INFLUENTIAL WOMEN IN HISTORY

A couple of my loyal readers have requested me to write a blog featuring influential women.  My research has identified hundreds of women who have contributed significantly to society through the ages, beginning with Sappho in the 6th Century BCE.  Unless you are a Greek scholar chances are you have never heard of her.  She was one of the first female writers and poets, and the renowned Plato considered her to be one of the top ten poets of the day.

Some, such as Queen Victoria and Oprah Winfrey, are well known.  Others, such as Margaret Thatcher, Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks, have already been the subject of one of my blogs.  I have chosen not to focus on any of them.  Rather, I selected a few who, despite having made significant contributions to society, are not well-known to today’s public.  In my view, they and their contributions are underappreciated or, perhaps, forgotten.

Marie Curie

Curie was a physicist and a chemist who was renowned primarily for her ground-breaking research on radioactivity.  She was the first female to win a Nobel prize, the first person and only woman to win two of them, the only person to win one in two different disciplines, the first woman to become a professor at the University of Paris, and the first woman to be entombed (on her own merits) in the Pantheon in Paris.

Maria Salomea Sklodowska was born on November 7, 1867 in Warsaw, but she moved to Paris at the age of 24 and lived most of her life there.  It was there that she completed her education and married fellow scientist Pierre Curie.

Her most significant work was with radioactive materials and the theory of radioactivity.  She perfected techniques for isolating radioactive isotopes; she discovered two elements – polonium and radium; pioneered the treatment of neoplasms using radioactive isotopes, and founded the Curie Institutes in Paris and Warsaw, which to this day are major centers of medical research.   Oh, and along the way, as noted above, she won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1903 (sharing it with Pierre) and the 1911 Prize in Chemistry.

Her discoveries had many practical uses. One of polonium’s uses is in photography; one of radium’s uses is in cancer treatment. Perhaps, the most significant application is in assessing and treating battlefield injuries.  Two examples were the X-ray machine and mobile radiography units, which became known as petites Curies.  In addition, Curie served as director of the Red Cross Radiology Service and established France’s first military radiology enter in 1914.

In addition to the aforementioned Nobel Prizes, Curie was the recipient of several awards, honors and tributes.  In a 2009 poll conducted by New Scientist magazine she was named “the most inspirational woman in science.”

Curie died in 1934.  Sadly and ironically, the cause of her demise was radiation poisoning.  At the time, the dangers of handling radioactive material were unknown and the extensive precautions that are standard today were not taken.

Helen Keller

Helen Keller was an author, lecturer and an advocate for women’s rights.  And, by the way, she was deaf and blind.  She was not born with those afflictions.  At the age of 19 months she contracted a mysterious illness that her doctors diagnosed as “an acute congestion of the stomach and the brain.”  She recovered but was left blind and deaf.

In those years such a condition would normally have consigned a person to a life of irrelevance and dependency, perhaps, in an institution.  Not Keller.  She became the first deaf-blind person to earn a BA degree.  Her entire life was a living testament that a person with her afflictions could accomplish anything that a person without those afflictions could.

Helen Adams Keller was born on June 27, 1880 in Tuscumbia, AL.  Her family tree was quite interesting.  Her father had been a captain in the Confederate Army; her mother was the daughter of a Confederate general; and her paternal grandmother was a second cousin of Robert E. Lee, the Commanding General of the Confederate Army.

The turning point of Keller’s life was when her parents hired a  20-year -old visually impaired young lady named Anne Sullivan to tutor her.  Sullivan and Keller “clicked,” and, as they say, the rest was history.

As I said, Keller,  became an inspiration for all impaired people, not just women.  She became a strong advocate for women’s rights, particularly suffrage, a prolific writer, publishing more than a dozen books and articles, and a tireless lecturer.  Politically, she was a socialist and a strong advocate for the working class.

In the 1960s Keller suffered a series of strokes and spent the last few years of her life at home, essentially bedridden.  In 1964 President Johnson awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and in 1965 she was elected to the National Women’s Hall of Fame.  Her likeness is on both  a postage stamp and the Alabama state quarter (in braille).

She died on June 1, 1968, but she left behind a powerful legacy that one should not allow himself to live as a victim of his or her physical limitations.

Keller’s story was portrayed in the 1962 movie, The Miracle Worker, which starred Patty Duke as Keller and Anne Bancroft as Sullivan. It is a very powerful movie, and I recommend it.

Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale was a social reformer and a statistician, but she is primarily known as the founder of modern nursing.  She rose to fame during the Crimean War for training nurses and tending to wounded soldiers.  She was a tireless caregiver, even making rounds of the wounded at night carrying a lamp.  Thus, she became known as “The Lady with the Lamp.”  Although some historians have claimed her contributions during the war were exaggerated by the contemporary press, her post-war achievements in the nascent field of nursing cannot be denied.

Florence Nightingale was born on May 12, 1820 in Florence, Italy.  Her name is derived from the city of her birth.

Her family was wealthy and well connected.  When she developed an interest in nursing her family was strongly opposed.  Florence was expected to conform to the social norms of the day for wealthy, well-bred women – marry well and raise children.  However, Florence was not to be denied.  She educated herself as to the science of nursing and eventually her family accepted her desire to become a nurse.

In 1853 the Crimean War broke out on the Balkan Peninsula (southeastern Europe) between Britain, France, Sardinia and the Ottoman Empire on one side and Russia on the other.  It was a particularly brutal war and many more soldiers were dying from illness than battle wounds.  Florence convinced the British government to permit her to travel to the area accompanied by some 38 nurses she had trained.  She found the sanitary conditions to be appalling.  Medicines were scarce; proper hygiene was non-existent; hospital tents were overcrowded and poorly ventilated; and mass infections of typhus and cholera were common.  The simplest wound was often a death sentence.  Reporting back to the British government she convinced them to improve conditions.

It was during this time that she earned the moniker “The Lady with the Lamp.”  It was derived from a story filed by a reporter for the London Times, which read, in part: “she is a ‘ministering angel’ … every poor fellow’s face softens with gratitude at the sight of her… she may be observed alone, with a little lamp in her hand, making her solitary rounds.”  Whether exaggerated or not, there seems to be little doubt that Florence’s contributions saved thousands of lives.

After the war Florence continued her work, advocating for improved sanitary conditions and training nurses.  For example, she spent time in India where she noted that contaminated water and poor drainage were contributing to illness.  Many of the nurses she trained when on to ply her philosophy in other countries, notably the US during the Civil War.

Florence died on August 13, 1910 in London, but her contributions to society will live on.

CONCLUSION

Limitations of time and space limited me to just the above three women.  We all know that there have been many, many more.  Please advise me of  others that I may have  omitted.

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JEWS FLEEING THE HOLOCAUST FIND SAFETY IN PHILIPPINES

Most of us are well aware of various stories of extreme heroism during the Holocaust like, for instance, those depicted in Schindler’s List and The Zookeeper’s Wife, but the following is about another story of heroism of which you are probably not cognizant.

It is a little-known story that between 1937 and 1941 some 1,200 Jews fleeing the Holocaust found a safe haven in, of all places, the Philippines.  Most of us are aware that many countries were unwilling to admit Jewish refugees either because of anti-Semitism or opposition to immigrants, in general, or, if they did, the Nazis eventually got them anyway.  For example, take the sad plight of the St. Louis. 

On May 13, 1939 the St. Louis sailed from Hamburg to Havana carrying 937 passengers, almost all of them Jews fleeing the Nazis.  They had been told they would be able to enter Cuba, and most of them had even obtained visas to enter the US, which they intended to do after a short stay in Cuba.  However, when the St. Louis arrived only 28 of them were admitted.  The reasons were not clear, but apparently it was due to a combination of internal politics, anti-Semitism and a bias against immigrants, in general.  The remaining 908 passengers were also denied admittance to the US for the same reasons even though the ship passed close enough to Miami that they could actually see the city’s lights.  How frustrating was that!  Many Jews blamed FDR.  He was a great president, but this was not exactly his finest hour. 

Eventually, the ship returned to Europe.  Its passengers were disembarked in England,  the Netherlands and Belgium.  Those who went to England survived the war, but the majority who went elsewhere did not.  One may view the heart-wrenching story of the St. Louis in greater detail at the Museum of Jewish Heritage located in lower Manhattan.

Now, back to the Philippines.  It was not easy to bring in large numbers of immigrants.  At the time, the Philippines were under US supervision and control.  A group that included President Manuel Quezon, Dwight Eisenhower and a cadre of wealthy and influential Jewish businessmen forged a workaround.  They focused on highly skilled professionals, such as doctors, mechanics, rabbis, scientists and accountants who were in short supply and great demand.   One emigrant, Herbert Zipper, was a musical conductor who went on to found the Manila Symphony.  Quezon’s original goal was to admit 10,000 Jews, but the Japanese invasion thwarted that.

The Jews’ joy and relief of escaping the Nazis was soon tempered by the fact that they found themselves in the cross-hairs of the brutal Japanese.  According to Lottie Hershfield, age seven at the time, “we were going from the frying pan to the fire.”

Hershfield added that for the most part the Filipinos accepted the Jews and treated them well, but it was a culture shock, especially for the adults.  The kids adapted more easily as kids do, but the adults stayed among themselves, and had difficulty adapting to the intense heat and humidity, learning the language, and familiarizing themselves with Filipino customs.  Also, many of them had been wealthy professionals or business owners in Europe and were faced with the daunting task of starting all over.

Ironically, for the most part, when the Japanese conquered the Philippines the Jews were treated better than the Filipino natives.  Ursula Miodowski, age seven at the time, told CNN, that was likely because their passports had the Nazi swastika on them.  That may also have been the reason why many Jews were not interned, like the British and Americans.  Nearly 1 million Filipino civilians were murdered during the Japanese occupation.

Better treatment did not, however, mean avoiding Japanese brutality altogether.  Survivors told stories of starvation, rapes, torture, beheadings, hiding in jungles and muddy ditches, and wanton destruction of property.  However, Miodowski was quick to add that it beat being interned in a concentration camp.  “We would not be alive today if not for the Philippines,” she said.

CONCLUSION

A handful of the refugees are still alive today.  Their story has been told in two documentaries, “Rescue in the Philippines” and “An Open Door:  Jewish Rescue in the Philippines.”  Additionally, Frank Ephraim, one of the survivors, depicted his experiences in his biography, entitled “Escape to Manila: From Nazi Tyranny to Japanese Terror.”  The title pretty much tells the story.

In 2009 Israel memorialized the Philippines’ actions with a monument at the Holocaust National Park in Rishon Lezion.

Finally, in an illustration of “what goes around comes around,” in 2013 when a typhoon decimated the Philippines, workers from the American Distribution Committee provided much-needed help.  The team was led by a man named Dan Pins, whose mother and grandparents had been among the WWII Jewish refugees that had been saved by the generosity of the Philippines.  Pins was happy to return the favor.

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 – 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.

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, which marked the commencement of the Revolutionary War.

April 19, 1943 – The Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto began armed an 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 fairy tale author); 4/5/1856 – Booker T. Washington (AA educator); 4/10/1847 – Joseph Pulitzer (publisher); 4/13/1743 – Thomas Jefferson; 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); April 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).

 

 

 

 

BARBARA BUSH

Barbara Bush was one of the most popular and respected First Ladies in recent times.  She was known for her complete lack of pretense, glamor and vanity.  For example, she made no effort to color her hair or wear fancy designer clothes.  Moreover, she freely admitted her passions were gardening, the church and her family.  I never heard anyone utter a negative comment about her.  She brought dignity to the office of First Lady.  To me, she was everyone’s grandma (and I mean that in the nicest, most respectful way).  What you saw was what you got.  At times, it appeared that she was more popular than George.

Barbara Pierce was born on June 8, 1925 in New York City.  She was raised in the affluent suburban town of Rye in Westchester County, which is just north of the City.  Her father was the president of McCall Corporation, which published the popular women’s magazines McCall’s and Redbook.  Barbara was a distant cousin of Franklyn Pierce, the 14th president of the US, and the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

She met George at a dance when she was but 16.  They had a whirlwind romance, not uncommon in wartime.  Just 18 months later they were engaged and he was off to war as a navy bomber pilot. They were married on January 6, 1945 while George was on “leave.”

Bush family members readily identify Barbara as the glue of the family.  Like most husbands of that generation George was busy with his careers – Navy pilot, oilman, corporate executive and, of course, politician.  Meanwhile, Barbara raised the family.  Apparently, their respective areas of responsibility and authority were well defined.  “I don’t fool around with his office,” she once said, “and he doesn’t fool around with my household.”

It seemed like the family was never in one place long enough to establish roots.  They moved some 30 times during their 73 years of marriage.  Through it all, Barbara raised their six children.  The family also included 14 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

George entered politics in 1963 as Harris County (TX) Republican Party Chairman.  As he worked his way up the political ladder over the next 30 years Barbara had to adjust to life as a public figure.  She did so with aplomb, immersing herself in various charities and women’s groups.

At times, her political views diverged from those of her husband’s and many of his key supporters. For example, She was pro-choice on abortion, opposed the sale of assault weapons, and supported the Equal Rights Amendment. On one occasion her forthright manner did get her into some difficulty.  During the 1984 campaign she referred to Geraldine Ferraro, VP candidate on the Dem ticket against George, as “that $4 million – I can’t say it, but it rhymes with ‘rich.’ ”  She apologized to Ferraro, and the matter blew over.

As Second Lady she adopted the cause of literacy.  Using the power and influence of her office, she worked tirelessly with various literacy organizations giving speeches, researching the causes and publicizing the issue.  To her, literacy was “the most important issue we have.”  Probably, she was influenced, in part, by the fact that her son, Neil, was struggling with dyslexia.

Barbara did not seek the limelight, but she could be a very effective speaker, and she was not afraid to speak her own mind.  For example, when George announced his candidacy for president in 1988 Barbara became only the second candidate’s wife to address the convention.  [Can you guess who was the first?  See below.]  One of the highlights of her speech came when she forthrightly told the assembled delegates “what you see with me is what you get.  I’m not running for president – George is.”  In addition, when she gave the commencement speech for Wellesley College’s graduating class of 1990 “American Rhetoric” ranked it as number 45 on its list of the Top 100 Speeches of the 20th Century.

The Bushes 73 years of marriage was the longest of any presidential couple.  Furthermore, Barbara was only the second First Lady to bear a son who was also elected president.  [Can you name the other one?]

CONCLUSION

Barbara was the recipient of several awards and honorariums.  For example, she was a longstanding member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the recipient of the DAR Medal of Honor.  In addition, she was the recipient of honorary degrees from some 30 colleges and universities.

In recent years Barbara was in ill health.  In 2008 she was hospitalized for abdominal pains and underwent surgery on her small intestine.  In 2009 she had an aortic valve replacement.  In 2013 she was hospitalized for pneumonia.  In addition, she was suffering from congestive heart failure, pulmonary disease and Graves’ disease.

Finally, on April 15 she chose to cease further treatment, except for “comfort care.”  She passed away on April 17.  Barbara was one of those few people who truly made a difference.

Rest in peace Barbara.  You will be sorely missed.

Quiz answers: (1) Eleanor Roosevelt (1940).  (2) Abigail Adams (husband of John; mother of John Quincy)

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 Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers. It should be noted that that uniform number has two other major significances:

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

  1.  Segregation was the law of the land. “Jim Crow” was alive and well.
  2. The Brown Supreme Court decision integrating public schools would not come until 1954.
  3. Even the armed forces would not be integrated until 1948.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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. 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. Nevertheless, Jackie had to endure a tremendous amount of prejudice and abuse on and off the field (name calling, spiking, being hit by pitches, separate lodging and restaurants on the road, etc.). Eventually, other blacks would join him in the majors. Their life was very difficult, and some could not survive, but many more did.

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 extreme 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, today, 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.

STORMY, DUE PROCESS AND SYRIA

I’m baaack!  Perhaps, you didn’t know or care that I was “gone” for a while, but I was out of commission for a couple of weeks due to surgery.  At this point, I feel compelled to catch up on a few items at once by opining on what I consider to be a few particularly troublesome matters that developed during my absence.  As you can glean from the title of this blog I have taken the liberty of combining three separate topics into one blog.

Firstly is the misplaced values of the media.  In order for our system of government to function as the Founding Fathers intended the media must be objective, fair and skeptical.

Unfortunately, much, if not most, of the media has been so blinded by its irrational hatred of President Trump that it has become substantially out of touch with the pulse of the public.  I’m not only referring to what some have labeled “fake news.”  I realize that characterization is debatable depending on one’s political leanings.  Rather, I am referring to the media’s “pushing” stories they feel cast President Trump in a negative light and downplaying other more significant issues.

There have been innumerable examples of this over the last 18 months, which, due to space and time limitations, I will not reiterate here.  Consider, however, the latest example –  the treatment of the Stormy Daniels matter.

What do you think the most significant issue is for the US at the present time, Stormy Daniels’ salacious accusations regarding President Trump, or the war in Syria, or, perhaps, the erosion of due process?

On the one hand, we have a woman rather generously described as an “adult film actress” revealing she had a relationship with President Trump before he even began to campaign for office.  Somehow, her salacious and rather irrelevant story merits extensive news coverage, including slots on 60 Minutes and Anderson Cooper.  Big yawn!  I say, who cares what Mr. Trump did or did not do with Daniels before he even thought about running for President?   Hello!  He was a billionaire businessman with an ego and a libido.  Private matter.

Do you really  care about this story?  I don’t, and according to the latest Quinnipiac survey, neither do 77% of the American public.  We did not elect Mr. Trump for his moral character.  Additionally, the story has not affected the President’s approval ratings.  The only person this story hurts is Melania, who unfortunately, has become collateral damage.

Secondly, most of the media is overlooking the significance of the FBI’s raid on Michael Cohen’s law office.  Cohen is Mr. Trump’s personal attorney on the Daniels case.  Ostensibly, the FBI was seeking evidence relating to the Daniels case, but it also seized other records as well.  Moreover, Politico reports that the FBI ordered Cohen to disclose his full client list.  Many lawyers, such as the renowned Alan Deshowitz, are concerned that this action constituted a blatant attack on attorney-client privilege as guaranteed by the due process provision of the Bill of Rights.  I am not an attorney, but it concerns me.  It should concern everyone regardless of one’s political leanings, because it creates a slippery slope that could affect anyone of us next.

Last, but not least, is Syria.  We are faced with a rapidly escalating war in the most volatile region in the world in which innocent women and children are being gassed and which has a realistic potential of escalating into a direct confrontation between the US and Russia.  Most of us would agree that the use of chemical weapons is intolerable, but there is disagreement as to what to do about it.  Some even doubt that Assad was the perpetrator.  The choices appear to be (1) do nothing, it’s not our fight; or (2) retaliate with bombardment or some other military or economic action of varying severity.  There are plusses and minuses and room for legitimate debate regarding any action or non-action.

Anyway you slice it, however, Cohen and Syria are far more significant than Daniels and yet until yesterday had been receiving far less media coverage.  The Cohen matter chips away at the constitutionally-guaranteed civil rights of ALL of us, and the Syria situation has the potential to bring us closer to nuclear war that at any time since the 1961 Cuban Missile Crisis.  (It would not surprise me if half of Americans do not even know where Syria is.)

CONCLUSION

Last night the US carried out a targeted, surgical strike against various of Syria’s chemical weapons facilities.  Mr. Trump acted in the best way he could under the circumstances..

  1. He made sure he had the moral high ground.
  2. It was a surgical, targeted strike with no or minimal collateral damage.
  3. He acted with the concurrence of our European and Middle East allies.
  4. It was not a solo action.  Other countries, such as the UK and France actively participated.
  5. He sent the best message to Assad and others of his ilk that certain heinous actions will not be tolerated.
  6. Now, we await Russia’s response and hope that cooler heads prevail.
  7. The situation is very fluid.  Stay tuned.