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Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year

I'm writing this from my phone, while watching Gangnam Style on  New Years Rockin' Eve or whatever it's called these days. This television experience is not one I've chosen myself--I want to make that clear.

I just want to wish everyone out there a Happy New Year.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Major League Baseball segregation in 1961

I'm taking a break from politics to switch gears entirely, (though it could be argued that this post is somewhat political).

First a little background. In 1988-1989, when I was a junior at Michigan State, I took a particular interest in the 1961 Detroit Tigers baseball team. The '61 Tigers were quite possibly the greatest 2nd place team in baseball history, winning 101 games but still finishing 8 games behind the pennant winning New York Yankees. '61 was also the first year that the Tigers had prominent black players who made significant contributions to the team. The Tigers were, unfortunately, tardy to the integration of baseball.

Almost every evening from autumn 1988 through almost all of 1989, I spent a minimum amount of time on my school work and trudged over to the MSU Library to study microfilm. I took voluminous notes on the '61 team, from infomation gleaned mainly from microfilmed back issues of the Detroit Free Press and a few other newspapers. I have over 1000 pages of notes, in four spiral bound notebooks, that I have yet to do anything with. For years, I've intended on writing either a book or article, but neither have ever gotten off the ground. So the notebooks sit in a drawer in my basement.

Well, tonight I brought them upstairs with the intention of finally doing something with them. The very first page I looked at was an article about baseball segregation taken from the African-American newspaper, the Michigan Chronicle. In my research, I found that the black press provided the most illuminating commentary and reported stories that mainstream (i.e. white) journalists wouldn't have touched. This article is about spring training segregation in Florida, which was still very much alive and well fourteen years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier.

Although this story doesn't have anything to do specifically with the '61 Tigers, it is a fascinating look at the world of spring training segregation during that time period. I will present it verbatim from my notes. Along the way, I'll illustrate this article with photographs and images I find from the web:

"Report Tan Players In Bias Feud"
(Michigan Chronicle, Saturday, February 4, 1961; section two, page one, column two)

The New York Post reprinted a story in the Chicago American written by Wendell Smith. Smith wrote that black ballplayers resent not being allowed to stay in the same hotels with their teammates and not being able to eat in the same restaurants.

"The Negroes are accepted as first-class citizens in the north during the regular season but not in the south during training," Smith reported.

Minnie Minoso said segregation in spring training is well known to those who visit the camps.

"I don't know anything about any move to stop it," said Minoso as he dined at the Gotham Hotel. [The Gotham Hotel was a Detroit establishment that catered to the African-American community].

Gotham Hotel, Detroit, MI

Minnie Minoso

Larry Doby, former Cleveland outfielder, said, "Now is the time to make a move; organize; get someone to talk to the people in baseball. No one guy can do it alone, not even a Willie Mays or an Ernie Banks. We've got to do it together."

Doby cited one example of Jim Crow in Florida, "It was in Savannah. We couldn't get into a restaurant so we had someone go into a delicatessen to buy roast beef and bread. We ate it as we walked up the street."

Larry Doby

Smith quoted one black player as saying, "We think we should enjoy equality the year round and intend to get it. We are tired of staying in the flop houses and eating in second-rate restaurants during spring training.

"If we are good enough to play with a team, then we should be good enough to share the same facilities and accommodations as the other players both spring and summer."

Jackie Robinson told the Post, "I am surprised that this hasn't come up before. I took a lot of indignities in the early days, but they weren't important. The big thing then was to get the Negro into baseball. And then, in the early fifties, a good many of the guys didn't think it was a time to make a move. No, though, I think it is."

A few thoughts about the Second Amendment and Facebook (hell of a combination)

At home with a sick kid, watching A.N.T. Farm on Disney Channel.

I'm still thinking about Friday's horrific mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, though I have done my best to avoid the news and I reflexively turn away when I see school photos of the little children who were murdered. I just can't take it.

Like I wrote in my previous post, I am cynical and question whether anything will be done legislatively after this incident. Is it that much to ask why ordinary citizens need to own semi-automatic weapons? Here is how I see it: Those who argue that it's perfectly fine for civilians to own semi-automatic assault weapons are those who swear by the Second Amendment, and are also distrustful of the federal government (the "tyrannical government") and feel that they need these weapons in the event that they need to defend themselves from the government if and when it becomes "tyrannical." To be blunt, I think there is a lot of (unjustified and irrational) paranoia, particularly with a black president (with an "un-American" name) currently in office. I don't mean to suggest that all Second Amendment supporters are anti-government racists, but I don't think it's preposterous to suggest that at least some of them are.

As far as the Second Amendment goes, the world is not the same as it was in 1791. What sort of firearms existed in the late 18th century? Muskets? The early days of rifles? Certainly no automatic weapons that could take out dozens of people within minutes. Perhaps it's time for our Constitution to adapt to changing times. Is that suggestion too radical?


After news of the Sandy Hook shooting went viral on Friday, Facebook heated up. The discussion became intense, and by Saturday morning I decided that I'd had enough with Facebook. I felt in danger of losing friends, mainly my right-leaning friends, but even a few of my lefty friends. It was time to step away from Facebook. I am now on day three of my Facebook sabbatical/moratorium, and I don't want to post anything until Christmas. I plan on posting a "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year" status update and continuing the moratorium for as long as possible. I have wasted far too much time on Facebook and I'm going cold turkey, trying to break the addiction.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A bad week topped off by a tragedy

Dick DeVos, Rick Snyder, and the conservative contingent in Michigan got their way. They have made the first step in undoing everything that this state was built on. Let the union busting begin.

I attended the protest at the capital building for about an hour on Tuesday morning. The union crowd was spirited and a little raucous, but I didn't experience any of the violence that allegedly took place later. My impression is that most of that violence was overblown.

I'm now coming to you in the wee hours of Saturday, the 15th of December. The Michigan state legislature passed several bills that, in my opinion, set the state back many years. Most of these bills went through in a marathon session late last night.

To top off this bad week, the U.S. had yet another mass shooting, this time at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. I suppose unless you've been living in a cave, you already know. As usual, there is the usual hand-wringing and calls for gun control by the left (yours truly included in that group) and the typical defensive posturing by the right. Others rightfully call for better mental health support systems in the country. But as usually happens, in a week's time, this will all die down until the next mass shooting takes place, at which point the exact same debate will start up and, once again, dissipate to nothing. So it goes in the good ol' U.S.A.

I have spent way too much time today on Facebook, going back and forth with various people. It's just not worth it. I feel no better than I did when I began--perhaps worse. I need to take a break from Facebook. Not only is it a terrible time waster, but it rarely makes me feel very good after I am on. In that, I suppose it is not too different from any addiction.

Well folks, it's late and I really should go to bed. Plus, the dog is whining and probably won't stop unless I turn off the lights, close down the computer, and turn in.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Tragically Hip at the Fillmore: Detroit, November 28, 2012

(NOTE: Apparently, somebody in cyberspace doesn't like the photos I took of the Tragically Hip show, because they vanished).

On Wednesday, L. and I went down to see The Tragically Hip at the Fillmore (formerly the State Theater) in Detroit.  As I've gone on ad infinitum in this blog, I am a huge fan of The Hip, so I was giddy for this show.

Unlike the last time I recounted a concert experience in this blog (our aborted attempt to see Meat Puppets last November) we actually saw the band we intended on seeing.  The Hip had no opening act and hit the stage at about 8:15 PM.

Negotiating the freeways in Detroit always leaves me a little frazzled, so I was a bit dazed when we finally parked the car in the structure across the street from the Fillmore. We went from one confusing line outside the theater (guys strapping paper wrist bands on those who intended to drink alcohol) to several take-no-shit security people in the theater who were way more intense than any airport security I've ever encountered. (Unbeknownst to me, rock shows must be prone to terrorist attack or something). Anyway, we finally were able to get our tickets scanned, bought our overpriced 24-ounce Budweisers, and ambled up to find seats in the general admission balcony.

The Fillmore (as it was renamed in 2007--for many, many years it was the State Theater) is one of the very best concert venues anywhere. It was originally built in the 1920's as a motion picture palace, and it features ornate Renaissance revival ornamentation and motifs. Its beauty, now a bit faded and threadbare, harkens back to a time when Detroit was known as "the Paris of the Midwest" and seeing a movie or play was an event, as this was one of the few forms of entertainment available at the time. The Fillmore is truly one of those places that makes me want to get into the Wayback Machine and experience the theater in its Jazz Age heyday.

The show itself was great. The Tragically Hip are one of the most energetic and flat-out smoking live bands I've ever seen. I still cannot believe they have never gained more popularity in the United States. They played for probably about 2 1/2 hours and their set list drew equally from their popular (in Canada) hits and deeper album cuts. I was particularly thrilled that they played three of my favorite Hip tunes, "Thugs", "At the Hundredth Meridian", and "Fifty-Mission Cap."

I always enjoy people watching at rock concerts. The crowd for The Hip is, to put it blunt, very middle-aged and very white--so I fit right in.  Maybe there were some younger people on the main floor, but the folks in the balcony probably averaged about 45 years old...maybe even older. One guy sitting in front of me was particularly fun to watch. He was a tall, neat, short-haired 40-something dude in a blue sweater, and was doing some sort of seated interpretive dance moves to every song, but it was clear that since he was sitting with his buddies, he didn't want to go too crazy--probably felt a little too self-conscious. He looked to be a middle school math teacher by day who was cutting loose just a little tiny bit at the Hip show, but still trying to maintain a degree of "decorum."

As is the case with many concerts, there is always at least one unhinged wackjob.  In this case, it was a spikey-haired blonde woman, probably somewhere in her late 30s/early 40s, in a sleeveless print dress. For whatever reason (drunk as a skunk?) she was in a foul mood and was offending everyone in her vicinity.  After the Hip had finished their second song ("Grace, Too"), it was clear to me that the beer I'd pounded--along with the super-size coffee I drank on the drive to Detroit--had gone right through me and I had to find the restroom. Upon my return to our seats, I found the foul-tempered woman sitting alone in our row on the aisle. I said "Excuse me" and, initially, she didn't appear to have any intention of moving.  Finally, after a few seconds, she stood up and bumped into me as if she was a hockey player trying to check me into the boards.  I wasn't expecting it and darned near fell over in the aisle. I caught myself, though, and pushed past her to my seat. Moments later, security removed her from the premises (probably due to what she'd done earlier and not related to her practically knocking me on my ass). I pondered why she had bothered to spend $30 for a ticket only to act like an ass and get kicked out of the concert hall, or whether she had come with someone, gotten into a spat with him or her, and was now taking out her drunken rage on anyone nearby.

The rest of the show went by without incident. The Hip were fully energized, performing 24 songs in all. The crowd was abuzz as they left the theater, and we made it home safely.