Monday, September 19, 2016


181. HOO-RAH
In about 1960, I was pretty
much caught up in baseball.
Nothing special. I never went
to any stadiums or games or
anything. I just 'followed'
baseball, and played, like
any other of the local kids.
But what role it played for me
was as a sort of time-keeper,
or even a time-user-upper,
something I could be doing
while my mind thought
things through. For a while
I was a 'catcher'  -  a very
active position which took
a role in nearly every play  -
well, was IN every play. I
realized, also and mainly
because I wasn't going to
be any muscular 6 foot two
dunderhead as I grew up,
maybe catching wasn't the
place for me as far as a
position went. I'd already been
knocked out cold one Saturday
morning game as I leaned in
too far to the pitch and the
batter's swung bat clonked
the rear of my head rather
than a ball. Out cold Louie.
There were other positions,
especially a few prime outfield
spots (good eye, good arm,
speed) where I'd fit much
better and have a heck of a
lot more idle time to think
while events happened and
the only-occasionally
well-hit ball came my way.
I resigned from my famed
position as catcher, and took
up left or right field. I still
had a good eye, good arm,
and a good bat too. I used
to examine the game of
baseball, at age 10 and so,
for its symbolism and
unspoken significances.
It was fun, and it was
philosophical too.
'Diminutive'. I found that to
mean 'small'. I also found
it to mean like they did in
baseball, and like my father
always did, the way 'names'
were shortened. In baseball,
everybody got friendly names.
Immediately. Big Leaguers
and us kids here too. Frank
Jones, for baseball terms, was
always, immediately Frankie
Jones, or, even, 'Smash' Jones,
or Blackfoot Jones, or something
like that. Tom Weiser became,
'Tommy' Weiser, or 'Punky
Weiser'. Anything like that. It
went on in baseball all the time.
I rolled this all over in my head.
My father, with all my friends,
also did the same thing, even if
he didn't know the guy  -  Robert
Jenkins was immediately 'Bobby.'
Herman Schultz became
Schultzy. It just went. I guess
that never happened with girl
names, except like maybe say
'Theresa' becoming Terry or
whatever. Anyway, my father
was real forward like that.
He was 'Andrew' but always
known everywhere as 'Andy.'
So I guess he never thought
about it. I always actually
disliked my own name for
that 'y' ending that 'Gary'
had  -  it sounded way too
friendly for me. But baseball,
on the other hand, was
another matter. Bobby
Richardson was Bobby
Richardson, until the
day he retired and then
became an evangelical
preacher, pushing for
Jesus everywhere (was he
every called 'Jeezy'?). That
was the last of  Bobby
Richardson. Tony Kubeck,
much the same  -  Yankee
guys, simple names. As I
delved, I realized it was
all about power and
control. If you could
call someone down,
lowering their name
a bit, you were atop
them, over them. better
than, in charge. No one
ever went around calling
any King Frederick, 'Freddy.'
It was a pecking order. I
realized tons of things, standing
out there in those stupid ball
fields. Professional baseball
was a form of slavery  -  an
easy, game-form, yes, but
slavery nonetheless. And
1959 baseball as still pretty
much segregated. This is
were it got interesting: a
black guy who may have
had the name, say, Hanley
Jessup, would soon enough
be known as 'Cotton-mouth
Jessup' then further shortened
to  just plain 'Cotton.' Yeah,
fan favorite, big deal, but we
own him. Cotton Jessup.
'Elston' Howard, Yankee
catcher of real note, became
'Elly' Howard to everyone.
Acceptable; like we all knew
him. But then the Reserve
Clause in baseball  -  which
allowed teams to literally
'own' guys, for like 29 grand
a year, base salary, and do
with them whatever they
pleased, trade them, sit
them, forbid trades, etc.
On the St. Louis Cardinals,
this black guy with the
wonderful name of Curt
Flood (man, how I loved
that name. It seemed to
speak volumes), and a
lawyer guy named Marvin
Miller, challenged the
very idea of career-slavery.
They lost, yes, but it
infuriated many, white
guys screamed about
black guys, and it was
eventually overturned
and repealed anyway. A
ball player became his
own unit, at that point  -
with the right to veto
trades, negotiate contracts,
etc. My point however,
being power and control,
NO ONE ever called
Curt Flood 'Curtie'
or 'Black-Ball Flood'
or Twinkie Flood, or
anything. He'd dressed
'up', not down, and took
himself past such
'diminution.' The same
went for this blistering
and renowned Cardinals
pitcher, a black guy, named
Bob Gibson. He was killer,
people were fearing for their
life when up against him at
bat  -  he won multiple-season
awards, pitching totals, tallies
and records. The guy was
massive. No one, and I mean
no one, ever called him
'Bobbie' or 'Fast-Fire Gibson'
or 'Gibby'. Just never happened.
Respect. Fear. Renown.
Well, that was the sort of one-level
thinking I'd do. In the outfield.
My mind on the game, oh sure.
Actually, my game was on the
mind, and it was really the only
game I played. I'd go back to the
dugout, get my bat, maybe hit a
single or a double, and run. A few
times, I cleared the fences with
a long fly. Home run. Cool feeling.
My Manager, Mr. Taylor (Bill
Taylor, from Woodruff Avenue,
Avenel), would come over with
a big smile each time, handshake
and a hug, and just say. 'My little
Paisano.' Yikes! Talk about
diminutive names! (Or, as Henny
Youngman later would say - 'I
can't get no respect.').
Another thing I used to thing about
was all those heedless people who 
never stood up for themselves,  just let 
the whole entire world whirl around 
them, taking them with it for good 
or bad, down with it, or involving 
them  in it. Just like those ball 
players  -  slaves, property of 
others. The 'meek' who never spoke
up for themselves, for a cause, for 
anything. Just jiving and shuffling,
in silence, with welts and scars,
so as to get by. That wasn't going to
be me. No siree. Jesus said 'The meek
shall inherit the earth.' I used to stand
out there and think about all those
dispossessed and downtrodden people, 
without anything really, just standing
there and taking it. I figured, inherit 
the earth? That can't be that cool.
I decided all he was saying was that,
if you didn't stand up and speak out,
for others, for yourself, whatever,
the earth's all you're gonna get because
it's not really worth very much and
nether are you. He made men, 
not lambs.
Nowadays, it's all so different; if
I called anyone a Dago, Kike, or 
a Nigger, I'd surely hear about it
before my next pee. What is that
all about. Who owns the airwaves, 
God-damn, and what's all this faux
'respect' about anyway. I's a bogus
basket of lies. I can go down to
Chinatown and watch the Chinks 
hose down the sidewalks in front
of their filthy chop-suey joints,
but I can't say a thing about it.
It's as if it's all gone the other
way. My father would probably 
have been lynched for calling
someone out down if he was here 
today. Some guy beating his 
kid in public, or acting like 
shit on the train, or ripping the 
heads off  turtles at the pond,
or crushing their shells with a
baseball bat, I can't say anything, 
can't call out 'Eddie' Asshole 
there for being what he is 
anyway. What goes on? 
I'm lost. Everyone is now
so sacrosanct? And then
you get all these guys, the 
same guys the year before
that you couldn't touch, and 
now they're all lined up for 
the military, all versed and
well-learned in how to kill,
gung-ho for battle, ready to
slaughter freaking A-rabs,
and it's OK? Until John comes
marching home  -  oh, no, I
mean 'Johnnie' comes 
marching home again, 
hoo-rah, hoo-rah...'
as the old song goes.

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