Monthly Archives: December 2019

“Wish We Had Satchel Paige to Pitch”

 

 

Satchel Paige – Daily Worker 10-8-1940 pg 8

 

 

“ ‘Wish We Had Satchel Paige to Pitch Pay-Off Game for Us,’ Tiger Players Say”

Daily Worker

October 8, 1940

pg. 8

 

Cincinnati, Ohio, Oct. 7–With their star pitchers, Newsom, Bridges and Rowe, insufficiently rested for the seventh and critical game of the world series, the cry “Satchel Paige could win for us” rose in the Tiger dressing room this afternoon after the Detroit team lost, 4 to 0, to the Cincinnati Reds. Schoolboy Rowe started it when he called “it looks as if Satchel Paige will pitch for us at 1:30 tomorrow.” Buck Newsom, Tigers’ pitching hero who hails from South Carolina, took it up, saying, “I wouldn’t mind seeing him pitch. He’s one of the greatest in the country. I pitched against him many times out on the coast and only beat him once and then when he had only one day’s rest.”

Rowe chimed in with the remark that McMullen, a catcher, then playing in California, never hit a foul of Paige in half a dozen games. Newsom added: “Charlie Gehringer was the only one who could hit him. He’s got great stuff and we could use him right now. [Tigers catcher] Birdie Tebbetts joined in the praise for Paige saying that he remembered the screen test baseball handicap in 1933 and also in again 1934 when Paige was the outstanding star.

This call for the great Negro pitcher who Buck Newsom called the Negro Rube Waddell came as Del Baker, manager of the Tigers frankly admitted that the Detroit pitching situation was desperate and that he could only pick a pitcher out of his hat.

The next day, October 9, the Tigers lost the seventh game and the Series to the Reds by a score of 2 to 1.

 

 

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I came across this news story while doing research (unrelated to sports or baseball) in the Daily Worker in the New York Public Library.

I was surprised to find that the paper, which was priced at five cents and was eight pages long during the 1940s (it was published from 1924 to 1958), was, it seems, an excellent, well written paper, despite its dogmatism and rigid adherence to the Stalinist party line (it was published by the Communist Party USA). It was, besides being totally pro-USSR, very much the champion of workers and unions; and it was against arbitrary exercises of government power as a means of suppression, including abuses by the police. The Daily Worker back then was ahead of its time in that it was very much pro-civil rights — something which can be clearly seen in articles about abuses such as lynchings, targeting of blacks by the police and legal system, and many other examples of discrimination. The paper advocated the desegregation of professional sports.

I recall, I am certain, seeing Satchel Paige pitch once in a televised game. He pitched in the 1953 All Star Game — I was too young then to have watched the game. What I must certainly be remembering is the following game, about which I do not recall any details:

In 1965, Kansas City Athletics owner Charles O. Finley signed Paige, 59 at the time, for one game. On September 25, against the Boston Red Sox, Finley invited several Negro league veterans including Cool Papa Bell to be introduced before the game. Paige was in the bullpen, sitting on a rocking chair, being served coffee by a “nurse” between innings. He started the game by getting Jim Gosger out on a pop foul. The next man, Dalton Jones, reached first and went to second on an infield error, but was thrown out trying to reach third on a pitch in the dirt. Carl Yastrzemski doubled and Tony Conigliaro hit a fly ball to end the inning. The next six batters went down in order, including a strikeout of [Red Sox pitcher] Bill Monbouquette. In the fourth inning, Paige took the mound, to be removed according to plan by [Athletics manager] Haywood Sullivan. He walked off to a standing ovation from the small crowd of 9,289. The lights dimmed and, led by the PA announcer, the fans lit matches and cigarette lighters while singing “The Old Gray Mare.” — Wikipedia

I remember every one of the Red Sox players.

 
— Roger W. Smith

   December 2019

traveling from Boston to New York in 1842; a Charles Dickens letter

 

 

In the 1970’s, when I was living in New York City, I frequently took the train from New York to Boston to visit my family in Massachusetts.

Around 1972, a one way ticket cost $12.00. The price was lowered to $9.90 to encourage more travel. Trains were not in fashion then.

The train meandered slowly, passing through some parts of Connecticut with beautiful coastal scenery. The trip took five hours.

Compare (below) the same trip (in reverse) which Charles Dickens took in 1842, except that, besides train travel between cities (there were trains even back then), there were steamboats and detours.

Dickens left Boston on February 5, 1842, and arrived in New York City on February 12, a trip of seven days. He was traveling with his wife, Catherine Thomson (Hogarth) Dickens.

 

 

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We left Boston on the fifth, and went away with the governor of the city to stay till Monday [February 7] at his house at Worcester [Massachusetts]. … The village of Worcester is one of the prettiest in New England. …. On Monday morning at nine o’clock we started again by railroad and went on to Springfield [Massachusetts], where a deputation of two were waiting, and everything was in readiness that the utmost attention could suggest. Owing to the mildness of the weather, the Connecticut river was “open,” videlicet not frozen, and they had a steamboat ready to carry us on to Hartford [Connecticut]; thus saving a land-journey of only twenty-five miles, but on such roads at this time of year that it takes nearly twelve hours to accomplish! The boat was very small, the river full of floating blocks of ice, and the depth where we went (to avoid the ice and the current) not more than a few inches. After two hours and a half of this queer travelling we got to Hartford. There, there was quite an English inn [The City Hotel in Hartford]; except in respect of the bed-rooms, which are always uncomfortable … We remained in this town until the eleventh [Friday, February 11]: holding a formal levee every day for two hours, and receiving on each from two hundred to three hundred people. At five o’clock on the afternoon of the eleventh, we set off (still by railroad) for Newhaven [i.e., New Haven, Connecticut]. which we reached about eight o’clock. The moment we had had tea, we were forced to open another levee for the students and professors of the college [Yale] (the largest in the States), and the townspeople. I suppose we shook hands, before going to bed, with considerably more than five hundred people; and I stood, as a matter of course, the whole time. …

Now, the deputation of two had come on with us from Hartford; and at New­haven there was another committee; and the immense fatigue and worry of all this, no words can exaggerate. We had been in the morning over jails and deaf and dumb asylums; had stopped on the journey at a place called Wallingford [Connecticut], where a whole town had turned out to see me, and to gratify whose curiosity the train stopped expressly; had had a day of great excitement and exertion on the Thursday (this being Friday); and were inexpressibly worn out. And when at last we got to bed and were “going” to fall asleep, the choristers of the college turned out in a body, under the window, and serenaded us! We had had, by the bye, another serenade at Hartford, from a Mr. [Isaac Hull] Adams (a nephew of John Quincey Adams) and a German friend. They were most beautiful singers: and when they began, in the dead of the night, in a long, musical, echoing passage outside our chamber door; singing, in low voices to guitars, about home and absent friends and other topics that they knew would interest us; we were more moved than I can tell you. …

The Newhaven serenade was not so good; though there were a great many voices, and a “reg’lar” band. It hadn’t the heart of the other. Before it was six hours old, we were dressing with might and main, and making ready for our departure: it being a drive of twenty minutes to the steamboat, and the hour of sailing nine o’clock. After a hasty breakfast we started off; and after another levee on the deck (actually on the deck), and “three times three for Dickens,” moved towards New York.

I was delighted to find on board a Mr. [Cornelius Conway] Felton whom I had known at Boston. He is the Greek professor at Cambridge, and was going on to the ball* and dinner. … We drank all the porter on board, ate all the cold pork and cheese, and were very merry indeed. …

About half past 2 [on February 12], we arrived here [New York].** In half an hour more, we reached this hotel [the Carlton Hotel on Broadway], where a very splendid suite of rooms was prepared for us; and where everything is very comfortable, and no doubt (as at Boston) enormously dear.

 

— Charles Dickens, letter to John Foster, February 17, 1842, IN The Letters of Charles Dickens, The Pilgrim Edition, Volume Three: 1842-1843, edited by Madeline House, Graham Storey, and Kathleen Tillotson; associate editor, Noel C. Peryton (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974), pp. 67-70

 
*The Boz Ball, held on February 14, 1842, in Dickens’s honor, at the Park Theatre in New York City. Boz was a nickname Dickens had become known by — he employed it as a pseudonym in his early years as a writer.

 
**The final leg of Dickens’s journey was on the packet New York from New Haven, which docked at South Street in lower Manhattan. Dickens would have then traveled uptown to his hotel by stagecoach. The hotel charge was two dollars a night.

 

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   December 2019

Kids are so matter of fact.

 

 

 

The L train this morning.

9:45 a.m.

Two cute kids, boys, sitting next to me.

I waved (raised palm) at the boy next to me, on my left. “Hi, good morning,” I said.

He smiled and said something.

“Where are you going?” I asked.

“Madison Square Garden.”

“For what?”

“To see the Harlem Globe Trotters.”

“Wow! They’re still playing? I used to see them as a kid [a fact which doesn’t interest or impress my interlocutor].”

No response.

(I’m not sure what I actually did say. I never did see the Globetrotters play, as a spectator.)

“They’re a lot of fun,” I said.

No response, at first, then the boy said, “It’s for my birthday.”

“How old are you?”

“Nine.” Said in a flat tone, without inflection, as if it were no big deal.

And, indeed, at this age, while having a birthday is certainly fun and exciting, the fact of what one’s age is is not an important one.

And life is taken and experienced as it occurs.

 
— Roger W. Smith

   December 27, 2019

“Go find your wife!”

 

 

To put this post in context I should begin by saying that I have had a bad day. All sorts of things big and small have been going wrong.

I have been highly stressed and then when I was about to go out, my wife and I had a pointless argument over something trivial that spoiled my afternoon.

 

 

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My wife does most of her grocery shopping at Costco. Costco is a huge store selling grocery and other products at reduced prices; it operates on a membership-only basis.

My wife and I went shopping together in the early evening, beginning with Costco. The store is usually crowded, especially on days before holidays.

I decided to wait outside while my wife was shopping. Big Costco-like stores tire me.

After a half an hour or so, I got bored and restless. I’ll go inside and see if I can find my wife, I thought. Better wandering the aisles and gawking at shoppers than sitting still.

There was a burly guy at the entrance. He was talking with a coworker and didn’t seem to notice me. But then he said something indistinct indicating that he was inquiring whether I was a Costco member. I knew it was a members-only store, and on the rare occasions when I am there with my wife she shows her card at the door.

I might have just kept going (pretending I hadn’t heard). Sometimes that works. But I thought to myself, honesty is probably the best policy. It usually is.

“I’m looking for my wife. She’s shopping,” I said. Then I added, “I don’t have a Costco card.”

“You’re looking for your wife?” he replied with a big smile. He seemed amused, acted as if that tickled him.

“Welcome, brother!” he said. “Go find your wife!”

This little incident and interaction made my day and magically helped offset or reduce the tension I had been feeling. The Costco “gatekeeper” displayed humanity and a lack of officiousness.

The moral of the story. The smallest acts of human empathy and kindness can do more good than one would think and can have an incremental effect in terms of their larger benefits.

 
— Roger W. Smith

   December 23, 2019

Heinrich Schütz, “Weihnachtshistorie” (Christmas Story)

 

 

 

 

 
The Christmas Story (Weihnachtshistorie) is a musical setting of the Nativity in German by Heinrich Schütz, probably first performed in 1660 in Dresden. It was published as Historia der Geburt Jesu Christi (History of the birth of Jesus Christ).

The Christmas Story is a Historia, a setting of the Gospel intended to be performed during a service instead of the Gospel reading. The original title read: Historia der freuden und gnadenreichen Geburt Gottes und Marien Sohnes Jesu Christi (History of the joyful and blessed birth of Jesus Christ, son of God and Mary). The music was probably first performed in a Christmas service at the court chapel of Johann Georg II, Elector of Saxony, in Dresden in 1660. Schütz mentions the elector in the long title: “wie dieselbe auf Anordnung Johann Georgs des Anderen vocaliter und instrumentaliter in die Musik versetzet ist durch Heinrich Schütz” (as set to the music for voices and instruments on an order by the other Johann Georg).

The text is almost exclusively taken from the Bible in the translation by Martin Luther, quoting both Luke and Matthew, framed by a choral Introduction and Beschluss (Conclusion). The biblical narration is based on Luke 2:1–21 and Matthew 2:1–23. The text of the conclusion is a translation of the Christmas sequence “Grates nunc omnes” by Johann Spangenberg (1545). The narrator is the Evangelist. Other characters appear in eight sections termed Intermedium (interlude): the angel to the shepherds, the hosts of angels, the shepherds, the wise men, priests and scribes, Herod, an angel to Joseph (twice).

 

— Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_Story_(Sch%C3%BCtz)

 

 

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I have always loved this magnificent choral work, which induced me to commence a familiarity with and appreciation of the works of Schütz. I love this particular performance, which was on an LP which I obtained in the past.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   December 23, 2019

“Winterreise” on a December afternoon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I attended a concert at Carnegie Hall this afternoon of Schubert’s Winterreise (D. 911) performed by Joyce Didonato (mezzo soprano) and Yannick Nézet-Séguin (piano).

 

Nézet-Séguin, who is Canadian, is not only a pianist. He is the music director of the Metropolitan Opera, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Orchestre Métropolitain in Montreal.

Regarding Ms. Didonato’s performance, which was outstanding, The New York Times noted in an article published last week that Winterreise is ” a work not usually sung by a female voice, but one that profits from it.”

 

 

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The song cycle was, as I have already noted, performed brilliantly. It goes without saying that the piano is equal to the voice in this musical setting. Winterreise (Winter’s Journey, 1828) is a setting by Schubert of 24 poems by the poet Wilhelm Müller.

 

“A power duo of Joyce DiDonato (one the world’s greatest singers) and Yannick Nézet-Séguin (a thrilling conductor-pianist) perform one of music’s greatest song cycles: Schubert’s harrowing and compellingly tragic Winterreise. The two dozen songs in this cycle chart a journey through an icy winter landscape, telling tales of alienation and loneliness. Schubert’s gift for what Liszt described as ‘dramatizing lyrical inspirations to the highest degree’ comes to life in this riveting performance.” (Carnegie Hall website)

 

Indeed, emotion — particularized human emotion — comes through so strongly in Schubert’s lieder. It is the music of a composer and also a poet in his medium (music).

Schubert, I realized and felt, knew and understood humanity. Human longings and sorrows.

 

 

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Music energizes and jostles the mind.

 

About two thirds into the concert, something in the music or lyrics of Winterreise took me elsewhere in time. Perhaps it was the thoughts in the lyrics of the inevitability of death:

 

Weiser stehen auf den Strassen,

weisen auf die Städte zu,

und ich wand’re sonder Maßen

ohne Ruh’ und suche Ruh’.

Einen Weiser seh’ ich stehen

unverrückt vor meinem Blick;

eine Straße muß ich gehen,

die noch keiner ging zurück.

 

Signposts stand on the roads,

point towards towns.

Yet I wander on and on,

unresting, in search of rest.

One signpost I see stand there,

steadfast before my gaze.

One road I must travel

by which no-one ever came back.

 

— “Der Wegweiser” (The Signpost)

 

 

I was transported in my mind (my thoughts wandering) back to my home and family sixty-five years ago. My father and mother. My siblings. A bittersweet sadness came over me. Comprised of happy, glad memories. The joy my parents took in their children. The appreciation they had and showed for them. Realizing that my parents are no longer living, were deceased long ago.  I remember them so keenly. They were so alive then and aren’t now. Realizing that I will cease to exist and become only a memory.

 

 

 

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Schubert makes the particular, the lived and keenly experienced moment, take on Blakean eternity:

 

Nun merk’ ich erst, wie müd’ ich bin,

da ich zur Ruh’ mich lege:

das Wandern hielt mich munter hin

auf unwirtbarem Wege.

Die Füße frugen nicht nach Rast,

es war zu kalt zum Stehen;

der Rücken fühlte keine Last,

der Sturm half fort mich wehen.

In eines Köhlers engem Haus

hab’ Obdach ich gefunden;

doch meine Glieder ruh’n nicht aus:

So brennen ihre Wunden.

Auch du, mein Herz, in Kampf und Sturm

so wild und so verwegen,

fühlst in der Still’ erst deinen Wurm

mit heißem Stich sich regen!

 

I only notice now how tired I am,

as I lie down to rest.

Walking kept my spirits up

along an inhospitable road.

My feet did not ask for rest–

it was too cold to stand still;

my back felt no burden,

the storm helped to blow me along.

In a charcoal-burner’s tiny hut

I have found shelter.

But my limbs will not take their ease,

their wounds are burning so.

You too, my heart, in struggle and storm

so wild and so untamed,

now in the stillness feel the serpent within

rear up with its searing sting.

 

— “Rast” (Rest)

 

 

To “To see a World in a Grain of Sand / And a Heaven in a Wild Flower / Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand / And Eternity in an hour” (William Blake, “Auguries of Innocence”).

 

 

— Roger W. Smith
 
   December 15, 2019

the first (perhaps) and greatest realist

 

 

I have been rereading parts of Daniel Defoe’s The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. I read it in its entirety once before.

Defoe has always been one of my favorite novelists. As a writer, he was a complete original and stands in a class of his own. I forget which novels of his I read. One certainly was Moll Flanders.

It began in high school when I read A Journal of the Plague Year, in a Signet paperback. It made such an impression on me. I couldn’t put it down.

Defoe is notable in that there is hardly any exposition or authorial intervention. With consummate craftsmanship, he affects a plain recital of the facts as if he were merely a reporter or if he were writing a journal — he builds the narrative from minutely observed and recorded details. Consider, for example, the following passage from Chapter VII of Robinson Crusoe:

The rainy season and the dry season began now to appear regular to me, and I learned to divide them so as to provide for them accordingly; but I bought all my experience before I had it, and this I am going to relate was one of the most discouraging experiments that I made.

I have mentioned that I had saved the few ears of barley and rice, which I had so surprisingly found spring up, as I thought, of themselves, and I believe there were about thirty stalks of rice, and about twenty of barley; and now I thought it a proper time to sow it, after the rains, the sun being in its southern position, going from me. Accordingly, I dug up a piece of ground as well as I could with my wooden spade, and dividing it into two parts, I sowed my grain; but as I was sowing, it casually occurred to my thoughts that I would not sow it all at first, because I did not know when was the proper time for it, so I sowed about two-thirds of the seed, leaving about a handful of each. It was a great comfort to me afterwards that I did so, for not one grain of what I sowed this time came to anything: for the dry months following, the earth having had no rain after the seed was sown, it had no moisture to assist its growth, and never came up at all till the wet season had come again, and then it grew as if it had been but newly sown. Finding my first seed did not grow, which I easily imagined was by the drought, I sought for a moister piece of ground to make another trial in, and I dug up a piece of ground near my new bower, and sowed the rest of my seed in February, a little before the vernal equinox; and this having the rainy months of March and April to water it, sprung up very pleasantly, and yielded a very good crop; but having part of the seed left only, and not daring to sow all that I had, I had but a small quantity at last, my whole crop not amounting to above half a peck of each kind. But by this experiment I was made master of my business, and knew exactly when the proper season was to sow, and that I might expect two seed-times and two harvests every year.

While this corn was growing I made a little discovery, which was of use to me afterwards. As soon as the rains were over, and the weather began to settle, which was about the month of November, I made a visit up the country to my bower, where, though I had not been some months, yet I found all things just as I left them. The circle or double hedge that I had made was not only firm and entire, but the stakes which I had cut out of some trees that grew thereabouts were all shot out and grown with long branches, as much as a willow-tree usually shoots the first year after lopping its head. I could not tell what tree to call it that these stakes were cut from. I was surprised, and yet very well pleased, to see the young trees grow; and I pruned them, and led them up to grow as much alike as I could; and it is scarce credible how beautiful a figure they grew into in three years; so that though the hedge made a circle of about twenty-five yards in diameter, yet the trees, for such I might now call them, soon covered it, and it was a complete shade, sufficient to lodge under all the dry season. This made me resolve to cut some more stakes, and make me a hedge like this, in a semi-circle round my wall (I mean that of my first dwelling), which I did; and placing the trees or stakes in a double row, at about eight yards distance from my first fence, they grew presently, and were at first a fine cover to my habitation, and afterwards served for a defence also, as I shall observe in its order.

I found now that the seasons of the year might generally be divided, not into summer and winter, as in Europe, but into the rainy seasons and the dry seasons, which were generally thus:—The half of February, the whole of March, and the half of April—rainy, the sun being then on or near the equinox.

The half of April, the whole of May, June, and July, and the half of August—dry, the sun being then to the north of the line.

The half of August, the whole of September, and the half of October—rainy, the sun being then come back.

The half of October, the whole of November, December, and January, and the half of February—dry, the sun being then to the south of the line.

The rainy seasons sometimes held longer or shorter as the winds happened to blow, but this was the general observation I made. After I had found by experience the ill consequences of being abroad in the rain, I took care to furnish myself with provisions beforehand, that I might not be obliged to go out, and I sat within doors as much as possible during the wet months. This time I found much employment, and very suitable also to the time, for I found great occasion for many things which I had no way to furnish myself with but by hard labour and constant application; particularly I tried many ways to make myself a basket, but all the twigs I could get for the purpose proved so brittle that they would do nothing. It proved of excellent advantage to me now, that when I was a boy, I used to take great delight in standing at a basket-maker’s, in the town where my father lived, to see them make their wicker-ware; and being, as boys usually are, very officious to help, and a great observer of the manner in which they worked those things, and sometimes lending a hand, I had by these means full knowledge of the methods of it, and I wanted nothing but the materials, when it came into my mind that the twigs of that tree from whence I cut my stakes that grew might possibly be as tough as the sallows, willows, and osiers in England, and I resolved to try. Accordingly, the next day I went to my country house, as I called it, and cutting some of the smaller twigs, I found them to my purpose as much as I could desire; whereupon I came the next time prepared with a hatchet to cut down a quantity, which I soon found, for there was great plenty of them. These I set up to dry within my circle or hedge, and when they were fit for use I carried them to my cave; and here, during the next season, I employed myself in making, as well as I could, a great many baskets, both to carry earth or to carry or lay up anything, as I had occasion; and though I did not finish them very handsomely, yet I made them sufficiently serviceable for my purpose; thus, afterwards, I took care never to be without them; and as my wicker-ware decayed, I made more, especially strong, deep baskets to place my corn in, instead of sacks, when I should come to have any quantity of it.

Having mastered this difficulty, and employed a world of time about it, I bestirred myself to see, if possible, how to supply two wants. I had no vessels to hold anything that was liquid, except two runlets, which were almost full of rum, and some glass bottles—some of the common size, and others which were case bottles, square, for the holding of water, spirits, &c. I had not so much as a pot to boil anything, except a great kettle, which I saved out of the ship, and which was too big for such as I desired it—viz. to make broth, and stew a bit of meat by itself. The second thing I fain would have had was a tobacco-pipe, but it was impossible to me to make one; however, I found a contrivance for that, too, at last. I employed myself in planting my second rows of stakes or piles, and in this wicker-working all the summer or dry season, when another business took me up more time than it could be imagined I could spare.

 

It takes great skill to do this. To make the dramatic immediacy of the narrative predominate and keep the author “behind the curtains,” out of sight, so to speak.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   December 2019

 

 

 

 

cover - A Journal of the Plague Year