Friday, April 30, 2010

The Great Antics of Bill Veeck and Little Eddie Gaedel

If we're not careful, stories like the one about little Eddie Gaedel will be forgotten. Like my good friends Miles Wolff and Donald Moore, major league team owner Bill Veeck was a great promoter.

In 1951, Veeck was looking around trying to find ways to draw fans into the ballpark. On Sunday, August 19, during the second game of his St. Louis Brown's doubleheader, Eddie Gaedel was wheeled up to the plate in a giant cake out of which he stepped before taking his crouched stance in the batters box. Eddie weighed 65 pounds and stood 3 feet 7 inches, making him shortest player in the history of the major leagues. He was walked on four pitches and was replaced by a pinch runner at first base.

Eddie earned $100. As a promotion that day, Cleveland's Falstaff Brewery distributed midget bottles of beer at the stadium. The league came down hard on Veeck, changing rules and fining him.

Veeck was one of the games most colorful and controversial figures. One of his last promotions was Disco Demolition Night in Chicago in 1979, when he owned the White Sox. He encouraged fans to bring their disco records to the game. He held a huge bonfire on the field in which a huge pile of vinyl disco records were set on fire, resulting in a full-scale riot and a forfeit of the game to the visiting Detroit Tigers. ".......Back to you, Jim!!"

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Picture of the Day

Harrison M. Symmes. Born May 24, 1896. Volunteered in 1918 for service in World War I. Served one year in France. My wife's Grandfather.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Great, Old Classic Photo

This is a great, old, classic photo taken in September of 1919. This is my late Mother with her Nannie. It was taken on the courthouse steps in Toccoa, Georgia, where she, her siblings, and my grandparents lived for three years.

63 Years Ago This Month.....Jackie Robinson

Sixty three years ago this month, Jackie Robinson was called up from AAA baseball and became the first black player in Major League Baseball. He was a member of the great Brooklyn Dodgers and was signed by the courageous Branch Rickey. Few people realize the impact this event had on race relations in America. Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin says, "Robinson's efforts were a monumental step in the civil rights revolution in America".

In recognition of his achievements on and off the field, Jackie has been posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, and in 1999 he was named to the Major League Baseball All-Century team. He was a very accomplished American both on and off the field.

In Jackie's honor, on April 15, all major league uniformed personnel (players, managers, coaches, and umpires) wore #42, Jackie's number. His #42 has been permanently retired by major league other player, on any team, will ever regularly wear it again. It is difficult to think of many people who have had more impact on American culture than the great Brooklyn Dodger and great American, #42, Jackie Robinson.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Picture of the Day

Jorge Posada embraces Yogi Berra, age 85, after the final regular season game ever at the old Yankee Stadium in 2008. (Photo by Mike Segar / Reuters)

Men With Instruments Who Know How To Use Them

Monday, April 26, 2010

Picture of the Day

This is one of my all-time favorite pictures. It was taken 56 years ago....August of 1954 at the Depot (train station) in downtown Greensboro. That's me on the left. Those are my two brothers. My older brother, Bill, with the ball, had just returned from the Pony League World Series in Williamsport Pa. He is holding a home run ball he hit. That's my younger brother Eddy he is holding. He was born in February 1954. Pictures like this one remind me of the influences in our lives which mold us into the people we become.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Addressing U. S. Military Spending

Considering 21st century economic challenges and changing strategic military needs and objectives of America, I suspect that in the near future, the United States will have to look seriously at the Pentagon for significant budget cuts. Meaningful reduction in national defense expenditures will be one of those areas, like entitlements, which will take a great deal of political courage and leadership to achieve. There are huge numbers of special interests groups, as well as political and military zealots, who will refuse to be objective and supportive of, at the very least, serious study of the issue.

I believe the chart above is indicative of a national defense policy which, considering the current economic and strategic military environment, needs drastic rethinking. I would hope that at some point soon, a high-level Presidential Commission, similar to the economic deficit commission which is currently being headed up by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, would be convened in order to address reduction in Pentagon expenditures.

As of 2008, and I have no reason to think it has changed since, United States military spending was nearly as much as the rest of the world combined. Quite frankly, in my view, this chart indicates an absurd approach to the allocation of America's economic resources as they relate to national defense in the 21st century.

A Great Babe Ruth Story....Told to Me Personally

I love baseball........and good baseball stories. This is a great baseball story. Although I had read the story before, I was fortunate to have it told to me personally by Mace Brown. (That's Mace to the left, in has Pittsburgh Pirates uniform in the late 1930s).

Mace was in the hospital here in Greensboro, his hometown. It was January of 2002. My dear Mother was in the same hospital, on the same floor, at the same time. This gave opportunity for me to hear the story firsthand.

After a great playing career with several big league teams which spanned 1935 to 1946, Mace had been a major league scout in this region. I had seen him often at my American Legion and college baseball games. Everyone knew him by sight very well.

When I was visiting with my Mother in the hospital on one occasion, I saw Mace in his room. I walked into his room and we visited for a while. Then I finally said, "Mace, tell me that Babe Ruth story." He was glad to oblige.

He began, "I was a rookie with the Pirates and it was May 25, 1935. It was The Babe's last big league game. We were playing at old Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. Alot of people have forgotten, Babe finished out his career in the National League with the Boston Braves." He seemed to remember the details like it was yesterday.

He went on. "Well, it's hard to believe, but The Babe hit three home runs in his last game that day....three. His third one went completely out of Forbes Field stadium. It was quite a shot. After that last one, Babe left the game and headed to the showers. You had to pass through the Pirates dugout to get to the showers. Well, as he was coming through, The Babe, very tired, spotted an empty seat on the Pirates bench and flopped down.....right next to me. After a moment or two, he turned, looked over and said, 'son, that last one felt pretty good.' I was thinking to myself, well I guess it did!! They'll still be looking for that ball next week!!"

Mace died March 24, 2002, at the age of 92, two months after I stopped by his room. I am so thankful I stopped by. Mace was buried in Westminster Gardens in Greensboro, same place my Mother is buried. He was buried in fitting style...... in his Boston Red Sox uniform. This all reminds me, I need to get by and see an ailing Sonny Cashion....a baseball story for another day.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Maintaining a Youthful Mind Is Key

In his book, "Grow Younger, Live Longer", Deepak Chopra makes the case that you can reverse your biological age by maintaining a youthful mind. Chopra says the body is a field of molecules. The mind is a field of ideas. Wherever a thought goes, a molecule goes. Fresh and youthful thoughts create fresh and youthful molecules. Psychological age therefore influences biological age.

Chopra says many studies have confirmed that biological age correlates better with psychological age than chronological age. If you are young at heart, your biological markers are likely to reflect a young heart....literally. It is therefore important to understand what creates a youthful mind because a youthful mind is likely to translate into a youthful body.

A youthful mind is a mind that is constantly growing. A youthful mind is dynamic, vibrate, and curious. Chopra points out that a youthful mind has the following vital qualities:

- A youthful mind is an enthusiastic mind. It is a beginners mind. It is, like a child, enthusiastic about everything - a butterfly, a rainbow, the stars at night, a new book, a fragrant rose, a fresh strawberry. The enthusiastic mind stays alert to the amazing display that is taking place around it.

- A youthful mind is spontaneous. It is unpredictable. It has not been conditioned. It is awake to all possibilities. A youthful mind tolerates ambiguity, which gives rise to spontaneity. Be spontaneous. Examples Chopra provides: kiss your spouse , start dancing, call your mother, start singing, take off our clothes, read a poem, draw a picture.

- A youthful mind is fluid and adaptable. It does not allow itself to be trapped by boundaries. A youthful mind does not get stuck in fine distinctions. It does not view things from a narrow, limited perspective. It practices seeing the big picture.

- A youthful mind is nourished through the exploration of new domains. It sees the environment with fresh eyes. It does not take the world for granted. It has vivid imagination. It senses, it listens, it feels, it breathes fragances from a garden.

- A youthful mind is a growing mind. It is dedicated to continual expansion and learning. A youthful mind thrives on new experiences and new knowledge. Chopra says make a commitment to learn throughout your life.

- A youthful mind is playful and lighthearted, It laughs easily, genuinely, and with abandon. Laughter is the best medicine for the body and mind, says Chopra. Scientific studies have shown that laughter can enliven the immune system. Play is literally an opportunity for opportunity to re-create yourself.

Deepak points out that laughter is a symptom of spirituality. Laughter, he says, is the flow of love, coursing through your body. To maintain a more youthful mind, he encourages us to: Invite more enthusiasm into your life, Invite more playfulness, Invite more lightheartedness, Invite more laughter.

Friday, April 23, 2010

JFK Campaigning in Greensboro in 1960

North Carolina was a real player in the 1960 Presidential campaign. Governor Terry Sanford was the first southern governor to endorse JFK. As a result, he was chosen to give the "seconding speech" at the Democratic convention. Immediate past Governor Luther Hodges was named Secretary of Commerce in the Kennedy Administration. Pictured above at a campaign stop at the Greensboro-High Point Airport are Sanford, JFK , Hodges, and U.S. Senator Sam Ervin.

Miles Davis - "Summertime"

In memory of Greensboro native Buddy Gist, Miles' close friend and manager, who died on April 17, 2010. Read about him and his relationship with Miles in a March blog in ThePoint.

"C'mon, Let's Go Campaigning"

This is one of my favorite old political photos. This is President Kennedy with then-South Carolina Governor Fritz Hollings and U. S. Senator Strom Thurmond. They are in Columbia, SC for some campaigning prior to the 1960 election. I can hear the conversation now, "What is THAT", JFK says. "Boy, take it. We got to go", says Thurmond.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Hilarious Sailboat Race Story Told at EMK Memorial Service

John Culver, Ted Kennedy's best friend at Harvard and fellow U.S. Senator from Iowa, was invited to speak at Ted's Memorial Service. He tells of sailing adventure that he and Ted went on off Cape Cod in 1953. It was Culver's first time on a boat. The story is told in a lovingly hilarious fashion, further humanizing Ted, a great, real American, who happened to be born into privilege. I hope you'll listen. I know you'll laugh.

Warming Oneself Before the Glow of God

I enjoy finding words of holy and spiritual meaning, especially as they relate to prayer. Nobel Peace Prize winner and retired Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu was visiting professor at Emory University in Atlanta in 1998. Bob Abernathy interviewed him for his wonderful book, "The Life of Meaning - Reflections on Faith, Doubt, and Repairing the World." They spoke about Tutu's work in helping to end apartheid in South Africa and about current events. Then Bob asked Tutu about prayer.

"I have come to realize more and more that prayer is just being in the presence of one who loves you deeply, who loves with a love that will not let you go, and so when I get up in the morning I try to spend as much time as I can in the sense of being quiet in the presence of that love. It's like sitting in front of a warm fire on a cold day. After a while, I may have the qualities of the fire change me so that I have the warmth of the fire. I may have the glow of the fire and it is so also with me and God. I just have to be there, quiet."

Sooner or later, hopefully often, nearly everyone prays. May we be as lucky as Desmond Tutu, to see prayer, among other things, as being in the presense of love, and as he so eloquently put it, "warming oneself before the glow of God."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Amazing View of President Obama's Inauguration

This is an amazing zoom viewfinder photo of President Obama's Inauguration. You can manipulate viewfinder.

Picture of the Day

Hillside in Caracas, Venezuela (Meridith Kohut / NY Times)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Picture of the Day

My Dad's business partner in the early 1950s. What a trip to recall. See my January blog to read of their adventures.

Painting of the Day

Another Kandinsky.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The "Beginning" of Abstract Painting

Abstract painting is 100 years old this year. These paintings were done by German/Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky. The bottom painting above is considered the first abstract painting ever done, and it was painted by Kandinsky in 1910. The other two were done in 1913. By "abstract" painting, Kandinsky was quite clear about what he meant. "Abstract" meant painting with no imagery, and no ties to any kind of imitation of appearances. Blue was blue and not about describing the sky. A line was a line, and not a contour describing a shape. For Kardinsky, art and colors were akin to chords and notes of music and was to be approached spiritually. A good painting was to affect the emotions as directly and powerfully as music.

Benny Goodman and Sweet Georgia Brown

Every Painting in New York's Museum of Modern Art

Picture of the Day

This is North Carolina Populist Democatic Governor (1949-53) W. Kerr Scott from Alamance County (served as U. S. Senator from 1954-58; he died in office). Here he is attending the 1952 National Democratic Convention in Chicago where the Democrats nominated Illinois U. S. Senator Adlai Stevenson for President and Mississippi U. S. Senator John Sparkman for Vice President.

Gov. Scott was fondly referred to as "the Squire of Haw River". His most fervent supporters, of which my father was one, were referred to as "the Branchhead Boys". Gov. Scott was regarded as one of the most racially and generally progressive figures in the South during his era. He was beloved by North Carolinians.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Thought for the Week - The Paradoxical Commandments

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest man and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow top dogs.
Fight for the underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need your help but may attack you if you help them.
Help them anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

From "Do It Anyway" - by Kent M. Keith

Picture of the Day

A man offers a rose to a woman to mark International Woman's Day in Belgrade, Serbia, Monday, April 12, 2010. (Marko Djurica / Reuters).

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Personal Observations On Augusta National

Ordinarily there would be a few reasons for me to have less than positive reflections about Augusta National Country Club and the Masters. The very exclusive nature of the membership, the exclusion of women from membership, the exclusion of blacks from membership until the early 1990s, for example. But in spite of these concerns, there is something very special about the place. Its beauty, its elegance, its tradition, it's proper decorum, the place it holds in the tradition of American sports, all combine to cause Augusta to hold a special place with me, despite it's few drawbacks.

I recall a wonderful story I heard Irwin Smallwood relate about his first assignment to the Masters. It was 1948. A 21-year old sports writer with the Greensboro News and Record, Irwin was, as I was, taken aback by his first glance at Magnolia Lane. He nervously made his way to the press tent where he was surprisingly greeted by Augusta National Charter Member Joseph Bryan, philanthropist from Greensboro. Joe tried to make the nervous kid feel at home. Toward the end of their conversation, Joe told Irwin that he had arranged an interview for him with the legendary club founder Bobby Jones. Irwin was stunned and shaken but, of course, happily conducted what was an early most memorable interview for the young sports writer.

I'll never forget being there in 1994 for all four rounds, with limo service back and forth from the Riverfront Radisson, entertaining customers for a national company for whom I worked at the time. My buddy Mark and I were there in 2006, just 20 feet from the remarkable 180 degree putt Tiger made at number 16. I fondly recall a most humorous story my older brother tells about Greensboro's Bill Black, Jr., who was Bobby Jones' son-in-law, regarding an encounter Black had with Mr. Jones at the club on a particular evening. I recall getting to the first tee early on a Thursday opening round day and watching honorary starters Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, and Gene Sarazen tee off to start the tournament. I recall that one of the first people I saw at the course the first time I went was my Uncle Warren Bass from Greensboro. Just after that, I was in the concession line with Carter Administration Attorney General Griffin Bell. Oh, those Augusta memories.

Whether it is Amen Corner, Eisenhower Cabin, the Eisenhower Tree, Magnolia Lane, the excitment and anticipation of the drive to Augusta, or just watching the tournament from the couch in the den on a Sunday afternoon in April, the place and the event are special. Yes, I certainly overlook the few characteristics which are generally contrary to my values, remembering, as a good friend wisely said recently, there are less favorable and more favorable attributes in about all people and all institutions. Let's celebrate that which is worth celebrating, that which adds flavor, elegance, and tradition to our culture and our lives.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

"First Pitch" Opens 2010 Baseball Season

Just too cool. Presidents throwing out the first pitch to open the major league baseball season goes back to William Howard Taft's first pitch in 1910 in old Griffith Stadium in Washington. It is always a joyous occasion for a baseball fan.

100 years later in 2010, Barack Obama continues the great Spring tradition. Hopefully it is a time when all people are able to put politics aside and honor and respect the The President in of his ceremonial role as "Head of State" (as opposed to head of the executive branch of government or head of a political party). What a beautiful Spring day it was, April 5, 2010. Click below for short video of event.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Eugene Allen, White House Butler to 8 Presidents, Dead at Age 90

Eugene Allen was an ordinary man who led an extraordinary life. He died yesterday at the age of 90. Eugene served 8 Presidents, beginning with Harry Truman, as White House Butler. His stories are poignant. Alot of them are catalogued in the great Washington Post article attached below. The accompanying photo gallery is excellent.

Eugene was especially close to President Ford with whom he shared a birthday. His JFK funeral reflection, and his President Eisenhower memory are especially good. He recalls beautifully Nancy Reagan inviting he and his wife to an official White House Dinner upon the announcement of his retirement. He served LBJ cups of milk and scotch to sooth his stomach as Vietnam protesters were outside the gates of the White House. What stories he could tell.

One of his best reflections involves Martin Luther King. Eugene looked up one day and Dr. King was standing in the White House kitchen door. Dr. King always insisted on speaking with the maids and butlers. Dr. King complimented Eugene on the cut of his tuxedo. Eugene smiled.

After being born in Scottsville, Va. in 1919, and suffering through the days of the Jim Crow era before going to the White House, Eugene recalls as his greatest day when he was escorted by a US Marine to his VIP seat, his eyes watering, to watch the first black President sworn in on January 20, 2009 when Eugene was age 89. He had received a VIP invitation to President Obama's inauguration.

Extraordinary lives lived by ordinary people are fascinating. RIP Eugene. Well done.

A Wonderful Week of the Year

Easter/Holy Week is a wonderful week of the year. It reminds us of the saving and forgiving Grace of our Lord. It reminds us of the holy potential in each of us to be the people God would have us be, based on God's ultimate gift.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world, through him, might be saved." John 3:16, 17

Holy Week also ushers in the earthly beauty of Spring, a radiant, renewing time of year. Go ye in it and Shine!

Click above!

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