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.

Bob Clemente? Roberto Clemente Walker!

3000 hits

Bob ClementeOne of those arcane pieces of information is about the great baseball player Roberto Clemente. I was talking about one of my choir buddies, coincidentally named Rob, about the fact that the press tried to rename him. But he would have nothing to do with it.

As it turns out, the ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA had the story:

“While Clemente amassed a mountain of impressive statistics during his career, he was often mocked by the print media in the United States for his heavy Spanish accent. Clemente was also subjected to the double discrimination of being a foreigner and being black in a racially segregated society. Although the media tried to call him ‘Bob’ or ‘Bobby’ and many of his baseball cards use ‘Bob,’ Clemente explicitly rejected those nicknames, stating in no uncertain terms that his name was Roberto.”

Almost immediately, Rob found this card online. It’s from 1958. But even Roberto’s 1969 Topps baseball card listed him as Bob Clemente.

Fix that plaque!

“There was also confusion over the correct form of his surname. For 27 years the plaque at the National Baseball Hall of Fame read ‘Roberto Walker Clemente,’ mistakenly placing his mother’s maiden name before his father’s surname. Only in 2000 was it changed to its proper Latin American form, Roberto Clemente Walker.”

Roberto Clemente was a great ballplayer. He won four NL batting titles, 12 straight Gold Gloves in the outfield, and made the All-Star team 15 times. The man got exactly 3000 hits. “He inspired generations of Latino kids, particularly in Puerto Rico, to dream that they could make it in the big leagues one day.”

But he also was a great human being. I wrote about him several times, the first being Talk Like a Pirate Day in 2006. I noted this quote: “Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don’t, then you are wasting your time on Earth.” I mentioned him most recently in 2018.

From his Hall of Fame page: “On Dec. 31, 1972, Clemente boarded a small plane en route from Puerto Rico to Nicaragua to assist with earthquake relief. The heavily loaded plane crashed just off the Puerto Rican coast, and Clemente’s body was never recovered.

“He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1973 in a special election that waived the mandatory five-year waiting period.”

John Thompson, Tom Seaver

Mets and Hoyas

Tom SeaverI’ve been pondering something since the deaths of basketball Hall of Fame coach John Thompson and baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver. It is that being a sports fan was hugely significant to me for a chunk of my life. But it has waned in recent years.

I could tell you, without looking it up, who won the World Series every year in the 1960s. For the 2010s, I could recall only four. And two of them, the 2017 Houston Astros and the 2018 Boston Red Sox were arguably tarnished.

Tom Terrific

After the decline of my New York Yankees after their 1964 Series loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, I started following their crosstown rivals, the Mets. But they were pretty terrible. They put this young pitcher, Tom Seaver, into the rotation in 1967, and he went 16-13, with a 2.76 ERA. Pretty good on a team that went 61-101. In 1968, the Mets were 73-89, their most wins ever. Seaver was 16-12 but lowered his ERA to 2.20.

By 1969, the leagues divided into East and West divisions. Shockingly, the Mets amazed sports fans with a 100-62 record. They swept the West’s Atlanta Braves in three games. They were widely assumed to be the underdogs to the Baltimore Orioles with the Robinsons Franks and Brooks, among other stars. Yet the Mets won the World Series four games to one. Tom Seaver in 1969 went 25-7, with a 2.21 ERA.

A letter writer in the Boston Globe remembers this. “That year, Seaver had made a statement that ‘if the Mets can win the World Series, then we can get out of Vietnam,’ an extraordinary act in those days for a professional athlete.”

I followed Seaver through his career with the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox. I forgot he pitched for the Red Sox in 1986, but he was injured during the 1986 Series, so didn’t play against the winners, NYM. It was just as well for the legacy of the greatest Met. He died in late August in his sleep of complications of Lewy body dementia and Covid-19.

Big John

John ThompsonFor a couple years in the mid-1960s, John Thompson was a backup center for Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics. It was probably before I saw the Celtics in an exhibition game at the IBM Country Club in Endicott, NY. The NBA’s Celtics and the New York Knicks were my teams then.

I didn’t become a follower of the men’s college game until the late 1970s. I tended to root for the teams in the Big East, which was formed in 1979 and featured Syracuse, the premiere team in upstate New York. But I’d root for any BE team, including Georgetown, against non-conference opponents.

John Thompson inherited a Georgetown Hoyas team which had been 3–23 the year before. He led them to a .500 record in season two. “By his third season in 1974–75, Georgetown qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1943.”

So when North Carolina beat Georgetown in the March Madness finals in 1982, I was disappointed. And when the Hoyas beat Houston in 1984, making John Thompson the first black coach to win the Final Four, I was quite thrilled. And when underdog Villanova, from the Big East, beat Georgetown in the championship game in 1985, it was actually OK. “Over 27 years, Thompson’s Hoyas went 596–239 (.714), running off a streak of 24 postseason appearances – 20 in the NCAA tournament and 4 in the NIT.”

Thompson’s coaching legacy includes the recruitment and development of four players in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame: Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo, and Allen Iverson.” Iverson thanked Thompson for “saving my life” in an Instagram post.

Sean Gregory wrote in an appreciation for Time, “No coach of his generation, in any sport, was more influential.” John Thompson died in late August.

April rambling: Clorox Chewables

Virtual choirs abound


FILL OUT THE 2020 CENSUS! For you data geeks: Cornell’s Program on Applied Demographics – Intro to Website.

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The Throwback League is a once a week podcast that’s essentially a March Madness-style tournament played out over 48 weeks. The World Series winners between 1974-2006 all make the tournament, and 16 at large pennant winners too. On Hollywood & Levine, sportscaster Josh Lewin joins Ken to discuss the podcast.

Take The Intelligence Test That Thomas Edison Gave to Job Seekers.

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Cartoon: Trump vs. the Postal Service.

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Disinfectant Manufacturers Warn Consumers Not to Heed “Injection” Remark and CoronavirusMemes – Clorox Chewables!

“It (freedom) ain’t something permanent like rocks and hills. It’s like manna; you just got to keep on gathering it fresh every day. If you don’t one day you’re going to find you ain’t got none no more.”
– Man, and the Mountain by Zora Neale Hurston, spoken by her fictionalized Moses

Now I Know

Raiders of the Lost Journal and The Dot in Your Kitchen You’ve Probably Never Noticed and Kings and Queens are Royals. But What’s a Jack? and The Pigeons Who Needed a Proctologist and The Singer Who Couldn’t Really Sing and Meet Her Royal Not-Quite-Highness.

MUSIC

What if doing the Hokey Pokey isn’t what it’s all about?

The Liar Tweets Tonight.

Down to the River – Virtual Choir.

1812 Overture, with chorus! of Tchaikovsky.

Coverville 1305: Tribute to John Prine and Ritchie Blackmore Cover Story and 1306: This Day in Covers: 1980.

Spanish Guitars and Night Plazas – Loreena McKennitt.

The Rainbow Connection – Kermit.

For What It’s Worth – Young@Heart (Zoom Rehearsal COVIDeo).

Long May You Run– Neil Young.

Piano Sonata No. 18 (Op. 31, No. 3) of Beethoven.

A Satisfied Mind – Pete Drake from this album my grandfather brought home from work.

A completely mad handbell arrangement of The Hallelujah Chorus; another Hallelujah Chorus.

I Go Swimming – Peter Gabriel.

In resurrectione tua – Taizé virtual choir.

Finlandia by Jean Sibelius — Cantus.

Psalm 53 Sung in Aramaic for Pope Francis by Georgians.

Animation: Johnny Cash on gospel music

Tonight at Toads – Blotto, 1982.

The Weirdly Enduring Appeal of Weird Al Yankovic.

Why Do We Even Listen to New Music?

Richard Powell (1936-2020)

“Hammerin’ Harmon”

The late Richard Powell, me, the late Les Green
My father-in-law Richard Powell and I bonded over baseball. He loved the game, and I had grown up with it, even having a big baseball card collection in the 1960s and early 1970s. When he moved to Oneonta in the early 1990s, he usually had season tickets to the minor league farm team, first for the Yankees and then, from 1999 to 2009, the Tigers.

Richard was an avid, and serious fan. He kept score of the games in a series of ledgers And by “keeping score”, I mean recording every out or hit of every batter. He was so reliable that the official scorekeeper, the person who decides whether that was a hit or a fielder’s error, occasionally called on him for his expertise.

We went to the exhibition games in Cooperstown nearly annually through 2008. No way would we drive to Cooperstown. We took the bus, which was much more civilized. And much cheaper, as the local homeowners charged exorbitant fees to park on their plot of land. He became quite expert at picking out the old-timers who would be in town to sign memorabilia.

We even went to a New York Yankees game on Father’s Day weekend 2015, which I wrote about here.

Minnesota Twins

His favorite player was Harmon Killebrew, who hit 573 home runs for the Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins in an era when reaching 500 homers was an achievement. He’s still 12th all-time among home run leaders. He led the league in that stat six times and all of major league baseball five.

Richard’s persona was like the play of another one of his favorite players, Kirby Puckett. Not ostentatious but steady, reliable, showing when necessary a surprising bit of power.

And in October 2019, Richard seemed quite healthy and vital. Then he got what seemed to mimic a bad flu, which lingered into the new year. He had excessive calcium, which was treated by his doctor. But he spent about a week at a hospital in Oneonta, and another week and a half in a hospital in Schenectady, taking an ambulance 75 miles between the two.

Finally, he was diagnosed with Angioimmunoblastic T-Cell Lymphoma. It’s a rare form of lymphoma. While there were medical options presented, none were particularly attractive. So we were told he had about a year to live around Presidents Day. Four weeks later, and after a number of falls it was suddenly only another month to go.

As it turned out, his wife and three surviving children were all present on the day he died, Wednesday, April 22, 2020. Expect more on Richard Powell, especially if/when I find that picture of the two of us in Cooperstown.