Return To”Field Of Dreams”

Field of Dreams2

Baseball had a rare PR triumph earlier this month when it held a regular season game between the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox in the Iowa cornfield diamond that was the setting for the cult movie favorite “Field of Dreams.” The TV ratings were the best for any regular season broadcast in 16 years. That’s amazing, but maybe it shouldn’t be. Despite rumors of its demise, baseball still has a cultural bedrock of tradition, nostalgia and history unmatched by any other sport, professional or amateur. So many Americans would not tune in to a baseball game if they didn’t still have a flicker of affection for the sport, and if your argument is, “Yeah, but that’s just because of the movie,” the movie wouldn’t have become iconic if a lot of people didn’t care about baseball. As Terrence Mann said,

Now my confession: I’m not a wild fan of the film, nor that scene. The scene in particular is unforgivably stagey and artificial: it’s right out of the (much better) book, “Shoeless Joe,” and not even the great James Earl Jones could make it sound like anything but a recitation. I got annoyed, during the hype for the game broadcast, with “Field of Dreams” being repeatedly called “The greatest baseball movie.” I don’t regard it as that; I think it just barely makes the top five, and I could be talked out of ranking it that high.

For good reasons, many baseball writers, fans and bloggers have criticized the film over the years, and not just because it is shamelessly manipulative. But it is that. Baseball writer Craig Calcaterra, a vocal debunker of the film, writes,

“I will fully admit that a story about a father and son repairing a longstanding rift over a game of catch — with or without the magical realism elements — could form the basis of a MAJOR chills moment in an absolutely fantastic movie. The problem, as I’ve said in the past, is that “Field of Dreams” does not earn its chills moment. It is lazy in that it does not sketch out the dispute between Ray and his dad in anything approaching realistic terms — it’s dashed off in the rushed intro with almost no details — and it does nothing to explain why Ray’s moving the Earth and the Heavens to bring his dad back to that ball field is so important or why it serves as the “penance” Ray must pay for whatever reason. With no buildup or backstory, there’s no payoff.”

But worse, for me and others, is the slipshod handling of baseball history. “Shoeless Joe” Jackson was not innocent of taking a bribe to throw the 1919 World Series, he was guilty. He was not a thoughtful, wise-cracking Ray Liotta, he was just north of being a moron. He batted left-handed, and famously so, not right-handed like Liotta. When Frank Walley’s character, a magically reincarnated and youthened old ballplayer named Archie “Moonlight” Graham, whose single appearance in the major leagues was in 1905, is nearly beaned by a close pitch, he says “Hey ump, how about a warning?” Umpires didn’t warn pitchers for throwing at batters in 1905, and not for more than a half-century after that. Sloppy.

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Saturday Ethics Booster, 8/7/2021: Looking For A Hero…

I hate to inflict that song on you (the singer/composer was the late Jess Cain, once the most popular disc jockey in Boston) but I have limited options. The 2021 Red Sox, who were sailing all season to what looked like a certain play-off slot , are suddenly in freefall,  with the hitters not hitting and the pitchers not pitching. They face a double-header today, and a double loss would be disastrous. After the 1967 Red Sox “Impossible Dream” season, the best summer of my life, when a team of virtual kids won the closest pennant race in baseball history by a single game after finishing in a tie for last place the year before, WHDH, which then carried Boston’s games, put out the cheesy but wonderful commemorative album above, containing clips from broadcasts of the most memorable games and Cain’s song, tied together by Sox play-by-play announcer Ken Coleman reciting one of the worst pieces of doggerel ever heard by human ears. At one point, Ken recounted a desperate point in the team’s underdog quest, and, having set up the rhyme with “zero,’ intoned, “We have to have a hero.” Cue the Yaz song!

I’ve been thinking about the need for a hero, indeed more than one, quite a bit lately, in matters more consequential than the Red Sox season (well, for normal people anyway.) The Sox sure need one today. If he shows up, maybe it will be an omen…

Incidentally, Yaz deserved the song. Modern metrics show that his Triple Crown, Gold Glove, MVP 1967 season was the second best of all time. (Babe Ruth had #1, naturally.) Anyone who followed that 1967 season knew it before the numbers were crunched.

1. More free speech threats in the Biden Era, but Donald Trump was a threat to democracyThe Baltimore Symphony fired Emily Skala, 59, the orchestra’s principal flutist for more than three decades, because she shared social media posts expressing doubt on the efficacy of vaccines and facemasks. Fellow musicians, audience members and donors complained, so it was bye-bye Emily. Skala, no weenie she, will challenge her dismissal, and accuses the orchestra of creating a hostile environment where she was being attacked for expressing unpopular views. I’d say that is likely. Musicians as a group are about as progressive and open to conservative views as college professors.

Skala angered many of her colleagues for sharing posts questioning the results of the 2020 presidential election—Oooh, can’t have that! She was also criticized for saying that black families needed to do more to support their children’s classical music studies. Wow, this woman is a veritable Nazi! Amusingly, the New York Times cites as among the examples of social media “disinformation” that got her fired were “false theories suggesting that the coronavirus was created in a laboratory in North Carolina” and posts “raising concerns about the safety of vaccines.”

That’s funny: it wasn’t too long ago that suggesting that the virus originated in a Wuhan lab was considered disinformation. And didn’t Joe Biden and other prominent Democrats raise “concerns” about any vaccine produced under the Trump Administration?

I’m just spitballing here, but if only we had some heroic organization that defended free speech, regardless of what side of the political spectrum it came from. It could call itself…let’s see…the National Civil Liberty Protection Alliance, or something like that…

2. Believe it or not, this Russian lawsuit isn’t frivolous, just mind-meltingly stupid. Thanks to Curmie for passing along the saga of Ksenia Ovchinnikova, an Orthodox Christian in Omsk, Russia, who is suing McDonald’s on the theory that its ads made burgers seem so yummy and irresistible that they made her break her fast for Lent in 2019 after years of successfully avoiding meat. She wants 1,000 rubles ($14) as damages for “sustained moral damage.”

The reason this isn’t frivolous (at least not in the US) is because a lawsuit clears the bar if it seeks a new interpretation of existing law, no matter how wacky. Of course, a heroic lawyer would tell the woman, no matter what she offered to pay, “You’re out of your mind, and I’d rather eat my foot than disgrace my profession by taking such a ridiculous case. By the way, would you like this  corndog?” Continue reading

How Sloppy (Or Dishonest) Historical Research Can Deceive For Decades: The Daniel “Doc” Adams Affair

AdamsDoc

While we’re on the topic of “disinformation”….

Let’s have a show of hands, shall we? How many of you think that Civil War General Abner Doubleday invented baseball? Let’s see, one…two...thirty four…wow, that’s still a lot, especially since Doubleday’s connection to the game was thoroughly debunked almost a century ago and there is no evidence that he ever claimed any credit for the development of the game. Nevertheless, a commission appointed in 1905 to determine the origin of baseball announced in1907 that “the first scheme for playing baseball, according to the best evidence obtainable to date, was devised by Abner Doubleday at Cooperstown, New York, in 1839.”

We now know—well, some of us know—that the “best evidence” was, to put it technically, crap. Abner wasn’t much of a general either.

OK, now those who have heard of “Doc” Adams ( 1814 – 1899) and know he was one of the major contributors to the invention of baseball as it is played today raise your hands. One..one? That’s all? Documents show that all Adams did—he was an early baseball player and later a league executive who oversaw writing “The Laws of Baseball”—was to establish the distance between bases at 90 feet apart, settle the length of a game at 9 innings and define a baseball team as nine players rather than eight, ten or eleven. He also invented the position of “shortstop.”

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Breaking In Baseball Ethics: A New Asshole Of The Year Candidate!

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The new contender is a New York Yankees baseball player. A really big one.

I find this unbelievable, but apparently it is true. Tonight’s game between the Red Sox and Yankees was postponed after three Yankee players, Aaron Judge, Gio Urshela, and Kyle Higashioka tested positive for the Wuhan virus in the Yankee clubhouse. Judge was on the American League All-Star team that played (and won) two days ago, and wasn’t vaccinated. Now they are testing all of the All-Star team players who came into contact with him, and that means that every team in the league was potentially placed in peril. Indeed, the whole season could be in peril.

I don’t understand how MLB allowed a non-vaccinated player to play in the game, or be in the dugout. I don’t understand how anyone in Judge’s position could be so foolish and irresponsible as not to be vaccinated at this point. And Judge is supposed to be one of the nicest, most admirable professional athletes in captivity.

Except that he is apparently an asshole.

Well, as many a Fenway Park crowd has said over the decades, as uncivil as it may be, “Yankees suck.”

Two From The “When Ethics Alarms Don’t Ring” Files: The Women

Soul Cap

I. The Cap.

There aren’t a lot of competitive black swimmers, for a number of reasons, but wouldn’t you think that authorities in the swimming field would have some sensitivity to their special needs when the situation presents itself? I would, or did, and is often the case, I was wrong.

A women’s swim cap designed for African-American hair, called the Soul Cap (above), is meant to accommodate the thicker, curlier hair of black women to provide a better fit and protect hair from chlorine. Ahead of the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo which begin later this month, the International Swimming Federation (FINA) banned the use of the cap,  ruling that “athletes competing at the international events never used, neither require to use, caps of such size and configuration,” and that the Soul Cap does not follow “the natural form of the head.”  This is, of course, ridiculous, since the number of black women who have competed in swimming events in the Olympics can be counted on the fingers of one hand, so of course the caps break with tradition and common use. Whatever their bone-headed logic, how could the FINA hacks not figure out that such a ruling would appear tone deaf at best and racist at worst, especially in the middle of the George Floyd Freakout?

After the completely predictable (and fair) backlash, now the body says that it is “currently reviewing the situation with regards to ‘Soul Cap’ and similar products, understanding the importance of inclusivity and representation.”

There have never been any allegations that the caps confer any competitive advantage. This is how people with dead ethics alarms fuel claims of “systemic racism.”

II. The All-Women Broadcast Team

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Baseball Says It Wants More American Blacks In The Game, But Chooses To Ignore A Likely Reason Why There Are Not

The 2021 All-Star Game was played in Denver last night because Major league Baseball allowed race-huckster Stacy Abrams to bluff the sport into punishing Atlanta and Georgia for passing a completely reasonable law shoring up the integrity of elections—a matter MLB has exactly no business involving itself in whatsoever. The day before, MLB announced that it was committing up to $150 million to the Players Alliance, a nonprofit organization formed last year and composed of active and former major league players “aiming to build more equitable systems in baseball and increase Black representation throughout the sport.”

This is more flashy virtue-signalling with a dubious nexus to the issue at hand. The money will go toward various programs, including those to support baseball in public and city schools as well as educational grants, scholarships and additional services to the Black community. Other programs will be aimed at increasing black youth participation in baseball as well as funding leagues, equipment, tournaments, clinics and other playground activities, and that’s all, as they say, well and good.

But the precipitous decline in African American participation in the National Pastime, as first discussed here in this post on the same day as MLB’s announcement, like a lot of alleged “inequities,” may have its roots in the culture of black America rather than any “systemic” biases. To quote myself: “[B]aseball is the most diverse of the professional sports, but the number of black players has declined significantly. African American participation in the majors peaked at 19% in 1986, but on opening day 2021 the figure was just 7.6%.” I foolishly passed along the conventional (or official) wisdom about why this might be so: baseball is more expensive than the other major sports to start playing because of the equipment, and colleges hand out far more scholarship money for football and basketball.

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Sports Ethics Scoreboard!

Sports scoreboard

This is All-Star week in baseball, and I’ll be boycotting the game (see below), but this is a good time to note several ethics developments in the Wide, Wide World of Sports:

In cycling: The idiot who caused a massive accident during the Tour de France was identified: she surrendered to authorities right before they were preparing to arrest her. A French prosecutor said that the woman will face trial in October on charges of reckless endangerment and involuntarily causing injuries, but there is still doubt that this will occur. She’s sorry. She’s ashamed. The police have been getting hate emails. All she wanted to do was send “an affectionate message to her grandparents.” Would the woman attracts such sympathy if a couple of the cyclists had been killed because of her stunt? Yet the fact that they were not is pure moral luck.

In pro football: The NFL fined the Washington Football Team, formerly the Redskins before the death of a black man in Minnesota somehow mandated a name change, $10 million last week following  an independent investigation that found the team’s work environment was “highly unprofessional” in its treatment of women. Fifteen former female employees and two journalists who covered the team accused team staffers of sexual harassment and verbal abuse. The attorney who led the investigation, said ownership and senior management “paid little or no attention” to the workplace culture, in some cases, acting inappropriately themselves.  The investigation concluded that franchise owner Dan Snyder was responsible for the club’s unprofessional and intimidating culture, and that he failed to establish a respectful work environment.Yes, the fish rots from the head down.

In the Olympics: African American hammer thrower Gwen Berry announced her intention of using the Tokyo Olympics to protest against the U.S.after turning her back on the flag during preliminaries. It appears the vast majority of Americans don’t sympathize. A I&I/TIPP poll finds that the public overwhelmingly rejects athletes showing disrespect for the American flag at international games, with 79% of the public saying it’s important “for professional athletes to publicly respect the American flag on the international level,” and 60% saying it is “very important.” 16% of the adults surveyed think it’s not important. (Who ARE these people?)

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Tuesday That Feels Like Monday Ethics Clarifications, 7/6/2021

clarifications

1. What a surprise! Cheating works! Since Major League Baseball decided to enforce its 100 year old rule against doctoring the baseball as pitchers had recently begun using glue to let them throw faster and snap off devastating curve balls, the results have been obvious and significant. In a month since umpires were directed to check, the MLB batting average has gone up by seven points (it was at a record low before the enforcement). Scoring has increased, and several pitchers rumored to be dependent of “the sticky stuff,” notably Yankee All-Star Gerrit Cole, have been hit hard in recent starts. This is because, of the 35 pitchers with the highest four-seam spin rate on June 3, 33 of them saw a decline in spin rate since then by an average drop of 96 RPMs. Consequently, batters aren’t striking out as often.

2. Please clarify: Should I apply the Julie Principle to Maxine Waters? We know she’s an idiot, ignorant, partisan to the point of poisoning democracy and a race-baiting, hateful blight on Congress, her party, the nation and homo sapiens generally. Is there anything accomplished by complaining about Waters acting like Waters, since she’s obviously not going to change? [You can refresh your understanding of the Julie Principle here.] Water was in fine, typical form over the Independence day weekend, blathering as only a fool like her could,

“July 4th … & so, the Declaration of Independence says all men are created equal,” Waters began. “Equal to what? What men? Only white men? Isn’t it something that they wrote this in 1776 when African Americans were enslaved? They weren’t thinking about us then, but we’re thinking about us now!”

Of course, we know that “they” were thinking about black slaves a great deal, as anyone who reads about the debate over the Declaration in the Continental Congress knows. But why should a senior Congresswoman know anything about the founding of the nation? Maxine continued,

“Further, the Dec. of Ind. says we hold these truths to be “self-evident” yet:

– 17 states have enacted voter suppression laws

– Supreme Court gutted Sec. 5 of the Voting Rights Act

– George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice

Need I say more? #July4”

No, actually, Maxine, you didn’t even need to say that: we already knew you were a blathering, hateful dummy. But just to clarify:

  • Laws that are intended to ensure the integrity of elections are not “voter suppression laws”
  • The Supreme Court confirmed that the Federal Government should not meddle in state matters except for demonstrable evidence of racial bias, and since the standards in Sec. 5 of the Voting Rights Act were based on the conduct of Southern states through 1964 only (that’s 57 years ago) and thus did not reflect any reforms, changes or improvement, making the law out of date, SCOTUS quite correctly demanded new data and Congressional update. Get to work.
  • There is literally zero evidence that George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, or Tamir Rice met their unfortunate fates because of racial bias.

Or is it silly even to pay attention to Waters’ incurable bile?

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Ethics Heroes: The New York Yankees

bat girl

Now you know, if you know anything about me, that the headline above was not easy for me to write. Fair, however is fair.

Gwen Goldman was 10-years-old in 1961 when she wrote to her favorite baseball team and said that she wanted to be the Yankees’ batgirl. She got a response, too, from the Yankees GM Roy Hamey. His answer, on a letter with the Yankee logo that Gwen framed and hangs in her home today, was that baseball wasn’t for girls. “In a game dominated by men a young lady such as yourself would feel out of place in a dugout,” he wrote in part. “I am sure you can understand.”

This year, her adult daughter Abby emailed a photo of the letter to the team, and current Yankees GM Brian Cashman saw it. Last week, on the 60th anniversary of Hamey’s original letter, Cashman contacted Gwen Goldman to tell her that she would finally be able to achieve her dream of being a batgirl for her beloved Yankees. And so it was that yesterday night she was the honorary batgirl for the Yankees in their game against the Los Angeles Angels. It was part of the team’s HOPE Week, a tradition the Yankees started in 2009 to promote acts of goodwill that could provide hope and encouragement to others.

“This dream of 60 years that didn’t happen is happening,” Goldman said before her big night. “It’s thanks to Abby, starting it going, and to the Yankees organization for being at the forefront of believing about breaking down those gender barriers. The letter Brian Cashman wrote to me [that’s the one in her left hand, above] , it’s just beautiful and speaks a lot to who they are as an organization, trying to do what’s right. … I picked the right team to be a fan of, didn’t I?”

Well, no, Gwen, it’s the wrong team, but this time they did the right thing.

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Friday Ethics Wrap-Up, 6/25/21: Little Bighorn Edition

On June 25, 1876, Sioux and Cheyenne forces led by Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull wiped out the U.S. Army troops of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer in the Battle of the Little Bighorn near southern Montana’s Little Bighorn River. Custer had been asking for such a fate for sure: he had long been crippled by hubris, ambition and arrogance, despite other compensating positive leadership traits and one extremely important success, which I’ll write about again in about a week. The U.S. Army had also firmly established themselves as the bad guys in this true life Western. After gold was discovered in South Dakota’s Black Hills, in the previous year, the U.S. Army ignored previous treaty agreements and invaded the region. Custer and some 200 men blundered into the Little Bighorn Valley where his battalion was overcome by 3,000 angry warriors. Custer and every last one of his soldier had been killed within an hour. The Battle of the Little Bighorn, better known as “Custer’s Last Stand,” was the most decisive Native American victory and the worst U.S. Army defeat in the long Plains Indian War. It was a classic Pyrrhic victory, of course. Custer was elevated to undeserved martyr status, and the U.S. Government redoubled its efforts against Native Americans. Within five years, almost all of the Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne were confined to reservations.

It took a while for history, popular culture and public opinion to catch up with reality regarding Custer. More than 20 movies and too many television shows to count portrayed him as a hero right into the Sixties. Among the actors who played the doomed and dashing cavalry leader: Ronald Reagan, Errol Flynn, Leslie Neilson, Robert Shaw, and Sheb Wooley, who sang the hit ’50’s ditty “Purple People Eater.” The tide turned against Custer for good after some critical biographies and when Richard Mulligan played him as preening idiot in the dark Western satire “Little Big Man” in 1970.

There was cosmic justice for Custer, if not for the Indians he persecuted.

1. Perhaps the greatest IIPTDXTTNMIAFB we will ever see! I really jumped the gun earlier this month when I marked a ridiculous lie out of the mouth of President Biden as an “IIPTDXTTNMIAFB for the ages.” ( The initials stand for “Imagine if President Trump did X that the news media is accepting from Biden.”“Imagine if President Trump did X that the news media is accepting from Biden.”) That doesn’t come within miles of Biden’s extemporaneous tough guy blather during his recent “all of the recent increase in crime in Democrat-run cities is caused by guns” speech, when he began with a historical gaffe, saying that a citizen couldn’t buy a cannon in Revolutionary times (citizens could buy cannons and did well into the 20th Century—the crazy publisher of the Los Angeles Times had one mounted on the hood of his car) and then really jumping the responsible Potus shark with this:

“Those who say the blood of lib- — “the blood of patriots,” you know, and all the stuff about how we’re going to have to move against the government. Well, the tree of liberty is not watered with the blood of patriots. What’s happened is that there have never been — if you wanted or if you think you need to have weapons to take on the government, you need F-15s and maybe some nuclear weapons.”

This has been discussed a bit today in the Open Forum, so I will just add that if Trump had said anything like this, Democrats and the news media would be screaming that he was psychologically unfit to be President, and that the 25th Amendment should be put into action immediately. But Trump never said anything that crazy or threatening. In addition to the statement being bellicose and offensive, it also evinces that understanding of the Second Amendment of the average 14-year-old. The Second Amendment like the rest of the Bill of Rights, was created to ensure that the Federal government knew its place, and also knew that like the colonies, American citizens would not surrender their liberties without a fight. The Founders never thought local groups of armed citizens could prevail in combat against the full resources of the Federal government, even in a world without AR-15s, nukes, and tanks. But they knew that the prospect of substantial numbers of armed citizens would deter government tyranny, assuming sane leadership. For example, an attempt to go houise to house confiscating guns would be unacceptably bloody and risk turning a majority of the public against the government.

Even though the news media is already trying to memory-hole Joe’s stupid threat, it is destined to haunt him, and should.

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