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Saturday, April 15, 2017

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL: THEN AND NOW

I have been a fan of major league baseball for as long as I can remember.  I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio so as a kid I kept close track of our home town Reds.  During those days in the 1950’s the Reds had an exciting team but didn’t usually win more games than they lost because they lacked one of the first ingredients for success in the game:  good pitching.  They were exciting to follow because although they gave up a lot of runs, they also scored a lot with great hitters like Ted Kluszewski, Gus Bell, Wally Post and Jim Greengrass.  Consequently, we saw a lot of 10-9 games with the Reds on the short end but they won their share of those high scoring games too.

Regardless of their inadequacies on the pitchers’ mound those Reds teams and other major league teams of their era were a lot different from teams of today.  A major reason is that they didn’t make the high salaries that players make today.  During the early to late 1950’s players were fortunate to make $10,000 for a season.  Most of them had second jobs like pitcher Bud Podbielan of the Reds who worked part time at a Lincoln-Mercury dealership in Cincinnati to make ends meet.  In 1957 a great young pitcher on the Reds named Jim Maloney held out in spring training for a $20,000 contract; chicken feed by today’s standards.  As good as he was, he wound up signing for $17,000 as the team wouldn’t budge on its offer.  A guy like Maloney would be making millions today.

That era was also different from today because of the players’ attitude toward fans.  Those guys were a lot more accessible that the millionaires we have on the diamonds today.  I remember when Jerry Colangelo was involved with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2003, some of the players balked because Colangelo insisted that they sign autographs for ten minutes before games.  It doesn’t seem like much of a hardship but with the millions those guys were making some felt it to be a burden. 

As a comparison, I remember going to Reds games in Cincinnati as a kid and collecting autographs from the players before games.  They used to hang out under the grandstand at old Crosley Field to grab a few puffs off a Camel or Lucky Strike before they went out to warm up.  That area was where we kids invaded to get autographs.  Those players were of a different mindset than many of today.  They were happy to sign our books and many even seemed flattered to be asked for an autograph.

When visiting teams came to Cincinnati to play the Reds, it was time for me to take the trolley bus downtown and hang around the hotel lobbies where the visiting teams stayed.  I acquired many great autographs from guys like Willie Mays and Monte Irvin of the 1954 World Series Champion New York Giants plus the rest of the Giants, Philadelphia Phillies, and , of course, the Reds..  Willie and Monte even took the time to add a message to me next to their name.  Monte died recently but Willie is still hanging on in his late 80’s

Those were fun days to grow up.  It was an era when sports weren’t taken as seriously as now and people seemed to have more of a sense of humor.  Today there are guys making millions who couldn’t make a team in the days of fewer major league clubs.  It’s lucky timing for them.

(Please leave comments below.  Thanks!)


Monday, March 13, 2017

GLANCING AT TV HISTORY

Although the early days of television hurt the movie business, they didn’t ruin it like they did radio. Sure, starting in the late 1940s TV was new and exciting even if it was on a 7” to 16” black and white screen. However, not every home had one for two main reasons:  Sets were very expensive and they were hard to get.

As a kid in Cincinnati, I can remember our first TV. It was a 16” B&W “National” and it cost about $500. Those were big bucks in 1949 and there was no remote, just 3 channels, and “rabbit ears” on top of the set for an antenna. When reception got bad, a little Reynold’s Wrap around the antenna helped a bit except when an airplane passed over. Nothing could help that but it at least was just a brief interruption.

Most of the shows were local but NBC from New York had a network followed shortly after by CBS and ABC. One of the events responsible for the great interest in TV in the late 1940s was NBC’s successful broadcast of the 1947 baseball World Series. One of the popular showcases for TV was the local bar. Almost every one of them had a TV and packed in the customers who wanted to watch sporting events.
It took about six months to get a set as the demand was high. Everyone was in the business including brands you probably never heard of like Muntz, Hallicrafters, and Capehart. I mentioned above our National was $500 but if you wanted an “entertainment center” you could get a 7” TV, 78 rpm record player, and AM radio combination for about $800!

TV broadcasts in the early ‘50s usually came on about 5:00 in the afternoon and signed off at about midnight or 1:00 a.m.  Popular network shows were the Texaco Star Theater with Milton Berle (Uncle Miltie), Arthur Godfrey, and Ed Sullivan’s “Toast of the Town” which, a few years later, would cause a controversy when Elvis appeared with his swiveling hips. The camera could only show him from the waist up because of protests.

For the kids, there was Howdy Doody. Before we had a set, the kids in my neighborhood would crowd every afternoon at 5:30 into the living room of a girl up the street and watch Howdy Doody, Buffalo Bob, and the Peanut Gallery. The TV was a 14" Admiral B&W table model but it looked like a 60" color flat screen to us.

A 1956 Emerson 16" Black and White screen set
If you turned on the TV before “sign on” you would see a “test pattern” which was a bullseye looking thing usually with an Indian’s head that showed on the screen accompanied by an annoying hum.

It all sounds primitive now, but at the time it did a lot of damage to theater ticket sales. From 1948 to 1953, home ownership of TVs in the US increased from 1% to 50% and by the 1960s was 90%. Suddenly, color films were flowing out of Hollywood in response to the black and white one eyed monster in all those living rooms across America.

In 1952, a gigantic screen with three projectors and a superior
sound system made its debut in select theaters. It was called Cinerama and was followed closely by 3-D with its flimsy cardboard glasses. Other attempts by the film business to thwart TV were Cinemascope and Vista Vision.
Cinerama was discontinued in 1962 and 3-D only lasted a couple years in the 50s. Both systems plus the more standard wide screen stuff were basically stopgap methods used to try to win customers back into the theaters. Eventually, both genres found their niche and gimmicks gave way to more quality films while the movie studios started working with TV making “made for TV” films.
The dust had settled.

(Please leave comments below)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

REMEMBERING MY '61 CHEVY AND BOWLING

LOOKING BACK

If you like vintage cars, the photo below should interest you.  It was taken in the parking lot of my Air Force barracks at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri in 1964.

The red and white‘61 Chevy in the foreground was mine.  I had recently traded in a 1960 Volkswagen bug for it as the Volks was just a bit too small for me at 6’ 5” in height and it didn’t have a radio or heater.  That was too Spartan for me but at the time it was all I could afford with an Airman 2nd Class paycheck from the Air Force.  I paid $1,400 for that Chevy and it was well worth it.

The Chevy was a great car with the small V8 engine of those days.  Gas at that time in Missouri never went over about 26 cents a gallon and was usually at about 23 cents so it was pretty economical to run on an Air Force paycheck.

Another interesting aspect of this photo is that many of the cars parked in the background, which were routine for the time, became quite popular in later years as some of the great wheels of the past.  From right to left notice the ’60 Chevy convertible, ’57 Chevy 4 door, ’55 Chevy Convertible, and at the end of the line, a ’57 Ford Convertible.

It was a great time to be young.  The kids of today don’t realize the benefits of serving in the military and enjoying the memories and friendships from it. 

I doubt very much if I would have ever been able to enjoy a summer in Germany but I did in 1963 thanks to the Air Force “Operation Short Spurt” program of that era. Not everyone got great duty like that but serving one’s country was a great feeling and I have great memories from it.

REMEMBER BOWLING?




I used to love to bowl.  My wife Barb and I bowled in many leagues in the Kansas City and Scottsdale areas and we would rarely miss the pro bowlers on Saturday afternoon TV broadcasts of the Pro Bowlers Tour. 

The attached photo was probably the high water mark of my bowling experiences.  Each July I joined a group of about thirty guys from Kansas City who bowled in the prestigious Petersen Tournament in Chicago and although most of them were better than I was, I was always invited to join them in the Windy City.  Fortunately for me, I upset all of them and won the Kansas City squad that day in July of 1987.  Needless to say, it was quite a thrill to pull an upset like that.  I only wish my hair today was as dark as it is in that photo! I also wish I could still average 200!

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Monday, January 16, 2017

SMARTPHONES COULD BE RUINING YOUR LOVE LIFE! YIKES!!

I think the following column by Professor James A. Roberts of Baylor University is interesting.  I do not own a smartphone simply because I don’t think I would ever use it.  I have an old flip cell phone which is a convenient dust gatherer so I doubt if I need it or anything even more sophisticated.  I certainly don’t feel any need to be “phubbed” by a smartphone as I have seen enough bad manners for a lifetime just by the way people use the old fashioned cell phone which is now a member of the bad manners hall of fame.
How do you feel about Smartphone etiquette?  Leave comments below.  JM
SMARTPHONES COULD BE RUINING YOUR LOVE LIFE
By James A. Roberts, Baylor University
The majority of our relationships are in shambles.
The U.S. divorce rate hovers at 40 per cent but that’s not the whole story. Many intact relationships are on life support. According to a survey by the National Opinion Research Center, 60 percent of people in a relationship say they’re not very satisfied. There are some familiar culprits: money problems, bad sex, and kids.  But there’s a new relationship buster: the smartphone.
My colleague Meredith David and I recently conducted a study that explored just how detrimental smartphones can be to relationships.
We zeroed in on measuring something called “phubbing” (a fusion of “phone” and “snubbing”). It’s how often your romantic partner is distracted by his or her smartphone in your presence. With more and more people using the attention-siphoning devices -  the typical American checks his or her smartphone every 6 ½ minutes, or roughly 150 times each day – phubbing has emerged as a real source of conflict. For example, in one study, 70 percent of participants said that phubbing hurt their ability to interact with their romantic partners.
Most know what it’s like to be phubbed: You’re in the middle of a passionate screed only to realize that your partner’s attention is elsewhere. But you’ve probably also been a perpetrator, finding yourself drifting away from a conversation as you scroll through your Facebook feed.
In our study, we wanted to know the implications of this interference.
We surveyed 175 adults in romantic relationships from across the United States and had them fill out our questionnaire. We had them complete a nine-item Partner Phubbing Scale that measured how often some felt “phubbed” by his or her partner’s smartphone use.
Sample questions included “My partner places his or her smartphone where they can see it when we are together” and “my partner uses his or her smartphone when we are out together.”
Survey participants also completed a scale that measured how much smartphone use was a source of conflict in their relationships. Participants also completed a scale that measured how satisfied they were with their current relationship, how satisfied they were with their lives and if they were depressed.
We found that smartphones are real relationship downers – up there with money, sex and kids.
People who reported being at the receiving end of phubbing also reported higher levels of conflict over smartphone use than those who reported less phubbing. Not surprisingly, higher levels of smartphone-related conflict reduced levels of relationship satisfaction.
Something as seemingly innocent as using a smartphone in the presence of a romantic partner undermined the quality of the relationship. This can create a domino effect: As our study also showed, when we’re not happily in love, we are also less likely to be satisfied, overall, with life. We’re also more likely to report that we are depressed.
Why, might you ask, does partner phubbing wreak such havoc between romantic partners?
At least two possible explanations for such relationship tumult exist. The “Displacement Hypotheses” suggests that time spent on smartphones displaces (or reduces) more meaningful interactions with your lover, weakening the relationship. I call a second theory “Smartphone Conflict theory.”  Simply put, the device is a source of conflict and leads to fighting. Fights, of course, can only serve to undermine your satisfaction with your partner and the relationship.
So what can we take away from all of this? Even if we act like it’s no big deal, it still stings whenever we’re phubbed by our romantic partner. In a sense, our romantic partners are choosing their phone over us.

We probably feel a little less important and the relationship feels a little less secure.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

ELECTION THERAPY FROM MY BASKET OF DEPLORABLES

(The following was written by the brother of liberal New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.  Obviously he has a different outlook on the recent election than his esteemed sister.)

The election was a complete repudiation of Barack Obama: his fantasy world of political correctness, the politicization of the Justice Department and the I.R.S., an out-of-control E.P.A., his neutering of the military, his nonsupport of the police and his fixation on things like transgender bathrooms. Since he became president, his party has lost 63 House seats, 10 Senate seats and 14 governor positions.

The country had signaled strongly in the last two midterms that they were not happy. The Dems' answer was to give them more of the same from a person they did not like or trust.

Preaching - and pandering - with a message of inclusion, the Democrats have instead become a party where incivility and bad manners are taken for granted, rudeness is routine, religion is mocked and there is absolutely no respect for a differing opinion. This did not go down well in the Midwest, where Trump flipped three blue states and 44 electoral votes.

The rudeness reached its peak when Vice President-elect Mike Pence was booed by attendees of "Hamilton" and then pompously lectured by the cast. This may play well with the New York theater crowd but is considered boorish and unacceptable by those of us taught to respect the office of the president and vice president, if not the occupants.

Here is a short primer for the young protesters. If your preferred candidate loses, there is no need for mass hysteria, canceled midterms, safe spaces, crying rooms or group primal screams. You might understand this better if you had not received participation trophies, undeserved grades to protect your feelings or even if you had a proper understanding of civics. The Democrats are now crying that Hillary had more popular votes. That can be her participation trophy.

If any of my sons had told me they were too distraught over a national election to take an exam, I would have brought them home the next day, fearful of the instruction they were receiving. Not one of the top 50 colleges mandate one semester of Western Civilization. Maybe they should rethink that.

Mr. Trump received over 62 million votes, not all of them cast by homophobes, Islamaphobes, racists, sexists, misogynists or any other "ists." I would caution Trump deniers that all of the crying and whining is not good preparation for the coming storm. The liberal media, both print and electronic, has lost all credibility. I am reasonably sure that none of the mainstream print media had stories prepared for a Trump victory. I watched the networks and cable stations in their midnight meltdown - embodied by Rachel Maddow explaining to viewers that they were not having a "terrible, terrible dream" and that they had not died and "gone to hell."

The media's criticism of Trump's high-level picks as "not diverse enough" or "too white and male" - a day before he named two women and offered a cabinet position to an African-American - magnified this fact.

Here is a final word to my Democratic friends. The election is over. There will not be a do-over. So let me bid farewell to Al Sharpton, Ben Rhodes and the Clintons. Note to Cher, Barbra, Amy Schumer and Lena Dunham: Your plane is waiting. And to Jon Stewart, who talked about moving to another planet: Your spaceship is waiting. To Bruce Springsteen, Jay Z, Beyoncé and Katy Perry, thanks for the free concerts. And finally, to all the foreign countries that contributed to the Clinton Foundation, there will not be a payoff or a rebate.

As Eddie Murphy so eloquently stated in the movie 48 Hrs.: "There's a new sheriff in town." And he is going to be here for 1,461 days.  

Merry Christmas.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

HOLLYWOOD AND THE WORLD WAR II YEARS

Would you believe that during World War II Hollywood matinee idol Clark Gable flew several B-17 missions to acquire film footage? How about leading man Jimmy Stewart flying B-17s and B-24s in raids over Germany?

It’s true and as a veteran, Stewart was highly decorated for his bravery while rising to the rank of Brigadier General. Gable flew many missions and rose to the rank of Captain. These are just two examples of how Hollywood got immersed in the war effort during those perilous times between 1941 and 1945.

Seventy-five years ago this month on December 7, 1941, “A date which will live in infamy,” the Japanese attacked the American base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii thrusting the United States into World War II. By June of 1942 the Office of War Information was established and one of its duties was to advise Hollywood about what they thought were appropriate films to depict the war. Various themes were used like glorification of the war, attempts at showing a balanced point of view, morale builders, and some “Let’s mow ‘em down" flicks.

Clark Gable in a B-17 during WWII
Some of the efforts in the 1942-1943 era were not only considered good “war” movies  but are remembered as great films in general  as they have withstood the test of time. “Guadacanal Diary” (1943),“Wake Island” (1942), and “Objective, Burma!” (1945) are good examples. They were based on real events insofar as they concerned themselves with actual places and combat initiatives, but another purpose was to pump up the audience as much as to present information. By doing so, they usually depicted an ethnically mixed group of US soldiers drawn together despite their differences by their patriotism, while illustrating their hatred of a common enemy. 

After dismal early failures, the war pendulum began to swing back toward the allies in 1943 and 1944. At that time Hollywood began producing more films aimed at depicting life on the home front. Movies like “Tender Comrades” (1943) and “Since You Went Away” (1944) showed moviegoers how the families of servicemen coped with the war while they were gone.

Many upbeat musicals were made during wartime with some of them slipping in negative remarks about the enemy and praising the American point of view.  Patriotism was “in” and great support was given to activities like scrap metal drives and “victory gardens” to help offset rationing and support the war effort. Films like Jimmy Cagney’s award winning “Yankee Doodle Dandy” (1942) exemplified those feelings.

Other musicals like “Stage Door Canteen” (1943) and Hollywood Canteen” (1944) were star studded favorites that dealt more directly with the current war effort.  In these films various Hollywood stars would perform in a USO Club setting while serving food and drinks and mingling with servicemen, mostly enlisted.

There were also song and dance extravaganzas like “Holiday Inn” (1942) with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire that made no mention of the war but were produced to serve as enjoyable reminders of American life and what our veteran servicemen were fighting for. “Christmas in Connecticut” with Barbara Stanwyck and Dennis Morgan was released after the war in 1945 and dealt with a Navy veteran returning home to post war America.

Besides the many films made about World War II, Hollywood also went on the road as screen stars traveled far and wide on USO tours to entertain the veteran troops. The USO (United Service Organizations) was established in 1941 and by 1944 had 3,000 clubs operating. These clubs went a long way to provide entertainment and a touch of home for troops worldwide.

While many stars were involved with entertaining the troops, none were more famous than Bob Hope.  His first show was at March Field in California in March of 1941. Hope did his show before the United States was even involved with World War II. He then traveled tirelessly throughout the war with his litany of military jokes entertaining thousands of troops at the front. Hope wasn’t alone as songwriter Irving Berlin, character actor Reginald Gardner, harmonica virtuoso Larry Adler, singer Frances Langford, comedian Jack Benny, and actress Marlene Dietrich were among many others who visited the troops.

Other stars like pinup girl Betty Grable, Bette Davis, Greer Garson, and Rita Hayworth stayed on the home front and were instrumental in raising support for war bonds and other war related causes like scrap drives. Hayworth even contributed the bumpers off her personal car.

This activity by the stars showed the American people that if the movie stars could deprive themselves of certain niceties, it certainly would be all right for Mary and John Q. Public to do likewise.

The era of World War II was a time of unity in the United States when our people pitched in together toward the war effort.  It also was a time when Hollywood was there to do its part.


Sunday, October 30, 2016

REMEMBERING GENERAL McDOWELL ON VETERAN'S DAY

If you have lived in the Scottsdale area very long, you are probably familiar with how many items carry the name “McDowell.” You can observe the McDowell Mountains, gamble at Fort McDowell, visit McDowell Mountain Park or buy a car on McDowell Road. One would think this guy McDowell must have been quite a guy. In his own way, he was.

General Irvin McDowell (1818-1885) 
(National Archives)
In his early career beginning in the late 1830’s, Irvin McDowell held his own with guys like Ulysses Grant and Robert E. Lee. He graduated from West Point in 1838 at age 20 where he received his commission as a second lieutenant.  By 1856, he had fought in the Mexican War and had been promoted to the rank of major.

After his promotion to brigadier general during the Civil War in 1861, he fell into the trap of the Peter Principle as he was routed by Southern troops in the first and second battles of Bull Run in Virginia. After those embarrassments, he was considered an ineffective field general and was assigned to the lesser duty of being commander of the Department of the Pacific. Supposedly, during this duty he became familiar with the West and Arizona.  However, some historians claim that he never set foot in Arizona.

Regardless, in 1872 McDowell was promoted to major general in spite of his war record. He had served his country faithfully such as during his service in the West which included building a railroad bridge for the Southern Pacific over the Colorado River at Yuma in 1877. That bridge was important to western expansion.

In 1882, McDowell retired from the Army at age 64 having served for 44 years. He became a park commissioner for San Francisco and remained in that position until he died on May 4, 1885.

There will never be a movement to list General McDowell with guys like Eisenhower, Patton, Grant, and MacArthur as one of our greatest generals but his 44 years of military service are an accomplishment that should be noted. It would be a fitting gesture if some year on November's Veteran's Day, if you live in Arizona and are watching the sun shine on the McDowell Mountains, to give a nod, and maybe even a salute, and say, “Happy Birthday, Irvin and thanks for your 44 years of service to your country.”