KEITH JACKSON

Keith Jackson was one of the most versatile sportscasters of his generation.  During his long, illustrious career he called contests in virtually every major (and not so major) sport, such as, (baseball major and minor leagues), football (NFL, college and USFL), basketball (NBA and college), summer and winter Olympics, boxing, auto racing, golf, speed skating, hydroplane races and ski jumping.  But, it was in college football that he really made his mark.  For some 50 years, if there was a big college football game chances are Jackson was calling it.  To college football fans, he was “Mr. College Football.”

Keith Max Jackson was born in Roopville, GA on October 18,, 1928.  His parents were dirt farmers and very poor, i. e. they barely eked out a subsistence on a farm on mostly barren land without any hired help.  He was the only child in the family that survived childhood.  His favorite leisure pastime was listening to sports on the radio.  After high school he enlisted in the marines.  Following his discharge he took advantage of the GI Bill to earn a college degree in speech communications at Washington State University.

Jackson broke into the business in 1952 when he called a college football game between his alma mater and Stanford University.  He joined ABC in 1964 as a radio news correspondent.  In 1966 he joined ABC sports, and he was on his way.

Some of the highlights of his career were as follows:

  1. He covered the 1964 Republican National Convention with Walter Cronkite.
  2. Most people do not know that he was the initial announcer on Monday Night Football.  (ABC had wanted Frank Gifford, but Gifford was contractually bound to CBS.  After one year Gifford became available, and ABC replaced Jackson with him.)
  3. He called events in ten Olympic Games, including the infamous 1972 Munich Games.
  4. He was a regular on the renowned Wide World of Sports.
  5. In 1975, while covering the North American Continental Boxing Championships, he spied a young boxer named Sugar Ray Leonard and labeled him as “one to watch.”  As sports fans know, Leonard won a Gold Medal at the 1976 Games and went on to become one of the best boxers of his time.
  6. He called the historic 16-inning playoff game between the NY Mets and Houston Astros in 1986, won by the Mets to send them to the World Series, which they won as well.

However, as I said, it was in college football that he made his mark.  He began in an era when the announcers of most games worked alone, without an analyst.  Furthermore, in that prehistoric era there would be very few games on tv, not the plethora of choices we have today.  For the most part, he was assigned to the most important game of the week that reached the widest audience.   The audience knew that if Jackson was calling the game, it was a big one.  In the words of Bob Iger, CEO of Disney, which owns ABC, “For generations of fans, Keith Jackson was college football.”

He called 15 Rose Bowls and 16 Sugar Bowls.  It was he who labeled the former the “granddaddy” of Bowl games.  In addition, he is credited with creating the moniker, The Big House, to describe Michigan University’s huge stadium, which seats in excess of 100,000 fans.

Jackson was known for his “folksy,” “down-home” expressions.  Some examples, “Whoa, Nellie and “Hold the phonnne!,” when, for instance, an official had thrown a penalty flag  on a play.  Frequently, he would refer to huge linemen as “Big Uglies,” or “That guy is a ‘hus’ (horse).”  Somehow, the national tv audience found these expressions to be charming, not offensive.

CONCLUSION

In addition to the foregoing, Jackson appeared in several movies, as himself, such as, The Fortune Cookie (1966), Summer of Sam (1999), and The Bronx is Burning (2007); tv shows (Coach) and commercials (Gatorade, Miller Lite and Shoney’s.

Jackson was the recipient of innumerable awards and honors.  For instance:

  1. His alma mater presented him with the (Edward R.) Murrow award for outstanding performances in the communications industry.
  2.  He was inducted into the American Sportscasters and National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Halls of Fame.
  3. In 1999 The National Football Foundation presented Jackson with its highest honor, The Gold Medal Award.”
  4. In 2015 the Rose Bowl renamed the stadium’s radio and tv booths “The Keith Jackson Broadcast Center.”

Jackson passed away on January 12, 2018.  Rest in peace, Keith.  You will be sorely missed.

 

 

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I HAVE A DREAM

Tomorrow, January 15, we will celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday.  The holiday is always celebrated on the 3rd Monday of January, but this year it happens to fall on his actual birthday.

This year will mark the 50th anniversary of his untimely assassination on April 4, 1968.  For some people the day holds no special meaning; it is just a day off from work, a day to spend with family or friends, part of a long three-day weekend. For many of us, however, particularly those of us who were alive in the 1950s and 1960s, it is much, much more.

MLK was born on January 15, 1929. He became the most prominent and influential American civil rights leader in the 1950s and 1960s, maybe ever. MLK was more than just a pastor. He believed that more could be achieved by civil disobedience and non-violence than by violence. He preached peaceful disobedience, sit-ins, marches and demonstrations, often in the face of violence and cruelty by the police and others, rather than rioting. In this regard, he was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi. In turn, he inspired others such as the Black Civil Rights movement in South Africa.

He also recognized the power of the press to bring attention to his cause and influence public opinion. For example, as many as 70 million people around the world witnessed the police brutality inflicted on the peaceful black and white marchers in Selma, Alabama, including women and children as well as men. Those images, broadcast live on TV and radio, appalled and disgusted many people and provided an immeasurable boost to the public awareness of the injustices being visited upon blacks in the South.

Unlike any other African American leaders before or since, he had the ability to unite, rather than divide. Although he was criticized by some of the more militant civil rights leaders of the time, such as Stokely Carmichael, he commanded the support and respect of a large majority of blacks and many whites as well. In that regard, he was similar to Nelson Mandela. After his death, despite the urgings of some civil rights leaders who wanted to continue MLK’s philosophy, more militant African American leaders, such as Mr. Carmichael, came into prominence. There was rioting in over 100 US cities, and a slew of violent incidents at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago in front of the national press and millions of Americans. The Civil Rights movement was changed forever.

MLK came into prominence in 1955 when he led a bus boycott, peacefully, in Montgomery, Alabama. The boycott had been fueled by the famous Rosa Parks incident in which she had refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white person. She was arrested on December 1. (Most people don’t know that earlier that year in March a similar incident had occurred, also in Montgomery, involving Claudette Colvin, a black girl who also refused to give up her seat to a white man. However, that case did not receive the same notoriety. Civil rights lawyers declined to pursue it because Colvin was 15, unmarried and pregnant. They chose to wait for a case with a more favorable fact pattern, and they were proven to be right.)

Later, MLK became the leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and remained so until his death. He applied his non-violence philosophy to protests in Selma, Ala., St. Augustine, FL, and the March on Washington, D. C., among others. He made it a policy never to endorse a particular political party or candidate. He believed he could be more effective if he were neutral and not beholden to anyone. Furthermore, in his view, neither party was all bad, and neither one was perfect. In his words, “[t]hey both have weaknesses.”

Perhaps, MLK’s most famous moment occurred during the famous March on Washington in August 1963. Ironically, MLK was not the primary organizer of the march. That was Bayard Rustin, a colleague. The primary purpose of the March was to dramatize the plight of blacks in the South. Civil rights leaders, including Roy Wilkins, NAACP, Whitney Young, National Urban League, A. Philip Randolph, Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, John Lewis, SNCC, James Farmer CORE, and MLK, wanted to bring awareness of these issues right to the seat of the Federal government. More than 250,000 people of all ethnicities and colors attended. MLK was one of several speakers, and he only spoke for 17 minutes. But, his “I Have a Dream” speech became one of the most famous speeches ever. The March, in general, and MLK’s speech, in particular, are credited with bringing civil rights to the political forefront and facilitating the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Some little-known facts about MLK:

1. His birth name was Michael King, Jr., after his father. In 1931 his father changed his own name to Martin Luther King, after the German theologian, Martin Luther, whom he admired. At the same time, he changed his son’s name.

2. In 1958 MLK was stabbed in the chest after a speech by a woman who had been stalking him and nearly died.

3. The FBI began tapping MLK’s telephone as early as 1963. Robert Kennedy, who was Attorney General at the time and who is viewed as a staunch supporter of civil rights, in general, and MLK, in particular, authorized the tapping.

4. MLK won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 at the age of 35, the youngest age ever at the time.

5. MLK won a Grammy Award in 1971, posthumously. It should be denoted that he won it, not because he displayed a great singing voice, but for a “Spoken Word Album,” “Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam.”  In addition, we won countless other awards and was awarded some 50 honorary degrees from various colleges and universities.

6. The US Treasury has announced that it will be redesigning the $5 bill.  It will still feature Abraham Lincoln on the front side, but the back side will feature depictions of events that have occurred at the Lincoln Memorial, including MLK’s “I have a dream” speech.  The Treasury expects to have these new bills in circulation by 2020.

7.  Even though MLK was one of the great public speakers of his time, inexplicably, he got a “C” in a public speaking course at the seminary. (Kind of like a baseball scout saying Babe Ruth can hit “a little bit.”)

8. MLK is one of three individuals and the only native-born American to have a holiday named after him. In case you’re wondering, the others are George Washington (born in the COLONY of Virginia), and Christopher Columbus.

Some MLK quotes to ponder:

1. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

2. “The time is always right to do what is right.”

3. “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

4. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

5.  “Free at last. Free at last.  Thank God almighty, we are free at last.”

6.  “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

CONCLUSION

Today, there is much division among African Americans as well as their leaders. Some are moderate and want to work within the system; others are more militant. Many of them have their own agendas and look for any excuse to foment distrust and discord. I believe that these militant leaders and we all know who they are, do more harm than good, but that is a subject for another blog.

In my opinion, we have made much progress in the area of civil rights.  For example, we have elected an African American president (twice); an African American sits on the Supreme Court; and African Americans hold and have held positions of prominence in every field of endeavor, including business, entertainment, sports, and the military.  But, still, it is a work in progress and we still have a ways to go.

One can speculate whether and to what extent MLK’s assassination changed the course of history. In my opinion, had MLK lived, the Civil Rights Movement would have been considerably different over the last 50 years, more peaceful and less divisive, with better results. Furthermore, his assassination had a significant impact, not only on the history of the civil rights movement, but also on the overall history of the country, itself.
I hope and believe that eventually a moderate leader will emerge and bridge the gap as MLK did half a century ago.

Today, as you enjoy the day in whatever manner you choose, I ask you to reflect for a moment on where we are as a nation regarding civil rights, where we want to go and how we get there.

FIRST FEMALE GENERAL

Anna Mae Hays, who began her military career as a nurse at a jungle outpost in India during WWII and ended up becoming the nation’s first female general, has passed away at the age of 97.  During a career that spanned four decades and three wars she became known as a fierce advocate for the Army Nurse Corps and for female officers, in general, and was at least partly responsible for many improvements in the treatment of battlefield injuries.

Anna Mae Violet McCabe Hays was born on February 16, 1920 in Buffalo, NY, but she was raised in Allentown, PA.  She was the middle of three children.  Her parents were members of The Salvation Army.  As a child, Hays displayed two interests and talents – music and nursing.  She became adept at playing the French horn, the piano and the organ.  Furthermore, she would pretend to treat wounds by wrapping bandages around the legs of their kitchen table.

After her high school graduation she wanted to attend the Julliard School of Music.  Unfortunately, even though she had been an honor student, she failed to win a scholarship, and her parents could not afford to pay the tuition.  Consequently, she turned to nursing.

In 1941 she graduated from the Allentown General School of Nursing, just in time to enlist in the Army Nurse Corps.  Her first posting was in the jungles of India.  As one can imagine, the conditions were extremely primitive.  The buildings were constructed of bamboo and mud.  The outpost was servicing Army special ops units and construction workers who were building a road to connect India and China.  In addition to the Japanese, one had to deal with malaria, gangrene, dysentery, dengue fever, snakes and leeches.   Normally, most everyone, staff included, was ill with something.  Hays often told the story of the time she was sick and spotted a cobra under her bed.  Rather than panicking, she calmly asked a guard to shoot it.  Her explanation: “When one lives in the jungle, one can expect that sort of thing.”

Later, Hays served in both Korea and Viet Nam.  She rose through the ranks, and by 1967 she had become the head of the Army Nurse Corps, a position she held until her retirement in 1971.  Some of her accomplishments were as follows:

  1. During the Korean conflict she helped establish the first military hospital in Inchon.  She characterized the conditions there as being equally as bad as those in India, if not worse, due to the extremely cold temperatures and chronic lack of adequate supplies.
  2. She was a staunch advocate of additional funding for the Nurse Corps, which, as Sanders Marble, senior historian in the Army’s Office of Medical History denoted, was a “hard sell at that time.”
  3. In 1970 she was responsible for establishing  a policy of maternity leave for officers.  Previously, pregnant officers were automatically discharged.
  4. She was responsible for developing, monitoring and improving various nurse educational and training programs, and was a strong advocate of increasing the number of overseas postings.
  5. Some of her other postings were head nurse at Fort Dix, NJ, obstetrics nurse supervisor at Valley Forge General Hospital in Phoenixville, PA, head nurse at Fort Myer, VA, and head nurse of the emergency room at Walter Reed Hospital in Maryland.  It was at the latter posting where she met her husband, Dr. William Hays, who was on staff there.  Moreover, in 1956, she had the privilege of treating then-President Dwight Eisenhower, who was recuperating from surgery for ileitis.  They became lifelong friends.  One humorous story that most of you will appreciate:  The Morning Call of Allentown reported that one day Vice President Richard Nixon came to visit. Ike asked Hays if he should see him.   Hays said no.  Ike said okay.  Then, Hays went out to Nixon in the hallway, shook his hand, and said “I’m sorry, but the president doesn’t feel he is able to see you.”  Personally, given the relationship between Ike and Nixon, I believe the story.

CONCLUSION

During her distinguished career Hays continued her education.  She earned a Bachelors Degree in nursing from Columbia University Teachers College in 1958 and a Masters Degree from Catholic University of America in 1968.

Besides her various military honors Hays was named to the Lehigh County’s Hall of Fame.  In addition, Lehigh and Northampton counties honored her by naming the Coplay-Northampton Bridge after her.

The signature moment of her career occurred on June 11, 1970 when she became the US Army’s first female general.  Her official presenter was Mamie Eisenhower.  (For the record, a second female, Elizabeth Hoisington, was also promoted moments later the same day.)   Oddly, until 1968 that rank had been barred to women by law.   The president who signed off on the promotion – Richard Nixon.

Hays was a true trailblazer.  Many others followed, and in 2008 General Ann Dunwoody became the first female four-star general.

Despite all the advances on behalf of female Army nurses and military nursing, in general, Hays did not consider herself to be a feminist, per se, and did not wanted to be identified as one.   She was really proud of her time in the Army Nurse Corps and claimed that if she “had to do it all over again, [I] would do it longer.”  According to the NY Times when asked how she wanted to be remembered, Hays replied “first of all, as the first woman general, but [also] as a very honest person, as a kind individual who did her best – and succeeded.”

Hays passed away on January 7, 2018.  Rest in peace Anna.  You were a true difference-maker and will be sorely missed.

THE RISING TIDE OF ANTI-SEMITISM

The very disturbing rising tide of anti-Semitism in the world should not be surprising to any person who has been monitoring the news on a regular basis.  I am not referring to instances in the Middle East.  Those are not surprising, given the demographic make-up of those countries.  What I find most disturbing is the rising tide of anti-Semitism in the US and Western Europe, areas that are thought as enlightened and tolerant.  I have published a few blogs that deal with anti-Semitism, but recent disturbing events mandate that I revisit the topic.

Recently, there have innumerable instances in various of these so-called enlightened and tolerant countries.  For example, in just the last couple of months:

  1. US – According to a recently-published report by the Anti-Defamation League 1,299 defamatory instances were reported in the US for the nine months ended September 30, 2017, which represented a whopping 67% increase over the same period in 2016.  Even more disturbing was the sharp increase in anti-Semitic-related bullying, taunting and vandalism in K-12 schools and on college campuses.  The highest frequency of these incidents occurred in states, such as NY, Cal., Mass, and FL, where the largest Jewish populations reside.  One could interpret that result as “familiarity breeding contempt” on the part of bigots.
  2. I have posted blogs dealing with anti-Semitism on college campuses before, but below please find a few more recent incidents to illustrate my point.
  3. The Chancellor’s Office of UC Santa Cruz reported that there were eleven anti-Semitic incidents on campus just during the last calendar quarter.  They included spray-painted swastikas, fliers containing white nationalist language, desecration of an Israeli flag, and the like.  Campus spokesman Scott Hernandez denoted that  there were fewer such incidents compared to last year.  Fine, but even one is one too many.
  4. In December at Portland Community College – Cascade dozens of neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic and white supremacist posters, fliers and stickers were distributed around the campus.  One notable poster depicted a sinister-looking man with a hooked nose, the classic caricature of a Jew.  Another flier used the phrase “blood and oil,” the Nazi Party symbol for anti-Semitism and directed the reader to the web site “bloodandoil.org.”  Nice.
  5. Also in December, a student at Tufts published an op-ed in the campus newspaper, Tufts Daily, that delegitimized the State of Israel as a “real” country, characterizing it as a “European colonial settlement established by the British Government and now sustained by imperialism and neo-colonial powers…  The supporters of the Zionist movement around the world have no legal or historic right to immigrate, confiscate and claim lands that belong to the indigenous people of Palestine.”  Sounds like the ravings of a lunatic to me, not something one would expect to hear from a college student at a mainstream university, but this is where we are today.
  6. For a change of pace, we have a Florida cop who was forced to resign after posting anti-Semitic comments on Facebook.  This was not an isolated instance.  In 2011 he implied that Jews were somehow taking unwarranted advantage of “our system,” adding “put them in an oven and deal with them the Hitler way.”  In 2013 he posted an anti-Semitic joke:  “What’s the difference between boy scouts and Jews?  …  Boy scouts come back from their camps.”
  7. In previous blogs I have reported anti-Semitic incidents in various European countries, such as Sweden, UK, France, Belgium, Italy and Spain, among others.  These are part  of a disturbing trend, which, if anything, is accelerating.  Just in December there were incidents in Germany, France and the UK.
  8. The New York Post reported that anti-Semitism is “sweeping” Germany.  For example:

a. Charlotte Knobloch, the former president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany and a Holocaust survivor, has opined that “anti-Semitism [is] in the heart of German society.”  Moreover, the word “Jew” has once again become an insult in German schoolyards.”  Knobloch has been pressing the government to appoint a special commissioner to help combat the problem, but, in my opinion, that will not resolve the problem.  People’s basic attitudes will have to change, and I am not optimistic about that happening.

b.  Many Jews are trying to live in the shadows by down-playing their Jewishness.  It is estimated that there are some 200,000 Jews living in Germany, and about half of them are “unaffiliated.”

c.  Many hateful instances have been posted online.  For example, in Berlin a hateful barrage of anti-Semitic insults directed to a restauranteur by a patron went viral.  Moreover, during Hanukkah in Heilbron haters desecrated a public menorah.

d.  I believe, as do many others, that these instances can be attributed, in part, to a substantial influx of immigrants from Russia and predominantly Muslim countries.  Many of them have brought their hateful attitudes with them.  In addition, concurrently, there has been an increase in the power and influence of a right-wing neo-Nazi political party, which has given “cover” to these vile haters.

9.  Youpi, a French children’s magazine, published an article insinuating that Israel was not a “real” country.  The article read, in part,: “There are 197 countries, like France, Algeria, or Germany.  There are a few more, but not all other countries in the world agree that they are real countries (for example, the State of Israel or North Korea).”  Israel’s ambassador to France, Aliza Bin Noun,  stated she was “shocked by this lie taught to children.”  Youpi Magazine’s publisher, apologized for the “mistake” and had the issue pulled from stands, but, obviously, the damage was done.

10.  In the UK the problem is more insidious.  Yes, the country has had its many anti-Semitic incidents, but, worse, many of its major cities, including London, Leeds, and Birmingham, among others, have been electing Muslim and Sharia Law-leaning politicians.  These peaceful, legal “takeovers,” which I believe can be traced to Britain’s “open door” immigration policy, do not bode well for Jews in those cities or for the UK as a whole.

11. Recently, virtually every country, except for the US and a few others, supported a UN resolution criticizing the US’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the bona-fide capital of Israel and move its embassy there.  The official argument was it would hurt the “peace process.”  I say, what “peace process.”  How can there be a realistic “peace process” when most of the Arab countries continue to refuse even to acknowledge Israel’s legitimacy?

CONCLUSION

Once again, we can learn from history.  Don’t forget, Jews lived peacefully in Egypt, Poland, Spain, Russia and many other countries for centuries until the powers that be decided to expel or murder them.  They were welcome until they weren’t.  Presently, Jews all over the world are feeling increasingly uncomfortable in their home countries and are emigrating to Israel.

Time and time again beginning with the Roman Empire, Jews have been a convenient scapegoat for a country’s economic, social and political problems.  Who killed Christ?  The Jews.  Crops failed?  Blame the Jews.  Stock market tanked?  Jewish bankers.  What will Jews be blamed for next?  Global warming?

BATAAN DEATH MARCH SURVIVOR DIES AT 100

Ramon Regalado, a Filipino native living in San Francisco, who survived the infamous Bataan Death March in WWII passed away on December 16, 2017 at the age of 100.  The BDM was one of the most heinous and inhumane events of the Asian Theatre, and that says a lot, but more on that later.

Regalado was born in 1917 in the Philippines.  When the Japanese invaded the islands he was one of the thousands of Filipinos who fought bravely alongside American soldiers.  He served as a machine gun operator during the Battle of Bataan.

The situation was desperate.  The Filipino defenses had been ill prepared for the war. Furthermore, much of the American troops, under the command of General Douglas MacArthur, had evacuated.  (Many of you will recall MacArthur’s famous boast to the Filipinos –  “I shall return.”)  The combined forces were heavily outnumbered and outgunned.  Furthermore, the Japanese had already earned a well-deserved reputation for wanton cruelty and a blatant disregard for the stipulations of the Geneva Conventions.

The Japanese attacked the Philippines in January, 1942.  The combined American-Filipino forces fought valiantly but surrendered on April 9, 1942, and that was when the horror began. The Japanese took between 60,000 and 80,000 prisoners and moved them from Bataan to Camp O’Donnell in Capas, Tarlac, some 65 miles north.  Any prisoner who was discovered to be in possession of Japanese money or souvenirs was shot or bayonetted on the spot.

Most of the March was on foot; the rest was by train  The March was characterized by extreme and wanton brutality. The Japanese exhibited nothing but contempt for their prisoners. The sick and wounded were not treated.  There was little food and water.  The heat was extreme, and the prisoners were often forced to sit exposed to the unrelenting sun.   They unceremoniously murdered anyone who was unable to keep up.  Some were shot; others were bayonetted.  The dead bodies were merely discarded at the side of the road to be collected and disposed of later, or not.  There is no accurate count of those prisoners who died during the march, but estimates run as high as 650 Americans and 18,000 Filipinos.  For the train portion, as former prisoner, Sargent Alf Larson later recalled: “They packed us in like sardines, so tight you couldn’t sit down…  If someone had to go to the toilet, you went [right] there where you were.”  Only about 54,000 of the original 80,000 prisoners survived the March.

Camp O’Donnell was not much of a relief.  Starvation and disease were rampant.  Several hundred prisoners died every day.  For the most part, the dead were simply dumped into mass graves like so much refuse.  That explains why there isn’t an accurate count and why many have never been identified.

It is not clear when the US government discovered these atrocities, but the American public was unaware of them until January 1944 when Life Magazine published an expose based on the stories disseminated by various escapees.  The government and the military high command were quick to condemn the Japanese in the strongest terms.  For example, General George C. Marshall stated “these brutal reprisals upon helpless victims evidence the shallow advance from savagery, which the Japanese people have made….  {T}he future of the Japanese race, itself, depends entirely and irrevocably upon their capacity to progress beyond their aboriginal barbaric instincts.”  After the war, an Allied military commission concluded that this mistreatment of prisoners constituted war crimes.

Eventually, Regalado escaped with two other prisoners.  At the time, all three were sick with malaria.  Luckily, a friendly farmer gave them shelter.  However, of the three, only Regalado survived.  Eventually, he joined a guerilla unit and continued to fight.  After the war, he emigrated to the US.

CONCLUSION

Regalado was one of some 250,000 Filipinos who served alongside American troops during the war.  Approximately 57,000 of them died.  The US had promised them veterans benefits and US citizenship, but it was many years before those promises were honored.  In addition, this past October the government awarded many of them, including Regalado, the Congressional Gold Medal.

Today, there are dozens of memorials dedicated to the heroism of those who were in the March, including monuments, plaques and schools.  Moreover, the March has been depicted in a 2012 documentary entitled Never the Same: The Prisoner of War Experience.

Regalado was one of the few who lived to see the belated recognition.  Rest in peace, Ramon.  You were a true patriot and hero.

NEW YEARS EVE

Tonight, people around the world will celebrate New Year’s Eve. Although the specifics of the celebration may differ in various countries, it is generally a time of social gatherings, parties, eating, drinking, and merriment. The Pacific island nations of Kiribati, which is nothing more than a coral atoll in the Central Pacific, and Samoa,, which is the western-most of the Samoan Islands, will be the first to celebrate; American Samoa, which includes seven tiny islands and atolls in the eastern part of the Samoan Islands, and Baker Island, which is an uninhabited atoll 3,100 km southwest of Honolulu, will be the last.

Below please find a sampling of celebration customs in various countries:

1. In the US NYE is celebrated with parties with family and friends and other special events. For example, since 1907 people have been gathering in Times Square to watch the “Ball Drop.” At precisely 11:59 pm, a huge Waterford crystal ball, weighing some 12,000 pounds, begins its descent from the roof of One Times Square down a 70-foot high pole. Exactly one minute later, at midnight, the ball reaches the roof of the building, and huge lights signal the start of the New Year.

Times Square has been the focal point of NYE celebrations in the US since 1904.  That year, the first organized NYE celebration, consisting of an all-day street festival culminating in a huge fireworks display, was held there. It was reported that at midnight the celebratory noise could be heard as far away as Croton-on-Hudson, some 30 miles away.

The celebration was organized by the New York Times owner, Adolph Ochs, to commemorate the opening of the Times new headquarters located in the tiny triangle at the intersection 42nd Street, Broadway and 7th Avenue.  The city renamed the area Times Square in honor of the venerable publication.

[Quiz questions:  1) What other historically significant event occurred in NYC in 1904?  2) What was Times Square’s name prior to 1904?  See below for the answers. ]

Two years  later the City banned the fireworks display.  Ochs’ response  was to replace it with the “Ball Drop.”  The details of this “Ball Drop” have evolved over the years, especially technologically.

The celebration, itself, has also evolved over the years.  Due to the world we now live in, security is tighter than the proverbial “drum.”  For example, regarding the police and “alphabet agencies,” it is “all hands on deck.”  Additionally, for security reasons, there are no food, drinks, waste baskets, toilet facilities, knapsacks, large bags and pocketbooks permitted.   Best to arrive early, and if you have to leave for any reason, good luck returning.

Times Square has become so symbolic of the celebration of New Year’s that it draws approximately one million spectators from all over the world, many of whom stand in the cold without access to food or toilet facilities for hours just to be there.   It is estimated that in excess of one ton of confetti will be dropped at the stroke of midnight. Thankfully, I don’t have to clean it up.

This year, the frigid weather will present an additional complication.  Temperatures are expected to dip into the single digits, with wind chills at or below zero.  Revelers, especially those who arrive early, will have to find ways to keep (relatively) warm.  This would be a good year to watch the festivities in the warmth and comfort of your home.

“The Drop” has inspired similar celebrations in other cities, such as Atlanta (“Peach Drop”) and Nashville (“Music Note Drop”). Entertainment from various venues is also featured.  The most famous and enduring entertainer was Guy Lombardo, who from 1928 to 1976 entertained from the ballroom at the Waldorf-Astoria, first on the radio, then on TV. After his death in 1977 other programs became prominent, most notably “Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve.”   After his death, the mantle passed to Ryan Seacrest and others.  Traditionally, NYE is the busiest day at Disneyland and Disney World, which feature Disney-character shows and fireworks.

2. In Canada the mode of celebrations vary by region. For example, in Toronto, Niagara Falls and other areas of Ontario, there are concerts, parties, fireworks and sporting events. On the other hand, in rural Quebec some people go ice fishing.  Montreal features concerts and fireworks.

3. In Mexico, families decorate their homes in various colors, each of which symbolizes a particular wish for the upcoming year. For example, yellow would symbolize a wish for a better job, green, improved finances, white, improved health, and red, general improvement in lifestyle and love. At midnight, many Mexicans eat a grape with each chime of the clock and make a wish each time. Some people bake a sweet bread with a coin hidden inside. Whoever gets the piece with the coin will be blessed with good fortune in the coming year. Finally, some people make a list of all the bad events that occurred to them over the past year on a piece of paper and then burn the paper to symbolize a purging of all the bad luck.

4. As you might expect celebrations in England focus around Big Ben. People gather to observe fireworks and celebrate. In addition, many celebrate in pubs or at private parties.

At the stroke of midnight it is traditional to sing “Auld Lang Syne.” I have always been curious as to the derivation of this song and why it is sung at New Year’s. The origin is murky, but it has generally been attributed to the Scottish poet Robert Burns. He wrote it in 1788, but it is likely that some of the words were derived from other Scottish poems and ballads. “Auld Lang Syne” literally translates into English as “long, long ago,” “old times,” or “days gone by.”  Thus, at the stroke of midnight we bid farewell to the past year and, at the same time, wish to remember the good times.  In some areas the song is also sung at funerals, graduations and any other event that marks a “farewell” or “ending.” Sometimes the singers gather in a circle and hold hands.

CONCLUSION

As a sign of the times, the Washington Post reported that the city of Berlin will be establishing “safe zones” for women.  No doubt, this is in response to the rash of sexual assaults that have occurred there in recent years as an unwanted part of the NYE celebrations.  This is a smart idea.  Perhaps, other locales will adopt it as well.

Whatever your NYE plans may be and however you may celebrate, I urge you to be careful and drive safely and defensively. Pay particular care to watch out for the “other guy.” This is one night where too many people celebrate excessively and drive under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. These people should not be on the road, but, nevertheless, they are, and they are dangerous both to you and themselves. For this reason, Ed McMahon, Johnny Carson’s long-time side-kick on the “Tonight Show” and a noted party-goer, used to refer to New Year’s Eve derisively as “amateur night.”  New Year’s Day is the second most deadly holiday for drivers. (Thanksgiving is #1.) Moreover, a whopping 42% of the driving fatalities on NYD are the result of DUI.

Answers to quiz questions:  1)  The city’s first subway line opened in 1904.  2) Longacre Square.

Enjoy yourself, but don’t become a statistic.

ROSE MARIE

Rose Marie enjoyed one of the longest careers in show business history.  She entertained audiences for some 90 years.  At the age of three her mother entered her in an Atlantic City talent contest as “Baby Rose Marie,” where she sang.  In her long career she performed in every entertainment medium –  vaudeville, clubs, radio, tv, movies and the theatre.  Although she began as a singer, later generations knew her best as a comedic actress on tv.

Rose Marie Mazzetta was born on August 15, 1923 in NYC to an Italian father and a Polish mother.  Her father had a rather interesting job.  He was an arsonist for Al Capone.  Accordingly, Rose Marie was an acquaintance of various mobsters, such Al Capone and Bugsy Siegel.  As she explained to People magazine in a 2016 interview, “[My father}used to burn down your warehouse if things weren’t going the right way, but I didn’t know that at the time. …. To me, Al Capone was ‘Uncle Al.’ ”   In her autobiography, Hold the Roses, she explained these mob connections often helped her in her career.  For example, she frequently appeared at the Flamingo in Las Vegas, which, reputedly, was own by mobsters.  She said if she wanted to appear at another casino she made sure to get permission from “the boys.”

At five, she began singing in Rudy Vallee’s band on NBC.  She was such a hit that NBC gave her a seven-year contract and her own 15 minute show.  Over the next several years she performed in vaudeville, nightclubs, and on the radio.  She was a star.  She was known as “The Darling of the Airwaves.”

By 1960 she was already a big star when she was signed to co-star as a comedy writer on the Dick Van Dyke Show with Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore and Morey Amsterdam. The show was a big hit and ran from 1961 – 1966.  Rose Marie’s role was a ground-breaker.  In her words, it was one of the few roles in which a woman was not depicted as either a “wife, a mother or a housekeeper.”   Today, such limitations of women’s roles are hard to imagine, but that was the way it was at that time.   She recalled that at one point she bluntly asked Carl Reiner, the show’s creator and producer, why her role was not as prominent as Moore’s.  Reiner replied, just as bluntly, “they [audiences] wanna look at her legs [not yours].”  Rose Marie wasn’t unattractive, but I can’t argue with that logic.

After Van Dyke, she starred on The Doris Day Show and the original version of the Hollywood Squares game show, where she got to demonstrate her comedic talents.  In addition, she was a frequent guest star on such it shows as Murphy Brown and The Dean Martin Show.

CONCLUSION

Rose Marie was one of the few performers who never needed to use a last name professionally. She was extremely versatile.  She performed successfully in every entertainment medium – nightclubs, vaudeville, radio, movies, tv and the theatre.   In addition, she was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

After her death, the following was posted on her website: “Heaven just got a whole lot funnier.”  How true.

UNSUNG HEROES OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION

The struggle for freedom from England had many unlikely heroes.  After all, defeating the most powerful nation on earth with a rag tag army and no real navy was a herculean task with very little chance of success.  If Las Vegas would have existed in 1776 the betting line would likely have been infinity:1 against the colonists.

Most everyone is familiar with the main leaders, the so-called “Founding Fathers,” such as Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, and Hancock, among others.  This blog, however, will focus on eight heroes who are less well-known, but whose contributions were pivotal to the success of the Revolution.  So, read on, and be edified.

  1. Caspar Rodney –   In July, 1776 the Continental Congress was voting on whether or not to adopt the Declaration of Independence.  It had been agreed that a unanimous vote of all the colonies would be required for adoption.  Rodney was a delegate from Delaware, but he was not in Philadelphia.  He was at home, gravely ill with cancer.  When he learned that his vote was urgently needed to break a tie among the other Delaware delegates he rode all night to arrive in Philadelphia in the “nick of time” to cast the deciding vote in favor, even though he was so weak he could barely stand.  “All sensible and honest men are in favor of independence,” he stated.  Rodney’s dramatic ride from his deathbed in the dead of night makes him a unsung hero in my book.
  2. Culper Spy Ring –  Reliable intelligence is a necessity in any war.  General Washington needed it urgently.  He organized the Culper Spy Ring under the direction of Major Benjamin Talmadge.  The Ring was based in Setauket, Long Island and operated primarily in NYC and LI.  Key players included Abraham Woodhull and Robert Townsend, who were known by the aliases Samuel Culper, Sr. and Jr., respectively, Caleb Brewster, Austin Roe and Anna Strong.  They operated under the noses of the British, who occupied NYC and LI for most of the war, and provided much valuable intelligence.  The Ring was the subject of a book by Alexander Rose and a cable tv series.
  3. Benedict Arnold – Why, you may ask, is a person whose very name has become synonymous with treason, included in a blog about heroes?  Well, before he became a traitor he was a hero of the Battle of Saratoga, which was one of the turning points of the War.  By late 1777 the Continental Army was in trouble.  It had lost battle after battle.   Morale was low.  Most soldiers were not being paid.  Many had no decent clothes.  Food was scarce.  Desertion was rampant.  Most of the army consisted of volunteers with a fixed end to their enlistment, and many of them were not re-enlisting.   Against this backdrop, the British hatched a plan for a decisive victory that would, perhaps, end the war.  General Howe, who commanded a sizeable force in NYC, was to march up the Hudson.  General Burgoyne was to march down from Canada.  They were planning to meet in the Albany-Saratoga area, catch the colonial army in a pincer, and cut the colonies in two.  General Arnold was the second-in-command of the Continental forces at Saratoga under General Gates.  Gates was a timid, perhaps even cowardly, leader. He was reluctant to fight.  Arnold was brave and aggressive with a grating personality.  Also, he felt strongly he had not been given his due credit for prior successes.  He was irate over the fact that others who were inferior leaders but better connected, politically, had been promoted over him.  He kept agitating Gates to attack, which annoyed Gates.   The two men despised each other.   Finally, Gates sent Arnold’s unit on a mission with very little chance of success.  His aim was to have Arnold either fail and be discredited or killed.  But, Arnold led his troops to an unlikely victory over Burgoyne’s numerically superior force.   Inexplicably, Howe’s army never showed up, so the colonials had the major victory they sorely needed.  However, to Arnold’s dismay, Gates took all the credit.  This likely started Arnold down the path to his ultimate treason.
  4. Deborah Sampson – Sampson was one of a very few women who served in combat during the war.  What was so unusual was that she fought disguised as a man named Robert Shirtliff.  She was able to pass as a man, because she was 5′ 9″ (The average height for a man of that time was only 5′ 6″.) and stout of build with small breasts that were easily hidden.  She served in a light infantry unit, which was considered an elite force that often participated in very dangerous missions.  She was wounded three times.  Her ruse was discovered while she was being treated for those wounds.   Nevertheless, she received an honorable discharge and was approved for a small pension for her service.
  5. Lafayette and von Steuben – In the first few years of the war the colonial soldiers, who were primarily farmers and laborers, were a ragtag fighting force, lacking the precision, discipline, and training of a real, professional army.   Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch-Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette was a very wealthy teenage French aristocrat.  He was so determined to fight for the colonials that he purchased his own ship to travel to America.  Once there, he joined General Washington’s army at Valley Forge.  Baron Friedrich Wilhelm Ludolf Gerhard Augustin von Steuben was an experienced professional Prussian soldier who was recommended to Benjamin Franklin by the French minister of war.  Franklin, in turn, recommended him to Washington.  Together these two men transformed the aforementioned ragtag group into a professional fighting force in just a few months during the winter of 1777-78.  Without them, it is doubtful the colonials would have succeeded.
  6. General Nathaniel Greene – It’s been said “an army travels on its stomach.”  As discussed, during the winter of 1777-78 the colonials were very short of food, clothing and other basic supplies.  The situation was dire.  Washington appointed Greene as quartermaster general, making him responsible for procurement.  He aggressively scoured the countryside and one way or another acquired enough supplies to sustain the army through the winter.
  7. Jack Jouett –  Jouett’s contribution was subtle, but crucial.  The British army was continually hunting for the key leaders of the revolution.  In January 1781 a company of dragoons was closing in on the entire group of Virginia legislators who were in hiding near Charlottesville.  This group included Thomas Jefferson and three other signers of the Declaration of Independence.  Killing or capturing them would have been a substantial coup.  At one point, the dragoons stopped at a tavern for rest and refreshment.  Jouett, a patron at the tavern, happened to overhear them conversing.  Discerning their mission, he jumped on his horse and rode through the night to where he knew the legislators were located.  In a Virginia version of Paul Revere’s ride he warned the legislators, thus enabling them to avoid capture.
  8. Elizabeth Hutchinson Jackson – Jackson was a widow living in the Carolinas.  During a cholera outbreak among American prisoners of war she volunteered as a nurse at the prison.  Her oldest son had died in the war and the other two had been captured and imprisoned by the British some distance away.  The older of the two, Robert, was seriously ill; the younger of the two, Andy Jr., just 14, had been severely injured.  Determined not to lose them too, she traveled to their prison and somehow convinced their jailers to include them in a prison exchange, which no doubt saved their lives.  Then, they made the long trip home with only two horses for the three of them.  Robert, being delirious, rode. Andy walked.  Soon after they returned home Robert died, but Andy survived.  “Andy” was Andrew Jackson, who, as we know, became the hero of the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812, arguably one of the most significant battles in US history, and the seventh President of the US.

CONCLUSION

In my opinion, the American Revolution was one of the biggest “upsets” in history.  There is no way a ragtag fighting force with no navy at the beginning of the war and very little financing should have been able to defeat the finest fighting force in the world, particularly when it had to battle half of its own citizenry as well as the British.  But, it did, and in no small part to the contributions and sacrifices of ordinary patriots, such as the ones outlined above.

BOXING DAY

Yesterday, December 26, many countries, notably the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries that were formerly part of the British Empire, celebrated a holiday known as Boxing Day.  Many of those who are unfamiliar with the holiday erroneously assume it is associated with pugilism.  That is not the case.

BD is considered a secular holiday, however, some countries celebrate a religious holiday on December 26.  For example, Germany, The Netherlands and Poland, celebrate the day as a “Second Christmas Day.”  In the Catalonia region of Spain the day is celebrated as “St. Stephen’s Day.”

BD’s origins are murky.  There are various theories.  Based on my research it appears that the holiday can be traced at least to Medieval England where it was customary for the aristocracy to allow their servants to spend the day after Christmas with their families.  After all, the servants were obligated to serve their masters on Christmas rather then spend the holiday with their families.  Each servant would receive a “box” containing food, clothing, and/or other gifts to bring home to their families.  Over time, this practice was extended to tradesmen and others who performed services for the aristocrats.  The earliest mention of the term “Christmas box” was in Samuel Pepys’ diary in 1663.  (Pepys was a member of Parliament during the 17th century who was famous for keeping a diary.)  Others believe the day’s roots go back to Roman times when it was customary to place a metal box, aka the Alms Box, outside the church during the “Feast of St. Stephen” to collect donations for the poor.

BD celebrations vary from country to country.  For instance:

  1. In the UK it is a bank holiday.  If it falls on a Saturday or a Sunday, it is celebrated on the following Monday or Tuesday, respectively.
  2. In Ireland it is celebrated on December 26, regardless of which day of the week it falls on, as St. Stephens Day.
  3. In Australia it is a federal holiday.  In the state of South Australia it is celebrated as “Proclamation Day.”
  4. In Canada and New Zealand BD is celebrated as a statutory holiday; that is, it is celebrated on December 26 regardless of the day of the week.
  5. In Nigeria BD is celebrated on December 26 as a public holiday for workers and students.  If it falls on Saturday or Sunday, it is observed on the following Monday.
  6. In some countries, notably Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand BD is a huge shopping day, akin to “Black Friday” in the US.  Retailers have extended hours and hold sales.  Shoppers line up early just like on “Black Friday.”  Much like in the US, retailers have expanded the Christmas shopping season in order to generate additional revenue.  Some retailers in those countries have expanded the period of observation to “Boxing Week.”
  7. In addition, all of the aforementioned countries hold a variety of sporting events to mark the day (soccer, rugby, cricket, horse racing, ice hockey, even boxing).

CONCLUSION

For most Americans December 26 is a day to extend the Christmas holiday and, in some cases, to “recuperate” from it.  However you chose to spend the day I hope you enjoyed it.

 

OH MY!

On Thursday, we lost one of the most iconic and versatile sportscasters of this generation, Dick Enberg.  During a 60 year career Enberg had the opportunity to call games in virtually every major sport for virtually every television network, as well as some radio networks, at both the college and professional levels.  His career, like one of his famous catchphrases “touched ’em all.”

Richard Alan Enberg was born on January 9, 1935 in Mount Clemens, MI.  His ancestry on his father’s side was Finnish.  His grandparents, like many immigrants, had changed the family name (in this case, from Katajavuori to the Swedish equivalent, Enberg), in order to appear more American.  Enberg’s mother’s family was a classic melting pot – English, French, German, and American Indian.

Enberg earned a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University and a graduate degree from Indiana University.  He began his career while still a student, working for the radio station WSAM, which broadcast Detroit Tigers’ baseball games.

As I said, during his 60 year career he was extremely prolific, announcing a multitude of sports on virtually every tv network and on radio.  The following are just a sampling of his work:

  1. Football – (a) Broadcast LA Rams football; (b) play-by-play for Indiana Hoosiers games; (c) lead announcer for NBC for NFL games; (d) called eight Super Bowls; (e)called Rose Bowl games; (f) during the 1982 NFL players’ strike called Canadian Football games;

2.  Baseball –

a.  Broadcast California Angels games.  When they won he would sign off with the catchphrase “And the halo shines tonight,” in reference to the symbol of the team which would be lit up on the scoreboard after every victory; (b) was the voice of the San Diego Padres; (c) called several World Series;

3.  Basketball – (a) play-by-play for Indiana Hoosiers; (b) 1961 NCAA championship game (only shown live in Ohio); (c) in 1968 called the “Game of the Century” between Elvin Hayes’ Houston Cougars and UCLA’s Lew Alcindor; (d) in 1979 called the NCAA Championship game between Magic Johnson’s Michigan State and Larry Bird’s Indiana State teams; (e) called NBA games for several years for NBC;

4.  Boxing – (a) announcer for matches at LA’s Olympic Auditorium; (b) called various  heavyweight bouts

5.  Other sports he called included tennis majors, golf majors, horse racing and the Olympics.

6.  He wrote a one-man play called “McGuire” as a tribute to one of his former broadcast partners, Al McGuire.

Also, Enberg was prolific on tv and in the movies.  He appeared on tv shows, such as The King of Queens and CSI NY.  He hosted game shows, such as Sports Challenge and The Perfect Match.   He lent his voice to Where’s Huddles, a cartoon series.  He appeared in several movies, such as Two-Minute Warning and Heaven Can Wait.  He appeared in commercials and as the announcer in “Talking Football,” a Mattel tabletop game.

CONCLUSION

Enberg received countless honors, such as:

  1. 13 sports Emmys, as well as being the only sportscaster to win Emmys in broadcasting, writing and producing.
  2. Nine National Sportscaster of the Year awards
  3. The American Sportscasters Association ranked him #10 on its listing of the Top 50 Sportscasters of all time.
  4. Induction into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame
  5. A star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Enberg died suddenly on December 21 of a suspected coronary.  He was active to the end.  In fact, he was found in his home with his bags packed, undoubtedly in preparation for an engagement.

He will be forever remembered for his iconic catchphrase in celebration of an outstanding athletic play, “OH MY.”