Friday, June 10, 2016

Way Up High

Thank Dian Cécht It's Friday!

"What's in the cauldron? Trust me, you don't want to know..."

Intellectual Nourishment

A key part of my intellectual and political development took place on Sunday afternoons for many years, as I watched my hero William F. Buckley, Jr.'s Emmy Award-winning interview and debate program Firing Line on the PBS station in Kansas City.

Unlike the vacuous shout-fests that pass for discussion and debate on TV these days, Buckley's program prided itself on giving guests' viewpoints a fair hearing. These were genuine debates, but ones conducted with civility and humor. There was nothing else like it on TV then, and there certainly isn't anything remotely like it available nowadays, which is a genuine pity. Without reasoned debate on timely issues, our country has embraced the worst kinds of frauds and charlatans.

One of my favorite Buckley books is On the Firing Line, a collection of transcripts from some of Buckley's favorite Firing Line episodes. My mom gave it to me as a Christmas gift in 1989.

Yesterday, the esteemed Hoover Institution hosted a 50th Anniversary Celebration of the landmark public affairs program at its Washington, D.C. campus.

Requiescat in Pace

"Helmet? Why would I need a helmet?"
While I was still writing today's entry the news broke that hockey legend Gordie Howe had died at age 88.

Howe was a legendary player when I first started paying attention to pro hockey in the mid '60s, and he ended his career with the Detroit Red Wings in 1971, the year
I graduated from high school.

Since Howe played against my favorite teams and players (Chicago Black Hawks and Toronto Maple Leafs), he was never
a favorite of mine, but I was certainly aware of his greatness as a player (he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame almost immediately after his retirement).

Among other things, Howe was renowned for his toughness. The famous "Gordie Howe Hat Trick" was scoring a goal, an assist, and getting into a fight all in the same game.

"They used to play pro hockey without helmets? For real?"

Yup...and a lot of the goalies didn't wear masks in those days, either...

Wartime Baseball

Joe's 1967 Topps card
During World War II, hundreds of major league baseball players joined the armed forces, including stars like Ted Williams, Bob Feller, and Joe DiMaggio. Because it was thought to be important for national morale, big league baseball continued through the war, using both very young and very old players to make up teams' rosters.

On June 10, 1944 left-handed pitcher Joe Nuxhall became the youngest player ever to appear in a major league baseball game. He was inserted into the 9th inning of a game the Reds were losing 13-0, and in two thirds of an inning he walked five batters, surrendered two hits, and gave up five earned runs for an ERA of 67.50.

Fortunately, Joe's story has a happier ending than that. He returned to the major leagues at age 23, and pitched 15 seasons in The Show, almost all of them with the Reds. He finished 135-117, 3.90 ERA, and had a .500 or better win-loss record in ten of those seasons. He also threw 83 complete games and 20 shutouts. He finished his career with the Reds in 1966, at the age of 37.

In those days, players who retired just before or during spring training often had a baseball card issued for the upcoming season even though they wouldn't play. These cards were somewhat popular with collectors because they would therefore have the player's entire career stats on them. Joe's final card is shown above.

"I'm guessing you didn't get real excited if you found his card in a pack."

Not really, no...but it wasn't Joe's fault...I was just more of an American League guy...

At Least She Didn't Try to Have You Arrested

From the Jeff MacNelly-created comic strip Shoe, now being produced by Gary Brookins and Jeff's widow Susie, which you should read often, as I do.

Until Next Time...

On June 10, 1922 Frances Ethel Gumm was born in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Her family moved to California when she was four, and by age six she was performing with her sisters on the vaudeville circuit.

At age 13, now performing under the stage name Judy Garland, she signed a movie contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and began a film career that would include two Academy Award nominations. She also enjoyed a Grammy Award-winning career as a singer (she was the first woman to win the Album of the Year award), and starred in an Emmy-nominated TV variety show.

Original 1939 "one sheet" poster
Judy's most iconic role, of course, was as Dorothy Gale in Victor Fleming's famous film version of The Wizard of Oz. Like many an adolescent boy, I had a huge crush on her after seeing the film for the first time.

In an early scene in the film (still in black-and-white), Judy's character sings one of the most famous songs in movie history, "Over the Rainbow."

Written specifically for the film by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg, "Over the Rainbow" won the Academy Award for
Best Original Song, and became Garland's signature song for the rest of her career.

Knowing what I know about the way Judy's life turned out (she died of a drug overdose at 47), hearing her sing this melancholy ballad never fails to bring me to tears.

Today's send-off is her performance of the song from the film. Positively magical. Enjoy...

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