April rambling: the automatic runner

Mandela’s Blues

embarrassing-incidentsBonhoeffer musing on Who am I?

Bankruptcy: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

The Unbelievable Story of Europe’s Runaway Nazi.

Planned Parenthood: We’re Done Making Excuses for Our Founder.

“Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.”
– James Baldwin, “Letter From a Region in My Mind” essay

The anti-trans distraction.

American Library Association: books with antiracist messages climbed the list of most challenged or banned titles in 2020.

These inventors don’t get the credit they deserve.

Weekends In Space.

Best history podcasts: 14 shows that tell you forgotten stories.

Remembering Walter Mondale

Gender reveal party death toll mounts, people ask Why? 

Prince Philip’s Fascinating Family: A Russian Tsarina, A Greek Orthodox Nun, a Banished King, and More.

Make To Don’t Lists.

New JEOPARDY guest hosts announced! LeVar Burton, George Stephanopoulos, Robin Roberts, David Faber, and Joe Buck.

Theology in the DCU and MU.

Now I Know: The Picture of Abraham Lincoln’s Fake Ghost and The Birthday Problem and When Stalin’s Grapes Went
Sour and The First Boycott and Mussels and When Baseball Went to Pot.

Not me: Four Mustangs caught going more than double the speed limit in Surrey. “High-risk driving behaviour… is one of the leading causes of collisions in BC,” said Sergeant Roger Green of the service’s Community Response Unit.

Not me: Immigrants in Greece who can’t book Covid jabs. Roger Green, a British writer who has lived on the island since the early ’90s, says some are afraid to leave their homes.

SPORTS

MLB’s extra-innings rule is back in 2021; here’s why baseball should use
ties instead. “Each half-inning beyond the ninth — i.e., extra innings — in Major League Baseball now begins with a runner on second base and no outs.” The automatic runner rule is dreadful, a baseball abomination,IMO.

Why Home Runs Are Bad for Baseball.

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM) in Kansas City is a “privately funded, not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving and celebrating the rich history of African-American baseball and its profound impact on the social advancement of America.”

Pitcher Hope Trautwein Throws A Perfect Game Of All Strikeouts

Mulligan? Golfers consult rule book after ball lands on alligator’s back

MUSIC

Thou Wilt Keep Him in Perfect Peace by S.S. Wesley (Isaiah 26:3).

Mandela’s Blues -Kinky Friedman.

Wichita Lineman – Peter Sprague, featuring Rebecca Jade.

Solfeggio by Arvo Part, San Diego Master Chorale.

A Rainbow in Curved Air – Terry Riley.

I Got a Gal in Kalamazoo – Glenn Miller band with Tex Beneke and the dancing of the Nicholas Brothers (1942 movie “Orchestra Wives”).

Music for Percussion Quartet – David Crowell, plus Music for Pieces of Wood, by Steve Reich.

Coverville  1355 : The Roy Orbison Cover Story III and 1356: Tribute to Jim Steinman and 50th Anniversary of The Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers.

The Swan of Tuonela by Sibelius.

Flintstones theme: Jazz AmbassadorsBarney Kessel and Herb Ellis,  Hungarian Border Guard Orchestra, FMU Jazz Ensemble, Bjørn Jørgensen
and his Big Band, Jacob Collier,  Postmodern Jukebox, The CompanY, and Vinheteiro

Robert Schumann’s Traumerai. You KNOW this tune!

Chuck Connors would have been 100

Celtics, Cubs

Chuck Connors.baseballIt could have been in TV Guide or another magazine, or a newspaper article. All I know is that, during the run of the TV show The Rifleman (1958-1963), I knew that Chuck Connors had been a professional athlete before he became an actor.

He played basketball with the Boston Celtics. In 1946, Kevin Joseph Aloysius Connors was the first NBA player to shatter a backboard, doing so during a pre-game warm-up in the Boston Garden.

The future actor also played baseball. Before the 1940 season, he was signed by his hometown Brooklyn Dodgers as an amateur free agent. Though somewhat successful in the minor leagues, he got into only one game with that major league team, in 1949.

On October 10, 1950, he was traded, with Dee Fondy, to the Chicago Cubs for Hank Edwards and cash. He spent part of the 1951 season with the Cubs, appearing in 66 games, 57 of them as a first baseman, batting .239.

“In a 1997 biography titled ‘The Man Behind the Rifle’, author David Fury says that ‘Chuck”‘Connors acquired his nickname while an athlete playing first base. He had a habit of calling to the pitcher: “Chuck it to me, baby, chuck it to me!”

North Fork

His IMDB record begins in 1952. But he’s best known for playing Lucas McCain in 168 episodes of The Rifleman. The Complete Directory To Prime Time Network TV Shows, by Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh, have a great description of the show.

“The setting was the town of North Fork, NM, whose marshall seemed incapable of handling any of the numerous desperadoes who infested the series without Lucas.” I’m sure I watched it a lot in the day, and it’s still available on MeTV.

Lucas McCain was ranked #32 in TV Guide’s list of the “50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time” in the 20 June 2004 issue. He raised Mark (Johnny Crawford) by himself.

Chuck spent a season on Arrest and Trial, a cop show with Ben Gazzara, which I don’t remember.

Bitter Creek

Connors was on another western, Branded (1965-1966). “Jason McCord, the only survivor of the Battle of Bitter Creek, is court-martialed and kicked out of the Army because of his alleged cowardice. Rather than demean the good name of the Army commander who was actually to blame for the massacre, McCord travels the Old West trying to restore his good name and reputation.

And my sisters and I would reenact the  opening theme, which I can hear in my mind’s ear to this day:

“All but one man died, There at Bitter Creek. And they say he ran away. Branded! Marked with a coward’s shame. What do you do when you’re branded, will you fight for your name?

“He was innocent. Not a charge was true. But the world would never know. Branded! Scorned as the one who ran. What do you do when you’re branded, and you know you’re a man?

“Wherever you go for the rest of your life, you must prove… You’re a man.”

And in the intro, the officer would break McCord’s sword over his knee. We would take a thin tree branch and break it in the same way. Or more often, take this paper covering that came with the dry cleaning and tear it.

Oddly, I don’t remember the show itself very much.

Redux

Here’s some trivia. “He suffered almost the same fate in each of his two television western series. In The Rifleman: The Vaqueros (1961), he was stripped to the waist, tied to a tree, and left to die under a scorching sun by a group of Mexican bandits. And in Branded: Fill No Glass for Me: Part 2 (1965), he was stripped to the waist, tied to a tree, and left to die under a scorching sun by a group of Indian warriors. (In both cases he survived.)”

I didn’t see him much after that, except in an occasional guest appearance, and two episodes of Roots. No, I did NOT see Werewolf.

Chuck Connors was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1991.

Born: April 10, 1921, in Brooklyn, New York City, NY
Died: November 10, 1992 (age 71) in Los Angeles, CA

Actor Kurt Russell turns 70

Portland Mavericks

Kurt RussellWhen I told my wife I was probably going to write about Kurt Russell turning 70, she went “Oh!” “What does THAT mean?” “Kurt Russell was my first crush.”

Not that I’m jealous, mind you.

I was utterly fascinated by Kurt Russell as a kid. He wasn’t much older than I was. I know I watched The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters (1963), a western, though I don’t specifically remember the storyline. “Twelve-year-old Jamie McPheeters, along with his ne’er-do-well father and a ragtag group of pioneers, travel westward from Paducah, Kentucky to the California gold fields in 1849.” Nope, still don’t recall it.

And there were a series of movies, some with Disney, which I almost certainly watched.

The New Land (1974) featured “the trials of a settler family of Swedish immigrants to America.” Watched that, too. If you don’t remember it, it’s probably because lasted only six episodes.

He didn’t become one of those child stars who ended up troubled. Instead, he developed into a successful adult actor, primarily in movies. And most of them I never viewed! In fact, looking at his IMDB roster of films, there are only three I’m positive I saw: Silwood (1983), Swing Shift (1984), and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017). Oh, I did see the Elvis TV movie in 1979.

Baseball

There’s a film I just read about that I want to see. The Battered Bastards of Baseball  (2014) is a “documentary film about the Portland [OR] Mavericks, a defunct minor league baseball team… They played five seasons in the Class A-Short Season Northwest League, from 1973 through 1977. Owned by actor Bing Russell [Kurt’s dad], the Mavericks were an independent team, without the affiliation of a parent team in the major leagues.”

The things I discover. “Kurt Russell was a switch-hitting second baseman for the California Angels minor league affiliates, the Bend Rainbows (1971) and Walla Walla Islanders (1972) in the short-season Class A-Short Season Northwest League, then moved up to Class AA in 1973 with the El Paso Sun Kings of the Texas League.

“While in the field turning the pivot of a double play early in the season, the incoming runner at second base collided with him and tore the rotator cuff in Russell’s right (throwing) shoulder.

“He did not return to El Paso but was a designated hitter for the… Mavericks… late in their short season… He had been doing promotional work for them in the interim. The injury forced his retirement from baseball in 1973 and led to his return to acting.”

Goldie

Russell appeared in five films with performer Goldie Hawn, possibly still best known for Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. The first was way back in 1968, The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band. Goldie made her big-screen debut in a bit part. She was 21, but he was only 16.

During the making of Swing Shift (1984), they became romantic partners. They were also in Overboard (1987), and the two Christmas Chronicles films (2018, 2020).

They’ve been together since 1983. Her kids (Kate and Oliver Hudson) are his kids. His kid Boston Russell is her kid. They have a son together, Wyatt. And they are happily unmarried.

Goldie said, and Kurt would agree: “We have done just perfectly without marrying. I already feel devoted and isn’t that what marriage is supposed to do? So as long as my emotional state is in a state of devotion, honesty, caring, and loving, then we’re fine.

“We have raised our children brilliantly; they are beautiful people. We did a great job there and we didn’t have to get married to do that. I like waking up every day and seeing that he is there and knowing that I have a choice. There is really no reason to marry.”

Kurt Russell turns 70 on St. Patrick’s Day.

My sports calendar is off-kilter

Baseball of the 1960s and ’70s

Bob Gibson.imageRecently, I realized that the shifting or cancellation of certain sporting events in 2020 has thrown my biorhythms off-kilter. And I don’t even have to particularly care about the events to be affected.

March Madness means all those ads on CBS, the familiar theme music, and the beginning of spring. But I didn’t hear it because the tournament was canceled. In tennis, I know the 4th of July is coming because Wimbledon has started. Nope, canceled.

The Kentucky Derby, and Free Comic Book Day, were both on the first Saturday in May. The horse race was pushed back to September 5? And the other Triple Crown traces changed not only the dates but the race lengths.

COVID has affected how I watch sports. I remember looking at the standings in Major League Baseball early in the truncated season. Some teams had played about a dozen games. The St. Louis Cardinals, though, were only 2-3, because either they or their opponents tested positive.

Usually, I start paying attention to MLB in September, when it started in early April. But I never saw a single game to its completion because the season began in July. Yet I remember how much I love the symmetry and simplicity of baseball.

Three deaths

I was reminded of this when I noted the death of three Hall of Fame players in October 2020. My team when I grew up was the New York Yankees.  Whitey Ford pitched for them from before when I was born until 1967 and for no other team. He was their best pitcher.

1961 was his finest year. He won the Cy Young award. But he also had the most wins with 25, the best win-loss percentage at .864, and pitched more innings, 263, than anyone in the league.

When the Yankees began their decline in the mid-1960s, other teams came to the fore, including the St. Louis Cardinals. Bob Gibson pitched for no other teams. In fact, in an All-Star Game, he wouldn’t even shake his catcher’s hand because the guy played for another team during the season.

There are only two pitching records I can recite without looking. One is Cy Young’s 511 lifetime wins as a pitcher. The other is that, in 1968, Bob Gibson had a 1.12 ERA. This means that for every nine innings pitched, he only gave up a little over one run. And he threw over 304 innings that year. MLB lowered the mounds the following season to give hitters a fighting chance.  Gibson completed every game he started between 1966 and 1974.

In the early 1970s, the team from Cincinnati, known as the Big Red Machine, came to the fore. One of the smallest players, Joe Morgan, was one of the best. Traded from the Houston Astros for the 1972 season, he did almost everything to win.

Morgan led the league in on-base percentage four times, often aided by the base on balls. Yet in 1975., one of two years in a row he was league MVP, he was 4th in batting average and 1st in base-stealing success. He received 5 Gold Gloves, all while with the Reds, for his defensive prowess.

This has been a difficult year for the history of Major League Baseball, and each of these players loomed large in my youth and young adulthood.

Actor Bill Murray turns 70

The Cubs win the Series! (2016)

bill murray.groundhog-day-drivingAs I perused the Wikipedia page of Bill Murray, I discovered a potential link. “Murray’s direct paternal grandfather was from County Cork, while his maternal origins are from County Galway.” I have fourth cousins from Munster, County Cork.

Of course, I first remember him from NBC’s Saturday Night, which he joined after Chevy Chase left. I don’t recall him from ABC variety show Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell, and I did watch that single season. (The NBC series added Live to the title once Cosell’s show was canceled.) I associate Murray mostly with Nerd scenes with the late Gilda Radner, and the lounge singer performing the Star Wars theme. He was also Bill Murray the K in the Rutles TV movie, which was a Beatles parody.

He went on to have a great movie career. One of the first three VHS tapes I ever purchased was Groundhog Day (1992). I always loved that film, as it speaks of redemption. But I’ve only seen a fraction of his films. I’ve never seen, for instance, Meatballs (1979) or Caddyshack (1980).

Murray movies I’ve seen

Stripes (1981) I didn’t see this until 2018, while I was giving blood. While dated, it had its moments. He was great in a small part in Tootsie (1982). Ghostbusters (1984), Scrooged (1988), and What About Bob (1991) I remember fondly; Ghostbusters II (1989) was a lesser effort.

His body of work since 2005 that I’ve watched, all in the movie theater, that I wrote about is not an overwhelming list. It includes Get Low (2009); Moonrise Kingdom (2012); Hyde Park on the Hudson (2012); and The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014).

Also, he voiced characters for The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009); The Jungle Book (2016); and Isle of Dogs (2018). His voice is always both familiar and evocative.

I feel I’m going to have to watch The Royal Tennenbaums (2001) and Lost in Translation (2003) again. Murray was nominated for an Oscar as Best Actor in a Leading Role in the latter film. He did receive the Golden Globe as Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical. Yet I found both of them terribly… frustrating. Sometimes, you’re just not in the right mood for a particular film.

In 2016, Bill Murray was deservedly awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor by the Kennedy Center. The following year, he was touring a “series of ‘songs and literary recordings’ accompanied by chamber music.” I saw a bit of this on CBS Sunday Morning at the time.

Baseball has been very, very good to him

“In 1978, Murray appeared in two at-bats for the Grays Harbor Loggers Minor League Baseball team, credited with one hit and a lifetime batting average of .500.

“He is a part-owner of the St. Paul Saints independent baseball team and occasionally travels to Saint Paul, Minnesota to watch the team’s games.[43] He also owns part of the Charleston RiverDogs, the Hudson Valley Renegades, and the Brockton Rox. He has invested in a number of other minor league teams in the past… In 2012 he was inducted into the South Atlantic League Hall of Fame for his ownership and investment activities in the league.”

And his love of Chicago sports teams is legendary, especially for his beloved Cubs. He has done commentary for games and sung Take Me Out to the Ballgame. He was present when the Cubs took Game 7 to win the 2016 World Series, after a 108-yar drought. He’s a fan of other sports as well.

In spite of a list of possible feuds in the past, he now seems comfortable in his skin.