Imagine going to a church that has a famous celebrity attending… that is if celebrities actually go to church.
In my parish we have well-know conservative author and commentator Phyllis Schlafly.
While she is popular in conservative and Republican circles, she does not have the universal acclaim of baseball’s Stan the Man Musial.
Being in the same church as Stan reminded me of the first time I ever met a classmate, named Eddie Smith. He had just moved to Forest Hills from St. Louis with his sister and widowed mother, so he could start our 4th grade.
At that time I knew only two things about Missouri—Harry S Truman and Stan Musial…and not in that order.
As a long time baseball fan, seeing him kneeling and praying is more than a Cooperstown high for me.
Being from New York City, I only had the opportunity to see him play one game.
It was in May (see comments) of 1957, the last year the Dodgers were in Brooklyn. About 10 of us had been invited as members of the “Patrol Boys” squad.
We had a couple chaperons who drove us to Ebbets Field.
Our seats were way up in the centerfield bleachers, over-looking Bedford Avenue.
The score was tied at two going into the bottom of the 9th when Charlie Neal homered right under our seats for a walk-off two-run homer.
Of course none of us knew what a walk-off homer was.
Actually we could have called it a go-homer, which I think is an improvement on the baseball neologism.
Stan played first but fortunately for Brooklyn he didn’t do anything memorable.
He always knocked the Bums’ brains out and became one of the most revered sluggers ever to pepper the 40’ right field wall with line drives.
When we moved to St. Louis and I was teaching History, including my Baseball course at Maryville College, I was introduced to a sportswriter, name Jerome. I can’t remember his last name.
Jerome was dying of cancer when I interviewed him
He told me some great Mickey Mantle stories but the one that impressed me the most was about Stan the Man.
That is one of the great nicknames of all times. It is simple, like its beholder and yet it is pregnant with depth of meaning.
According to Post-Dispatch writer, Bob Broeg, who authored probably the best biography on Stan, it had been the Brooklyn fans that gave this name to Stan.
Jerome believed this to be an error. He told me the story of a Cardinal fan living it Flatbush, which is akin to a Jew living in downtown Damascus.
His name was Ace Sullivan and he had made a sign that simply said The Man, and he would wave it around every time Musial came to bat.
In those days the Cardinals played 11 games in Ebbets Field, so he did have ample opportunity to show his sign.
When I told him about Jerome’s story, he promptly dismissed it.
Now it is impossible for me to verify. I had never heard it before and nothing since.
Jerry died shortly after we spoke and Ace is most likely gone as well, leaving me as the sole repository of just what might be a revision of accepted baseball history.
Even though we attended the same church, I was not introduced to Stan until about 1978.
My friend, Terry Elling, a member of the LA Dodgers Fan club came to visit us one spring.
When she spied Stan on the other side of church, she compelled me to introduce her.
I went outside just before Mass was over and found our pastor, Monsignor James Hartnett. Well he and Stan were close and so I begged him to introduce us.
I don’t remember the actual introduction but Terry took a marvelous picture of the two men, winding up before shaking hands.
I had forgotten about that picture until he was posted on the board, outside the sanctuary a few years ago at Monsignor’s memorial service.
Like the Ace Sullivan story, I was the only one around who knew the origins of the photo.
It was a little after our meeting that I was leaving Mass one morning and my rebellious one—#2 son Matthew was behaving like the stubborn mule he can be sometimes by refusing to come along.
Just before I nearly yanked his arm out of its socket, Stan who was following us gave a back-handed swing with a rolled up bulletin at the back of Matt’s head.
For years I have always got tickled when the Man, who could hit a 95 MPH fastball with aplomb and dexterity, could not hit a big-headed little boy at 2 MPH. (Matt and I both wear size 7 and 3/4s size hats)
I would always run into Stan and his wife Lil in Florida and other places. But I never talked to him.
Once at the party prior to the annual St. Louis Baseball Writers’ Dinner, the Musials were seated at a table. I think I was talking to Tim McCarver when Stan motioned for me to come over to them.
I did so and knelt down on one knee as he asked me:
Who Are You?
Well I told him and the next week I saw him going into church and he said:
Stan came to a number of our Browns Fan club affairs. Of course he wanted to play the harmonica.
He once quipped that he wore his hair down the nape of his neck because I am a musician.
I was seated to his right as he stood at the podium and got into a beautiful rendition of Take Me out to the Ball Game.
I told him after he finished that I had noticed that he closed his eyes when he played, so deep was his melodic concentration.
I am not sure he was aware of that but when he nodded, I opined I’ll bet there are a 1000 former National League pitchers who wished you had closed your eyes when you hit!
That same evening several of our ol’ Brownie players came over to Stan like one would approach a Hollywood rock star.
After he finished signing and chatting with the other players, I told him Gee Stan, if you had played with the Browns you might have been somebody.
Lil Musial has been in a wheelchair for some time. For many years her dutiful husband had pushed her around, struggling on his sore knees.
After Mass one Sunday, my late friend John Tines ran up to me and showed me a baseball autographed by Stan. His eyes lit up like a schoolboy’s.
He had helped Stan put away his wife’s wheelchair in their late-model Cadillac with his # 3000 license plate.
I must admit I was a bit envious of his good fortune.
Some months later as I am leaving church, I see Stan pushing Lil and struggling a bit with his achy knees. They have been married for 70 years!
I said to myself that I did not want to be obsequious about it but I will help him only if no one else does.
Well I watched as he got ready to put it away.
So I rushed over to assist. By that time three other people also offered to help.
He said to me You know I give baseballs for helping me.
I said, No, Stan, I didn’t know that!
Well he gave signed balls to all four of us…even though I was the one who folded the chair…I was the one who lifted it into the trunk!
When Stan gave me my reward, I looked at the ball and then said to him with my inquisitive look: Stan this says ‘Red Schoendienst.’
He reacted with the look of doubt for a millisecond and then laughed.
Like a junk ball pitcher I had slipped one by the man…my big-headed son and me.
A few years ago I helped an elderly woman with her oxygen apparatus. As I closed her car door, I almost asked her if she gave baseballs…!
Stan is fast approaching 90. He and a lesser-known Pole, the late John Paul II were born in the same years. (My mother and Mother Teresa were the same age—1910)
I would not say that this St. Louis Man of Summer is in the Dylan Thomas stage of his tragic ruin, but the years have been hard on him.
Now his grandchildren go to Mass with him and they help both of them get into their car.
Getting old is not for kids. (I got it made because emotionally I am only 12 years old.)
As a footnote I have always been uncomfortable with the press’ christening of Cardinal slugger, Albert Pujos as El Hombre, which in my limited Spanish, means, The Man.
To Albert’s extreme credit I recently read that he has told the media to can it for the very reason I just stated.
In my book, Albert qualifies for a seat at Stan’s table.
For me there will only be one man…and he’s in the front pew on the right side of Church.
1) What similar statistical anomaly does Stan share with old Browns pitcher Ned Garver? (One is for hitting and the other for pitching)
2) What football family provides a college football common denominator for Rockies teammates Seth Smith and Todd Helton?
On 9/11, I interviewed author Ben Wiker on KSIV in St. Louis. Ben has a new book out, 10 Books that Every Conservative Must Read.
It is a canon of great thinkers from Aristotle to Hilaire Belloc whose profound insight into the human condition should make deep thinkers of everyone who turns its pages.
Wiker said something during the interview that got me thinking about another subject–television.
Over 28 years ago he and his wife sold their only TV for $25 and have apparently never owned one since. This bold action prompted a few phone calls.
One fellow from Tennessee said that he took his out and shot it in the backyard. He was probably an Elvis fan as well.
Ben later commented that he wondered if his innocent remark might have started an epidemic of bullet-riddled TVs all over the country.
When we came back from our break, I had to say that I guess the last words that you and your wife heard coming from the black box was ‘Nite, John-boy’
He said that actually Dallas was the last program that they had viewed.
I had to agree that since Bing’s girl shot JR he show was never the same.
Ben does have a valid point. His not watching TV leaves him a whole lot of free time to…read.
Millions of Americans I hope are finally coming to this realization.
Commercial television and cable are becoming a vast wasteland of subtle and not-so-subtle attacks on the American family, sexual morality, private property and organized religion.
I stopped watching commercial television years ago, especially their eye charts of news programs on NBC, CBS, ABC etc. They report nothing but the agenda of the left, virtually ignoring conservative issues and successes.
It is as if Karl Marx was running the major networks.
I think it might have started with Maude when this spin-off character from Aaron Spelling’s Archie Bunker had an abortion.
Played by the late Bea Arthur, Maude was married but in her early 40s and not happy with the idea of having a baby.
I think she only had one adult daughter on the show, so the idea of her even getting pregnant was preposterous.
After a teary and gut-wrenching drama she finally decided to terminate her pregnancy, much to the approval of the watching audience.
I think at this point, TV declared its side in the culture war and since then, it has only looked forward to the next traditional icon to attack.
With this breaching of the life and death barrier, it was not long before TV was taking sides on euthanasia and embryonic stem cell research.
Feminine flesh and cleavage had always been part of the advertisement side of TV but the actual on-screen sexual activity had usually been tame or at least subtly suggestive.
Now there is a lot more T&A and of all the people having sex on TV, none of them seemed to be married…at least to each other.
Gone were the pristine families of the Clevers, Ozzie and Harriet, Burns and Allen, and the Danny Thomas Show.
Even the combative love of Ralph and Alice Kramden in the Honeymooners ended each segment without fail with a platonic marital embrace with Ralph saying You’re the greatest!
We also watched Bishop Fulton J. Sheen’s #1 program, Life is Worth Living.
What a wonder he was for the Catholic Faith. He was even more popular than TV’s #1 star, Milton Berle, that they called him Uncle Fultie.
Another problem with TV is its tectonic shift to featuring gay characters, gay sex and a glorification of the gay life style as something more reasonable and desirable than traditional marriage.
Hundreds of TV writers are homosexual and their agenda quickly permeated much of the TV viewing.
Will and Grace, which I have never seen, is probably just the most egregious but gay characters abound. Starlets kiss each other on the mouth whenever they can get a chance so as to tell America…this is OK.
In one of her books Ann Coulter made the point that the raunchy language and behavior of the immensely popular Sex in the City was written by gay men…for other gay men.
The characters seem so unlike any women any of us have ever known because they are just the gay ideal in drag.
All this being said, I have mixed emotions about my TV.
I have been watching the box since my parents bought our first TV in 1950. The first show I ever saw was the Lone Ranger.
TV in the early days was didactic. It did teach, maybe in a sophomoric way but the virtues and lessons were easily understood.
I always wanted to be the kind of father Ward Clever was. In truth, he was a bumbler but he was always patient in listening to his boys.
I can honestly admit that I have not always yelled at my two sons and have actually invited them into my den for a few fatherly chats.
I also was able to catch an obscure TV show in 1960. It was a show, like Glenn Beck’s but without the apocalyptic Angst that permeates Beck’s show.
It was called A Way of Thinking, and it was hosted by a Dr. Albert Burke.
I vowed to become just like him.
I was enthralled by his scholarly analysis of the issues of the day–racism, the environment, and discrimination against women.
As a young married couple with small children, my wife and I watched a lot TV–especially the cop shows on the 1970s and ’80s.
There was the bald-headed cop, the old, fat, and female detective shows–they were all clean and with just a modicum of violence and most of all they were entertaining.
Now that has all changed. TV is on a secular soapbox to sell a way of living that is offensive to mainstream America.
TV is a vital part of our culture. Without it I don’t think I could talk to as many people as I do.
Like a poor man’s Burke I have really become a cultural commentator.
In 2006 while recovering from an illness and the lethargy that went with it, I spent 3-4 months watching the box sets of 24, a solid show whose main character, Jack Bauer, vacillated between world savior and a dark Machiavellian figure.
After watching four years of the frenetic activity I was a nervous wreck but my strength was fully restored.
I have just started watching a similar set of Lost, which deals with serious theological issues and moral issues.
And let’s not forget sports. I have spent countless hours watching games.
As a boy growing up in New York, they televised every home game for three different teams. I was never without a game if I wanted see my Dodgers or even the hated Yankees.
I only watched the Giants when I was truly bored.
Then there’s football. The NFL has become part of the cultural landscape.
Now there is Fox News. My wife could not exist without Fox. She has become a news and interview junkie.
I do turn off the TV for about two hours every night so I can read my 100 pages. This is my form of intellectual exercise.
So while I admire Ben’s courage, I see too much of the positive side of the medium for me to emulate him.
Like so many inventions in our world, it can be used for good or evil. I am saying that every viewer has to be very selective about what one watches.
If you spend your time watching filth and garbage, you will think filth and garbage.
My advice is to watch TV selectively. Tune out the garbage and look for programs that actually have a point. That’s the only way we can recapture our culture from the Marxist iconoclasts.
I have a candidate for the Most Memorable Character column in the Readers’ Digest. I am talking about Boris, a Russian cab driver from my local company.
He is one of the funniest and most charming drivers I have ever had.
A couple of years ago he asked us if we could recommend a girlfriend for his son who was having trouble meeting nice young women.
Every time he has driven us since then, we ask about his son.
This past summer Boris picked us up at the airport and when asked he said that yes, his son had found a steady girlfriend.
Now 28 his son was seriously dating a blonde Polish girl.
He volunteered that at first her parents were not crazy about the idea of her getting serious with a Jew but they were growing to accept him.
Boris went on to tell us about how he came to get married 30 years ago.
He said in a dialect that is a joy to the ear: one morning I wake up and say to myself–Boris you need a son! He was not married at that time but still wanted a son.
So he proceeded to go through his little black book, eliminating most of the entries because they were too fat, too ugly etc.— he finally settled on one lady who still looked pretty good.
So he called her up and said: How about I take you to movie…then we get married.
She said: Boris, I like you and we go to a movie…but I can’t marry you cause I don’t know you!
So they went to the movie and after it was over he said to her: I handsome man…I give you four days…then I call and ask you again.
So he did and after some initial hesitation, she said: OK I marry you.
Two years later their son was born.
My Russian cab driver prompted me to think of another Boris.
There is an old Russian legend that seemed apropos for Soviet Russia.
There were two men…Boris and Ivan. The only difference between them was that Boris had a cow and Ivan did not.
One day while walking in the country, a genie appeared to Ivan and offered him just one wish.
Ivan said, I want Boris’ cow to die.
Ivan’s class envy was so intense that, rather than enhance his own situation with anything the genie could give him, he drew more pleasure from having him take away his rival’s cow.
It was unfair that Boris had a cow and he didn’t.
For three generations the left has been conditioning the American people to think of fairness and equality as the hallmark civic virtues, more important than patriotism and religious faith.
Since FDR, all we have heard is that the rich and how bad these fat cats were for being wealthy.
As a result they have convinced millions of American voters it would be preferable to be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom.
This is a sick attitude that has been poisoning the minds and hearts of millions of Americans who have bought their perverse message.
The left’s idea of human equality is far different from that of the founding generation who believed that all men were made equal in the image and likeness of God.
They never meant to imply that they were equal in height, skills, intelligence and drive.
They believe that human equality has nothing to do with God and everything to do with government.
They use it effectively as a political slogan the ruling has skillfully wrapped its big government agenda in the rhetoric of the Declaration of Independence just as Lincoln had done during the Civil War.
In practice the left subscribes to the Orwellian notion all are equal but some are more equal.
An illustration involved ABC’s Charlie Gibson’s pointed question to Senator Obama during one of the primary debates with Hilary Clinton in 2008.
Gibson explained to Obama that the empirical data showed that when tax rates are low more money flows into the government coffers.
Obama did not challenge Gibson’s facts but merely said that to him it was more an issue of fairness.
Like the legendary Ivan, according to our president, there is something basically unfair about someone having something more than someone else.
In Obama’s mind he should be the arbiter of America’s wealth and poverty.
It is not above his pay grade to take it away from those that have more…like Boris and his late cow.
So even if his tax increases on those who have more wind up increasing the deficit because he has made no effort to rein in his lavish spending on union payoffs and bailouts, as long as the rich are suffering then it is OK.
Does this false logic makes sense to anyone? Is President Obama living in the real world?
Does that not validate my early post about liberals being mentally ill because they cannot live in a real world of facts and truth?
Many people would like to give the president the benefit of the doubt…that he is just inexperienced and we should be granted more time so he can learn how to change things.
Yeah and Nero just needed some more music lessons and Boris didn’t need his cow!
Today is my birthday!
I have always looked forward to celebrated the day I was born. At first it was just the presents.
Now it is something much more to me, though I still shake out cards to see if there is any money in them.
I find a birthday is and should be a celebration of the act of being alive. I am so thankful that my mother and father gave me the gift of life.
In ways it is better than New Year’s Day because for each of us it really is the beginning of a new year with all the reforms, reconciliations and new leaves embedded.
I think it fitting that I was born on a labor day.
I was born, on a Monday 67 years ago—also a Labor Day. I guess you could say I have come full circle.
My mother always told me how hard my birth was. I guess that’s what they mean by hard labor. She made it sound like she was in a Gulag or something.
But she later told me, it was her labor of love.
Personally I don’t remember a thing.
I often think of all the other important days on which I could have been.
Would you like to have a birthday on April 1st or September 11th?
How about April 20th? Or June 2nd? Then you would be sharing a special day with Adolph Hitler or Marquis de Sade.
I have only met two other people with whom I share a birthday. I think September 6th was an off day in the last 150 years. There was some lady at a dinner a few years ago.
My new dermatologist is the only other one. I saw her on Friday and wished her a Happy Birthday, and she looked me with a scary look of disbelief.
How did I know? She told me a year ago when she checked my file.
This one is her 50th and I think she is a little uneasy about it. Her staff had draped her office is black crepe paper and I’ll bet that she has already received a bunch of old lady cards.
I think she’ll be fine because after all she volunteered her age. What woman does that?
I remember fearing 50.
I decided to avoid all the Angst by throwing a surprise party for myself with printed invitation. I had 35 of them printed, even though our room at the Ritz only held 17.
I did not want gag gifts, but leather, fine wine, jewelry. I got gag gifts. I gave my extra invitations to friends who did not make the cut.
I will not repeat what they told me I could do with them.
I always check the celebrity list on my birthday, as well as my horror-scope.
Very few famous people have been born on my birthday–only Jane Curtin and JoAnne Worley.
Curtin was the recipient of Dan Aykroyd’s memorable line in a Saturday Night Live skit —Jane, you ignorant slut, and Worley was the loud-mouth comedian on Laugh-In back in the 1970s.
Somehow I am not surprised, comedians head my list because I think we were all born under the sign of the clown.
The older I get the more philosophical about what this special day means to me.
You cannot read the Old Testament without becoming aware of the providential aspects of human life.
All lives have a purpose and when we come into being in our mothers womb did not happen by accident. Even the accidents were not really accidents
The Catholic Church celebrates the date that its saints died or were martyred as their feast or one might say their eternal birthday.
For the rest of us I think it is very important to celebrate the beginning of our journey.
I think both Frank Capra and Roberto Begnigni had it right when they spoke of It’s a Wonderful Life and Like is Beautiful.
I never had a real birthday party. Oh there was cake and ice cream with my parents and my two maiden aunts but I never had a party with other children.
On my 21st birthday I was in the middle of a religious retreat in Gloucester, Massachusetts.
I spent that birthday in prayer and silence. Those are two things that I have never been very good at.
For the 22nd I was in Charleston, Missouri, with the Extension Lay Volunteers.
We had a small gathering with the other volunteers. We sat on the floor and drank wine like a real party.
I was a newlywed my next birthday and can’t remember a thing about that birthday.
By my 24th, we had our first child and from then on, family and kids were an integral part of all of my birthdays…as it should be.
As a child going to a baseball game was my special treat. For my birthday in 1954, I begged my dad to take me toa Sunday afternoon double-header with Pittsburgh.
He balked at spending six hours in the hot sun but offered me a Thursday evening game with the Giants at the Polo Grounds.
Even though the Dodgers lost to the Giants, I think it was 4-1–he always knew best–well almost always. On the 6th, a buck 90 hitter–Dick Skinner of the Pirates had a career year by hitting a couple of homers and driving in 11 runs in the twin bill. (See my comment #7)
I almost went up to him at a dinner many years later in St. Louis to berate him for ruining that birthday but I didn’t. Forgiving is easy…forgetting is the hard part.
Several years later, the Pirates had another twin-bill in St. Louis, also on my birthday.
So I took our youngest to the old ball park to make-up for what my dad had denied me, 28 years prior.
We got there an hour early and eight hours later, with the second game somewhere in the late innings, my son looked at me with sad eyes and said: Daddy, can we please go home now?
My most memorable birthday was the night Birthright Counseling of St. Louis awarded me their prestigious Hartnett Award.
This was named about Monsignor James Hartnett, who not only baptized my son Matthew but more importantly introduced me to Stan Musial. It was my biggest party ever–just me and 700 of my closest friends.
I had three tables and for some reason I was hoping that Bob Costas would be there.
My cousins and I had been out to see his home and for some inexplicable reason I had said a little prayer hoping that maybe his wife was a member and he would be there.
Well as I walked into the dinner, who should be standing there in all of his glory, but Mr. C?
Now Bob and I are not bosom buddies, but there is a mutual respect that dates back to 1973.
We chatted for a while and I realize that he hadn’t a clue that I am the honoree. And I proceeded NOT to tell him.
After my four-minute speech was over he rushed up to me and begged for my forgiveness. What a night?
I will always believe his presence at my party was a birthday gift from God.
As I get older my wife and I like to spend my birthday with our friends, Bobby and Jeannie from New York. I have known Bobby Valentino since the 1st grade, which means that next to my 64-year-old cousin, I have known him longer than anyone left alive.
We have spent the 60th, 65th and last year in their company. Good friends are without a doubt, the spice of my life.
Last year it was back to baseball. Our friend took us to Citifield in Flushing to see the Mets beat the Cubs 5-2. She got us seats at $270 a pop, in the 8th row behind home plate.
This year is going to be a little more laid back. When my wife asked me what I wanted to do this year, my first thought was that I wanted to go dip in our son’s pool…maybe play Madden 11 with Tyler, my grandson or just hang out.
I don’t know how many of these I will have left, but i can tell you, I plan to cherish each and every one of them. And on March 6, 2011, I plan to celebrate my half birthday.