Thru Ellen’s Lens: Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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Thanks to our travel agent, aka Ellen Miller, we were able to get away from DC for five days after almost five months of staying at home. Ellen found a small mountain inn – The Swag – in the Great Smoky Mountains near Waynesville, NC. It turned out to be just what we hoped for – individual, lovely cabins, just a few guests (we never saw more than 20 people the four days and nights we were there), good food, careful attention to virus safety precautions, and best of all, a wonderful setting.

Ellen had never been to the Smokies – they are called “Smokies” for short but are often spelled “Smokey” Mountains by those on the western North Carolina side of the mountains. I had only once drive through them on a trip down the Blue Ridge Parkway many years ago with our younger daughter. So a week ago, Ellen and I set out on a seven-hour drive and arrived at the inn late in the afternoon to find both a setting and place to explore that more than met our needs and expectations. Plus the 70 degree temperature was almost 30 degrees cooler than what we left in DC.

Each morning, following a healthy breakfast on a porch overlooking the spectacular landscape, we’d pick up our packed lunch, a walking stick for me and two cameras for Ellen and head out for a three or four-hour walk-hike in the mountains. Several days we were accompanied by two naturalists — a husband and wife team that knew the Smoky Mountain area well and were able to introduce us to the flora and fauna (mostly flora, tho we did see one non-poisonous snake and bear scat and footprints). Other days we headed out on our own along ‘well defined’ trails and didn’t get too lost, though one day we didn’t make it back before the heavens unloaded on us.

In the late afternoons we hung out and read on the porch of our cabin and watched the afternoon rain, sometimes by a fire in one of the two fireplaces in the cabin. We’d join other guests for a ‘masked’ drink and then socially distanced dinners at the main lodge, usually on the porch. Returning to the cabin, we’d again ‘build’ a fire until either it went out or we fell asleep.

The short trip ended all too soon, and we are already planning to return to this “most visited National Park in the US,” which did not seem to us to have many visitors at all.

Although Ellen had not planned to create a slide show or do one of her many photo books, once home, she found she had enough worthy photos for us to post. Below are a half dozen, and if you want to see more, which I strongly recommend, you can link to a slide show at the end of this post.

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To see Ellen’s entire slide show (33 photos), use this link: Thru Ellen’s Lens: Great Smoky Mountains.

For the best viewing, click on the little arrow at the top right of the first page of the link to start the slide show. Definitely see all the photos in the largest size possible (use a laptop or desktop computer if you have access to either). They are much sharper and show more detail than the ones above.

Enjoy.

Baseball’s Back! Your Predictions

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Opening Night Nats Park – (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Good News: Major League baseball is back.

Bad News: 41,339 fans were missing from National’ Park in DC and 37,731 missing fans from Fenway Park.

Good News: More than four million baseball fans watched Nats v Yankees Opening night game on TV, the highest number since 2011. Add to that 2.7 million fans watched the Giants v Dodgers Opening game the same night, thus making this the most ever watched Opening Day in baseball.

Good News/ Bad News: Just prior to the start of the Nats v Yankees opener, it was announced that the MLB playoffs – assuming they occur – will be expanded from 10 to 16 teams, eight in each league. The first AND second place teams in each Division will all make the playoffs, plus the two teams with the next best records in each league. (See Winners & Losers for what this new playoff schedule may mean).

Good News/Bad News: The Red Sox and Yankees are both undefeated as of this morning, July 26, and are tied for first place in the AL East. (H/T Nick Nyhart)

And what can we expect according to the ever savy MillersTime Baseball Contests submissions?

  1. Overwhelmingly these ‘prognosticators’ believe the Dodgers and Yankees will be in the World Series, with the Dodgers slightly favored to win it all.
  2. The Nats and the Astros are the next most likely WS contestants.
  3. Two contestants said the playoffs and WS would not occur.
  4. And the usual delusional Chris Eacho believes the Orioles will win it all.

For those of you with nothing better to do, here is a partial list of what the MillersTime Baseball fans believe will be the takeaways from the 2020 season:

  1. NL designated hitter will prove to be a good idea that should be permanently adopted.
  2. It was a really bad idea to play the season (numerous variations of this takeaway).
  3. Play without fans sucks (numerous variations of this takeaway).
  4. People are still hungry for baseball which will draw very high numbers to telecasts.
  5. No need to play 162 games ((numerous variations of this takeaway).
  6. Short season means “every game matters” (numerous variations of this takeaway).
  7. There will be a team nobody expects who will come out hot and get on a roll.
  8. There will be a team everybody expects to win who will fall flat out of the gate and can’t make it up.
  9. All Division races will be closer than typical.
  10. Regular season will be virtually meaningless. Season will forever have an asterik (numerous variations of this takeaway).
  11. DH rules aside in NL, more offense than defense, more runs/game and bloated ERAs (numerous variations of this takeaway).
  12. Pitching adjusts better than batting to shorter season (numerous variations of this takeaway).
  13. One contestant said his wife will hate him a little more than before the season started.
  14. Spouses of baseball fans will not be as aggravated as usual.
  15. Not a responsible thing to have done.
  16. Fewer games, more at stake, so fans will be more engaged, and playoffs will draw more interest (numerous variations of this takeaway).
  17. Creating fake fan noise will replace live fans.
  18. Baseball fans will be healthier due to lack of access to baseball park food.
  19. Fans matter (numerous variations of this takeaway).
  20. Runner on 2nd in extra innings should be tried in 162 game season but not in the playoffs.
  21. Aaron Judge will finally stop being treated like a star because he isn’t and never was.
  22. Astros win it all, proving that sign stealing or no sign stealing, they can flat play.
  23. Long term reduction in number of games in the future. Early April too early to start the season.
  24. Because of no fans, no home team advantage, no sounds of baseball, quality of play slacks, but no cheating (too easy to get caught).
  25. Short season will be used to explain many teams’ performances.

PS – I watched the entire Sox v O’s Opening game on a big TV and thoroughly enjoyed it, in part because the Sox won easily but also just to be able to spend 3 hours and 18 minutes with no concerns other than the usual ones that every Sox fan knows has learned to accept.


“Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?”

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Jan. 13, 1918 – July 4, 2011

I didn’t get to see Hamilton last night, but I am forever grateful for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s genius production (which we fortunately saw it with him in it on Broadway when it moved from the Public Theater).

Not only am I grateful for the production and for everything that has been praised about it, but in particular, I am thankful for the song, the refrain about “who will tell your story?” As readers of this site no doubt know, I have taken that question, that thought, and made it my mission, my responsibility to annually tell the story of my mother (Esty) and my father (Sam) in order to keep the memory of their stories alive.

And so once again I post the eulogy I gave at Samuel Miller’s burial at Temple Beth El Cemetery, Chelmsford, MA on July 7, 2011.

Sam died, as he requested, peacefully and without pain, in his own bed, in his apartment, surrounded in the last months, weeks, days, and hours by three generations of his family. His daughter, son, son-in law, daughter-in-law, four grand children and their spouses, four great grand children, and of course his wonderful caretaker, all of whom were able to spend time with him at the end of his life.

Eulogy

When we were last here, it was for Esty. And when it came to talk about her, it was pretty easy.

It was clear what to say about her. She was a caretaker and a builder of family.

Sam, on the other hand, is not so easily categorized. He was a person of contradictions and (seeming) opposites.

He was not religious, yet he tried to volunteer for the Seven Day War.

He played football – a lineman – in high school and college during the day and read and memorized poetry at night while listening to classical music.

He was a gambler, in business, at the dog track, and at jai alai, yet husbanded his money carefully to provide for his family and especially for Esty and himself for their later years.

He could be arrogant, intolerant, stubborn, judgmental, and certainly impatient, but he was caring, compassionate, and involved with his family, and could and did cry like no man I have known.

He was a tough businessman who also played chess, read voluminously, and remained liberal in his political views all his life.

As Esty often said, he was a loner but not lonely.

He was self-centered but fiercely family focused. (I’m sure everyone assembled here could tell stories about Sam’s intimate involvement with each of you.) At Daytona he taught many of us to drive, to play chess, and he watched endlessly as many of you yelled, “Watch me Sammy” as you jumped into the pool. And there were many long walks and talks on the beach.

He was not close with his parents growing up, especially not with his dad. Then later, in Bebee and Tom’s later years, he moved them from Boston to Orlando where he and Esty were living, and he saw them everyday.

He smoked two packs of cigarettes a day but quit when his sister-in-law Caryl was dying because he said he wanted to see his grandchildren grow up, at least until their 20’s (they’re now in their 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s).

He loved to ask questions and sometimes even waited for the answer. He was often thinking of the next question before you answered the first one. But you always felt he wanted to know about you — as one person wrote on his 92 birthday: “When I talk to you, you make me feel that I am the most important person…I can ‘feel’ that you are with me…you take a deep interest in what I am saying…you are present to the moment and you live the moment.”

He was an intellectual who read two or three books a week, went to the dog track frequently, and walked two or three miles every late afternoon well into his 80’s to maintain his good health.

He was a ‘Yankee’ (not the baseball kind, thank God) who loved Florida (much to Esty’s chagrin).

He was basically a ‘homebody’ yet visited his son in West Africa because he said he always visited his kids in camp. He traveled to Central American for business and to Europe with Esty. With various family members, he traveled all over the US, including Alaska, and to the Caribbean, India, China, Russia, Mongolia, Egypt, Lithuania, and Israel. His trip to Lithuania was to see the place from where his mother and her family had emigrated.

Although he was ‘technically challenged’ and could barely screw in a light bulb, he learned to use the computer in his 80’s and emailed well into his 90’s.

He enjoyed good food and liquor, yet took good care of his body and lived longer than any Miller in his extensive and extended family.

He was taken care of by Esty, and then took care of her over the final difficult three years of her life, never leaving her side for more than an hour (and then that was usually only to exercise).

He was very involved with his own kids when they were small, wasn’t around so much when they were growing up as he left for work before dawn and had to spend the evenings on the phone to buy fruit and get picking crews for the next day. Then in his kids’ adult years, he again became involved with them intimately as well as with their spouses, their children, and finally his great grand children, all four of whom he saw within the last few months of his 93 ½ years.

He was a man of seeming contradictions but not of excesses and rarely of unkindnesses. In fact, I believe he mellowed a bit in his later years and became more tolerant, a bit less stubborn, and even patient at times.

So if it can be said that Esty took care of people and family, it must also be said that Sam did too, especially family, in his own way.

And as Esty taught us how to deal with medical and physical difficulties with wonderful grace at the end of her life, so too can it be said that Sam taught us that one can age with grace and softness and love.

NEW 2020 MillersTime Baseball Contest Questions

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Here are the revised Contest questions for the ‘Proposed’ 60-Game Season:

CONTEST I:

Assuming the 60-game plan generally works, and the 2020 ‘season’ contains at least 45 games, how will your favorite team do?

  1. Name your team and predict their win-lose record for the 60 games.
  2. Will they make the playoffs?
  3. Will they make it to the WS?
  4. Will they win the WS?

Tie-breaker: Name the three Division winners in the AL & the NL.

Prize: Assuming fans can safely attend games in 2021, join me for a Nats’ game of your choice, or I will join you for a game of your choice anywhere you choose.

CONTEST II:

True or False Questions:

  1. The 60 game season will not happen as it is presently scheduled, i.e., the season will be shortened by anywhere between five to 60 games.
  2. There will be at least one hitter with at least 100 AB who will hit .400 or higher. (Submitted by Zack Haile)
  3. There will be no starting pitcher who wins 10 games or more.
  4. No one will hit more than 23 HRs. (Submitted by Rob Higdon)
  5. At least one team in each league will win 42 or more games?
  6. One or more games in each of the three Divisions will be played in front of a crowd.
  7. Only one Division winner will make it to the WS.
  8. At least one MLB starting pitcher will win 8 games or more without a loss and at least one MLB starting pitcher will lose 8 games or more without a win.
  9. Over the course of the 60-game season (or even if the season is shortened), the National League will outscore the American League for the first time in the last 45 seasons. (Ron Davis)
  10. At least one of these teams (Red Sox, Angels, Giants, White Sox) will make it to the postseason. (Chris Boutourline)

Prize: Assuming there is a season next year, bring a friend and join me for a Nats’ game in 2021, or if you’re not able to make it to DC, perhaps I can make it to where you live, and we’ll see a game together.    

 CONTEST III:

Assuming there is a World Series,

  1. Name the two teams who will make it to the WS.
  2. Which one will win?
  3. In how many games?

Tie-breaker: Which AL or NL Division will have the most wins?

                       Which AL or NL Division will have the least wins?

Prize: One ticket to a WS game in 2021, assuming there is a WS.

CONTEST IV:

What will be the main ‘take aways’ from having a 60 game, or shorter, season?  (I will ‘crowd source’ what I think are the top five answers, so everyone can partake in deciding who wins this Contest.)

Prize: Your choice of one of these books: The 25 Best Baseball Books of All Time.

Additional Details:

  1. All winners and those whose questions were chosen for this contest get the ‘one-of-a kind,’ specially designed and updated MillersTime Baseball Winner T-Shirt.
  2. Enter as many or as few of the contests as you want.
  3. If you get a friend (or foe) to participate in these contests, and he or she wins and mentions your name in the submission, you’ll get a prize too.
  4. Any two-generation submission that wins will get a special prize.
  5. GET YOUR PREDICTIONS IN EARLY. In case of a tie, the individual who submitted his/her prediction first will be the winner.
  6. Submissions should be sent to me by email: Samesty84@gmail.com

  Deadline for Submissions: Opening Day, noon (EST) July 23rd

A Tale of Two Cities

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This is a story about Beijing and Washington, the two capital cities of the two most powerful countries in the world. Actually, it’s also a tale of two countries.

First, some Background:

Almost 40 years ago we had the good fortune to meet Qin Xiaoli. It was 1982, she was finishing a graduate year at Stanford, and under the sponsorship of the US-China Peoples Friendship Association she was visiting several parts of the US before returning to Beijing where she was a journalist.

We hosted her for five days, while she attended various seminars and meetings in Washington, and we became friends. Over the next four decades we continued our friendship, visiting her and her family in Beijing sometime in the early 1980s and hosting her husband, Qian Jiang (several years later), when he came to Johns Hopkins as a Visiting Scholar. (He too was a journalist and an historian).

Xiaoli came to our elder daughter’s wedding here in Washington, some 25 years after she first met Annie as a three-year old. Then, when their son was married here in DC, we ‘stood in’ for his parents at the ceremony, and two years ago we traveled throughout China with Xiaoli and Jiang for almost three weeks. Most recently, Xiaoli and Jiang came to DC to visit and stay with their son Kun and daughter-in-law Xi, but primarily to get to know their first grandchild. Now they have been here five months as it has not been possible for them to return to Beijing.

The Tale: Yesterday, when they ‘strollered’ young Dun Dun (Alex) over to see us – they were masked and socially distanced themselves – Xiaoli told us the following stories:

Two weeks ago her sister in Beijing received a phone call from the authorities saying she needed to appear for a COVID-19 test because of a new outbreak of the virus in the largest outdoor wholesale food market in the city. Her sister said she had not been there. She was ‘reminded’ she had been at a ‘nearby’ flower market and was told to appear the next day for a test. Apparently, “Big Data’ (Big Brother?) had identified her whereabouts from her cell phone. Taken to a hospital, she was tested, found negative but had to isolate herself for fourteen days. Today she can emerge from that isolation.

(Note: “Before the new cluster, however, Beijing – population 21.4 million – had only recorded 420 local infections and 9 deaths compared to over 80,000 confirmed cases and 4,634 deaths nationwide, thanks to its strict travel restrictions imposed at the start of the pandemic,” according to this CNN article – China’s New Cornovirus Outbreak.)

Xioali also told us that here in Washington where she and Jiang are staying in a West End apartment building with their son, daughter-in-law, and grandchild, there have been three cases of COVID-19 in that building. When her daughter-in-law asked the management of the building for more information about the ‘outbreak’ (which elevators had been used, what floors the three positive cases were, and in what part of the large apartment building they lived), she was told no information could be given out. They received no instructions on how to protect themselves and their family from contagion. Xiaoli and her family here (three generations living together) rarely leave their apartment and are trying to protect themselves as best they can.

(According to the most recent statistics, Washington, DC, has a population of 705,749 and has had 10,327 positive tests of its population and 551 deaths).

Two different responses to handling COVID-19 issues. Each raises questions.

What do you think?

“There Is No Evidence That Voting By Mail Gives One Party An Advantage”*

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From today’s NYTimes Daily Briefing by David Leonhardt:

An Election Day Success:

Voters didn’t have to wait in long lines. Turnout was high. And result were available shortly after the polls closed.

Sounds almost too good to be true, doesn’t it?

It’s not. It is a description of yesterday’s primary in Colorado.

The sate avoided the miserable lines that voters in Georgia and Wisconsin recently endured — lines that are a waster of time and, even worse, a health risk during a pandemic.

And, unlike in Kentucky and New York, Colorado, didn’t take a week or more to count its ballots. It began counting before Election Day. After polls closed at 7 p.m., people quickly knew that John Hickenlooper had won the Demoncratic nomination in a closely watched Senate race.

Colorado accomplished all of this thanks to a universal system of voting by mail, which began in 2014. The state sends a ballot to every registered voter weeks before Election Day. Voters can return the ballot by mail, so long as it arrives by Election Day, or can drop it off at any of one of a dozen voting centers.

People can also vote in person, but fewer than 6 per cent of voters do so in a typical election, said Amber McReynolds, the former head of elections in Denver, who now runs Vote at Home, an advocacy group. The atmosphere at Denver polling places yesterday, she told me, was calm as can be.

Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington also created universal vote-by-mail systems before the pandemic struck. In all these dates, turnout has increase, with no net benefit for either party. Many other states are trying to expand mail voting this year, although often without universal mailing of ballots or as many drop-off locations as Colorado has.

What stuck me most about this article was what I learned when I pursued Leonardt’s statement that there was “no net benefit for either party.”

*Check out FiveThirtyEight’s extensive look at this issue: There Is No Evidence That Voting By Mail Gives One Party An Advantage by Lee Drutman.

“It will be a season like no other.”

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Finally.

Some baseball will return.

On or about July 23rd or 24th, a 60 game ‘season’ will begin.

How far it will go, what it will be like (compared to an 162 games season), whether it will shortened by the virus, or is it possible there will be fans in the stadiums before the season ends?

No one knows the answers to those and a number of other questions about MLB in 2020.

But we do know some things:

Look at the two articles below, the first outlines the main the guidelines and ‘rules’ under which the teams will compete. The second is an attempt to calculate if a 60 game season will need asterisks in the baseball history books. (Ed. Comment: Of course it will, but for those of you who like to get into the ‘weeds’ of baseball, it’s an interesting look at how 60 games can be compared to 162 games.)

What We Know So Far About the 2020 MLB Season by Jason Stark, The Athletic, June 23, 2020.

60 Games Aren’t Enough to Crown the Best MLB Team. But Neither Are 162 Games by Neil Paine, FiveThirtyEight, June 24, 2020.

Whether or not you read either of these articles, I need your suggestions for a three question MillersTime Baseball Contest for 2020.

And I need them quickly.

By Sunday, July 5.

That way I can get the Contests out to everyone in time for you to submit your award winning answers prior to the first game.

So, see what you can come up with in regard to this “season like no other.”

Send them to me at Samesty84@gmail.com., and if one of your questions is chosen, you will be ‘entitled’ to a MillersTime Baseball Contest Winner T-Shirt.*  (You can also make suggestions for the prizes for this year’s Contests.)

Deadline for Potential Questions: Sunday, July 5

Contests Will Be Announced by Friday, July 10

Submission for Your ‘Winning’ Answers Due by July 23rd.

*Alternative T-Shirt if one of your questions is selected fo the 2020 Contest.

“They Played in the Shadows”

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Tip your cap to help honor the Negro Leagues in its centennial year

And especially to Satchel Paige as I had the privilege of seeing him in the early 50s when I was just learning about baseball.

Joe Posnanski – The Athletic, June 22, 2020

“The goal here is simple: We want you to take a moment and tip your cap to the Negro Leagues. We want you to take a moment to commemorate those baseball players who were denied even the hope of playing in the Major Leagues. They played baseball anyway, played it joyously and with breathtaking skill, played it because they loved the game and wanted to show their talents and because they refused to be defined by the segregation that marked baseball and America.

“Normally, for a campaign like this, you make the case and then ask for action.

“But I am asking for action first because you can feel the power of this moment. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues. And in celebration, we want you to take a photo or a short video of you tipping your cap to the Negro Leagues — it can be any cap at all — and add a few words and send it to photos@tippingyourcap.com.

“We want you to join an extraordinary group of people who have already sent in their photos and videos and thoughts — we are officially launching the campaign this week at tippingyourcap.com and I think you will be a little bit blown away by some of the people you see joining us in this celebration.

“And then we hope you will tip your cap, challenge your friends and family to tip theirs, send us your photos and videos, post them on your social media platforms, and also consider donating some money to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City.

“One hundred years ago, in 1920, a group of men met at the Paseo YMCA in Kansas City — right around the corner from where the museum now stands — and created a league for African Americans and dark-skinned Latin players who did not have a league. This centennial year was going to be a very special year for the Negro Leagues. Major League Baseball and the Players Association donated $1 million to the museum and announced what was supposed to be a yearlong celebration, including a day when every MLB player would tip his cap to the Negro Leagues players who helped baseball become a true national pastime.

“Obviously, the global pandemic shattered those plans.

“But it hasn’t stopped the goal. As Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Museum, says, those Negro Leagues players didn’t spend time feeling sorry for themselves. They played ball, even when denied a place to sleep, even when restaurants turned them away, even when they were told they couldn’t use a gas station bathroom. They played doubleheaders, tripleheaders, sometimes even quadrupleheaders.

“They played in big towns and small ones, they played in big league stadiums and on rock-strewn fields, they played in front of enormous crowds of people dressed in their church clothes and in front of sparse crowds of people who came to root against them. They played under makeshift lights that sounded like lawnmowers eating up sticks and they played exhibitions against Major League players, who mostly came to understand just how good they were.

“They played so well that — even though it took too long — Major League Baseball could no longer ignore Black ballplayers and the Dodgers signed Jackie Robinson and Don Newcombe and Roy Campanella, Cleveland signed Larry Doby and Satchel Paige and over the next few years the Giants signed Monte Irvin and Willie Mays, the Braves signed Henry Aaron, the Cubs signed Ernie Banks, the Yankees signed Elston Howard and on.

“And so, as a tribute to their spirit, we have created this campaign. We hope you will be a part of it. Take a photo or video. Send it in. Encourage your friends. Visit the website. Donate if you can.

“Now, we can talk about why the story of the Negro Leagues matters now more than ever.


“More than a dozen years ago, I wrote a book called “The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O’Neil’s America.” In it, I traveled around the country with Buck, who played and managed in the Negro Leagues and who dedicated his life to keeping the memory of those players alive.

“We were good!” Buck used to say, and it always warmed my heart that by the end of his life people believed him. That wasn’t always true. When Buck first started telling the story, back in the 1960s and ’70s and ’80s and into the ’90s, people would shrug when he talked about how good those Negro Leagues players were. They would roll their eyes. He used to say that in those days more people would tell him how it was, an astonishing thing if you think about it.

“I would tell them, ‘That’s not true, I was there,’” Buck said. “But they wouldn’t listen.”

“When Buck and a few others started the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, it was a one-room office in a nondescript Kansas City office building. There were no visitors … there was nothing to see. The few archives were locked in filing cabinets. It was more an idea than a place, more a dream than a reality. Buck and the other co-founders used to take turns paying the monthly rent.

“Their goals were modest: They wanted only to share the story of these great players who were never given the opportunity to display their talents. It was such a rarely told story at the time. When I was writing “The Soul of Baseball,” I came across a story about a dark-skinned Cuban player named Luis Bustamante, who played in the early 1900s. Even now you can find almost nothing about him, even though John McGraw reportedly once called him “the perfect shortstop.” Bustamante was apparentlly an alcoholic, and he died young … it’s unclear how he died.

“According to one story I read, he died by suicide and left behind a note that said, simply: “They won’t let us prove.”

“Those five words are so haunting — and so important. For years, even after the Negro Leagues stopped, Buck found that people still refused to believe just how great so many of those players were. It’s hard to understand how anyone could miss the obvious. In the dozen or so years after Robinson broke through, an extraordinary collection of dark-skinned players played in the Major Leagues — Doby, Campanella, Paige, Irvin, Mays, Minnie Miñoso, Aaron, Banks, Roberto Clemente, Frank Robinson, Bob Gibson, Willie McCovey. These are not just great players, they are, for the most part, inner-circle Hall of Famers, some of the greatest players in the history of the game.

“Every one of them would have spent their career in the Negro Leagues had they been born a few years earlier.

“So what does that say about the great players who were born a few years earlier? Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, Turkey Stearnes, Ray Brown, Mule Suttles, Martín Dihigo, Ray Dandridge, Willie Wells, Buck Leonard, Biz Mackey, Newt Allen, Hilton Smith, Sam Bankhead, on and on and on.

“Buck found himself telling the story again and again to impassive faces. He kept meeting baseball fans who simply could not accept that these players who were denied their chance could have been the equals of the legendary major-league players fans had grown up believing in. Buck kept meeting people who had their own impressions of the Negro Leagues as a ragtag collection of semipro players who mostly clowned around and found them unwilling to take the players or Black baseball seriously.

“Negro Leagues baseball was probably the third-largest Black-owned business in the country,” he used to tell people, and he would talk about the pride that echoed throughout Black communities because of their baseball teams. He would tell of his personal experiences of playing baseball with Paige during the day, then going to see Count Basie or Billie Holiday perform in the evening, and how extraordinary it all was.

“And people didn’t listen … until Ken Burns featured Buck O’Neil on his “Baseball” PBS miniseries.

“Burns, Buck used to say, was the first prominent person he met who said, “Please just tell me your story.”

“If you have seen “Baseball,” you know just how magical Buck was.

“And you know what? After that, people started listening to him. The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum became something more than just an idea — it grew into this beautiful place on the corner of 18th and Vine, a famous place in the world of jazz and baseball.

“Buck died in 2006, just a couple of months before President George W. Bush awarded him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. I know that if he was with us today, in this unique American moment, he would be doing all he could to lead the charge for social justice. He was the most optimistic person I have ever known, and he believed deeply in the power good people have to change the world. I know he would be, once again, telling that timeless story of those players who followed their dreams, even when everything was against them.

“I’ve seen the world change so much,” Buck used to say. “People always ask, ‘Were you sad that you couldn’t play in the Major Leagues?’ We didn’t even think about it. There was no reason to think about something that wasn’t possible.

“You have to remember, when Jackie went to the Dodgers, that was before Brown vs. Board of Education. That was before Sister Rosa Parks said, ‘I don’t feel like going to the back of the bus.’ Martin Luther King was a sophomore at Morehouse. Jackie Robinson went to the Major Leagues and that’s what started the ball rolling. And Jackie was a product of all those players who didn’t get that chance, who played baseball because we loved the game.

“So, yes, we still have a long way to go. But we also have come a long way. That’s why I tell their story. Those players changed this country. They’re still changing this country.”

A Tip of the Cap

Favorite Movies & TV Programs in These Times

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Thanks again to BS and FH for suggesting that we hear from others about what they’re watching and enjoying during these troubling times.

So here’s the first list, and as soon as 15 more of you send in your choices, I’ll post a second version of this. Send me your recent most favorite movies and/or TV Series at Samesty84@gmail.com.

Anita Rechler:

Da 5 Bloods, Spike Lee (Film).  Absorbing storytelling, intense performances make this worth watching. Though long, it kept our attention and offered lots to discuss with friends who also watched the film. Note: there is a significant amount of violence.

My Brilliant Friend, based on the book, Italian with sub titles (Film). A saga with lots of characters that centers around two friends who grow from childhood to adulthood in Napoli. Lots of subplots, commentaries on gender and socio-economic disparities, mid-20th century southern Italy, and twists and turns in relationships (business, romance, family feuds) kept me interested. Note: the subtitles are not always easy to read.

Schitt’s Creek (TV Series) is funny, sometimes poignant, full of social commentary and quirky characters. The story of a wealthy family that loses it all, moves to small town they purchased back in the day as a joke, and live in the motel.  It comes in short doses. Perfect for binging or watching an episode or two before drifting off.

Annie Orgad:

Only show I would add to Edan Orgad’s submission below is This is Us. (TV Series).

Bill & Kay Plitt:

Kay and I were “fishing” for a film tonight, having seen most of the ones on your second round (Movie Favorites – May 27, 2020) and loved all of them that stood the test of increasing the levels of  depression that surround us.   We were looking for “feel good.”  

The Secret of Roan Inish (Film) is fed from a novel called Secret by Ron Mor Skerry.  Here is the description: “Fiona (Jeni Courtney) is a young 10 year old Irish girl with an unusual family history, including a long-missing baby brother. When she goes to live with her grandparents on the west coast of Ireland, Fiona hears stories about her ancestors, tales that involve mythical creatures called selkies who can shift from seal to human form. After Fiona ends up on the small island of Roan Inish, her family’s ancestral home, she believes she may have found her little brother living by the sea.”

Fiona is really the star of the film, but each of the five main characters of the story, are unique. She  carries the story with her indefatigable faith  in the legend. The secret is shared by elder story tellers of this fishing village located off the coast of Ireland. The penny flute and other Irish instruments weave a legend with inspiring music and wonderfully timed photography and blends the natural world with the world of fantasy . IT is a beautiful story, gentle and sweet based on the novel.

It’s on Amazon Prime. It was filmed in 1994, and you may have seen it long ago. It really does need the big screen and good speakers that grab the gift of photography and music it shares.

Brandt Tilis:

Last Dance (TV Series). WOW. Watched the first episode last night. This is the Michael Jordan documentary.

Carrie Trauth:

For Life. (TV Series). This was inspired by the life of Issac Wright Jr. and is a fictional series about a legal and family drama. The main character is in prison and becomes a lawyer who helps other inmates while he fights his own sentence for a crime he did not commit.

Unorthodox (Film – four episodes) tells the story of an orthodox woman who flies from her arranged marriage to start a new life.

Chuck Tilis:

Broadchurch (TV Series). Incredible acting (especially by Olivia Colman–who I didn’t know has won numerous accolades including an Academy Award, three Golden Globes and SAG among others), cinematography, and sound are actually at the heart of this three season detective series taking place in England. Warning–the plot lines are dark but bring home the conflicts of the more disturbing aspects of real life.

Money Heist (TV Series) A crime drama from Spain about a group of thieves who rob Spain’s most secure financial institutions. The plot, though, weaves its way from politics to corruption to interpersonal relationships to create a four season TV series, with a fifth supposedly on way– that is a real “page-turner.”

Edan Orgad:

TV Shows that come to mind – Fauda, Ozark, Peaky Blinders, The Witcher, Stranger Things, and Narcos (and all related series to Narcos).

Films – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Venom, Zombie, Land Double Tap (cult following movie), The Irishman, Angel Has Fallen,  Equalizer 1 and 2…

Elizabeth Tilis:

TV Shows: Ozark, Billions, Luther, and Workin’ Moms.

Ellen & Richard Miller:

Our Movie Reviews Are Back – April 7th

Eight More Films, Plus a Guest Review – May 9

Emily Nichols Grossi:

Broad Church (TV Series)

Happy Valley (TV Series)

Both are crime dramas from UK. Dark but excellent acting. 

Also enjoyed Rebellion (TV Series) and Normal People ( TV Series) – both set in Ireland.

Ethel Geisinger:

The Money Heist (TV Series). Spanish with English subtitles and tells a most compelling story with incredible character development and absolutely thrilling and nail biting action. You will sans doute fall in love with every single character and marvel at the twists and turns in the plot. It was, interestingly, a flop in Spain but turned Europe and the U.S. on its ear as the trailer shows.

The Winslow Boy (Film) Based on a true story with a first rate cast that takes place in WWI England. It captures a period very different from our own but not so alien as to be unfamiliar. It has a great cast and, although the finale isn’t really ever in doubt, it is completely satisfying.

Fruzsina Harsanyi:

Self-Made: The Enduring Legacy of Madam CJ Walker (TV Series). CJ Walker was America’s first self-made woman millionaire. She was a black washerwoman, born in 1867 just after the Civil War, who became an entrepreneur, philanthropist and social activist.  This four-part Neflix series is based on a book by her great-great granddaughter. 

It’s an amazing story of someone who had a dream and perseverance and a belief that making money should be for profit and “to help your neighbor.”  In her case, helping her neighbor meant bringing dignity and options to black women’s lives.  She did this by creating a beauty product for hair that was sold door-to-door by women “sales agents” and in hundreds of salons across the country.  She opened a factory and met with investors in an era when women, let alone a black woman, did not do that.  She promoted a standard of beauty, she said, that was not the beauty of the “Gibson girl”, but the beauty of “women that look like me.” Her daughter opened the salon in New York City and was a figure in the Harlem Renaissance. 
 With Octavia Spencer (The Help, Hidden Figures) as Madam CJ Walker, supported by a great cast, this is a film worth seeing and reflecting on.

Jimmy2Wires:

With all that is going on, I started watching some things about James Baldwin. A documentary called Take This Hammer. A PBS show called The Price of the Ticket. A movie called I Am Not Your Negro. It all started when a video came up on my computer about a debate he had with William F. Buckley at Cambridge.

Lance Brisson:

Orphan Black (TV Series). By the time Lane and I finish (five seasons with 10 episodes each) we will have streamed all 50 episode on Amazon. The title has nothing to do with the current controversy about race

Wikimedia.org says: Orphan Black is a Canadian science fiction thriller television series created by screenwriter Graeme Manson and director John Fawcett, starring Tatiana Maslany …” Google “Orphan Black” for interesting information.

Lydia Hill Slaby:

Zoey’s Incredible Playlist (TV Series). I’m going through the slow loss of my father as he loses his memory and slowly his personality. This is a lovely (and funny) example of how another woman is handling the slow loss of her own father, which is why it was recommended to me in the first place.

Madame Secretary (TV Series). The relationship that Secretary McCord (Tea Leoni — who does a wonderful job) has with her husband (Tim Daly — also great) is a magnificent example of how a modern power couple can make it all work (life, family, job, passion, etc.), which is what pulled me into this show in the first place. But given the debacle that is now our foreign policy, it’s lovely to witness how an empathetic and strong diplomat navigates the waters. Yes, Hollywood, but the personality and compassionate driving force behind the decisions are more interesting than the scripted results.

Mike & Linda Weinroth:

A Place to Call Home (TV Series). We’ve been binge watching all 56 episodes and particularly enjoyed this series.

Unorthodox (Film – four episodes). Enjoyed this too.

Sam Black:

Chernobyl (TV series). Gripping and clear, well-acted, at times intensely personal, much easier to understand than the book.

Line of Duty (TV Series). Thrilling contemporary crime series set in England. Edge of your chair stuff. Influenced by Helen Mirren’s series, below, which set the bar.

Prime Suspect (TV series – multiple years starting in 1992).  All starring Helen Mirren and set in London.  Amazing how contemporary they still feel. Sets the highest bar for police investigation drama. Deeply influential on later crime video and ilm efforts. Very good on evolution of the career of the main character.

Unorthodox (Film in four episodes). Superb acting; story of a young Hasidic wife who fled NYC for Europe to escape her community; culturally revelatory.

Samantha Tilis:

From her mother: “Samantha (age 4+) is very into The Little Mermaid (Film – animation).

Sean McLaughlin:

One, thing that I really like is Netflex’s Queen of the South (TV Series). I am on the 4th year of episode’s and am terribly “hooked.” About a woman in Mexico from a poor background who becomes THE drug king (queen) of Mexico and moves to the USA (New Orleans). Great acting!  Great show! I am hooked!

Watched Ozark (AmazonPrime TV series)….very good! About a dad in a family who gets the family in a real mess.

Watched Sneaky Pete in another TV Series on Amazon Prime about a con man who takes another man’s identity (from jail) and uses his identity. Great show!I loved it!

Da 5 Bloods (brand new Spike Film). About guys going back to Vietnam to bring back one of there guys and to find the ‘gold’ they left behind. It is their story. It is good but hard to watch!  I loved it. But others did not!

Susan Butler:

Da 5 Bloods is Spike Lee’s newest Film. It is an anguished retelling of the Vietnam War, it’s ramifications on those who fought it, and a plea that we should not forget who really suffered.  Delroy Lindo gives an unbelievable performance as a Trump loving veteran suffering from profound PTSD.  The movie is a bit long, and while it has some humor, it is a very serious film.

Last Tango in Halifax (TV Series). Ah, love among the older set. With a cast led by Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid, what could go wrong?  Essentially a comedy, there is  a lot to chew on, because the characters are very complex. There are three seasons on Netflix (and I think it is now on PBS), and there is at least one more season. Every now and then I wish we had put on subtitles; that Northern British accent can be hard to decipher.


What Movies & TV Series Have You Most Enjoyed Recently?

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A long time friend suggested that we try to do with at home movies & TV shows as we’re doing with our Favorite Reads posts. He, and others have said the same, is continuing to look for satisfying films and shows while he and his wife continue to spend most of their time at home.

As you may have noticed from some of our earlier posts about movies, we’re watching more than we ever have before. In fact, our son-in-law convinced us to get a smart TV, which is much smarter than we are, and sometimes even allows us to watch something we’ve identified that we might like.

So, let’s give it a shot:

  1. Send in an email (Samesty84@gmail.com) titles of two movies or tv series that you have particularly enjoyed since you have been largely self-isolating at home.
  2. Write up to two sentences about your choice(s), one about what the movie/show is about and one about why it was enjoyable for you (escapism, something new, thrilling, nostalgic, great story, good acting, etc.).
  3. As soon as I get 15 responses, I’ll post what you send. And perhaps that will encourage others to do the same.

(PS – In addition to the above, Ellen and I will continue to post our movie reviews, as soon as we get enough to make for a decent post.

Are These Protests Different: 1968 vs 2020?

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Ellen forwarded this article to me yesterday morning, saying you “must read every word” of this piece.

I didn’t read it immediately, but when I did, it put some of the current protests in a context that makes sense to me.

While George Packer, the author, doesn’t get everything right in his Shouting into an Institutional Void, I believe his article helps to explain where we are today, particularly in relationship to 1968.

Two quotes from his Shouting into the Institutional Void.

The difference between 1968 and 2020 is the difference between a society that failed to solve its biggest problem and a society that no longer has the means to try.”

This is where we are. Trust is missing everywhere—between black Americans and police, between experts and ordinary people, between the government and the governed, between citizens of different identities and beliefs.”

Shouting into the Institutional Void by George Packer, staff writer for The Atlantic, June 5, 2020

Joe’s Blog: “Come on! Just give us a chance to fall in love with baseball again.”

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I don’t want to try to summarize Joe Posnaski’s blog this morning, other than to say it’s definitely worth the few minutes it will take you to read it. Don’t get lost on the details of his solution. Just focus on how he is thinking of a whole new way to imagine a 2020 baseball season.

He should be in charge of baseball for 2020.

Joe’s Blog, June 6, 2020.


Re-reading Challenge

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 “A Best Friend Is Someone Who Gives Me a Book I’ve Never Read.” A. Lincoln

I wondered in a previous post if there was any interest in contributors focusing on rereads for the end of August update on Favorite Reads. There seemed to be enough interest that I’m proceeding with the idea.

If you are interested and willing to participate, here are a few guidelines (I know some of you just want to stick with new books, which is fine, and I will of course include whatever you read between now and then).

Pick one or more books you’ve read previously (as a child, as an adolescent, in your young adult years, in your middle years, in your later years, recently, etc.), reread it with a few questions in mind:

  1. Why did you choose this particular book to reread?
  2. How was it the second time around?
  3. What particularly struck you in this reread?
  4. What accounts for any differences from the first reading?

Looking forward to what we discover.

Who Is Looking Out for Baseball?

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Photo by Ellen Miller

This morning’s baseball ‘news’ is that both sides remain deadlocked after MLB rejects the lastest Players Association proposal. I suspect (hope?) there will be some last minute agreement between the players and owners. Likely an 80+ game season without fans, at least initially, in three realigned divisions with an expanded playoff scenario, with many built in safety measures , re COVID-19, and with a pay scale that won’t satisfy either side but will allow the game to continue.

My two cents, without getting into the weeds of the negotiations – who’s right, who’s wrong – is that both sides need to step back, take a longer view of where the country is now, where baseball may be headed, and come together to preserve some semblance of the game for now.

As is so often the case, Joe Posnanski, one of my favorite baseball writers, hits on what is essential in his blog post yesterday: The Future of Baseball.

Joe’s wordy, but knows and loves baseball and most often seems to get things right. This article is not another lecture about baseball as a dying sport, but really a plea for understanding what is at stake.

In part, he writes:

“What you see, I believe, is a shortsightedness, a submission to the moment, a perpetual fight over the game’s riches. This last part, in particular, has played out over the last few weeks while a global pandemic rages on, and do you think most people care if it’s the owners or the players who are at fault? No. Most people just see that people can’t come together, even now, for this game that they’re all supposed to love.

So who can blame someone for asking: If that’s how they treat this game, why in the hell should I care?

He writes about Dayton Moore, a friend with whom he disagrees about many things, but about baseball, Joe thinks Moore gets it right:

“THIS is how baseball should be thinking about everything, not just now but always: How can we celebrate baseball? How can we reach new audiences? How can we bring live, exciting baseball to more communities (and for less money)? How can we show young people how much fun the game is to play and watch and follow? How can we get into communities? How can we make a difference? How can we draw more young people?

“There aren’t easy answers. But there are no answers if you don’t take the time to ask the questions. If I was commissioner, I would put Dayton Moore in charge of the game’s future.”

Indeed.