Stay positive. Test negative.
Those four words close Norah O’Donnell’s nightly CBS Evening News broadcast.
Stay positive. Test negative. Daily, each seems harder to do. Stay positive: will life ever return to what we once knew? Or is the very sudden change that hit us around the Ides of March going to be the norm for years, or maybe decades to come? Test negative: that too probably gets tougher by the day especially if you hang around 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Seemingly, a new Covid wave is heading our way just as many people are starting to let their guard and masks down.
This morning we will take Ms. O’Donnell’s advice and stay positive. After all, I’m not called Mr. Positive for no reason. We have a bunch of stuff that has accumulated on the keypad and we are going to find something positive in all of it.
Baseball of the 1960s, the glory days of the game for us Boomers, lost three mainstays of that era a week ago: Bob Gibson, Sweet Lou Johnson and Ron Perranoski. Then Whitey Ford, the all-time World Series pitching win leader, passed on Thursday evening while watching his beloved Yankees. This comes on the heels of Tom Seaver and Lou Brock passing last month. Excuse the expression, but it looks like Heaven got itself one hell of an expansion team. A starting rotation of Ford, Gibson, Seaver and Perranoski. No bullpen needed for those horses. The outfield speed and defense of Brock and Sweet Lou. Formidable. It’s happening too often but great memories of what they all meant to baseball, and the bigger than life role they played in our minds when we were adoring kids, will remain etched forever.
And speaking of bigger than life, to me anyway, was base stealer extraordinaire Maury Wills. The former Dodgers shortstop turned 88 on October 2, the same day Gibson died. Undeniably Maury’s speed changed the game. He stole 104 bases in 1962, breaking the record of 96 set by Ty Cobb forty-seven years earlier in 1915. Wills was the National League MVP in ‘62. In fact, Maury was the NL base-stealing champ from 1960-65 and a seven-time all-star. I was introduced to him by our mutual friend, Mike Labanowski, and Mr. Wills was incredibly generous with his time for a chapter dedicated to him in my 2017 classic Big League Dream. We would talk for hours, and even though he was 85 years old at the time, his memory for details about the game and game situations was as sharp as a presidential jab. Wills was great at manufacturing runs in his day, but he also manufactured a priceless memory for me on a cold, winter Birmingham, Alabama, evening in 2017. I was driving and the phone rang. It was a number, a 310-area code, I didn’t recognize. I answered and heard words, as a ten-year old kid rooting for the Pirates against the Dodgers, never thought I would. “Roy, this is Maury. I just wanted to tell you I think you are a heckuva writer,” he said after reading excerpts of his chapter that I sent him. I was dumbfounded. All I could think of saying in response was “Maury, I think you were a helluva shortstop.” Clever, huh? Mr. Wills lives in Sedona, Arizona, with his wife Carla and still makes appearances as an ambassador for the Dodgers. For all he meant to the game, pioneering the change that transitioned the Dodgers from the long ball to a slap, run and scoring machine that won three World Championships with Maury as its leadoff hitter, Wills is still not in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Come on HOF voters. Maury will be 90 in two years. Be fair. He belongs.
Let’s not forget former New York Yankees counter-culture icon Joe Pepitone, referenced in multiple Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm episodes, who celebrated his 80th on Friday.
And as long as we are wishing happy birthdays, how about one for former president Jimmy Carter who turned 96 on October 1. Carter beat incumbent Gerald Ford, who was saddled with Richard Nixon’s baggage, in 1976 and served for one difficult term plagued by inflation, a recession, an energy crisis and the Iran hostage crisis. Other than that, he had a pretty good run. The former Georgia governor was soundly trounced by Ronald Reagan in 1980. President Carter was the first president since Millard Fillmore in 1850 not to have an opportunity to nominate a Supreme Court Justice. Jimmy Carter will never be on Mount Rushmore but he leaves as his legacy having appointed Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the federal bench, the DC Circuit Appeals Court, in 1980.
Okay, one more birthday. The Honeymooners, the best sitcom ever, is 65 years old. The original or ‘Classic 39’ episodes aired in 1955-56 and today still can generate as many laughs as it did on CBS back in the day no matter how many times we see the same episode. Considering Jackie Gleason never rehearsed for a show, his talent and that of Art Carney, Joyce Randolph and Audrey Meadows to play off each other is true genius. I was smitten back then and still am to this day. Weekly, I’ll quote a line in conversation with another aficionado. For many years I was a card-carrying member of RALPH — Royal Association (for the) Longevity (and) Preservation (of the) Honeymooners. Bang! Zoom.
Saddened on Tuesday by Eddie Van Halen’s passing only a week after Helen Reddy and Mac Davis died on the same day. Van Halen was 65; Reddy and Davis both 78. They left us with three different genres of music and great memories: EVH raised the roof; Ms. Reddy sang every song with incredible conviction while Mac was everywhere in the 70s — on the radio, on television and always with a smile. And on Wednesday, Johnny Nash, who sang the 1972 chart topper “I Can See Clearly Now”, died at age 80. Fortunately for us, their music remains.
In case you can’t fly Marine One to a hospital suite at Walter Reed, Medjet brings us some good news about Covid treatment. The trendsetting air-medical assistance company has announced they will now transport their members who contract the virus in the continental US, Mexico and Canada to the hospital of their choice from their inpatient bed. But you have to be a member first. For more information go to Medjet.com or hit the Medjet logo on the bottom of this page.
That damn fly drove me nuts on Wednesday night. At first, I thought it was on my screen until Mike Pence kept moving his head and the fly went with him. It was a true testament to the resonance of Vitalis Maximum Hold hair spray. Unfortunately, that was the highlight of the vice-presidential debate for me. It’s easy to see why the Democrats spurned Kamala Harris’ candidacy in the primaries, and just once I’d like to hear Pence answer a question with a response something other than what he thinks his boss wants to hear. I’ll pass on both of them.
Does the VP position lead to nowhere? It’s been over thirty years since a vice president was promoted to president. We haven’t had a number two move into the top seat since George H.W. Bush in 1988.
If you plan to wager a few quid on the November 3 election, the latest odds have good news for both sides. Biden has rocketed to a 2-1 favorite, which has to make Democrats feel good. Trump backers, on the other hand, will spin it’s just more money for them to win.
With all indications the White House will turn blue, Republicans need to quit bellyaching that Biden won’t answer whether or not he’ll ‘pack’ the Supreme Court or overturn Trump’s tax cuts or whether they will frack or not. They need to keep their eye on the bigger prize — the Senate. Keep fifty-one seats and the rest is academic. Right now the Republicans are on a slippery slope that has them too focused on saving a sinking duck while drowning themselves in the process, too.
Las Vegas Raider fans are going gaga over rookie wide receiver Henry Ruggs from Alabama. Restaurant servers out here, not so much. Reportedly Ruggs ran up a $600 tab a few weeks ago and left a $10 tip. Appears the kid has a lot more to learn than just a playbook.
My wife made it to the PGA tour before I did. Andi worked this weekend, inside the ropes, as an on-course scorer for the Shriners Las Vegas Open that concludes today.
And staying on the golf course, a surreal experience for me a couple of weeks ago was playing in the group in front of O.J. Simpson. O.J. lives just a couple of miles from us and is no stranger to hanging out in public places; but this was my first encounter. Spare me the golf glove and bad slice jokes, I’ve heard them all, but there’s just something different and a little discomforting about his notoriety and being that close. However, I do follow him on Twitter, so go figure. In case you wondered, which I’m sure you didn’t, O.J. still plays out of his USC Trojan golf bag.
Next Saturday night was supposed to be my 50th high school reunion. Obviously, not happening. The good news is the 51st, with all this behind us, will be that much more special.
Not trying to be a cynic by any means but just wondering. With as much red ink as the postal service spills on an annual basis, is USPS Informed Delivery really necessary? I get an email from the post office every morning telling me what’s in my mail delivery that day. It has to cost the government big bucks to do this. Remember as a kid when running to the mailbox to greet the postman used to be fun and a highlight of the day? Now all you have to do is check your phone. Boo.
Hockey and basketball playoffs are on the verge of concluding with a successful bubble relaunch. Congrats to the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning and the WNBA’s Seattle Storm for their victories. No asterisks needed as the championships were well contested under extraordinary circumstances and deserved. The Lakers are a game away from winning the NBA; the Heat two wins to go. When it’s all over the best teams in each sport will have won. Ironic but in a ‘normal’ year the 2020-21 seasons would just be starting: the NHL last week and the NBA in two weeks. Hope to see you guys and gals in the arena next winter.
Hopefully, baseball can conclude their postseason with just as much success. I already know I am rooting for Cleveland and Minnesota to make the playoffs next year and play each other in the first round. Something has to give. Cleveland has lost eight straight postseason games, which as a stand-alone is not too good, but it’s nothing when you consider Minnesota has dropped 18 straight, an all-time record in US professional team sports. Yes, eighteen. That’s not easy to do. They broke the all-time mark of 16 in a row set by the Chicago Blackhawks of the NHL from 1975-79. The Twins last won a playoff game on October 5, 2004 when they beat the Yankees before dropping the next three to begin the streak. If you bet $10 on the Twins to lose every playoff game they’ve played since October 6, 2004 and let the winnings ride, you’d be ahead by $330,000.
With apologies to the upstate Buffalo Bills, football in New York, metro New York, has never been as bad as it is today. The Jets and the Giants are a combined 0-8. Handicappers predict by the end of today it will be 0-10. Jets fans are used to this. Shoddy management produces shoddy results. It has for decades. Giants fans, with four Super Bowl rings, expect more. Both are on the clock for April’s NFL draft. Expected to be the top two college kids available are quarterbacks: Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State’s Justin Fields. If things stay as they are, the Jets and Giants will have to answer the question whether they still believe in their young quarterbacks, Sam Darnold and Daniel Jones, or admit they made a serious mistake and draft one of the prodigies.
In three weeks, we turn the clocks back an hour to end Daylight Savings Time. That means an additional hour of 2020. Help me find the positive in that one.
One of the great things about baseball fantasy camps, and I’ve been to fourteen of them, is the relationships that are built with the guys who come to live their dreams and the ex-ballplayers who watch, coach and laugh at us. It’s a fraternity and we are there for each other. Our commonality is baseball. Most of the guys that played the game professionally in the 1950s and 60s were paid virtually nothing. They did it because they loved the game and it was the only thing they knew. They had off-season jobs to keep their families fed. They set the table for the riches of today and most have nothing to show for it. So it’s especially heartwarming to see how some campers rallied around a former pitcher, from the late 1950s and early 1960s, who at one time was arguably the best pitcher in the game. He has encountered financial hardship trying to pay medical bills for his family. Once our idol, he is now our friend. Campers raised over $6,000 in a week to help ease his burden. The former player didn’t ask for this and didn’t know about it. We did it because we wanted to show support. And that, more than balls, strikes and pulled hamstrings, is what the fraternity of fantasy camp is all about.
Let’s wrap up our positive morning remembering the words of rock legend David Crosby who asked, “If smoking marijuana causes short term memory loss, what does smoking marijuana do?”