CSotD: Good guy, Bad guys

I’m going to let Bill Bramhall’s tribute stand for all the Willie Mays cartoons, most of which took advantage of “The Catch” but too many of which cluttered it up, particularly with Pearly Gates cliches.

Bramhall keeps it simple, though I have to chuckle over him giving Mays a blue hat rather than a black one, because Bramhall, after all, is in NYC, where Mays played the tail end of his career with a team called the Metropolitans.

Bramhall and I, however, are the same age and I remember all the hoopla when the NY Giants left for the other coast.

I’d like to think you don’t have to be 74 years old to remember Mays, and, in particular, to care about the actual game instead of the actuarial game. PBS had a particularly nice tribute to Mays, in which Howard Bryant spoke of the excitement he generated:

I think it’s an interesting contrast to baseball today, where the game is essentially sold by math and science and numbers and launch angle and exit velocity and statistics. And William Mays was joy. He was electricity. He was emotion.

I used to enjoy baseball until I was trapped in a newsroom with an active fantasy league, in which people who seemed to honestly think they owned MLB teams exchanged stats about “their” players, but never said, “Wasn’t that a great catch?”

And they would root against the home team — Giants or Mets — if the outcome advanced their imaginary lineup.

MLB admitted this past month that the Negro League was more than a footnote, which inspired Jeff Danziger to sum up the current status of the game.

These days, even trash-talking requires a calculator and a spread-sheet. “Kill the ump!” has become “Reprogram the computer!”

Mays was already in the main room at the Hall of Fame, and, according to this analysis, they won’t have to do a major update on his plaque after all, because he wasn’t in the Negro League very long and the League didn’t keep exhaustive stats anyway.

Perhaps they preferred playing baseball. IMHO, the fact that Cool Papa Bell and Josh Gibson were facing Satch at his best skews their stats beyond meaningful comparison anyway.

Tank McNamara (AMS) also featured a series on the “redemption” of the Negro Leagues. The Baseball Hall of Fame at one point added a separate-but-equal section for the League, but it’s been a very long time since I’ve been there and I’d like to think they had improved their approach.

Mind you, the glitzification of the Hall of Fame is a different Grumpy Old Man issue. I liked it better when it was like a library and you had to know who Zack Wheat was in order to know why his glove was in a display case there.

Anyway, Tank ended the week with a pair of old timers getting it right.

In Less Charming News

While MLB was papering over a shameful legacy of intolerance, others are ramping up their own brand of separatism. Ann Telnaes notes Louisiana’s new law mandating that the 10 Commandments be displayed in every public classroom.

The law doesn’t specify which 10 commandments are required, and people may not know that the Jewish, Protestant and Catholic versions vary, but they do, and here’s a summary of that, with this helpful graphic:

It should be noted that Islam, in which Moses is revered, also has a separate vision of the 10 Commandments, which you can read here.

But given that the same rightwingers who want to groom young Protestants in our public schools are also planning to ban Muslim immigration if Trump wins in November, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for them to mandate that the Qu’ran’s take also be publicly posted.

Nor would I expect people who fear that George Soros is living under their bed to want his version of the Commandments taught.

Still, they say it’s an issue of history and heritage, not an attempt to teach religion, and there I am in full agreement: It’s very much a part of our historic heritage.

Like the torching of a convent by an anti-Catholic mob at the start of the Know-Nothing movement, and the circulating of Maria Monk’s “Awful Disclosures” with its false, sexualized tales of convent life.

In the years after the Civil War, Catholics began protesting the teaching of Protestant theology in public schools, calling for elimination of the King James Bible as a text. Thomas Nast summed it up by having the evil priest tell the little Irish monkey-children to “Kick it out peaceably!” as they waved terrorist flags and clutched their rosaries.

One of the traditional defenses of Nast’s anti-Catholic bigotry is to show his positive depictions of other minorities, and here we see little Black and Chinese kids joining with their White classmates to slam the door on the “Gaunt and Hungry” Catholic, Democratic wolf who threatens the “non-sectarian” public schools.

I went to Catholic school for kindergarten and first grade, and at the time, I thought the words “public” and “Protestant” were synonyms.

I wasn’t far off, though in 1962, the Supreme Court ruled against formal prayer in public schools.

That was then, this is now: The Court has since declared that standing in the middle of a football field surrounded by students and parents and leading them in prayer is entirely a private and personal matter that is in no way school-led or coercive.

So we’ll see how the current crop of SCOTUS judges views Louisiana’s testimony to its proud history.

Meanwhile, a work-around has been found:

When Brown v the Board began to end segregated schools, there was a rush to establish private academies that just happened, by golly, to be all-white. However, they were privately funded and so outside the laws on racial preference.

No more. As Kevin Necessary points out, several states now have voucher programs to funnel money allocated for public schools to instead offset tuition at private schools. Theoretically, this helps low-income families choose to send their kids to such institutions.

Theoretically. But study after study has shown that most voucher funds award money from public schools to families that were already sending their kids to private schools.

At least the children are being carefully taught.

Thomas Nast would be pleased!

10 thoughts on “CSotD: Good guy, Bad guys

  1. My only exposure to the catch was from the Topps card and other photos, but now that I’ve seen the actual kinescope, it’s a lot like the recent RNC “cheap-fakes”; seeing his actions before he turned his back changes the story completely. He looked back to see where the ball was going and headed to where it was going to land rather than instinctively judging where to head as the ball left the bat, the story I’ve heard for the past 60 years. I believe I’ve seen present-day fielders duplicate his feat dozens of times. It doesn’t diminish the man–he’s Willie Mays, no matter what–but the feat wasn’t unique–not quite mythic, but essentially more legendary than an objective report of what happened.

    That comparison of the three versions of the Ten Commandments, strikes me as from some parallel Earth. In the Catholic church I grew up in, besides the small alterations of the first (“I am the Lord, thy God, thou shalt not have any false gods before me”) every commandment except #3 and 4 began with “Thou shalt…” and they all used “thy” instead of “your.” Somehow, for me, these modernized versions sound less like the Ten Commandments than the Ten Suggestions.

    1. Not one-of-a-kind, but The Catch is still mythic. It’s like saying there were more than a few World Series winninng home runs. Yet none of them will ever touch Bill Mazeroski’s dinger in the 9th inning of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series.

      Which I got home from grade school (Johnstown, PA) just in time to see him hit it on the television. Greatest moment of my childhood, all thanks to dad having the foresight to put the portable television on the patio. If I’d have had to go into the house to the living room to see it on the console, I’d have missed it. Of course I lived and died for the Pirates back then. Still do.

      1. Then I’m sorry for your dying for the past 4+ decades, the longest Pirates WS drought. I was too young to care about 1960 (unfortunately) but became a fan a few years later with The Great One being my idol.

  2. As you indicated, that Jeff Danziger comic about Hank Aaron overtaking Barry Bonds is wrong on two counts.

    First, by the time Hank Aaron played for the Negro League, its days as a truly competitive league — one that would be on a par with the Major Leagues — were over. By that time, the Negro League was little more than a barnstorming league and for that reason, MLB didn’t transfer stats of that era of the Negro League over to its own stats. So none of Hank Aaron’s stats were added to his MLB stats.

    Second, Hank Aaron only hit. 5 home runs during his three months playing in the Negro League. If those 5 home runs were added to the 755 home runs he had while playing in the Major Leagues, he’d have only 760 home runs, 2 home runs fewer than are credited to Barry Bonds. So either way, Hank Aaron would not overtake Barry Bonds for the most home runs.

    1. Except that I took Danziger’s point to be that baseball fans would rather squabble over numbers than watch the game. So he’s not wrong. He’s nailed it completely. Which is why I quit watching.

      1. Well, baseball has got to be the most boring sport ever conceived aside from golf.
        It may be fun to actually play,and from a technical standpoint, but it sure isn’t fun to watch for hours on end where the players just stand around and nothing happens.

  3. Bill Bramhall’s tribute to Mays is the finest “pearly gates” cartoon I’ve ever seen. And probably will ever see.

    And, as someone who’s as old as you, give or take a couple of months, Willie Mays is not just a past legend, but a real player who I followed evertime the Giants were in Pittsburgh, and I’m listening to the games on KDKA radio. The last, great, ballplayer of my life is finally gone.

    As a sort-of Giants fan (my home team and love of my life is the Richmond Flying Squirrels, the Giants AA team) I’ve been enjoying catching the stuff coming out of the clubhouse.

  4. This commentary fits well with the book I am currently reading and highly recommend: Illiberal America: A History by Steven Hahn.

  5. As to Jewish vs. Catholic vs. Protestant . . . . . you’re oversimplifying.

    I was raised Byzantine Catholic, grew up with the liturgy being done in Slovak, switching over to English a year before Vatican II’s changes were implemented in the Latin Church. And a complete cultural difference. In answer to the inevitable “What’s a Byzantine Catholic?”, my decently accurate one sentence answer was always, “We’re Russian Orthodox but we’re under the Pope and Rome, and our priest haven’t been allowed to marry since at least WWII.”

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