Sunday, January 31, 2010

Tomorrow, Feb. 1, 2010, Will Be a Good day

Tomorrow, February 1, 2010, will be a great day in Greensboro. The civil rights museum will open. Today, there is 7 inches of snow on the ground and the temperature is 20 degrees. Last night the Sit-In Gala was postponed. Friday night, the Civil Rights Forum I attended was wonderful. I have a blog entry about it. Tomorrow the ribbon cutting will go on at 8:00 am, but it will be impacted by the weather. Below are some significant comments which have been written about the museum and this historic event.

"The museum is a bridge to the future. When the International Civil Rights Center and Museum officially opens tomorrow, this city will become a major repository of the history of one of the most important chapters in the social struggle that changed America. .....This museum will be an interactive teaching facility where the lessons of past struggles for racial equality will be used to help people combat the intolerance and bigotry that continues......"

"The great promise of this museum is that it will not only put history on display; it will use it to help us build a future that is much better than the past"

".....As powerful as those memories remain, they now have a home in brick and mortar. In time to commemorate the 50th anniversary, the museum officially opens Monday morning, on the national stage it richly deserves."

"It stands not only as a reminder of how far we've come (the election of a black mayor in 2007; an African American city manager, police chief, and school superintendent). In the end, the story, the hero and the ideals it honors remain the point, not the physical building. But what a magnificent landmark that all of Greensboro should embrace."

Tomorrow will be a good day. I have tickets for a 3:00 pm tour group. For me, it will be personal and moving. I can only imagine what it will be like for others.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Good Night On The East Side of Town

Jesse Jackson said, "something magical happened in Greensboro in 1960. A fire was struck, the wind blew, and it captured a nation". I was at a forum on The State of the Civil Rights Movement on a beautiful A&T campus. On the panel were Jackson, Ben Chavis, one of the Wilmington 10, Steve Smith of FoxSports, A&T Chancellor Harold Martin, Bennett College President Julianne Malveaux, Ed Gordon, Emmy-winning BET journalist, and others. Joseph McNeil , one of the "Greensboro Four" was there. David Richmond Jr. was there (his Dad, now deceased, was one of the "Greensboro Four").

The first person I saw and talked with was Jack Betts, Page High graduate and prominent political writer in North Carolina for 30 years, with both the News and Observer in Raleigh and the Charlotte Observer. We reminisced about our friend Miles Wolff, so important in the documentation of the sit-in events, the great liberal Chubby King, and exchanged observations about what was about to occur and who was in the room.

Steve Smith gave a direct, "Bill Cosby, tough-love" perspective about today's generation. Jackson scolded the two Chancellors for low voter turnout in the recent mayor's election. Ben Chavis said we need a revival each generation. He talked of a cultural gap in the black community (there were many upper class blacks on panel and in the crowd, educated at Spelman, Howard, and Ivy League schools). Jackson, just back from Haiti said, "the earth is shaking under your feet". He said black athletes compete well because the playing field is level (alluding to the difficulty he sees blacks have in penetrating the mainstream economic life of America, which he sees as an "uneven field").

I certainly didn't fall "hook-line and sinker" for all I heard. But I needed to hear that perspective. We must listen to one another. As Dr. Covey says, "we must seek first to understand, then to be understood".

It was a great night. There were very few people from the west side of town in attendance. Trust me when I say......... that was the only discouraging thing about the evening.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Keeping Today's Activism in Perspective

In Carl Sandburg's, "Storm Over The Land" (which I'm presently reading), his 1939 work taken mainly from the four volumes of "Abraham Lincoln: The War Years", he describes, with dramatic suspense, the dark hours leading up to The Civil War.

He writes, "When the original six States established the Confederate Government at Montgomery, Jefferson Davis was introduced to the crowd as its President and a constitution was adopted. Southern United States Senators and Congressman stood up in Washington and spoke farewells, some bitter, some sad. United States postmasters, judges, district attorneys, customs collectors, by the hundreds, sent their resignations to Washington. The mint for coining United States money at New Orleans, and two smaller mints, were taken over by the Confederate States. Of the 1,108 officers of the United Sates Regular Army, 387 were preparing resignations, many having already joined the Confederate forces. Governors of seceded States marched in troops and took over seventeen forts and ports that had cost the United States $6. million, marine hospitals and arsenals, customhouses, and lighthouses at scores of points."

In 1861, there was reason for grave concern. In 2009, author John Avlon wrote, "Wingnuts: How The Lunatic Fringe Is Highjacking America". While I think Avlon is certainly "onto something", today's "wingnuts" and "teapartiers" obviously pale in comparison.

My ancestors, many of whom probably felt their efforts noble in 1861, probably wouldn't appreciate being compared to "wingnuts". I didn't intend that. Sometimes we are just on the wrong side of history.

Today, I believe most of us are pulling the wagon in the same direction. Some are just using different grips from others. And Sandburg's description of another time certainly has a way of putting it all in perspective.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

An Important Memory During a Significant Week

During the lead up to the 50th anniversary of the sit-ins at Woolworths this weekend and the opening of The International Civil Rights Museum, there will be much written. The best items chronicled will be personal recollections. The following is a personal facebook post I received, and responded to, from an old friend in the neighborhood where I grew up in Greensboro. I have not seen him in 45 or 50 years.

Michael: "Bob, I remember being in front of your house when these buses came by heading away from town and the people in these buses were singing. At my young age, I thought they were some of the happiest people I had ever seen. Not until many years later did I realize that they were heading off to jail. I believe they were arrested for protesting at Woolworths. Does anyone remember if there was a jail out Bessemer Avenue and if this is where protestors were sent?"

Bob: "Michael, yes, the old polio hospital at the end of Bessemer Ave. was turned into a jail to house demonstrators. I believe, though, this was is 1962 when Jesse Jackson was President of the student body at A&T (and quarterback on the football team). There were massive demonstrations downtown as they continued to try and desegregate all public accommodations. Jackson himself was arrested and taken out there at one point. (I had a friend whose Dad worked out there)".

"I once heard Rev. Jackson say that those in the movement liked demonstrating in Greensboro because the police were so polite. He said, for example, large groups of demonstrators would sit down in the street (in the square) and when the police approached they would begin to recite the Lord's Prayer and the police would stop in their tracks. When they concluded and officers continued in, they would start praying again and the officers would stop again. lol! There were never any hoses, dogs, or 'Bull' Connors in Greensboro".

"I remember Bill Aycock, Stanley Braswell,and I sneaking downtown and peaking around buildings to see the turmoil. What a sight and what a vivid memory. I was 14. My parents would have killed me had they known! lol!"

"Michael, what a nice memory you have recalled. Thank you for sharing this important memory during this significant week."

Off-Year Politics 2010 Should Be A Barn-Burner

Well, we are moving into the 2010 off-year political cycle. The President is moving to centralize control over party strategy and have it run out of the White House. He has brought back in political genius David Plouffe, who orchestrated the successful 2008 Obama victory.

John Avlon, author of "Wingnut: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking American Politics" says that Obama should use the State of the Union speech to call for an end to "playing to the base" politics. He says the voters don't want more ideology, they are looking for solutions. I would certainly agree with that.

If the President does this, coupled with the arrival of Plouffe, I would be concerned if I were the opposition party. I wouldn't be sitting back and resting on my laurels. These people are genius political operatives. They took on the Clintons and won, and they ran a flawless campaign in 2008 to help a young first-term black Senator capture the White House. Elections are about political tactics and the execution of a political strategy. And off-year elections are no different, except the Presidential candidate is not at the top of the ticket.

The White House has not been paying attention politically. That is being fixed with Plouffe coming on board. The voters remain anxious about the future. Tighten you seat belts. This should be quite an off year "knockdown, dragout" election .

(The photo above doesn't obviously relate to this years race, but it is a great political photo. It is Terry Sanford, JFK, Luther Hodges, and Sam Ervin at the G'boro/High Point Airport during a 1960 campaign stop).

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Summer of 1968

I disembarked the Boeing 737 at Logan Airport in Boston, the second week of June. It was my first plane flight ever. The landing over Boston Harbor was chilling.

I made my way to the bus station, bags and belongings in hand for the summer, the summer of 1968. I was to catch a bus out to Chatham,  on the elbow of Cape Cod, where I would play baseball and work for the summer, and one might say, awaken to a fascinating world.

Bobby Kennedy had just been shot and killed the week before. Boston was shaken. The Kennedy compound was only 15 miles from Chatham. Martin Luther King was shot and killed two months earlier. The Vietnam War was at its peak. There was unrest in big cities and on campuses. A Eugene McCarthy For President Headquarters was prominent on beautiful little Main Street in Chatham. The world seemed to be spinning. There was so much to process.

I had a job at Square Top, on Oyster Bay, the estate of 4-Star Retired Army General Lucius D. Clay. General Clay, a decendent of Henry Clay, had been General Eisenhower's number two man in Europe during WWII. He had been Governor General of post-war Germany. He was a founding partner at Lehman Brothers on Wall Street, and he only came to The Cape from NYC on the weekends. Every Friday, Wolfgang, the Butler (a refugee from Berlin), would pick him up at the airport, and upon his arrival at the estate, he would visit with me briefly and pay me in cash out of his pocket.

I was in Chatham to play baseball, as I mentioned. There was a summer collegiate baseball league on Cape Cod (the best one in the country) and I had been invited to play for Chatham. It was quite a team. Thurman Munson caught part of the summer, and Steve Stone and John Curtis pitched. Bobby Valentine was slated to come, but was a no-show. Those four, and a few others, enjoyed stellar big league careers. Players were there from all over America. My roommate was Bob Wolfe, a pitcher from Princeton, whose Dad was the PR man for Madison Square Garden and the voice of the NY Rangers. He came and took us out to eat a number of times.

So there I was, turning age 20 in August, this kid from North Carolina, working on the estate of the Clays on Cape Cod, attempting to compete at a high level in the sport I loved, in a world that was capturing my attention and my imagination. To complicate things further (or ease the confusion.....I'm not sure which), a young lady came into my life very early in the summer. She worked in a candy store on Main Street next door to the McCarthy for President Headquarters. I had little social contact with the opposite sex up to that point in my life. She became a wonderful friend and we were together for that summer and the two summers following.

Late August rolled around quickly. I was beginning to reflect on a summer of exploring The Cape and Boston, of playing the game I loved as best I could, of getting to know the Clays, of my time at Square Top, of watching and listening to the sounds of a world which appeared out of control. During the last week of August, my friend and I watched the Democratic National Convention from Chicago from the room on Main Street she had rented for the summer on Cape Cod. The convention was turmultuous, violent and out of control.

I returned to North Carolina after Labor Day. I felt a little like Dorothy. I was glad to be back in my little Kansas......from quite a of the first legs on life's journey.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Yes, The Kennedy Seat

Alot is being said about today's Senate election in Massachusetts. Judy Woodruff of PBS said, "a tragedy of Greek proportions if health care reform goes down by virtue of the Kennedy senate seat turning over." ABC's George Stephanopoulos calls it "the upset of the century, the greatest upset of my lifetime." Many reasons are being given for the outcome, some petty, some worthy rationale. Some blame Coakley's poor candidacy. Others say the American people continue to be anxious about the future.

For me, it's a sad day because I love history. I revere from whence we came......the good, the bad, the in-between. Senate seats are steeped in history. Senate seats hold lineage. There's the Fulbright seat in Arkansas, the Talmadge, the Eastland, the Stennis seats in the deep south, the Helms seat in North Carolina, the Dirkson seat in Illinois. There are other seats of historical note from which the republic has been shaped and impacted.

But there has been no seat like the Kennedy seat in Massachusetts. It was occupied nearly 50 years by Ted Kennedy. When his name arises, Kennedy haters like to focus on Chappaquiddick, but for me, a better America was spun from Ted's tireless efforts in the Senate. Before Ted, the seat was occupied by his brother John, the iconic 20th century figure, who first ousted the legendary Henry Cabot Lodge from the seat in 1952 by 70,000 votes.
Yes, it is a sad day for some of us. I am concerned about the step backwards it represents to me, about the risk at which it puts critical health care reform, about an agenda I believe once again has America moving forward. But that's not why it saddens me. It saddens me because I love history........because an important link in the strand that binds us to our past has been severed.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Woolworth's Manager "Curly" Harris, In His Own Words

Clarence "Curly" Harris was Manager of F. W. Woolworths, Greensboro, NC, on February 1, 1960. He was a dear friend and a good man. He once told me, "Bob, I had three choices. I could have requested they be arrested, I could let them sit unserved, or I could have served them. "Curly" chose the middle ground. Eventually he served them (not the original four, but black students who came when school at A&T resumed in September). I think history judges that the objective of the students, which was good, noble, right and proper, was very well served, and order and peace was maintained in the city. There were never any fire hoses, dogs, or "Bull" Connors in Greensboro. I believe"Curly" grew to the ripe old age of 97, knowing that, with help of his God, he did the best he knew how to do. See link above. (The comments of then Mayor Roach here are not consistent with what "Curly" related to me).

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sports Stories Abound as MLK Day Approaches

Martin Luther King Day is tomorrow. For me, MLK's birthday is a time to reflect on the wonder of a movement unlike any other movement in our lifetime. Sports is a microcosm of society. There were many sports stories from the 1960s which are woven into the fabric of the civil rights movement and struggle.

One that comes to mind is the story of 7' 2" New York City high school basketball star Lew Alcindor (he would later, of course, convert to Islam and become Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). Upon his graduation from high school in the mid-60s, it was obvious that Lew was destined to became an NBA legend. He had to select the appropriate college to attend to best prepare him for the NBA. No one moved from high school to the NBA in those days.

Young Lew was advised to visit with NBA legend Wilt Chamberlain for advice. Lew was the obvious heir apparent to Wilt's NBA legacy. Wilt recommended that Lew visit with coach Frank McGuire at the University of South Carolina, where McGuire coached at the time. Wilt had played for Coach McGuire at the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA. He knew that the very best preparation for the NBA which Lew could get would be to play under Coach McGuire.

Lew promptly visited with McGuire in Columbia. Coach McGuire was happy to meet with him and provide his counsel. But sadly, Coach McGuire had to tell Lew that the University of South Carolina was not ready for a black athlete. "The time will come", McGuire told him, "but the time is not now".

As we know, Lew attended UCLA. UCLA won 4 NCAA National Titles during his 4 years there. Some suggest that South Carolina could have become the UCLA of the East had attitudes been different. Others speculate what Alcindor's attendance there might have done for the University, for the state of South Carolina, for the relationship between the races in the South during those years of the mid-60s.

Then there was the 1966 NCAA National Championship basketball game. Five black players at Texas Western gave legendary Kentucky Coach Adolph Rupp and his all-white Wildcat basketball team a decisive "wake-up" call defeat 72-65

Then, on September 12, 1970, there is the story of the University of Southern California becaming the first fully integrated team to play in the State of Alabama. The game, purposely scheduled by Coach Bryant, resulted in a dominating 42-21 win for USC. All six USC touchdowns were scored by African American players. As a result, Bryant was able to convince the university to allow African Americans to play, hastening the racial integration of football at Alabama and in the South.

The stories abound. I suppose it can be said that some of the early change, like "Bear" wanting to win football games, came out of necessity and self-interest. But the civil rights movement changed hearts. The civil right movement changed America. And the face of sports was no small part of the change.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Watch Them Closely

I try to stay objective and unemotional regarding the issues of the day. I can be characterized as ideologically in the center, slightly center-left. My son is well-connected in the national GOP, currently with a high-level, full-time communications assignment, which motivates me to examine approaches from both political parties.

Today I read on Politico, with interest, Karl Rove's rebuke of the Obama administration for running up the national deficit. He fails to acknowledge that the Bush administration left a deficit of $1.4 trillion, and a projected $8. trillion shortfall over the next 10 years. The Bush Administration passed two massive tax cuts skewed to the wealthiest Americans, enacted a costly Medicare prescrpition drug program, and waged two wars, without suggesting how any of it might be paid for.

In addition, Rove fails to recognize the severe recession with which the new administration was confronted. His blindly partisan rhetoric does not help the opposition party. On the other hand, David Axelrod, in his response, fails to acknowledge that the Bush administration had 9/11 with which to deal.

If we stay engaged and try to be reasonable in our evaluation and response, not letting national figures get away with blatant inaccuracy and deception, collectively we can have impact.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

My Dad and Colonel Sanders

Well, the good thing about a blog is that it is your own. You can do anything you want to with it. This is an interesting little family tidbit on which I sometimes enjoy reflecting.

My Dad and Colonel Harland Sanders, the chicken guru, were in business together when I was a pre-schooler. It was before The Colonel (he was a Kentucky Colonel even then) had hit it big in the chicken business. He and my Dad met at a food/restaurant vendor's convention in Chicago. I am sure they were drawn to each other as they were both interesting, personable characters.

They went into the soft ice cream business together. They brought the first chain of soft ice cream shops to North Carolina in the early 1950s. The shops were called Dairy Freeze.

Colonel Sanders would come and stay at our house in Greensboro for many days at a time as they struggled to make a go of it. I was very small and I recall best his often taking me to the Guilford Dairy Bar in Summit Shopping Center and telling me to ask for a "malted milk shake" as he stayed in the car. He had his goatee and the works, even then.

There is a family story about The Colonel calling my Dad a couple of years after the end of the ice cream venture (I think it ended on less than amiable terms) to talk with my Dad about an idea related to fried chicken. Story goes my Dad refused to take the call. Not sure if that's an embellished story or not, but that would have been like my Dad. It's an interesting piece of family folklore.

Above is a photo of a piece of their stationary with my Dad's name on the right and The Colonels on the left. I've got a couple of boxes of it. Makes good paper for chicken scraps.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Opening of The International Civil Rights Museum

A grand weekend of festivities marking the opening of the old Woolworth Building in downtown Greensboro, now the International Civil Rights Museum, will begin Thursday, January 28 with a Town Hall Meeting on The State of the Civil Rights Movement, featuring Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and ESPN's Steve Smith. The weekend will culminate with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Monday, February 1 at 8:00 a.m. downtown at February One Place. I look forward to taking part in many of the activities.

I feel close to this significant historical event and place. I was 12 years old in 1960 when the couraegous four students took their places in history at the Woolworth's lunch counter. I lived 5 blocks from downtown. The events are a vivid memory.

One of my best friends, Miles Wolff, wrote a book which serves as the most authoritative account of the events, "Lunch at the 5 and 10". The manager of Woolworth's at the time, Clarence "Curly" Harris, was a dear friend of mine from church and the Lion's Club. Curly invited me into his home a number of times to view his extensive memorabilia and scrapbooks on the events. Ralph Johns, the local downtown merchant who was the key "behind the scenes" figure and supporter of the students, was such a memorable and familiar character of the time.

In addition to the closeness I feel to the setting, the friends, and the acquaintances associated with the events, I have always been so proud that this important "leg" of the courageous civil rights movement in America took place in my hometown. Seldom are we able to step back in history in such a significant way as will be afforded us on February 1, 2010.......50 years to the day. I would not miss it.

McCain Refuses to Discuss Palin Vetting

"Game Change" alleges that Sarah Palin was, at best, "hastily and haphazardly" vetted before her selection as McCain's running mate. The authors say that no one spoke to her husband, and no one interviewed her any of her political allies nor enemies. No one was sent to Alaska to check into her background until after the selection. When John McCain was asked about it by Matt Lauer, he said "I wouldn't know." This is astounding stuff.

Authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann are highly respected national political correspondents, with TIME and New York Magazine respectively. "Game Change" is being highly acclaimed by political leaders on both sides of the aisle as a detailed chronicle of the most important and significant election of our lifetime.

Monday, January 11, 2010

My Favorite Alabama Football Story

It was the decade of the '60s, and in Alabama, the civil rights movement was beginning to cause great unrest. The popular Governor of Alabama, George Wallace, was a national segregationist leader and also a third party presidential candidate in 1968.

Richmond Flowers Sr. had the difficult task of being the Alabama State Attorney General. He opposed Governor Wallace at every turn. He was a progressive and he fought hard for school integration. He sought to enforce federal decrees calling for integration of public accommodations at every level. He aggressively fought to prosecute the very active Klu Klux Klan in Alabama.

Young Richmond Flowers Jr. attended public schools in Montgomery and was the subject of much abuse due to his father's role in state government. The young Flowers, a relatively small and thin youth, endured many fights and much verbal assault. He began to cope with his frustrations through running. As he moved through junior high school., he became a very dedicated and skilled runner. In high school, due to his speed, he was recruited to play football for his high school. He became one of the best Alabama high school runners (high hurdler) and football players of the era.

Richmond Jr. was recruited nationwide by college football programs his senior year in high school. As expected, Coach "Bear" Bryant "came calling" on him personally. Richmond Jr. told Coach Bryant, to his face, that due to the way he and his father had been treated in the State of Alabama, that he would not attend the University of Alabama if it were the last college on earth. He told the "Bear" that, in fact, he intended to go just up the road to the University of Tennessee, Alabama's arch rival, with the intent of beating Alabama his 4 years of college.

He attended the University of Tennessee, beat Alabama 3 of his 4 years, and became a consensus football All-American and track star. He had a successful NFL career as well. Terrible irony had his father, Richmond Sr., watching the last Tennessee / Alabama game in handcuffs from the stands. His father had been convicted of extortion by the state and was sentenced to 2 years in federal prison. Most people will tell you the State of Alabama set him up and framed him. He was pardoned by Jimmy Carter in 1978.

In an ironic twist, when Richmond Jr. applied to law school in 1975, he was rejected by all schools he applied to except one.....Alabama. "Bear" Byrant had written an unsolicited letter of recommendation on his behalf calling him a "winner".

Richmond Flowers III played football at Duke in the early 1990s. He was said to be one of the fastest players most had ever seen. Due to the lack of playing time, he to transferred to Tennessee his junior year.

In 2002, Richmond Flowers Jr. was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. The sitting Governor of Alabama acknowledged his father, who was in attendance, then age 84, and his contributions to the state. His father was given a standing ovation by the 1,100 people in attendance.

August 28, 2004 - The Final Saturday Night

It was quite a night. It wasn't about baseball as much as about how lives had evolved, how they had been impacted by baseball.

We were in The Grandstand at Greensboro War Memorial Stadium, the night before the final game. The first professional game had been played there 74 years earlier (over the objection of some who preferred youth and amateur baseball to the proposed professional game for Greensboro). Memorial Stadium was closing to make way for a new downtown stadium.

Miles Wolff was there. Miles is considered the father of the modern minor league baseball rebirth in the late 1970s. He brought the Durham Bulls back to Durham in 1979 after being told by Greensboro city fathers that they could not give him enough dates at Memorial Stadium for an entry into the Carolina League where he had been awarded a franchise. Miles sold the Bulls to Capital Broadcasting in 1993 for a return on investment that would make Warren Buffett blush. Miles is now equity interest commissioner of three independent leagues, past owner of Baseball America, and owns teams in Quebec City and in Burlingon NC. Miles and I began attending games at the Stadium over 50 years ago. We sat together behind the third base dugout, what seemed like every summer night from 1957 to 1966.

Wilt Browning was there. Wilt, the legendary sports writer, traveled with the Atlanta Braves for the Atlanta Journal Constitution during the first 6 years of the Braves existence. Johnny Smith , founder of Palomino Baseball in Greensboro, member of Pony League Hall of Fame, and G-Yanks batboy from '58 to '66 was there. Ogi Overman, freelance journalist, local sports historian, and long-time offical score keeper for the Bats was there.

What a group. They told stories about where life had taken them, about baseball people they had known, about their shared passion for the game that had so impacted their lives. They knew where many of the old players were today, where some to the old managers were. Wayne Tewillinger, the 1961 G-Yanks manager, at age 80, manages in the Central League where Miles is commissioner. Johnny had called Ronnie Retton and asked him to come for the final weekend at Memorial. Retton, Mary's Lou's Dad and point guard on West Virginia University's basketball team along side Jerry West, was '62 G-Yanks second baseman.

Miles had been on the phone with Jim Bouton earlier in the week. Bouton, a G-Yanks 20-game winner in '60, an old stadium preservationist and successful author, is trying to put a minor leagure team in his hometown of Pittsfield, Mass. Someone said grand old trainer and A&T football coach Hornby Howell was growing old gracefully in Raleigh. Someone said Ralph Scorca, '60 pitcher for the G-Yanks, was killed in the World Trade Center on 9/11.

Ogi recounted the story of the old stadium in Danville Va. being dismantled, tagged piece by piece, and literally moved to his hometown of Burlington NC, and reassembled to form Fairchild Park. Johnny recalled a funny story of 1958 catcher John Malongoni carrying his little dog around with him in his pocket. Miles and Wilt recalled stories of their close friend Tommy Aaron (Hank's brother) who was Miles' field manager at Richmond during Miles' first job in minor league baseball as the play-by-play radio voice of the AAA Richmond Braves.

I told of a very small crowd game of a hot night in the early '80s. I was walking up the steps to my seat behind third base, and there sat Roger Maris, quiet and alone. I didn't want to draw attention to him so I just nodded to him as I passed. He was there to watch his son play for the visiting team. Later he began to be surrounded, so Ogi, official score keeper that night, invited him to finish watching the game from the press box.

I relayed a story told by Bill Wardell, radio voice of the Hornet/Bats in the '80s and early '90s. Bill had attended the SAL All-Star Banquet in 1991 and was seated at the table with guest speaker Mel Allen, legendary voice of the NY Yankees from 1939 to 1967. Allen told those at his table that he had actually been born Melvin Israel in Greensboro on Summit Ave. in 1913.

Wilt Browning told the most poignant story of the evening. Wilt was in the second year of traveling with the Braves. It was April 1968. Martin Luther King had just been shot in Memphis. Wilt felt he needed to find Henry Aaron. He did. Hank was on the team bus alone. Wilt spent two hours alone with Hank as they reflected on Hank's slain friend, and on important things that dwarfed bats and ball.

Oh, what a night at the ballpark. My son, to my pleasant surprise, walked up to join us at the beginning of the evening. He had come down from Washington just for that special night. He went to many games with me when he was growing up. He knows he heard some great stories that night, but not baseball stories. He had heard stories about the wonder and beauty of life as expressed through that which bound all the participants together. I wish for him in life the same joy, the same passion that I sensed in all who gathered in The Grandstand, August 28, 2004, at War Memorial Stadium, all whom I am so pleased to call friend.

Bob Godfrey
August 29, 2004

Those Nasty Derivatives

Below is a very creative metaphor to make clear how those financial instruments called "derivatives" work. There's nothing like a good metaphor to remind us of the sometimes devious world in which we live.

"An Easily Understandable Explanation of Derivative Markets"

"Heidi is the proprietor of a bar in Detroit. She realizes that virtually all of her customers are unemployed alcoholics and, as such, can no longer afford to patronize her bar. To solve this problem, she comes up with a new marketing plan that allows her customers to drink now, but pay later.

She keeps track of the drinks consumed on a ledger (thereby granting the customers loans). Word gets around about Heidi's "drink now, pay later" marketing strategy and, as a result, increasing numbers of customers flood into Heidi's bar. Soon she has the largest sales volume for any bar in Detroit.

By providing her customers freedom from immediate payment demands, Heidi gets no resistance when, at regular intervals, she substanially increases her prices for wine and beer, the most consumed beverages. Consequently, Heidi's gross sales volume increases massively.

A young and dynamic vice-president at the local bank recognizes that these customer debts constitute valuable future assets and increases Heidi's borrowing limit. He sees no reason for any undue concern, since he has the debts of the unemployed alcoholics as collateral.

At the bank's corporate headquarters, expert traders transform these customer loans into DRINKBONDS, ALKIBONDS, and PUKEBONDS. These securities are then bundled and traded on the international security markets. Naive investors don't really understand that the securities being sold to them as AAA secured bonds are really the debts of the unemployed alcoholics.

Nevertheless, the bonds continuously climb, and the securities soon become the hottest-selling items for some of the nation's leading brokerage houses. One day, even though the bond prices are still climbing, a risk manager at the original local bank decides that the time has come to demand payment on the debts incurred by the drinkers at Heidi's bar. He so informs Heidi.

Heidi then demands payment from her alcoholic patrons, but being unemployed alcoholics they cannot pay back their drinking debts. Since Heidi cannot fulfill her loan obligation she is forced into bankrutcy. The bar closes and the eleven employees lose their jobs.

Overnight, DRINKBONDS, ALKIBONDS, and PUKEBONDS drop in price by 90%. The collapsed bond asset value destroys the bank's liquidity and prevents it from issuing new loans, thus freezing credit and economonic activity in the community.

The suppliers of Heidi's bar had granted her generous payment extensions and had invested their firms pension funds in the various BOND securities. They find they are now faced with having to write off her bad debt and with losing over 90% of the presumed value of the bonds. Her wine supplier also claims bankrutcy, closing the doors on a family business that had endured for three generations. Her beer supplier is taken over by a competitor, who immediately closes the local plant and lays off 150 workers.

Fortunately though, the bank, the brokerage houses and their respective executives are saved and bailed out by a multi-billion dollar no-strings attached cash infusion from the Government. The executives are granted multi-million dollar bonuses and celebrate with a company paid junket to Las Vegas.

The funds required for this bailout are obtained by new taxes levied on employed, middle-class, non-drinkers."

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