Sunday Morning Coffee — June 9, 2024 — Sunday Morning Scramble

I celebrated another birthday last month. Seventy-two. While there is nothing I can do about getting older, I am comfortable with where I am, who I am, the experiences gained and learned. What I know is at 72 I’m not what I was at 62. Not nearly as quick mentally nor physically. More body parts creak. Attention span tends to wane except when it’s nap time. That gets my full attention. Motivation to hit the gym early every morning gets tougher but I know I’ll be sorry if I don’t. When I retired at 66, I knew it was time. Concentration and energy not what it once was. Commercial airline pilots in this country have a mandatory retirement age of 65. Air traffic controllers must retire at 56. FBI and Secret Service agents at 57. Those are all Federal mandates. In New York City, police officers have to call it a career at 63 and firefighters at 65. In 1951, a year before me, the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution was passed setting a two-term limit on an individual serving as president of the United States. Retrospectively, there was an incredible lack of foresight not including a mandatory age limit too. In November we will select a president who is either 78 years old and can serve until 82 or one who will turn 82 by Inauguration Day and serve until 86. Which means they are too old to fly an airplane; guide our air traffic system; carry a weapon for protection of the public or drive a firetruck. But, even with eroding cognitive levels and skill sets, they aren’t too old to guide the greatest country on earth. Something is scary wrong here.

Eugene V. Debs received more publicity last week than in 1920 when he ran for president of the United States. Should Donald Trump actually make it to the November ballot, he will only become the second convicted felon to run for president taking a back seat to Debs. With an insatiable need to be first, that can’t please Mr. Trump. Debs, after being elected as a Democrat from Indiana to serve one term in Congress, years later changed his party affiliation to Socialist. In 1920 while serving a ten year prison term for sedition encouraging Americans to resist the World War I Selective Service draft, Debs was nominated as the Socialist standard bearer. Almost a million votes went to Debs, just a few shy of the 16 million Warren G. Harding accumulated to live in the White House.

And speaking of Trump and his art of the deal, if I am looking for a deal I’m going to call on the Medicare and United Health Care negotiating teams, not him. On April 15 I had an accident at the gym. A piece of equipment broke catapulting me, back of my skull first, to the wooden floor. Five emergency room hours later, with CT scans of the head, brain and spine, I was sent on my way. Total bill for the visit was $24,000. By the time Medicare and UHC got done with them, the episode was settled for $749. That is the art of the deal.

Not very good at the art of the deal, even with all their money, are New York professional sports franchises. Among the Yankees (09), Mets (86), Giants, Jets (69), Knicks (73), Nets (never), Rangers (94) and Islanders (83) it has now been the equivalent of 100 combined seasons since a championship banner has flown in the metro area. The Giants Super Bowl win in 2011 was the last.

Paul McCartney sang on 26 songs that reached number one on the charts.

Happy birthday to the Beav. Jerry Mathers celebrated his 76th last week. No word on whether Gilbert and Whitey were at the party.

Then and now. Even at the century mark, Schallock is ready to toss an inning or two.

We’d be remiss not to wish Art Schallock a happy number 100. He celebrated by traveling last weekend from his assisted living home in Sonoma, California, to San Francisco to see the Yankees and Giants play. He wore a Yankees pinstriped jersey and a NY cap. Unlike wannabes who wear team jerseys, Mr. Schallock had a license to wear what he did. He pitched 28 games for the Yankees over five seasons from 1951-55. His career ended with a 6-7 record and 4.02 ERA. He has three World Series rings with the Bombers in 1951, 52 and 53. Schallock was teammates with Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Phil Rizzuto and Billy Martin. And as impressive as that all might be, he holds one record today that he isn’t willing to let go — at 100, he is the oldest living former big leaguer. Many more, sir.

Season 3 of Hacks is back on MAX and that’s a good thing.

They only had one job to do but that seemed to be one too many. Phil Shinnick was a little known track and field athlete at the University of Washington back in the 1960s. On May 25, 1963, at the Modesto Relays, Shinnick did something no long jumper ever had before by leaping 27 feet, four inches to set a world record. Well, almost a world record. The judges who were supposed to monitor the wind gauge forgot about checking it, nullifying the jump. These guys had nothing else to do but look at the gauge. Doesn’t seem that complicated. Shinnick, 81 and living in Tacoma, WA, did qualify for the ‘64 US Olympic team finishing 22nd. Sadly, he has gone from supposed one-time standard bearer to a footnote in track and field history.

I never paid much attention to the late Bill Walton as a broadcaster until we moved out West six years ago. With friends from my Birmingham years coaching basketball in the PAC-12 at UCLA and Stanford, I found myself watching games on the PAC-12 network. Walton was definitely an acquired taste but the more I watched, the more I liked him. Genuine in expressing his feelings, most of which had little to do with the game being played in front of him. A devout supporter of the PAC-12, the “Conference of Champions” as he would say over and over during a telecast, it’s both ironic and sentimental that Bill died on May 27, two days after the last PAC-12 sporting event was ever contested. The conference is breaking up and athletics ended on May 25 with Arizona beating USC for the PAC-12 baseball tournament championship.

Wednesday night we went to see Girl From The North Country, the Broadway touring company production featuring the music of Bob Dylan. It was the second night of a week long engagement at The Smith Center, our wonderful performing arts venue. When we went to sit down I asked the usher how opening night went. She said it was okay and then strangely cautioned us to “Give the show a chance.” Andi nor I had any idea what she meant until intermission when people started storming out like a fire drill. We too, never gave it a chance.

Major League Baseball announced last month that it was incorporating all the old Negro League stats into their record book. My initial reaction was ‘Why?’ I’ve changed my tune since I first saw this on May 28. The Negro Leagues played from 1920-1948 during the height of segregation into what was supposed to become a civilized integrated world. One could make the assumption that Negro League competition was inferior, but there was no basis to compare. Fact is the Negro Leagues had some great ones who had no other place to play. So in the days before Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby walked into big league clubhouses, there was ultra- competitive baseball being played among Black players. After Robinson and Doby in MLB came Roy Campanella, Willie Mays, Satchel Paige, Minnie Minoso, Don Newcombe and Monte Irvin, paving the way for mass integration of baseball. The Red Sox were the last team to integrate when Pumpsie Green put on a uniform in the Fenway Park locker room in 1959. Interestingly, MLB only had access to about 75% of the old Negro League box scores, making whatever statistics available incomplete. Nonetheless, stats of over 2,300 Negro League players have shaken up the MLB annals. Josh Gibson gets credit for surpassing Ty Cobb with the all-time best career batting average of .372, just ahead of the .367 that stood for decades. Mays, who played part of one Negro League season for the Birmingham Black Barons now has 10 more career hits on his resume. Satchel Paige has 28 more career wins to his credit. And on and on as the record book gets rewritten. I had forgotten that the NFL did the same with its old AFL rival when the leagues officially merged in 1970. Jim Brown’s one game rushing record of 227 yards took an immediate back seat to Cookie Gilchrist’s mark of 243 in 1963 with Buffalo. Since, they have both been eclipsed by Adrian Peterson’s 296 yards in 2007. In fact, almost none of the AFL records still stand. Conversely, the NBA still refuses to recognize the totals from the ABA, its former competitor. Taking it on the chin is Louie Dampier who played all nine years of the ABA’s existence for the Kentucky Colonels as a six foot guard out of the University of Kentucky. Dampier, 77, is the all-time ABA leader in points, assists, 3-point baskets made, games played, and minutes played. However, if you look at the NBA record book, only his last three seasons playing for the NBA San Antonio Spurs ever happened.

And in the small world department, I was talking with my Lifetime Fitness trainer ‘Zo Freeman about the Negro Leagues on Saturday morning while he was pushing me to unachievable physical heights for an old guy.  He matter of factly told me about his great uncle, Tom “High Pockets” Turner, who played for the Chicago American Giants and Birmingham (AL) Black Barons in the late 1940s. The Barons played their home games at Rickwood Field, first opened in 1910 and today is America’s oldest still-operating baseball stadium. Chicago’s Wrigley Field, opened in 1914, is the second oldest. The Black Barons shared the stadium with the white minor league Barons. The Black Barons could only rent Rickwood on Sundays, when their white counterparts were on the road.  In fact, in a salute to the Negro Leagues, the Giants and Cardinals will play a regular season game at Rickwood later this month, on June 20, with 8,300 history and baseball buffs packing it.

With its football stadium undergoing major renovations, the University of Kansas will play none of its Big 12 conference games in Kansas this season. Arrowhead Stadium in Missouri will become the Jayhawks home.

Finally, I’m not much of a fan of countries bombing each other, but in comparison to what’s going on in Israel, Gaza and Ukraine, North Korea’s retaliation to South Korea for its civilian leafleting campaigns seems rather on the relatively mild side. North Korea has dropped over 3,500 balloon bombs of trash and manure below the 38th parallel. Or in other words, just another day in Secaucus, New Jersey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 Comments

  • George Howard says:

    Just another day in Secaucus, New Jersey? Roy, next you’re going to tell me that the Statue of Liberty is in New York, not New Jersey! But good catch on the Louie Dampier comments. Right on target.

  • Mat says:

    Happy belated Birthday and I hope it was a great one! Days are long and years fly by! Thanks for the Cup today! Always great!

  • Michael Lewis says:

    Entertaining and informative as usual, Roy.

    Thank you!

  • Carole Bernardi says:

    Loved your segment on the Negro League. Back in 1975, I worked on a film called “The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings” with an impressive cast of actors (Billy Dee Williams, James Earl Jones & Richard Pryor). It was my first introduction to the Negro Leagues as some of the characters were based on living legends, like Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson. Personally, I could not be happier that the Negro League is now part of Major League Baseball.

  • Dennis says:

    At 81, I know what you mean about old age. Couldn’t agree more!!

  • Jodi Berkowitz says:

    Informative and entertaining, as usual!

  • Betty Anne Cooper says:

    Hi Roy,
    I loved “old for president 2024.“
    Your information regarding retirement age for various professions compared to that for the president of the United States was staggering.
    Something is truly scary wrong here.

    Well, all the sports stuff is basically Greek to me, but I really enjoyed reading and learning. Thank you.

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