Monday, October 16, 2017

"Yogi-isms"

** Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra (1925-2015) was an excellent catcher and outfielder for the New York Yankees.  Even more importantly, he was an extraordinary person.  In addition to his baseball skills we remember Mr. Berra for his colorful quotes.  However, evidently he did not say all of the following.  In an effort to clarify the situation he replied, “I really didn’t say everything I said.”  Makes sense to me…

1. “Never answer an anonymous letter.”  He’s right; to do so would be a waste of time.

2. “We made too many wrong mistakes.”  Yogi was talking about his team losing to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1960 World Series.  My wife always points out how wrong my mistakes are!

3. “No matter where you go, there you are.”  This is some deep philosophical stuff!

4. “You can observe a lot just by watching.”  A truer statement was never made.

5. “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”  Once I left a basketball game with about five minutes left and the home team was trailing by fourteen points.  Yogi was right-the home team somehow won in double overtime!

6. “I usually take a two-hour nap from one to four.”  Sometimes I toss and turn for an hour or so before falling asleep, so I understand his reasoning.

7. “He hits from both sides of the plate; he’s amphibious.”  This brings to mind a large green ballplayer with a big tail and a long tongue.

8.  “Cut my pizza into four pieces; I don’t think I could eat eight.”  Psychologically this makes sense.  Although the pizza is the same size, it may very well seem easier to eat four large pieces rather than eight small ones.

9. “Nobody comes here anymore; it’s too crowded.”   Yogi was referring to a popular restaurant in his hometown of St. Louis.  Because the place was crowded many other folks stayed away.  If I go to a restaurant that has a long waiting line, I go someplace else.

10. “A nickel isn’t worth a dime anymore.”   And a dime hasn’t been worth a dime for a long time.

11. “The future ain’t what it used to be.”  You can bet that the future will be in some ways unlike anything we’ve seen previously.”

12. “It gets late early out here.”  Yogi had lost track of a baseball hit to him in the shadows in left field at Yankee Stadium.

13. “Always go to other people’s funerals; otherwise, they won’t go to yours.”  And it would serve you right!

14. “”You can’t think and hit at the same time.”  This is true.  When a 100-miles-per-hour fastball is coming your way, you must quickly react; there is no time to think about it.

15. “”That’s okay.  I don’t hit with my face.”  An opposing ballplayer was making fun of Yogi’s looks.  Of course, once again Yogi was correct. 

16. “”I knew the record would stand until it was broken.”  Another statement that proved to be absolutely true.

17. “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”  This is my favorite Yogi-ism.

18. “When you come to the fork in the road, take it.”  You cannot sit there forever.  Pick a route and go for it.

19. “Why buy good luggage?  You only use it when you travel.”  Who can argue with that logic?

20.  Supposedly Yogi was invited to a party during a hot, humid spell.  The hostess, spotting him in a new lime-colored suit, said: “Well, Yogi, you certainly look cool in that outfit.”  After eyeing the hostess, he replied, “Yeah, and you don’t look so hot yourself.”  If Yogi didn’t say this, he should have.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Dad's TV Sets

     I have a good excuse for not remembering my family’s first TV set; I was one -year- old when Dad purchased it.  Until 1951 my folks and their kids gathered around the radio each evening for their entertainment.  Then one day Dad brought home a rather big box that featured a relatively small oval screen.
    If you have ever seen a type of early filming called kinescope you will get an idea of how fuzzy those early TV pictures were.  When the picture began to roll Dad had to play with the vertical control button.  Even the weather affected clarity.   We had the local channel and three channels in the capital city fifty miles away from which to choose, but all were more or less fuzzy.
    When I was five years old we moved to a larger town, and we took this particular TV with us.  Soon Dad erected a TV tower that seemed to reach to the stars.  With this improvement we were able to watch those four channels with slightly better clarity.
    I remember our second set mostly because I rammed my head into it while playing some kind of goofy game.  As a result, I sported a large knot on my noggin for several days (My wife said it was one of the few times that I have  “used my head.”  Never marry a comedian!)  What stood out about this particular set was that it was built upon a swivel so that one could easily turn it in any direction.
    When Dad came home from work the kids had two TV choices-watch what he wanted to watch or go do something else.  Luckily, both he and I loved westerns, and this was back in the day when cowboy shows dominated the silver screen.
    A sporting event, however, was another matter.  My father believed that baseball, basketball, football and all other sports were completely worthless.  On the other hand, by the age of ten I had become a certified sports nut.
    At about that time Dad decided to close in the large front porch.  When it was completed he added chairs, a sofa, lamps, and most importantly, a second TV!  For some unknown reason he didn’t have a heating duct extended to the porch, so in the winter he stayed in the living room, the site of the regular TV.
    On certain winter evenings I would put on my winter coat, toboggan, and gloves before exiting the house  by way of the kitchen.  After trudging to the other end of the driveway, often through snow, I used my house key to silently enter the frigid porch room.
    The porch windows connected with the living room where Dad was watching TV, reading his paper, and devouring perhaps his third or fourth cup of coffee of the evening, so leaving off the lights, I carefully turned on the TV, keeping the volume low so that you-know-who could not hear it.  With icy breath and chattering teeth I then proceeded to watch  my favorite basketball team in action.  Somehow I was able to escape the worst effects of frostbite.
    A few years later many of our friends began buying color televisions.  Dad wanted a color set but he didn’t want to pay extra money to get one.  Therefore, for just a few dollars he purchased a semi-transparent piece of plastic that could be attached to the TV screen. 
    The top part of the plastic was blue, the middle was red, and the bottom third was green, so   depending upon the position of an actor, he could be a Smurf, a Native American, or a Martian!  It’s a wonder I didn’t get the belt for my insolence, for I literally rolled on the floor laughing and making fun of Dad’s newest purchase.  After two days the multi-colored plastic attachment was dispatched to the garbage heap.
    Eventually, I’d say about 1965, Dad broke down and bought a real color set.  This made watching Bonanza even more fun. As I recall, the colors from this early set were not lifelike.  They were too bright, as if they had been painted onto the figures.  But in all fairness, it was a huge improvement over black and white.
    The years rolled on, and the kids grew up and left home, but Dad continued to spend many hours watching his TV programs.  Then, when he was tragically diagnosed with terminal cancer, he quit doing his favorite things, including watching his beloved TV shows. 
    Today I am the owner of several TV sets, but I don’t spend much time in front of the “boob tube.”  Every now and then, when I’m home alone and an old cowboy rerun is playing, I smile, thinking of the times so long ago when Dad and I shared one of the few things we had in common.
    There must be televisions  in Heaven, for wouldn’t God want Dad and other TV lovers  to continue having that special joy they experienced here on earth?  Better yet, perhaps Dad’s favorite actors such as Red Skelton are performing live for him and other folks.  For my father, that would truly be Heaven.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

My Bucket List
I would like to…



1.  …spend an entire day with my daughter-just she and I.

2.  …meet Mary Lou Metzger of “Lawrence Welk” fame.  I’d like to tell her how much I enjoy her singing, her dancing, and most of all, her sparkling personality. 

3.  …get through an entire day without being negative about something.  It’s hard not to be grouchy when you’re a basic curmudgeon.

4.  …overcome my arthritis and forget about my age for a day so that I could go along on one of my son’s long hikes through the wilderness.

5.  …have dinner with our former presidents who are still living and with President Trump.

6.  …become as good a cook as my wife is.

7.  … keep all my friends but add to the list.

8.  …vacation in Rome.

9.  …visit every presidential library.

10.  …see my grandchildren graduate from college.

11.  …become an excellent photographer.

12.  …write a play that would at least be good enough that a few people would watch it.

13.  …find enough courage to donate blood on a regular basis.  I don’t do so because I cannot stand being stuck with needles!

14.  …attend another Paul McCartney concert.  The one I went to several years ago was fantastic.

15.  …do a better job of treating other folks as I would like to be treated.

16.  …make a pie and enter it in the local fair.

17.  …get a dog (a small one).

18.  …discover a fun way to clean the bathroom!

19.  … play Lebron James one-on-one in basketball, although I’d get the ball jammed down my throat. 

20.  …find Mom’s recipe for homemade bread.

21.  …find more information about Dad’s army career during World War II.

22.  …strive for the impossible by following Mark Twain’s advice to live your life in such a way that when death arrives even the undertaker will be sad.   WHAT’S ON YOUR LIST?

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Collecting Baseball Cards

     As a youngster I certainly qualified as a “baseball nut.”  I knew each player’s position, age, weight, height, and batting statistics.  To this day the 1961 typical Yankees’ batting order is clearly imprinted in my mind:  1.) Richardson, 2B, 2.) Kubek, SS  3.) Maris, RF  4.) Mantle, CF  5.) Howard, C.  6.) Berra or Lopez, LF  7.) Skowren, 1B  8.) Boyer, 3B  9.) the pitcher.  Sadly, however, I can’t recall what I had for supper last night.  Come to think of it, did I have supper last night?
    Being such a baseball fanatic, like my friends I collected and traded baseball cards.  The typical card featured the player’s image on one side and his statistics on the other.  Just like the Yankees’ batting order, these now-meaningless numbers are forever lodged into my memory.  I shall never forget, for example, that in 1961 Roger Maris hit a (non-steroid) record 61 home runs, while knocking in 142, scoring 132 himself, and batting .269.  That same season his teammate, Mickey Mantle, crashed 54 homers, had 128 runs batted in, and hit .317.  Now if I could just remember my cell phone number or my wife’s birthday.
    Baseball cards had their beginning around the 1860s , which was  about the same time that the Cincinnati Red Stockings and other teams were turning professional (by paying their players).  Companies that sold tobacco, confectioneries, gum, and other various products issued baseball cards as a way to advertise and promote their businesses.  One of the first to issue baseball cards was Peck and Snyder, a sporting goods company, in 1868. 
    One of the more expensive cards is the Honus Wagner edition, which was  distributed by the American Tobacco Company from 1909 until 1911.   Wagner, who spent most of his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, hit .327 for his career while collecting 3,415 hits and winning the National League batting title eight times.  Evidently because he opposed the use of tobacco products,  Wagner asked the company to halt production of his card.  As a result, it is believed that there are fewer than two hundred Wagner cards ever distributed to the public.
    One of the most sought after is the 1952 Mickey Mantle card issued by the Topps Gum Company.  Mantle, who spent his entire career with the New York Yankees, hit .298, walloped 536 homers, and knocked in 1,509 runs.  In 1956 he won the Tripe Crown by leading the American League in home runs, batting average, and runs batted in. Just about every year, or so it seemed, he and the Yankees were in the World Series. I believe that my cousin had one of these cards, but gave it and the rest of his collection to some younger boys.
    Eventually little boys do grow up and move on to other interests, such as women, careers, and families.  Like my cousin, I gave away my collection.  It would be worth some money today, but that doesn’t concern me.  Instead, I would like to still have it so that I could share a piece of my childhood with my son; I guess he will just have to settle for his old man’s lectures that begin: “Back in my day….”
    Generally speaking, collecting baseball cards was a wonderful childhood experience, but once the practice got me into hot water with my father.  In the early sixties, Post Cereals featured baseball cards on the backs of their cereal boxes. Dad believed that sports in general and baseball card collecting in particular were wastes of time, but he loved Post Cereals. One day Mom brought home a box that featured my idol’s card-Mickey Mantle. Impulsively, I cut out the cards before Dad had the chance to eat his precious cereal.  Dad the non-sports fan was not amused.  He just did not understand the importance of showing off a Mickey Mantle card.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Reporter Interviews Superman's Boss

 *Ron Mount, the ace reporter for the Daily Weekly, recently interviewed his hero, Perry White, the editor of the Metropolis Daily Planet:

Mount: Chief, this is an honor to interview you.

White: The honor is all mine, and don’t call me Chief!

Mount: Sorry. You’ve been a successful newspaperman for over eighty years.  What’s your secret, sir?

White: The most important thing in the newspaper racket is to be able to “read” people.

Mount: What does that mean, sir?

White: Often people pretend to be something that they’re not.  A good newspaperman can spot a phony; he can see the real person behind the façade.

Clark Kent, one of White’s reporters, enters the room: Excuse me Perry, I just wanted to drop off this article on the Merton case.

White: Thank you.  Clark Kent, I’d like to introduce Ron Mount from our sister publication, The Daily Weekly. 

After the introductions are concluded Kent leaves the room.

White: Now, Kent is easy to read.  He’s clumsy and shy; he’d probably faint if a girl  ever kissed him!  He’s just a mild mannered reporter, nothing more and nothing less.

Mount: Don’t you think he looks a lot like Superman?

White, after laughing loudly:  That’s a good one! You’re a reporter; where are your observation skills?  Superman and Kent don’t even comb their hair the same way, and Superman wouldn’t be caught dead wearing glasses!

Mount:  Do you have regular contact with this Superman fellow?

White: Oh sure.  As a matter of fact, he  keeps a close eye on this place; just about every day pedestrians report seeing the Man of Steel flying out one of our windows.

Mount: From what I’ve heard he has many  powers.

White: That’s true, but what’s even more impressive is that the guy keeps learning.  Heck, when he started showing up around here in the 1930s I suggested that he wear a green uniform and call himself “Super Frog.”

Mount:  Why is that, sir?

White: Well, when Superman first  came here  he could pick up a truck over his head,  smile at the bad guys while  their bullets bounced off his chest, and leap a couple city blocks at a time, but he had no idea how to fly. 

Mount: That’s amazing!  Who does he hang out with?

White: Superman comes to this building in part because Lois Lane works here.  He’s had the “hots” for her for some time now.  Then, of course, he is a member of The League of Super Heroes, so he hangs out with the other protectors of the earth.

Mount: Chief, who are some of these other protectors and what are their powers?

White: Don’t believe this recent movie stuff about Superman and Batman being enemies.  If that were true poor Batman would be a pile of smoldering ashes by now! In reality, Superman’s best pal is the Batman, who works out of Gotham City. He has no super powers per se, but he has a lot of neat stuff in his utility belt and he’s mean as a snake!  The Flash can run like the wind.  As a matter of fact, he once beat Superman in a footrace.  You know, the Flash would be one heck of a pizza delivery man, don’t you think?  He could advertise that the pizza would be delivered in two minutes or your money back.  Then there’s the Green Lantern; darned if I can figure out what his special power is.  With that stupid lantern he looks like a yard ornament!  Then there’s Wonder Woman.  She’s built like the Fortress of Solitude, if you catch my meaning, and she’s always losing her plane.  No wonder; it’s invisible!  Super Dave, who wore a sack over his face and a towel around his neck, is a retired super hero of note.  He’d throw his aunt’s brick-like homemade loaves of bread at the bad guys until they surrendered. I think he’s now living quietly somewhere in Texas. Of course, all these other heroes are envious of Superman. And don’t call me chief!

Mount: Sorry, sir. Why is that?

White: They realize that all their powers together don’t add up to those of the Man of Steel.  That’s why they’re always sending him somewhere else so that they can solve a major problem.  For example, just a few months ago they sent Superman to Cleveland in case there would be rioting over LeBron’s decision to take his skills elsewhere, and they cautioned him that the Cuyahoga River could catch fire again at any time.  With Superman out of the way, the others then could get credit for stopping a huge meteor that was heading for earth.

Mount:  Does Superman have any pets?

White:  Yeah, he has a dog named Krypto.   Dog catchers are scared of him.

Mount: Why’s that?

White: That mutt has super powers.  Every time a dog catcher goes after him the poor schmuck ends up with a hot foot.

Mount: A hot foot?

White: Yeah, the dog has heat vision, just like its owner.  And let me tell you something; you don’t want to be in the vicinity when that dog stops at a fire hydrant.  His super water pressure puts that thing into orbit!

Mount: Who is his chief enemy?

White: Don’t call me chief!

Mount: I didn’t, sir!

White: Lex Luther hates Superman’s guts!  He’s been trying to kill the Man of Steel since the Great Depression.

Mount: Does Superman have any weaknesses?

White: Yes; he’s addicted to soap operas and Kryptonite can kill him.

Mount: What is Kryptonite?

White: It’s radioactive chunks from the planet Krypton. That’s where Superman was born.  His old man sent him to earth in a rocket just before the planet exploded.

Mount: What caused the explosion?

White: According to my liberal friends the planet Krypton overheated due to man-made (Kryptonian?) emissions.  No doubt a Cap and Trade policy would have saved them all.

Mount: No doubt. Well, thank you so much for this interview, Mr. White.

White: You’re welcome, Mount, and don’t call me Mr. White! 

Once outside the building, Mount hears a loud swishing sound overhead. Could it be the greatest of super heroes? Looking upward, he wondered: “ Is it a bird? Is it a plane?” Unfortunately, it was a bird, and it was right on target.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Edith or Edna?

Way back in 1919 it was not unusual for women to give birth at home.  Therefore, it is not surprising that my grandmother gave birth to twin girls at the old family farmhouse in rural Ohio.  At least there was a doctor present.

One infant, named Edna, either died immediately after birth or was stillborn.  Grandpa, in his grief, made plans to construct a tiny casket for his deceased daughter. 

The doctor, trying to be helpful, said, “You had better make two caskets, for the other one will not survive long.”

The “other one”-Edith- weighed next to nothing, had a blue tinge about her at birth ,and at first the doctor could not detect any breathing.  Only by placing a mirror in front of her face could he detect any signs of life.

As things turned out, Grandpa was wise to ignore the good doctor’s advice, for the second tiny infant lasted another 77 years!  During that time she married and raised four children.

Tragically, in 1996 we learned that both Dad and Mom were battling cancer.  After Dad’s death we helped Mom stay at home until there was no other choice but to use the services of Hospice.

One day when we went to visit her one of us noticed that the name listed at the foot of her bed was “Edna!”  Where had they gotten that name?  Mom had been entered under her name-”Edith.”  To this day we haven’t solved this mystery.  Contacting a nurse, we soon had the name on the bed corrected.

Despite her courageous battle, we lost our mother on January 1, 1997.  It’s strange that even when a person is in his or her forties or fifties, when the parents die one feels like an orphan.  She was a hardworking, giving person, who was only selfish once in her life.  No doubt to the surprise of the doctor mentioned above, she gave us 77 years, but in our hearts that was not nearly enough.

A few weeks after Mom’s death one of my sisters sent a check to Hospice as a way of thanking the nurses and doctors for the fine care they had provided.  In the attached note my sister listed Mom’s name so that Hospice officials would know about which person she was referring.

A couple days later she received a thank you note from Hospice officials. Once again they referred to Mom as “Edna!”  At that point things were getting rather creepy!

Was our mother trying to tell us something?  During the confusion of childbirth perhaps the names of the two little girls inadvertently had been switched.  Had Edith died at birth?  Was our beloved mother really Edna?

I guess we will never know the answer to that one.  Of course, it really isn‘t important.  No matter what her name, we have fond memories of our mother.  As Shakespeare made clear, a rose by any other name does not diminish its beauty.  Whether Mom was Edith, Edna, or whatever, the fact remains that she was a good person and as a result her children have many happy memories.  That’s enough. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Comic Books

               Back in the 1950s I spent many Saturdays  hunting discarded pop bottles.  The regular eight ounce bottle had a deposit of two cents, while the quart bottle cost an extra nickel .  Pulling my wagon behind me, on good days I would collect enough bottles to fetch a dollar or so. 
    The clerk at the nearby Herb’s Market accepted the bottles, perhaps knowing that the money given to me would not be leaving the building.  With cash in my pocket, I’d go  to the comic book rack to find the latest Superman or Batman and Robin editions.  The regular-size comic book cost a dime; the “giant annual” went for a quarter.  Occasionally Superman and Batman would be featured together in the same magazine.  That was like getting two for the price of one.
    Many of us kids hated some of the literature that was forced upon us in school.  First of all, from our point of view much of it was irrelevant ; secondly, the teachers would wring any joy out of  those stories by forcing us to over analyze them.  We read comic books simply because they were entertaining.  The point is that we were reading voluntarily,  so  parents and educators should have been thrilled.
    The comic books that I read pitted the good guys against the bad ones, and in the end, the good guys won.  My favorite character was Superman.  No one guessed that Clark Kent, the mild-mannered reporter for the “Daily Planet“, was in reality the Man of Steel.  Batman lacked superhuman powers, but with several gadgets and lots of smarts he made the bad guys pay for their crimes.  Occasionally I’d also read comic books featuring the Green Lantern, Flash, or Wonder Woman.
    The first comic books in America were published in the 1930s.  They got their name from the fact that they were comic strips reprinted from newspapers.  Superman introduced the superhero in the June 1938 issue of “Action Comics“.  Other crime fighters with unusual powers  soon  followed.
    A psychiatrist by the name of Fredric Wertham, who was genuinely concerned about the welfare of children., wrote “Seduction of the Innocent” in 1954.  He believed that comic books, at least many of them, depicted violence, which in turn promoted violent actions by the young  readers.  In addition, he suggested that  Superman was a fascist, Batman and Robin were gay partners, and Wonder Woman was a lesbian.
    A Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency then investigated the possible harm caused by comic book reading (Maybe Russia was behind all this?).  Many concerned Americans believed that comic books were at least partially responsible for just about every problem of the young-from juvenile delinquency to drug use.  Thankfully,  they couldn’t find a connection between comic books and acne.
    Many fearful parents attempted to keep this “horrible” stuff away from their kids.  Some groups even sponsored public comic book burnings.  Of course, Hitler and his NAZI fiends liked book burnings, too.  The right to ban “harmful” material ran smack into the Constitutional right of free speech. 
    Under pressure, the comic book publishers began to regulate themselves by developing the Comics Code Authority.  The good doctor, however, believed that the code was not restrictive enough to protect the young.
    Like the situation with Elvis Presley and rock and roll in general, the critics overreacted.  Those comic books of the 1950s are rather tame and innocent when compared to what kids are exposed to today.  If he’s somehow aware of today‘s video games, movies, and  CDs, the late doctor is probably spinning in  his grave.