I tell jokes!
That’s how it all started.
I was at a parish dinner many years ago. Before the meal was served a friend named Geoffrey was holding court and I thought I heard him say, I tell jokes.
Well, I literally laughed out loud..because as smart and as well-educated, my fellow Ph.D. is, humor is not his forte.
What he had actually said was something about Issac Joques, the French Jesuit who was martyred in the 17th century while working with the Huron Indians in Canada.
This was not the first time that I had heard something funny that was really just something else.
The sad truth was that my hearing was diminishing and I was the last one to notice it.
I used to joke that my sense of humor was just based on bad hearing.
After years of resisting my wife’s concerns, I went to the Central Institute for the Deaf.
Their hearing tests are scary
As I sat in my isolation booth, they would beep all sorts of sounds and then read a long list of unrelated words that I had to repeat.
It was very stressful, attempting to predict or even guess when the sounds would occur.
After a while, I just didn’t give a beep.
I hate tests I can’t study for. I even study for blood tests avoiding things that may elevate my blood sugar or my PSA.
But this was hard. The more times I have taken their test, the worse my scores were.
My chart looked like the stock market in March of 2009.
I have had two brain scans–they found nothing!
I saw an ear specialist, who told me that some my right ear had suffered a trauma to it.
I told him that it was my wife’s ear since when we drive she is always on my right.
The actual words he used were that my right ear had suffered an insult to it.
I quipped that well I did talk radio for over 22 years and people usually insulted me in BOTH of my ears.
I did have a lot of ear infections when I was young. My dad called a fellow physician to lance my ear in my own bed when I was about seven.
In 1979 I can remember some moron yelling in my ear at a Phillies game.
Then there was a Melissa Manchester concert at the Fox Theater many years ago. We had seats dangerously close to what looked like 75’ speakers.
But other than that I don’t know what happened to my hearing.
I have had about three hearing aids.
I had a lot of trouble with the first two–I have a great deal of ear wax–I know–you don’t need to know that but, the wax got wedged into the hearing aids constantly.
Like linoleum, my aids suffered from wax build-up.
You don’t know what it feels like to experience a tiny piece of technology being choked to death by a wax invasion.
The one that I have now is silver, sleek, and fits over my left ear. It looks like a phone.
They can’t do anything for the wife’s ear.
When I am not wearing my aid, I literally have to get in someone’s face to hear them or twist my head or sometimes even my entire body around to continue a conversation.
They told me at CID that I had Titanic Hearing Loss. (I made that up).
I had serious difficulty with the high pitches of women and children.
The worst part of it is the tinnitus.
I didn’t know what that was years ago but it’s the constant noise in both ears that comes from nerve damage to the ear. I have it in both ears.
It is not actually a ringing—a phone that no one will answer but it is more like static—white noise–but has nothing to do with frequency domain signals–or what ever that means.
I am not complaining about this.
Of all the afflictions a person could have, this is one of the easiest and for me a very light and small cross for me to carry.
Just as the poet John Milton lamented about his lost vision in his Sonnet #XIX:
When I consider how my light is spent,
I am considering how my sound has been spent.
I doubt that I will ever be totally deaf but the very fact that one of my natural functions is in a serious state of decline does give me pause for reflection if not concern, just as Milton’s failing eyesight did a few hundred years ago.
Sometimes a person who can’t hear is considered to be retarded or dumb. I have to admit that I often have a blank look on my face when I don’t understand what someone has said.
In baseball history there have a been a small number of deaf players.
Most of them were immediately baptized as dummy.
The most famous was William Ellsworth Hoy.
He was a center fielder who played for several teams from 1888 to 1902, most notably the Cincinnati Reds and two franchises in Washington, D. C.
Hoy became the third deaf player in the major leagues, after pitcher Ed Dundon and Tom Lynch.
Short at only 5’4” and deaf, surprisingly Hoy wore the name dummy with pride and some distinction.
In his rookie year Hoy led the league in stolen bases.
In fact Hoy often corrected individuals who addressed him as William, and referred to himself as dummmy.
Said to have been able to speak with a voice that resembled a squeak, he was actually one of the most intelligent players of his time, and in some circles is credited with developing the hand signals used by umpires to this day, though this view is widely disputed.
For the record umpire Cy Rigler is believed to have created signals for balls and strikes while working in the minor leagues (although, in the November 6, 1886 issue of The Sporting News the deaf pitcher Ed Dundon is credited as using hand signals while umpiring a game in Mobile Alabama on October 20 of that year).
Legendary umpire Bill Klem claimed the distinction of introducing those signals to the major leagues.
No articles printed during Hoy’s lifetime have been found to support the suggestion that he influenced the creation of signals, nor did he ever maintain that he had such a role.
In addition, if Hoy could read the lips of an umpire only a few feet away, it is unlikely that he would have needed a manual signal as well.
Nonetheless, due to the possibility that he may have played a role in the use of signals, as well as for his all-around play, there is a movement to support his election to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
Hoy lived to be 99 and was beloved by all his teammates.
He taught them how to communicate in sign language—very useful on the field.
When he made a spectacular play, fans stood in the bleachers and wildly waved their arms and hats—an early form of deaf applause.
A more interesting case is that of Pete Browning.
Browning was tormented for his entire life by mastoiditis, a serious infection of the inner ear usually contracted during childhood, which can result in deafness, vertigo, facial palsy, and brain damage.
Because of his condition, Browning lost his hearing at a young age.
His deafness caused him to drop out of school at an early age, so that he went through life as a virtual illiterate.
To alleviate his constant pain, Browning began drinking heavily.
He often appeared on the field while drunk, and was suspended many times.
Evidently he was an incurable alcoholic, who lived by his motto, I can’t hit the ball until I hit the bottle.
When he did play he was a liability in the field.
They tried him at 1st base but opposing players blind-sided him every time he tried to field the ball.
(Maybe they deaf-sided him.)
So he started a unique defensive positioning of facing the runners to the extent that he could not see the ball hit in his direction.
He was apparently much worse in the outfield where maybe the alcohol played more a role than his deafness. He is one of the few major league players to have less than a .900 fielding percentage.
Unknown to most fans, Browning is one of the leading hitters in major league history.
His .341 lifetime batting average ranks 11th on the all-time list. He is the 4th leading right-handed hitter in baseball history and yet he is not in the Hall of Fame.
Browning played most of his 12-year career in Louisville from 1882-1894, earning the name the Louisville Slugger.
He was enormously attentive to the bats he used, and was the first player to have them custom-made, establishing a practice among hitters which continues to the present.
I can sympathize with these athletes. I have been involved in communications of one kind or another my whole life and to lose or have a necessary skill deteriorate before my very ears is disheartening.
It is such a loud world we live in.
But I am thankful I can hear what I can hear.
I relish all the melodious sounds of real music, female voices, especially that of my long-suffering wife, a potent argument and just the magic coming from the people who still love me, dumb or not.
Maybe one morning I will just wake up and the music will have completely stopped playing.
And as long as I can still talk I’ll be OK.
As they say, Hear today…gone to Maui.
It was in grade school that I first learned of the expression about schools teaching the three R’s, which were then reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic.
I wasn’t witty enough to realize that perhaps these educators should have spent more time on spelling.
Today I think the three R’s that should concern, not just school children but all Americans.
My new three R’s are rights, responsibilities and religion.
Of the three only the first one seems to get any mention in any sort of public venue.
We hear so much about a person’s right to do just about anything under the sun.
I am talking about the right to choose, which is a code phrase for the legal authority to kill one’s own flesh and blood.
Then there are the new rights to a job, health care and so on.
The rights business has been great for the legal profession.
It seems that our political, social and even religious leaders are always finding a new right for the government to underwrite and protect from its abusers.
There seems to even be a right not to be offended.
Some individuals and even groups find any mention of God or patriotic symbols, such as an American flag are an affront to their sensibilities.
I believe there must be an Orwellian Ministry of Rights, buried somewhere within the bowels of the federal government that spends all its time, money and energy in conjuring new limitations on human freedom.
I say limitations because these are not really rights per se but government privileges that begin with their power over their subjects and end there as well.
I say that anytime that a new right is born, in the zero sum game of life, it impinges the freedom of another.
This is true of the basic rights in our constitution, such as the freedom of press, religion and speech, everyone knows that these rights are not absolute.
As any high school history textbook will teach, my right to freedom stops at where your nose begins.
No one has the right to shout fire in a crowded theater.
Religions that involve human sacrifice, the degradation of women and the abuse of self or child are overruled by not only man’s law, but also more importantly, God’s divine law.
Unfortunately millions of Americans have become addicted to the largesse of their neighbor’s goods, as a form of entitlement.
This is a form of lower case greed that you never hear the churches preaching against.
I guess the new mantra that trumps Gordon Gekko is that Greed is only good if someone else has more than you do.
The unwritten word in these examples is the second R, that is responsibility.
Responsibility is like the flip side of a hit record.
When I was a teen, recording companies produced a hit on one side with an often obscure recording by the same artist on the backside.
With the exception of Elvis records, no one would ever play the backside and it was virtually relegated to oblivion.
Every real right has a concomitant responsibility with it.
We all have the right to life…except our unborn, the most endangered species in our society.
But even that right is not absolute.
My college ethics book listed three exceptions to the commandment Thou Shalt Not Kill.
Self-defense is perfectly acceptable when one’s life is endangered.
This self-defense principle is behind the logic of capital punishment and a just war.
Now the latter two are debatable and not written in stone.
The one kind of life that is totally protected by the First Amendment is the innocent’s right to life.
Innocent life represents the pure image and likeness of God and must be respected as such.
With regard to the right to food, shelter, a job and health care, the responsibility for all these relies primarily on each individual.
Parents and those with dependents also have the primary responsibility of those in their care.
These so-called rights while all subset of the right to life should never be the responsibility of the federal government–the so-called Nanny State.
If individuals are unable, through no fault of their own to provide these basic necessities of life, than they are subjects for charitable institutions.
If someone is destitute or just down on his luck because of accidental occurrences, his welfare can be incumbent on private groups or citizens to tend to his needs.
But for the federal government to assume this as part of its mission in life is wrong.
I say this because all government handouts have strings…long strings that can tether a person to them for the rest of his life.
This is a certain forward step toward a life of tyranny.
The third R is religion.
Now most people say that religion doesn’t belong in anything to do with rights…unless it is civil rights and priests and ministers are solicited to march in the forefront of civil rights protests all over the country.
But when it comes to abortion, euthanasia of embryonic stem cell research, they are reminded of the extra-constitution threat of the separation of church and state which effectively moves many to the sidelines for fear of losing their tax-exempt status.
Many religious groups erroneously believe health care is a right, and expensive right that someone else should pay for.
Now religious leaders have every right, even a sacred duty to urge us from their pulpits to help the poor, give to the needy and the like.
But they have no right to support a government confiscation of personal wealth and redistribute to others without any form of accountability.
This is breach of the 7th Commandment —Thou Shalt Not Steal (For Catholics) and an abuse of their preaching powers.
What about the president’s continual use of the class envy card that has contributed a virtual class war betwen the various segments of the population?
It is this very participation with big government that has caused these religious leaders to lose sight of their real mission on earth and become nothing more than loud carnival barkers for a secular government that would just as likely relegate all religious fervor to the ash heap of history.
Just as teachers today seem to have ignored the original three R’s, our religious and political leaders have virtually ignored or confused the true meaning of the new three R’s.
It is time that their proper relationship be restored so America can stay on its proper course.
While I was growing up, I remember reading about da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and how enigmatic her smile was.
I have been to the Louvre and I got as close to her portrait as I could and quite frankly her smile does not do very much for me.
Really other than her mysterious smile, what is the big deal?
First of all she is not that pretty and I think the surmises from art aficionados about what she was thinking says to me that they had too much time on their hands.
No sport inspires true art more than baseball.
Baseball has long been considered a sport for American scribes and poets, and the list of writers who have written on baseball reads like an American literary Who’s Who.
Luminaries, such as Ring Lardner, Damon Runyan, William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, Donald Hall, Philip Roth, and Don DeLillo had a deep affection and love of the game that energized their work.
Less well-known, however, is the love affair between visual artists and baseball.
American illustrator Norman Rockwell is probably the most famous baseball-loving American artist.
His fascination for the game of baseball, like his own work, is wrought with imagination, honesty and the uncanny sense of baseball players and fans to relate to a game in such an endearing and special way.
Rockwell loved combining his love for baseball with his artistic style.
He went on to paint 13 covers on baseball, out of the over 300 covers he published for the Saturday Evening Post.
I find that a popular American portraitist, Norman Rockwell prompted more thought in his renditions than two DaVincis.
I find my opinion especially true when it comes to his work with baseball subjects.
As an old Brooklyn Dodger fan from the 1950s, I was extremely interested in his painting of The Three Umpires, sometimes called The Bottom of the Sixth.
I had a print of it hanging in the den of my first home many years ago.
My knowledge of the game told me that I had found a flaw, not in his strokes but in the logic of his baseball knowledge.
If you look very closely you will see three umpires.
The lead umpire, with his hand out, is the legendary Beans Reardon, Identifiable by his outside chest protector—the rival American league did it that way, while Reardon’s National League preferred the inside chest protector.
Reardon is flanked by Larry Goetz and Lou Jorda.
Logic tells me that it is just starting to rain, as does the fact that the Pirate players are standing in the field, waiting to see what the umpires decide.
My focus is on the coaches.
The painting’s details are readily available.
The elderly Pirate is Billy Meyer.
He seems upset or distressed by the joyous enthusiasm of the Dodger coach, Clyde Sukeforth, the man who would later be fired for telling manager Charley Dressen that Ralph Branca was ready.
The game was apparently played in 1948. One can make out the outfielders in the background.
They are Johnny Hopp, Dixie Walker and Ralph Kiner.
The actual score 1-0 in favor of the visitors, is probably apocryphal since I could not find anything close to the score.
The Dodgers did play seven shorten games but none that I could find with Pittsburgh.
The Dodgers only won five of the 11 games played in Brooklyn–none came close to this circumstance.
If the rain had just starting, why is the Dodger coach smiling?
It is an official game and if the top half of the inning is rained out, Brooklyn still loses.
Most explanations I have seen miss this point.
I have seen the original in Cooperstown.
A small note underneath the portrait, which is surprisingly small, says that the Dodger coach saw a break in the clouds and he was optimistic that the game would continue.
Balderdash, I say!
There is no indication from anyone else that this is the case.
I can only surmise that Sukeforth was exhibiting a Panglossian glee that had little bearing on the reality of their situation.
There are at least two other cases of an enigmatic interpretation of baseball art.
Recently a friend, Andy Rochman sent me a copy of a 1954 Saturday Evening Post cover that pictured Stan the Man Musial.
I had originally assumed that the artist was Norman Rockwell.
An e-mail suggestion and a little research uncovered that actually it was painted by a Nebraska artist, John Falter.
In Falter’s portrait, Stan was signing a baseball with his right hand.
Now every baseball fan knows the man was a lefty all the way. Falter must have gotten it wrong is the first reaction.
I have written about Stan and his free autographed baseballs after Mass but the one he gave me had already been signed.
I have gotten him to autograph at least a dozen pictures but I do not remember, which hand he used.
I have been present when he autographed other items and I never looked.
In attempting to solve this mystery, I surmised that the nuns in Stan’s grade school probably forced him to write with his right hand.
Some research showed that Musial did attend the Polish school at his St. Mary’s Church in Donora but had gone mainly to public schools through his 12 years of formal education.
So quite possible his signing with his right-hand was started by Polish nuns…or maybe not.
My wife is a natural lefty and the nuns tried to do that to her but her inner spirit rebelled and it didn’t take.
Funny thing–when she played soft ball, she hit right-handed…because her dad was a righty and didn’t know how to teach her any other way.
Well the mystery was solved when someone sent Rochman a photo of Stan in the act of signing…with his right hand.
The sender also affirmed my guess from an interview he had read about Stan years ago.
There is another apparent mystery out there of a similar nature.
Many years ago I bought a very large print of a SEP cover with Brooks Robinson, signed by both Robinson and Rock….well…not man.
Robinson was signing a baseball with his…left hand.
Everyone one knows Brooks Robinson, arguably the best 3rd baseman that ever took a ground ball was a righty all the way.
Whoa, didn’t Rockwell know anything about baseball?
The dealer told me that he had asked him that and Robinson told him that he only did three things with his left-hand–he wrote, ate and I can only guess what the third thing was.
Had had these baseball artists deliberately sought out subjects that would create an aura of doubt?
Was he attempting to ensure that people would be talking about their art for years to come?
My educated guess is that they painted popular subjects who interested him without knowing that they had a peculiarity only the swiftest of baseball fans would leap upon.
As for the Brooklyn episode I think Rockwell’s art trumped his knowledge of the logic of the game.
Had he made the top half of the inning a big score for Pittsburgh then it would have made perfect sense and even have included a little bit of artistic drama.
The way he did it was at best ambiguous–like Mona Lisa I guess and at worst WRONG.
Was Lisa del Giocondo, da Vinci’s model with child or telling herself a silly joke?
Like I care!
I guess that deep in the heart of every artist’s soul, there lurks a desire to have a Mona Lisa moment, even those who paint baseball.
In the first leg, The Girl With Dragon Tattoo, of the late Stieg Larsson’s trilogy, the main character Lisbeth Salander wore a tee-shirt that said, Armageddon was yesterday…today we have a serious problem.
I thought it would be a perfect quote for the 2010 election.
I had lived the last few months in severe trepidation. I knew that the future of our country and even that of my family could hang in the balance.
While I am not certain last night was an Armageddon but it certainly did shake the rafters of the Democratic Party.
To me the important part of the saying is the second part. The ball is now in the Republicans’ court and they better do something more than dribble all over the place.
Also they should NOT take the results as a vindication of their past policies.
Obama’s mantra of the past few years, the failed policies of the past rang true—to the degree that they were almost indistinguishable from those that he was offering.
Bush’s tax cuts were not the problem.
In fact along with Alito and Roberts, they were the highlights of his eight years in office.
No, Bush and some many of his neo-con advisers had adopted the big-spending policies of the left in order to curry favor with the voters.
Whose voters I ask?
Certainly not people like me?
Their past history should have told them that a me-too kind of approach to big government and profligate spending would only insure a ballot box rejection.
Bush’s Republicans had forgotten their base and it took a new movement, the Spirit of ‘76 from the Tea Party goers to rejuvenate their base.
While there were disappointments in Nevada, Delaware and maybe Alaska, the basic ideas of the Tea Party people won and won big.
The Tea Party movement was unlike any that I can remember in political history.
It provided the human juice and energy that pulsated through the veins of the electorate last night.
Unlike most other third party movements, their leaders attempted to work within the framework of the two-party systems.
Had they not done so, the results of last night would have been remarkably different.
That idea reminded me of the former Tax Payer Party, now the Constitution Party.
I was a delegate to their national convention in St. Louis in 1999.
Howard Philips and my friend Joseph Sobran were the original candidates that year–I think Joe dropped out after just a few weeks.
He was more an intellect than a politician.
What disturbed me was how that they seemed more hostile toward regular Republicans than they were toward Democrats.
Even Sobran’s post-election columns centered more on the inadequacies of President Bush.
I thought that a foolish thing to do, since the Democratic agenda was driving us over a cultural and economic cliff at warp speeds.
What I didn’t realize was that they planned to destroy the Republican Party and resurrect a new party out of the ashes.
They was a dumb idea and was doomed to failure.
The 2010 Tea Partiers got it right.
My big personal disappointment was that Ed Martin, a fellow Holy Cross alumnus did not enjoy a resounding victory at the end of the evening. It seems that suddenly his narrow margin turned into a surprising 4,500 vote lead for Russ Carnahan.
Now Ed is investigating some possible examples of voter fraud that may hold up the process.
This would not surprise me in a close election.
Strange things may have happened in Nevada where Harry Reid surprised everybody with his relentless victory.
With regards to fraudulent elections, I do not accept the idea of both sides do it.
Republicans may occasionally try to beat the system, but with Democrats, it is an intricate part of their game plan.
The medieval atheists Machiavelli is one of the party’s patron saints.
Like Democrats, winning was the only thing and the means were always justified.
By for now I look forward to the next election.
By 2012 the Tea Party advocates will own the Republican Party and if they are really good it will be a party of the basic American virtues as smaller government, lower taxes, respect abroad, and secure borders.
Hopefully they will retire all the Quislings who lined up with Republicans while wearing the uniform of the opposing side–I am talking about the likes of Lisa Murkowski, and Charlie Crist and even vestigial Republicans like Trent Lott and Lindsey Graham.
I also heard Rush mention a former Nevada Republican State Chairman, who endorsed Reid over Sharron Angle. His name is Frank Fahrenkopf and he is head of one of the gaming unions. It’s that kind of good old boy network than rings the death knell for the Republican Party.
I also fear that some of these Republicans will fall victim to the promises of the president who offers the olive branch of not surrender but compromise… that is what the farmer does with the turkey until Thanksgiving.
No the Republicans need to be decisive, strong and fully determined to take the heat, not what Newt Gingrich did back in 1995.
My wife was upset with me when the probable Republican future Speaker of the House, John Boehner broke down in tears.
I was embarrassed for him and the party.
Tears were the last thing that the American people needed to see from the third most important person in our government.
Boehner has to stifle his emotions, bite his lip and lead like a man, not a sensitive Beta kind of guy.
After two years of Obama, American politics has little need of the Alan Alda type of sensitive male. Mr. Boehner should have known better.
I am watching him as are millions and millions of American voters who are looking ahead to 2012 to complete the surge that left a few Democrats standing after all was said and done last night.
If they turn their back on the Tea Party spirit, they will go the way of their predecessors, the Federalists and the Whigs.