Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Happy Halloween!

The nightmare becomes real in the form of Steven Tyler of Arrowsmith merely looking as he always does.

A Star Is Born

The bad news first.  A Star Is Born gets bogged down in its second half and, like all too many recent movies, could have been twenty minutes shorter.  Also the second half features some pop music which is dreadful (I enjoyed that the movie was an indictment of modern pop).  Actually, since you know exactly how this movie is going to turn out they could have skipped from the middle to Lady Gaga's closing number.

The good news:

The first half is dynamic and completely enjoyable with the exhilarating immediacy of the music scenes, the best I've seen in a non-documentary film other than Get On Up, the James Brown biopic.

All of the music is original - most of it composed by Willie Nelson's son with contributions from Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga - and it's quite good (including the pop stuff which is supposed to be obnoxious).  I didn't know Cooper could compose, play, and sing (though I knew he was one of our nation's finest air guitarists).

The film looks great - kudos to first time director Cooper.

I became a Lady Gaga fan.  She was captivating.  I never paid much attention to her before because of the atrocious pop music videos and her weird costumes.  Here, at least in the first half, she appears with very little makeup and she's a good looking lady.  It also turns out she's a fine actress and she and Cooper have terrific chemistry together (as do Cooper and Sam Elliot - Cooper's character even sounds like Elliot).  And boy, can she sing!  I'm going to get that record of duets she recorded with Tony Bennett.  She has range, tonal control, and a throaty undertone.  Even though I was disappointed in the last section of the film make sure you stick around to hear her closing song.

Though updated from the 1950s and 1970s film versions it is also a surprisingly old-fashioned movie thematically.  A Star Is Born is about the importance of marriage, the efforts the two principals make to sustain it, what both are willing to sacrifice for each other, and, ultimately the different priority each places on career versus marriage.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Mr Brightside

I like the music and the sound of the words of Mr Brightside have but never bothered to actually look at the lyrics or figure out what it means because I don't care.  From The Killers, an American band, who found initial popularity in the UK when Mr Brightside was released in 2003 and all five albums have hit #1.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Red Sox World

The Sox own the first two decades of the last two centuries!  Five championships from 1903 to 1918.  Four from 2004 to 2018.  Don't ask me what happens after 2020.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The Ovation

Last night's Game 1 of the World Series at Fenway saw the Dodgers players introduced to varying levels of boos, with Manny Machado deservedly getting the most.  However, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts received a standing ovation from the fans.

This is why.  Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS with the Red Sox down three games to none and the Yankees leading 4-3 in the bottom of the 9th with the best relief pitcher in baseball history on the mound.  Pinch runner Dave Roberts stole second base, the most important stolen base in Red Sox history, when everyone in the stadium including the Yankees knew he would be running, and scored the tying run on a single.  Big Papi eventually won the game in extra innings, the Sox went on to win the next three against the Yankees, and then sweep the Cardinals to win their first championship since 1918.  The base Roberts stole is on display at Fenway along with an endless tape loop of the steal.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Texas In The Beginning

In 1837 this was the first Executive Mansion of the Republic of Texas, home of its first President, Sam Houston.  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, 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.