Wednesday, January 31, 2018

EXTRA: In memory of a long-ago ‘fro

He began his time as a major league ballplayer with the Cubs and ended with the White Sox. Arguably, his best season ever was 1977, when he was one of the ‘big bats’ that comprised the South Side Hit Men and made that 3rd place version of the White Sox one of the most interesting teams ever in Sox history.

The Oscar Gamble of our memories
Yet let’s be honest. Nobody’s going to remember Oscar Gamble for any of that.

WHEN IT COMES to Gamble, a hard-hitting outfielder of the 1970s who died Wednesday at age 68, he’s known for the ‘fro – as in the incredibly huge afro hairstyle he wore back in the days when such hair was stylish.

In Gamble’s case, he wore his afro huge. Various reports indicate his hair stuck about eight inches out from his head. It gave the impression of an incredibly huge head – almost as though Gamble were a real-life, African-American version of those bobblehead dolls that are popular with many baseball fans.

Which is kind of ironic that Gamble wound up playing two stints with the New York Yankees – a team notorious for their restrictions on ballplayers and their hairstyles. They made him cut it.

Which means during that one year Gamble was with the White Sox, we got to see a version of the ‘fro that was trying to re-grow itself.
Afro untethered by ball cap

WE CERTAINLY NEVER got to see anything close to what was depicted on that 1976 baseball card showing Gamble traded from the Cleveland Indians (where his hair grew free and wild) to Yankees pinstripes.

For what it’s worth, Gamble was part of Yankees teams that won American League championships in 1976 and 1981. He was that guy who rotated between playing outfield and designated hitter, which allowed the Yankees to fit more ballplayers into the lineup than usual.

Following that first stint, Gamble was traded to the White Sox (along with assorted minor league ballplayers including future Cy Young Award winner LaMarr Hoyt) in exchange for shortstop Bucky Dent – who helped the Yankees win a pair of World Series titles and created his own baseball iconic moment that causes his name to be taken in vain in Boston.
Afro trying to restore itself

Dent wanted big money contracts, more than then-owner Bill Veeck was willing to pay. Of course, Gamble also wanted a big money contract, and Veeck couldn’t afford that either. Which caused him to label Gamble and outfielder Richie Zisk as the original “rent-a-players.”

IN GAMBLE’S CASE, it worked for the White Sox. His .297 batting average, with 31 home runs and 83 runs batted in were a key part of that ’77 White Sox team that stayed in first place through mid-August.

He then went to the San Diego Padres because then-owner Ray Kroc gave him the big money contract that he played under for the rest of his ballplaying career.
Oscar, in the beginning

Which began in 1969 when he played part of the season with the Cubs (one of many ballplayers signed by scout Buck O’Neil whom the Cubs foolishly let get away) and ended in 1985 when he returned to the White Sox for one final season.

I remember Gamble for his ability to mash the ball. Not exactly a guy who you’d put in the field for stellar defense. But someone who could put runs on the scoreboard with his 200 career home runs and 666 runs batted in, along with 610 bases on balls.

BUT THERE ALSO was the hair. The afro that causes his memory to live on whenever people discuss what became of professional baseball during the 1970s and the game, in many ways, finally started catching up to trends of society at-large.
Gamble, at the end

I’m sure the reaction to the sight of Gamble’s hair back in those days said more about you as an individual rather than anything about Oscar himself.

Which is why it was always humorous to see photographs of Gamble in more recent years. He went bald.

But the memory of the ‘fro will linger on in the minds of those of us to whom the Bicentennial was a reality of life – and not just something we learned about while skimming a history book.


Illinois may be Midwestern island of distrust, but few think much of Trump

We’ve now endured just over a year of Donald J. Trump as our nation’s president and have even seen the sight of the Orange one delivering a State of the Union address.

Does anybody like Donald Trump?
What does it say that only 38 percent of the public approves of his performance – far less than most past presidents. Even Barack Obama, who at this point in his presidency had a 57 percent majority of the people approving of him.

THE GALLUP ORGANIZATION showed a state-by-state breakdown this week of what we think of the Trump administration.

We here in Illinois give the man a 33 percent approval rating, slightly lower than the national average and less than all the surrounding states.

But it probably should be noted that even in places like Indiana, Iowa, Missouri Wisconsin, Trump does not exceed 50 percent approval amongst those that Gallup surveyed.

In the land of Hoosiers, a place that gave Trump Mike Pence as his vice president and a place that Trump likes to praise as a model for what Illinois and Chicago ought to try to be like, Trump only gets a 44 percent approval rating.

IN FACT, ONLY 12 of the 50 states give Trump a 50 percent-or-more approval. The only one of those anywhere near to us is Kentucky (51 percent) – which borders up against the southern end of Illinois, but is a land where the locals like to point out that they’re closer physically and in spirit to places like Jackson, Miss., than to Chicago.

Pence presence not enough to make Hoosiers like Trump
I’m sure on some level, these figures will bother Trump – although I’m sure he’ll come up with some nonsense rhetoric intended to make it appear as though the American people adore him.

Will it rival Sally Field’s Oscar acceptance of 1985. “You like me, you really like me.” Which sounded cutesy and adorable coming from the “Places in the Heart” actress, but would most likely sound insipid coming from Melania’s husband.

As for Illinois, the notion of a 62 percent disapproval rating sounds right, although I’m sure rural parts of central Illinois won’t want to believe it.

Did we really like her?
THEY’RE THE PARTS of Illinois that Gov. Bruce Rauner is relying upon if he’s to have any chance of winning a second term in his office. But for the statewide disapproval to be that high probably means a Chicago disapproval is in the 80s (percentile).

That’s just a guess on my part. But it would appear accurate, particularly since Trump used his first year in office to make more than his share of barbs against our home city. This would be payback.

We wouldn’t have any love lost for a foul-mouthed man who besmirched our otherwise elegant urban skyline with that self-promoting, not-quite-1,400-foot-tall structure that has the feel of a bully trying to overpower its surroundings.
Will we someday sing similar praises to Obama?

I know there are those who will try to claim Chicago is some sort of aberration not only in the nation but particularly with the Midwest.

BUT THEN YOU look at the Gallup findings and show that the man known as Trump isn’t really that beloved anyplace. In Iowa (52 percent disapproval), Michigan or Wisconsin (both 55 percent disapproval) or Minnesota (58 percent disapproval).

The blowhard’s rhetoric has worn thin, and we’re possibly stuck with three more years of his administration.

It almost seems as though a new generation will be singing the question, “Where have you gone, Barack Obama?” just as Simon and Garfunkel once lyrically pondered the same of Joe DiMaggio. That fact, I’m sure, would be the biggest blow to the Trump ego and the sensibilities of those who voted for him.
Is this really our nation's only hope?
As for the rest of us? We can wonder about the future (a la the sensibilities of Matt Groening); one in which a "President Lisa Simpson" bails us out, with the help of her ne'er-do-well brother, Bart.


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

War of the honored symbols; or are they really nothing more than mascots?

The baseball fan in me noticed the reports that the Cleveland Indians are removing (finally!) the Chief Wahoo logo that has been a part of the team culture for some 70-plus years. A good thing to see the absurd, cartoonish image no longer linger.
Which of these will have louder, ...

Or maybe it won’t be that simple.

BECAUSE I ALSO noticed the reports about the ongoing dispute over Chief Illiniwek; the alleged honored symbol of the University of Illinois who was formally abolished years ago – only to have certain ideologically-inclined fans of the Fighting Illini act as though they’re engaged in a noble cause by retaining the chief’s memory.
... more obnoxious proponents?

I won’t be surprised to see Indians fans and conservative ideologues go out of their way to snatch up the remaining supply of Wahoo-logo merchandise (the team will drop the symbol come the 2019 season) and wear it as a measure of spite.

Which in a sense would be a good thing – we’d now clearly be able to identify the idiots in our society. They’d be the people wearing Wahoo-emblazoned caps, t-shirts and jerseys.

Just as we can tell the people at the University of Illinois who are determined to live in the past when their silly image of a native chief was regarded as dignified – rather than as the cartoon it truly was. In one sense, no better than that of Wahoo.
Am I only one who sees similar grin?

THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE reported Monday about a recent incident where a professor opposed to the chief imagery went into a restroom at what used to be called Assembly Hall, found an alumnus in chief regalia who apparently planned to make an unofficial appearance during a basketball game, and videotaped him.

The professor was arrested for supposedly violating laws against recording someone in a public restroom (a law intended to keep perverts from taking pictures of women during their private moments), but the state’s attorney for Champaign County refused to prosecute.

Of course, the chief backers are trying to portray the professor as some sort of pervert for using his camera in a restroom. Although it could also be argued that people determined to keep the chief image alive aren’t exactly the most rational of human beings.
Spokane Indians baseball figured out way to pay tribune

In short, the fact that the University of Illinois did away with Chief Illiniwek back in 2007 hasn’t brought this particular battle to a close. I expect that people on the Ohio scene will soon have similarly-absurd images to counter with.

PEOPLE DECIDING TO turn up at ballgames with their faces painted red and white to make themselves appear to be Chief Wahoo. An image that was officially commissioned by the ballclub back in 1947 by then-owner Bill Veeck (yes, the very same) who said he wanted something that, “would convey a spirit of pure joy and unbridled enthusiasm.”

Which strikes me as being as ridiculous as those Illinois alumni who argue on behalf of Illiniwek that he was an “honored symbol” who portrayed the people of the Illiniwek Confederation of old with dignity.
Is there really a difference?

He wasn’t a mascot, they’d argue, like Bucky Badger of the University of Wisconsin. You’d never catch the chief dancing with cheerleaders or giving a football quarterback a high-five following a successful touchdown pass.

They’d claim the dance he’d do at half-time of football and basketball games was actually authentic to the peoples who were native to what is now Illinois. I’ve known students who portrayed Illiniwek who claim that such clownish behavior would have got them in trouble.

NOT THAT ANY of that really matters. Throughout the years, it has adapted to being a caricature, one possibly just as ridiculous as that cartoonish Indian face with its ridiculous grin (so reminiscent of the “sambo” images that black people find so offensive) that some Indians fans will want to cling to.

Perhaps they will think this is part of their own ongoing fight to “Make America Great Again.” As though the idea of our society is based on images that kept certain peoples in their place and let them know they really didn’t fully belong.
Is calling this State Farm Center the real offense?

Not that I think there aren’t respectful ways of teams incorporating imagery of native tribes into their marketing. Although I suspect that many of the people who want screaming, screeching savages would consider those images dull and confusing.

Some people will fight for anything, no matter how ridiculous. Personally, if I were a Fighting Illini fan (my brother went to school there, I didn’t), I’d be more offended by the notion that the basketball team let their long-time home ditch the Assembly Hall moniker for State Farm Center. Now that’s something tacky.


Monday, January 29, 2018

Is a boycott the new ‘norm’ for political behavior within our Congress?

What’s the difference between political malcontents of the Republican and Democratic political persuasions?
SCHAKOWSKY: Don't want Trump to be the norm

It could be that the former is determined to make a public stink out of the formal events that comprise government activity, while the latter is more than willing to let their silence speak for themselves.

THERE ARE THOSE who will never forget Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., who screamed out “You lie!” at then-President Barack Obama during a presidential address in 2009 when Obama said (rather truthfully) that his desires to provide healthcare reform would not benefit those non-citizens who were living in this country without a valid visa.

Because there are those who are just determined to believe (no matter what reality says) that those “filthy foreigners” are leeching off of decent “real Americans.”

Now there are those people who believe that our current president, Donald J. Trump, is incapable of saying anything truthful, and I’m sure the “you lie” sentiment will be passing through the minds of many in the Democratic caucuses of Congress when they listen to the president’s State of the Union address come Tuesday.

The speech being the annual statement made by the president to give the public a sense of his priorities for the upcoming year. It will be interesting to see how many factual whoppers Trump comes up with to make it appear as though he’s the most productive president this country has ever had.
LEWIS: Not the first time he dumped Trump

BUT WE’RE NOT likely to hear any epithets being barked at Trump during his address. In fact, the most notable part of the atmosphere of the address come Tuesday may be the sound of silence – and no, I don’t mean the old Simon and Garfunkel tune.

I’m aware of at least six Democratic members of Congress saying they’re not going to show up – including Rep. Jan Schakowsky from Evanston and the North Shore suburbs of Chicago.

Schakowsky told the Chicago Sun-Times she thinks Trump’s governmental behavior during the past year has been disrespectful to our society, and she doesn’t want to make it appear as though she regards it as the “normal” way our government should conduct itself. “The American people have been subjected to a year of racist and erratic and divisive behavior, she said.
TRUMP: How wonderful will State of Union be?

Other Democrats who say they’re not showing up Tuesday include Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, Pramila Jayapal of Washington, John Lewis of Georgia, Frederica Wilson of Florida and Maxine Waters of California.

NOT THAT ANYBODY viewing the presidential address on television will notice. The usual atmosphere of congressional applause coming at key points in the speech will continue to be heard.

It just means the Republican side of the aisle will provide all of the clapping noise meant to make it appear as though Trump’s thoughts are garnering wide support from fellow politicos.

Those viewing the event inside the Congressional chambers will side Democrats sitting looking bored, but with large pockets of empty seats – depending on how many members of Congress decide to follow the lead of Jan Schakowsky; who even when she was a member of the Illinois House of Representatives a couple of decades ago was a critic willing to speak her mind even if it disagreed with the official stance her political party (a.k.a., Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan) took.

I wonder if this is going to be something we’ll see in future years – or at least until Trump is dumped from public office.

CONSIDER THAT TRUMP’S presidential inauguration just over a year ago saw some 56 members of Congress refuse to show up to see The Donald take the oath to “preserve, protect and defend” the U.S. Constitution – albeit in ways many consider totally bizarre.
WILSON: He believes Trump

In fact, Lewis – a 16-term congressman and one-time activist during the Civil Rights movement – didn’t show up for that event either.

There likely won’t be any repeats of a Joe Wilson-like outburst on Tuesday, particularly since Trump and his nonsense talk appears to be the kind of president that Wilson himself appears to prefer.

So what is the “State of the Union” these days? Best described in one word – divided.


Saturday, January 27, 2018

How long it can take (sometimes never) for municipal projects to become reality

I once wrote a commentary essentially praising Chicago Transit Authority officials for moving forward on a long-discussed project to improve mass transit access to the far South Side by extending the Red Line trains from 95th Street all the way potentially to within one mile of the city’s southern border.
A Red Line stop of the future. Perhaps some day by 2026. Image provided by city of Chicago
As one who was born in the far southeast corner of Chicago, still has relatives there and thinks of the 10th Ward as the “old neighborhood,” I was pleased to see that something could happen to make it easier for those people to have access to the rest of Chicago.

SO I SUPPOSE I’m pleased once again to learn the CTA took actions to advance the project a little further. They have picked a specific route for the trains to follow once they get to the current end-of-the-line at 95th Street and the middle of the Dan Ryan Expressway.

It is one that will take people all the way to 130th Street (at the Bishop Ford Freeway), giving residents of Altgeld Gardens and the Hegewisch neighborhood some train access. It also will make stops at 103rd and 111th streets – adding further access to people who live Far South in Chicago.
Will it ever arrive?

Yet that original commentary I wrote was back in August of 2009. I also have written about various community forums throughout the years in which those of us who regard a Sout’ Side neighborhood such as Bridgeport as just another place up north expressed our support.

Yet here it is, some nine years later, and still no earth has been turned toward the eventual goal of “el” trains connecting places like Hegewisch and Pullman to downtown.

IN FACT, THE Chicago Tribune reported Friday that the soonest actual construction could begin would be some time in 2022, with the actual project taking about four years for completion.
This will NEVER arrive

Meaning that if I’m lucky, I might see this project become reality some time after I hit the age of 60. This project is taking time to complete, and keep in mind that the opposition to this isn’t as intense (some argue that doing anything on the South Side is a waste of time and money, but they’re nitwits) as some other projects have become.

One could easily see the ongoing debate over the need of a third major airport for the Chicago area, where proponents have sort of settled on Peotone, Ill., in Will County, while critics have argued for doing nothing and thus far have been successful.

That project has been under speculation since the early 1970s and had the process narrowed down to four sites by the late 1980s when the opponents really stepped up their hostile talk.

I REMEMBER ONCE hearing then-Peotone village President Richard Benson tell me he had given up even following the airport talk about his municipality. I thought he was being short-sighted and silly.

Heck, that was back in 2000. Some 18 years later, nothing is closer. Perhaps he really WAS wiser than I. In that particular project, it seems that everybody is determined to have nothing happen that a political opponent could take credit for.

Resulting in the lack of activity. Never mind the actual issue of whether Chicago’s aviation needs would benefit from another full-scale airport.

Of course, a Peotone airport theoretically could be revived. Moreso than the one-time Crosstown Expressway – the route that supposedly would vastly improve transit through Chicago.

BACK IN THE 1960s and 1970s, there was serious debate about a highway following 75th Street to Cicero Avenue, eventually merging into the Kennedy Expressway. There are those who argue it would have significantly reduced the constant jams along the Dan Ryan.
How many would have viewed it as victory if they could have thwarted construction altogether?
But that project never got off the ground, and eventually the federal government withdrew its support in the early 1980s.

Perhaps by that definition, we ought to consider the late 1980s construction of a Chicago White Sox ballpark a success. Talk had been going on in the mid-1980s, and threats in 1988 to move the ballclub to St. Petersburg, Fla., motivated the politicos to act. The ballpark now known as Guaranteed Rate Field is 28 years old.

It's too bad that Hegewisch can't do some political blackmail like the White Sox did to speed up the process toward a Red Line extension. Because I'm sure there are some political people who, if they could have had their way, would still have the ballpark construction argument continuing to this day.


Friday, January 26, 2018

Would we be better off ignoring Bannon than protesting his presence?

It was a rule of thumb I once heard from a former news colleague about the importance of covering events by white supremacists and other crackpots – it was important to do so in order to expose them.

BANNON: Better off ignored?
Let the public see how lame and pathetic they truly are so as to discredit anything they ever have to say.

A PART OF me was always skeptical of such logic – particularly in this Age of Trump that we’re now in where the crackpots are more than eager to scream “fake news” and want to believe only what falls in line with their own loony ideology.

They’re more than likely to want to believe the loony talk and use the fact that it got covered as evidence of its truthfulness.

So what do I think of those University of Chicago students who on Thursday felt compelled to protest the possible presence of one-time Trump adviser Steven Bannon on the Hyde Park neighborhood campus?

I actually wonder if this is an instance where Bannon would be likely to show up, draw a miniscule crowd and wind up being ignored. Whereas attention has now been drawn to his possible arrival, and Bannon himself is likely to have a bolstered ego as a result.

AFTER ALL, WOULD so many people get so pissed off if he weren’t such an important person? If we’d ignore him, it might be a blow to his ego by showing how irrelevant he and his followers are to the true majority of our society.

For the record, a professor at the Booth School of Business invited Bannon (who when he wasn’t working for the Trump administration was, until recently, the head of a website devoted to spewing the kind of rhetoric the crackpots enjoy) to be a part of a forum on globalization and immigration.

Bannon, whom many have claimed is motivated by racist ideas, would be expected to speak out on how bad those ideas are for our nation, while an academic type yet-to-be-determined would speak on their behalf.

TRUMP: Backers consider protests a win
I could easily envision such a program attracting a couple-dozen spectators on campus, with no attention paid by the general public.

EXCEPT NOW, THEY’RE going to be able to boast to dozens of protesters tossing out rhetoric such as “Nazi thug” and “illegitimate fascist.”

Which I’m sure Bannon and his ilk will somehow take as signs of how “out-of-touch” the majority of us are with them. Only they want to believe they’re the majority. Yes, I think that when Bannon learned of this outburst, his ego got bloated.

Which is the last thing I would want to see become of a man who was considered by some to be the brains behind the most absurd of President Donald Trump’s ridiculous rhetoric during the months last year when Bannon actually had a White House office and Oval Office access.

A part of me believes this so much because I remember back to my own college days in the mid-1980s – back when a big issue for protest were the apartheid policies that resulted in a racially-segregated South Africa. Many U.S. businesses made a point of cutting their investment there so as to try to sway protests.

I REMEMBER THE protests that took place, and the forums held on campus that did little to sway anybody. In fact, I always suspected the people most inclined to back the old regime (from back in the days when Nelson Mandela was regarded as just another black man in prison) took a certain amount of pride.

A moment from the dismal past
Particularly whenever they started screaming “Communist” to describe Mandela and anybody else who had a problem with a roughly 10 percent minority being in charge of the country as a whole.

There are times I wonder if such rhetoric actually prolonged the existence of the old South Africa that might have withered away more quickly if we hadn’t made the nitwits feel all the more important for their rancid rhetoric.

Just as I’m sure there are those who are eagerly awaiting the day that Trump and his allies get reduced back to irrelevance within our society just as the days of separateness are now an absurd part of South Africa’s past.


Thursday, January 25, 2018

Honesty during political debates? Or just more of the 2018 silly season!

First, a bit of disclosure – I didn’t actually watch the debate held Tuesday night between the various candidates seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge Gov. Bruce Rauner come November.

KENNEDY: Can't say something nice
So I’m relying on assorted news reports of the event that seem to focus on candidate Chris Kennedy’s moment of rudeness (or is it honesty?) when he couldn’t come up with anything nice to say about the front-running challenger, J.B. Pritzker.

ONE ACCOUNT I read literally noted the number of seconds of silence from Kennedy before he admitted he couldn’t say anything positive.

It has many political observers feeling like he violated one of the great unwritten rules of political debate – not to make the personal attacks such as the Kennedy comment that “J.B. emerges as the poster child of all that is wrong with the corrupt system in our state.”

I understand that after the debate, Kennedy felt compelled to apologize to Pritzker and even touted Pritzker’s “incredible record around providing early childhood education.” On some level, Kennedy had a talking point burned into his brain that he could easily have tossed out to answer the question.

So is Kennedy worthy of our hostility for not playing nice, or by the rules, so to speak?
PRITZKER: Feelings hurt? Or campaign bolstered

OR IS KENNEDY being truthful when he told reporter-type people that his political weakness is “my honesty.”

Now as a reporter-type myself who has covered many political debates throughout the years, I’m fully aware that this question about “saying something nice” about your opponents is a common one.

It always seems to be asked by TV-types who think that it somehow brings a humanizing moment about – one whose sound-bite they will make sure to use prominently in their broadcast reports.

Personally, I always ignored the question and any responses because I always felt they were trivial, and downright phony.
BISS: Says HE was the big winner

SOME PEOPLE CRITICIZING Kennedy these days are pointing out how even Hillary Clinton managed to say something nice about Donald Trump during their 2016 campaign for president against each other.

Specifically, that Hillary had respect for Trump’s family members. Which as far as I’m concerned is about as irrelevant as one can get.

The real news would have been if she had somehow attacked those people who happen to share genetics with Trump – and she likely would have been worthy of all the derision she would have received from people for taking personal cheap shots at people who aren’t on the ballot themselves.

As for Kennedy, perhaps we got a taste of the personal distaste the son of RFK and nephew of JFK feels for his opponent. Which I’m sure will translate into feels of incompetence in that he wonders how could he possibly be losing to this guy.

ALTHOUGH WE HAVEN’T had much in the way of extensive polling in this particular campaign, so whose to say who’s really getting their behind kicked. Except that now, we can claim it’s Chris (or should we call him CGK – it’s George) who’s getting his butt whomped because he didn’t think quickly enough on his feet Tuesday night.
DAIBER: Was he really big benefactor?

Which has already given another opponent, the little-known state senator from Evanston, Daniel Biss, the motivation to claim this campaign has become one between Pritzker and himself.

While I have heard some people claim they’re now going to pay attention to Bob Daiber, the regional school superintendent from the part of Illinois near St. Louis who also is the lone non-Chicago-area person seeking to challenge Rauner for governor.

All of which makes me think my time was better spent Tuesday doing work that helped to earn a living, rather than watching the latest episode of the silly season that other political geeks got worked up over.


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

EXTRA: Thome in, Big Z out, Sosa survives for consideration another year

Jim Thome, the slugging ballplayer who spent nearly four of his 22 years as a major league baseball player with the Chicago White Sox, learned Wednesday he is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Come July, a bronze plaque immortalizing him amongst ballplayers will be presented at the hall’s museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., to the man who helped lead the White Sox to that tie-breaking  end-of-season victory over the Minnesota Twins that gave them their most recent playoff appearance in 2008. He got 89.8 percent voter support.

THE MAN WHO hit 612 home runs, the 500th of which came while wearing the black and white pinstripes of the White Sox, gets to be considered as one of the all-time greats because of the perception that he never resorted to anabolic steroids to try to bulk up and give himself greater strength.

Which is a lot more than Sammy Sosa, the one-time Chicago Cubs slugger who came up with 609 home runs, with 545 of them hit on behalf of the North Side ball club. It seems the suggestion that steroids were behind his sudden burst of power (and three seasons with 60 or more home runs, a peak level no one else has ever achieved) is enough to keep him far from the 75 percent level of voter support required for Hall of Fame induction.
As it is, 33 baseball writers did think Sosa worthy of Hall induction, giving him 7.8 percent support and the right to be considered again come 2019.

As for other ballplayers who will get a chance again next year, longtime star shortstop Omar Vizquel got 37 percent support. The star for Seattle and Cleveland who also played a short stint for the White Sox will contemplate his prospects all through this year while working his current baseball job – as manager of a White Sox minor league affiliate in Winston-Salem, N.C.

THEN, THERE'S ONE one-time Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood, who created lingering memories of that game where he struck out 20 men and whom I’m sure Cubs fandom thinks is worthy of baseball immortality.

The rest of the world does not – only two people voted for Kerry to be in the Hall of Fame. Which is better than the one who voted for former White Sox outfielder Carlos Lee.

Although El Caballo (he supposedly ran like a horse) managed to get more support than Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano.

The “Big Z” was shut out – a result desired while pitching a ballgame, but not one enjoyed when one’s professional career assessed, particularly since it means the Venezuelan star will be remembered primarily for his erratic, and occasionally violent, behavior.


Immigration policy an issue that absolutely refuses to be rushed

There are Latino activists these days who are p-o’ed at Democrats, who they think sold them out in their political resolution to bring to an end a shutdown of the federal government.

Abandoned w/o resolution?
Those activists wanted the shutdown to extend indefinitely as a means of pressuring Republican politicos into taking seriously the issue of immigration reform, in particular the fate of those people whose existence in this nation is at risk due to President Donald Trump’s desire to dump Barack Obama’s legacy measure – the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

LIKE MOST SPECIAL-interest groups, they have their focus on one measure, and could care less about the big picture.

So when Democrats in Congress went ahead and voted to approve funding to keep the federal government open (at least until Feb. 8), they weren’t trusting of Republican promises that they really would conduct serious discussions about DACA and immigration in general.

When Trump followed up quickly by letting it be known his thoughts about those issues hasn’t changed one bit, it has the Latino activists feel like nothing will be accomplished.
An asterisk on the resolution?

Personally, I’m not as hung up on this concept as many of these activists – even though I have just as intense an interest in immigration issues as they do.

PERHAPS IT’S BECAUSE I realize that it isn’t going to be the president or Congress who ultimately will decide the fate of those young people who were brought to this country by their parents without valid Visas or other immigration papers.

If DACA (the program that allows those undocumented to register with the federal government and gain work permits while progressing toward eventual citizenship) is truly to remain in place, it most likely is going to be because the Supreme Court of the United States will – in effect – ram it down the president’s throat!
Shutdown merely first of many fights

To me, the more significant move was the Supreme Court’s announcement Tuesday that it would allow a federal court ruling out of San Francisco that thwarts Trump’s efforts to abolish DACA to proceed directly to the high court.

Instead of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th District (also based in San Francisco). As far as when the Supreme Court in Washington will take up the issue, we could learn something as soon as the court’s conference Feb. 16.

TRUMP, OF COURSE, is the guy who had wanted to use his executive order powers to abolish DACA, and had hinted he wanted it gone by early March.

That deadline, which was thwarted by the ruling of U.S. District Judge William Alsup, could wind up being relevant after all – if the Supreme Court winds up putting the rush on their efforts to overturn the measure.

Or, the high court could wind up surprising us by ruling that Alsup had the principles of the law on his side when he struck down Trump’s partisan effort to do away with DACA – whose greatest offense in his and the minds of conservative ideologues is that it was something desired by Obama.
D.C. Times always thinks GOP wins
As for what is bound to happen to DACA (and immigration reform in general), I’ll be the first to admit there are many amongst the Republican caucus who will view anything that harms the interests of these young people trying to make a life for themselves here as a political victory for themselves.

ANYTHING THAT ALLOWS those young people to do anything that benefits our society is something they will be determined to view as detrimental – more specifically as a benefit that was “stolen” from a young person they’d prefer to view as a “real American.”

Although the truth is that those individuals aren’t willing to work as hard to achieve greatness in life, and want to think the ethnic origins of their descendants entitle them to something in life.

A concept I personally find to be un-American to the max!

And one that the justices of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., will have to resolve for the good of our society. The sooner the better, so that we can progress to the higher levels that we ought to be capable of achieving, but can’t because the nativist elements of our society seem to be determined to ensure no one else makes them look weak by surpassing them.


Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Django at 108; or That Toddlin' Town

I couldn't help but notice Tuesday is the birthday anniversary of Django Reinhardt, the celebrated master of "gypsy jazz" who was one of the first guitar players to use the stringed instrument as the lead for his music, rather than just strumming chord patterns in the background for rhythm.

Reinhardt, of course, is long departed from our realm of existence, dying of a stroke in 1953 at age 43. If he were still with us, he'd be 108 now. And yes, the centennial of his birth was celebrated with, amongst other places, a tribute concert eight years ago at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park.

YES, I'LL ADMIT that while I enjoy listening to recordings of Reinhardt and his guitar playing (which I can't even come close to matching myself), I'm writing this copy in part to give myself a break for the day. Regular commentary will return Wednesday. I'm sure Donald Trump (or Bruce Rauner) will have said something stupid by then.
But I'll leave you with a couple of recordings to sample his work -- one of which is his take on that classic tune of our city, the one that boasts of us as "that toddlin' town" (and which I always prefer to that other Chicago tune that was the theme song from the Frank Sinatra film Robin and the Seven Hoods). Along with an actual video snippet of Reinhardt playing "live."
I hope you can enjoy his playing similar to how I do.


EDITOR'S NOTE: For those of you who can't comprehend the existence of anything prior to 1980, there was that Woody Allen-directed film from 1999, "Sweet and Lowdown," starring Sean Penn as Emmett Ray, a guitar player who billed himself as the "Second-greatest" guitarist in the world, right behind Django. Personally, I still get a kick out of the Penn character's reaction upon actually meeting Reinhardt himself.