Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Texas In The Beginning

This is the first Executive Mansion of the Republic of Texas, home for the its first President, Sam Houston, in 1837.  For more on Houston read Sam Houston: The Raven.  Photo from the Texas State Library & Archives Commission.

The "Executive Mansion, 1837-38

Monday, October 22, 2018

All The Young Rubes

(Rube Kisinger, baseball-reference)

My long ago post on favorite baseball nicknames concluded:
With further apologies to Turkey Mike, Dr Strangeglove, Gavvy, Dazzy, Noodles, Chili, Cookie, Big Six, Gettysburg Eddie, The Duke of Traless, all the Rubes - Marquard, Bressler, Waddell, Benton, Schauer, Foster, Parnham, Walker, Oldring - Tomato Face, Bubbles, Piano Legs, Wahoo Sam, Tom Terrific, Arky, Schoolboy, Sliding Billy, The Commerce Comet, and The Freshest Man on Earth.
Now it's time to get serious about ALL the Rubes.

Rube is no longer heard as an American nickname and its heyday and decline can be traced through baseball.

Merriam-Webster defines rube as an awkward unsophisticated person or a naive or inexperienced person and its synonyms include bumpkin, churl, clodhopper, cornball, hayseed, hick, hillbilly, rustic and yokel.  The peak years for the nickname were during the period of America's rapid urbanization in the early 20th century, decades when many baseball nicknames, apart from the star players, often contained a mocking or mean tone.  Rube was a name often given by teammates to mock rural or naive youngsters. 

Twenty nine major leaguers and two Negro League players bore the moniker as their primary name (research done via baseball-reference.com, though it also lists another seven with different first names but with Rube as a nickname; for more on them see end of post) The first, and probably  most famous, was Rube Waddell, who debuted in 1897.  The last to reach the majors was Rube Novotney in 1949 and the last to be active was Rube Walker who retired in 1958.  Of the 31 Rubes, twenty six made their debuts between 1902 and 1924.  Three are enshrined in the Hall of Fame, Waddell, Rube Foster, and Rube Marquard (who many, including Bill James, consider the worst starting pitcher to achieve this recognition).

A surprising 22 of 31 were pitchers.  That says something, but I'm not sure what.

Rubedom peaked in 1910 when eleven players wore the name, followed by 1914 and 1924 with seven each.

The Rubes hail from 14 states with Pennsylvania (8) being the Kingdom of Rubes followed by Ohio, Illinois, and North Dakota with three each, along with two born in foreign lands (Canada and Russia).  Baseball was still predominantly a northern and midwestern game so the lack of Rubes from the deep south (Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida) and the Rocky Mountain and Far West states (only Rube Ellis, a leftfielder with the Cardinals from 1909 through 1912 hailed from this area) is not surprising.

Here are the Rubes in chronological order with their active major or negro league player career dates.

Waddell (1897-1910) - The most famous and a Hall of Famer.  Held the season strikeout record for many years.  Known for his erratic behavior and may have been mentally impaired.  Died in 1914.

Ward (1902)

Vickers (1902-3, 1907-9)

Kisinger (1902-3)

Foster (1902-17).  Known as the father of black baseball.  Perhaps the best pitcher in the Negro Leagues during the first decade of the 20th century.  Organized the Negro National League and was a manager and executive.  In the Hall of Fame.

Vinson (1904, 1906)

DeGroff (1905-6)(DeGroff)

Oldring (1905-18) A Rube born in New York City!  Starting outfielder on the great Philadelphia Athletics teams of 1910-14.

Kroh (1906-12)  Played a pivotal role in the Merkle Boner game in September 1908.  With the Giants apparently winning a crucial contest against the Cubs (for more on that astonishing pennant race read Finishing The Season Strong: The 1908 Pennant Races) it was Kroh who forcibly grabbed the ball from a Giants fan and passed it on to Johnny Evers who tagged second (the base Merkle failed to touch) leading the umpires to call the game a tie, necessitating a replay which the Cubs won.

Manning (1907-10)

Dessau  (1907, 1910)

Marquard (1908-25)  Won 201 games including 19 in a row.  In the Hall of Fame.

Ellis (1909-12)

Sellers (1910)

Benton (1910-21, 1923-25).  Won 150 games in the big leagues for the Reds and Giants and another 126 in the minors, pitching until he was 43 years old.

Geyer (1910-13)

Marshall (1912-15)

Peters (1912, 1914)

Schauer (1913-17)  Born Dimitri Ivanovich Dimitrihoff in Russia, Rube Schauer was the most famous minor leaguer and subject of an intense bidding war in 1913, a war won by John McGraw of the Giants by paying a record amount of money for a Class C player.  Unfortunately, Schauer was a bust compiling a 10-29 record during his brief major league career.

Foster (1913-17)  The "other" Rube Foster had a brief, but successful stint with the Boston Red Sox, assembling a 58-33 record and winning two games in the 1915 World Series before succumbing to arm trouble.

Bressler (1914-32)  An intriguing career.  Bressler started as a pitcher with the Athletics, winning 26 games but hurting his arm.  With the Reds in 1921 he converted to an outfielder and ended up with a .301 career average including consecutive seasons of .347, .348, and .357.

Parnham (1916-17) Rube Parnham went only 2-2 for Connie Mack's pathetic teams of 1916 and 1917 but went on to great success with Jack Dunn's famous Baltimore Orioles team in the International League, winning 28 games in 1919 and 33 in 1923 (pitching alongside future star Lefty Grove).  Known as a "character" it was also said he was the "dumbest man off the field – and the smartest on" demonstrating why he was known as Rube.

Currie (1920-32)  Negro Leagues pitcher for several team, including the Kansas City Monarchs.  Played in all 4 Negro League World Series and later became a manager.

Yarrison (1922, 1924)

Walberg (1923-37)  Babe Ruth's favorite pitcher.  The Bambino swatted 17 homers off Rube.  Won 155 games and was a regular starter on the great Athletics teams of 1927-32.

Lutzke (1923-27)

Ehrhardt (1924-29) Whiffed only 128 batters in 587 innings.

Melton (1941-44, 1946-7)  Twenty game loser for the 1942 Philadelphia Phillies, a genuinely awful team, while also leading the league in walks and wild pitches.

Fischer (1941, 1943-46)

Walker (1948-58) Catcher and pinch hitter for the Cubs and Dodgers.  Not good in either capacity with career WAR of -0.9.  Had a twenty five year career after retiring as a player, primarily as coach with Mets (he was pitching coach for the 1969 and 1973 pennant winners) and Braves.

Novotney (1949)  The last of the breed, appearing in 22 games as catcher for the Chicago Cubs.

The secondary Rubes, all seven of whom were pitchers:

Ed Taylor (1903)
Ed Kinsella (1905, 1910) - From Illinois, not Iowa.
Harry Suter (1909)
Hank Robinson (1911-18) - Won only 26 in his major league career but added 227 in the low minors, pitching until 1929.
Dan Marion (1914-15)
Dan Adams (1914-15)
Ed Albosta (1941-46)

Friday, October 19, 2018

25 Or 6 To 4

I'd forgotten how much I liked this tune until coming across it today, probably because of all the dreck pop Chicago produced later in the 1970s and into the 80s.  Driven by the band's outstanding horn section and Terry Kath's guitar, 1970's 25 Or 6 To 4 is about sitting in an apartment at 4am and trying to write a song.  Like so many in that era, Kath struggled with drugs and alcohol.  In 1978 he died when  pointing what he thought was an unloaded gun at his head and pulling the trigger.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Falcon 9

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
the highest resolution version available.

From Astronomy Picture of the Day which describes the event of October 7:

Taken about three miles north of Vandenberg Air Force Base, the image follows plumes and exhaust from the first and second stage of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket rising through southern California's early evening skies. In the fading twilight, the reddish smoke drifting in the foreground at the right is from the initial ascent of the rocket. The expanding blue and orange filamentary plumes are from first and second stage separation and the first stage boostback burn, still in sunlight at extreme altitudes. But the bright spot below center is the second stage itself headed almost directly away from the camera, accelerating to orbital velocity and far downrange. Pulsed thrusters form the upside down V-shape at the top as they guide the reusable Falcon 9 first stage back to the landing site.  

Space X is the company started by Elon Musk.  The Falcon 9 rocket is the most powerful rocket since the Saturn V used to launch American astronauts to the moon.  Exciting stuff.  Good to see someone take up space exploration.

Below is a video of the same event:

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Detriments

Peachey Carnehan (Michael Caine) and Daniel Dravot (Sean Connery) from The Man Who Would Be King, a movie everyone should see.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Steppin' Out

We are young but getting old before our time
We'll leave the TV and the radio behind
Don't you wonder what we'll find
Steppin' out tonight

Another beautiful early 80s song from Joe Jackson.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

The Old Ball Game

May 19, 1887.  Wheeling, West Virginia.  To see larger version go here.

About 1,500 fans, the largest crowd of the season, turned out on a Thursday afternoon to see the hometown team play the formidable squad from Kalamazoo, Michigan, according to the Wheeling Daily Register.  The local boys, known as the Green Stockings, pulled off an upset scoring two runs in the ninth to win 9-7 despite being outhit 18 to 13.

The Daily Register reported that both teams were dissatisfied with the umpiring:
The umpiring of Mr. Tarkington was the rankest yet seen on the home grounds, his decisions being simple miserable and directly against Wheeling at the most critical points in the contest. It is not often the winning team finds occasion to protest against the umpire, but that he was way off on balls and strikes, was apparent to everybody who was in a position to judge. As both captains are equally loud in their denunciations of his work, it is safe to say that he will not officiate to-day.
The Green Stockings had joined the Ohio State League that year as West Virginia's first minor league team.

There are several notable differences between the modern game and the 1887 contest in Wheeling.
The home team batted first instead of last.

The game back then was much more error-filled.  In this contest the Green Stocking committed three miscues while their Michigan rival made six errors.

The box score shows both teams fielding a right and left fielder along with a player with the designation of M, which I surmise means a middle (or center) fielder.

In the photo there are two men on base with a left handed batter at the plate and none of the fielders wear gloves.

According to the box score the Kalamazoo pitcher had 13 assists.  Were the Green Stockings bunting all day?
The Green Stockings were also an integrated squad with Sol White (pictured below, standing second from left) playing third base.

In the off-season the league changed its name to the Tri-State League and banned Negroes from playing.  Though the formal ban was soon rescinded, no more African Americans played for the Green Stockings.  Sol White went on to a long career in the Negro Leagues as player, manager, and coach.  He was also author of History of Colored Base Ball (1907), the first and, for decades, the only history of colored ball players.  Sol White was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.

Monday, October 1, 2018


Rather than explain, just watch the two videos below.  It won't take long.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Skiing K2

In order to ski down K2 in the Himalayas, at 28,251 feet elevation the second highest mountain in the world, you first have to climb it.  On July 22, 2018 Polish climber Andrzej Bargiel reached the peak at about 1130am.  By 730pm he had skied down its slopes to reach base camp.  You can watch some of his journey below.  I cannot imagine what his physical conditioning must be like.

K2 is a much more dangerous climb than Everest, with about 20% of climbers dying in the attempt.  The only 25,000+ feet peak exceeding this death toll is Annapurna on which about 1 in 4 climbers die.

Saturday, September 29, 2018


Marty Balin, who passed away on Thursday, was, along with Grace Slick, one of the lead singers for  Jefferson Airplane, a band I liked before they became a parody of themselves.  I saw them in '68 at Fillmore East, at Woodstock in '69, and at the U of Wisconsin in '70.  Marty could really deliver a ballad.  This is Today from Surrealistic Pillow (1967).

Friday, September 28, 2018

The Lost Doggerland

Beneath the English Channel and North Sea is a lost world that may reveal new information on the spread of homo sapiens in northern Europe.

The area in yellow and orange below was dry land during the last Ice Age when sea levels were much lower worldwide.
Lessons from a real AtlantisAs you can see ,what is now England, Wales, and Scotland was connected to Ireland, the Hebrides, and the Orkneys and all had a land connection with France, Belgium, Holland, Germany and Denmark.  The extent boundaries varied with sea levels from 20,000 years ago until about 6500 BC when the ocean finally swept away the land connections.

Doggerland takes it name from the Dogger Banks, shallow shoals in the North Sea and renowned fishing grounds, named by the Dutch in the 17th century.  The Dogger Banks were also the location of a bizarre incident in October 1904 when the Russian Fleet, proceeding from St Petersburg to the Pacific, believed itself under attack by the Japanese Navy and opened fire on what turned out to be British fishing boats, killing three fishermen and almost triggering a war between Russia and England.  The Russian fleet eventually completed its epic voyage and was promptly sunk by the Japanese Navy off the coast of Korea at the Battle of Tsushima.  So there.

The ancient Doggerland was an expanse of low grasslands, meadows, rivers, and swamps and home to many Neolithic human settlements.  Recent university explorations, with the assistance of the oil companies active in the North Sea, are revealing more about early human activities, with the prospect of much more information coming to light in the future.

Thursday, September 27, 2018


Remaking Mecca

Startling photos via Martin Kramer documenting the transformation of Mecca.  For more photos and background go here.

To start with some of us may have difficulty getting to see it ourselves:
"Non-Muslim Road", Makkah

The old Mecca:
snouck-hurgronje-mekka-v2_ Early 20th Century Makkah.

The new Mecca:

Masjid al-Haram, Mecca, Saudi ArabiaMecca Saudi Arabia

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

True Social Justice

Kaline Konked

Sixty years ago yesterday Detroit Tigers outfielder and future Hall of Famer Al Kaline was knocked out after being hit in the head by White Sox pitcher Bob Shaw.  Kaline already had two hits, including a double, off Sox starter Dick Donovan before reliever Shaw plonked him in the 6th.


If this happened today the player would be put through a concussion protocol and not return to the field for several days as a precautionary measure even if the results were negative.  Instead Kaline missed just one game and then played the final two of the season against the Indians going 3 for 8 with a triple, home run, and driving in five runs.

For more on how head injuries were handled in the "good old days" see the story of Pete Reiser.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Readings On Slavery

Over the past two years I've been reading about American slavery and its continuing legacy. This post provides a brief summary of my reading; some of the books may be the basis for longer pieces in the future. 

For the experience of slavery I recommend starting with Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, the escaped slave's first autobiography written in 1845.  In the late 1850s, Frederick Law Olmsted, the famed landscape architect responsible for New York's Central Park and Boston's Fenway, undertook several lengthy journeys through the American deep south.  His observations, published in 1861 as The Cotton Kingdom, take us on a tour of a land with little infrastructure, isolated settlements, little or no public education, and a three class system of wealthy slave owners, impoverished whites, and slaves; a utterly different world from the more prosperous North and West of the country.  Olmsted is very observant, commenting on the relationship between master and slave.  One interesting tidbit is his reporting on the very dangerous job of loading and unloading heavy materials from boats.  Business owners preferred to use Irish immigrant laborers rather than slaves for the task, since if injured they could be easily dismissed, while an injury to a slave meant a capital asset was impaired.

A very sad and moving tale is told in Help Me To Find My People: The African American Search for Family Lost in Slavery (2016) by Heather Andrea Williams, current professor of Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.  I came across this book by accident, having just finished watching someone on CSPAN and about to switch channels when Professor Williams came on and I was drawn into her discussion.  The topic was one I never had thought about but as Williams spoke I thought "of course!".  Help Me To Find My People is the story of the post-Civil War search by freed slaves for children, spouses, and parents separated by sale before the war.  This is not some dry data driven tome, its power deriving from the stories of individuals trying to locate and reassemble their shattered families.

And how did those in the South wrestle with the question of slavery?  In John Archibald Campbell: Southern Moderate (1997), Robert Saunders Jr, a history professor at Troy State University presents us with a prominent Alabamian who recognized the times were changing.  According to Saunders, Campbell, a leading Alabama lawyer and eventually a Supreme Court Justice, believed that the institution of slavery was disappearing because it was no longer acceptable in the modern world, that the economic development of the region was hampered by slavery, and the South needed to prepare itself for its disappearance.  Campbell also opposed secession and, at least in the 1840s, believed that Congress could legally prohibit slavery in the territories (even writing John C Calhoun, who thought slavery a "positive good", of his views), all of which goes to the book's "moderate" label in its subtitle.   At the same time Judge Campbell was a fierce opponent of abolitionists and a strong proponent of states rights.  By 1857, when the Dred Scott case came before the Court, Campbell's views on the Constitution had changed and he authored an opinion concluding Congress had no authority to ban slavery in the territories.  After the war, Campbell, relocated to New Orleans, supported the imposition of control laws on the freed slaves and the initiation of the process of Jim Crow.  Thought slavery was gone, freed slaves would remain in a subordinate and oppressed class in Southern society.

And what of the North?  In Bleeding Kansas: Contested Liberty in the Civil War Era (2004), Ball St professor Nicole Etcheson provides a useful tour of the events in the Kansas territory of the 1850s, events that were both a spark and precursor of the violence of the next decade.  Most interesting to me is her description of changes in attitudes of white free soil settlers regarding African Americans.  Initially the northern settlers, who wanted Kansas to be a free territory, viewed blacks, free or slave, as unfair competition and wanted them banned from Kansas.  However, the first hand examples they saw of their treatment by slave owners created more sympathy for them during the course of the struggle. 

That there was a distinct difference between supporting abolition and believing in the social equality of all American citizens and the role of freed slaves is made clear in Annette Gordon-Reed's biography Andrew Johnson (2011).  Lincoln's successor was a Southern opponent of secession, stayed loyal to the Union in 1861, and supported abolition.  An advocate for poor southern whites, Johnson hated blacks and saw the slave owners and slaves as equally culpable for the plight of the region.  Other than seeing the freeing of slaves as the way to destroy the southern oligarchs he had no desire to protect them against white violence and oppress after abolition. Gordon-Reed is also the author of the The Hemingses of Monticello which makes a compelling circumstantial case, based on both timing and psychology, for the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, and which, regardless of whether you accept her case (as I do), provides fascinating and detailed analysis on the evolution of slavery laws in Virginia from the 17th century through Jefferson's lifetime.

The same theme can be seen in the failure of the post-Civil War regime told by Allen Guelzo in his recent book Reconstruction: A Concise History (2018) a brief, but useful, overview.  Once the tide of Radical Republicanism ebbed at the end of the 1860s, and despite the fitful efforts of President Grant to stem the tide of violence against blacks, northern interest quickly diminished in guaranteeing a meaningful path to participating in society for the freed slaves, and with it, the will to take on a resurgent white South.  In addition to Guelzo's book some years ago I also read Eric Foner's more detailed book Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution (1989) which is worthwhile reading, though the author's Marxist economic determinist worldview means you need to carefully evaluate some of his focus and conclusions.

The legal tradition underpinning abolition is explored in Natural Law and the Antislavery Constitutional Tradition (2012) by Justin Buckley Dyer, a professor of American politics at the University of Missouri.  Natural law is out of favor today, particularly in academia, but was a keystone of the abolitionist argument against slavery, an argument ignited by Lord Mansfield in his 1772 opinion (Somerset v Stewart) ruling that slavery was unsupported by common law in England and Wales.  Ranging as far back as Rome to trace the legal status of slavery Mansfield concluded:
The state of slavery is of such a nature that it is incapable of being introduced on any reasons, moral or political, but only by positive law [statute], which preserves its force long after the reasons, occasions, and time itself from whence it was created, is erased from memory. It is so odious, that nothing can be suffered to support it, but positive law. 
The same year as Dyer's analysis was published, Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States 1861-1865 by James Oakes, history professor at the City University of New York, was released.  In its first section, Oakes focuses on natural law theory and the contesting constitutional interpretations of three groups; abolitionists, those who opposed the expansion of slavery, and those who advocated expansion.  The term "freedom national" refers to those who opposed slavery's expansion, viewing the Constitution as making freedom the default status in the United States with slavery only allowed when permitted by preexisting law while slavery expansionists preferred a reading of "freedom regional" and "slavery national". The latter part deals with the actions, much of which I had been unaware of and many taken by the Republican Congress prior to the Emancipation Proclamation and justified using the unique circumstances of the war, to step by step liberate slaves.

A different perspective is provided by Forrest A Nabors, a political science professor at the U of Alaska in From Oligarchy to Republicanism: The Great Task of Reconstruction (2017).  Nabors thesis is that the predominant driver of radical reconstruction was the demolition of the South's slave owning oligarchy that had denied the majority of its population a true Republican form of government.  Along the way, Nabors marshals a great deal of contemporary evidence to support his thesis, though I think he underestimates the underlying racial dynamic of Southern society.

The last three books discussed address the full scope of America's encounter with race up to the present day and are essential reading for anyone interested in the subject.

In his 1992 book The Color-Blind Constitution, Andrew Kull, a law professor at Emory University, traces the struggle of our legal system to deal with race and discrimination from the 1840s battle to desegregate public schools in Massachusetts right up to the 1990s.  Kull's points out that the America has never had a color-blind constitution despite the 13th and 14th Amendments.  Contrary to the common understanding the legal reasoning of the infamous Plessy v Ferguson decision of 1896, is still the reasoning used by the Supreme Court - that discrimination based upon race can be legal if the Court determines such discrimination is proper, though what the court today deems a proper basis for discrimination differs from what it thought proper in 1896.  What is astonishing is that the Court has maintained its position that it can determine when discrimination is appropriate despite the explicit language of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbidding discrimination based upon race.

One of the most surprising aspects to me was Kull's discussion of the passage of the 14th Amendment which, as adopted, forbids state abridgement of the privileges and immunities of U.S. citizens and prohibits deprivation of life, liberty, and property without due process of law, clauses triggered much litigation as to their specific meaning.  Although inspired by the recent war, the amendment contains no language referencing race.  A much simpler and more direct alternative was proposed by radical Republican congressman Thaddeus Stevens:
All national and State laws shall be equally applicable to every citizen, and no discrimination shall be made on account of race and color.
Unfortunately, Stevens' alternative, which would have given us a color-blind constitution, was rejected.

Racial attitudes across our country, but with particular focus on the non-slave states after Emancipation is the focus of Reckoning With Race: America's Failure (2017) by Gene Dattel.  From America's founding until well into the 20th century assimilation of immigrants was a key element in our success, but, as Dattel notes, despite the 14th Amendment, social norms continued to exclude blacks from the process of assimilation for many decades.

After the Civil War, and until World War I, whites from the North and West were content with policies that left freed blacks in the former slave states, rejecting any proposal to encourage them to relocate, or to press for fair treatment, with the result that until the early 20th century, over 95% of blacks remained where they were when freed.

Dattel takes the reader through the long and discouraging post Civil War history of white Northern attitudes and actions towards black Americans, including rejections of attempts at assimilation, particularly as the Great Migration north of southern blacks took place from 1915 to 1960.  It makes for depressing reading.

After rightfully lambasting whites for much of its course, Reckoning With Race moves in a different direction in its concluding chapters.  With dramatic changes in the attitudes of whites since World War II, new and effective Civil Rights legislation was enacted and a world of opportunities opened for the descendants of slaves.  Dattel rues that these opportunities have not been more actively seized and, instead, doctrines of multiculturalism, separatism, and a failure to confront community issues of family disintegration and violence, along with an unjustified pessimism have begun to dominate to the detriment of African-Americans.  The author sums it up in this way, ". . . current racial issues are likened to those of the 1960s as a way of cloaking today's problems with the aura of the civil rights movement."

What does the historical experience of the United States look like in comparison to the other nations of the Americas where slavery was established and which have had to deal with the integration of freed slaves and their descendants into their societies?  That's the subject of a magisterial comparative study by Robert J Cottrol, professor of law at George Washington University;  The Long, Lingering Shadow: Slavery, Race, and Law in the American Hemisphere (2013) in which the Afro-American experience in nine nations - the United States, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Peru, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic) is examined in detail.  The books is brimming with history I'd been previously unfamiliar with.  The wide scope is appropriate as the lands now part of the United States were the destination for only about 4% of the the poor souls transported in the Trans-Atlantic trade; Brazil received almost half of those transported, the British and French sugar colonies in the Caribbean about 30%, with the Spanish colonies the remainder (of which Cuba received more than half).  And that's apart from the other half of the sub-Saharan slave trade, in which up to 18 million Africans may have been transported to the Muslim (mostly Arab) world.

The cultural and geographic differences of the receiving societies in the Americas are thoroughly explored by Cottrol, as well as the distinct legal systems and their consequences for the slaves and their descendents.  The author has some fascinating insights into how the hierarchical Iberian societies and the aspirations for equality (at least for whites) of the United States contributed to different outcomes when it came to the treatment of slaves and freed blacks.  Cottrol draws no overall conclusion as to whether any of these systems was better than the others and I suspect readers will come to very different judgments.

One intriguing aspect of the Latin countries was their effort, starting in the late 19th century, to attract European immigrants in order to "whiten" their populations.  It turns out Fidel Castro's father emigrated from Spain to Cuba in the early 20th century as part of this initiative!

The legal system instituted by the South after the Civil War to control freed blacks, popularly known as Jim Crow, was unprecedented in the Americas in its strictness, but Cottrol points out that with the start of the post World War II revolution in civil rights, changes in the U.S. legal system and attitudes of whites jumped ahead of the rest of the Americas in the integration of Afro-Americans into society and, in fact, served as a prod to speed up such efforts in the rest of the hemisphere.  Because of this Cottrol ends on a cautiously optimistic note when it comes to the United States.

Monday, September 24, 2018

I Don't Want To Go To Chelsea

I don't want to check your pulse/ I don't want nobody else
From Elvis Costello & The Attractions circa 1978.  Ah, the good old days, when Elvis sung of fear, suspicion, self-loathing, and vengeance.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Craigslist Founder Funds Effort To Suppress Non-Progressive Speech

The actual title of the New York Times article is "News Site to Investigate Big Tech, Helped by Craigslist Founder" and tells of Craigslist Founder Craig Newmark's $20 million gift to former ProPublica journalist Julia Angwin to establish Markup, a news site "dedicated to investigating technology and its effect on society".

Sounds like a useful and timely initiative, doesn't it?  But what Angwin, who calls the 2016 election "a tipping point", intends to expose how technology does not sufficiently advance social justice.  As the article notes, her recent work sheds "light on how companies like Facebook were creating tools that could be used to promote racial bias, fraudulent schemes and extremist content".Newmark is your standard issue progressive, a fervent supporter of Barack Obama and who makes large political contributions to progressive Democrats, and Angwin and her team are politically aligned with him.

There are criticisms of high-tech from both the left and right but there is an asymmetry in goals.  On the right, it is that the leading companies are dominated by progressives, hostile to conservatives in their workforce, and are actively suppressing non-progressive voices on their platforms.  The right seeks the same type of treatment and access as progressives.

On the left, the complaint is that the tech companies are allowing too much access by domestic racists, bigots, sexists, haters and "extremist content" on the right, along with foreign influences seeking to support right-wingers.  And since the left considers any opposition to progressive causes as, by definition, racist, sexist, bigoted, hateful, and extremist, its logical conclusion is that all opposition should be suppressed. 

See the difference?  One wants a neutral and inclusive space, the other seeks platforms restricted to the propagation of its ideas.

In this case, the reference to the 2016 election is "the tell".  I'm old enough to remember way back in 2012 when I was told that the cool tech-savvy kids in the Obama campaign working with Google and Facebook to ensure the President's reelection showed how out of touch those old Republicans were. It was only in 2016 when some of these same techniques were used against Democrats that they suddenly became a threat to democracy (for a different take on how tech bias impacted the 2016 election read this analysis by two academics - and Hillary supporters!).  In this case, those who run the tech companies and media folks like Angwin share the same goal - suppressing dissenting speech under the guise of it being hateful - they only differ on the best method and who should be in charge of implementation.

Markup will masquerade as a non-partisan organization and once its "studies" are published they will be picked up and widely reported by other self-described non-partisan media like the New York Times - that's how the interlocking system works.

We are in dangerous times when most of our dominant institutions - media, entertainment, tech, academia, foundations are politically aligned and, as worrisome, agree that the personal is political and the consequences of an individual's political beliefs should extend to their workplace and daily life.  Religious institutions are weakened, divided on perspectives, and often isolated, while the business world outside tech has either come aboard as the path of least resistance or is intimidated into silence.  Should progressives also regain control of our political institutions we will see an full assault on rights to speech and dissent all done in the name of tolerance and inclusiveness.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Starting Assumptions

A remark in a post by Scott Alexander at his blog Slate Star Codex sparked a thought I'd not had before.  It's in a review of Nassim Taleb's nearly decade old book The Black Swan.  Along the way Scott references two books he considers to have some similar themes, Daniel Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow and Nate Silver's The Signal and The Noise (both of which I've read).
It looks like Kahneman, Silver, et al are basically trying to figure out what doing things optimally would look like – which is a very nerdy project. Taleb is trying to figure out how to run systems without an assumption that you will necessarily be right very often.
Since I've not read The Black Swan I can't comment on the accuracy of Scott's characterization but I like the sentiment it expresses, at least when applied to the broad mechanisms of how a society operates.  I heartily dislike systems that are purportedly designed on principles of optimum efficiency and decision making because they are dependent on the views of the desired results of those designing the system and, at the same time, are overconfident in their ability to manage human beings and of their (and our) perfectability.  I like the more humble approach of a system that accepts the reality we may often be wrong.

It will come as no surprise to those who read THC that we see the United States Constitution as an example of a system designed with the awareness of the human condition and the uncertainty of the quality of our decision making.

And, by the way, Scott's review is very witty and thoughtful - worth the read - though, as is often the case with his posts, it could have been as effective at half the length.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Essential Rules Of Life

Stand up straight.

Project your voice.

Always wear the right sneakers.

Enjoy every sandwich.*

* That last one is courtesy of Warren Zevon.

Thursday, September 13, 2018


Last night the Boston Red Sox triumphed for the 100th time this season, a feat they last accomplished in 1946.  We were in attendance and saw an exciting pitching duel in which the only run scored on a wild pitch by Toronto hurler Aaron Sanchez.  David Price continued his revival tour tossing seven scoreless innings.

The Sox will likely break the franchise record of 105 victories set by the 1912 team led by pitcher Smoky Joe Wood and centerfielder Tris Speaker, though they are unlikely to surpass that team's winning percentage (they went 105-47).  Let's hope that like the 1912 team they win the World Series.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

"We're Going To Do Something"

I just came across this today for the first time.  It is the transcript of the calls between Tom Burnett, a passenger on United Flight 93 on September 11, 2001 and his wife Deena.  Burnett and other passengers charged the hijackers in the cockpit in order to either regain control or bring down the plane before hitting its planned target (likely the U.S. Capitol).

6:27 a.m.( pacific time) First cell phone call from Tom to Deena
Deena: Hello
Tom: Deena
Deena: Tom, are you O.K.?
Tom: No, I’m not. I’m on an airplane that has been hijacked.
Deena: Hijacked?
Tom: Yes, They just knifed a guy.
Deena: A passenger?
Tom: Yes.
Deena: Where are you? Are you in the air?
Tom: Yes, yes, just listen. Our airplane has been hijacked. It’s United Flight 93 from Newark to San Francisco. We are in the air. The hijackers have already knifed a guy, one of them has a gun, they are telling us there is a bomb on board, please call the authorities. He hung up.

6:31 Deena calls 911

6:34 The phone rang in on call waiting, Tom’s second cell phone call.
Deena: Hello
Tom: They’re in the cockpit. The guy they knifed is dead.
Deena: He’s dead?
Tom: Yes. I tried to help him, but I couldn’t get a pulse.
Deena: Tom, they are hijacking planes all up and down the east coast.
They are taking them and hitting designated targets. They’ve already hit both towers of the World Trade Center.
Tom: They’re talking about crashing this plane. (a pause) Oh my God. It’s a suicide mission…(he then tells people sitting around him)
Deena: Who are you talking to?
Tom: My seatmate. Do you know which airline is involved?
Deena: No, they don’t know if they’re commercial airlines or not. The news reporters are speculating cargo planes, private planes and commercial. No one knows.
Tom: How many planes are there?
Deena: They’re not sure, at least three. Maybe more.
Tom: O.K….O.K….Do you know who is involved?
Deena: No.
Tom: We’re turning back toward New York. We’re going back to the World Trade Center. No, wait, we’re turning back the other way. We’re going south.
Deena: What do you see?
Tom: Just a minute, I’m looking. I don’t see anything, we’re over a rural area. It’s just fields. I’ve gotta go.

6:45 a.m. Third cell phone call from Tom to Deena
Tom: Deena
Deena: Tom, you’re O.K. (I thought at this point he had just survived the Pentagon plane crash).
Tom: No, I’m not.
Deena: They just hit the Pentagon.
Tom: (tells people sitting around him “They just hit the Pentagon.”)
Tom: O.K….O.K. What else can you tell me?
Deena: They think five airplanes have been hijacked. One is still on the ground. They believe all of them are commercial planes. I haven’t heard them say which airline, but all of them have originated on the east coast.
Tom: Do you know who is involved?
Deena: No
Tom: What is the probability of their having a bomb on board? I don’t think they have one. I think they’re just telling us that for crowd control.
Deena: A plane can survive a bomb if it’s in the right place.
Tom: Did you call the authorities?
Deena: Yes, they didn’t know anything about your plane.
Tom: They’re talking about crashing this plane into the ground. We have to do something. I’m putting a plan together.
Deena: Who’s helping you?
Tom: Different people. Several people. There’s a group of us. Don’t worry. I’ll call you back.

6:54 a.m. Fourth cell phone call to Tom to Deena
Deena: Tom?
Tom: Hi. Anything new?
Deena: No
Tom: Where are the kids?
Deena: They’re fine. They’re sitting at the table having breakfast. They’re asking to talk to you.
Tom: Tell them I’ll talk to them later.
Deena: I called your parents. They know your plane has been hijacked.
Tom: Oh…you shouldn’t have worried them. How are they doing?
Deena: They’re O.K.. Mary and Martha are with them.
Tom: Good.
(a long quiet pause)
Tom: We’re waiting until we’re over a rural area. We’re going to take back the airplane.
Deena: No! Sit down, be still, be quiet, and don’t draw attention to yourself! (The exact words taught to me by Delta Airlines Flight Attendant Training).
Tom: Deena! If they’re going to crash this plane into the ground, we’re going to have do something!
Deena: What about the authorities?
Tom: We can’t wait for the authorities. I don’t know what they could do anyway.
It’s up to us. I think we can do it.
Deena: What do you want me to do?
Tom: Pray, Deena, just pray.
(after a long pause)
Deena: I love you.
Tom: Don’t worry, we’re going to do something...

Too bad Nike didn't think this amounted to "going for it" and being "willing to sacrifice  everything".

Friday, September 7, 2018

Desperados Under The Eaves

From Warren Zevon

I was sitting in the Hollywood Hawaiian Hotel
I was staring at my empty coffee cup

And if California slides into the ocean
Like the mystics and statistics say it will
I predict this motel will be standing
Until I pay my bill

I was sitting in the Hollywood Hawaiian Hotel
Listening to the air conditioner humm
It went mmmm . . . 

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

We All Stand With Nike

Well, actually I don't.  Haven't purchased anything from Nike in decades, finding their iconography  to reek of fascist imagery from the 1930s.  That may also explain why they chose as the icon for their new campaign a guy who admires murderous, homophobic, and fascistic thugs.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Blood And Roses

The Smithereens.

I want to love but it comes out wrong
I want to live but I don't belong
I close my eyes and I see
Blood and roses

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Troubles In Israel?

My go to guy on Israel is Yaacov Lozowick, currently the State Archivist for Israel, and the former archivist at Yad Vashem.  He's also written of his political change from a Peace Now activist in the 1990s to supporting (reluctantly) Ariel Sharon in 2005, a change prompted by the Second Intifada, launched by Yassir Arafat, after he rejected creation of a Palestinian State in 2000.

Lozowick used to be a frequent and fascinating blogger, but since taking on the state archivist role he posts very infrequently.  However, he also has an active Tweeter account, though he usually stays away from commenting on current internal Israeli politics, so when I saw this a couple of day ago I paid attention:

The link is to an article by David Horovitz in the Times of Israel the theme of which is:

"Israeli democracy isn’t broken . . . But Israeli democracy is being battered. There are attempts to intimidate the judiciary. The media is both demonized and compromised. Financial corruption goes untreated and seeps into politics."

I don't know enough about Israeli politics to comment but when Lozowick takes this seriously, I do the same.  Some further excerpts:

There’s a purportedly reasonable explanation for everything.  [Horovitz then goes on to list several incidents, including:]

The arithmetic was different for the nation-state law. If a phrase noting Israel’s commitment to full equality for all its citizens had not been excised from the text, support in the Knesset for the legislation, with its overdue definition of Israel as the “national home of the Jewish people,” would have been overwhelming. But the argument was made that provisions for equality are already enshrined in existing legislation, albeit without the actual word “equality,” and notwithstanding the fact that this is the law that defines the very nature of Israel.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Taken one at a time, ostensibly acceptable rationalizations can be found for all the crises and controversies I’ve listed. Taken together, the picture is bleak.

Friday, August 17, 2018

The New Mexico Connection

A few days ago the FBI and local police arrested a small group of people, adults and children, living in a remote compound in New Mexico.  The inhabitants were Muslims from the northeast who had moved to the desert several months ago.  The ringleader was identified as Siraj Wahhaj, a wanted man for the kidnapping of his own child (who is suspected of being the dead child found on the premises).   The adults were charged with child abuse and authorities further believe they were plotting attacks.

I had not planned to write anything on the story until the name Wahhaj triggered my memory, leading me to do some further research and led to me adding this note on the connections between the Wahhaj family and some better known Americans. The incident also provides a further illustration of what the “non-partisan” media wants you to know and, more importantly, not to know.

As noted in some of the coverage, the father of the group’s ringleader Siraj Wahhaj, is a New York area iman, also named Siraj Wahhaj. The elder Wahhaj is a follower of Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman  ("The Blind Sheik") who is now serving a life sentence for his role in the bombing of the World Trade Center in the 1990s.  Wahhaj served as a character witness for Rahman during the trial and was identified by the prosecution as a possible co-conspirator in the bombing.  Wahhaj is an advocate for the imposition of Sharia Law and has frequently called for the death of homosexuals.

The Iman Wahhaj has some interesting admirers. One is Linda Sarsour, the Muslim darling of progressives, particularly progressive women, despite her anti-Semitic views and outspoken hatred of anyone who disagrees with her. In a speech given last year to the Islamic Societies of North America (ISNA), Sarsour referred to Imam Wahhaj as “a mentor, motivator, and encourager” of hers.

But what prompted my post was another surprising connection, one I stumbled upon in 2016. It was so startling I initially dismissed it until my further research found the GoFundMe page for the event discussed in the article. It concerns Ibtihaj Muhammed, the female American Olympian who competed wearing a hijab and received glowing media coverage as an example of America’s inclusiveness and as a rebuke to the “haters.” Here’s just one of countless examples of her favorable coverage.

It turns out the keynote speaker at her 2016 Olympic fundraiser in Newark, NJ was none other than the Imam Wahhaj! At the time I noted it as just another example of how the media provides preferential treatment to those who meet its narrative needs. But when the New Mexico arrests were reported the name Wahhaj rang a bell with, reminding me of the connection with Ibtihaj and I did some further research which revealed this 2016 article at Harry’s Place.  There are several websites covering Islam and anti-semitism, some of which have a well-deserved reputation for overstatement and distortion of facts and events, tending to unfairly lump all Muslims together, and which I consider unreliable sources of information.  In contrast, I have found Harry's Place to be reliable.  Harry’s is a UK-based blog run by left-wingers who are appalled by the progress and acceptance of Islamists and anti-semites in British culture and politics and have devoted themselves to exposing the perpetrators and, along the way, have also pointed out unfair characterizations of Muslims.  The article makes clear that Ibtihaj has a long history of connections with radical Islamists. Some excerpts from the article, which is worth reading in its entirety.
Muhammad has also received special mentions and recognition as an Olympian in a Hijab from the likes of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. And, according to the New York Times, she was even invited to sit on a ‘roundtable discussion’ with the President to discuss ‘varying concerns within the Muslim community like Islamophobia’. That wouldn’t be the first time she got the ear of high places either; in 2012 she posted an update saying she was seated on the same table as the president at a White House Event.
Unfortunately though, the portrayal of Muhammad as an icon of liberal progress and tolerance is simply false. As on the contrary, her social media activity makes it clear she is very politically minded and appears to have praised or befriended several of the most dubious figures on the Islamist scene in the US.
For at least the past 5 years, Muhammad has frequently attended and spoken at numerous events and conventions from an array of organisations widely acknowledged to be Islamist, and regularly expressed praise, admiration and friendship for a number of highly controversial Islamists.
Another who Muhammad has spoken warmly of is the even more gruesomely hardline Islamist Siraj Wahhaj, who has a long track record of espousing truly despicable and vile views.  Wahhaj, who converted to Islam under the mentorship of the radical Louis Farrakhan, has advocated Sharia Law and all of its brutal punishments, advocated violent Jihad, spoken about his distaste for both the USA and democracy which he hopes ‘crumbles’, and offered praise and support to all manner of extremists including Al Qaeda fighters.
The accounts Muhammad follows on Twitter include Qadhi, Suleiman, Jangda or Mogahed and various others of similar ilk plus their organisations such as CAIR, ICNA or the Al Maghrib Institute. She has frequently praised them all personally, and for several years attended and spoken at numerous of their events, and just a couple months ago invited someone as hardline as Siraj Wahhaj to speak at her very own fundraiser.
There is absolutely no way that is the behaviour of a truly secular liberal Muslim. Even if she may not share every specific one of their views, it’s extremely hard to believe Muhammad has spent that long in and around the same circles as these Islamists that she could be merely entirely ignorant of their theocratic world view (someone like Suleiman has openly expressed desire for Sharia at some of those ICNA conventions).
 The Harry's post concludes with a very telling point:
But most sadly of all, this is just another example of the moral illusion the Western Left repeatedly keeps falling for.
Rather than celebrate well integrated Muslims who’ve adopted modern liberal values, they choose to celebrate the religiously conservative, and then think they are being progressive in doing so.
By repeatedly failing to be honest about radical Islam, the media denigrates the views and work of Muslims who are open to participating in a tolerant and secular society, and provides ammunition to those who are prejudiced against all Muslims.

And, by the way, Ibtihaj Muhammed is now on tour promoting her new biography, Proud: My Fight for an Unlikely American DreamWe'll see if she gets any tough questions.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Chain Of Fools

An alternate take to the version released as the hit single.  Wow.

Never saw Aretha in concert.  Closest was in the mid-90s when we had tickets but she cancelled at the last minute.  No one could touch her at her peak.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

There's Always Something New In Baseball, Part 924

Last night Cincinnati Reds pitcher Homer Bailey forgot to transfer the ball from his glove to his hand during his pitching motion and was called for a balk.  Bet that has never happened before.

Later in the game, in which the Cleveland Indians routed the Reds 10-3, Reds position player Brandon Dixon was inserted as a pitcher and struck out MVP candidate Jose Ramirez on a 67 mph curveball!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Use Me

Sometimes the THC Memory Bank fails and he loses track of music he enjoyed way back when.  In this case he was reminded when Use Me turned up as the soundtrack for a recent TV commercial.  That is one funky tune, and Bill Withers wrote and sang a series of melodic singles during the 70s, made particularly memorable by his resonant, warm voice.

Withers was a late bloomer on the pop scene, born in Slab Fork, West Virginia, enlisting in the navy out of high school, serving nine years in the navy and beginning his attempts to break into the music scene only in his late 20s.  Even when he had his first hit (Ain't No Sunshine) at the age of 33 in 1971, he initially did not quit his assembly job at Douglas Aircraft Corporation, doubting the ability to sustain a career in music.

Bill quit the music business in 1985, frustrated with the entire scene.  He was inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame by Stevie Wonder in 2015.  He celebrated his 80th birthday this past July 4.

Use Me (1972) - This live version is even funkier than the recording.  The bass, drums, and keyboards have such a groove.

Lean On Me (1972)

Just The Two Of Us (1981)

Lovely Day (1977)

Ain't No Sunshine (1971)

Grandma's Hands (1971)

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

A Black Day For The German Army

After Germany's defeat in World War One, that country's nationalists adamantly maintained that the German Army had not been defeated in the field, and the Empire's devastating loss had been caused by a "stab in the back" from treacherous factions in the homeland, led by communists, socialists, and Jews.  The primary military proponent of the stab in the back was former Army General Erich Ludendorff, considered the brains behind General Hindenburg, the army chief of staff, Germany's most powerful military leader.  It also became a constant theme of the new leader of the National Socialist Party, Adolph Hitler.  The real story was much different.

In March 1918, after transferring hundreds of thousands of troops from the Eastern Front where Russia had withdrawn from the war, Germany launched the first of four massive Western Front offensive designed to defeat Britain and France before fresh American soldiers began flooding into France.  Those assaults resulted in advances, but ultimately failed and, in the process, caused enormous casualties among German troops, and exhausting and damaging the morale of the survivors (for more background read The Kaiserschlacht).

Sensing that the tide had turned, late July saw the Allies agree on launching a series of coordinated offensives designed to decisively evict German armies from France.  The first of these offenses occurred around the city of Amiens beginning on August 8, 1918.  The innovative attack plan, which involved masses of new available tanks and doing away with the normal lengthy pre-attack bombardment met with immediate success, as British, Canadian, and Australian forces gained seven miles in the first day, a shockingly large advance after the stagnant fronts of the prior four years.  It was the beginning of what became known as the Hundred Days Offensive which finally ending the four years of bloodletting.

More alarming to the German command than the ground lost were reports of their troops retreating without making strong resistance, and the taunting of reinforcements as they moved to the front.  Ludendorff referred to it as "the black day for the German army".  It shattered Ludendorff's confidence and from that time he was convinced that Germany could not win the war.

At an Imperial Conference on August 14, Ludendorff for the first time took up the position that victory by arms was impossible, and therefore peace by understanding was necessary.  The military situation worsened over the next six weeks, finally prompting a panicked note from Ludendorff to the military liaison to the government asking to transmit to the Imperial Chancellor his "urgent request that our peace proposals should be issued at once. To-day the troops are holding their own: what may happen to-morrow cannot be foreseen."   This was followed later in the day by a further communication from Ludendorff containing "his urgent request to issue the peace proposal at once, and not to hold it back until the formation of the new Government, which might be delayed."

The civilian government however hesitated to take Ludendorff's advice until, on October 3, General Hindenburg reiterated Ludendorff’s message, stating that “The German army still stands firm and is defending itself against all attacks. The situation, however, is growing more critical daily, and may force the High Command to momentous decisions. In these circumstances it is imperative to stop the fighting in order to spare the German people and their allies unnecessary sacrifices. Every day of delay costs thousands of brave soldiers their lives.

It was only then that Germany's civilian government stated publicly its willingness to engage in peace negotiations based on President Wilson's Fourteen Points.  It was the military, not civilians, which prompted the actions leading to Germany's agreement to an armistice on November 11, 1918.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Solsbury Hill

Peter Gabriel's first single (1977) after leaving Genesis.  Solsbury Hill is a 625 foot high summit near Bath, in England's West Country.  It's one of the possible sites of the Battle of Badon, which likely took place in 490 AD, a victory for the British against the Anglo Saxon invaders, stalling their westward advance for almost a century, a battle also associated with the legend of King Arthur.

What will you do when your eagle flies out of the night?
Climbing up on Solsbury Hill
I could see the city light
Wind was blowing, time stood still
Eagle flew out of the night
He was something to observe
Came in close, I heard a voice
Standing, stretching every nerve
Had to listen, had no choice
I did not believe the information
Just had to trust imagination
My heart going boom, boom, boom
"Son", he said, "grab your things, I've come to take you home"

Sunday, August 5, 2018

A Baseball Day

Started out the day going to Chase Field for the 1pm game between the Diamondbacks and Giants.  A well played game but the Dbacks lost 3-2.  I then raced home and made it in time to watch David Price pitch to the first Yankees batter.  Watched the entire game, all 11 innings and nearly five hours.  The Sox, down 4-1 in the bottom of the 9th with two out and the formidable Aroldis Chapman pitching, came back to tie and then won in the 11th.   This capped a four game sweep by Boston, of which I watched all but two innings.  All in all, a perfect baseball day.

So given my baseball fixation, I spent some time on baseball-reference.com while watching the games so can inform you of these interesting tidbits:

In 1976, Mark Fidrych, the Detroit Tigers 21 year old rookie had a phenomenal debut season, of which THC has written (read The Bird), in the course of which he accumulated 9.6 Wins Above Replacement value (WAR).  There are only three other players since 1900 who have had more than 9.6 WAR at age 21 or younger; Babe Ruth, Bob Feller, and Mike Trout - two Hall of Famers and the best player in baseball today.  Unfortunately, Fidrych hurt his arm the next year, but it was one glorious season for him.

I also decided to investigate in more detail the 1966 campaign of Juan Marichal, the stylish Hall of Fame pitcher for the San Francisco Giants, another player of whom THC was written before (see Gibson Koufax Marichal Mashup and The Fight)

From 1963 through 1969, Marichal won more than 20 games six times, only falling short in 1967 when he was injured.  In 1966, Juan started out 10-0 after his first 11 starts, with the only non-decision coming in a May 17 start against the Dodgers when he was lifted after ten innings after allowing only seven hits and one run in a game the Giants eventually lost in the 13th inning.

Marichal (who was also known as The Dominican Dandy) was dominating in his first 10 starts having an ERA of only 0.59 after shutting out the Phillies on May 26, but it was this game that alerted me to his astonishing usage pattern by Giants manager Herman Franks.

In those first 10 starts, the Giants hurler allowed zero earned runs on five occasions, one earned run four other times, and gave up two runs against the Cardinals, and only gave up six extra base hits (3 doubles and 3 home runs).  It looks like the two runs scored by the Cards may have been because Marichal let up a bit against them, after the Giants scored 13 runs in the top of the third before adding another in the fourth to take a 14-0 lead.  Juan allowed the two runs in the fifth before being removed from the game.

In those ten starts, the Giants star tossed three games on three days rest, five on four days rest, and once on six days.  Eight of the ten starts were complete games, the exceptions being the five innings against the Cardinals and the ten against the Dodgers.  The Dodgers game was his eighth start, followed by a three hit shutout against the Mets on four days rest.  His next start was against the Phillies after only three days off and he threw 14 innings to beat the Philadelphia team 1-0, raising his record to 10-0.  He must have thrown somewhere between 160 and 200 pitches, simply unthinkable by today's standards.

Franks trotted him out against the Reds on four days rest in his next start.  Though Marichal threw another complete game victory he gave up three runs for the first time in 1966.  He then pitched his next two starts on three days rest, giving up six runs in both of them!  So did Franks give him some more rest?  Of course not!  The Giants manager continued to pitch him on three days rest and Juan was effective beating the Dodgers and Astros in his next two starts.

Though he was not as effective for the rest of the season, Marichal finished with 25 wins and only six losses setting career single season best performances on hits per 9 innings, walks per 9 innings, and K/W ratio.  It was a different time.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Friday, July 27, 2018

I Wish I'd Thought Of That

The always interesting and thoughtful Arnold Kling recently reviewed a book on Askblog.

The book, High Growth Handbook by Elad Gil, focuses on companies that are transforming from startups to having several hundred employees.  One of Gil's recommendations is for an executive to circulate a document that describes “how to work with me.”  That's something I think would have been useful to do during my working career.  Over the years I had more people working for me and became, at least to some extent, more self-aware of my own preferences and managerial traits.  At times I alerted individual people to these but on reflection it would have been useful to do it systematically.

Kling, who ran a successful startup in the 90s, agrees.  Below are his thoughts.  You'll notice that some are directed towards people he works for, others to those who work for them.  Mine would be different, except for #4 and #9, but you get the idea.
1. Don’t give me too many things to do at once. I need to feel like I have my work under control.

2. If you want me to do something that requires my utmost concentration, let me work on it in the morning.

3. If you want me to do something that I hate doing, find someone else to do it.

4. I often give vague project assignments. Push back with clarifying questions, until you know what to do or until I back off because I realize that I don’t really know what I want.

5. When I give a deadline, it is the last possible moment to complete a project. When you miss a deadline, I am devastated. When you just make a deadline, I am disappointed. Get it done sooner.

6. I hate it when people focus on assigning blame. When something goes wrong, focus on fixing it.

7. I like sharing interesting articles and books that I come across. Feel free to do the same with me.

8. I believe in hiring people for attitude and ability, not for experience.

9. The key attitude is being oriented toward solving problems rather than just complaining. I will not tolerate a chronic complainer.

10. I’ll let a software developer get away with being a prima donna*, if you’ve got the right combination of ability, conscientiousness, and stamina. Show me you can really get stuff done, in which case I’d rather keep you happy and let other employees get annoyed than the other way around.

* [NOTE: I've substituted my footnote for Kling's]
And these times are so hard and it's getting even harder
Tryin' to feed and water my seed, plus
See dishonor caught up between bein' a father and a prima donna
Baby mama drama screamin' on and Too much for me to want to Stay in one spot,
another day of monotony Has gotten me to the point, I'm like a snail
I've got to formulate a plot fore I end up in jail or shot
Success is my only motherfuckin' option, failure's not
Mom, I love you, but this trail has got to go
I cannot grow old in Salem's lot
So here I go is my shot.
Feet fail me not 'cause this may be the only opportunity that I got  
- Eminem (Lose Yourself)

Thursday, July 26, 2018

On History And Timing

We've written posts on both Ottoman sieges of Vienna, the first in 1529 and the second in 1683, but what I neglected was their relative historical significance.  If Vienna had fallen in the first siege there was a significant chance that the Ottomans would have advanced further into central Europe perhaps sending the course of history into a new channel, while the city's fall in 1683 would have been an endpoint for the Ottomans, rather than a signal for further conquest.

In 1529 the Ottomans were at the peak of their powers under Suleiman the Magnificent.  After the fall of Constantinople in 1453 they had proceeded to solidify their hold on the Balkans.  Early in the 16th century they turned their attention to the Middle East, quickly conquering Syria, the Holy Land, Egypt, Iraq, and Arabia, becoming the protectors of Islam's most sacred sites including Medina and Mecca.  Returning to Europe they conquered the island of Rhodes evicting the Knights Hospitallers who had been a thorn in their side for decades (read The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of) and capping it all by destroying the Hungarian monarchy in 1526 bringing them into the heart of Europe.  The Ottoman dynasty was dynamic and its military sophisticated by the standards of the times.

By 1683 the situation was much different.  The mid-16th century was the highpoint of Ottoman expansionism.  Turkish fleets roamed the Mediterranean, in cooperation with the King of France, against their mutual enemies.  On land the Sultan's army seemed invincible.

Then, in 1565, the Ottomans attempted to capture Malta, the new home of the Knights Hospitallers.  It was a disastrous failure, followed six years later by the devastating naval defeat at Lepanto, off the Greek Coast in which the allied Western navies crushed the Ottomans.  After Lepanto, the Ottoman fleet slowly degraded and the naval threat from Constantinople diminished.

On land, while the Ottomans were still effective on the defence, they faced a stalemate in central Europe, where they and the Hapsburgs traded incremental territorial gains back and forth.  It was only in the steppe lands north of the Black Sea where the Turks attained some permanent gains, but in lands with no larger strategic impact.

After Suleiman's death in 1566, the Sultanate was occupied by a series of ineffectual sultans.  Along with the navy's deterioration, the army became resistant to changes in military technology and tactics, areas in which the West was beginning to move ahead.

In retrospect the campaign of 1683 should be seen as nothing more than a large-scale raid, a last effort to reclaim ancient glory.  In the Balkans and Central Europe, the Ottomans followed a tradition of slowly assembling armies in the spring, with the forces meeting near Belgrade and then slowly advancing north along the Danube River.  With its borders now so far from Constantinople, the Ottoman army would usually not reach the frontier until mid-summer leaving little time for campaigning before it withdrew in the fall, which is precisely what happened in 1683.

But what would have happened if Vienna had fallen in 1683?  The city would have been sacked, robbed of its possessions, and its remaining inhabitants ransomed or carted off into slavery.  It is unlikely though that Vienna would have been permanently occupied.  It was well beyond the existing frontier, and difficult to supply and maintain even a small occupying force.  It could have been easily reconquered.  The city's fall would have been a shock to Western Europe, but one without lasting consequences, and one easily reversed.

What the second siege did mark was the definite end of Ottoman dreams of expansion in Europe and psychologically is freed Europe from its fear of the Sultanate.  A counteroffensive led by the Hapsburgs quickly conquered Hungary and though the Ottomans remained in the Balkans for two more centuries their power was broken.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

They Can Get You If They Want To

"If there is one thing a defense lawyer knows, it's that the government can get you if it wants to.  Any government.  Federal, state or local.  Law-abiding private citizens do not believe this until some government sets out to get them, and they have to pay good money to a man like me to fight for them, but their disbelief is like unto the very dew of May; it evaporates fast.  Along with their bank balances, cheerfulness, and the order of their lives."

George V Higgins in Defending Billy Ryan

Having been through this experience myself, let me just add Amen.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Poncedeleon Lands

On May 9, 2017 Cardinals minor league pitcher Daniel Poncedeleon was struck in the head by a line drive in a game against the Chicago Cubs team in Iowa.  The injury was so bad that Daniel required emergency brain surgery and was hospitalized for three weeks.  You can read about it here and watch the incident below.

For many pitchers an injury like this can be the end of the line.  Either they never return to the game, or are so marred by the incident that it impacts their ability to pitch effectively.

Poncedeleon returned to pitch in the minors this season and was outstanding.  Called up to the Cardinals he made his major league debut last night, and it was something no one will ever forget as Daniel threw seven innings of no-hit ball before leaving the game.  You can watch here.  What an amazing story!

Monday, July 23, 2018

The Great American Ballpark Ranking

Since THC completed visiting all 30 major league parks, he thought it only proper to present his completely objective ranking of the sun-dappled (except for domed stadiums and night games) fields of play.  Our methodology was to arrive at least an hour before the game (we couldn't do this in all cases), walk the entire stadium, sample the food, and then stay until the last out.  Below are my top three parks, along with the rest divided among three tiers.  You may notice that there are not an equal number of teams in each tier.  I don't care.  This is my post.

Bottom line, any park is a good place to watch a baseball game.

Extra bonus feature - learn which park is best suited for you to survive a zombie apocalpyse!

Top Three

Fenway Park (Boston Red Sox, 1912) - Hey, I'm a Red Sox fan, what'd you expect?

AT&T Park (San Francisco Giants, 2000) - Views of surrounding area, sight lines to field, and food all top notch.

PNC Park (Pittsburgh Pirates, 2001) - Views of the bridge and city.  Good seating and food.

Top Tier

Wrigley Field (Chicago Cubs, 1914) - Some advice; don't go to a June game on a sunny day if there's a brisk wind blowing in from the lake, or at least sit in the bleachers where you are protected.

Petco Park (San Diego Padres, 2004) - Tied for best food with AT&T.  Also like that factory facade built into the stadium.

Safeco Field (Seattle Mariners, 1999)

Kaufman Stadium (KC Royals, 1973)) - An older stadium with a nice feel to it.  Very comfortable and open.

Coors Field (Colorado Rockies, 1995) - I may have been unduly influenced by the magnificent fireworks display at the end of the game.

Busch Stadium (St Louis Cardinals, 2006) - Great atmosphere, great fans and food.  And that's even with us ending up in last row of third deck in left field.

Middle Tier

Marlins Park (Miami Marlins, 2012) - A lot of folks don't like this one but I did except for the stupid statute in center field which they should blow up.  Instead, they blew up the team.

Comerica Park (Detroit Tigers, 2000) - Much better than anticipated.

Dodger Stadium (Los Angeles Dodgers, 1962) - Great location, memorable history, but the park itself is looking old and tired.

Camden Yards (Baltimore Orioles, 1992) - The state of the art stadium when it opened, it's now been surpassed by the competition.

Chase Field (Arizona Diamondbacks, 1998) - I've developed a soft spot for the park of my new hometown team.  Decent in every category, plus you can buy a Paradise Valley Burger there.  On the other hand, team management wants out of the stadium because of dispute with city over deferred maintenance.

Globe Life Park (Texas Rangers, 1994) - Interesting park to walk around with good vantage points.  My advice: don't get seats on third base line for afternoon or early evening games in the summer.  I left some skin.

Target Field (Minnesota Twins, 2010) - Fun place, right near downtown.

Great American Ballpark (Cincinnati Reds, 2003) - Like the river setting.  Good BBQ in left field corner.  So, do you think Joey Votto takes too many pitches?

Miller Park (Milwaukee Brewers, 2001) - Fun place to watch a ballgame.  Also the ballpark best suited for you to survive a zombie apocalypse.

Citizens Bank Park (Philadelphia Phillie, 2004) - Like the promenade and food area around the outfield.

Citi Field (New York Mets, 2009) - If you go try to tie in a visit to the Louis Armstrong House Museum in nearby Corona, Queens.

Nationals Park (Washington Nationals, 2008)

Bottom Tier

SunTrust Park (Atlanta Braves, 2017) - We saw it last year when it opened. It left me cold.

Yankee Stadium (New York Yankees, 2009)) - Yes, I hate the Yankees but hear me out.  I've been to both the original Yankee Stadium and its 1970s replacement and thought highly of both of them.  The new stadium, which I've been to several times, is a nothingburger, and a number of my Yankee friends agree.

Rodgers Centre (Toronto Blue Jays, 1989) - Nothing special in any way.  Needs renovation.  My view is admittedly colored by our seats behind the right field light stands.  Devoted fans however.  48,000 showed up for a mid-week game with the Tigers with neither team in contention.

Progressive Field (Cleveland Indians, 1994) - Impressed on my first visits to the stadium, but it had aged badly by my last in 2012.  The field was renovated in 2014 and 2015 so maybe some of the old glory has been restored.  I hope so.

Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum (Oakland Athletics, 1966) - Last there in 1972.  I'm told it's not gotten any better.

Minute Maid Park (Houston Astros, 2000) - Like watching a game in a shopping mall.  Great scoreboard though. The team is not too shabby either.

Guaranteed Rate Field (Chicago White Sox, 1991) - Winner of Worst Name for a Ballpark award.

Angel Stadium (Los Angeles Angels, 1966) - Low-rated otherwise, but don't miss the bacon and cheese sandwich which comes with a ton of bacon.  This Trout kid may amount to something.  Keep an eye on him.

Somewhere Between AAA and Major League

Tropicana Field (Tampa Bay Rays, 1990) - Like watching a game in a circus tent.  It was so ridiculous I found it enjoyable, at least for one game.