named Tom Foley, whose spotty past and lack of political experience cost him an election against Malloy four years ago.  The dark horse is State Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, the son of the late Stew McKinney, a well-respected U.S. Congressman for two decades.  As of right now, the Quinnipiac University poll shows that Foley could defeat Malloy, but that McKinney falls short.  John McKinney and his preferred Lieutenant Governor choice David Walker, a CPA who has served as Comptroller General of the United States, bring something to the table that could drastically change the mood of the Nutmeg State voter if they can get the word out.  They want to repeal the state income tax for individuals and families making less than $75,000 per year.

In 1991, I fought our independent governor, the former Senator Lowell Weicker, who continued to bully both branches of the General Assembly to put through a state income tax and he eventually won the battle.  The same state income tax that cost 1970 Republican candidate Wallace Barnes, who my grandfather believed was the best choice for governor that year, the nomination over Thomas Meskill, who served one term as governor from 1971-75.  Barnes promised to abolish the sales tax in return for this income tax, but the people were skeptical and feared we would pay both taxes.  They were right.  Connecticut reduced its sales tax from 8% to 6% when the income tax became the law of the land, but began applying it to more things such as labor on auto repairs (not just parts as before), shipping and delivery charges on mail order goods, and car washes.  Three years ago, the state sales tax was increased from 6% to 6.35% and Connecticut still has the highest per capita debt in the U.S.  A similar ordeal took place in California when they implemented a state income tax in the mid 1960s prior to the election of Ronald Reagan.  They income tax went through and California sales tax was raised from 6% to 6 ½%  I have to say I admire Mr. McKinney’s initiative.  But I do have some questions.

First of all, why stop at $75,000?  When it comes to states and their finances, Connecticut is way off the bell curve.  Families with combined husband and wife incomes just over $100,000 are struggling as prices on the so called gold cost are higher than ever.  Leading into the second of all, why not just completely abolish the state income tax?  It obviously did not keep our ink black in the post-Weicker era; proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that no taxation plan can keep the ink black if spending is out of control.  I know the 1% will benefit just as much as the 99% with no income tax at all, but the 1% can give more to charities and wealthy business owners can create both blue collar and white collar jobs.  Third of all, Peter Paul Candy and Colt Fire Arms are not coming back and Connecticut will never be the career Mecca it was in the 1980s.  I have said over and over again, Connecticut needs to be small-business friendly and give incentives equivocal to what New York State is doing to allure start-up businesses.  Those who graduate college in a field of choice should be able to do what they set out to do in their own small business if they cannot hook up with corporations who were driven out.  Being a small business owner in Connecticut sounds a lot more appealing than living in North Dakota, which is where talk show host Sean Hanity claims the tech jobs will be in the next ten years.  Alas, where is the small business incentive on the McKinney-Walker plan?

I have not made up my mind as of this blog entry.  I may very well make the bold move and vote for Mr. McKinney this coming Tuesday.  I would just like a better understanding of his concept of the New American Dream versus mine.  Even if we don’t match, I may still consider him the best man in the race.  I just want a little more exposure and disclosure.

FlagBaseballThe designated hitter was just the beginning. Thank God I am a National League fan and get to watch the final remnants of the bygone era of a strategy-minded thinking man’s game where critical decisions have to be made when the pitcher is due to bat—just let him swing and make the best of it, sacrifice bunt with less than two out or suicide squeeze with a runner on third and less than two outs, or pinch hit even though he is pitching a good game just to get a tying or go-ahead run across the plate. Likewise, to let a tiring pitcher due to bat first, second, or third in the order next inning to pitch on fumes just a little longer so that you can pinch hit for him next inning; or pull a double-switch to allow a pitching change that changes the batting order so the new pitcher is not due to bat next inning. I would like to argue for the abolition of the designated hitter and have the NL protocol be the law of the land in both leagues—especially now that you have fifteen teams in each league and a minimum of one interleague game virtually every day is now a necessary evil in order to complete a 162 game schedule in six months. The younger generation may prefer the added offense of a DH in both leagues. But there are much deeper blows to the aorta of baseball purity right now.
A far more radical change in the game is giving the manager the option to challenge the umpire’s call and using video in some control room in Manhattan to possibly overturn the umpire’s call. Bill Klem, Tom Gorman, and Doug Harvey—going along the generation continuum, would never surrender their power to rule the game with an iron hand and allow video cameras overturn their calls which were once almighty even when a mistake is made—the so called human element of officiating. This generation of umpires does not want to rule the game; after all, the challenge-review rule was their idea. Truth be told, umpires made just as many mistakes in yesteryear as they do today; before high def television and other technology, many went undetected. A fan sitting in the upper deck at old Shea Stadium, closer to the airplanes than the field, or around the Pesky pole at Fenway Park with a grandstand column obstructing their view could not always find such a miscue. Neither could a snowy black-and-white TV running on rabbit ears or a first generation Zenith Chromocolor with a screen the shape of an eye-ball. This generation of umpires, many of them who resigned on September 1st, 1999 to protest the suspension of Tom Hallion and for some reason were allowed to come back the following year, chose the white flag over the black suit and now it takes four hours to complete a 3-2 nine-inning game.
The Internationalization of the game is another big difference between then and now. I commend the players and owners in 2002 for not going on strike and working out the revenue-sharing via payroll tax to give small-market teams a fair shake. One of the big differences is the Yankees cannot buy a championship as easily because the payroll tax keeps enough money in the pockets of most of the other owners to retain their star players. This is another generational shift because there was a time when the best players in the game would do whatever it took, even a small pay cut, to wear the pinstripes and play for the most storied sports franchise in the history of the world. This generation of players will stay with their teams as long as their current teams offer them the most money. The loophole Hal Steinbrenner has chosen to answer the retirements of Mariano Riviera and Derek Jeter and the aging team is to look overseas for superstars in other countries such as Masahiro Tanaka and populate the roster with the best foreign lands have to offer. As much as I hate it when the Yankees buy championships, I give Hal credit for the idea and if I were playing his chess pieces, it is a good move on the board. The biggest problems are (1) he was one of the few owners that can afford to pay the fees required to raid foreign rosters such as Japan and (2) if foreign players outnumber natural-born American players on the roster, is baseball still our national pastime? I don’t want to sound stogy because somebody had to do something daring to break the color-line in effect from 1900-46 as was the case with Branch Rickey signing Jackie Roosevelt Robinson; duly noted however, Jackie was a natural-born American. The fact that today’s players are more interested in making as much money as they can rather than a World Series ring or playing in New York, the baseball capital of the world, which once allured many players to the Big Apple either to the Yankees or one of three New York National League clubs over two centuries (Giants, Brooklyn Dodgers, and now the Mets).
I’m afraid the times, they are a changing. Let’s just hope the game can still be the pastime God intended for America.

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