This month’s epistle is being written in the midst of a Great Plains thunderstorm. Heavy showers beating on the roof and skylight. The sky is very dark; looks like you could reach up and touch some of the clouds. Really neat. The first t-storm we’ve experienced here for a long time. Perhaps it is a sign that spring is at last upon us.
Spring means baseball of course. I will mention a couple of things as the season gets started and then, barring unforeseen circumstances, will not bore the non-baseball fans in the audience with future comments. A recent issue of Time Magazine had an interesting article about a lady named Kim Ng who since last year has been the General Manager of the Miami Marlins’ franchise. She us the first woman to serve as General Manager in any of the four major professional sports and is, of course, the highest ranking female executive. Her background in the sport is very impressive. Beginning in1991, she has worked in the front of offices of the White Sox, Yankees, and Dodgers, and most recently was the Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations at Major League Baseball Headquarters. I hope she will do well. I am not a Marlins’ fan but I look forward to seeing how their season progresses. The story in Time is called “Leveling the Playing Field.” It is in the March 3, edition.
During the course of my life, I have written a sum total of two letters to “celebrities.” (I have written a half dozen or so to political leaders, but that is a different story.) One of the “celebrities” was NASA astronaut Navy Captain Walter Schirra. I was stationed at Orlando when the fire occurred that took the lives of three astronauts during a test of the command module in preparation for the first Apollo launches. One of those killed was Gus Grissom who, like Schirra, one of the original seven selected for the astronaut program. It was a difficult period for the space program, the time table was set back (President Kennedy had promised a man on the moon by the end of the decade) and there was even some ridiculous talk about cancelling the program. My letter, probably among the thousands he received, expressed my condolences and the thought that the best way to honor the lives of those who had been lost was to continue the program and succeed in the nation’s goal of landing on the moon. Very much to my surprise, I got a very thoughtful note back from Schirra.
The second letter to a “celebrity” was baseball-related – why is no one surprised? It was sent to Hank Aaron. I suppose what brought the letter to mind was that Mr. Aaron passed away earlier this year. Major league baseball will undoubtedly have some commemorative events for him during the course of the season. Anyway, as Aaron was chasing Babe Ruth’s homerun record, he was subjected to death threats and some of the most awful racially motivated epithets –unbelievably horrific stuff. The sportswriter for the Atlantic Constitution newspaper had actually quietly prepared an obituary for Aaron to have ready in case Aaron was assassinated. Aaron had finished the 1973 season one homerun behind Babe Ruth’s record. Aaron himself expressed the hope that he would live long enough to try for the record when the next season started. Aaron himself was an exemplary human being. Sports Illustrated called him “the most dignified of athletes.” I wrote to him that I was distressed by the circumstance he faced; that kind of thing should have no place in our country. I commended him on his conduct and the example of class and dignity that he was setting. I wished him well in his pursuit of the record. Again, my letter was probably among the thousands of that nature that he received. Wow, though, what a wonderful letter he sent back. I still have it, as I do the note from Wally Schirra.
As it turned out, Aaron broke Ruth’s record early in the following season. I just googled up the great baseball broadcaster Vin Scully’s call at the moment when Aaron hit homerun number 715. As he did with most things, Vin Scully did it justice. Here are his words:
“What a marvelous moment for baseball, what a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia; what a marvelous moment for the country and the world. A black man getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record of an all-time baseball idol. And it is a great moment for all of us … and most particularly for Hank Aaron.”
Writing news: Two small bits of news to mention. A small poem titled “The Ritual” will appear in a forthcoming publication titled Best Poems and Poets of 2020. Yeah, the year is correct: like many publications, COVID-19 pushed them way behind schedule. I don’t know when the book will see the light of day.
As I mentioned last time, I am still plugging away at Glory in the Shadows. I should have the chapter on the Gulf War on paper by the end of the week. The first draft is pretty rough though, and each time I go through it I see multiple spots that need to be improved.
Then, after the Gulf War, the present plan is to close the book with a chapter that combines Iraq/Afghanistan/Global War on Terrorism. Those conflicts have seemed interminable and in the minds of much of the American public have blended into one larger, at times confusing, mass. Weaving them together will be entertaining as will finding the right amount of detail to include. In Iraq there were major battles, particularly at the outset when the coalition forces pushed towards Baghdad and took control of the country. At many other times and places the engagements have mostly consisted of smaller, but no less intense and lethal, fire fights among opposing units. In each country, there has been a roller coaster of troop increases and withdrawals as conditions have changed and different administrations have reversed their policies. The Global War on Terrorism expanded the venue world-wide. By some accounts, American Special Forces units may be active in as many as one hundred countries. It will be a stretch to try to do it justice.
Here is the way that closing chapter may start:
“For many in the American audience, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have seemed to merge like the channels of a river flowing, sometimes at flood tide, through the early decades of the twenty-first century. What began in Afghanistan in September 2001, as national pay back for the 9/11 attack on the United States later morphed into a country-wide operation in Afghanistan and an all-out invasion of Iraq.
“In the years ahead, the two wars would be prosecuted in tandem and at times portions of the forces sent to the region would be used interchangeably. Though the wars had certain elements in common, the major objectives that inspired each of them varied considerably. Afghanistan was driven by vengeance – retribution for the attack on the American homeland. The focus, at least at the outset, was fairly narrow – to capture or kill Osama bin Laden and neutralize or destroy the al Qaeda terrorist organization responsible for 9/11.
“The invasion of Iraq was aimed at eliminating weapons of mass destruction thought by the George W. Bush administration to be in possession of the Iraqi regime. While destroying stockpiles, munitions factories, and research labs that sustained the weapons programs, the war would concurrently rid the world of a tyrant who abused his own people and posed a threat to other nations in the region. The administration also sought to establish a linkage between al Qaeda and the Saddam Hussein regime.
“Of the two wars, the one in Iraq was far more controversial.”
So – we’ll see where the road leads from there. In the cold light of dawn, none of this may look good …
And now, the mush – I’m sorry much – acclaimed feature: TRULY AWFUL PUNS.
A guy got hit in the head with a can of soda.
Fortunately, it was a soft drink.
The commode was stolen from the local police station.
Now the cops have nothing to go on.
See … as usual, really bad.
Have a great spring. Best wishes to all,