Tuesday, July 30, 2013


I walked in this morning to news that a 12-year-old boy died in a bicycle accident in Wilton.

My colleague, Chris Burns, will handle the story well for the Bulletin.  He's a good, thorough writer.

It just tears at my heart.  A family has lost a child.

No, he wasn't wearing a helmet, but right now, I'm not all that interested in that.

He's gone, and it's terrible.  His life, obviously, had just begun.  He had sports to play.  Papers to write.  College to attend.  A prom.  To fall in love.  To drive a car.

He had yet to write his story.

He had yet to make the mistakes that are so important to the human condition.

He had yet to know his own triumphs.

He's gone.  It's beyond comprehension.

I, as always, want to hug my own child a little tighter.

I would imagine you would - and will - also.

The #47mysteryscrum Legend Grows

We talked about the #47mysteryscrum yesterday.

As the day went along, I came up with the idea of contacting 47 Brand (not "Brands" as I later said on "The Press Box") to see if a representative would like to come on.  Dan Cohen, Assistant Manager, Marketing, was pleased to join us on the show.

But it gets better.

Dan informed me during the interview that any orders using the promo code "thepressbox" would receive 20% off.  What started as an interview meant to discuss the marketing of these products turned into something really cool.


Tim Parry, who was responsible for the genesis of this movement in my circle of friends, did a terrific writeup of everything, including posting the audio of my interview with Dan Cohen, on the MultiChannel Merchant blog.

Now I have to decide what I'm going to order.  Another mystery scrum t-shirt?  A hat?  So much good stuff to choose from!

Monday, July 29, 2013

The #47MysteryScrum

There's no question I've always been fascinated by sports apparel. I had a satin (well, not really) Yankees jacket circa 1980. I also had – still have (but never wear) – an interlocking NY necklace*.

*I haven't worn a necklace in probably 20 years, by the way, and other than a watch, I don't wear jewelry, especially after taking my wedding ring off.

So when Tim Parry mentioned to me that '47 Brand was doing a “Mystery Scrum,” I was interested.

The “scrum” is the opportunity to buy some really nice stuff – hats and t-shirts – at a major discount, with one catch: you're not allowed to pick the details of your purchase.

But it's all top quality stuff. The hats, which can often cost north of $25, would be $12, and the t-shirts, normally $35 or more, were $15.

So in the name of marketing, social media, and the unknown, I jumped in. Paul Silverfarb, Pat Pickens, and Scott Ericson – sportswriters, all – took the plunge also.

Tim, by the way, hasn't done so yet, but thinks he will. He was, for now, a happy observer.

I'm sure each of us will tell you that we really didn't need another hat and/or t-shirt. But given the quality of '47's merchandise, and the aforementioned unknown, it seemed like fun.

Then the reality began to creep up. What if I opened my package and there, laughing at me, was a Mets hat and a Red Sox shirt? Or some other woebegone franchise whose merchandise I wouldn't be buried in?

Would they be on their way to a tag sale?  Sell them on eBay?  Burn them in the front yard and upload the video?

Scott seemed satisfied with his Washington Caps shirt and Florida Gulf Coast University hat. Pat flashed an LA Dodgers 1980 All-Star Game t-shirt and a Carolina Hurricanes hat.

The former Hartford Whalers? Ouch.  Still, early results were good.

By Wednesday morning, no package had arrived in Mahopac, so I had to drive away, knowing that I would be spending the weekend in Cape Cod and wouldn't get my answer until Sunday night. Paul and I exchanged messages as we each traveled to our respective long weekends. He had his package with him and opened it to reveal a Brooklyn Dodgers hat.

He was OK with it. I'm not sure how I would have felt, still holding a long-smoldering hatred for them. I did like Pat's shirt, but not sure I would have been thrilled about Paul's hat, especially given that the “B” looked quite Red Sox-esque.

To that end, he was encountering “brilliant” Sawx fans through the Springfield area, complimenting him on his hat.

Through a nice, albeit wet and cool weekend on the Cape (yes, Red Sox Nation), I wondered what was back in Mahopac. Finally, my question was answered when I spied the box. I took the time to unpack first, fully prepared for the worst.

I kept hoping. Maybe it would be a college team? There's nobody I truly detest in the NCAA, for the most part. Wouldn't it be nice if it was, say, the Pirates, or a team that is completely innocuous?

I took a deep breath and cut the tape on the box. I opened the flaps. I glanced...wait, is that an Uncle Sam top hat?

My hope began to build. It can't be? But yes, there it was in full glory:




I jumped up and down like the 11-year-old I had dropped off only a half-hour earlier. I felt like Ralphie as he opened his Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!

The fact that there was a pretty cool looking Ottawa Senators hat was fine with me. In fact, that was a bonus. A hockey team that, honestly, I couldn't care less about (yes, that's the proper way to say that phrase). Sure, they play the Rangers, but I saw no harm. In fact, I donned it and wore it to work today.

But a 1962 World Series Yankees shirt? In the series that they beat the Giants, four games to three, with Willie McCovey smashing a liner to Bobby Richardson with the winning run on base in Game 7? As George Kell said on the radio broadcast, “If that had gotten through, the Giants would have won it. Now it's the Yankees.”

Fate smiled, or as Lisa said to me via text:

“You scored!”

OK, Tim, you're next!

Friday, July 19, 2013

A Desk and a Name

I'm writing a story for next week's Wilton Bulletin about a desk.

Of course it's not that simple.

The desk, a rolltop model (in the photo above) dates to 1875 when it was in a Wilton schoolhouse.  It was recently donated to the Wilton Historical Society.  I was asked to visit the Society, and it was suggested that I also touch base with the man who donated it.

The short version of the story is that I did reach out to the gentleman, and he responded by offering to take me to lunch to talk about the desk.

I met him today.  His name is Tom Adams.

To be honest, we spoke very little about the desk.  He handed me a collection of documents as a way of saying "sit back and enjoy your lunch."

We made discoveries.  Mr. Adams, a lawyer, has a son named Douglas.  I, in case you don't know, have a brother by that name.  We had shared experiences about life, kids, work, and college.  Similarities?  No, I don't mean that.

Most eerily?  He is my father's age.

He promised me - without prompting - that "this is the first of many lunches."

I hope so.

My New Headset

Yeah, I know.  File this under "Couldn't Care Less" (possible sarcasm intended).

I was excited to come home last night and find a box outside the front door, with the following inside.
Yes, a new broadcast headset.  I've been calling games since 1995 (when I began doing the softball championship for Kraft and Philip Morris to be carried on the in-house TV system).  We bought very inexpensive Radio Shack headsets a year later, which aren't suitable for the radio use, but served their purpose at the time.  I still have those, and we've tried using them on WGCH, but it hasn't quite panned out.  Plus the sound quality isn't the best.

Upon moving to 'GCH in 1997, where I began calling games two years later, I used headsets owned by the station, or a couple of old models that I grabbed when WREF closed down in early '97.

We've been struggling at 'GCH for headsets ever since, and I've been talking about buying one of my own for years.

The great Senniheisers that you often see being used by "the big boys" can run over $400.  That, as you can imagine, is a little steep.  Maybe one day, but not now.

I found the Audio-Technica's in the picture on eBay.  The price was right (and lower than their usual price) and they sound good.  Plus they were in the original packaging.

What it also means is that I guess I'm sticking around a little longer.  For now, anyway.

A Facebook friend, fellow broadcaster, posted that he wondered if it is time to give up on being in this business.  I've been wondering this as well.  There are some really depressing times (I'll spare you more).

But I bought the headset. I'll start year 14 calling Cardinals games in September, and we'll go from there.  I bought it.  Now I want to use it.

Or I'll be putting them on eBay.

Onto the "Second Half"

It's going to take moments like this to get the Yankees - and Mariano Rivera - into October.
It's true that the All-Star break in baseball is the mythical midway point, because everyone has played over 81 games at this point.

Thus we've started the "second half."

For the New York Yankees, there's a question of talent.  CC Sabathia, who's supposed to pitch like an ace, hasn't.  Hiroki Kuroda has pitched very well.  Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, David Phelps, and Andy Pettitte have all been meh.

The bullpen has great, led by the remarkable Rivera.

But it's the offense.  Oh, the offense.

Does this team lack heart?  No, I don't think it's that.  Like I said, it's a question of talent.  There are nice players on this team, but they've struggled to find consistency.  There isn't that feeling of 1995 or 1996 on this team - one that simply finds a way to win.  Oh they've won, but I just don't get that sense about them.

Help is one the way - maybe.  Curtis Granderson will, hopefully, return.  Derek Jeter?  Hard to tell, but there's hope.

And there's that problem known as Alex Rodriguez.  If he shows up and hits, things will be much better in The Bronx.  It will be even better if he keeps his mouth shut.

Lastly there is the question of what GM Brian Cashman will do to improve the club, if anything.  Trading Hughes and Joba Chamberlain are possible.  All a question of who needs what?

The results have been pretty good, all things considered.  Nobody will give Joe Girardi the Manager of the Year Award, and I understand that, but he has done a great job with this team.

But there needs to be a hunger.  There needs to be a fire.  Those going to Yankee Stadium theses days lack that.  I'm sorry, but they just do.

You want hunger?  You want...frickin insanity?  Yeah, watch Donnie Baseball from the 1995 ALDS, brilliantly called by Gary Thorne.

That leads me to this post I saw this morning by Sean Hartnett on CBS New York.  He does a lengthy bit on Mattingly's career and the "hair" episode of 1991 before getting to the headline: Mattingly's candidacy for the Hall of Fame.

I've said it before.  I'll say it again.  It's not happening, as much as we (I) would like it.  It will take a terrific managerial career to get him in, as it will ultimately do for Joe Torre.

Of course, as I've also said, compare Mattingly to Kirby Puckett and, if you look only at the numbers, you will see they are almost identical.  But what hurts Donnie Baseball (so named by Puckett), is that Puckett was a gregarious center fielder playing in Minnesota on two world championship teams (1987 and 1991), who hit a famous shot to win Game 6 of the '91 World Series (the "We'll see you tomorrow night!" home run).

Mattingly was a first baseman, and like it or not, that gives Puckett an edge, despite Mattingly's brilliance at first.  Mattingly didn't win a ring (thanks, Bud Selig and other for stripping that opportunity in 1994).  Mattingly, who was arguably the most dominant player in the sport in the mid to late 80's, declined so badly that it was almost tough to watch in the early 90's.  The power was gone.

He's an iconic Yankee, no doubt about it.  He is beloved - even as the manger of the (somewhat) hated Dodgers (I haven't forgotten the late 70's and early 80's).

Puckett was absolutely helped by his wonderful public personality and the way he carried himself.  That doesn't necessarily hurt Mattingly at all, who was (is) liked all around baseball.  We all remember the popcorn incident (with Al Trautwig and Frick-winner Tony Kubek laughing along).

But, as I know we've said around here, it's just not enough to get him to Cooperstown.

At least not yet.

Thursday, July 18, 2013


For reasons unknown to me*, I decided I wanted to climb Mount Beacon (which, I guess is actually "Beacon Mountain" but colloquially we all call it otherwise).

*Yeah, I know the reasons: I did it for Lisa, who likes to be more active.  I did it for myself, because I should be more active.  I also did it because I've heard that it's pretty cool up there.  My cousins used to live right near there, so it always looked fascinating.  Please note that, by saying "cool," I don't mean a reduction in temperature.  Oh no - it was 91 degrees.  That's hot.

Beacon Mountain is sort of on the fringe of the city of Beacon, NY., though it's actually in the town of Fishkill (sorry, PETA).  It was named due to the signal fires that shone from there during the American Revolution.  Mount Beacon eventually became famous for having an incline railway on it, opening in 1902.  This was filmed on the railway in its first year.

I remember seeing it in service when my cousins lived there in the 70's.  It closed in 1978.  There are a few other videos on YouTube as well.

The walk is a different beast than the one Lisa and I did last year to the top of Overlook Mountain in Woodstock.  Yes, that's a higher climb (nearly 2-to-1 elevation wise).  Yet Overlook (3140 ft) didn't run me down the way Beacon (1610 ft) did.  I can't quite explain it.

Once again, as with the the other hikes we've done, there's a payoff to it. The top of Mount Beacon (actually, Beacon Mountain North, and the shorter of the two peaks) affords a remarkable view of Newburgh, Beacon, and on up beyond Poughkeepsie.  There are ruins to be found, such as the railway, old casino (actually, a ballroom) and more.  A fire tower awaits at the top of Beacon Mountin South.

All had been OK, except for the not-too-pleasant feeling that I was going to collapse at one point (just badly out of breath, and I did recover).  The payoff of the vista was magnificent, a panorama of the Hudson Valley.

We spied the fire tower off in the distance - about a mile away - and, not satisfied to leave, we began to make our way there.  The walk is easier, generally, and flatter.  But if I have a gripe - A MAJOR GRIPE - it's that the paths are not well-marked.  It wasn't entirely clear which trails we needed to stay on to get to the fire tower, which would build some unnecessary tension on this hot day.
Lisa's up there, and she would get to the top. The fire tower just reopened in late June after a renovation.
We stopped to watch as six Jeeps drove down rocks that we were about to climb.  One almost flipped, but they seemed unfazed by it all.  If anything, they were friendly and chatted with us.  So cool.

At one point, we chose a wrong trail, and it was clear that my GPS (my iPhone) was saying we needed to cut through where there were no trails.  So, we turned around and recovered.

We made it to the top, after a steep climb up some rocks to the summit.  Lisa, happy to overcome her fear of heights, made the climb.  I went up a few flights and decided that it was not my day.

Note to all: I.  Think.  Way.  Too.  Much.

We went back to the car, finishing our walk in about four hours and fifteen minutes.  Admittedly, I did an awful job of staying hydrated and paid for it.  But we did it.

So long as we come out in one piece?  It's worth it.

Washington Bullying

There is a strong push to stamp out bullying in this country, especially in the schools.

It's a noble concept, just as the attempt to outlaw the use of the "R" word.

Yesterday, a 16-year-old intern at The Daily Caller went to The White House for a presser with Obama mouthpiece Jay Carney.  The intern, Gabe Finger, asked the Press Secretary if the President would take any action to protect George Zimmerman's family, given they have been the target of multiple death threats.

Mr. Carney seemed amused, and responded in basic "political speak," but ultimately deferred the issue to the state of Florida.

Finger pressed the issue, asking "So they will be on their own," which, isn't unfair, given Carney didn't answer the question.  That's when Carney got smug, obnoxious, and bullying.

FOX News was just-oh-so-happy to jump on the bandwagon.

It shouldn't be done at any age, but doing it to a 16-year-old intern?  Well guess what? Finger is now a mini-celebrity, and Carney looks like a clown.

Something I don't have patience for, regardless of political affiliation.

So, yeah.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Howard Simmons/New York Daily News
You have to either be jaded or really hate the Yankees to not love what happened last night at Citi Field, when Mariano Rivera - one of the great ambassadors and most respected of players in sports - ran onto the field.

After an awkward and unnecessary rendition of "Sweet Caroline" (no offense intended, Neil Diamond), Metallica's took over.  I laughed at the notion of playing Mo's entrance music, but as you'll see (if you haven't already), the music, the crowd, and the enormous reception given by his fellow all-stars, indicates that we have a classic All-Star moment.

It is every bit as memorable as Ted Williams in 1999 at Fenway Park or Cal Ripken in 2001. I think it will have that kind of legacy.

It has to eat at the Mets fan today that a Yankee had his entrance music played, received such an incredible ovation, and won the game's MVP award - in their ballpark.

I understand that.  Without question.  It's Tom Seaver winning 300 in The Bronx on Phil Rizzuto Day (even if he was wearing a White Sox uniform).

Now, to the question of why Mo won the MVP.  Look, it was a game dominated by pitching.  The American League combination allowed three hits and one walk in a 3-0 win.  Many thought the night was boring, certainly up until the bottom of the 8th.  But in that moment, 45, 186 spectators, along with both teams, coaching staffs, and support people made some of the best noise of the night.

No doubt there was much love for David Wright, Matt Harvey (who worked out of a first inning jam like a pro) and Mr. Met.  Yet here in the 8th, yes, the EIGHTH, it was all about Mo.

I understand Jim Leyland's decision to pitch him in the 8th inning, given that the NL could have ruined the plan to get Mo the save in the 9th.  I still think you could have somebody else start the inning and Mariano could come on if there had been any trouble, but at this point, it all turned out just fine.

He brought life to the night again.  He did his job - three up, three down.

In a night in which pitching dominated and there was no clear-but MVP, the Farewell Award went to Mariano Rivera, who has been nothing but class throughout a career that has been amazing people since 1995.

It was a way for voters to say "sorry we screwed up and didn't give you a Cy Young Award a long time ago."

Baseball needs more moments like this.  Selfishly, we hate to see him go, but oh what a moment he gave us all.

He was amazed by the groundswell of love.  I have to admit I was overwhelmed as well.  In a building where fans were pleased that Harvey hit Robinson Cano (I mean, really Mets fans?), it was hard to believe that a Yankee, even a respected one, would receive such love.

Incidentally, I have no problem with Harvey hitting Cano.  It wasn't intentional.  No big deal.

But his teammates were in "win it for Mo" mode.  They knew who the MVP was.

Now you - certainly I - wish for a coda to all of this.  That, of course, would be a postseason appearance, just so the best who has ever lived in any season - regular/post/midsummer classic - could step on the hill one more time.

The Yankees have a lot of work to do in that regard.

Other thoughts: For the love of God, stop bashing Joe Buck and Tim McCarver.  If you saw the end, where McCarver welled up as he was asked to sign his score card so that it could donated to the Hall of Fame, you saw the love of two friends who enjoy working and the game that they cover.  I get it.  They're both strong personalities, and often come off smug or arrogant.  But they know what they're doing when they call a game.

McCarver is leaving after this season.  Cut him a break.  The guy has had a great career.  You'll find somebody else to hate next year, I'm quite sure.

I'm hyper-critical of play-by-play broadcasters.  But, maybe because I'm a contrarian, I'll defend these two.

On the radio side, I've said this before: can Jon Sciambi give us just a little more detail and maybe even a boost of excitement?  I'm not saying he's not good - he is - but he can be better.

The All-Star Game is still the best of the big four, in my opinion.  But it shouldn't count.  Ever.

I know it was in New York - hey, look, it's Mayor Big Gulp! - but I never sensed an overwhelming New York edge to it.  In fact, I sensed it wasn't really a big deal.  I'm not saying I'm right.  Just something I felt.

I hope the ratings are good, but I have my doubts.  In part, due to lack of love for baseball, the abundance of baseball available on TV, and interleague play, the All-Star Game isn't what it used to be.  Kids, overall, don't care.

That's sad.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Just a Couple of Guys

 Yup.  A couple of dudes hanging in a photo booth.  Not too much more than that.

My Designated Actor: Samuel L. Jackson

You don't want to make him mad, do you?  Say 'what' again.  I dare you...
Old high school friend, and occasional Chicago sports correspondent, Dan Arturi, was on Facebook the other night doing a thing where you're handed a selected actor and need to say a few things about him.

His actor was Tom Hanks.  That, for me, would have been a slam dunk.  Easy.

The deal is that if you like the post, you get assigned an actor/actress of your own.  I, unwittingly, liked the post.

So I got Samuel L. Jackson.

I can do this.

OK, here we go.

Movie I love: Oh, please.  Really?  The easiest question of them all.  Some say it's overrated.  Some say it's dumb.  I say it's one...of...my...favorites...EVER Pulp Fiction. Pulp-motha-effing-Fiction!

I feel the need for some Dick Dale & the Del-Tones.

He was also in Goodfellas, but that's a cop-out, because it was brief.  Damn, he's been in a lot of movies.

Movie I like: I guess I'll go with Die Hard with a Vengeance.  If I recall, that was the one that was filmed, in part, on the Taconic Parkway on the fringe of Mahopac/Putnam Valley, and in Greenwich on the Merritt Parkway.

What this is proving to me is that I have a lot of Sammy movies to watch.  Don't him getting mad at me.

Movie I hate: Probably Star Wars Episode I: the Phantom Menace.  Although Snakes on a Plane would also work here.  Because I hate snakes.  Soooo...

Movie I hate to love: Probably Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith.  I don't love it.  I don't hate it.  I burst out laughing during it.  So that will do.

So, yeah.  There's that.

2001: A Blog Odyssey

H.A.L.  You knew that, right?
Yeah, I know.  This is post 2001.  So I went "Kubrick" on you, in a reference to his classic movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

That's one of those movies that, if anybody would, you know, like to explain it to me, that would be great.  MmmmK?

Anyway, one of the "Easter eggs" one can do with Siri on an iPhone of iPad is to tell her to "open the pod bay doors" and see what she says.

(Yes, that's from 2001: A Space Odyssey.  I guarantee there are people who don't get that reference)

So with Sean sitting next to me, I asked Siri, and got her to say "I'm afraid I can't do that" and other things.  I felt I must show the original to Sean.

That was the point of this post.  From the movie:


This is the 2000th post in Exit 55's history.  Hardly a momentous occasion, but it allows me to post this sweet picture of Lou Gehrig.

Thanks for reading - almost seven years of inane thoughts, opinions, and commentary.  It's been fun.

That's all.  I'm not in favor of stopping a game for some ceremony.  So consider this a tip of the hat.

That Stupid Band Name

The name is dumb? Well the music isn't.
I recently read an article about the dumbest/worst band names on Rolling Stone. The writer suggested names, then let readers vote on them.

One of his suggestions?  The Beatles.

The.  Yup.  Beatles.

Depending on whose version you believe of events, I suppose it's possible.  There's John's "Flaming Pie" version, in which he said "I had a vision when I was twelve, and I saw a man on a flaming pie, and he said "You are Beatles with an 'a'," and we are." Other version involved Stu Sucliffe, Marlon Brando and the movie The Wild One.

Then there's the most simplistic one, in which the lads pronounced their love for Buddy Holly (whose backup band was, in case you didn't know, The Crickets*) and named themselves "The Beetles" or "Silver Beetles" as a play on the "bug" concept.  But, you know, they keep the beat, so let's go with Beatles, no?

*It's sad that I have to explain who The Crickets are or, worse, who Buddy Holly was.  We need music history education in this country!

Look, I have a pronounced love for a band that started life as Huey Lewis and the American Express before corporate fear scratched the credit card in exchange for "The News." Cut me some slack here, shall we?

And at least The Beatles didn't stick with The Quarrymen or Johnny and the Moon Dogs.

As for the worst/dumbest band name, the voters took The Beatles in 10th place, with Anal (I can't type the word, but it starts with "C"), Chumbawamba, Hootie and the Blowfish, and Foo Fighters up to sixth place. Nickelback came in fifth (too easy to rip them), Goo Goo Dolls, Butthole Surfers, and Hoobastank getting us up to number two.

Overwhelmingly, Limp Bizkit ruled the day.  As the writer said: "Simply put, people really, really, really hate Limp Bizkit."  Remember, they said it, not me.

While we're talking about The Beatles (the anti-Limp Bizkit, clearly), friend, and brilliant music student (as well as a great DJ) Shagger David Leib posted this video on his Facebook wall.  It's a small, but well-done collection of the differences between having the Fabs in mono and stereo.

Does this mean I now have to collect EVERYTHING in mono also, as I told myself I wouldn't have to?!?

I'm listening to "Side 2" of Abbey Road as a I am typing.  Fellow broadcaster Kenn Tomasch suggested it might be the perfect album side.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Sean and Dad, Working Together

I swear, I'm not going to post everything that Sean does for the Wilton Bulletin.

Oh, who am I kidding?  I can't make that promise.

But I am going to post this - from today's paper.  The dad (um, that's me) wrote the story.  The son (played by Sean) took the pictures.
All pictures © Sean Adams, 2013

The color shot, © Sean Adams
The story won't be on the Wilton Bulletin website until  Tuesday, but it's in the paper today.

I hope these experiences are giving him memorable things to talk about when the question "How was your summer?" comes up.  Maybe it's not as exciting as going to Splash Down or camp or whatever, but it's something that not every kid gets to do.

We already had a request in the office from someone who wanted a copy of one of Sean's pictures that he took a few weeks ago!
"Daddy, the chick looked right at me when I took it." © Sean Adams

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Anchorman As An Atari 2600 Game!

Thank you, thank you, thank you Stuck in the 80's.

Watch and enjoy.


It was three years ago (July 8) that a "Decision" was made in Greenwich, with LeBron taking his talents to South Beach.

It was two years ago (July 9) that Derek Jeter became #DJ3K

Read my post from that here.

One was magnificent - history being made with one of the best to play the game.

One was a mess - a truly all-time great having a hiccup.  In hindsight, it's long in the past, but it was a black eye for a lot of people at the time.

Both made for stories to tell.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

The Luckiest Man

I've already written about the significance of July 4th.  It is, of course, the "nation's birthday."

In sports, it's baseball.  Sure, it's Wimbledon and others, but here, it's baseball.

On this day in 1983, Dave Righetti threw the first no-hitter by a Yankees pitcher since Don Larsen in the 1956 World Series, and the first regular season no-hitter since Allie Reynolds in 1951.

Both (Righetti and Reynolds) threw their efforts against the Red Sox.  Both required retiring the best hitter in the game for the final out (Reynolds had to get Ted Williams - not once, but twice as Yogi Berra dropped a foul ball, only to have the same thing happen.  Righetti struck out Wade Boggs.).

And while many of us remember July 4th for Righetti, we all should remember it for Henry Louis Gehrig.

Born June 19, 1903 in New York, Heinrich Ludwig Gehrig was known as "Lou" to differentiate him from his father.  Lou was the only Gehrig child to live to adulthood, as two daughters died due to whooping cough and measles, and another son died in infancy.

His mother Christina doted on him, while his father struggled to keep work. He attended Columbia University (though he did not graduate) and attracted the eye of Yankees scout Paul Krichell, much to the disdain of his mother.

Shy and very uncomfortable socially, he made it to the Yankees, debuting June 15, 1923.  He began his legendary 2130 consecutive game streak on June 1, 1925, and would not take a day off until he pulled himself out of the lineup before a game in Detroit on May 2, 1939.

Cal Ripken Jr broke Gehrig's streak in 1995.

The reason for Gehrig's departure from the lineup - and into retirement - was the diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).  It has since, of course, become known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.

Incidentally, an effort has been underway for some time to unseal Gehrig's medical records at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota to determine if his condition was a result of concussions and not ALS.

New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia addresses the crowd at "Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day," July 4, 1939.
A tribute was planned, "Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day," at Yankee Stadium on July 4, 1939.  Between games of a doubleheader with the Washington Senators, Gehrig was honored with various trophies and gifts as his 1927 "Murderers Row" teammates gathered on the field.  For Lou, it meant a reunion with his former partner Babe Ruth, whom he had a strained relationship with.

He was presented with a trophy from the Yankees that included a poem written New York Times writer John Kiernan that said
We’ve been to the wars together;
We took our foes as they came;
And always you were the leader,
And ever you played the game.
Idol of cheering millions,
Records are yours by sheaves;
Iron of frame they hailed you
Decked you with laurel leaves.
But higher than that we hold you,
We who have known you best;
Knowing the way you came through
Every human test.
Let this be a silent token
Of lasting Friendship’s gleam,
And all that we’ve left unspoken;
Your Pals of the Yankees Team.

After all of the presentations and remarks, including those of Yankees manager Joe McCarthy, Lou was ushered, sheepishly, to the microphone.  He initially said he would address the crowd, and had prepared an outline, but now he felt he couldn't, under the strain of the emotion.

Finally, in a ballpark with over 68,000 spectators, Gehrig spoke as the place went virtually silent.

Gehrig never rehearsed his words.

There is no exact transcript of what exactly Lou said, nor is there a full broadcast or movie.  There are various versions, with Gehrig's own website giving one version, and Jonathan Eig's wonderful, must-read biography, Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig saying something else.  Marty Appel's brilliant Yankees history, Pinstripe Empire, also got in on the act.

There are parts that are completely agreed on, in part because there is video of those parts.  Gehrig said, beyond a doubt, "Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth."  It is, with respect to Jim Valvano and other great, legendary sports speeches, sports version of the Gettysburg Address.
"For the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break. Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth. 
"When you look around, wouldn't you consider it a privilege to associate yourself with such fine-looking men as are standing in uniform in the ballpark today? Sure, I'm lucky. Who wouldn't consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball's greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with such a grand little fellow as Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy?  Who wouldn't feel honored to room with such a grand guy as Bill Dickey?

"When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift - that's something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies - that's something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter - that's something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body - it's a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed - that's the finest I know.

"That I might have been given a bad break, but I've got an awful lot to live for.  Thank you."

The famous hug of Ruth to Gehrig.
Gehrig departed to a thunderous cheer and a hug from Ruth.  Although he played in New York and retired second in career home runs (493), Gehrig might be, quite bluntly, the most underappreciated athlete, perhaps ever in New York, as well as in sports. He played in the shadow of Ruth and, eventually, a hotshot youngster named Joe DiMaggio.

His uniform number 4 was retired - the first ever in sports history - on that Fourth of July in 1939.

Lou Gehrig died less than two years later, on June 2, 1941, a few weeks shy of his 39th birthday.  His remains are interred in Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, NY.

This a Movietone news reel from 1939.

I could write so much more about Gehrig.  While it's easy to admire Ruth - and I do - I truly believe I would have been a Gehrig guy.  His humility, quiet leadership, and talent were rare.  He was Ruth without the flash.

Independence Day

July 4.

George Steinbrenner was born on this day.  So was John Sterling.

Thuuuuuuuuhhhh day?

Independence Day.  Not the Will Smith/Jeff Goldblum/Bill Pullman-as-President flick of 1996 (a somewhat entertaining sci-fi romp).

No, today is about independence.  Not a city in Missouri, but a concept (one that gave the city founders to name it that).

I often decry the notion of stores being open on holidays.  Yet it is Independence - freedom - that allows Target to say "come on in!"  It's that same thing that allows common citizens to debate freely.  To question our leaders.  To move about as we please.

Tonight, many places and neighborhoods will set off fireworks.  Please be careful if you are doing them yourselves.  Allow this 1936 newspaper clipping to serve as a reminder.
Donald Adams was born Robert Donald Adams.  He was known by both his first and middle names.  He, of course, was my father.

Anyway, we enjoy the freedom to gather and watch those fireworks tonight.  It's beginning to look like I'll be doing that, on a boat in the Hudson River in Poughkeepsie tonight.

Others will watch the spectacular put on by Macy's in New York and elsewhere around the world.

Of course there are limits to those freedoms, and others are open to interpretation.  For instance, the behavior by both sides at a school board meeting in East Ramapo (Rockland County), NY left a lot to be desired.

Still here we are - 237 years after the Declaration of Independence was ratified by the Continental Congress in Philadelphia.

And you thought Philly was only good for the Eagles, Phillies, Flyers, Hall and Oates, and Cheese Steaks. HA!

While it is tempting to play Ray Charles' "America the Beautiful" and many other patriotic tunes, what's more American than John Philip Sousa's "The Stars and Stripes Forever?"  Ladies the gentlemen, the United States Marine Corps Band.

If you also have the time, and energy, below are the words that were ratified on July 4, 1776. The signatures include many names that should be recognized: Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and John Hancock.  Many names are notable - you know them because a park, a street, a town, or a business were named after them.

Names like William Floyd and Francis Lewis are more than a parkway or boulevard.  Richard Stockton, is not to be confused with a sports broadcaster or a New Jersey Turnpike rest area.  Samuel Adams is not just a beer or what my son was almost named.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
Amen.  May God (or whoever you so choose - Babe Ruth will do) bless America on this Fourth of July, 2013.

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:

Column 1
   Button Gwinnett
   Lyman Hall
   George Walton

Column 2
North Carolina:
   William Hooper
   Joseph Hewes
   John Penn
South Carolina:
   Edward Rutledge
   Thomas Heyward, Jr.
   Thomas Lynch, Jr.
   Arthur Middleton

Column 3
John Hancock
Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton

Column 4
   Robert Morris
   Benjamin Rush
   Benjamin Franklin
   John Morton
   George Clymer
   James Smith
   George Taylor
   James Wilson
   George Ross
   Caesar Rodney
   George Read
   Thomas McKean

Column 5
New York:
   William Floyd
   Philip Livingston
   Francis Lewis
   Lewis Morris
New Jersey:
   Richard Stockton
   John Witherspoon
   Francis Hopkinson
   John Hart
   Abraham Clark

Column 6
New Hampshire:
   Josiah Bartlett
   William Whipple
   Samuel Adams
   John Adams
   Robert Treat Paine
   Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island:
   Stephen Hopkins
   William Ellery
   Roger Sherman
   Samuel Huntington
   William Williams
   Oliver Wolcott
New Hampshire:
   Matthew Thornton

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

No Hitter

Homer Bailey celebrates after throwing a no-hitter (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
There's something about the drama of those words: "no hitter" or, better, "perfect game" to get a fans' blood going.

It's the moment when we're reminded that baseball, in this rather desperate time for America's Pastime, still kicks ass.

A quiet, otherwise lame night got good when I was a note pop up that Reds pitcher Homer Bailey had thrown a no-hitter through eight innings against the Giants. Quickly I got the TV onto the MLB Network, where Matt Vasgersian and Sean Bailey were holding court.

I also quickly alerted friends and social media types alike.

In this era, the beauty of technology is that, with a subscription, one can watch the broadcasts of other outlets.  I decided against the Reds call to watch the Giants feed.  As Bailey completed his second career no-hitter, Vasgersian gave an excitable call, while the Giants broadcasters were respectful, deferential, but also nearly depressed.

I also heard the call of Thom Brennaman and, giving credit where it is due, it was solid.  The best of the three that I heard.

Anyway, I love no-hitters and perfecto's.  For one thing, they're rare.  There have been only 23 perfect games since 1880.  While no-hitters are much more common, they're still great fun to watch.

Suddenly, quite often, one stops rooting for their team and begins pulling for the pitcher, even if it's against them*.

*This phenomenon does not apply to me.  I was at Yankee Stadium as Bartolo Colon held the Bombers to one hit (Luis Polonia, one out, bottom of the eighth) as he struck out 13.  I also sat, sickened, in front of my TV as 31* different Astros pitchers held the Yankees hitless in 2003.  So, no, I don't root in that case.

*Slight exaggeration, of course.  It might have been five.

Oh, but I rooted tonight.  Why not? I began to get into each pitch.  Each swing brought a reaction.

I've mentioned it before, and I'll say it again.  I once attended a no-hitter, as Jim Abbott held the Indians hitless in 1993.  I stayed calm, but aware of it as I kept score.  Abbott was good through five.  Six.  Seven.  Oh damn, hitless through eight.

To the ninth.

And done.  I rarely cheered as loudly as I did at that moment - an explosion of relief, as the tension built.  I was actually hoarse.

It's rare. It's drama.  It's something no other sport can match in this regard.

It was fun to watch tonight.