Cicely Tyson; Hank Aaron; Hal Holbrook; Cloris Leachman

Also, Larry King

The first time I ever saw the very brilliant performer Cicely Tyson, it was opposite George C. Scott in East Side/West Side back in 1963. Her work was always mesmerizing. I wrote about her here in 2013.

Ms. Tyson was the first Black woman to win a leading actress Emmy for the 1974 TV movie “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.” She received a Tony for A Trip to Bountiful n 2013 at age 88, the Kennedy Center Honors in 2015, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016. Variety called her a Pioneering Hollywood Icon.

The CNN piece noted that she “embodied African American women who demanded attention — and more than that, respect.” She was “bringing a sense of depth, nobility, and grace to every character.”

Cicely Tyson was highlighted in How It Feels to Be Free: Black Women Entertainers and the Civil Rights Movement, a 2013 book turned into a segment of American Masters on PBS in January 2021.

She had just released “Just as I Am: A Memoir” on Jan. 26. Here’s an interview with Gayle King, which you should watch if you can. It was taped on January 22, and she still had plans for the future.

Hammerin’ Hank

You may have heard about all of the hate mail Henry Aaron received, a black man pursuing Babe Ruth’s home run record, which he eclipsed in April 1974.

I only heard recently about a member of his security detail who wondered if the people running onto the field when Hank hit number 715 were exuberant fans or folks out to do the slugger harm. Would he have to shoot someone to protect the ballplayer?

And Hank had to put up with a lot of crap in his relatively brief minor league career, as explained here. “The Deep South circuit’s eight teams rigidly adhered to Jim Crow segregation laws; racist abuse from fans and exclusionary business practices were commonplace.” Yet he always dealt with this stress with dignity.

After his retirement, Aaron held front office roles with the Atlanta Braves, including as a senior vice president. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002. I wrote about him in 2015.

Hank Aaron still holds the MLB records for runs batted in, extra-base hits, and total bases, and is second in home runs. He got into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982 with 97.8% of the vote. Who were the nine sportswriters who left him off the ballot?

He was one of the greatest players of all time, possibly undervalued because he started playing in relatively small market Milwaukee when Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays were working in New York City.

Samuel Clemens

Hal Holbrook has played John Adams, Abraham Lincoln (more than once), and the guy who helped bring down Nixon – Deep Throat – in All The President’s Men.

Of course, he was best known for playing Mark Twain for so long that he didn’t need the makeup in later years. Here’s a short video of Mr. Holbrook with actor James Karen. 

I watched him in Everything from Designing Women to Evening Shade. But my first favorite role of his was as the title character in The Bold Ones: The Senator, one of those rotating NBC shows in 1970-71 that lasted only one season, which was eight episodes. Yet it won five Emmys, including one for Hal.

Phyllis Lindstrom

Cloris Leachman won a best-supporting actress Oscar for The Last Picture Show, which I probably saw close to its 1971 release. She also was in arguably my favorite movie comedy, Young Frankenstein; here’s a clip.

Cloris won a total of seven Emmys, including two for Malcolm in the Middle, and a pair for appearing in one of my favorite TV shows of all time, The Mary Tyler Moore Show. She was a voice actor on Phineas and Ferb. And most recently, I saw her on the Mad About You reboot in 2019. My wife would note that, at age 82, she appeared on Dancing with the Stars (2005).

Gregory Sierra  I knew from SOAP, Sanford And Son, and Murder, She Wrote. But mostly from playing Chano on Barney Miller, another of my favorite shows.

I tended to watch Larry King only when he was interviewing folks I was really interested in. While that was a small percentage of his prodigious output, that turned out to be several dozen times. Here are some highlights.

Ken Levine remembers baseball’s Don Sutton and The Mary Tyler Moore Show co-creator Allan Burns

I’m working on more pieces about death. Oh, joy…

A is for Hank Aaron

Hank Aaron is still the career leader in total bases, extra base hits, and runs batted in.

AaronHenry1 Henry Louis Aaron, “Hammering Hank,” born February 5, 1934, in Mobile, AL, was, for decades – from 1974 to 2007 – the leading home run hitter in Major League Baseball, with a total of 755. He led the league in homers for four seasons.

His journey to break Babe Ruth’s career home run record he conducted with quiet dignity, despite severe obstacles. He had hit 40 home runs in 1973, ending the season one home run short of the record.

“He was the recipient of death threats during the 1973-1974 offseason and a large assortment of hate mail from people who did not want to see Aaron break Ruth’s nearly sacrosanct home run record.”

Aaron is still the career leader in total bases, extra-base hits, and runs batted in. He is also in the top five for career hits and runs.

He played in the All-Star Game every year from 1955 to 1975, won the Golden Glove as best fielder in 1958 to 1960, and was the National League MVP in 1957.

After a brief stint in the Negro Leagues and a short stint in the minor leagues, Hank broke in with the Milwaukee Braves in 1954, played with them as they moved to Atlanta in 1966, then spent the last two years of his career back in Milwaukee, with the Brewers.

After the 1976 season, when his days on the field were over, Aaron rejoined the Braves as an executive, in various capacities over the years. In 1982, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, with 97.8% of the vote.

Hank has been a charter member and cheerleader for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which I’ve joined. Read this 2015 story.

Hank had a brother, the late Tommie Aaron, who hit 13 home runs in a much less distinguished career, also with the Braves, making them the all-time brothers’ leader in homers.

Henry Aaron isn’t my favorite baseball player of all time – that will always be Willie Mays – but he’s in the Top 5.

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ABC Wednesday – Round 17

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