2008 Season

Edition No. 30

November 14, 2008








Let me recap for you the responses that I have received to my e-mail about holding our Winter Meeting on Saturday, January 10: 


Big Guy:      Unconditionally in.


Screech:      Unconditionally in.


Tricko:         Unconditionally in.


Mouse:        Nonresponsive.


Art-FX Shipping Department (U-Bob):          Unconditionally in.


Itchie:         In on the condition that the championship apparel include a Blues-monogrammed jester’s hat.


SloPay:        Irresponsible and unresponsive.


Shamu:       Unconditionally in. 


B.T.:            Conditionally in (the condition being that he is sober enough after the NU-MU hoops game that afternoon).


Possum:      Conditionally in (conditions:  no basketball game for Tay that night; that Max not have a cribbage match to attend and cheer on; that Tracy not force him to go to some snooty neighborhood holiday party; that the government bailout include the Bridges Fund; that we allow him to draft first next year; that he has had time to take down the Christmas tree and box it up, that all of the Christmas lights are down and packed; and that the stars are aligned and the moon is in the 7th house)


Tirebiter:     Unconditionally out (curious that Patty allows him to go on a two-week Elmer Fudd-like moose and snipe-hunting – make that observing – trip to the mountains of Colorado and New Mexico, but he can’t get away for one night with the boys).


Stretch:       IN LIKE FLINT!


So, we are a go for Saturday, January 10, in Omaha, Nebraska, beginning at 7:00 p.m., with the fervent hope that we will eventually hear from Mouse and SloPay that they will be in attendance, that B.T. will behave himself at the BOB, and that Possum’s 17-point check list of conditions will be satisfied.  I will undertake to find a suitable location for our Winter Meeting and associated shenanigans, more than likely a steakhouse in West Omaha or Downtown Omaha, but not Colton’s, which has closed its doors after the damage wreaked by the Hot Stove League in 2008. 



1977, Baseball, Politics, and the Battle for the

Soul of a City



If you want to read a truly fascinating book, one that superbly covers the Bermuda Triangle of Reggie Jackson, Billy Martin and George Steinbrenner during the tempestuous baseball season of 1977, structured around one of the most fascinating years in the history of New York City, then The Bronx is Burning is for you.  This fantastic read, written by Jonathan Mahler of Brooklyn, was the framework for the miniseries of the same name which was on television last year or the year before.  I bought this book at the airport on my way to Seattle the week before last, and simply could not put it down, finishing it off in two days. 


One of the reviews for this book, included in the book jacket, says it all:


Damon Runyon, where are you now?  Mahler’s rollicking evocation of New York in 1977 –– the year of Son of Sam, the year of the Blackout, the year it refuses to Drop Dead, the year, dammit, the Yankees take the World Series –– is full of Runyonesque characterization, energy, and biting wit . . . .   The bases are loaded and Mahler smokes it. 

          ~Harold Evans, author of The American Reader


This book includes the fascinating account of the 1977 New York City mayoral race between the incumbent Abe Beame, Bella Abzug, eventual winner Ed Koch, and Mario Cuomo, in a classic battle for Gracie Mansion.  It covers the city’s crippling fiscal crisis.  It provides a fascinating account of the blackout of July 13, 1977, caused by a lightning strike and the staggering incompetence of the management team at Con Edison.  It provides horrifying details of the looting which ravaged the Bushwick neighborhood in North Brooklyn, and chronicles many of the 3,776 arrests which were made in the aftermath of the blackout. 


Mahler expertly recounts the terror caused by mass murderer David “Son of Sam” Berkowitz, and his eventual capture and arrest.  It relates how Mayor Beame, in an effort to boost his popularity during the heated mayoral race, erroneously reached to shake the hand of Berkowitz during a prearranged press conference, mistaking him for the brave officer who captured Son of Sam.  Mahler’s tour de force covers the gentrification of the Soho District, the birth of Studio 54, and the phenomenon of “The Summer of Our Discotheques.” 


Probably my favorite story from The Bronx is Burning is the interviewing of Reggie Jackson after Game 5 of the American League Championship game against the Kansas City Royals in Kansas City, in which Reggie Jackson was benched for Paul Blair because of his pathetic hitting performance in the first four games of the series, and the prospect of facing lefty Paul Splittorff of the Royals, who was death to Jackson.  Before the game, Billy Martin was afraid to even tell Reggie that he was benching him, and instead sent Reggie’s roommate to deliver the news.  Reggie stewed on the bench throughout the game until he was called to pinch hit in the top of the 8th for Cliff Johnson, the designated hitter. 


Coming through in the clutch as he would later do in the World Series against the Dodgers, Reggie stroked a single off Royals closer Paul Byrd, knocking in a run to close the gap to one run.  The Yankees eventually took the lead in the top of the 9th by virtue of players other than Reggie Jackson, and held on to win the game.  In the locker room after the game, most of the reporters surrounded the heroes of the game, but a couple of scribes chose to talk with Reggie.  As described by Mahler:


A few lockers away Reggie ended his short lived experiment with stoicism.  “Can I explain what it means?”, referring to his bloop single in the 8th inning to a few writers.  “I can’t explain it.  I can’t explain it because I don’t understand the magnitude of Reggie Jackson.” 


Now that, my friends, is an ego.  That statement summed up Reggie as well as anything could. 


Anyway, if you haven’t already read it, I highly recommend The Bronx is Burning to all of you.  You will love it. 


That’s it for now.  Back at you in December or early January with more details about our Winter Meeting.