Monthly Archives: January 2009

A Baseball Story or A Tale of Two Obits

John Updike, poet, novelist, essayist, has gone on to his greater reward. May he rest in peace. I was never much of an Updike fan. I suppose of his works, that I read, I liked the Witches of Eastwick best. That may be due in large measure to the incredible cast that played in the film and Jack Nicholson’s delivery, in full maniacal cry, of the speech about God inventing women to bedevil men. I had already read Hans Fallada’s Little Man What Now when Rabbit Run came out and just never saw the point in reading the rest of that tetrology, although I struggled through Rabbit Redux. I read Updike’s occasional short stories in Playboy or the New Yorker and admit I can’t remember any of them.

And what, you may ask, does this have to do with baseball. In one of the obits, there was mention of an essay Updike wrote about the last home game played by Ted Williams. There must be some significance to the fact that most of what I know about that game I have learned from Obituaries, however, it escapes me.

I was present at that game. I was a nineteen year old private first class stationed at Ft. Devens, located in Ayer Massachusetts, some thirty miles west of Boston. I had enlisted one step ahead of the draft on the promise of becoming a teen age spy. The word circulated around the billets that the USO was passing out free tickets to see Ted Williams play his last home game in Fenway Park. A group of us which including Robert Mallet and Jimmy Telford saddled up, collected the free tickets, and caught the train into Boston. Robert Mallet was a diminutive, walking stereotype of the unreconstructed Southerner. On meeting him he had stuck out his hand and said: Mah names Mahllet and ahm from Miss’ sippi. Jimmy Telford was an Irish Catholic boy from Brooklyn, of late transplanted to Babylon Long Island. His Brooklyn accent was as thick and staccato sharp as Mallet’s was Mississippi syrup. Jimmy played the Bongos which I attempted to learn and Mallet chased everything with a skirt on.

A crowd of us rode the train into Boston. For most of us it was to be a day trip but Mallet and Telford and I got a large but cheap room on the second floor of a seedy hotel, stashed our kit and made our way over to the ball park. We paid little attention to the ball game. I was there to see Ted Williams swing a bat in person. Mallet was there to ogle the young girls and Telford was along for the ride awaiting the pub crawl we had promised after the game. I remember thinking the ballpark was small even though I had nothing as a reference except the tiny Class D ball park where the Morganton Aggies played. The weather is worth mentioning because it was cold, and I had piled on clothes. It had spit snow on the last day of August as we marched from the billets to class which scared the living daylights out of me and prompted my winter buying spree. I had a spiffy new heavy duty wool overcoat that came complete with Sherlock Holmes cape and a nice wool hat, ear muffs, scarf and gloves. One look at me and Mallet who was buried under all of the warm clothes he owned and you could tell we were two transplanted Southerners. Telford could have done the game in shirt sleeves.

The game was initiated with a ceremony for Williams, his number retired, etc, and if you want a description of the detritus of the game you would be advised to read Updikes’s essay. The play crawled along reinforcing my notion that nothing is more boring than watching nine grown men try to hit a ball with a stick and nine others try to stop him. Late in the game Williams came to the plate for what would surely be his final at bat in Fenway Park. Not his final major league at bat since the Red Sox were slated to play in New York following the home stand with the Orioles. Incidentally, I live in Maryland and have seen the Orioles play only three times but that is another story. The Oriole pitcher was Jack Fisher, and I can only wonder if he served up a fat fast one for Williams to hit. Williams took the first pitch wide, whiffed the second and then got all of the third pitch and it soared over that long Fenway right field fence. Williams trotted the bases and disappeared into the dugout and into history. We stood and cheered and then left the ballpark. We had seen what we came for. Williams had cocked the bat and then in perfect rhythm unwound with amazing grace and power and drove the baseball out of the park.

The epilogue is this. Mallet and I took Telford on the promised pub crawl and we all got roaring drunk and the next morning woke to find the toilet full of vomit, frozen, and without water. We groused about, called the desk and after waiting for the better part of an hour for someone to come and fix the bloody thing the three of us wrestled the hotel window open and we began whizzing on the roof below. Telford should have known about els and perhaps he did and just didn’t care. But as the three of us perched there happily relieving ourselves an MTA cruised around the corner and those good citizens of Boston bound for church got a good look at three of American’s finest peeing all they could pee. Nobody flinched, we just whizzed and they just stared.

Now back to the point of obituaries. It was thirty years before I knew that I had seen Ted Williams hit his last major league home run. I discovered as much reading Abbie Hoffman’s obituary in one of the national magazines, Newsweek, I believe. The writer had been at the game with Hoffman and noted that Williams had not made the road trip to New York to finish the season. The last home run he ever hit was on that cold September day in Fenway Park. Almost fifty years later I have two distinct memories of that trip to Fenway Park. One is of a lanky Ted Williams unwinding on that fast ball and the other is of the astonished faces pressed to the glass of the elevated car as it whizzed by three young U.S. Army Soldiers whizzing from a hotel window.

Don Singleton
January 28, 2009

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Hate Media Never Sleeps

I have taken on a kind of casual monitoring project. It is not particularly well organized nor in any way scientific. I am not counting one by one the bizarre, vitriolic, sleazy, slimy, hate balls that the Hate Media hack up but rather casually tuning in to listen to the muck waves just to get a general impression of what they are up to. There is really no need for rigor in this set of observations, none is required. One need only tune in, at any time of the night or day, to find the hate mongers and war mongers in full cry. They never disappoint. They never sleep.

One would think that in the early days of a truly historic political transition they would at least take pause, take stock, and give it a rest. But no, Laura Ingraham is spewing and puking, Oxycontin’s Own Ma Limbaugh is spewing and puking, Sean Hannity is spewing and puking, Bill O’Reilly is spewing and puking and Michael Savage–well what can be said about Michael Savage. He along with the rest of the right wing, reactionary, proto fascists are spewing and puking the intellectual filth they love so well.

Their credo seems to be: We lost. We lost big time. We got a mud hole stomped in us by the American people but we are not going to get over it. We are not going to admit why American stomped a mud hole in us. We are just going to keep spewing and puking in the hope that there are enough uneducated, racist right wing, reactionary greed heads—the absolute worst of America—to keeps the pigs at the trough and the thieves at the banks.

Everyone else in America knows exactly why they got a mud hole stomped in them. Here is a short list.

1. George Bush, a semi moronic failure from Texas was appointed by a proto fascist Supreme Court to be President.

2. On George Bush’s watch and in spite of the billions, and billion and billions of dollars spent on intelligence and defense the United States was attacked by 19 Arabs (almost all Saudis) who barely spoke passable English and who hijacked four planes striking the two tallest building in New York and the Pentagon. No one was held accountable for this massive failure of the defense and intelligence system.

2. Bush lied and caused his puppets to lie to the American People repeatedly about the threat of terrorists, the threat of WMD’s and launched two illegal and immoral wars based on those lies. Those wars contributed in large measure to the bankruptcy of the country.

3. Bush, abetted by a cowardly Congress, rammed through a series of Big Brother initiatives based on fear and which resulted in America becoming a nation of torturers, Americans spying on Americans for political purposes, and America becoming a nation of kidnappers and prison builders which would have done the Nazi concentration camp system or the Russian Gulag system proud.

4. Bush made America the most despised country in the world.

5. On the home front Bush initiated huge tax breaks for the rich while working Americans struggled desperately to stay afloat.

6. What money the administration did not pour down the Pentagon and Haliburton rat holes, was stolen from the American people in the largest theft in the history of the world by enabling the thieves on Wall Street to repeat the Ponzi scheme run with the S&L’s in the eighties.

In sum, this past administration of so called conservatives drove the country into a fiscal and diplomatic ditch so deep and so wide that it will take years to climb out. The eight years of the Bush administration has been the worst in the history of this country even though there have been a number of really rotten administrations whose excesses they had to go one better.

The American people clearly understood that Bush and the Republican Party are to blame for the mess the country is in. You can kick the American Public in the ass as often as you like as long as you don’t hit their wallets. Now a really furious American Public is broke and unemployed, and they have extracted a first measure of vengeance.

It is equally clear that this crowd of hate mongers have no capacity for shame. You would think they would process the fact that America has just said no! No matter. The Hate Media mouth pieces will continue their mewling and puking. That is what they are paid to do. No doubt, as Obama tries to fix the mess left by this administration, the Hate Media will serve remind us that America should turn as many of these thieves out of office as possible in the coming midterm elections. Obama, who has shown early signs of having grown tired of trying to work with what remains of this pack of jackals, fired a shot across the bow of the hate media by telling Republicans that if they wished the country to function again they need to stop listening to Limbaugh. Hopefully, the President will gauge the mud hole the American people have already stomped in these right wing reactionaries, and harness the fury of the American people to stomp it dry.

Defeat the Hate Media. Bring back the Fairness Doctrine.
Donald Singleton
January 24, 2009

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