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.