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Posts Tagged ‘History’

God Loves Baseball: Part Two

October 28, 2011 Leave a comment


Tim McCarver, the one time Cardinal catcher and now color commentator for Fox Sports said it best moments after one of the most improbable and dramatic games in the history of the World Series: How did that happen?

Down to their last strike in the bottom of the 9th and 10th innings and each time depending on a pair of 2-RBI desperation hits before the game-ending, walk-off homer in the 11th by a guy who nearly cost them the game by dropping a pop up earlier in the contest, the St. Louis Cardinals are not just the comeback kids. They are Lazarus, Jason and Dracula rolled into one- anything that’s ever come back from the dead.

The last day of the regular season, the single most dramatic evening to ever close out a baseball season and memorialized here, seems now like just the appetizer for the main meal that was served last night in the Cardinal’s 10-9 win over the Texas Rangers. It was on that last day of the season that St. Louis completed its comeback from 10 and a half games back on August 25th to take their place in the playoffs.

Baseball is often humbling. But it is also a vehicle for redemption. When Cardinal 3rd baseman, David Freese, dropped that easy pop up in the 5th inning and the Rangers capitalized and took the lead, he looked for all the world like the goat. And when he was down to two strikes with two out in the bottom of the 9th, he was looking like a cooked goat. Except he tripled. Two runs scored and the Cardinals had tied the game.

That they would do the same with Lance Berkman one inning later with two strikes and two outs is, of course, insane. And when Mr. Freese stepped up in the bottom of the 11th and hit his walk-off homerun to force a deciding game 7 Friday night, well, it was, as usual with this sport, stranger than fiction.

I would be very surprised if the Rangers recover from one the most devastating losses in the history of the Fall Classic. When Red Sox 1st baseman, Bill Buckner, had a ball go between his legs in game 6 of the 1986 World Series against the New York Mets, everybody knew what would come in game 7. And like the Mets, I have a feeling these Cardinals are also a team of destiny.

Before the game, the Cardinals carted out every conceivable living hero in their storied history; Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith, Stan Musial. It took that, and probably the ghosts of every other Cardinal who ever played, plus 50,000 screaming, towel-waving fans, several dollops of fate and a pinch of outrageous fortune to pull this thing off.

Twice, they’d put up the plastic in the Rangers dressing room and put out the cold champagne and prepared for the presentation of the championship trophy. And twice they took down the plastic and carted the champagne away. Definitive proof that in the greatest sport ever devised, it is always the final out that’s the toughest.

Goodbye Borders- Mixed Feelings about the Death of the Book

September 15, 2011 4 comments

Someday we’ll tell our grandkids that people used to read books that were comprised of paper, binding, a front cover and a back cover. Books you actually held and required you to physically turn the pages by hand.

I love the two remaining book cases I have in my apartment. They’re all sorted in categories; Biographies, Science Fiction, Politics, Science, the American Civil War, Baseball, Reference, even a section on Chess. I’ve read every one of them and I keep them because of the fond memories I had experiencing them. And they tell your guests something about who you are; what you care about, what interests you. It’s a peak into the soul, really.

I noticed the other day that with a few exceptions they’re all five years old or way older. I don’t really buy books anymore. They are now transmitted into my Kindle through thin air and appear magically seconds after I purchase them with hardly any effort at all. I can change the font sizes too, so my 54-year old eyes can comfortably read the print without strain. I can bookmark and make notes and highlight passages. And, yes, I can curl up with the Kindle on my couch just as I used to do with a real book.

So blame me for the closing of the local Borders book store. It was supremely sad. For a month they had their close-out sales. Each day, it seemed, the sales got bigger and bigger until by the end, the scavenged book cases had nothing left except the last thing anyone wanted to read. But you could buy it for 50 cents. And soon the store was empty and stripped bare, and today it sits vacant and barren and lonely-looking- a ghost of a retail space and yet another victim of the digital age.

Books take space and they’re heavy. If you move a lot, as I have, they’re a bit of a pain. And I’ve gotten rid of hundreds of them through the years so I have distilled the collection down to the bare basics of who I am and what I once read. I will always keep them, though. Because you could buy one case with one shelf and just put the Kindle on a stand- but it’s not the same effect.

And what of human history? A thousand years from now, after the great apocalypse that forever takes down the electrical grid; will anyone remember us without physical books? Will there be manuscripts and parchment from 100 A.D. but nothing from 2008 on? Will people think we just stopped reading and writing because without the electrical grid and wireless networks and credit cards- there’s no way to actually access the books of the early 21st century?

I wonder sometimes that if our entire existence ends up getting stored in some huge Digital Cloud designed by Apple- if we run the risk that someday no one will ever be able to ascertain that we even walked the earth. No connectivity-no history.

That’s the thing about clouds. They’re just vapor. Maybe we should keep a few real books around- just in case.

The Tiny Little World of Washington Insiders

February 1, 2011 Leave a comment


I saw this ridiculous headline today on WashingtonPost.com- What does the nonstop coverage of uprising mean for the economic message that Obama was hoping to push this week?

The Post’s Chris Cillizza then pontificates in front of a camera for 1 minute and 24 seconds about how non-stop coverage of events in Egypt is cutting into the President’s latest message on economic recovery.

So let’s get this straight. A million Egyptians take to the streets; one of, if not the most important nation in the Middle East is teetering on the brink of revolution; the implications affect everything from the war on terrorism to the global economy; peace and stability in one of the most volatile regions on Earth is at stake—and the inside-the-beltway sages wonder what all this means for a White House economic public relations campaign that might have to be postponed for a few days?

It’s times like this when the insular, self-involved, day-to-day views of Washington insider-types clash head on with the long view of world history. We are at a critical juncture; a time we will look back on a generation from now to help us understand how the world may have forever changed on one February day in the year 2011.

No one will remember who Chris Cillizza was. If they don’t play their cards just right there may not even be a Washington Post. Certainly no one will remember this was the week President Obama had planned to push an economic message.

So, Mr. President—please don’t hesitate to postpone your visit to some factory in Peoria where you would have donned protective eye-wear while posing in front of some machine that makes solar panels—and do concentrate all your efforts on our planet, the substantive changes that may be needed in recalibrating American foreign policy for the foreseeable future, and protecting America’s and the world’s long-term interests.

I guarantee you the cameras and microphones will dutifully record every moment of your new economic message next week.

Comparing Volcanic Eruptions

Disruptive as it’s been to international aviation, the Icelandic volcano is just a piker.  The ash has been up at around 30,000 to 40,000 feet- right where commercial jets fly.   The ash would have to reach much higher into the atmosphere to actually have an effect on the earth’s climate and much lower to the ground to impact people’s health.

The greatest volcanic eruption of modern times occurred on August 27th, 1883 on the Pacific island of Krakatoa.   It was a monster.  After years of ocean quakes near the island and with tremblers and minor volcanic activity just a few weeks before, the mountain on Krakatoa finally erupted on that August day with four powerful blasts, the last one, a colossal explosion that emitted possibly the loudest sound that’s been heard on the planet Earth over the last 127 years.

Krakatoa Image- Discovery

For sailors unfortunate enough to have been on ships within a few miles of Krakatoa, many suffered broken ear drums.  The sound of the mighty explosion was heard on the British Island of Diego Garcia in an entirely other ocean (Indian), 2000 miles away. 

It also unleashed tsunamis, gigantic 120-foot waves that killed an estimated 36,000 people on nearby islands.

And there was lots of gruesome floating debris.  Pumice, chunks of solid lava, came down from the sky and landed in the ocean and on the decks of ships.  Some of the pumice, light enough to float atop the water, eventually made its way to east Africa, embedded with the skeletons of animals and humans.

The sheer amount of ash dispersed into the atmosphere created cooler summers for years.  It’s estimated there was a loss of 20-30% of direct solar radiation. 

The Krakotoa blast also created memorable sky conditions.  Accounts in Atlantic Monthly magazine from 1884 reported sea captains seeing green sunrises.  Sunsets around the world turned a vivid red for as much as three years after the Krakatoa eruption. 

Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines created similar climactic and visual effects in 1991.  Residents of the Philippines along with U.S. military personnel at American bases there were doubly ill-fated, for shortly after the Pinatubo eruption, a hurricane hit turning the falling ash into wind-swept balls of a mud-like substance that rained from the skies.

So the Iceland volcano has certainly made history for its impact on air travel for so many days.   But it comes nowhere close to Pinatubo and is not even in the same universe as Krakatoa.