THIS MONTH IN HISTORY – APRIL

Many significant events have occurred in April. Below please find some of them:

April 2, 1513 – Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon landed at present-day St. Augustine, and claimed FL on behalf of Spain. St. Augustine is the oldest city in the continental US.

April 2, 1982 – Argentinian troops seized the Falkland Islands, a British territory just off the Argentinian coast, thus beginning the Falkland Islands War. Britain recaptured the islands on June 15.

April 3, 1860 – The Pony Express mail service commenced in St. Joseph, MO.

April 3, 1865 – Richmond. the capital of the Confederacy, surrendered.

April 3, 1948 – President Truman signed the Marshall Plan, an economic aid package that is largely credited with halting the spread of communism in post-War Europe.

April 3, 1995 – Sandra Day O’Connor became the first female Justice of the Supreme Court.

April 4, 1949 – NATO was created.

April 4, 1968 – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated.

April 6, 1896 – The first “modern” Olympics was held in Athens.

April 6, 1917 – The US entered WWI.

April 8, 563BC – Celebrated as Bhudda’s birthday.

April 8, 1913 – The US ratified the 17th Amendment to the Constitution mandating the election of US senators by direct popular vote instead of appointment by State legislatures as had been the procedure.

April 9, 1865 – Robert E. Lee formally surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant ending the Civil War.

April 9, 1866 – The US passed the Civil Rights Bill of 1866, which granted AAs the rights and privileges of US citizenship.

April 10, 1942 – The Bataan Death March began.

April 10, 1945 – The Buchenwald concentration camp was liberated by US troops.

April 11, 1968 – The US adopted the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

April 12, 1861 – The Civil War commenced as Confederate troops fired on Fort Sumter.

April 12, 1945 – FDR died in Warm Springs, GA of a cerebral hemorrhage.

April 12, 1961 – Russian cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, became the first human in space.

April 14, 1828 – Noah Webster published the first American-style dictionary.

April 14, 1865 – President Abraham Lincoln was mortally wounded by assassin John Wilkes Booth at Ford Theatre. He died the next day.

April 15, 1912 – The “unsinkable” Titanic, which had struck an iceberg the previous night, sunk. Some 1,500 of the 2,224 persons on board perished.

April 17, 1961 – The so-called Bay of Pigs invasion, which was intended to precipitate the overthrow of Fidel Castro, failed disastrously.

April 18, 1775 – Paul Revere embarked on his famous “Midnight Ride” to warn the Patriots that “the British [were] coming.”

April 18, 1906 – The infamous San Francisco Earthquake and fire began.

April 18, 1942 – A squadron of airplanes led by General James Doolittle successfully bombed Tokyo, providing a much-needed morale boost to Americans by demonstrating that Japan was not invulnerable.

April 19, 1775 – Patriots fire the “shot heard ’round the world” at Lexington, MA, which marked the commencement of the Revolutionary War.

April 19, 1943 – The Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto began an armed insurrection against their Nazi captors.

April 20, 1999 – The “Columbine Massacre” occurred in Littleton, CO, leaving 13 dead and 20 more wounded.

April 21, 1836 – Texans, under the command of Sam Houston, decisively defeated a Mexican force at San Jacinto (near present-day Houston), which led to Texas’ independence from Mexico.

April 21, 1918 – Baron Manfred von Richtofen, the infamous “Red Baron” who was credited with some 80 kills, was shot down over France.

April 22, 1889 – The “Oklahoma land rush” began.

April 24, 1800 – The Library of Congress, the world’s largest library, housing some 145 million items, was established.

April 26, 1986 – The nuclear power plant at Chernobyl, Ukraine, exploded, spreading a radioactive cloud extending over much of Europe.

April 26, 1994 – Apartheid in South Africa officially ended as the country held its first multiracial elections with some 18 million blacks participating. Nelson Mandela was elected President.

April 28, 1789 – Led by Fletcher Christian, the crew of the HMS Bounty mutinied against Captain William Bligh.

April 30, 1789 – George Washington was sworn in as the first President of the US.

April 30, 1948 – Palestinian Jews declared their independence from the British and established the State of Israel.

Birthdays – 4/2/1805 – Hans Christian Anderson (Danish fairytale author); 4/5/1856 – Booker T. Washington (AA educator); 4/10/1847 – Joseph Pulitzer (publisher); 4/13/1743 – Thomas Jefferson (3rd President); 4/16/1867 – Wilbur Wright (aviator pioneer); 4/16/1889 – Charlie Chaplin (silent film comedian); 4/17/1837 – John Pierpont Morgan (financier); 4/18/1857 – Clarence Darrow (renowned attorney); 4/20/1889 – Adolph Hitler; 4/22/1870 – Vladimir Lenin; 4/23/1564 – William Shakespeare (writer); 4/23/1791 – James Buchanan (15th US President; 4/25/1874 – Guglielmo Marconi (invented the radio; 4/27/1791 – Samuel F. B. Morse (telegraph inventor); 4/27/1822 – Ulysses S. Grant (civil war commanding general and 18th US President); 4/28/1758 – James Monroe (Founding Father and 5th US President); 4/29/1863 – William Randolph Hearst (publisher).

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THE FULL MUELLER REPORT RELEASED – WHAT NOW FOR DEMS?

For more than two years the Dems and most of the media have told us that the Mueller Report would, once and for all, demonstrate conclusively that President Trump and members of his campaign staff colluded with the Russians to “steal” the 2016 presidential election. President Trump was a traitor, a Russian spy, and/or a dupe of Vladimir Putin. Members of his campaign, his family, or, perhaps, President Trump, himself, would be indicted and go to prison. Mr. Trump would likely be impeached and maybe removed from office. Furthermore, we were told Mueller was doing a thorough, excellent job. Just wait, they said.

Let’s not forget the infamous statements of many of our elected officials, who were relentless in their criticisms of Mr. Trump. A sampling:

1. Adam Schiff promised us he was in possession of a “stream of evidence.”
2. Tom Perez claimed there was a “mountain of evidence” against Mr. Trump.
3. Jerry Nadler assured us “we know there was collusion.”
4. Richard Blumenthal pontificated that “the evidence is pretty clear.”

These comments and those of many others were misleading, irresponsible and, perhaps, even seditious. Their sole purpose was to destroy the Trump presidency. All they succeeded in doing, however, was to divide the country and distract the government from dealing with real issues, such as healthcare, border security and infrastructure.

Last month AG William Barr and his assistant, Rod Rosenstein, issued a summary report that did not indict anyone or demonstrate any collusion. This failed to satisfy the aforementioned critics. They demanded Barr release the full report. Now, the full report has been released, and, guess what, it, too, did not reveal what the Dems and media had expected and virtually assured the American people it would. The 448 page report, which few people will bother to read in its entirety, can be boiled down succinctly to the following conclusion:

1. Russia did, indeed, interfere with the 2016 presidential election, but there was no indication that it managed to alter a single vote, let alone affect the outcome.

2. The investigation did not establish that Mr. Trump or members of his campaign had colluded with the Russians.

3. The Report enumerated “multiple acts,” however, that were possibly capable of “exerting undue influence” over the investigation, but the evidence was not sufficient to make a case for obstruction.

So, it can be concluded that the report (a) cleared Mr. Trump and his campaign of collusion, but, (b) regarding obstruction, it was inconclusive. It did not find the president guilty, but, on the other hand, it did not fully exonerate him either. To me, that is “lawyer-speak” for saying the president was “not guilty.” Not “innocent,” but “not guilty,” similar to a jury verdict in a trial. After spending two years, $400 million, issuing 2,800 subpoenas, reviewing thousands of pages of testimony, and interviewing 500 witnesses a crack team of lawyers, most of whom had a strong political bias against Mr. Trump and had no reason to go easy on him, and had carte blanche to do whatever they saw fit, was unable to find enough evidence to charge Mr. Trump or any member of his campaign with any crime.

Unfortunately, the vague language cited above has provided critics with an opening to claim that further investigation could/should/would find the elusive conclusive evidence of a crime.

It should be noted that, according to a recent Reuters Poll, an astonishing 70% said the report had not changed their mind, and 50% still believe that Mr. Trump or a member of his campaign coordinated with Russia to influence the 2016 election. Honestly, I don’t know what to make of those numbers. I believe they fly in the face of reality.

Trump’s critics have refused to accept the conclusions of the report. In their eyes, Mueller has failed to deliver the goods, i.e. evidence of treason, or, at least, collusion. In their eyes, he has transformed from a “hero” to a “zero.”

The issuance of the Mueller Report should have been the end of the investigation. Instead, it appears to be merely another step on a road to nowhere. Staunch Trump-haters, such as Nadler and Schiff, are not satisfied and have stated their intention to commence their own investigations. The conclusions of the Report did not conform to their preconceived narrative. They have already issued dozens of subpoenas. It is within their constitutional purview to do so, but I don’t know what they expect to uncover that a comprehensive two-year special council investigation did not. It looks like these investigations will continue up until the 2020 election or even beyond. What a waste of time, money and resources.

Personally, I fail to see how Mr. Trump can be guilty of obstruction when he freely turned over millions of pages of documents upon request, and he did not invoke “executive privilege” even once. Contrast that with the Obama Administration, which invoked EP many times, and whose Attorney General, Eric Holder, refused to hand over documents relating to “Fast and Furious” and refused to appear before Congress when subpoenaed (for which he was cited for contempt). Contrast that with Bill Clinton’s mysterious meeting with Loretta Lynch on the tarmac when the Justice Department was in the midst of investigating Hillary. Contrast that with Hillary destroying some 35,000 emails and the accompanying hard drive. I am not an attorney, but common sense tells me that those actions constitute obstruction.

Media outlets, such as CNN and MSNBC, have, for the most part, expressed a uniformly negative opinion of Mr. Trump regarding the special counsel investigation. Often, when I watched news reports on those stations I have observed panels of several commentators all of whom think alike and express the same opinions. No diversity, no fair and balanced commentary. They just reinforce their own preconceived opinions by associating only with others who think as they do. Once, I observed a nine-person panel on CNN arranged in a semi-circle all parroting similar views. Talk about a “circular firing squad! No wonder the Mueller Report freaked them out.

Additionally, many Dems and their supporters in the media have commenced attacking AG William Barr. They are accusing him of bias toward the president. Some of the kinder characterizations of him are “toady and “lackey.” Some other examples by our media’s “crack” reporters and commentators:

1. Chris Matthews (MSNBC)- [This was] “an inside job.”
2. Chris Cuomo (CNN) – “Barr is the president’s ‘fixer.'”
3. Michele Goldberg (NYT) – “The US is being ruled by a military junta.”

This is totally inappropriate, irresponsible and dangerous. Let’s not forget that Rod Rosenstein, no friend of Mr. Trump’s, assisted Barr in reviewing and releasing the report.

CONCLUSION

For two years most of the media has vilified Mr. Trump. It has repeatedly told the American people he was a spy, a Nazi, a racist a tool of the Russians. He “stole” the election. Etc. They have lied to and misled the American people. They have assumed guilt without due process (similar to their treatment of Justice Kavanaugh and the Covington kids). Now, that they have been proven wrong, they should offer an apology or, at the very least, acknowledge their misdeeds. But, don’t count on it. Instead, they are doubling down, in effect, by encouraging the Dems to conduct their own investigations and talking of impeachment.

Time to let it go, people, and get to the business of governing the country. That was what you were elected to do. As stated above, the Mueller Report did not put forth any evidence that Russia’s interference changed one vote. Mr. Trump won fair and square. He is the legitimate president. Cease trying to overthrow the will of the people. Stop this nonsense of impeachment. It’s a loser, politically. You hate Mr. Trump. I get it. So, do it the right way. Nominate a better candidate in 2020, and win the next election.

NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL FIRE

Notre-Dame de Paris, literally “Our Lady of Paris,” but commonly referred to, simply, as Notre-Dame has long been one of the primary historical, religious and cultural symbols of Paris. It was consecrated to the Virgin Mary, and it is extremely sacred to Catholics (and many non-Catholics as well) not only in France, but also throughout the world. It sits on an island in the heart of Paris on a site that had been the location for several churches dating back to the 4th century. Featuring a massive spire, rose-colored windows, a massive vault and numerous flying buttresses, it is widely recognized as one of the best examples of French gothic architecture. When I mention “Paris” what comes to mind? Probably, the Eifel Tower, the Louvre and, yes, Notre-Dame. On April 15 much of it was damaged and destroyed by a massive fire. More on that later.

Constructing ND was a massive and complex undertaking, especially when one considers the primitive tools available at the time. Construction began in 1160 under the direction of the Bishop of Paris, Maurice de Sully. It was not completed until 1260. Since then, there have been many modifications over then years. In fact, at the time of the fire, it was in the midst of a renovation and restoration project, which likely had a bearing on the fire.

The fire, fueled by the 800 year-old dry wood that made up the roof, aka “The Forest,” was massive. Approximately, 400 firefighters fought the blaze, which burned for over 12 hours, before it was controlled. Despite the fact that a Mass was underway, no one was killed. Some might call that a miracle and credit divine intervention because of where the fire took place. Personally, I would credit the prompt response and bravery of the firefighters, who evacuated the worshippers in a prompt and orderly manner. In fact, many observers have confirmed this to the media, and French President Emmanuel Macron hosted a gathering at the Elysee Palace to recognize their efforts and offer what his office called “words of thanks.”

As I write this, the investigation into the fire is ongoing, but the current belief is that the fire was caused by an electrical short-circuit. Obviously, this is preliminary, as firefighters have not yet deemed the building safe to enter. Authorities are taking the investigation very seriously. Some 50 investigators have been assigned to the case, and according to Remy Heitz, the prosecutor in charge, the investigation will be “long and complex.”

So, what was saved, and what was destroyed? According to NBC the major loss was the roof, the spire above it, and much of the latticework.

As I mentioned above, the roof, aka “The Forest,” was constructed of planks of wood that was 800 years old. It is believed to have been the source of the fire. This wood had become very dry and made perfect fuel for the fire. It is irreplaceable.

It should be noted that the spire, aka “la fleche, or “the arrow,” was one of the most symbolic and recognizable sights of the city. It was surrounded by 16 copper statues, which represented the four evangelists and the 16 apostles. Fortuitously, these statues had been removed as part of the aforementioned restoration project, so they were not destroyed.

What was saved?

1. The rose window. These sacred, world-renowned rose colored, stained glass windows date as far back as 1260. According to the ND website they portray Jesus sitting in heaven “surrounded by all those who have been his witnesses on earth.”

2. “Le Grand Orgue,” or “The Great Organ” consisting of some 8,000 pipes dated back to 1730.

3. “The Tunic of St. Louis.” This long, shirt-like garment is believed to have belonged to King Louis IX, who ruled France from 1226 – 1270 According to French Culture Minister, Franck Riester and Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris, this was saved by first responders.

4. “The Crown of Thorns.” This is believed to have been worn by Jesus at the time of his crucifixion.

CONCLUSION

Although some of the treasures destroyed are irreplaceable, the cathedral, itself, can and will be rebuilt. “USA Today” has reported that over $1 billion in donations have been received to date, mostly from a few generous billionaires, and Macron has vowed that the cathedral will be rebuilt “even more beautifully” in five years. It also reported that some groups have criticized these sizeable contributions, which, in my view, should be praised, as further evidence of what they have labeled “income inequality.”

I admire and support Macron’s ambition, but in my experience these projects take much longer and cost much more than predicted. I hope he’s right, but we’ll see. It has been reported that work has already begun even though, as mentioned above, authorities have not yet deemed the building to be safe to enter. In the meantime, Monsignor Patrick Chauvet has been calling for the construction of a small temporary church on the grounds of the adjoining plaza so that those so inclined would have a place to worship.

In summary, this was a tragedy on a grand scale, but it could have been worse, much worse.

NOT IN MY HOUSE

I love it! Absolutely, love it! In my view, with his latest proposal to re-settle some illegal immigrants in sanctuary cities President Trump has called the far left’s bluff and exposed its hypocrisy for all to see. Basically, it’s Trump saying “you want ’em, you can have ’em,” and the lefties, rather than embracing the idea, are saying, “wait a minute. We want them, but not in my state/city/congressional district/neighborhood/house.”

If you think I am being unfair or disingenuous, or grossly exaggerating the situation, read on. But, first, a brief history lesson.

The idea of a sanctuary city is not a new concept. It has been associated with virtually every major religion, including, among others, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism. For instance, the Book of Numbers in the Old Testament refers to the designation of six such cities in which, for example, a perpetrator of manslaughter could seek asylum and be protected from vengeance by members of the victim’s family, which otherwise, was legal. In 392 Roman emperor Theodosius I established sanctuary cities under the control of the church. Similarly, in circa 600 in England churches were given a general right, by Royal charter, to provide sanctuary under certain conditions. This policy was in effect until 1621.

In the US the practice took root in the 1980s when certain faith-based groups provided sanctuary to refugees who were fleeing El Salvador and Guatemala, which were politically unstable and violent. In 1985 San Francisco became the first city to offer sanctuary. As of 2018 the US had some 560 sanctuary cities/counties/states.

Immigration/border security has become one of the most controversial issues of the day. It figures to play a significant role in the 2020 presidential election. Certainly, there are strong opinions on both sides, and most of us are frustrated by the federal government’s inability or unwillingness to resolve the issue. The purpose of this blog is not to debate the merits and demerits of the issue, per se. I have done that in previous blogs, and there is no need to repeat myself here. Rather, the focus of this blog is to demonstrate the hypocrisy of the left regarding this issue.

Immigration has become a litmus test for any Dem seeking the nomination. All 20 or so of them, as well as some non-candidates, have been critical of the current administration’s handling of the matter and have been espousing open or relaxed borders. For example:

1. Nancy Pelosi has said that “all immigration is good, [both] legal and illegal.” She has called the wall “expensive, ineffective and immoral.” By implication, if you disagree, you are not only a “spendthrift,” a “nationalist” and a “racist,” but also “immoral.” Maybe, someone should inform “Reverend Pelosi” that she has characterized twelve centuries of popes as immoral.

2. Beto O’Rourke went even further. He has been advocating tearing down the wall that already exists.

3. Kamala Harris has told us – “we welcome refugees.”

4. Elizabeth Warren admonishes us to “offer a home to refugees.”

5. Kirsten Gillibrand lectures us that there is “no such thing as an illegal human.”

6. Incoming CA Governor Gavin Newsome advocates a house that is open “to all who need it and seek it.”

7. And, then we have, perhaps, the poster child of sanctuary advocates, Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf, who not only provides sanctuary to illegals, but also has, on at least one occasion, tipped them off about an upcoming ICE raid, so they could evade capture. She purports to “welcome and honor all people [regardless] of where they came from and how they got here.”

So, one would think that President Trump’s proposal would be cheered by the left. He would not only give them what they say they want, but also transport them at federal government expense. A win-win, right?

Nope. Initially, the left was stunned by this proposal “out of left field.” Then, enraged at the audacity of the plan, it went into full attack mode. The left-leaning media was in full lock-step, even using the identical derogatory, if not racist, word to describe the proposal, as if they were following a script:

1. Greg Miller in the “Washington Post” characterized the proposal as “busing people… to dump them in cities…just to punish political rivals.”

2. “Mother Jones” – “Donald Trump wanted to dump asylum seekers on the streets of Democratic cities.”

3. Harry Siegel in the “Daily Beast” – “The White House wanted to dump refugees in sanctuary cities.”

4. Both MSNBC and CNN featured the proposal throughout the day and characterized it as “dumping migrants into sanctuary cities.”

5. Finally, Nancy Pelosi, always good for a quote – “The extent of this administration’s cynicism and cruelty cannot be overstated.”

Note the consistent use of the word “dumping.” Once again, the media is attempting to cast President Trump in the most negative light possible.

CONCLUSION

Not being an immigration attorney, I cannot comment as to the legality of Mr. Trump’s proposal. In any event, I would expect the president’s proposal to be challenged in court, probably all the way to the Supreme Court. Your guess is as good as mine as to the outcome, although I seem to recall that there is precedent for refugee relocations. Maybe, you attorneys can opine on the matter.

As I said in the beginning, if nothing else, the proposal has exposed the blatant hypocrisy of many on the left. They advocate unfettered immigration, legal or illegal, except when it is in their neighborhood. For example, I would love to see Mayors Bloomberg and De Blasio’s reaction if illegals were resettled in the Upper Eastside of NY, or Obama’s if they were resettled in the Kalorama section of Washington, DC, or John Kerry’s if they were relocated to Beacon Hill (areas where those respective people live). Each of them has advocated unfettered or loose immigration policies. I think we all know what their reaction would be – “NOT IN MY HOUSE.”

JACKIE ROBINSON’S LEGACY

Number 42. Does that have any special meaning for you, or is it just another number? Baseball fans, civil rights advocates, and students of history will recognize it as the uniform number worn by Jackie Roosevelt Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers. It should be noted that that uniform number has two other major significances:

1. It is the only number to have been retired by every major league baseball team (1997); and

2. since 2004, every year on April 15 on what is known as “Jackie Robinson Day,” every player wears that number in tribute to Jackie Robinson in recognition of the anniversary of his debut in the major leagues in 1947. On that historic date Jackie became the first African American to play in the major leagues since the 1880s.

In order to put this in its proper perspective one must realize the racial situation in 1947. Life was radically different, a reality which few of us who live in the PC era can appreciate. Much has changed in the intervening 72 years. For example:

1. Segregation was the law of the land. “Jim Crow” was alive and well.
The “Brown” Supreme Court decision integrating public schools would not come until 1954.

2. Even though many AAs had distinguished themselves during WWII the armed forces would not be integrated until 1948.

3. A disproportionate percentage of MLB players were from the South and espoused all the values, attitudes and experiences of the region regarding AAs. Most of them had never played ball with an AA. Many had rarely even associated with one as peers.

4. The prevailing attitude among players, sports writers, and fans was that AAs were not good enough and did not have the “temperament” to succeed in MLB.
Very few of us lived through that era, and consequently, we cannot imagine the circumstances Jackie had to overcome.

Jack Roosevelt Robinson was born on January 31, 1919 in Cairo, Georgia. His parents chose his middle name in honor of President Teddy Roosevelt, who had recently died. He was the youngest of five children. One of his older brothers, Mack, would later earn some notoriety by winning the silver medal in the 100 meter dash in the 1936 Olympics, (the Games held in Berlin at which Jesse Owens embarrassed Adolph Hitler and the Nazis by winning four gold medals).

Jackie’s parents were sharecroppers and barely scraping by, so in 1920 they moved to Pasadena, California seeking a better life. In high school and college Jackie excelled in five sports – baseball, basketball, football, track and tennis. Basically, he was an all-around athlete who excelled in any sport he tried. At UCLA he became the school’s first athlete to “letter” in four sports (all of the above except tennis). One of his teammates on the 1939 UCLA football team was the future actor, Woody Strode. Ironically, statistically, at least, baseball was his worst sport of the four.

In 1941 Jackie left UCLA just shy of graduating to play semi-pro football, but in early 1942 he was drafted and stationed at Fort Riley in Texas. He applied for admission to OCS. Initially, his application was rejected as few blacks were accepted at the time, but following a personal appeal from Joe Louis, the reigning heavyweight boxing champ, he was accepted.

Jackie’s tenure in the army was marred by one unfortunate incident in which his fiery temperament got him in trouble. While riding an Army bus one day the driver told him to move to the back. Jackie refused. As a result he was nearly court-martialed for insubordination and other “trumped up” offenses. A conviction would have changed the course of his life and, possibly, the country’s as well, but he was acquitted.

In 1945 Jackie signed to play for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro leagues. Unbeknownst to him, Branch Rickey, President of the Brooklyn Dodgers, was looking for a Negro to break the major leagues’ “color barrier,” which had been in place since the 1880s. He had compiled a list of the best players in the Negro leagues and was evaluating them for suitability. There were many players better than Jackie, notably Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson, but due to age, temperament and other factors, they were all eliminated in favor of Jackie.

Rickey knew the first AA player would have to “turn the other cheek” to a great deal of verbal, physical and emotional abuse. Otherwise, it might be many more years before the next one got a chance. When he told Jackie this, Jackie was shocked and replied “Are you looking for a Negro who is afraid to fight back?” Rickey’s famous reply was that he was seeking a Negro “with guts enough not to fight back.”

To make a long story short, Rickey signed Jackie. He played for the Montreal Royals, the Dodgers AAA minor league affiliate in the International League, in 1946. He “tore up” the league, winning the MVP award. The next year he made his debut in the major leagues.

To me, his debut was one of the most significant events not only in baseball history, but also in the country’s history. There was tremendous resistance not only from other Dodgers, but from players on other teams as well.

Again, it is very hard for us to appreciate the level of abuse to which Jackie was subjected. Breaking into the major leagues is hard enough, physically. The added mental and emotional pressures Jackie and other AAs had to overcome was mind-boggling. Jackie had to endure a tremendous amount of prejudice and abuse both on and off the field (name calling, spiking, “beanings,” separate lodgings and restaurants on the road, etc. Eventually, other AAs would join him in the majors. They had to overcome many of the same obstacles. Some were unable to survive, but many more did.

Luckily, Dodger management was behind Jackie 100%. When some Dodgers players threatened to quit, strike or demand a trade, the team’s manager, Leo Durocher, a fiery, no nonsense person himself, nipped the rebellion in the bud. He declared: “I do not care if the guy is yellow or black, or if he has stripes like a f****** zebra. I’m the manager of this team, and I say he plays.” Players on other teams also threatened to strike, but MLB Commissioner “Happy” Chandler quelled that rebellion quickly as well.

CONCLUSION

Rickey chose well with Jackie. In baseball parlance, he “knocked it out of
the park.” Attendance soared and not just in Brooklyn but in every other city as well. Black people came in droves to see their hero, Jackie Robinson, play. In those days, attendance was the primary source of ball clubs’ revenue, so Jackie made money for everyone.

Not only did Jackie “take” all the abuse without incident, he starred on the field and became an integral part of one of the most storied teams in baseball history, the “Boys of Summer.” In a ten-year period from 1947-1956 that team dominated the National League. It won six pennants, lost another in a playoff and lost another by one game.

Among Jackie’s many MLB accomplishments:

1. Rookie of the year in 1947 (the first one).
2. National League MVP in 1949.
3. Appeared in six World Series.
4. World champion in 1955.
5. First ballot hall of famer in 1962.
6. Member of the MLB All-Century team.

Jackie was extremely versatile, Although he came up as a second baseman, he also played first, third and the outfield. Many times, he was among the league leaders in fielding at his position. He was one of the best “clutch” players I have ever observed. He could beat you with the bat, the glove or on the bases. I have never seen a better baserunner or a tougher competitor. When on base, he would drive the opposing pitcher crazy with his antics. He was always a threat to steal a base. I saw him steal home in the 1955 World Series. When caught in a rundown he often escaped, which, generally, was a rarity. His aggressive style of play was unique for the 1940s and 1950s.

As an example of his extremely competitive nature, one story will suffice. In the decisive third game of the 1951 playoff with the NY Giants, when the Giants’ Bobby Thompson hit the game winning home run, all the Dodgers left the field immediately with their heads down in defeat. All except for Jackie. He watched and made sure that Thompson touched all the bases on his home run trot. He would not accept defeat until Thompson had completed his circuit.

Jackie retired from baseball after the 1956 season worn down by age and diabetes, but he did not retire from life. For example, he became very active in the civil rights movement; he became the first black to serve as vp of a major corporation (Chock Full O’Nuts); he went into broadcasting; and he acted in a movie of his own life story.

Ultimately, however, his fierce competitiveness could not overcome ill health. Jackie died on October 24, 1972 at the relatively young age of 53 from complications of heart disease and diabetes. I’m sure that all the stress he had to endure on the playing field also contributed to his early demise.

Jackie’s legacy, however, lives on. There are countless, statues, schools, parks and roads named in his honor. Moreover, every time a black or other minority takes the field in the major leagues, the NFL or the NBA, he owes a debt to the pioneer who made it all possible. So, tomorrow, as you watch your favorite team play with all players on both teams wearing “42” take a minute to appreciate the special achievement of one Jack Roosevelt Robinson.

THE MASTERS

The Masters, one of the four major golf tournaments – along with the US Open, the (British) Open and the PGA – will be played April 11 – 14. The Masters is the first of these majors to be contested. For you non-golfers, the tournament consists of four rounds of 18 holes each, played Thursday thru Sunday. Low total score wins. A tie would be settled by a sudden death playoff.

Prior to the advent of the Masters and the growth of professional golf the four “majors” included the US Open, the (British) Open and the US and British amateur championships. Winning those four in the same calendar year became known as the “Grand Slam of Golf.” It has only been done once, by Bobby Jones in 1930. At the time, the feat did not have a name because it was thought to be impossible to achieve. According to Wikipedia, the originator of the term “Grand Slam” was O. B. Keeler, a reporter for the Atlanta Journal, who simply took the term from bridge.

The modern GS came into being in 1960. That year, Arnold Palmer won the Masters and the US Open. Supposedly, a reporter friend of his, Bob Drum of the Pittsburg Press, spread the notion that if Palmer were to add the Open and the PGA he would have completed a GS. Palmer did not, but the notion “stuck.” (Can you name the five golfers who have won all four majors during their careers?)

The Masters is always the first full week of April and, unlike the other three majors, it is always played at the same venue, Augusta National Golf Club, a private club located in Augusta, Georgia. How private is AN? Well, membership is highly restricted, invitation only, and the list (approximately 300) is confidential. The membership list is not public information. This year, ticket prices will be $75 for the practice rounds and $115 for the tournament, itself.

AN was designed by golf legend Bobby Jones, and it opened in 1933. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the land on which the course is situated was an indigo plantation and a plant nursery, which is why each hole is named after a particular tree or plant. How many of these can you name? See answers below.

The first Masters, known as the Augusta National Invitational Tournament, was held in March 1934. The winner was Horton Smith, and he won a mere $1,500. By contrast, last year’s winner, Patrick Reed, earned $1.98 million out of an $11 million total purse, not to mention everlasting fame and other perks, such as invitations to play in the other majors that year, and a lifetime invitation to the Masters. Yes, the tournament and golf, itself, have come a long way.
The tournament is famous for its various traditions, which are unique to this tournament. Some of the more significant ones include:

1. Since 1949 each year’s champion has been awarded a special green jacket. This jacket is presented to him in a post-tournament ceremony by the previous year’s winner. Although the jacket becomes the personal property of the winner he can only keep it in his possession for one year after which time it is required to be stored at the club.

2. Since 1952 the previous year’s winner has hosted a Champions’ Dinner. Generally, only past champions are invited to attend. The host selects the menu, and, over the years, there have been some unusual choices. For example, Scotsman Sandy Lyle served haggis, and South African Trevor Immelman ordered up bobotie. Are you familiar with these dishes? See below.

3. Since 1963 certain legendary golfers, generally also past champions, have been given the honor of hitting a ceremonial opening tee shot. In recent years, the honorees have been Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. (Palmer passed away in 2017, so, last year, to honor him, Nicklaus and Player performed the honors without him accompanied by an empty chair with his green jacket draped over it.)

4. Since 1960 a par-3 contest has been held on the Tuesday before the tournament. This is an informal affair, and golfers often invite their children to caddy for them.

5. Until 1983 golfers were required to use caddies employed by the club. This was significant, since professional golfers habitually use their own caddies. Often, the golfer and the caddy become a team, and the golfer comes to rely on the caddy for advice and support during the round. By tradition, the caddies were black. In those pre-PC days, club co-founder Clifford Roberts was quoted as saying “as long as I’m alive golfers will be white and caddies will be black.” Roberts was not the most enlightened man. Thankfully, neither he nor that particular tradition is still alive.

6. CBS has televised the event every year since 1956. Because the club is private and its membership highly affluent, it has been able to impose various unusual restrictions on CBS in exchange for lower revenue. For example, commercial interruptions are very limited; the announcers are required to refer to the gallery as “patrons,” rather than “fans” or “spectators; and “plugs” for other CBS network programs are forbidden (except it may notify the audience of a delay in the following program, “60 Minutes,” should the situation arise.

One final question. Which golfer has won the most Masters?

CONCLUSION

The Masters has become arguably the most prestigious of the four majors, at least in the US. Golfers revere tradition, and, as noted above, the Masters has them aplenty. Also, it is played on the same beautiful, impeccably-groomed course every year.

Over the years, there have been a plethora of famous “Masters moments.” I was too young to experience Gene Sarazen’s so-called “shot heard ’round the world (man, has that phrase been overused or what?) in 1935 when he “holed” a shot from the fairway on hole 15 for a double eagle. But, I did see Larry Mize sink a 45-yard pitch shot to win a sudden death playoff in 1987. In addition, I felt badly for Roberto de Vicenzo, who lost a playoff in 1968 when he was penalized one stroke for inadvertently signing an incorrect scorecard. Golf has strict rules, and they are enforced unequivocally. De Vicenzo’s reaction was a classic: “What a stupid I am.”

Answers to questions:

1. Names of holes – 1) Tea Olive, 2) Pink Dogwood, 3) Flowering Peach, 4) Flowering Crab Apple, 5) Magnolia, 6) Juniper, 7) Pampas, 8) Yellow Jasmine, 9) Carolina Cherry, 10) Camellia, 11) White Dogwood, 12) Golden Bell, 13) Azalea, 14) Chinese Fir, 15) Firethorn, 16) Redbud, 17) Nandina, 18) Holly.

2. Haggis is the national dish of Scotland. It is a pudding containing sheep’s “pluck” ( heart, liver and lungs), minced with onion, suet (fat), and various spices.

3. Bobotie, pronounced “ba boor tea,” is the national dish of South Africa. Basically, it is a mixture of curried meat and fruit. Hmm. Yummy.

4. The five golfers who have completed the “career slam” are Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods.

5. Nicklaus has won the most Masters – 6.

Prediction – In my view, the field is wide open. Don’t be surprised if a relative unknown wins. I hope Tiger and/or Phil are in contention on Sunday. If one or both of them are, it always makes any tournament more interesting for me. Phil is my sentimental favorite. He’s won it three times and I’m rooting for a fourth.

APRIL FOOLS DAY

This is NOT an April Fools joke. It is a legitimate blog.

As you know, today is April 1, also known as “April Fools Day.” I like a good joke as much as anyone, but I am not a big fan of pranking people on this date. Maybe when I was 10, but not now. But, I was curious about the origins of the holiday, and how it is celebrated around the world.

AFD is not a official holiday in the US, or in any other country, for that matter, but it is widely recognized and celebrated around the world unofficially. Some people love to play jokes and perpetrate hoaxes. So, if you hear that President Trump has resigned to focus on building hotels and golf courses, or that the Mets have traded Noah Syndergaard, or that China has “forgiven” the US’s debt, don’t believe it. Those would, most certainly, be AFD jokes.

Even the media can be a willing participant. One of my favorite AFD pranks occurred on April 1, 1985. The “Sports Illustrated” cover story that day was about a baseball pitching phenom named Sidd Finch. At first, the story appeared to have credibility, as it was written by George Plimpton and published in SI. Finch was presented as an unknown rookie pitching prospect in the NY Mets training camp. (At that time Opening Day was later in April.) So far, so good. But, as one read the details of the story, particularly about his 160 MPH fastball, it became apparent that it was an AFD joke.

A few other famous, or infamous AFD pranks (courtesy of CNN, which many claim is the “fake news” network anyway):

1. Swiss spaghetti – On 4/1/57 a British tv show called “Panorama” claimed that the Swiss spaghetti harvest had enjoyed a “bumper year,” due to the unusually mild weather and the elimination of the “spaghetti weevil.” This hoax was ranked the #1 AFD joke of all time by the Museum of Hoaxes.

2. Toilet paper – On 4/1/73 Johnny Carson joked on the “Tonight Show” that there was a shortage of toilet paper. This hoax was credited with creating a real shortage as many listeners believed him and rushed out to “stock up.”
In 2015 Cottonelle announced it was developing “left-handed toilet paper.” “It cleans just like right-handed toilet paper, only it’s made for (lefties),” touted one advertisement.

3. Google gulp – In 1998 Google announced a drink called the “Google Gulp,” which, it said, would help one to “achieve maximum optimization of your soon-to-be grateful cerebral cortex,” [and it was] “low in carbs” to boot.

All in good fun!

Surprisingly, there are records of continuous AFD celebrations back as far as 536 BC in present day Iran. They celebrate the Persian holiday of Sizdah Bedar, which falls on the 13th day of the Persian New Year, (April 1). In addition, the Romans celebrated festivals called “Hilaria” on March 25 and the “Medieval Feast of Fools” on December 28. In certain Spanish-speaking countries, the latter is still a date on which pranks are played on people. Finally, there is a reference to the holiday in Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales,” which was first published in 1387.

Nowadays, the holiday is celebrated differently around the world. Some examples are as follows:

1. UK – The April Fool joke is disclosed when the perpetrator shouts “April Fool” at the recipient. Traditionally, April Fool jokes are to cease at midday. After that time, anyone trying to prank someone becomes the “April Fool” himself. These AFD customs are similar in other countries whose traditions were influenced by the UK, such as the US.

2. Scotland – AFD is called “Hunt the Gowk Day.” “Gowk” is Scots for a foolish person.

3. Ireland – A common tradition is to give the “prankee” an important letter in an envelope to give to a certain person. That person would ask the “prankee” to give it to another person, and so on and so on. Eventually, someone would open the envelope. The letter inside would say “send the fool further.”

4. Poland – Traditionally, April 1 is a day to play jokes and hoaxes. The media participates as well. Serious matters are to be avoided. For example, supposedly, a treaty signed on April 1, 1683 was later backdated to March 31.

5. France/Italy/Belgium – The holiday is called “April Fish,” for some reason. One common prank is to attach a paper fish to the victim’s back without being detected. (Along these lines, in high school we used to put a “kick me” sign on a victim’s back, although not just on AFD. Movie buffs may recall that this joke was played on McFly Senior in the movie “Back to the Future.”)

6. Sweden/Denmark – They celebrate on May 1 in addition to April 1. Many Danish and Swedish news outlets will intentionally publish one false story on April 1.

CONCLUSION

AFD can be fun, especially for kids. Even in the current PC era, a little harmless fun never hurt anyone. For example, a few years ago my son told my grandson, who was six at the time and a huge Mets fan, that David Wright had been traded to the hated Yankees. To his credit, my grandson, merely shrugged his shoulders and asked “who for?”

I can remember being the perpetrator and butt of April fool jokes in grade school and middle school. All in good fun. I predict that some of you will be victimized today. Maybe you have been already.

Please tell me some of your favorite April fools moments. Were you the perpetrator or the victim? I promise you I won’t put it on Facebook.

Now, THAT was an April fool joke.

MUELLER REPORT – NO COLLUSION

No collusion? Huh? How could that be? The vast majority of the Dem party and the media have been assuring us there was. Well, I guess they were wrong. In my opinion, either they are stupid, or they think we are to believe them.

The long-awaited and much-anticipated Mueller Report has been completed and submitted to Attorney General William Barr. Barr and Rod Rosenstein, his deputy, have reviewed the report, and they have issued a statement that (1) the report did not call for any additional indictments, and (2) neither Mr. Trump nor his campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign. It should be noted that various US intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia did, however, interfere with the election, although Russia has consistently denied it did so. In any event, there has been no evidence presented that even one vote was affected.

The report did not absolve Mr. Trump of obstruction of justice. Critics have latched on to that like a lifeline. They cite his firing of FBI director Jim Comey as evidence of obstruction, but they conveniently forget or ignore the fact that even the Clinton campaign was unhappy with Comey and wanted him fired. A decision on obstruction will be up to the attorney general. In my opinion, the case for obstruction is weak, but we’ll see.

There is strong bipartisan support for Barr to release the full report. The president, his supporters, his critics and the public all want to see it, and the likelihood is he will do so, except for Grand Jury testimony and “classified” information, if any. The release of the report should clear up the cloud of suspicion that has plagued Mr. Trump his entire presidency, and it should end the investigations of him and his campaign, what some have labeled a “witch hunt.”

Congress should now be able to proceed with the business of governing. It should be able to address various issues that Americans really care about, such as healthcare, border security, terrorism, infrastructure, and the economy. But nooooo! Not happening, at least, not yet. Leading Dems, such as Jerry Nadler, Adam Schiff, and “Chancy,” have indicated that separate Congressional investigations will be forthcoming. I would caution them to tread carefully. A recent USA Today/Suffolk University poll disclosed that 50% of Americans agree with Mr. Trump that the entire investigation has been a “witch hunt,” compared to 47% who do not. That same poll disclosed that only 28% were in favor of his impeachment, while 62% were opposed.

For over two years the Dems and most of the media have been pounding us with accusations regarding President Trump. He colluded with Russia to steal the election; Russia/Putin is blackmailing him; he is a Russian spy; he is a puppet of the Russians; he is the “Manchurian Candidate;” he committed treason; and on and on ad nauseum. I could fill this entire blog with their inane rhetoric, but I will settle for a few select quotes:

1. Adam Schiff – There is a “stream of evidence.”
2. Tom Perez – There is a “mountain of evidence.”
3. Jerry Nadler – “We know there was collusion.”
4. Richard Blumenthal – “The evidence is pretty clear.”

In addition, politicians from Adam Schiff, to Jerry Nadler, to Kamala Harris, to Cory Booker, to AOC, and commentators, such as Don Lemon, Anderson Cooper, Carl Bernstein and Chris Matthews, have been pushing for his impeachment. Nancy Pelosi, to her credit, has been more cautious. She has stated she would not support impeachment unless the evidence against Mr. Trump was “compelling, overwhelming and bipartisan.” Now that the report has been released and does not prove any of those accusations, the aforementioned critics, have switched the narrative. Now, they want to pursue their own investigations. Essentially, they want to keep investigating until they find something damaging (or until Mr. Trump completes his second term, which will likely come sooner).

In my opinion, the Mueller investigation was conceived and commenced based on FISA warrants of very questionable legality. Also, Mueller’s team was composed almost entirely of individuals with a bias against Mr. Trump. This was a “plus” for Dems, but now it is a “negative,” since it precludes them from accusing the team of pro-Trump bias. The team was extremely relentless and thorough. It tried really hard to find something damaging. Over the course of 2+ years it issued some 2,800 subpoenas, interviewed some 500 witnesses, and spent some $400 million of the taxpayers’ money. Some of their tactics and motivations seemed heavy-handed and excessive (e.g., the Stone arrest), but I would give them an “A” for effort. The fact that after all that, the committee could not find any collusion is very significant and should be dispositive. But, apparently not enough to satisfy some hardcore critics.

Nadler’s committee has reportedly sent some 80 letters of inquiry to some 60 individuals, many of whom will likely be summoned to testify. I’m not aware of all the names, but I have heard that Glenn Simpson and Christopher Steele, who were involved knee-deep in the so-called “fake dossier,” were not among them. That strikes me as curious, to say the least.

CONCLUSION

For over two years, we were told constantly by most Dems and most of the media to wait for the Mueller Report. It would “nail” Mr. Trump. It would prove he colluded with Russia to “steal” the 2016 election. It would end his presidency. He would be impeached. He would go to prison, as would members of his family and inner circle. Now, even though Mueller and his team were given tremendous latitude to investigate whatever they wanted, the report has been issued, and it has exonerated Mr. Trump from collusion.

For two plus years, the American people have been subjected to exaggerated and false claims from Dems and their allies in the media who, blinded by their irrational hatred for Donald Trump, rushed to judgment before the facts were in. The above quotes were a small sample of the irresponsible behavior of those who should know better. By the way, this was not the only time they have done so. The Covington High School and Jesse Smollett stories are two other recent examples. Some have advocated that those who acted irresponsibly should resign or be fired or, at the very least, apologize to the American people, but I will not hold my breath waiting for that.

Regarding the Mueller Report, Peter Baker, writing in the NY Times, opined “the darkest most ominous cloud hanging over [Mr. Trump’s] presidency was all but lifted…” He added that in his opinion the Dems were now “on the defensive.” I would concur. They staked a great deal on the report, politically, and it did not fulfil their hopes. Now, many Dems are thinking, “now what.”

In my opinion, there should be investigations into the conduct of the likes of John Brennan, James Clapper, Jim Comey, Loretta Lynch, and Peter Strzok, among others, who may have acted inappropriately or illegally with respect to this matter. Also, Adam Schiff keeps saying he has evidence of wrongdoing by Mr. Trump. I say, either disclose it or cease and desist.

A note of caution for Trump supporters. The Southern District of NY and NY State are investigating Mr. Trump and certain of his business activities. We’ll have to see what develops there. I understand a sitting president cannot be indicted, but what they might find could hurt him, politically, and there is a chance he could be indicted after he leaves office.

Finally, for the good of the country I would hope that at least one of the 2020 Dem candidates will have the courage to say that “enough is enough” and focus on the issues. The Dems should realize that the best way to oust Mr. Trump is not through bogus investigations; it is to defeat him in an election. Of course, I won’t hold my breath for that either.

OPENING DAY

It’s a beautiful Spring-like day in the NY area today, and the extended forecast calls for temperatures in the 50s for the next 10 days, or so. After a long winter of cold and rain, this makes me think of OPENING DAY. And, on March 28, the major league baseball season will commence, officially. All 30 teams will be in action. This is the earliest OD in the long history of baseball, beating 2018 by one day. As an added twist, two games were already played on March 20-21 in Tokyo. The Seattle Mariners “hosted” the Oakland A’s. That was not OD. Technically, MLB considers OD to be first day in which a full slate of games is scheduled. Got it?

Usually, the early games are plagued by inclement weather – cold, rain, even snow – especially in the northeast. Not an ideal scenario for MLB and its fans, but that’s the price we pay in order for the World Series to be completed before November.

For many years, MLB had scheduled the very first game of the season in Cincinnati, usually on the first Monday in April, with a full slate of games the next day. This was in recognition of the fact that the Reds were the first professional baseball team. In fact, the Reds are the only team that has always been scheduled to play its first game at home. There have only been two years when they opened on the road – 1966, when the home opener was rained out and 1990 when the season was delayed due to the lockout. The team was formed in 1869 as the Red Stockings. The team has undergone various name changes and is now known as the “Reds.” Incidentally, for you trivia buffs, they went 65-0 that first year, the only perfect season in baseball history.

The National League was organized in 1876, and the American League in 1901. For many years there were 16 teams – eight teams in each league, all in the northeast, with no team being located west of St. Louis. With the advent of air travel in the late 1950s it became feasible to add franchises in other sectors of the country. Presently, there are 30 teams – 15 in each league.

Fans have been complaining that the season starts too early; the weather in early April is too cold in many cities. So, what does MLB do to resolve the problem? This year, it moved Opening Day up to its earliest date ever! Brilliant! Furthermore, rather than scheduling OD games exclusively in warm weather sites and dome stadiums, MLB has compounded this idiocy by scheduling games in venues, such as Chicago, NY, Denver, Pittsburgh and Seattle, and many early season games will be played at night. Yes, MLB is always thinking of the fans.

Despite the often inclement weather, OD holds a special meaning. Mention those words to any sports fan, and, immediately, he knows what it means and to which sport it pertains. Not football, not basketball, not hockey. OD means that another season of Major League Baseball is beginning. Baseball fans look forward to OD every year. Local newspapers step up their coverage of the local team in anticipation. Many of them even print a daily countdown of the number of days remaining until OD. In addition, OD occurs in the Spring, a season that symbolizes a new beginning and one which most people anticipate every year.
Most fans will acknowledge that baseball is no longer the most popular sport. In fact, according to TV ratings, betting interest and most fan polls, football has superseded baseball. Perhaps, basketball has as well, particularly among younger fans. However, baseball, which has been played in the US in some form since the 1840s, is part of the social fabric of America.

Most men remember their first game of “catch” with their father or their first baseball game. For most boys it is a “rite of passage” as uniquely American as the flag. In fact, I have a more detailed recall of a World Series game I saw with my father in 1956 than I do of ballgames I saw last year.

Every fan is optimistic on OD. Every team starts with the same 0-0 record. None has lost a game yet. Every team still has a chance to make the playoffs, and as we have seen in recent years, once you make the playoffs anything can happen. For example, in 2016 the Chicago Cubs won it all for the first time since 1908. Think about that for a minute. That means that no present Cubs fan, and virtually none of their fathers, were even born the previous time the Cubs won. In 2017 the Houston Astros won their first WS after having languished near the bottom of the league for many years.

Many fans, and even some reporters, place undue emphasis on the opener forgetting or ignoring the fact that the season consists of 162 games. Over the course of a baseball season even the best teams will lose approximately 60 games. To many fans, a win OD means the season will be outstanding; a loss means the team “stinks.”

MLB has been trying to develop its international presence. One way has been to schedule OD contests in various foreign venues. The first one was in 1999 in Monterrey, Mexico. For the record, the Colorado Rockies beat the San Diego Padres. Since then, there have been eleven season openers held in international venues. Tokyo has hosted the most, nine. Sydney has hosted two and San Juan one. This year, the Yankees and Red Sox will play two games in London (although not on OD).

Down through the years, OD has produced some memorable events, such as:

1. In 1907, the NY Giants, forerunner of the San Francisco Giants, forfeited the opener after rowdy fans began throwing snowballs at the players and umpires. There were not enough police on hand to restore order, so the umpires forfeited the game to the visiting Phillies.
2. In 1910 President Taft became the first President to throw out the “first ball.” In 1950 President Truman threw out the “first pitch” twice, as a righty and a lefty. In total, twelve Presidents have thrown out the “first pitch.” Over the years it has evolved from a perfunctory toss from the stands to an more elaborate ceremonial toss from the mound. Will we see President Trump follow tradition this year? Your guess is as good as mine. Can you imagine him doing the “wave?”
3. In 1940, Bob Feller of the Cleveland Indians, known as “Rapid Robert” because of his high velocity, threw the only OD day no-hitter in baseball history. As an aside, there were no radar guns in Feller’s day, so one day some officials attempted to “time” his fastball by having him throw a pitch against a speeding motorcycle.
4. In 1947 Jackie Robinson debuted for the Brooklyn Dodgers on OD becoming the first African American to play in the major leagues since the 19th Century.
5. In 1975 Frank Robinson became the first African American to manage in the Major Leagues.
6. In 1996, John McSherry, an umpire, suffered a fatal heart attack near home plate.
7. Early in the 20th Century teams would, on occasion, open with a doubleheader. Doubleheaders used to be quite common, particularly on Sundays and holidays. Now, they are rare, and when they do occur it is usually the result of adding an extra game to make up for a rain-out. The reason? Money, of couse.
8. In 1946 Boston Braves fans attending the game got an unpleasant surprise. It seems that the Braves’ management had had the stands freshly painted, and the paint had not completely dried. Many fans got red paint all over their clothes. The embarrassed management issued a public apology and paid the fans’ cleaning bills.
9. Tom Seaver started the most openers – 16. Walter Johnson pitched the most OD shutouts – nine, including a 1-0 victory in which he pitched 15 innings. No chance of that happening today.
10. In 1974 Henry Aaron clouted his 714th homerun tying Babe Ruth’s all-time record for career homers.
11. In 1968 minor leaguer Greg Washburn became the only pitcher to appear in two OD games in the same year. (He won both 2-0).

CONCLUSION

As I said, weather is often an issue on OD, especially in the northern cities where it is not unusual to have cold, damp, rainy weather in early April that is more suitable to football than baseball. It reminds me of one of the major criticisms of baseball, that the season is too long. We all know the reason – tv money. The owners like it, because it makes them rich and less dependent on attendance for revenues. The players tolerate it, because it fuels their astronomic salaries. As for the fans, well, they will just have to grin and bear it.

Hall of Fame pitcher, Early Wynn summed up the essence of OD thusly: “An opener is not like any other game. You have that anxiety to get off to a good start, for yourself and for the team. You know that when you win the first one you can’t lose them all.” HOF, Joe DiMaggio, always looked forward to OD. He felt “you think something wonderful is going to happen.” Finally, I am reminded of that renowned philosopher Yogi Berra, who could turn a phrase with the best of them, who is reputed to have said: “A home opener is always exciting, no matter if it’s home or on the road.”

My hope and prediction is for a Yankees-Dodgers World Series. They used to meet on what seemed like a regular basis, but they have not met since 1981. I think fans around the country would be “all-in,” and I know the media would love it. The Dodgers have lost two straight WS, and I’m hoping the third time will be the charm.

What is your favorite OD memory? Please share.

PLAY BALL!

OPENING DAY

It’s a beautiful Spring-like day in the NY area today, and the extended forecast calls for temperatures in the 50s for the next 10 days, or so. After a long winter of cold and rain, this makes me think of OPENING DAY. And, on March 28, the major league baseball season will commence, officially. All 30 teams will be in action. This is the earliest OD in the long history of baseball, beating 2018 by one day. As an added twist, two games were already played on March 20-21 in Tokyo. The Seattle Mariners “hosted” the Oakland A’s. That was not OD. Technically, MLB considers OD to be first day in which a full slate of games is scheduled. Got it?

Usually, the early games are plagued by inclement weather – cold, rain, even snow – especially in the northeast. Not an ideal scenario for MLB and its fans, but that’s the price we pay in order for the World Series to be completed before November.

For many years, MLB had scheduled the very first game of the season in Cincinnati, usually on the first Monday in April, with a full slate of games the next day. This was in recognition of the fact that the Reds were the first professional baseball team. In fact, the Reds are the only team that has always been scheduled to play its first game at home. There have only been two years when they opened on the road – 1966, when the home opener was rained out and 1990 when the season was delayed due to the lockout. The team was formed in 1869 as the Red Stockings. The team has undergone various name changes and is now known as the “Reds.” Incidentally, for you trivia buffs, they went 65-0 that first year, the only perfect season in baseball history.

The National League was organized in 1876, and the American League in 1901. For many years there were 16 teams – eight teams in each league, all in the northeast, with no team being located west of St. Louis. With the advent of air travel in the late 1950s it became feasible to add franchises in other sectors of the country. Presently, there are 30 teams – 15 in each league.

Fans have been complaining that the season starts too early; the weather in early April is too cold in many cities. So, what does MLB do to resolve the problem? This year, it moved Opening Day up to its earliest date ever! Brilliant! Furthermore, rather than scheduling OD games exclusively in warm weather sites and dome stadiums, MLB has compounded this idiocy by scheduling games in venues, such as Chicago, NY, Denver, Pittsburgh and Seattle, and many early season games will be played at night. Yes, MLB is always thinking of the fans.

Despite the often inclement weather, OD holds a special meaning. Mention those words to any sports fan, and, immediately, he knows what it means and to which sport it pertains. Not football, not basketball, not hockey. OD means that another season of Major League Baseball is beginning. Baseball fans look forward to OD every year. Local newspapers step up their coverage of the local team in anticipation. Many of them even print a daily countdown of the number of days remaining until OD. In addition, OD occurs in the Spring, a season that symbolizes a new beginning and one which most people anticipate every year.
Most fans will acknowledge that baseball is no longer the most popular sport. In fact, according to TV ratings, betting interest and most fan polls, football has superseded baseball. Perhaps, basketball has as well, particularly among younger fans. However, baseball, which has been played in the US in some form since the 1840s, is part of the social fabric of America.

Most men remember their first game of “catch” with their father or their first baseball game. For most boys it is a “rite of passage” as uniquely American as the flag. In fact, I have a more detailed recall of a World Series game I saw with my father in 1956 than I do of ballgames I saw last year.
Every fan is optimistic on OD. Every team starts with the same 0-0 record. None has lost a game yet. Every team still has a chance to make the playoffs, and as we have seen in recent years, once you make the playoffs anything can happen. For example, in 2016 the Chicago Cubs won it all for the first time since 1908. Think about that for a minute. That means that no present Cubs fan, and virtually none of their fathers, were even born the previous time the Cubs won. In 2017 the Houston Astros won their first WS after having languished near the bottom of the league for many years.

Many fans, and even some reporters, place undue emphasis on the opener forgetting or ignoring the fact that the season consists of 162 games. Over the course of a baseball season even the best teams will lose approximately 60 games. To many fans, a win OD means the season will be outstanding; a loss means the team “stinks.”

MLB has been trying to develop its international presence. One way has been to schedule OD contests in various foreign venues. The first one was in 1999 in Monterrey, Mexico. For the record, the Colorado Rockies beat the San Diego Padres. Since then, there have been eleven season openers held in international venues. Tokyo has hosted the most, nine. Sydney has hosted two and San Juan one. This year, the Yankees and Red Sox will play two games in London (although not on OD).

Down through the years, OD has produced some memorable events, such as:

1. In 1907, the NY Giants, forerunner of the San Francisco Giants, forfeited the opener after rowdy fans began throwing snowballs at the players and umpires. There were not enough police on hand to restore order, so the umpires forfeited the game to the visiting Phillies.
2. In 1910 President Taft became the first President to throw out the “first ball.” In 1950 President Truman threw out the “first pitch” twice, as a righty and a lefty. In total, twelve Presidents have thrown out the “first pitch.” Over the years it has evolved from a perfunctory toss from the stands to an more elaborate ceremonial toss from the mound. Will we see President Trump follow tradition this year? Your guess is as good as mine. Can you imagine him doing the “wave?”
3. In 1940, Bob Feller of the Cleveland Indians, known as “Rapid Robert” because of his high velocity, threw the only OD day no-hitter in baseball history. As an aside, there were no radar guns in Feller’s day, so one day some officials attempted to “time” his fastball by having him throw a pitch against a speeding motorcycle.
4. In 1947 Jackie Robinson debuted for the Brooklyn Dodgers on OD becoming the first African American to play in the major leagues since the 19th Century.
5. In 1975 Frank Robinson became the first African American to manage in the Major Leagues.
6. In 1996, John McSherry, an umpire, suffered a fatal heart attack near home plate.
7. Early in the 20th Century teams would, on occasion, open with a doubleheader. Doubleheaders used to be quite common, particularly on Sundays and holidays. Now, they are rare, and when they do occur it is usually the result of adding an extra game to make up for a rain-out. The reason? Money, of couse.
8. In 1946 Boston Braves fans attending the game got an unpleasant surprise. It seems that the Braves’ management had had the stands freshly painted, and the paint had not completely dried. Many fans got red paint all over their clothes. The embarrassed management issued a public apology and paid the fans’ cleaning bills.
9. Tom Seaver started the most openers – 16. Walter Johnson pitched the most OD shutouts – nine, including a 1-0 victory in which he pitched 15 innings. No chance of that happening today.
10. In 1974 Henry Aaron clouted his 714th homerun tying Babe Ruth’s all-time record for career homers.
11. In 1968 minor leaguer Greg Washburn became the only pitcher to appear in two OD games in the same year. (He won both 2-0).

CONCLUSION

As I said, weather is often an issue on OD, especially in the northern cities where it is not unusual to have cold, damp, rainy weather in early April that is more suitable to football than baseball. It reminds me of one of the major criticisms of baseball, that the season is too long. We all know the reason – tv money. The owners like it, because it makes them rich and less dependent on attendance for revenues. The players tolerate it, because it fuels their astronomic salaries. As for the fans, well, they will just have to grin and bear it.

Hall of Fame pitcher, Early Wynn summed up the essence of OD thusly: “An opener is not like any other game. You have that anxiety to get off to a good start, for yourself and for the team. You know that when you win the first one you can’t lose them all.” HOF, Joe DiMaggio, always looked forward to OD. He felt “you think something wonderful is going to happen.” Finally, I am reminded of that renowned philosopher Yogi Berra, who could turn a phrase with the best of them, who is reputed to have said: “A home opener is always exciting, no matter if it’s home or on the road.”

My hope and prediction is for a Yankees-Dodgers World Series. They used to meet on what seemed like a regular basis, but they have not met since 1981. I think fans around the country would be “all-in,” and I know the media would love it. The Dodgers have lost two straight WS, and I’m hoping the third time will be the charm.

What is your favorite OD memory? Please share.

PLAY BALL!