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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Baseball, teaching, and money

Letter writer Alan Farmer of Phoenix doesn’t understand the meaning of the law of supply and demand. In the 9-25 Arizona Republic, Mr. Farmer, who is a dissatisfied teacher, is upset that Diamondbacks’ baseball pitcher Brandon Webb is not willing to take a pay cut for 2010 on an $8.5 million option offered by the team. Webb missed the 2009 season because of a shoulder injury which was operated on recently.

Mr. Farmer complains about his 10 hour workdays and that Webb can make more money pitching 6 innings than Mr. Farmer makes in a year. He thinks that athletes should be grateful that they make so much money for the small amount of time they have to work. He goes on to whine some more about how much time teachers have to put in for little pay while athletes like Webb play a game and become millionaires.

I think Mr. Farmer would not see anything wrong with the shoe being on the other foot even though teachers don’t deserve $8.5 million per year any more than sports stars do. However, that is where the pesky law of supply and demand kicks in. No one will pay to see Mr. Farmer teach his classes, and no one will sponsor TV coverage of him doing the same. Webb has the advantage of being in a business that involves big bucks, plenty of TV money and exposure, sponsorships, rich owners, and a demand for players who are good at playing baseball. He also is in a business where his career may be over because of injury and if not, it will be over anyway when he reaches about 40.

Mr. Farmer gripes about players like Webb getting millions for working "a few hours a week." They may only play a few hours a week, but when guys like Webb are working they are applying an immense skill to their game. I wonder if Mr. Farmer could throw 9 innings of sinker balls and change up pitches to get out highly skilled major league batters like Webb has done for many years. How about throwing a 95 mile per hour fastball? Or, could he hit .300 batting against guys like Webb or perhaps Dan Haren (who make $11 million per year). Of course, he couldn’t do any of those things. Unfortunately for him, there is more demand for good ballplayers than good teachers which is a shame but whoever said life was fair.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

1914 Los Angeles to Phoenix auto race

By the early 1900's, automobiles were gaining in popularity. In 1905, the great Apache chief Geronimo was photographed hunting buffalo out the back of an early heap. At about that time the humorist Will Rogers commented that the "only trouble with them (autos) is that you get there quicker than you can think of a reason for going there."

By 1908, auto races were being held to influence the building of better roads. One of the most popular was the Los Angeles to Phoenix race which was held between 1908 and 1914. There were no interstates in those days or even two lane roads. The autos would race across cactus laden and rocky wagon trails for the first place prize money of $2,500. With no gas stations or garages existing, the drivers would carry extra parts and install an oversized gas tank.

One of the most exciting of the L. A.-Phoenix races was in 1914. It went from L. A. to Needles via Oatman Pass, then east to Ash Fork, south to Wickenburg, and into Phoenix.. It was 700 miles of potholes, sage, and arroyos combined with snow and sleet. Needless to say, the roads were a quagmire.

The drivers were racing against time, not each other, so there were a couple of overnight stops. The winner was a famous driver of the day, Barney Oldfield, in his Stutz-Bearcat. However, it wasn’t easy as he had to drive several miles on a tire rim after a blowout near Kingman and his car almost drowned before it was pulled out of New River by a team of mules.

One of the sponsors of the race was the Arizona Republican (today’s Republic) which called the race the "Cactus Derby." At a party after the race, many predicted that someday there would be all weather paved roads across the Southwest. They also predicted that automobiles would pass from being a plaything and would become part of American culture.

In 1914, Barney Oldfield also raced in the Indianapolis 500 where he finished 5th. He went on to many more races and even had a brief career on Broadway and in movies. He died in 1946 at age 68.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Globe to Phoenix in 8 hours!!

In 1992, I could drive from Globe to north Scottsdale in my 1991 Chevy Cavalier 4 banger, in an hour and a half. Today, it would be faster with the addition of the 101 and the Superstition Freeway. I mention this because of an ad I saw in the archives of the Phoenix Gazette from 1913 where a company offered fast service from Globe to Phoenix in one of their "big Velie 40's."

The service was offered by the Globe-Kelvin Auto Stage Company which announced that "travelers can get from Globe to Phoenix in eight hours for $11.90." The Velies ran "every day from the O. K. stables" and made connection with the Arizona Eastern railroad at Kelvin for Ray, Hayden, Winkelman, Florence, Mesa, Tempe, and Phoenix.

The W. K. Rudolph Auto Stage Company also offered service of 8 ½ hours from the Adams Hotel in Phoenix to Globe for $15 one way and $25 round trip. They had a stop for lunch in addition to a stop at Roosevelt Dam in each direction.

"Auto stage" was an early name for automobiles that carried passengers and incidental luggage. I assume the "stage" was a carryover from the horse drawn stagecoaches previously used.

The Velie 40 was an automobile made by the Velie Carriage Company from 1909 until 1929 when Mr.Velie and his son both died. They were very successful and had good financial backing as the elder Mr. Velie’s mother was married to John Deere of agricultural implement fame.

The Velies were also successful in race car competition and during the 1920s were selling about 5,000 cars a year.

Today, you can drive to Las Vegas in about half the time it took to get to Globe in 1913 and you can do it in the comfort of your own car.

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Saturday, September 05, 2009

Remember ankle dog collars?

If you like some humorous comments on offbeat subjects, you should read Clay Thompson’s column in the Arizona Republic. For those of you who don’t want to spring for a hard copy, Clay’s column is also online.

One of Clay’s recent columns answered a question for me that I have been wondering about for years. I remember as a kid in the 50s how teenage girls had a style of wearing a dog collar around their ankle. I have asked people over time what that was about but always received a quizzical look. Recently, it was revealed in Clay’s column that when a girl wore the collar on her LEFT ankle, it indicated she was going steady. If it was on her RIGHT ankle, it meant she wasn’t going steady. Sound strange? Remember, it was an era of petticoats, sock hops, padded bras, girdles, and girls washing their hair with bath soap.

At this moment, if you are young enough, many of you are probably asking, "What the hell is ‘going steady?’" Going steady happened when a boy and girl THOUGHT they were in love as teenagers and made a pact that they wouldn’t date anyone else. Of course, the fickle nature of youth would eventually kick in and the couple would break up but, it was a pretty good deal for a while as it guaranteed both members a date on a Saturday night. Unfortunately, occasionally the couple would become a bit too serious and another baby boomer would enter the world courtesy of a hot night in the back seat of a ‘51 Ford.

Having never had kids of my own (I think), I’m not sure what teenagers do now other than what I see from a distance. For example, it doesn’t look like going steady or dating is a big deal anymore. In the ‘50s, a boy would nervously call a girl in the hopes of obtaining a precious date for a Saturday night. That few moments between nervously asking the big question and waiting for the answer was agony! What if she said "No!"? Even worse, what if she said, "Gee, I really like ya a lot but Ralph already asked me out." I think "I like ya a lot" was more devastating to hear than "No." It meant "Not in your wildest dreams are you ever going to touch me."

I’ve noticed in recent years that teenage boys and girls run in groups. I’ve seen mobs of them at places like Paradise Valley Mall and have noticed that several malls in recent years have imposed restrictions on having kids "hangin’ out." The girls dress sloppy like the boys and receive the same minimal respect from their peers. That’s a lot different from my teenage days when we put girls on a pedestal. Well, some girls anyway!

It’s more proof of how the world has changed. Today kids have iPods which never leave their ears, we had 45 rpm records. We had gas stations with attendants and "ding-ding" bells and restrooms that had a purple neon light under the toilet seat to give the illusion it was sanitizing. Today you pump your own at Circle K. We had girls with dog collars on their ankles, today they actually put collars on dogs. Imagine that!

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