Saturday, April 18, 2009


The most exciting baseball games I ever saw were some I never saw at all. I heard them. As a kid, I was a devoted Brooklyn Dodger fan and a follower of all things baseball including New York’s other major league teams, the Giants and yes, the hated Yankees too. I got my baseball from my radio. The voices of my youth were those of Red Barber, Russ Hodges and Mel Allen.

Ballentine Beer, a local New York brewing company, sponsored the Yankees and every time a Yankee hitter smacked one into the seats, Mel Allen would yell into his microphone - “It’s going, going, GONE! A Ballentine blast!” I hated it – hated him – and made a point of never drinking Ballentine Beer either. Schaefer Beer sponsored the Dodgers and, although I couldn’t stand the taste of it, Schaefer was my beer, damnit!

Nothing compared with baseball on the radio on a summer evening. Of course, in those long ago days, baseball games were not regularly televised. And even if they had been we didn’t get our first television set in my house until I was already twelve years old.

Then, in 1957 the baseball world was knocked off its axis.

Greedy owner Walter O’Malley spirited the beloved Dodgers out of Brooklyn and took them completely across the continent to Los Angeles. He couldn’t go alone. One team, separated from all the others by thousands of miles would never have been workable. So, the creep O’Malley talked his friend Horace Stoneham into picking up his New York Giants and moving them to San Francisco. Both of New York’s National League teams disappeared overnight. The pain of it was like a knife to the midsection. It wasn’t California’s fault. No one from the west had come east to steal these iconic organizations. The Devil himself, O’Malley, and his compliant piss-ant servant, Stoneham, were the culprits.

I thought the world, as I knew it, had come to an end.

I was saved by a man named Les Keiter.

The next season began with my National League teams 3000 miles away, but one of them – the Giants – remained as close as my radio dial. No, they didn’t have the technology we take for granted today. There were no satellites to relay the games back to New York City. So, how was I able to hear these games? Les Keiter.

Les Keiter sat in a broadcast studio in New York City – at Radio Station WINS – and broadcast what was called a “recreation” of the games from the reports taken off a Western Union wire tape. Of course, it wasn’t a recreation – it was an original creation. In order to recreate, you need to know the exact specifics of the original. Then you recreate them. Les Keiter had none of this information. All he had was what appeared on the ticker tape.

And the Western Union ticker gave him only the barest of data.

For example, as it came across the ticker, a typical 7-pitch at-bat could look like this:









What kind of strike? A swing and miss, or a called strike? Was the pitch a fastball or a curve, a slider or a changeup? Did the ball bounce in front of the plate? Was a foul ball simply a grounder off to the right or left? Or maybe a long fly – nearly a home run – but turning foul at the last moment?

Les Keiter had none of this to work with. And often the Western Union ticker might delay the report of the next pitch for thirty seconds or a minute or even longer. Keiter had nothing to work with but his imagination.

When a hitter did hit the ball in play, sometimes the Western Union ticker would indicate where the ground ball was hit. Sometimes it wouldn’t. The same thing with a fly ball. From these bare bones, Les Keiter, working alone, with no sidekick, no color analyst, no second announcer, made a complete broadcast.

He had a wide variety of sound effects - the crowd noises, the crack of the bat, the thump of the ball hitting the catcher’s mitt, the muted cry of an umpire’s “You’re out!” But everything about the game itself, Les Keiter made it up as he went along. From the meeting of the managers and the umpires at home plate before the game began, to the first pitch, to the last at bat. Yes, he made it up.

For instance…

Western Union ticker: FLY BALL OUT
might have sounded like this…

“Here’s the pitch.”
(SFX/ Crack of Bat)
“There’s a long fly to left center.
(SFX/Crowd noise rising)
“The left fielder takes off, but it looks like he can’t run it down. It’s in the gap, all the way to wall.”
(SFX/Crowd noise louder)
“Here comes Willies Mays! Mays races back. He reaches out.”
(SFX/Crowd noise loudest)
“Willie makes the catch!”
(SFX/Crowd noise deafening)

What had actually, really happened? Who knew? Certainly not Les Keiter or anyone else at the WINS studios. Perhaps it had been just a little pop fly to the right fielder. Maybe the second baseman had to be called off. Willie Mays might have stayed put way out there in center field. But, what really happened didn’t matter because whatever Les Keiter said – that’s what really happened. I believed it. And so did a lot of other people.

Time and technology ended this wonderful experiment, this amazing moment when fans, listeners and Keiter himself accepted fantasy as reality. Major League Baseball put the Mets in New York. The Giants and the Dodgers and Les Keiter were replaced and forgotten.

But we all know, don’t we, some things cannot be forgotten, not forever.

Les Keiter died this week. He was 89. The New York Times obituary didn’t say anything about his funeral – where it was or when. So, I can’t know the details, but if I think hard enough, back far enough, I’m sure, in the theater of my mind, I can recreate them, sound effects and all.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Norm Coleman won’t give up. Why should he?

It’s too easy for those who support Al Franken to question Coleman’s motives, to wonder what his “end-game” might be, or to assume that some kind of Republican conspiracy is at work here to deprive the Senate Democrats of another seat and to limit the citizens of Minnesota to a single sitting Senator.

Says who? If there is proof of Coleman’s insincerity, let’s have it!

However, if Norm Coleman really believes he won the election last November – and also believes the recount is laden with errors, omissions and misinterpretations – and if he also believes that by following the rules and laws set-up to provide candidates like him access to the courts, he will emerge victorious once all legal proceedings have been exhausted – If he really believes all of these things, who is to say he ought to give up, give in and concede?

If you had run and thought you had won, would you?

It’s a fair assumption that most of Franken’s supporters (who were old enough) supported Al Gore for President in 2000. They no doubt also supported John Kerry in 2004. Papa wonders how those people would have felt about Gore and Kerry showing the same determination to “win” that Norm Coleman exhibits. Haven’t you ever asked yourself why Al Gore acquiesced in a “stolen” election, or why Kerry didn’t use every legal avenue open to him to challenge the Ohio vote count?

If you were upset with John Kerry for not persisting, how can you be critical of Norm Coleman now?

We can’t have it both ways. We can’t pick and choose which elections we’ll fight to the bitter end, and which we’ll just let slide.

A Senate term is 6 years. Al Franken’s missing vote isn’t making the difference on a single piece of legislation. If the United States is a nation of laws, not of men, shouldn’t we all support Coleman’s right to use those laws?

And, Papa has a word of advice for the eventual Senator Franken.

When you do win – when you take your oath of office – when you stand on the floor of the US Senate representing the people of Minnesota – you will do so with greater honor and without any reasonable detractors if your opponent has exercised the full scope of his legal rights under our Constitution.

Isn’t protecting and defending the Constitution what a US Senator pledges to do?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Have you seen those really big, foam I’m #1 faux-hands? You know, the ones with the huge index finger pointing straight up. Watch just about any sporting event on TV and you’ll spot zillions of them. Well, it’s not just for sports. Americans really believe that shit – We’re #1 in anything and everything.

For example, don’t we absolutely believe we have the very best, state-of-the-art medical care right here in the USA? You bet we do. And we do, don’t we? No we don’t. We’re not even close. And the real information never seems to make its way into the mainstream of public discourse. Why not? Perhaps, because of things like today’s New York Times. In today’s edition there is a story about a CDC report on infant mortality. It’s devastating – or it should be –to the American psyche. But it’s stuck away, deep within the paper’s Science Section. I’d bet it’s on the least read page of today’s newspaper.

What’s it say that’s so vital?

Not only are we not #1 in the world in infant mortality – the USA is way down the list at #29. Okay, you might say… #29 ain’t so bad. After all there must be a couple of hundred countries in the world, right? Aren’t there 180 or so members of the UN General Assembly? Something like that…

The CDC report only ranks the top 36 nations. We’re #29. You still think that ain’t bad?

Among the world’s ten safest places for newborns, the Top 3 are all where? Go ahead, take a guess.

They’re in Asia.

At the top spot, #1 is Singapore; #2 is Hong Kong (Oh, my God, a communist controlled country!); and #3 is Japan. The next top 3 are all nations in Western Europe with (Oh, my God… Socialized medicine!) Sweden, Norway and Finland. Worse yet, all the remaining countries in the Top Ten, including a 4-way tie for #10, are also European countries with universal national health programs: Spain, Czech Republic, France, Portugal, Netherlands, Germany, Greece and Italy.

In fact, all the remaining nations with better infant mortality rates than the United States of America, they all have universal national healthcare, taxpayer funded, single-payer systems that leave no one out – no one.

All the countries we like to make fun of are all ahead of us… France, Canada, England, and even Cuba. Yes, CUBA! And we both thought –for sure! – that the Cuban commies damn near ate their newborns, didn’t we?

You still think our USA healthcare is so great? Which countries do you think we did manage to beat? How about Slovakia and Poland, Russia, Bulgaria and Romania. We beat everyone in Africa, didn't we? I suppose, if the USA was in Africa, we would be #1! Makes you proud, doesn’t it?

So, what’s left to defend about rapacious, capitalist, private, for-profit US healthcare? You got anything to say? Wait a minute… I hear you. Infant mortality, you’re shouting, isn’t that big a problem. It’s not a large enough public health issue for us to worry about or to use as a measuring rod for overall medical care quality.

You really believe that, don’t you? That’s all right. Don’t blame yourself – a lot of Americans probably would say that.

So… how many Americans – newborns and babies - actually die in the United States of America every year during their first year of life (the CDC worldwide measure of infant mortality statistics)? How many? Take a guess. Don’t be hesitant. Guess.

According to the CDC report, 28,000 American children under the age of 1 die every year right here in the USA. That is the equivalent of a 9/11 every 5 weeks! Can you imagine how we would react if we had a 9/11 event 10 times a year? Every year!

It’s been almost 8 years since 9/11/2001. In that time, about 225,000 American babies have died on our watch. The War On Terror altered our Constitution, trashed our civil liberties and ruined our national budget. What about the War on Infant Mortality?

The next time you are forced to take off your shoes at the airport, open your purse or attaché case or other carry-on for a hands-on, detailed inspection of your private belongings; the next time you go through a metal detector in a public building or at a concert or sporting event – go ahead, ask yourself: What are we doing in America to save the lives of 28,000 newborn infants? Don’t we have a multi-billion dollar bureaucracy called The Homeland Security Agency? Do we have an Infant Mortality Agency?

These are the questions. I can’t guarantee you’ll like the answers. Maybe you don't even like the questions. Feel a little uncomfortable, huh?

Perhaps, The New York Times should have printed their story on page 1, above the fold, in a large, bold font across the entire FrontPage.

Sunday, April 5, 2009


North Korea has fired a missile and some people are scared to death.

This fear is a symptom of “Nuclear Proliferation Syndrome.” This is a condition urgently requiring a psychiatric code. Anyone suffering from it needs to have a “time-out.”

Those concerned about New Members coming into the Nuclear Weapons Club are like youngsters in college who discover “Romeo And Juliet” or Thucydides’ “Peloponnesian War” – write a 2500 word paper on it - and suddenly think they are experts on the subject. They aren’t, but they would never know it. Why? Because they lack perspective.

The same is true for those who quake at the thought of the Nuclear Club’s newest member, North Korea, or a possible future member, Iran, or whoever else might someday be getting nuclear weapons. Those who forecast nuclear doomsday lack a nuclear perspective and thus they subject themselves to irrational fears.

Let’s establish the necessary perspective regarding the actual threat of nuclear weapons. Here are the nuclear facts:

1. Any nuclear attack on the West immediately triggers the complete and utter destruction of the attacking nation.
2. Any nuclear attack on China or Japan or South Korea likewise triggers the same devastating response upon the attacking nation.
3. Any nuclear attack on Israel also triggers an immediate, totally destructive response upon the attacking nation.
4. Any nuclear attack elsewhere (targets not mentioned in the above examples) may have the potential for success in that no immediate nuclear response upon the attacker is guaranteed – Why? Face the truth… nobody really cares about anyplace else.


Who would retaliate for a nuclear attack on a target that was not a Western power, a major Asian power, or Israel? Who? Nobody, that’s who. Of course, ask yourself also – Who wants to attack such a target? Nobody, that’s who.

More nuclear facts:

5. Not one of the 9 existing nuclear powers – The United States, Russia, Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea – has given ANY INDICATION WHATSOEVER that they have any agenda (except self-defense) that includes the actual use of their nuclear weapons against any nation listed in #1, #2 or #3 above.
6. Thus, for the United States and the West, there is NOTHING TO FEAR from any of the existing nuclear nations.
7. Iran has a long and glorious national history – older than Western Civilization – and no one can point to anything in Iranian policy or Iranian action that would show any suicidal wish on the part of the Persian Empire.
8. The world is chuck-full of Enriched Uranium – some 14 countries currently have enrichment programs actually operating – and any nation can build nuclear weapons if they realy want to – If they have the money and the national will. Nuclear science is not a secret. Nuclear resources are available to anyone who can afford them. In time, there will be additional members of the Nuclear Weapons Club. There’s no way to stop it - except for...
9. The only way to actually enforce non-proliferation is to kill anyone who decides to make a nuclear weapon and do it before they have one. There is no other way. Yes, dead men don’t wear plaid, don’t talk and don’t make nuclear bombs. But they’re the only ones.


There are at least 4 countries with submarines constantly at sea equipped with multi-warhead nuclear missiles – The US, Russia, Britain and France. China may soon have this capacity and nobody knows if Israel already has one or more such subs already in service. This fact alone means nobody can attack countries in #1-#3 above without assuring their own absolute and complete destruction.

Can nuclear powers be negated? The United States has somewhere between 25,000-40,000 nuclear weapons. The Russians have about 12,000, maybe thousands more. The British, the French and the Chinese too have substantial supplies as well. Israel is said to have as many as 400-500 nuclear bombs. The nuclear capacity of these countries cannot be completely destroyed. Therefore, none of these countries is vulnerable to nuclear attack without the certainty of devastating retaliation to the attacker, even if the initial attack is successful.

India, Pakistan and North Korea do not have a large number of operational weapons. Combined, they probably don’t have more than a tiny handful of nuclear weapons and none of them have the money needed to build an indestructible working arsenal. Thus, they hardly represent a meaningful threat… to any nation, anywhere… except perhaps themselves.

To believe that any nation would launch a nuclear attack requires you to also believe that such a nation is fully prepared for its own total, irreversible destruction. What country fits that category?