Posts Tagged ‘essay’

The Big Picture

July 16, 2012

It’s a good thing this season doesn’t matter,because, through all games of Sunday, April 15, 2012, the Astros own  the worst record in the big leagues:

1 Yankees 54 34` .614
2 Rangers 54 35 .607 0.5
3 Nationals 51 35 .593 2.0
4 Reds 50 38 .568 4.0
5t Braves 49 39 .557 5.0
5t Pirates 49 39 .557 5.0
5t White Sox 49 39 .557 5.0
8t Angels 49 40 .551 5.5
8t Giants 49 40 .551 5.5
10 Dodgers 48 42 .533 7.0
11 Orioles 46 42 .523 8.0
12t Athletics 46 43 .517 8.5
12t Cardinals 46 43 .517 8.5
12t Mets 46 43 .517 8.5
12t Rays 46 43 .517 8.5
12t Tigers 46 43 .517 8,5
17 Indians 45 43 .511 9.0
18t Blue Jays 45 44 .506 9.5
18t Red Sox 45 44 .506 9.5
20t Brewers 42 46 .477 12.0
20t Diamondbacks 42 46 .477 12.0
20t Marlins 42 46 .477 12.0
23 Royals 38 49 .437 15.5
24 Phillies 39 51 .433 16.0
25 Mariners 37 53 .411 18.0
26t Cubs 36 52 .409 18.0
26t Twins 36 52 .409 18.0
28 Padres 36 54 .400 19.0
29 Rockies 34 54 .386 20.0
30 Astros 33 56 .371 21.5


A Pox Upon the Up and Running Baseball One-World

I pledge no allegiance – to the flag,

Of the united big league of baseball,

But to the sweet memory – of Stan the Man,

As they soon move the DH – into old NL land.

Pox to the republic – for which he now plans,

One baseball nation – under Bud,

With liberty and revenue for some.



By the Sea

July 15, 2012

By the Sea, Corpus Christi, 1941.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve carried this visual in my mind of sailboats on the water. These are usually accompanied by billowing white cotton candy clouds, fresh salty air breezes, and a whole of dreams about the good times ahead. The setting is usually Corpus Christi, Rockport, or Galveston, all places in Texas – and a big part of my fondest childhood memories from my earliest times.

The other day, while going through some ancient attic storage boxes, looking for something else, of course, I came across the featured photo of me in Corpus Christi. I remembered seeing it long ago, but I don’t actually recall it being taken. I guess I was about three years old at the time.

It suggests that all of my sailboat memories are not simply coming from my imagination. They were coming directly from my actual childhood experience. I also observe from the photo that I got a little more sun back in the day than I do now, but that’s an easy one to figure. Once you’ve lived long enough to have harvested the kind of skin cancer I picked up from a lifetime of unprotected exposure to the sun through baseball and all other outside pursuits, you get a little more careful about direct sun exposure.

This morning the sailboat scenario reminds me that so much of life is like the picture. Things float by us over the years. Some things are too big and fast for us to do much about; others are our opportunities to jump on to the winds of the world in search of our own destinations; and others are simply there to be either enjoyed for their beauty or avoided for their peril. (Or to teach us that some things we first see as beautiful may be perilous to our long-term consumption of same.)

For baseball fans, sometimes life floats by us in the form of a few seasons we simply have to endure. We are having such a season in Houston in 2012 and we are well on our way to watching the Astros bring home the worst record in baseball. If there’s any consolation, we’ll need to find hope in the word of new owner Jim Crane that he intends to make it better as soon as his people in charge can deliver the goods. Hope in that much for now is what we’ve got and, try to remember too: The Chicago Cubs and their fans have been forced for over a century to endure an endless armada of sailboats that inevitably have sunk on their failed maiden voyages to the rocky shores of hope’s sweet redemption.

Forgive me, folks, but I’m going back to sleep this early Sunday morning, “to sleep, per chance to dream … by the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea,”

Seems Like Old Times

June 25, 2012

That’s Harold Arlin behind the Pirates broadcast mike at Forbes Field in 1972. Arlin did the first radio baseball game broadcast over KDKA in Pittsburgh on August 5, 1921. To Arlin’s right is Hall of Fame broadcaster Bob Prince, who entertained Arlin that early 70s night on his sentimental short-stint return  for the evening.

Seems like old times. Every time I fix a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to tide me through lunch, a part of my brain gets the idea that I will be back on the sandlot in no time for Round Two of our All Summer, All Day, Everyday Baseball Sandlot Slugfest. I can even pick up the chatter of the morning’s early ramblings from “Eagle Field” at the Pecan Park intersection of Japonica @ Myrtle. The voices of my friends and their cries for justice and equity on our self-governed game calls in the morning segment are as clear today as they were sixty plus years ago. Then I take a step or two away from the kitchen table and the reality of things lands with hard certainty. There won’t be any new sandlot games for me this afternoon. Or any other day soon. I’ll have to get my baseball fix as per always these days watching the Astros, Skeeters, and our ever-loving closest thing to sandlot Houston Babies vintage base ball club play. And I’m fine with that settlement for as long as I can be near the sound of a baseball popping either leather – or flying off its impact of its collision with a wooden bat on its way to some fenced-in distant horizon.

It’s funny how the sounds of the game so dominate my most primal memories of how baseball came into my life. And, for me, like for many of you, it came into my life on the sonorous sounds of radio baseball game broadcasts from the 1940s and 1950s. In fairness to the wonderful media people we enjoy in Houston, I think many things have happened to take away the descriptive poetry and character that some of those early radio broadcasters both had and used.

For one thing, many of them worked alone, whereas, today, all broadcasters work as members of teams over the air. Solitude invites the poetic expression; team work invites interaction with your partner. Take the simple example of the high pop fly. Ours here is handled by the third base man:

Red Barber Type Might Say: “Irvin swings hard … and there’s a very high pop fly to the left side … apparently floating up into the Robin’s egg blue sky and headed for the stratosphere near third base … Cox dances onto the balance wheel … looking straight up in pure hunger for the Law of Gravity to make its latest ruling … and here comes the descent … and Cox snuggles the long distance popper into his glove for the second out in the top of the sixth. …. and he flips it over to Reese for a celebratory trip around the Dodger infield.”

2012 Type Mike Might Say: “Irvin swings … and there’s a high pop to the left side … Cox settles under it. … and he … takes it for the out. What do you think of that one, Pat? That one was really up there, wasn’t it?”

2012 Partner Pat Says: “Yep. … It sure was, Mike. …. It reminds me of the ball I almost caught in Omaha once.”

2012 Mike Says: “Actually, Pat, that ball went far enough to remind me how far the fans can also stretch their baseball ticket dollars if they want to take advantage of the club’s new Second Half Mini Season Ticket Package. …”

I’m being a little unfair. In Houston, we have some of the finest broadcasters in the nation calling Astros games over both radio and television. Bill Brown and Jim DeShaies, with considerable help from the “columns” that Greg Lucas writes within the body of each game he works are nothing less than the best at what they each do. Brown has no superior when it comes to the art of mindful description that never looses touch with the fact that viewers do not need a telecaster to describe for them what they can already see for themselves. Instead of over-polishing the already shining apple, Bill Brown interjects historical reference that helps keep the game from stumbling over its own quiet visual inertia. He keeps the score and the game situation intact – and he brings out the best in his creative, articulate, and very funny partner,  jim Deshaies. As a partner who brings two loaves of fresh bread to the broadcast breakfast table, nobody does it  better than “JD, the Baker of Baseball Perspective.”

On the Houston radio side, my favorite guy is Dave Raymond, the only Stanford Tree in the Houston Baseball Broadcast. Raymond is bright, an excellent communicator, a poet in his own right, and the kind of guy who would have been a great radio broadcaster in any era. Until the near future local broadcasting air clears, we can only hope that Dave Raymond will be a long time member of the Houston media contingent.

Seems like we’ve got a few reminders in our midst of how blessed we are in Houston to have so many really excellent broadcast people serving our needs for information, drama, and entertainment about and from – the game of baseball.

Seems like old times? All I have to do is think of the latest Jim DeShaies over-the-air story to be taken there.

For example, on the Astros last trip to Los Angeles, several members of pitcher Bud Norris family were there to watch him pitch against the Dodgers.At one point in the game, Norris came to bat and lifted a lazy can-of-corn fly ball out to left field. It wasn’t much of swing or play, but it was enough to bring Bud’s sister leaping to her feet and smiling and applauding all the while.

Noting the picture of Bud’s sister’s inexplicable actions on-screen, broadcaster Bill Brown expressed his wonder over the reasons for her joy.

Jim DeShaies quickly added, “Maybe she just had ‘fly out to left’ in the family pool.”

Just like old times, that kind of line is still funny today.

Saturday Morning Meanderings

August 20, 2011

Vanity. Vanity. All is Vanity. - As Time Goes By.

Why is it that baseball managers need to dress in uniform like their players to seem at home in their jobs, but football and basketball coaches would look stupid in our eyes if they came to work dressed out like their players?

Why is it that football and basketball coaches are controlled by a limited number of time-outs they may call during a game, but baseball managers may call as many time-outs as they damn well choose?

Why was now retired manager Bobby Cox ejected a record-setting 161 times during his career while retired Hall of Famer Stan Musial was never tossed from a game in his long big league life?  Let me put it another way: Why was Bobby Cox seen by most people as a sore-headed old baseball curmudgeon while Stan Musil was viewed as one of the most likable people in baseball history?

If the baseball season was only sixteen (16) games long and the football season stretched to one hundred and sixty-two (162) games, who would go to see either sport? My guess is there would still be big crowds for football, with people betting the over/under numbers on season roster and game fatality totals. Interest in once a week baseball would shift attention to one (or two) big starters. A once-a-week Sandy Koufax job might just be your club’s biggest ticket to the World Series.

Why is it that football and basketball both have stronger penalties against unfair play than baseball? Oh sure, baseball has the take your base by the HBP rule, and the base advancement for runners penalty by the balk rule, but football awards huge acres of field position for miscreant behavior and basketball awards offended players the opportunity to directly score uncontested points by so-called free throws in most instances as a result of defined egregious acts. Is baseball out of whack here? Or is it just my imagination? Of course, baseball is right there in the open for all to see. Unlike football or basketball, baseball offers less chance for players to hide dirty tricks – and you can get kicked out of a game and possibly suspended for serious acts of misconduct in baseball. Of course, that kind of ejection/suspension is also possible in the other two major sports, so maybe the gap is not as big here as first meets the eye.

Unlike football or basketball, baseball is off the clock. Theoretically, a baseball game could go on forever, and, like our lives, we live them that way, even though we all know that the end comes for all of us in time – at a moment we least expect. Baseball is life itself in that regard, a thing to be lived all out while it’s here. To live our lives as well as possible, we need to be grateful for each day that comes our way, giving ourselves to acts of love for those people and passions we most deeply cherish.

I choose my family. My friends. My country. My city. My undergraduate university. My high school. Arts and Literature. And baseball.

Worst. Superhero Costume. Ever.

August 17, 2011

"Holy Lost Peripheral Vision, Batman! What do we do now?"

Worst superhero costume ever? It’s a no-brainer in my book. It came along in the 1949 second Batman serial that starred Robert Lowery as the famous caped crusader and Johnny Duncan as his faithful sidekick Robin. Never heard of either actor? Watch a few minutes of Chapter One in this fifteen unit Saturday kid show special feature and you’ll quickly understand why neither actor’s name is familiar today.

All I know is that Batman, both this one from 1949 and the 1943 earlier Batman serial of equivalently anonymous leading character actors, stirred the crime-fighting soul of this kid from the Houston East End. Now these same serials are the stuff of “rolling-on-the-floor, laughing-my-ankles-off” fun and amusement.

Some amazing things happen in these old serials. (1) Good and Evil are clearly distinguishable in black and white terms. There is no lost time in debate over who is responsible for the national debt or its relative ceiling. You just had to arrest or kill the bad guys and everything would be OK again. (2) In high-speed chase scenes going around treacherous mountain curves,  good guys and bad guys alike were capable of jumping out of cars that were headed over cliffs and never losing either their hats or their footing as they hit the highway from the car door running and then walked their way to a safe stop. (3) Batman and Robin could both take on fist fights with the bad guys in spite of costume masks that virtually destroyed all peripheral (and sometimes forward) vision.

The Batman’s mask was especially bad. The caped crusader was constantly holding his head back to see through the eye slits that had been pulled by ear-grabbing bad guys over his eyes.  He also took a lot of shots from the right and left because of the total shadow on peripheral vision cast by his Batman hood.

Even we kids saw the flaws in the Batman costume, but it was still better than the mimic costumes we rigged up at home. A bath towel had to pass for a cape. These worked better if you cut one long end in a sawtooth pattern to make it look more “batty” apparent, but the downside of that slight  alteration was that  it made our mamas very unhappy and lethal-like in their punishments of us for destroying a “perfectly good bath towel.”

The homeboy hood consisted of charcoal blackening around the eyes, a small rag tied around the head, and clothes pins attached to either side as “bat ears.”

What do you think?

On second thought, maybe Mr. Batman ’49 looked pretty cool after all. Rent or buy the serial and judge for yourself.

Houston and the Goo Goo Eyes Law

June 21, 2011

Keep those goo goo eyes in their sockets, Lads! This is Houston, Texas USA!

Fellow Houstonian J.R. Gonzales writes a most educational and entertaining blog called Bayou City History at

We need to give J.R. Gonzales credit for unearthing Houston’s early 20th century attempt to protect women from sexual leering by men through the passage of an ordinance that forbade men from lewd “goo goo eyed” suggestions to women on the streets of the city.

Passed by Houston City Council in 1905, the “Goo Goo Eyes” ordinance decreed:

“That hereafter any male person in the City of Houston who shall stare at, or make what is commonly called ‘goo-goo eyes’ at, or in any other manner look at or make remarks to or concerning, or cough or whistle at, or do any other act to attract the attention of any woman or female person upon or traveling along any of the sidewalks, streets, or public ways in the City of Houston, with the intent or in a manner calculated to annoy, or to attempt to flirt with any such woman or female person, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor…”

The fine for conviction of a goo goo eyes law violation in 1905 was $100.00, an amount today equivalent to a financial penalty far exceeding $2,000.00. Interestingly, as well as unbeknown to the cultured and gender respectful members of my own adolescent and young adult generation of male Houstonians, these early century goo goo eyes laws stayed on the books in the city through the 1950s.

And nobody told that poplar singing group of the time, The Four Lads. Are you old enough to remember The Four Lads and some of the lyrics from “Standing on the Corner,” a popular song from 1956, the year of my graduation from St. Thomas High School?

Standing on the corner – watching all the girls go by 
Standing on the corner – giving all the girls the eye 
Brother, if you’ve got a rich imagination 
Give it a whirl, give it a try 
Try standing on the corner – watching all the girls 
Watching all the girls, watching all the girls – go by 

Brother, you can’t go to jail for what you’re thinking 
Or for that wolf – look in your eye 
Standing on the corner – watching all the girls 
Watching all the girls, watching all the girls – go by

The Four Lads obviously had not heard about the Houston goo goo eyes law.

Sure am glad we solved that problem. Now we are well on our way as a society to punishing all people who hold onto unfavorable thoughts and suggestive non-verbal communications, even those expressions of discomfort that emanate from drug and chemical addiction withdrawal.

Concerned Citizen (staring down and pointing at a man curled up in a ball on the sidewalk): “Oh, Officer, come over here please. And make it quick! This man says he’s thinking about lighting up a cigarette!”

HPD Uniformed Officer (running over hurriedly to his call for help and also pointing at the now purple-faced man in the sidewalk ball): “On your feet, sir! We have a law against that kind of thinking and I am hereby placing you under arrest for same. – You have a right to remain silent. …”



Houston, 1959

 Jimmy Menutis Party, Featuring the Platters, Sept. 3rd: Don’t forget to contact Ruth Ann Menutis, asap, to make reservations for the big rock n roll birthday party in Lafayette, lA on Saturday, Sept. 3rd. Admission is free to fans, but only to those with advance  reservations because seating is seating is limited to about 250 guests.

Contact Ruth Ann Menutis at

at your earliest opportunity for party reservations and her advisory on your best hotel/motel rates in Lafayette. The Menutis family will do all in their power to help make your trip plan into this wonderful weekend experience both easy and as much fun as possible.

Avalon Theatre Building Demolished

June 4, 2011

Weekly serials at the Avalon fried our imaginations to the ongoing cliffhanger struggle between good and evil. We knew. It's why some of us had the patience to wait ten years for the final chapter on Osama bin Laden. We knew. The bad guys always get what's coming to them in the end.

The old Avalon Theatre itself died a thousand years ago. Way back in 1957, ownership closed the small, but venerable east end of Houston Grade b movie house and converted it to an unfortunately short-lived career as a house for live theater productions. I saw the late Wally Cox of TV’s “Mr. Peepers” fame starring there at the Avalon in 1958 in the featured lead role in “Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?” It was fun. I was 20 years old and now  dressing up in  coat and tie to take a date to “the theatre” in the same physical building where I grew up going barefoot on summer Saturdays to watch Roy Rogers, Bowery Boys, and Charlie Chan movies.

Sadly, the Houston East End was not ready in the late 1950s (or at any other time to this day) to support businesses based on a Broadway show model. The Avalon closed its doors by 1960 and stood dark for a while. It reopened after a while as “The Capri” and made its degrading way to doom as a porn movie house before again changing its identity to match the changes going on in the culture of the east end neighborhood. It again changed its name to “The Fiesta” and started showing Spanish language movies that the owners hoped would prove attractive to the new East End of the late 20th century. That move failed too and the old “Avalon” closed forever as a movie house.

Like many of these small neighborhood suburban theaters from the 1930s and 1940s, the Avalon survived as home to a fundamentalist/revivalist independent religious sect that appealed to new residents of the nearby geographical area. That’s what I thought it still was doing until I passed nearby on Lawndale yesterday.

I was just explaining the story of the Avalon to a traveling companion friend as we drove across the 75th Street intersection, traveling west on Lawndale only yesterday. Then I looked out the window to my right and saw that the old Avalon Theatre building was now gone. Some time in the last two years, the church that had been there went “vamanos” and left the old structure to the demolishing people.

No longer of any use to the imaginations of kids, sinners, or saints, the Avalon had met the wrecking ball – and the latter had left us not a stone-upon-a-stone remembrance of the former.

In its better days, the Avalon Theatre at 743 75th in Houston had a beautifully vertical red name banner and a dazzling (to us kids) electrically lighted movie display board.

Goodbye, old Avalon. Thanks for the memories and the early life fun we had together.

Even though your true life has been gone for years, I felt a spiritual hole in my heart yesterday when I unexpectedly saw your physical presence missing from among the ruins of those ancient East End artifacts and places that still remind me of earlier times. It’s too bad that none of us who cared about you could not have been present in time to do something that might have saved you for a gentler renewed purpose and delivered you entirely from the same impersonal fate that awaits so much of Houston’s physical cultural heritage.

You don’t kill a culture by burying the dead. You kill a culture by burying the living. And life goes on in those old physical places that remind us of our earliest roots and fondest hopes for the future. Some are creatures of universal beauty. Others exist only as beautiful in the eyes of the bonded beholder, but they are all living things. And that’s the point that seems to elude many people.

Goodbye, Avalon, but in this knowledge: The early part of you that lives on in my heart, still driving my trust in hope over despair, lives forever within people like me – and we were the Houston kids who knew you way back when.

Godspeed, Avalon. Your job here was done – a long, long time ago.

Morris Frank: A Friend’s Tribute

June 2, 2011

Morris Frank

To most or none of you younger Houstonians, the name of Morris Frank won’t mean a thing. To those us who are old enough to remember the end of World War II, the name Morris Frank shall remain unforgettable. For all the years I haunted the turnstiles of old Buff Stadium in the late 40s and early 50s, Houston Post sportswriter was the public address system’s Voice of the Houston Buffaloes and Buff Stadium. Hailing from his boyhood home of Lufkin, Texas, and speaking with an East Texas accent  that once dominated the few other variations on English that once thrived in this part of the country, Frank’s announcements for the lineups and next batter at each Buffs game were unmistakable.  I can still hear them reverberating down the corridors of my personal memory.

“Now hitting for your Houston Buffaloes …. number 11 …. the first basemen ….. Witte ….. Jerry Witte …. now hitting for the Buffs!”

Nothing like it. And we fans loved him. No one else would have sounded right to our ears. WIth upbeat notes of Miss Lou Mahan’s ballpark organ following the flight and bounce of the ball during pre-game practices, nothing changed until right before game time. Then came the twangy voice of Morris Frank and we all knew that the game was now on.

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Buffalo Stadium, the home of your very own Houston Buffaloes!”

I was going to write an article about Morris Frank until I discovered the following post-mortem tribute to him that had been written back in 2005 by one of his old East Texas friends, a fellow named Bob Bowman. Once I read it, I needed no convincing that the better informed Bowman had a closer take on Frank than any other I had ever dreamed, written, or conceived. So, since he wrote the piece as an inclusion to their local hall of history up in Lufkin, I didn’t think he would mind me passing the same on to you here in this more wide-awake-today forum of the Internet.


My Fried Morris by Bob Bowman

Thirty years ago this month, East Texas lost one of its greatest champions–the son of a Jewish merchant whose legacy of love and humor still endures.

Morris Frank, who gained fame for his newspaper columns in the Houston Chronicle and his speeches throughout America, was born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, the son of a merchant who moved his family to Lufkin and expected his son to follow in his footsteps.

Instead, Morris started writing sports for his hometown newspaper, the Lufkin Daily News, joined the Houston Post as a feature writer in 1937, and later signed up with the Chronicle as a columnist. With his broad smile, boisterous laugh and ever-present cowboy hat, Morris soon became one of America’s foremost masters of ceremonies.

“He had a following of countless friends, colleagues, famous people and just plain folks who came to know him by reading his stories and columns…or laughed at his harmless barbs that spared no one–not celebrities, not Supreme Court justices, stars of sports, not those in the high places of government and business,” wrote a long-time friend, John Murphy, a former executive vice-president of the Texas Daily Newspaper Association.

Morris seldom made a speech without mentioning his roots as a sportswriter in Lufkin or his love of East Texas.

But it was his kindness that endeared him to people.

He scrawled thousands of letters in his big, sprawling handwriting, thanking people for acts of kindness, showing sympathy for the lost of family members, congratulating someone for a promotion, getting married, or anything else that he thought was important.

When I was a young newspaperman in Lufkin, and the Chronicle decided to establish a bureau in East Texas, Morris suggested to the Chronicle’s editor, Clayte Binion, who also came from Lufkin, that I would make a good bureau chief.

I still have Morris’ handwritten note congratulating me on the job and I cherish my visits with him in the Chronicle’s city room, where he had a desk with everyone else. If he ever had a private office, he didn’t use it much. He didn’t like to be too removed from crowds, and he always found one in the city room.

Morris was also modest to the core. He once said: “I wouldn’t mind being broke if I were just broke even.”

When someone suggested that he write a book, he said; Well, I have thought about it. And I have a couple of titles in mind: Some of My Best Friends Are Gentiles and Self-Made Failure.”

Once, he was chided for eating ham at a luncheon even though he was Jewish. His retort was: “Listen, my daddy told me it was a worse sin to pass up a free meal than it was to eat ham.”

Morris was always paid for his speeches, but he invariably left a tip for his waiter that was larger than the check he was given. And when he agreed to make speeches in Lufkin, he refused to accept any check. “I don’t want the people of Lufkin thinking they had to pay for any of those sorry sports stories I wrote for their paper,” he quipped.

On July 16, 1975, the day after Morris passed away, the Chronicle published an editorial praising him for his qualities. The editorial concluded with these words: “Will Rogers has often been quoted as saying he never met a man he didn’t like. That was the way it was with Morris Frank, but there was more. With Morris, there never was a person he didn’t love.”

All Things Historical 
July 11, 2005 Column
(Provided as a public service by the East Texas Historical Association. Bob Bowman is a past president of the Asssociation and the author of more than 30 East Texas books.)

Baseball Games: How Long Is Too Long?

May 25, 2011

"Astros have the tying and winning runs on 3rd and 2nd with two outs in the bottom of the 9th. ... Can Pence bring them in? ... We'll soon find out .... right after we see the answer to this question: 'Can Geico save you $1500 on car insurance?' ... Let's find out. ... Back soon."

I received a refreshing e-mail note from Houston Astros President Tal Smith yesterday in response to my column about the first May 6, 1888 Houston professional game played by a Houston team in Houston as Houston. Houston lost to Cincinnati, 22-3, in one hour and forty-five minutes that day, prompting Tal Smith to write this comment: “Given the score, it’s interesting that they played this in 1:45.  Goes to show pace of the game when you don’t make a lot of pitching changes.”

Thanks for ringing the bell on that whole recycling subject, Tal!

I responded to Tal as follows: “It’s long been my contention that it’s not the playing of the game that makes baseball games run longer, but all the non-playing moments that are given over to mound conferences, pitching changes, and all those photo-op argument moments that some managers seem to feed their egos upon.”

In my short-form reply, I totally left out the big clock killer of all those lengthy and extensive time-out sectors that the networks riddle through the game to show all those television commercials they need to show to pay for all that money they shipped to Major League Baseball for the rights to show games so that teams could then turn around and use gobs of that dough to make multi-millionaires of pillow-heads like Alex Rodriguez!

Today is not like the early days of Yogi Berra’s career when the kid from “The Hill” in St. Louis went home in the off-season and worked as a nuts and bolts salesman at his local Sears store to help compensate his meager (by today’s standards) baseball salary. Today its a rich man’s game that depends upon the pipeline of that media money that has paid for all the changes that have come down upon the baseball culture over the past thirty-five years. If you want to follow the TV Man piper, you have to march to his tune. And that pretty much describes everything that now slows down the game.

A Rod is a pillow head for numerous reasons, but this subject provides a good example: It was TV money in the first place  that gave him the bucks he needed to pursue his lifestyle of attraction to dating movie stars, and easily what also attracted the film fatale crowd to him in the first place.

Do you really think that a Kate Hudson or a Cameron Diaz would have been available to A Rod had he been topping out on Babe Ruth’s $80,000 per year? Then Rodriquez gets upset because the same tool that made him rich, the TV camera, catches a candid shot of diva Diaz feeding him pop corn as a spectator at some other sporting venue during the off-season. – Alex, TV is the god that butters your pop corn! Don’t you know that?

So, can the games really be shortened from their near three-hour average, given the fact that all these non-playing issues that lengthen the game are tailor-made for the appetites of TV networks that cover the game?

Probably not.

Pitching changes provide natural commercial breaks. Egoists who play the camera with their arguments on the field provide the kind of drama that TV feeds upon, sort of like those real-life car chases that take up the whole TV news hour. On days we maybe need to be paying more rapt  attention to the actions of Congress, the stock market, or the terrorists, we are hooked into watching from a helicopter’s POV while the police chase some guy who simultaneously speeding down Westheimer Road while he tries to eat a few nickel bags of crack that he happened to have with him as he knocked off that convenience store in Pearland.

Putting a clock on the playing of the game itself to me is also tantamount to sacrilege. I would rather have it as is than to see it changed artificially for the sake of today’s shortened attention spans. We could shorten the non-playing delays, but we will not because they are tied in to the needs of great gobbling benefactor – network television.

As for me, I’ll take baseball as it is, however long it runs. When I’m at the ballpark, I’m one of those people in our sport’s anthem throng.

I don’t care if I never get back!”

The Winds from Hell

May 23, 2011

Like most of you, I awoke this morning to the news of those latest devastating tornadoes that struck Joplin, Missouri yesterday. On the heels of the previous destruction in Alabama and other parts of the southeastern and eastern United States from these winds of hell, it’s hard not believe that something is seriously wrong with our weather here in the second decade of the 21st century. Unfortunately the apparent reality of global warming has been too caught up in the vortex of our usually polarized arguments between liberals and conservatives to be seriously addressed as a matter of our responsibility for doing the right thing.

Too many people are too worried about casting or taking the blame here for us to have any kind of constructive dialogue on what, if anything,  we might be able to do about our own energy use to ease the patterns of weather that are forming these violent storms. Like most of you, again, I am no meteorologist, climatologist, energy mogul, or politician. I just sense that we are ignoring some things these days because the weight of special interest politics again stands in the way of correct action.

As a result, add 89 people, at least, from Joplin to the list of Americans who have now lost their lives to this apparently unstoppable (by present standards) juggernaut of death from “natural” disaster in 2011. Maybe there isn’t anything we can do about it, but I sure think we need to open the door on what we might do to help ease the situation. As it is, our enemies don’t even need planes, bombs, and missiles. All they have to do is wait long enough for us to have our next stretch of bad weather. Then they may simply watch whole American towns and cities fall hard to the wrath of Mother Nature.

"I tried to tell him about the storm, but I couldn't find the words!" - Babe

I’ll never forget my own closest call with an apparently small tornado. It happened here in Houston back in 1979, I think. I was living in a little town home on Briar Forest near Dairy Ashford back then. I had just moved in there with with my one-year old English Bulldog, Babe.

Due to the move, Babe was having trouble with my absence during the day. I was working a pretty heavy schedule back then, but that mattered not to my sweet Babe. Because she had chewed off one window sill staring out the window watching for me to return, in momentary desperation, I tied her to a leash that I fastened to the locked-inside area near the front door with a bowl of water when I left for work the net day. It was only for the day. I knew that I would need a better solution.

It turned out to be a move that led to my first clue about an awesome close call with a potentially killer wind that came by our house before I got home. Driving home, I heard on the radio about a tornado that had touched down somewhere in my area and then jumped over Dairy Ashford and destroyed several homes near the Briar Forest intersection.

A feeling of ill-ease came over me. “That’s too close for comfort,” I thought.

Turns out it was closer than close. Driving into my cul de sac neighborhood, my house was always first visible from the rear on the corner. “Holy crap!” fell easily from my lips as I drove up to see my entire back fence laying scattered in the yard and the street. I quickly parked in the garage and  called out, “BABE!”

There was no answer.

I walked through the kitchen into the living room. There was Babe, still tied to the inside knob of the front door. She turned and gave me a mellow bark hello as she remained seated facing the sunlight out front.

Sunlight out front?

Yes! The tornado apparently had pushed in the lock, opened the door, pushed it open, and then, rather go through my house, it simply knocked down my front side fence, jumped over my house, knocked down all of the back fence, and then jumped over Dairy Ashford on its way to wiping out several houses.

When it all sank in, I simply dropped to the floor and started hugging Babe. I got a lot of gooey kisses for that move. She wouldn’t tell me what happen, but she had a look on her face that pretty much told me what I heard her trying to communicate:

“Daddy, you had to be here to believe it!”

I just hope that some people in Joplin were as lucky as Babe and I were that crazy day in Houston back in 1979.