Baseball 2017: Highlights

Stanton

Every baseball season contains hundreds of wonderful stories. To review them all, a book would be necessary. Since I’m writing a blog, I’ll take a different approach. I’ll comment upon approximately two dozen players, combinations of players, and other stories that were among the ones I remember from this year. Unfortunately, I may not mention your favorite story. But you can create your own list and include people I don’t mention.

 

Jose Altuve: Last year, I said Altuve was baseball’s finest second baseman. This year: maybe he’ll be the AL’s MVP? The rebuilt Astros hit their stride this season led by a man who spots Aaron Judge a foot in height and might still receive the award. Altuve was here before the other pieces of the puzzle were added. This year was his best yet. He set new personal highs in: RS, batting average (.346) –taking his third batting title in 4 years, each season filled with 200+ hits, OBP (.410), and SLG (.547). Respected by his team as well as opponents, continued excellence could put him in the Hall of Fame.

Zimmerman

Ryan Zimmerman: (see above) It appeared he was on his way out the door after 3 years of injuries and a 2016 featuring a BA of .218, 15 homers, and 46 RBIs. But a move to first base eased his throwing difficulties and a new approach to hitting resulted in a .303 BA, with 36 homers (a career high), and 108 RBIs. Only Lazarus made a bigger comeback.

 

Mike Trout: He played 45 fewer games this year because of a thumb injury. His counting stats suffered (eg, fewer at bats, hits, RS). But he still hit .306 with 33 home runs. And he led the AL with career highs in OBP (.442), SLG (.629), and OPS+ (187). Opponents realized he was as good as ever. He led the league with 15 IBB. Plus he stole 22 bases in 26 attempts. When is Opening Day?

Bellinger

In 2017, MLB set a record for most home runs in a single season (6,105). Who stood out? Cody Bellinger (LAD) (see above) set a NL record for most homers by a rookie (39), plus 97 RBIs. He’s all of 21 years old. Aaron Judge (NYY) broke Mark McGwire’s record of 49 homers by a rookie in any league. He hit 52 home runs and also led the AL in RS (128), walks (127), and, eh, strikeouts (208). But his slash line was .284/.422/.627, so everyone (except opposing pitchers) was satisfied. And, lastly, Giancarlo Stanton (see his picture at top of page) played another full season (for the 3rd time in an 8 year career). The result? He broke his previous high for homers (37). He led the NL with 59, while also leading the league in RBIs (132) and SLG (.631). He also had career highs in: RS, hits, doubles, and OPS. It’s good to be healthy.

 

What about pitching? The Dodgers might have had the best starter and closer in the NL. Clayton Kershaw again had back problems which cost him six starts“. But he still had some high spots: most wins in the NL (18), best ERA in NL (2.31) and best strikeout to walk ratio (6.73). It might get him his 4th Cy Young award in his 1o years. The Dodger’s closer, Kenley Jansen, had a fine year, too. He led the NL in Saves (41 in 42 opportunities), while striking out 109 batters in 68.1 innings. He walked 7 men. Yes, that’s a strikeout to walk ratio of 15.57. (Almost matching Kershaw’s 15.64 rate of 2016.)

 

In the AL, Chris Sale moved from Chicago to Boston (from White Sox to Red Sox). He won 17 games, had a 2.90 ERA, and had AL highs in IP (214.1), strikeouts (308 –the most since Pedro Martinez), and a 12.9 strikeout to walk ratio. Cy Young might be calling.

 

Mr. Young must call the NL, too. Perhaps he’ll find Stephen Strasburg on the other end of the call. For the Nationals, he was 15 – 4, with an ERA of 2.52, and 204 strikeouts. Or maybe the phone call could go to Strasburg’s team mate Max Scherzer. He had a 16 – 6 record, with a 2.51 ERA plus he led the league in strikeouts (268) and WHIP (0.902).

Votto

Let’s not forget other good hitters. Like Joey Votto. (see above) Playing for Cincinnati, he may get lost among the big home run hitters. But he is one of the purist, finest hitters in the game today. In 8 of his 10 seasons before 2017, he hit .300 or better. Plus, in those 10 years, he had almost 1,000 walks. In the past season, he hit .320 with 36 homers, and 100 runs scored and driven in. He led the NL with 134 BB, OBP (.454), and an OPS of 1.032.

 

You can’t talk about offense without mentioning the Colorado Rockies. Another hidden star plays for them: Nolan Arenado. In the last 3 years, he’s hit 120 homers and driven in 393 runs. In 2017, he had 37 home runs, 87 EBH, 130 RBIs, and hit .309. Plus, he’s had 4 Gold Gloves at third base in the last 4 years. His team mate, Charlie Blackmon, a centerfielder, had a career year. He led the NL in BA (.331), hits (213), triples (14) RS (137), and 387 total bases. And he had 37 homers, 86 EBH, and 104 RBI.

 

In the AL, two fine hitters have emerged in recent years. Jose Abreu has had 4 big years for the White Sox. In 2017, he hit .304, with 33 home runs, 82 EBH, plus 103 RBIs and 95 RS. And Jose Ramirez came into his own in his last 2 seasons with the Indians. 2017 saw him hit .318 with 91 EBH (including a league-leading 56 doubles.

 

The Cubs dynamic due, Bryzzo (AKA Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo) had another fine year. Bryant again cut down his strikeouts (from 154 to 128), added 95 walks to his .295 BA, and scored 111 runs. Rizzo hit 32 home runs (again) and had 109 RBIs.

Goldschmidt

2017 saw the Arizona Diamondbacks win 93 games and make the playoffs. Two of their stars deserve mentioning. Paul Goldschmidt (see above) has twice come in second in the MVP voting. He had another fine season this year. He had a slash line of .297/.404/.563 with 36 home runs, 73 EBH, 120 RBI and 117 RS. Plus he stole 18 bases (as a first baseman). And he’s won 2 Gold Gloves. Pitcher Zack Greinke had a fine year, too. He went 17 – 7, with a 3.20 ERA, plus 215 strikeouts in 202.1 IP. And a WHIP of 1.072.

 

In addition to the individuals mentioned, I want to discuss some teams who had fine seasons. All will be in the playoffs.

 

Cleveland Indians. In 2016, the Indians finished one game short of a championship. In 2017, they won 102 games. How? Their pitching was the AL’s finest. The staff led the AL with the lowest ERA (3.30), the most strikeouts and fewest walks. Corey Kluber was their ace (18 wins, ERA 2.25). Carlos Carrasco (18 wins) and Trevor Bauer (17 wins) were close behind in effectiveness. Relief pitching was deep. Cody Allen had 30 saves and a 2.94 ERA. Brian Shaw, Dan Otero, and the amazing Andrew Miller (1.14 ERA) helped. Their offense gave them the runs they needed. Stars were: Edwin Encarnacion, 24 year old Jose Ramirez, and the electric Francisco Lindor. The Indians future looks bright.

Correa

Houston Astros. They won 101 games –2nd highest in team history. Their rebuild was complete. Their offense was the AL’s finest: most runs, 2nd in homers. They were led by Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa (22 years old; see above), George Springer, and Marwin Gonzalez. Their pitching lacked big stars but was effective: Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton, Brad Peacock, and reliever Ken Giles. Plus, Justin Verlander was a late season addition. The team is ready for further success.

 

New York Yankees. They won 91 games for the first time since 2012 –a long drought by their standards. Veterans like Brett Gardner, Chase Headley, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Todd Frazier complimented a youth movement (eg, Gary Sanchez, Starlin Castro, Didi Gregorius, Aaron Hicks, and Aaron Judge) to bring success. Pitching was provided by Luis Severino, C C Sabathia, and Masahiro Tanaka with, in relief, Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, and Chad Green (5 – 0, 1.83 ERA). While no juggernaut yet, there is promise for the Yankees future.

Baez

Chicago Cubs. Last year, they won 103 games and a championship after a 108 year wait. The last time a NL team won back-to-back titles was the Cincinnati Reds’ “Big Red Machine” in 1975-76. Remember them? (Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, Joe Morgan, Pete Rose) In 2017, the Cubs got off to a poor start: 43 – 45 at the All-Star break. Then, a successful team sprint (49 – 25) led to 92 wins and a division title. Their offense scored the 2nd most runs and had the top OBP. Joining Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo were youngsters Willson Contreras, Javier Baez (see above), Ian Happ, and Kyle Schwarber (30 homers, but a .211 BA with 150 strikeouts). Their starters from 2016, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jake Arrieta, and Kyle Hendricks had a combined record of 46 – 35. Not scary. Closer Wade Davis replaced Aroldis Chapman and had 32 saves in 33 opportunities. The future of the Cubs is in doubt. They have a young (most under 30) lineup that can produce, but their pitchers are aging badly. Their future = ?

 

Los Angeles Dodgers. They have 5 consecutive division titles. The best of them? This season’s 104 game winner. Early in the year, they had a 43 – 7 spurt. Later, they lost 11 in a row and 16 of 17. Which Dodgers will show up for the playoffs –and beyond? Their offense did not dominate (6th in RS). Some (primarily) youngsters showed promise: Cody Bellinger (the assumed rookie of the year), Corey Seager (last year’s ROY), Austin Barnes, Justin Turner, Chris Taylor, and Yasiel Puig (in his 5th (?!) season brings 28 homers, a big outfield arm, and marches to the beat of an unknown drummer). BUT the Dodgers pitching staff was wonderful. Clayton Kershaw had his usual shortened (back problems), but top notch year: 18 – 4, 2.31 ERA. Other effective starters: Alex Wood, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda, and late season arrival Yu Darvish combined for a 45 – 20 record. The relief core was long and strong: Kenley Jansen (best closer in MLB), Brandon Morrow (a surprising 6 – 0), Ross Stripling, Pedro Baez, Josh Fields. As with some previous Dodger teams, their 2017 edition will probably go as far as their pitching takes them.

 

 

Next time, I’ll mention players who could contend for post-season awards.

 

 

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World’s Grumpiest Boss

HouseCast

Monday, 10/16/17, is “National Bosses Day.” Is this (see above) a picture of “the world’s grumpiest boss” and his (Dr. House’s) staff? No, but if you would like to see that man’s picture, here he is…

TMike

“Tiger” Mike Davis (see above) was the CEO of Tiger Oil and for many years was known by the unofficial title of World’s Grumpiest Boss. He died in September, 2016, but his office memos to staff were known by many people outside his company. On this “special” occasion, here are some of Mr. Davis’ most (in)famous utterances.***

 

“Idle conversation and gossip in this office among employees will result in immediate termination. DO YOUR JOBS AND KEEP OUR MOUTH SHUT.” (The words in capitals are the original punctuation.)

“There will be no more birthday celebrations, birthday cakes, levity or celebrations of any kind within the office. This is a business office. If you have to celebrate, do it after hours on your own time.”

“Do not speak to me when you see me. If I want to speak to you, I will do so. I want to save my throat. I don’t want to ruin it by saying hello to all of you.”

“Anyone who lets their hair grow below their ears to where I can’t see their ears means they don’t wash. If they don’t wash, they stink. And if they stink, I don’t want the son-of-a-bitch around me.”

“I swear, but since I am the owner of this company, that is my privilege, and this privilege is not to be interpreted the same for any employee. That differentiates me from you, and I want to keep it that way. There will be absolutely no swearing, by any employee, male or female, in this office ever.”

“The furniture in this office is expensive DO NOT PUT YOUR FEET ON IT!! I am paying you to work –not slouch in your chair with your feet up on a desk or table.”

“I do not want any excuses from anyone. I am not paying people for excuses, I am paying you for results. If you cannot do a job the way we want it done, get another job, because we know what it takes to make the wheel turn.”

 

Now, aren’t you glad your boss isn’t like Mr. Davis? Remember: 10/16/17 is his/her day. Surprise them with an appropriate gift.

***Much of this story is from The New York Times, 9/26/16.

 

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Words, Words, Words

hamlet-benedict-cumberbatch

Polonius: What do you read, my lord?

Hamlet: Words, words, words.

 

Remember Hamlet? The play you read in high school. Or was it Macbeth? Let’s say it was Hamlet. Everyone knows and has seen Hamlet. In films or on television, he has been played by many actors (eg, Benedict Cumberpatch (see above), Laurence Olivier, Mel Gibson, Kenneth Branagh, etc.). Hamlet’s reply to Polonius’ question is possibly the second most famous quote from Shakespeare’s play. THE most famous? “To be or not to be”, of course.

Why begin this article with that quote? I love words. A well turned phrase sticks with me. It may be a bit of wisdom, humor, advice, or common sense (which isn’t so common). I keep a running list of my favorites –lucky for you. Here are some of my favorites. I hope one (or more) is memorable.

 

I can’t make everyone happy. I’m not bacon. (seen on a tee shirt)

So, if we lie to the government, it’s a felony. But if they lie to us, it’s politics. (Bill Murray)

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Humor is the anesthetic of the mind. (Trevor Noah)

When you grow up in Texas, you’re taught you’re a little bit bigger, a little bit better, a little bit tougher, and a little bit smarter than anybody else. It was rough on me when I got out in the world and found out I wasn’t. (Waylon Jennings)

Them that has, gets. And I ain’t got nothin’ yet. (Ray Charles)

Women are only good for 2 things: bringing Life into the world, and making it worthwhile. (old television show: Have Gun, Will Travel)

It’s always darkest before everything turns black. (Mark Shields)

There are only two seasons: Winter and baseball. (Bill Veeck)

I may not be flawless, but you know I have a diamond heart. (Lady Gaga)

Lake Wobegon: Where all the women are strong, all the men good looking, and all the children are above average. (Garrison Keillor)

I don’t care who dies in a movie, as long as the dog lives. (seen on a tee shirt)

A crisis is never a crisis until it’s validated by a disaster. (Rev. William Sloane Coffin, referring to the Vietnam War)

Just because an idea is crazy doesn’t mean it’s wrong. (scientist on Voyager project)

The secret to a long –81 years—marriage: I always let him have my way. (Woman on a television news show)

All wars are fought twice: on the battlefield and in our memory.   (Lynn Novick)

Books: Helping Introverts Avoid Conversation, Since 1454. (Signals.com)

In my defense, I was left unsupervised. (Signals.com)

I’m not arguing: I’m explaining why I’m right. (Signals.com)

In any struggle, the winner is not the one who can inflict the most punishment, but the one who can endure the most punishment. (Vietnam vet)

Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you. (Satchel Paige)

Sorry I’m late…I didn’t want to come. (seen on a tee shirt)

Slavery is woven through our society like a dark thread. (Bill Moyers)

Everything in American history led up to the Civil war or descended from it. (Ken Burns)

If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention. (Game of Thrones)

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Ken Burns Looks at America

KenBurns

Fall has arrived. Another school year has begun. The leaves are changing color. And PBS has shown another Ken Burns documentary to entertain and enlighten their audience.

Ken Burns’ Mother died when he was 11. Later, a psychologist told him: “All of your work has been an attempt to make people long gone come back alive.” Burns is a film maker who has gone from Oscar nominee to PBS fixture to an American institution. One person called him “America’s first historian with a camera.” His topics have had a wide range, but “his aim is not to make us rethink America, but to re-experience it.”

His latest effort is “The Vietnam War.” It took 10 years to make and cost $30,000,000. Filming was done in both North and South Vietnam. 80-100 interviews were conducted for the film. It is a 10-part, 18 hour documentary. With so much film available of the conflict, he used less of what has become known as “The Ken Burns Effect.” (It involves a camera slowly panning across or zooming into a still photo. It focuses the viewer’s attention on a specific element and, for some, conveys a feeling of movement. It was first brought to a large audience in “The Civil War.”) He does a wonderful job of providing us with the many perspectives of the war, including the military forces on all sides of the conflict, governments, anti-war protesters, and families of solders. Combat film and still photographs compliment each other to give the audience an accurate picture of the action.

Vietnam was a war that began and continued because of unspoken truths and “necessary” lies. It lasted 30 years (1945-1975). The country of Vietnam was torn apart. The United States was divided into two camps, in favor of, or in opposition to, the war. Both groups suffered for their beliefs. Other countries (eg, American allies, plus China, and Russia) were drawn into the effort and suffered as well. 30,000,000 Vietnamese, both North and South, died. When America’s decision to leave was implemented, the final CIA message sent from Vietnam to Washington said: “Let us hope we have learned our lesson.”

I knew men who fought in the war and men who opposed it. I admired the courage on both sides. I thought their beliefs were well explained in this documentary. Plus, the war was shown from both combatants, North and South Vietnam, points of view. It was another magnificent production by Burns and his team. Their continued excellence never ceases to amaze me. As to “lessons learned,” I want to say they occurred, because as history demonstrates, those who ignore the past are condemned to repeat it. In this war, the United States repeated many of the French mistakes in post WWII Vietnam –with the same disastrous results.

Burns often works with the same people, and “The Vietnam War” was no exception. Buddy Squires, the principle cinematographer, has worked with Burns on a variety of projects since 1977. The narrator, Peter Coyote, has worked with Burns many times (as has Keith David, absent from this documentary). Geoffrey Ward has written The Civil War, Jazz, and Baseball, as well as The Vietnam War. Lynn Novick was co-director for “The Vietnam War” and has worked with Burns on 4 other films.

Is there anyone who has not seen a Ken Burns’ documentary? It seems unlikely. Is there anyone who has seen them all? That seems unlikely, too. Why? Burns has directed, co-directed or produced at least 30 films.*** (see list below this text) And for those who ask: “What’s next?” 2019 is the planned date for films focusing on “County Music” and “Ernest Hemingway.” Burns has said he has projects that will be seen on PBS through the 2020s (possibly including the subjects of Muhammad Ali and Stand-Up Comedy).

What are my Burns’ favorites? I’ve seen 17 of the 30 listed below. Number One on my list has to be The Civil War (1990). For me, and many other people, this was our first taste of The Ken Burns Effect. It was a documentary with no film of its subject, yet it was mesmerizing. It consisted of photos, music, voice overs, and interviews. It was 11 hours long and was shown over a number of evenings. I did not miss a minute. I listened to anecdotes told by Shelby Foote whose words took you to the battlefields. And I cannot imagine anyone who was unmoved by the story of Sullivan Ballou’s letter to his wife written a week before his death. Ashokan Farewell played in the background. There was not a dry eye in the viewing audience. Burns had us hook, line, and sinker. (The Civil War received 40+ awards, including 2 Emmys and a Peabody award.)

My second place winner is Baseball (1994). (I include the films The Tenth Inning –2010, and Jackie Robinson –2016 as part of this choice.) I grew up when baseball truly was The National Pastime. I saw Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby integrate the NL and AL. I saw Don Newcombe win the first Cy Young Award. I saw Willie Mays –fill in the highlight you want. And I saw Buck O’Neil interviewed and listened to his stories in Burns’ “Baseball.” Buck MADE the film. Here are two samples of his reminiscing. “Did you ever hear the sound of a bat hitting a ball, perfectly? I’ve heard that sound 3 times. When Babe Ruth hit the ball. When Josh Gibson hit the ball. And when Bo Jackson hit the ball.” Here is a story from the Negro Leagues, where Buck played and managed, before he was a coach and scout for the Cubs. (He “found” Ernie Banks.) “How fast was Cool Papa Bell? He could hit a ball through the middle of the infield, and it would hit him in the ass as he slid into second base.”

My Bronze medal winner is The National Parks: America’s Best Idea (2009). The film included the best of 6 years of footage in our National Parks. I remember the words of John Muir. “The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.” And “The sun shines not on us, but in us.”

You must have seen some of Ken Burns’ work. What are your favorites?

 

 

*** Ken Burns’ Documentaries:

Brooklyn Bridge (1981)

The Shakers: Hands to Work, Hearts to God (1984)

The Statue of Liberty (1985)

Huey Long (1985)

The Congress (1988)

Thomas Hart Benton (1988)

The Civil War (1990)

Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio (1991)

Baseball (1994); updated with The Tenth Inning (2010)

The West (1996)

Thomas Jefferson (1997)

Lewis and Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery (1997)

Frank Lloyd Wright, with Lynn Novick (1998)

Not For Ourselves Alone: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony (1999)

Jazz (2001)

Mark Twain (2001)

Horatio’s Drive: America’s First Road Trip (2003)

Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson (2005)

The War (2007)

The National Parks: America’s Best Idea (2009)

Prohibition, with Lynn Novick (2111)

The Dust Bowl (2012)

The Central Park Five (2012)

Yosemite: A Gathering of Spirit (2013)

The Address (2014)

The Roosevelts: An Intimate History (2014)

Jackie Robinson (2016)

Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ War (2016)

The Vietnam War (2017)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Name Game, 2

 

Jeff. Davis

 

This topic may be familiar to you. The first “The Name Game” was posted by me on this blog on December 4, 2016. So, back by (my) popular demand is another edition. The instructions are the same, but the questions and answers are new.

This game is quick, simple, and enjoyable. If given a few clues, can you guess the names of two famous people? Remember: the LAST name of one famous person will always be the FIRST name of the other person.

For example: a) Who was the 3rd President of the United States? And: b) Who was the President of the Confederacy during the American Civil War?

Answers: Thomas Jefferson and Jefferson Davis (see  above).

This is a game, not a test for a grade or a contest to win money or prizes. Give these 10 pairs of questions a try. The answers will follow the 10 question combinations. I hope you have some fun.

 

  1. a) He is a director of films (eg, A Beautiful Mind, The DaVinci Code) and played Opie on “The Andy Griffith Show. And: b) He has a radio show on Sirius and was a judge on “America’s Got Talent.”

 

2. a) She is an actress; won Best Actress Oscar for “Silver Linings Playbook”; was in “The Hunger Games” trilogy. And: b) He was an English actor who won Best Actor Oscar for “Hamlet” in 1948.

 

3. a) He is the best player in the NBA and has won 3 championships for 2 teams. And: b) He was the 4th President of the United States and his wife’s name was Dolley.

 

  1. a) He is a director (won an Oscar for “Annie Hall”), writer, and actor; he is famous for living in and writing about NYC. And: b) He was an important member of the Beat Generation and wrote the poem, “Howl.”

 

  1. a) He won 9 Gold Medals in track at the Summer Olympics (1984-1988-1992-1996). And: b) He wrote “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”

 

  1. a) She is an Indy and NASCAR race car driver. And: b) He is an actor who starred in “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “X-men” movies.

 

  1. a) He is an actor who starred in “Pulp Fiction” and “The Hateful Eight.” And:           b) He is a pop singer, is in the Rock and Roll and Song Writer’s Halls of Fame,and had an album/song entitled: “Running On Empty.”

 

  1. a) She wrote “To Kill a Mockingbird.” And: b) He was an actor who starred in “The Dirty Dozen” and “Cat Ballou” (for which he won the Best Actor Oscar).

 

  1. a) He was a British officer famous for serving in Arabia in WWI. And: b) He was the finest outside linebacker ever to play in the NFL; he played for the N. Y. Giants.

 

  1. a) He had a children’s TV program broadcast from his “neighborhood”. And: b) He was a great second baseman in the 1920s, playing mostly for the Cardinals; he had the 2nd best lifetime batting average ever in MLB.

 

 

 

Answers:

1 = Ron Howard and Howard Stern.

2 = Jennifer Lawrence and Laurence Olivier.

3 = LeBron James and James Madison.

4 = Woody Allen and Allen Ginsberg.

5 = Carl Lewis and Lewis Carroll.

6 = Danica Patrick and Patrick Stewart.

7 = Samuel L. Jackson and Jackson Browne.

8 = Harper Lee and Lee Marvin.

9 = T. H. Lawrence and Lawrence Taylor.

10 = (Fred) Rogers and Rogers Hornsby.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Women’s Firsts

Franklin

Who was the first women to fly (solo) across the Atlantic Ocean? That’s right: Amelia Earhart. She was quoted as saying: “The most effective way to do it, is to do it.” (Yes, baseball fans, I thought Yogi Berra might have said that. But if he did, Amelia said it first.) Who was the first woman to become a Justice for the United States Supreme Court? Right, again: Sandra Day O’Connor. But who was the first woman to win an Oscar as Director of a Motion Picture? Yes, Kathryn Bigelow. You are three for three. Finally, who was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? (see her picture above) Aretha Franklin.

Check the September 18th issue of Time Magazine for a story of 46 women who were first in other important achievements. To give you a sample of who is included in the article, here are some women that were mentioned whose names you will recognize: Serena Williams (first tennis player to win 23 Grand Slam singles titles in the open era), Barbara Walters (first woman to co-anchor a network evening news program), and Hilary Rodham Clinton (first woman to win a major party’s nomination for President).

Finally, here is a sample of the remaining women who achieved significant firsts in a wide variety of areas.

 

Albright

Madeleine Albright (see above): First woman to become U. S. Secretary of State.

Elizabeth Blackburn: First woman to be president of the Salk Institute. 211 individuals have won the Nobel Prize in Medicine. Blackburn is one of 12 women.

Eileen Collins: First woman to command a space shuttle.

Ann Dunwoody: First woman to rise to four-star general in the U. S. military.

Ava DuVernay: First black woman to direct a film nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. 2014’s “Selma.”

Nikki Haley: First Indian-American woman to be elected governor (South Carolina).

Hayden

Carla Hayden (see above): First woman and first African American to be the Librarian of Congress. The library has more than books. It contains 164 items including Jackie Robinson’s papers and the contents of Abraham Lincoln’s pockets the night he was assassinated.

Maya Lin: First woman to design a memorial on the National Mall. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Loretta Lynch: First black woman to become U. S. Attorney General.

Rita Moreno: First Latina to win an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony. Only 12 people have done so.

images-1

Ilhan Omar: (see above): The first Somali-American Muslim legislator elected to the United States Congress (from Minnesota). “I want to help build a world where chances of birth don’t define peoples lives. I want my daughters to be judged not by their gender or skin color, but by their contributions to our community.”

Cindy Sherman: First woman to break $1 million in a photography sale.

Kathryn Sullivan: First American woman to walk in space. She also was a member of the shuttle crew that deployed the Hubble Space Telescope.

Alice Waters: First woman to win the James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef. She was a pioneer of the “farm-to-table”, eat what is fresh and locally available movement. She inspired Michelle Obama’s outside the White House food garden.

Janet Yellen: First woman to chair the Federal Reserve.

 

I have not mentioned all 46 women described in Time magazine. Still, it is worth your time to check out the issue (September 18, 2017) and read about the women saluted therein.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Paris, 1946

“America’s Greatest Generation” was Tom Brokaw’s term to describe the people who endured the Great Depression and fought in WWII. My parents were part of that generation.

Recently, I rediscovered a small box of my Father’s possessions (he died in 1999) that helped me remember his experience in WWII. To his generation, WWII was a “good” war: just, necessary, winnable. The box contained four things: 1) a discharge document from 1946; 2) the two “dog tags” my Father wore during the war; 3) a piece of my Mother’s jewelry from that time; 4) a number of half-dollar coins including two from the 1940s. These items generated the following memories for me.In December of 1944, I celebrated my second birthday. My Father was on a government sponsored trip. His room and board were paid for, as was his clothing and equipment. Everyone who went with him had the same agreement. It was WWII and they all had been drafted. Deferments had delayed my Father’s entrance into the Army: he was married, had a child (me –doing my part for the war effort), and was working in a defense related industry. The war needed many more men. Their effort would be required until the conflict ended or they were seriously injured or dead. Of course, I understood none of it. My Mother did understand it and, as a young woman, it made no sense. Her husband was 31 years old and, now, he was going to war.

Dad got there after Normandy’s beaches were occupied and the unaccounted for hedgerows had almost ended the invasion. But he would not miss all the action. Fighting began; time passed; progress was made; the Ardennes, site of an important battle in WWI, had been reached. The army paused and spread out their defenses. No one knew the largest and bloodiest battle on the Western Front –as well as the largest battle ever fought by a U. S. Army—was about to begin.

Hitler, the German leader, had seen his defenses fail to prevent an invasion. Now, he risked large quantities of men, his beloved Panzer divisions (tanks), and Air Force in one large Offensive. American defensive positions were not equally manned. Hitler picked the weakest point, and thanks to poor weather (limiting visibility for the Allies Air Force), threw everything into the attack. The Allied line was breached (ie, the American line had bulged) and soldiers fell back. Knowing they needed reinforcements, they chose to make a stand at the city of Bastogne. The city was important to Germany because if it was taken, good roads would enable their troops and tanks to make significant progress throughout Europe.

The Americans knew the importance of a victory. More important, they knew without reinforcements the battle was lost. An officer unknown to my Father and other troops would give them their final orders. Standing in front of a large group, the officer hesitated before speaking. Then, shaking his head from side to side, he said: “Oh, hell, it doesn’t matter. You’ll all be dead in 2 weeks anyway.” Everyone was silent. And with that, The Battle of the Bulge began. Bastogne had to be held.

BotBulge

The battle lasted from December 16, 1944 to January 25, 1945. Weather was brutally cold. Meals for the American soldiers were eaten standing up in the snow or sitting on ice blocks which encased discarded weapons or frozen bodies –in time, some were American, some were German. (see above) As time went on, meals were served out of the back of trucks. Men put their plates under a tarp covering the back of a vehicle, felt the portions of food dumped onto plates, and took them out to see an unrecognizable mass. It seemed to be raining/snowing at every meal. Some men looked at their food, getting wetter by the second, and hesitated. Older men, like my Father, said: “Eat it now. It’s not going to look any better or be any warmer if you wait.”

They ate; they fought; they were wounded, or died, or they survived –physically colder than they could imagine. Weapons froze up. Tanks and trucks had to be run every half hour whether in battle or not. They froze solid if you waited too long. Weather improved and the Allied air force dropped supplies (mostly ammunition) and paratroopers. Casualties mounted for both sides. Allied reinforcements arrived (ie, soldiers, Patton’s tanks). Bastogne held. The German plan had failed. Eisenhower moved forward. His goal: drive the Germans straight back, until the Allies reached Berlin –or the war ended.

The Russians, coming East, were driving for Berlin, too.   They remembered the cost for them to throw back the Germans at Stalingrad: a total of 1.7 – 2.2 million men (German and Russian) killed and injured. The Germans (soldiers and civilians alike) would pay dearly for the destruction of that Russian city. Germany was being squeezed.

RemagenBridge

Less than 2 months later, another important battle took place. As the Germans retreated, they destroyed bridges spanning the Rhine river. By early March, 1945, they had destroyed 46 of their 47 targets. The only bridge remaining, the Bridge at Remagen, was minutes from demolition when the Allies discovered it. (see above) It was guarded by 2 machine gun towers which had to be dealt with by crossing open ground. On March 7, 1945, American forces –General Patton’s tanks and infantry (of which my Father was a part)—crossed the bridge. The last enemy to attack Germany by crossing the Rhine was Napoleon. Before him, Caesar. For weeks afterward, as many troops, tanks, and weapons as possible entered Germany by this route. It was felt that this lucky encounter and subsequent victory shortened the war by weeks or months. One individual said it was the greatest military triumph since Normandy. (A 1969 film, The Bridge at Remagen, told the story of this event. My Father saw the film. I asked him if he liked it. His reply: “It wasn’t like that at all.”)

Anne Frank...

Near the end of WWII, Concentration Camps were found to be more than a rumor when Allies discovered their existence. My Father spoke of the first camp he and other soldiers discovered. Its name was Bergen-Belsen. He saw gas chambers with bodies still in them …open pits with bodies that had not been covered with dirt …bodies lying where they fell when people died. (see above; Anne Frank and her sister, Margot, died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945) The German soldiers who did not have time to flee were captured. They were told they had to properly bury the dead and there was no choice in this duty. They dug or they died. Residents of the near by villages who claimed they had no knowledge of the camps were taken on tours of the facilities. They were given “booklets” that explained why the Allies were so upset with what was done at the camp. (My Father brought home such a booklet. As an older child, I did not know why the booklets were in German. Later, I realized these were given to German citizens. There were pictures of each of the camp’s facilities. One photo showed General Eisenhower’s reaction as he toured the camp.) When American soldiers arrived, they gave their rations to prisoners who eagerly ate the food. They vomited immediately because their systems could not process it.

Some American soldiers were given new duties. My Father was such an individual. Prisoners (in my Father’s case, they were captured Russian soldiers, survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, and gypsies) were put under his care. He made sure they got proper food, clean clothing, and adequate medical care. When my Father left the camp, the people he helped gave him a gift: a letter opener colored gold and shaped like an 8 inch sword. My Father wondered what German officer’s desk held the letter opener before it was turned into a gift by a camp resident.

After V-E day (Victory in Europe) on May 8, 1945 and V-J Day (Victory in Japan) on September 2, 1945, life changed for American soldiers. First, they were told when they were going home. The decision had been made that they would be going home in reverse order: those who arrived in Europe on Normandy’s beaches would go home first, everyone who came later would go home later. Second, they were informed no additional training would be necessary for them because they would not be going to fight in the Pacific theater as they were told earlier. Third, they could, in addition to their remaining duties, travel free in Europe –in uniform—until it was their time to leave for home.

My Father knew where he would go: France. When he got there, he had a ring made for my Mother. It had no gold or silver, and it contained no precious gems. It was round, made of metal, and its top was larger and flatter, and inscribed: “Paris, 1946.”

And what was my gift? In late December, 1946, for my fourth birthday, my Father came home.

 

 

 

 

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