Friday, January 17, 2014

Strike Out

Monday, January 13, 2014
Bud Selig is the commissioner of baseball, a job strictly beholden to major league team owners, yet empowered to govern the entire professional sport.  (While countries such as Japan and Mexico have fully-developed systems of leagues, they defer to North American baseball – there is a team in Toronto after all – when it comes to critical decisions, those involving real money.)  Selig’s first name is really Allan, and even there he gets it wrong.  A Milwaukee car dealer, he sold his interest in the Milwaukee Braves, née the Boston Braves, when the team moved to Atlanta.  He then bought the bankrupt Seattle Pilots and moved the team to Milwaukee as the Brewers in 1970.

The Brewers, under Selig, had one of the worst periods of team performance in baseball history, appearing in the World Series only once.  He also played a leading role in colluding with his fellow owners to squelch players’ free agency, which cost the owners damages of $280 million.  They, recognizing his talents where other baseball observers failed to, made him acting commissioner in 1992, where he then orchestrated a 232-day strike in 1994 and the first, and only, cancellation of the World Series, which for 23 of the prior 24 years had been a non-event for him in any case.  Not surprisingly, when baseball resumed in 1995, attendance and television audiences fell significantly.

What redeemed baseball and inflated Selig’s reputation, at the time, was the emergence of superstars engaged in a contest to break the most mythic of baseball records for home runs, particularly, the battle between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa in 1998 for the most home runs in a single season, with McGwire eventually breaking Roger Maris’s record.  Selig, in fact, became the official baseball commissioner in 1998, having the “Acting” removed from his title then.  Of course, the fly in the ointment was actually the ointment, pills, liquids and other chemical compounds which enhanced McGwire’s, Sosa’s and many other players’ physical performance.  Selig, in 2006, testified to Congress that he was alert to the issue in 1994, “before anybody was really talking about steroids in baseball.”  However, in what may have been a senior lapse in 2005, Selig told reporters, “I never even heard about them [steroids] until 1998 or 1999.  I ran a team and nobody was closer to their players and I never heard any comment from them.  It wasn’t until 1998 or ’99 that I heard the discussion.”

Now, as the Alex Rodriguez steroids controversy swirls around us and Selig’s role as the Great Enabler is properly raised again, I’ll give you my ultimate beef about Selig.  In his early days as acting commissioner, when almost everyone expected Selig’s term to be brief, George W. Bush (yes, that one), then part owner of a baseball team, wanted the big job for himself, according to several reports, including a book by Selig’s predecessor, Fay Vincent, The Last Commissioner: A Baseball Valentine, wherein Vincent quotes Bush on the subject.  “I’ve been thinking about it.  Selig tells me that he would love to have me be commissioner and he tells me that he can deliver it.”  Vincent claims that Selig actually wanted to stay in the job, sending the former Yale cheer leader to search for other fields to conquer.  Oh, what might have been.

I was surprised to find such a good Peking duck ($19.95 a half) at China Village Restaurant, 94 Baxter Street, a place for a quick lunch for many people visiting criminal court and the adjoining detention facility immediately south of the restaurant.  The duck was served with 4 large puffy buns, a generous amount of scallion slivers, but no cucumber, hoisin sauce and a rosette constructed from carrot peels.  The entire half duck was served, a leg and a wing and the rest chopped into 1" pieces.  Only a few pieces held more fat than you’d want to consider ingesting.  In fact, the duck was particularly tasty, and the size of the portion seemed just right for one good lunch.  

Tuesday, January 14, 2014
Last week, I wrote about the fear manifested by uncompromising advocates of the Second Amendment when challenged by someone wielding a word processor.  Now, there is another example of how possession of a gun only seems to increase the paranoia of a gun nut rather than providing the comfort and confidence that one might expect when carrying a lethal weapon.

On Monday, near Tampa, Florida, a retired police captain shot and killed the man sitting in front of him in a movie theater after they argued about how much noise the man was making while texting during the movie.  No punches were thrown, but the shooter claimed, according to police reports, that “[t]he victim turned and stood up, striking him in the face with an unknown object.”  With that, the shooter pulled out a .380 semiautomatic handgun from his pants pocket, fired one shot killing the other guy.

This incident brings into question Florida’s notorious “Stand Your Ground” law, which removes a person’s duty to retreat when he fears mortal danger.  The police found nothing but scattered popcorn at the scene, the only object, aside from a bullet, that hit either party, according to witnesses.  Appropriately, the movie playing was Lone Survivor.

Speaking of standing one’s ground, the New York Times reports about the problem facing a McDonald’s in Queens where elderly Koreans gather to pass the hours, consuming little more than a random cup of coffee or a small portion of fries.  The local police precinct said there had been four 911 calls since November requesting the removal of the entrenched older patrons, who admittedly return shortly after being scattered.  For reasons no one can explain, another nearby McDonald’s and Burger King, as well as neighborhood community facilities, see an ordinary amount of foot traffic, while the joint at the corner of Northern Boulevard and Parsons Boulevard draws folks using “walkers, or with canes, in wheelchairs or with infirm steps, as early as 5 a.m. and [who] often linger until well after dark.”  So far, no shots have been fired.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014
The Boyz Club met for lunch at XO Kitchen, 148 Hester Street.  As on my solo visit (July 2, 2010), the House Special Pancake with Peanut and Sesame Paste ($5.95) stood out.  It would make a fine dessert, breakfast dish or late night snack even for people (should they exist) who don’t like Chinese food.

Thursday, January 16, 2014
As I got on the elevator this morning to go to work, I found three other residents of our large building (almost 500 apartments).   Only one, however, had won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama and has continued with other successful play and movie scripts.  Cool guy that I am, I did no more than nudge his dog nibbling at my ankles.  I also did not point out that I got his autograph on my theater program the night before the official Broadway opening of his award-winning work.  My self-control is consistent with his desire for privacy since his name does not appear on the building’s directory.

Given the size of our building, it’s no surprise that he and I are not the only notables in residence.  Candido, the now-retired Afro-Cuban jazz percussionist, who started recording in the 1950s with Dizzy Gillespie and other musicians, lives here.  He issued well more than a dozen recordings, and was a sideman on many more.  Now, I see him leaning on a beautifully-carved, African walking stick, his smooth brown skin resembling some of the planes of the walking stick.  Also, let us not forget the president of Hadassah.  

Friday, January 17, 2014
I was pleased to receive an invitation to the Chinese-American Planning Council’s 49th Anniversary Chinese New Year Fundraising Dinner, celebrating the Year of the Horse on February 6th.  I don’t think that I will be able to be a Diamond, Ruby, Gold or Silver Sponsor ($25,000, $10,000, $5,000 or $3,000) of the event.  However, since it will be held at Jing Fong Restaurant, 20 Elizabeth Street, one of my favorite dim sum joints, I may be curious to see what $150 as a mere attendee brings, when, in the past, I’ve fed about a dozen people there for a bit less.

Does anyone know if there are female leprachauns?

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