<![CDATA[George Vecsey - Home]]>Thu, 11 Feb 2016 17:18:33 -0500Weebly<![CDATA[Super Bowl Is Over, Right? But Primaries Drag On]]>Sat, 06 Feb 2016 16:05:47 GMThttp://www.georgevecsey.com/home/super-bowl-and-primaries-they-do-drag-on
Carson's Out!
Deflate the Footballs!
Weekend Update: The debate was a ghoul show. Saturday Night Live was ecch, as we say in New York. Rather than expend more good energy, I ducked the Super Bowl. It just didn't exist. Watched political history on C-Span. Listened to classical on WQXR-FM. Read a great New Yorker piece on Chechnya.  What a clean feeling to wake up Monday, like getting up early on Jan. 1 after not drinking. But the news says Trump and Cruz and El Joven are still with us. Yikes.) 

Nevertheless, my household is hooked on the presidential primaries: Steve Kornacki explaining stuff on MSNBC and Rachel Maddow and Chuck Todd with all their enthusiasm and Chris Matthews never letting his guests get in a word.

(What is Brian Williams, with his pomaded network stiffness, doing on cable? As the subway guy bellowed in the movie “Ghosts:” “Get off my train!”)

Plus, the primaries beat the heck out of football, which I always knew was bad for the brain, anybody’s brain.

As of Saturday morning, I was not at all sure I would watch the Super Bowl. I had already seen one NFL game this season. Yes! It happened two weekends ago, after I gloated about going a full season without seeing a single down.


Having made that boast, I went to a family gathering two Sundays ago for (a) home-grilled wings, (b) the NFL doubleheader and (c) glimpses of the grand-daughters. (The girls ate the wings and promptly vanished downstairs to watch “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”)

As a sociologist in a strange land, I did observe:

*- NFL broadcasters no longer chortle how tacklers “rang his bell.” I wonder why.
*- Deep loathing of the Patriots. One family member hates Brady because he retains a resident chef.
*- Football has not changed much since the last time I took a peek – sporadic running, passing and kicking, plus commercials.
*- My wife – not a sports fan – noticed Peyton Manning’s craggy face on the sideline: “He’s the one who sings about chicken parmesan on TV.”
*- Speaking of commercials: the ones for football are aimed at active younger people (cars and fast food) whereas the commercials for my age group push health insurance, stair lifts, vitamins for arthritis, ringing in the ears and upset stomachs, plus pills that involve couples splashing around in water.
*- With the game dragging, some of us discussed the delightful prospect of Barbara Bush going to a primary and kicking Trump in his posterior, while sneering, Not our type. Go, Granny, go.

With two minutes left, fear and trembling took over. Laura, the sports and political columnist, cautioned that Bill Belichick, master of dark arts, might still think of something. The behemoth named The Gronk plucked the ball out of the air to bring the Patriots within 2 points. The onside kick skittered harmlessly. Game over. Cheers. Civilization saved.

I came away from my annual NFL game comparing candidates and coaches:

*- Chris Christie and Rex Ryan, of course. But Rex had better lap-band surgery.
*- Jeb! and Dick Kotite. Nice guys who….
*- Trump reminds me of a fan in a goofy costume, who makes brave noise from the stands but doesn’t understand the game.
*- El Joven de Florida reminds me of  boy wonders who get a job somewhere and are immediately over their heads.
*- Clinton does not conjure up a football image but I could not help thinking of baseball manager Gene Mauch, a verbal lifer who knew the game inside and out. (You know the rest.)
*- Cruz and Belichick. One delivered a chop block to Ben Carson's knees. The other has a perp list of dirty tricks.
*- Bernie Sanders and Tom Coughlin, two apparently grumpy old men who lightened up. (Coughlin won two Super Bowls. Just saying.)

I planned to watch the GOP Frolics followed by Larry David and Bernie Sanders on SNL, to clear my head.

As for the Super Bowl, MSNBC said Jeb! was planning a Hail Mary Pass: an expensive commercial starring The Old Decider. We've seen how that one works.

<![CDATA[Black History: The Composer Did Not Get a Call Back ]]>Thu, 04 Feb 2016 15:26:23 GMThttp://www.georgevecsey.com/home/black-history-the-composer-did-not-get-a-call-backPictureFlorence Beatrice Price (1887-1953)

It is Black History Month, which means I always learn something.

This Black History Month has caused me to re-think my position on the first woman, or women, who should be on an American bill. But first:

Three years ago, Terrance McKnight of WQXR-FM did a documentary on a composer I had never heard of, Florence B. Price.

The other night, PBS ran a visual documentary on Price, and by now her music was more familiar to me, ranging from traditional classical to black gospel.

One of the experts (mostly black, via Arkansas Public Television) compared her to one of my favorites, Antonin Dvorak, who used folk music (in the deepest sense of the phrase) of two worlds, Bohemia and America.

Artists generally have it hard, but black artists have it harder. The PBS documentary showed how Price was inspired by classical music but segregation and economics held her back. She always had to be double good. (Sound familiar?)

In one pathetic episode, already accomplished, Price wrote a letter to Serge Koussevitzky, the legendary director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, asking to compose for him, and she felt the need to call attention to being “Colored.” He never wrote back.

Yet she had her triumphs. Mainstream conductors and critics and performers took her seriously, notably in her adopted home town of Chicago.

In one of the great moments in American history, Marian Anderson performed at the Mall in front of the Lincoln Memorial, April 9, 1939, after Eleanor Roosevelt had forced the issue. Anderson sang a hymn by Florence B. Price, her friend.

In the Arkansas documentary, an elderly black woman recalls, half a century later, being young and seeing a black woman singing to 75,000 people. The old lady daubs her eyes with a handkerchief. I bet you will, too.

How hard it was, how hard it is, to be black in America. Just look at the dignity of people who have been poisoned in Flint, Mich., because of the incompetent and heartless regime of a latter-day plantation massa, Gov. Rick Snyder.

But there are triumphs. Look at the lovely front-page photo of President Obama, speaking at a mosque in Baltimore, calling for a cessation of prejudice, as children smile in awe. We have seen those smiles on black service members when Obama visits the troops and on black citizens when Obama goes out in public. So there is that.

But Black History Month reminds us how hard America has been on any black who aspired. That is why I am wavering in my position that Eleanor Roosevelt should be on a bill. I think she may be the greatest woman yet produced by the U.S.A., but her greatness may have been in her advocacy of the underprivileged, for people of all colors.

Now I think the next bill (lose Andrew Jackson off the 20, not Alexander Hamilton off the 10) should be a tribute to the great women of color in America.

Who? How many? I leave that to historians. But when that glorious bill arrives, somebody should play the classical music of Florence B. Price.

Below: The multitalented Terrance McKnight accompanies Erin Flannery in “To My Little Son,” by Florence B. Price:

<![CDATA[Trump Runs Smack Into "Iowa Stubborn"]]>Tue, 02 Feb 2016 14:51:16 GMThttp://www.georgevecsey.com/home/trump-runs-smack-into-iowa-stubborn
River City and the stranger off the train -- "The Music Man"
Oh, there's nothing halfway
About the Iowa way to treat you,
When we treat you
Which we may not do at all. 

-- “Iowa Stubborn,” Meredith Willson
Thank you, Iowa (as the politicians say.)

One of the best movies ever made about America -- right up there with Brooklyn movies and LA Noir movies and Deep South movies - - is the musical "The Music Man," written by the great Meredith Willson (two Ls, cantankerously), originally from Mason City, called River City.

The movie is about another time and place and a flimflam man carrying a cheap suitcase, alighting from a smoky passenger train.
Somebody asks where he is going and he says, "Wherever the people are as green as the money."

Now they come on chartered jets, but they still want something, in this case votes,  
from clusters of Iowan in gyms and halls, earnest and dressed for winter (with the occasional Bernie t-shirt.)

I recalled covering a few stories in Iowa (including Pope John Paul II’s visit to a heritage farm, charming Lutherans) and for one of the rare times since I retired I actually wanted to be working, talking to people in those clusters.

I kept thinking of wily Robert Preston, calling himself Prof. Harold Hill, and heartbreakingly lovely Shirley Jones as the librarian, and Buddy Hackett, for goodness’ sakes, settled down in Iowa, and all the characters, the puffed-up men and hormonal teenagers and cackling wives who were smarter than their husbands, of course.

And there was Trump, roaring in on his own jet, selling hot air out of an empty suitcase and empty mind. The Iowans asserted themselves in a few directions, going for Sr. Canada first and El Joven third and leaving Trump in a very loser-like second. (And what about his bluster that he can get things done?) He got on his plane and went east, unlike The Music Man, who…but heck, rent the movie.

The Iowans also went 50-50 for Clinton and Sanders, now joined at the hip like the couple in the Grant Wood painting, “American Gothic.”  

All those people, coming out on a wintry night, did not settle much, but they did firmly establish that Trump did not get the girl in River City.

For a different metaphor of Trump, the pro-wrestling bozo, I urge you to read David Brooks’ brilliant column in the NYT. 

I loved watching Iowans in their clusters – the Iowa-stubborn female vet who cursed the VA live on MSNBC, the Iowa-stubborn young man who held out for Martin O’Malley in his final hours as a candidate, the Iowa-stubborn voters who cheered Cruz and Rubio and Trump and Clinton and Sanders as they vanished into the night, leaving Iowa to Iowans.
And we're so by God stubborn
We could stand touchin' noses
For a week at a time
And never see eye-to-eye.

-- "Iowa Stubborn," Meredith Willson. 
On to New Hampshire. American Gothic. Grant Wood/The Art Institute of Chicago
<![CDATA[My Friend Has Written His Vietnam Book]]>Fri, 29 Jan 2016 15:14:42 GMThttp://www.georgevecsey.com/home/my-friend-has-written-his-vietnam-book PictureJohn Paul Vann, July 2, 1924 - June 9, 1972. Photo by Jim Smith
Jim Smith and I used to goof around in the Newsday sports department. He was going to college and covering high-school sports, just as I had started.  

Then he came up with No. 34 in the draft lottery and wound up in Vietnam, first as a typist, then on guard duty, then covering the war for Stars and Stripes.

When he came back, he was different. They all were, the ones who came back.

Years later, in 1991, my wife and I were in Vietnam through her volunteer child-care mission, and I came back with new friends and mostly good memories. I saw Jim at a game, and offered to show him photos. He shuddered. Didn’t want to go there.
Now Smith is 67 and retired, and has written a touching and valuable book, “Heroes to the End: An Army Correspondent’s Last Days in Vietnam,” published by iUniverse, also available on e-book.

The words come back. Tu Do Street. Hootch. Charlie. Tunnels. ARVN. Words from history. Words people live with.

Jim is very clear about the journalism he produced, under orders to write only positive stories. But he has fleshed out the details with memories and notes he stashed and letters he sent home.

He makes it clear that he was no hero. He had only four months up close to the fighting, in 1972, when casualties had been downsized, and he only began inching closer to combat near the end, so he would know what it was like. He came under fire twice, never fired a shot. 

Most Vietnam books go for the big picture – how LBJ and McNamara and Westmoreland and so many others ignored and misrepresented and lied. 

Smith’s book concentrates on the people who did the dirty work; some thought they should go harder, others thought it was all a waste. Smith fluctuated from dove to hawk. He kept his hair fairly short, so officers would give him stories.

He concentrates on the mundane, the down time, the bitching, the carousing, but the old horrors creep in, nevertheless.  

Mostly he saw the humanity – some young Americans who discovered they were quite good at firing a machine gun from the door of a helicopter or seeking out Vietcong in the brush. They were warriors. Others were not.

Smith was a reporter, glad to get back to base, to Saigon, to his apartment and civilian clothing and the girlfriend he almost brought home with him.

The closest thing to a big picture comes from meetings with Lt. Col. John Paul Vann, who questioned the war and later was the hero of Neil Sheehan’s Pulitzer-Prize winning book, “A Bright Shining Lie.”

“I had more respect for Mr. Vann – for that is what I always called him – than for anybody else I met in Vietnam.”

After Vann died in a helicopter crash, Smith held back from punching a captain who said Vann had been a showoff.
Smith displays admirable journalistic curiosity about the South Vietnamese, Montagnards and South Koreans he observed in combat. 

Then he came home to cover local news and we resumed goofing around during a fractious school-board feud in Great Neck. (How petty it must have seemed to a reporter back from war.) He married a colleague from Newsday, Lynn Brand, and they have a son, Peter.

In retirement, Jim Smith is on the board of United Veterans Beacon House and is donating the profits from his book to veterans’ causes. He served. As he reminds us of that war, I would say he is inching closer to hero status all the time.

In a bunker. The great correspondent, Peter Arnett, is on right. Photo by Jim Smith
<![CDATA[Flint Not the Only Place Being Poisoned]]>Wed, 27 Jan 2016 15:03:51 GMThttp://www.georgevecsey.com/home/flint-not-the-only-place-being-poisoned
Rachel Maddow and Flint Mayor Karen Weaver
Thousands of children and adults have been poisoned in Flint, Mich.

On Wednesday night in Flint, Rachel Maddow – who has served as a national conscience in this latest tragedy mixing politics and pollution – held a “town-hall” meeting on MSNBC.  

The meeting provided information and a bit of catharsis for people in Flint -- but no detectable action or shame from the dim-bulb state government that has occupied poor towns in Michigan in recent years. 

However, Flint is not the only place where poisons have been let loose. More below.

This horror in Flint has been coming for years, since Gov. Rick Snyder began appointing unelected “managers” to run some Michigan towns, many of them with large black populations. It looked like the bad old days of South Africa.

To save a few bucks, Snyder’s brain trust chose to use water from a polluted river rather than Lake Huron. None of Snyder’s “experts” knew enough to install filters, so lead began showing up in the water – and in children’s bodies.

Lately the governor has been standing around, looking a bit stricken, as people passed out donated water bottles, hardly a solution to the health crisis.

On Wednesday night we learned that it might cost over $10,000 per house to replace the poisoned lead pipes. No work has started. The state government is now in the position of needing help from a federal government that it has vilified as the enemy -- kind of where we are in this country these days. 

Maddow has been shining a light on some states with Tea Party and Koch Brother types – North Carolina, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Michigan and Virginia. She reported on Bob McDonnell, then the governor of Virginia, for his fetish for highly personal medical scans of women, labeling him “Governor Ultrasound.”

McDonnell and his estranged wife are now appealing prison sentences for corruption while Maddow has moved on to Flint, which badly needed a friend.

America is good on polluting itself. The New York Times, in the Jan. 10 issue of its Magazine, ran an absolutely riveting article about how DuPont dumped its refuse in the water table of northern West Virginia for many years. A highly responsible mainstream Cincinnati law firm allowed one of its corporate lawyers to take up – and win -- a pollution case.

But with pollution, there are no victories.
I recently talked to Mike Glasser, a friend of a friend, who is taking chemo for cancer he believes was incurred while mixing chemicals amounting to Agent Orange.

But it was not in Vietnam, where we dumped it willy-nilly. It was at Chanute Air Force Base in eastern Illinois, long closed, with people and animals and lakes and land showing signs of chemical damage.

One young reporter, Bob Bajek, took up the issue for a local weekly, and managed to get a highly detailed story published pointing to chemicals used at Chanute more than 40 years ago.

Bajek doesn’t work there anymore. One of his superiors said he stirred up trouble, writing things people didn’t like to read. 

                  *           *          *

Here are two links by Bob Bajek:
His reporting on the pollution:  
(click link below:)

and the response to his work: (click link:)

                   *           *             *  

None of this is new. May I recommend this version of “Black Waters,” performed by Kathy Mattea, from South Charleston, W. Va., as courant as when the great Jean Ritchie of Viper, Ky., wrote it in 1971.

Mattea's prelude is worth hearing. Black waters are now flowing in Flint.
<![CDATA[How Should Mets Fans Take the Cespedes Deal?]]>Sat, 23 Jan 2016 14:58:38 GMThttp://www.georgevecsey.com/home/how-should-mets-fans-take-the-cespedes-deal
Cespedes was doubled off first to end Game 4 of World Series.
While we were sleeping Friday night, wondering if we would lose power in the storm, the Mets were signing Yoenis Cespedes for one, or three, or five years, depending on how it goes.

Some people think it’s a good financial deal, compared to what some teams have overpaid for sluggers over 30. 

But having witnessed Cespedes in the World Series last fall, when he batted .150, I’m just not convinced.

He played at half speed, his brain and will apparently turned off, looking like musical “Damn Yankees,” when Joe Hardy reverts to a stumbling middle-aged man.

Was he hurt? Was he comatose? Or was his sudden reversal the reason he had passed through three teams in four seasons since leaving Cuba?

Then again, I had been comparing his power and agility to Willie Mays after Cespedes shockingly arrived with the Mets in August. He carried the Mets to the World Series as pitchers suddenly had to revise the way they approached the Mets’ lineup. He made every hitter better.

But he regressed in the National League series, coming up with a sore shoulder after being spotted playing golf in Chicago on the day of the fourth game. He was doubled off first base – way too far, way too lethargic – for the last out of the fourth game of the World Series. And he was stumbling around in the outfield.

That performance undoubtedly cost Cespedes a lot of money. The Mets’ front office played it well, waiting, waiting, until other teams had spent on other players, and Cespedes seemed to be hanging back, wanting to return to New York.  

Early Saturday morning, Mets’ buff David Wachter sent me a message: 
Yoenis Cespedes $75 for three - $57m more for last three years 2019, 2020, 2021.
2006, 2007, 2008 Jason Giambi was paid $60m.
Cespedes sought $132/6  - $75/3  $57.
Mark Teixeira's contract last three years up to age 35?  
2014, 2015, 2016: $69,375,000.
$57,000,000  - 2019,2020,2021.... How many tools did those Yanked first baseman have?
Could they be a late inning substitution in left or right, a pinch runner?
No one offered that money ....
As a Met fan I feel like a miracle happened....
And you?

Miracle? Good poker by Sandy Alderson? Admirable decision by Cespedes?
Depends who the Mets get – Willie Mays or Joe Hardy.
Your thoughts? 
<![CDATA[Cruz Dissed Trump’s Home Borough of Queens]]>Sun, 17 Jan 2016 15:53:11 GMThttp://www.georgevecsey.com/home/cruz-dissed-trumps-home-borough-of-queens
The Governor Called the Fouls
In Harlem, They Nicknamed Her "Fire"
Ted Cruz, the lawyer who scorns election ambiguities and disclosure rules, also scorns “New York values.” 

We know what Cruz is doing – going after the evangelical vote by raising that old specter, the urban type, with noses and accents and odd names and weird food tastes. You know. The city where America’s children go if they think they can make it there.

Cruz was going after Donald Trump – and welcome to that – by making him typical of New York.  But as somebody who grew up a crucial half mile from the Trumps, I have to admit, the Donald, in his own vulgar way, represents a sub-group, his home borough of Queens.

Simon & Garfunkel. 50 Cent. My Jamaica High chorus members, The Cleftones, who played PAL basketball for the 103rd Precinct. Bernadette Peters. And I remember my friend’s older sister, when I was 10 or so, raving about “that Tony Benedetto from Astoria”. The man is still singing, but now to Lady Gaga.

Many of us from Queens form a yappy lot. Is it the vital separation from “The City” – Manhattan? Looie Carnesecca, for many years from Jamaica Estates, says New York pizza is the best because of the water. Is it the brackish water of Flushing Bay and Jamaica Bay and Newtown Creek that makes Queens people tend to mouth off? Or is it the relative space and light that grows characters?  

John McEnroe. Jimmy Breslin. Howard Stern. Fran Drescher. Christopher Walken.

Trump is a mouthy rich boy, but Cruz prodded him into the first dignified moment of his campaign, maybe of his life. Trump stuck up for us, the people with the New York values.

Athletes? The common ingredient of Queens jocks is the need to handle the ball. Point guards. Control freaks.

Bob Cousy-Dick McGuire-Kenny Anderson-Kenny Smith- Mark Jackson-Nancy Lieberman, who took the A train from Far Rockaway to Harlem to get a game. Peter Vecsey, who played for Molloy and writes about hoopsters. And from Jamaica High and St. John’s, Alan Seiden, known in the P.S. 26 schoolyard as “And One,” because he called a foul every time he took a shot.

Bob Beamon, from Jamaica High, was a dunker, not a passer. He could leap. Leaped to a world long jump record in Mexico in 1968.

The thing about Queens is that the subway and elevated lines all head west, toward The City. I remember slouching in class at JHS 157 in Rego Park, watching the No. 7 El rumble toward The City.

Trump lived a few blocks from the last stop on the F Line but I wouldn’t bet he ever took the train. Probably got chauffeured to his prep schools.

With all this glorious diversity around him, somewhere along the line Trump developed outsize prejudices. This tells me he never spent much time with Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard. He would have a different facial look if he had.

Queens College graduates: Jerry Seinfeld. Ray Romano. Howie Rose, Mets voice.

Cruz is playing to the base, the red-hots who cheered him in South Carolina and might caucus for him in Iowa on Feb. 1. His code words of “New York values” are an insult to the Chinese in Flushing and the Koreans along Northern Blvd. and the Latinos around 82nd St. and the South Asians around 74th St. -- and my friend Alton Gibson from South Jamaica who disregarded his guidance counselor’s advice to take vocational classes, and got himself advanced degrees and a good career. Those New York values.

Mario Cuomo from South Jamaica who married the beautiful Matilda Raffa and led a life of good works and talented children.
In Queens, we talk and write and sing and dream.

Letty Cottin Pogrebin. Stephen Jay Gould. Stephen Dunn, zone-busting guard and Pulitzer Prize winning poet. Francis Ford Coppola. Sam Toperoff. Lucy Liu. Russell Simmons. Idina Menzel. Michael Landon. Cyndi Lauper. Joe Austin, Mario Cuomo’s coach for life.

The bright young woman from the English class in Jamaica High a decade ago, now a college graduate doing advance work for Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire. The bright young woman from two decades ago, now getting her teaching certificate in the grand building on the hill. 

Those voices Those accents. The great spices emanating from open doors and adjacent apartments in Astoria and Bayside and Hollis and Ozone Park. The dreams. The drives. The New York values.

I can hear them in Mrs. Gollobin's choir. I can see them on the court. New York dreams.
<![CDATA[Monte Irvin and President Obama: Dignity Personified]]>Wed, 13 Jan 2016 15:12:08 GMThttp://www.georgevecsey.com/home/monte-irvin-and-president-obama-dignity-personified
I was thinking about Monte Irvin before the State of the Union speech. Irvin died Monday and my friend Ray Robinson, the writer, called me to commiserate.

Ray once wrote a story about Irvin visiting him at his home on Fire Island, dutifully hitting fly balls at the edge of the surf to young fans who knew a Hall of Famer was visiting. Irvin was always a gentleman.

The early great black players were individuals: the activist Jackie Robinson, the lifer Roy Campanella, the energetic Willie Mays, the stoic Larry Doby. Monte Irvin was a centrist, a veteran of the Negro Leagues, who played in Newark, across the river, while lesser players were performing in Brooklyn, Harlem, the Bronx.

When he got his chance, Irvin had eight seasons to show the great player he was.
Later, he was brought into the Commissioner’s office, perhaps as a gesture, perhaps to offer real counsel.

Either way, he was available, to talk about the past, to talk about the present. Some reporters were lucky enough to spend time with him around ball parks and hotel lobbies. He was a link; he was a guide.

(The National Football League did somewhat the same with Buddy Young, the splendid little running back, a pioneer black star right after the War. What a treat to sit around an otherwise tedious summer camp and talk about Illinois and the New York Yankees football team.)

A personal note about Monte Irvin: in the mid-‘60’s the baseball writers held a summer outing at Bear Mountain, including a hardball game. I was playing left field, and Monte Irvin, long retired, lofted one so far over my head that I think it landed in the Hudson River.

Monte was always available for history and opinions. Around 2009, I called him for my Stan Musial book (he thought Musial was a positive force in those days) and I reminded him of the shot he hit at Bear Mountain. Not surprisingly, I recalled it more than he did. He, after all, had tagged Warren Spahn and Robin Roberts much the same way.

I thought about Monte Irvin again during the State of the Union speech, as President Obama made a passionate call for Americans to somehow dig back to their better selves.

At the end, I saw some black members of Congress near the exit – Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee from Jamaica High School and Yale and now Houston, always there for his autograph. I saw the sheer pride emanating from them, but that is also how we feel about him and Michelle Obama, with the pride of family members.

When the President casually offered to give some tips about Iowa to current candidates, my wife and I whooped it up. Oh, right. He won two elections, come to think of it.

We look forward to the Obamas maintaining a standard of dignity and thoughtfulness over the decades. The president’s speech soared like Monte Irvin’s home run.
           *                         *                 *

(Jon Leonoudakis, who made the recent documentary on Arnold Hano, another grand old writer, displays the bond among Hano, Ray Robinson and Monte Irvin:) 

From Jon Leonoudakis:

After I heard the sad news of the passing of Monte Irvin, it struck me there was a wonderful story to share about him that is largely unknown.

Ray Robinson and Monte were good friends, and in the summer of 1963, Ray invited Monte and his wife, Dee, to join Arnold Hano, his wife, Bonnie and their nine-year-old daughter, Laurel, at their place on Fire Island for a weekend. When the kids in Ray’s neighborhood learned Monte Irvin was staying there, they begged him to come out and play ball with them. Remarkably, Arnold Hano had his 16mm film camera with him and captured Monte playing with the kids. It is a very sweet story and I’ll be sharing it with the world later today. Click on the link above.

When I first saw the footage while making the Hano documentary, I asked Arnold, “Who’s the black guy in the Sports Illustrated T-shirt?”. The reply via e-mail: “Monte Irvin.” I nearly fell out of my chair! I then set about interviewing Arnold and Ray about their recollections of that weekend. It wasn’t something I could fit into the body of the film, but I hoped there would be an outlet for it at some point.

Rest in peace, Monte Irvin.


                  *          *           *

Ray Robinson’s 1984 article about the day Monte Irvin visited him at the beach:
<![CDATA[The Day Theodore Roosevelt's Daughter Bawled Me Out]]>Mon, 11 Jan 2016 19:04:48 GMThttp://www.georgevecsey.com/home/the-day-theodore-roosevelts-daughter-bawled-me-out
PictureEthel Carow Roosevelt Derby

Young Theodore Roosevelt, Out West

Theodore Roosevelt is back in the news, since armed protestors occupied a national wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon, including land put aside for the ages by Theodore Roosevelt.

The old Rough Rider would have had his own ideas how to disperse these intruders. I feel I have an insight into the strength (and temper) of Theodore Roosevelt, since his daughter once bawled me out.

This was in 1974 when I wangled a tour of Sagamore Hill from Roosevelt’s second daughter, Ethel Derby, of Oyster Bay.

Mrs. Derby was polite, and formidable and knowledgeable, but the interview almost ended in the first minutes when I referred to her father as “a hunter.”

“Don’t think of him as a hunter,” Mrs. Derby said. “He was a conservationist. Sometimes he shot deer for food. He also helped classify many animals. But he was not a hunter. Young people who visit get the wrong impression.”

I knew some of the trophies in the American Museum of Natural History had been donated by Roosevelt, whose father had been a founder of the museum. And a few heads and hides are now spread around the very male, very dark, family home Roosevelt had built.

In 1974, his daughter was mad at me. I caught Joyce Dopkeen, the Times photographer, looking at me as if to say, “You are blowing this interview, dude.”

Fortunately, Mrs. Derby was as gracious as she was loyal, and she continued the interview, her memory vital at 83. She made sure to tell me her father had made many positive gestures toward African Americans, and that she was from the liberal wing of the Republican Party. She also said kind words, but no excuses, about President Nixon, who had been kind to her, and was soon to resign because of the Watergate scandal.

She was a tribute to her patrician father and mother, Edith Carow Roosevelt, her father’s good friend in childhood, whom he married two years after his first wife died in childbirth. 

My faux pas with Mrs. Derby has long dominated my memory of the interview. Last fall my wife and I were accorded a tour of Sagamore Hill through friends, Brian and Janet Savin of Connecticut, and I only vaguely remembered having been there with Mrs. Derby, decades earlier.

I have since read “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt,” the Pulitzer-Prize-winning book by Edmund Morris, which covers Roosevelt’s family life and early political years leading up to his replacing the assassinated President McKinley in 1901.

Mrs. Derby’s father was a complicated man – brilliant intellectual skills, deft political operator, source to friendly reporters, high morals, but impetuous, often losing his temper even to close friends. After the first 600 pages, I went to the Web and found plenty of educated speculation that TR was bipolar.

Morris also makes it clear that fellow Rough Rider volunteers were falling all around him as Roosevelt led the charge up San Juan Hill in Cuba in 1998.

The best part of the book is about Roosevelt’s visceral love of the west – chasing down three rascals who stole his boat, resisting the suggestion he hang them, turning them over to a sheriff.

In his first terrible months after the death of his first wife, Alice, he went to his ranch in the Dakota territory and shot just about anything that moved – “making his total bag 170 items in just 47 days,” Morris writes.

I’m glad I didn’t have that statistic at hand when I interviewed Mrs. Derby, who passed three years later. Her father would have been proud of the way she scolded me – and the way she continued the interview, as she had promised.

<![CDATA[Sports Opinions at Once: Griffey. Piazza. Manning. Giants.]]>Thu, 07 Jan 2016 22:38:13 GMThttp://www.georgevecsey.com/home/sports-opinions-at-once-griffey-piazza-manning-giantsPictureThis smile lit up the Dome

*- Junior Griffey emerged from the pile at home plate with a Seussian smile – winning run in an epic victory over the Yankees. (We all knew he had been chastised by Billy Martin as a kid.) 

My daughter Laura Vecsey was a sports columnist in Seattle that year. Griffey had mood swings, but the way he went back on a fly ball…. My son David Vecsey also worked in Seattle those years. His first child was born in 1998. The next day at the ball park, Griffey approached David and said, “Where’s my cigar?” and David produced one, you bet.

Junior had seen a lot of disruptions as the son of a major-leaguer; his goal was to be a family man. I hope they are enjoying his deserved selection to the Hall of Fame.

When reporters brought up drugs, Griffey flexed his whippy arms and said, "I train on pizza." He knew what he was telling us. Nice Hall of Fame diet, Junior. 

*- Nobody hit a ball with a sharper concussion than Mike Piazza. You could have your nose in your laptop and the crack would make you jerk your head up to follow the orbit. David Waldstein knows him much better than I do: don’t miss this in the NYT today.

​There seem to be two criticisms of Piazza: that he had a poor arm for a catcher, and showed alleged symptoms of steroid use when he joined the Mets. I say, if he was that bad a catcher, some manager would have made him play first.

Apparently, reporters noticed pimples when Piazza emerged from the shower.  I was not on Zitz Watch that day. No other evidence. I go with the crack of the bat.  

*- I cannot believe Peyton Manning would take illegal substances, even with a neck injury threatening his career. Not all athletes can make that judgment, particularly at those prices, but few athletes reach Manning’s level with his family history and support. (see: Jeter, Derek.) I believe Manning would know what he risked if he did something illegal -- not right from wrong but self-protective from self-destructive.

* - Back around 1970, I wrote that the football Giants were a “brown-bag team,” having followed them from one college camp to another, with family divisions and cronyism rampant. But then George Young was installed as GM, Wellington Mara and John Mara and Bill Parcells and Lawrence Taylor established order.

When Tom Coughlin arrived, he was a strange tormented dude, early on. The Giants actually staged an intervention: why so miserable, man? He’s been a self-aware grump ever since, totally acceptable.

Now, when I see John Mara – as solid a sports owner as there is, along with the Tisch family – allowing Coughlin to retire and talking about finding a place in the organization for him – and admitting that Jerry Reese’s personnel choices haven’t all worked out – it makes sense to me. The Giants are loyal. The Giants have won four Super Bowls. The Giants are not a brown-bag outfit.

<![CDATA[Discovering a New Shakespeare Play, at My Age]]>Tue, 05 Jan 2016 15:12:04 GMThttp://www.georgevecsey.com/home/discovering-a-new-shakespeare-play-at-my-age
Judi Dench and Miranda Raison/ Photo by Johan Persson
One of the joys of being old is the occasional discovery of something lovely, something you never knew existed.

That’s what happened Sunday when we saw the filmed performance of Shakespeare’s “The  Winter’s Tale” -- not in London but in Kew Gardens, Queens.

I am embarrassed to admit I never knew the play, after four years of being around the wonderful Shakespeare Festival at Hofstra College in the late ‘50’s. That was the biggest thing on our little campus, because the president, John Cranford Adams, was a noted Shakespeare scholar, and had made sure we had a Globe Theatre in the new playhouse (soon deservedly named for him).

I can still see friends in costume, wielding swords, wooing, declaiming. (Francis Coppola was backstage, learning his craft.)

However, in five decades of seeking out Shakespeare all over London, I still had to verify that the “The Winter’s Tale” was his, when it popped up Sunday at the deus-ex-machina art-film house in a funky corner in Queens that reminds me of some blessedly static part of London.

Yes, it was Shakespeare. My wife had seen a version at the pit at the Barbican. The plot was for me to discover.

Branagh was excellent as the jealous king who touches off the tragedy but the star was Judi Dench as the wise elder who speaks truth to the king. She is 80; her voice and psychic power could cut and polish a diamond.

The elders in the movie house seemed to love Dench. They spoke English and Russian and other languages of our city; the lady next to me was Jamaican.

No plot giveaways here. I will only say that I remember tearing up near the end of Stoppard’s “Arcadia” a few decades back when the tectonic plates of two separate centuries, two sets of people at a country estate, gracefully overlap.  

I wish I could say, “Don’t miss this,” but this was essentially a one-off item that may pop up elsewhere at the rare theaters that provide quality films. (The movies in my town are mostly banal trash.)

To find quality performances, one has to monitor the schedules for the Metropolitan Opera, the National Theatre Live, the Bolshoi Ballet, and now Branagh’s enterprise in the gorgeously renovated Garrick Theatre at Charing Cross. (My London rellies saw a sold-out “The Winter’s Tale” on Christmas Eve and reported that rare British happening, a standing ovation.)

I didn’t stand in the movie house in deepest Queens on Sunday – too busy wiping away a few tears before the house lights came back on.
PictureKenneth Branagh/ Photo by Johan Persson

<![CDATA[New Year's Resolution: Less Is More]]>Mon, 04 Jan 2016 14:02:12 GMThttp://www.georgevecsey.com/home/new-years-resolution-less-is-more
Needed: A Hefty Bag Day for the Soul
“Have you made a resolution?” my wife asked. Had not.

She said that rather than make grandiose plans – join a health club -- it is better to lighten the load, leaving more room and time for better things that come up.

She is consolidating some details – stuff that banks and companies don’t seem to know how to do anything, on automated phone hell. Made sense to me.

I hereby vow to write less in the new year about things I don’t care about – sports that vanished in my rear-view mirror years ago. Just because the web is an endless maw doesn’t mean we should try to fill it, minute by minute.

For a while, I’m going to lay off Donald Trump and Pete Rose (who may, in fact, be the same person.)

Plus, any web site that inserts 15-second video commercials is getting X’d out of my queue. That’s not why we learned to read and think, to watch stuff jump around. 

I will write about stuff that excites me – like discovering a new Shakespeare play (for me, that is). But enough for today. 
<![CDATA[Happy New Year From Four Different Countries]]>Fri, 01 Jan 2016 16:04:24 GMThttp://www.georgevecsey.com/home/happy-new-year-from-three-different-countries
Greetings From Derrick Z. Jackson and Dr. Michelle Holmes. Photo by Derrick, just returned.
Sunrise, New Year's Day, Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture. Photo by Haruko
Unidentified Revelers, Long Island, New York
New Year's Eve, Copacabana, Rio -- Altenir, Neo, Celia.
<![CDATA[Peace and Quiet -- Photo by Anjali]]>Thu, 24 Dec 2015 17:56:29 GMThttp://www.georgevecsey.com/home/peace-and-quiet-photo-by-anjali
That's all I'm saying
<![CDATA[Is Jamaica, Queens, the Next Boom Real Estate Market?]]>Mon, 21 Dec 2015 15:25:37 GMThttp://www.georgevecsey.com/home/is-jamaica-queens-the-next-boom-real-estate-market
Valencia theater in boom days, under the Jamaica El, left. Now it is a glittering tabernacle, the El long gone.
That’s what streeteasy.com suggests in a recent posting.

I’m all for it, since I still have allegiance to the area. But I also have my concerns.

I wrote my proposal for how New York City could make Jamaica more attractive to people who might be drawn to the area.

Yes, it involves one of the worst mistakes of the Bloomberg era – the killing of the great beacon on the hill, Jamaica High. 

Please read my essay on streeteasy.com:

Comments are welcome on that site. GV

<![CDATA[What Are Star Wars Movies Trying to Tell Us? (If Anything) ]]>Sat, 19 Dec 2015 16:39:04 GMThttp://www.georgevecsey.com/home/what-are-star-wars-movies-trying-to-tell-us-if-anything
What was the message?
I see the latest Star Wars movie is out. I didn’t understand the first one in 1977 so I doubt I would understand the latest.

I remember taking our son, who was nearly 8, and sitting in the dark and wondering what was happening.

“Why is the human allied with that furry guy?” I asked, and he shushed me.

Was some of it symbolic or allegorical? Did it refer to our own foolish wars, past or present or future? What were their motivations? I didn’t know. Still don’t.

I could figure out some kind of oedipal tension between the old human and the kid, but the only person I could relate to was the Harrison Ford character, named Han Solo. In this huge universe, aren’t we all Han Solo?

I also liked Ford in “The Frisco Kid” (1979) about a Polish rabbi and an outlaw and some even worse outlaws in the west. The hairy creatures were real. The rabbi (Gene Wilder) asked the Han-Solo outlaw (Ford) what he was going to do next, and Ford replied in lascivious and bigoted language.   
This was before Ford’s features became frozen permanently between fear and anger. He was young then.

Star Wars did have some sex appeal. We got a report about The Empire Strikes Back (1980) after our younger daughter went with friends from high school.

Apparently, one of the human characters was about to be killed in some outer-space way, and one girl shouted at the screen, “You can’t kill Billy Dee Williams! He be the sexiest man in the galaxy!”

I love some supernatural touches: Emma Thompson as the merciful angel, Meryl Streep as the spirit of Ethel Rosenberg, in “Angels in America.”

Generally I favor movies with reference to some moral code -- Orson Welles lurking in the shadows, Tony and Maria seeing each other across the gym, Clint avenging his buddy’s death in a “shit-hole” bar.

Movies have gotten away from me. Zombie films and Harry Potter films and extra-terrestial films.

Who needs new monsters? Trump and Cruz scare me enough.


<![CDATA[What I Learned from the Latest Debate]]>Wed, 16 Dec 2015 13:24:56 GMThttp://www.georgevecsey.com/home/what-i-learned-from-the-latest-debate
Million of these on line. This from Michael-in-Norfolk.
  • If the Mets were playing, I wouldn’t have watched these mugs at all.
  • Trump has what the ball players used to call “the red ass.” He hears slights and does a quick sizzle. Just what we want in a chief executive. 
  • Fiorina did not mention “body parts” or otherwise incite gun-toting lunatics. How statesmanlike of her.
  • Bush may have been put on earth to annoy Trump.
  • Rubio still looks like El Joven reaching for the water bottle.
  • Kasich remains the most adult person in that clown car. Not saying much.
  • I never believed in reincarnation until I saw Joe McCarthy back on earth as a sneering Texan.
  • I agree with about 12 percent of what  Paul says. Otherwise, he’s a terrier yapping at the passing parade.
  • Christie still bragging about being a leader after blowing off a needed railroad tunnel years ago. No shame.
  • Carson declined to pick between two candidates’ points. Sounded like me when the teacher called on me in class. “Um, what?”
  • Come to think of it, if the Yankees had been playing, I would have watched them
<![CDATA[I Too Am Worried About Terrorists – Domestic Ones]]>Sat, 12 Dec 2015 14:14:26 GMThttp://www.georgevecsey.com/home/i-too-am-worried-about-terrorists-domestic-ones
Singing Backup in the Know-Nothing Band

It’s bad enough to have nihilists around the world blowing things up after their own systems failed. But what accounts for apocalyptic behavior in the United States?

This is no news that Donald Trump is proposing things right out of the dictator playbook, even citing the one really unpleasant thing Franklin Delano Roosevelt did – internment of Japanese-Americans.

Trump doesn’t even know how widely that is condemned, by people who admire FDR. He doesn’t know much, which is his appeal to a generation dumbed down by reality shows with sneering hosts.

I grew up near Trump in Queens. People tell me he was a nasty little kid. Still is.
But he has terroristic help from the Republicans he scorns:

Carly Fiorina made public comments about dissecting embryos for “baby parts.” This has been proven untrue. Tell that to the crazed hermit who killed three people at a Planned Parenthood site in Colorado. I haven’t heard Fiorina apologize for inciting the brute.

The main New Hampshire newspaper endorsed Chris Christie in that state’s primary. At least it wasn’t Trump. But I heard the paper’s editorial writer explaining what a fine leader Christie is. He had no idea that New Jersey is doing terribly financially, and he did not seem to know about the bridge scandal -- people in Christie’s circle backing up the George Washington Bridge.

Isn’t that terrorism? What would happen if Christie were elected – from the clink?

Finally, Lindsey Graham is urging Republicans to take back their party from the unwashed interloper. That’s nice. But Graham and the “establishment” is coming off nearly seven years of overt sabotage to the President and the government.

The motivation was more than politics. It was racial. They could not stomach a smart man with African-American roots as President. Graham and his pals facilitated Donald Trump. Isn't that terrorism?

This just in: a sweet example of Graham saying nice things about Joe Biden, as forwarded by my political friend, George Mitrovich:
                   *       *       *


                   *         *        *

Here’s a song from the Prophet Iris -- Iris DeMent: "Wasteland of the Free:"
<![CDATA[Jogging in Skivvies to Help the Homeless]]>Mon, 07 Dec 2015 20:43:39 GMThttp://www.georgevecsey.com/home/jogging-in-skivvies-to-help-the-homeless
Executive Uniform of the Day
Doug Logan, who is 72, recently slogged 22 kilometers with 22 kilograms in his backpack on a group run by military veterans. That number stood for the 22 vets said to commit suicide every day.

The 110 men and women ran in silk skivvies, some did, to attract attention, not raise money. Logan wore red.

Logan was the only runner who served in Vietnam -- 13 months as a forward observer with the 101st Airborne in 1966-67, earning two stars. Vets tend not to tell stories but I have heard a few allusions to the horrors of that mission, plus the challenges of returning to civilian life.
Logan now runs a program for the homeless – many of them veterans -- near his long-time residence of Sarasota, Fla.

I got to know him when he was the first commissioner of Major League Soccer in 1996, a bilingual sports executive (from his family roots in Cuba) who gloried in Valderrama and Etcheverry and Campos of the first years.

Journalists are not supposed to be friendly with the people they cover – ask him about my snide remarks about low attendance and wretched teams in the early years in New Jersey -- but after Logan left that job we stayed in touch. So, yes, he is a friend.

A year ago a city official in Sarasota proposed a job that Logan could never have imagined – come up with housing and programs for the homeless. After careers in entertainment and sports and other businesses, he was commuting to be an adjunct professor at New York University and loving a few days a week in the city, but the offer from Sarasota touched a nerve.

“The best speech ever given is contained in two chapters of Matthew: the Sermon on the Mount. In those principles I hear the call to spend a part of your life doing good,” Logan told me. 

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5-7.

Some residents of Sarasota fretted about Logan’s hiring, asking, are there not local people with proper degrees in social work? Others have questioned Logan’s departure from the national track and field federation but as a journalist I watched him try to abolish all drug usage, a sure way to become unpopular in that sport.

As for his service in Major League Soccer, I could make the lame joke that anybody who took in itinerants like the ill-fated Nicola Caricola of own-goal MetroStar fame was practicing social work even then. But this is serious stuff.

​Logan is living up to the best lesson I remember from college ROTC: “Get the troops out of the hot sun.” That’s not in the Sermon on the Mount, but could be. 
<![CDATA[Lots of Writers – and Artists -- in Our Family]]>Tue, 01 Dec 2015 14:03:02 GMThttp://www.georgevecsey.com/home/lots-of-writers-and-artists-in-our-family
Marianne Vecsey/Private Collection, Norcross, GA
The latest output from the family is by David Vecsey, who normally spends days and nights editing others but occasionally exercises the writing part of the brain.

David made a journalistic foray into the heart of darkness known as sports fantasy gambling. He emerged with his shirt still on his back, plus a story describing mood swings based on the doings of athletes, some previously unknown until he drafted them. His article on Gothamist: 


Then there is my wife’s cousin, Paul Grundy, MD and MPH, IBM's Global Director of Healthcare Transformation. He and two colleagues have written an entry-level primer on the mysteries of health care including trends toward industrial-size health complexes, concierge doctors and the vanishing of the actual family doctor. (You noticed.)  

The book is: Lost and Found: A Consumer’s Guide to Healthcare by Peter B. Anderson, Paul H. Grundy, MD, and Bud Ramey (contributor).

Next is Laura Vecsey, former sports columnist and political columnist, currently covering the U.S. women’s soccer team, World Cup champs, on their victory tour of America, for Fox. Her latest article on Carli Lloyd’s candidacy for player-of-the-year:

The family legal wing is in Pennsylvania, where Corinna V. Wilson is the energy behind the consulting firm Wilson500.

Corinna helped write the Pennsylvania right-to-know act of 2008, and she flexes her writing skills when that important law is threatened by nervous politicians:


Finally, my book that has done the most good for others has been revived. 

I helped Bob Welch write “Five O’Clock Comes Early: A Young Man’s Battle With Alcoholism,” first published in 1982 soon after Bob’s return from a rehab center, to be a star pitcher for more than a decade.

My friend Bob passed in 2014 – a lot of us are still reeling from it – but his book, updated, is a handbook for anybody, particularly the young who cannot believe they are powerless over addiction.

I’ve heard from people who say Bob's book helped save a life. The new e-book version is from Open Road Media:
Fortunately, some of us also have visual talents. Marianne Vecsey is a painter (above) and Anjali takes photos with her smartphone (below)
Saratoga Lake, Upstate New York, Thanksgiving, 2015. Photo by Anjali
<![CDATA[Thanksgiving, Gettysburg Road, My Favorite Author]]>Sat, 28 Nov 2015 15:56:29 GMThttp://www.georgevecsey.com/home/thanksgiving-gettysburg-road-my-favorite-author
These men got home.
Taking a walk on a back road, I spotted a country graveyard full of names, German, Dutch and English, many from the early Nineteenth Century: Mohler. Miller. Fortney. Studebaker and Stewdebaker, side by side. First names like Isaac and Levi and Israel.
One family lost two little boys, born in April, died in summer, three years apart.

Some of the weathered gravestones list the men’s units in the Civil War, but all the men I noticed came home, some living into the next century. Whatever they saw or did, they were the lucky ones, consider- ing what happened 20-plus miles south.

A few miles north of the church is Camp Hill, where in 1863 a small detachment of Confederates made an exploratory mission toward Harrisburg, Robert E. Lee’s goal. The invaders skirmished with Union soldiers but Albert Gallatin Jenkins’ troops were called south because an impromptu battle was shaping up in Gettysburg, 35 miles away. 

Camp Hill, where part of my family now lives, would be the farthest penetration north by the Confederates, (See the excellent article on PennLive in 2013.)

In that portentous late June of 1863, a boy named W.O. Wolfe was standing by the Gettysburg road when Fitzhugh Lee’s soldiers headed south. Many years later he would tell his own young son how he gave surly replies to the Rebel officer, who menaced him, perhaps for effect.

Some of those troops who passed the Wolfe farm were from the hills of western North Carolina. By the strangest circumstance, the boy grew up to be a stonecutter, and settled in Asheville, North Carolina, and married into a clan of southern hill people. To his dying day, W.O. Wolfe would curse his luck, would speak longingly of the lush farms of Pennsylvania Dutch country.

W.O. Wolfe was a storyteller; who knows how much he embellished the tale of the meeting the Rebels on Gettysburg Road, summer of '63. He even put an in-law into his story: an officer who preached the Bible while riding toward Gettysburg, and who smelled so bad that his own troops referred to him as “Stinking Jesus.”

W.O.’s late-in-life son was also a storyteller. Thomas Wolfe incorporated his father’s tales into the opening pages of his first novel “Look Homeward Angel.” Later he expanded it in “O Lost,” which I once read in the Wolfe library in Chapel Hill.

Thomas Wolfe is my most beloved writer; he informs my ongoing adolescence. 

Perhaps some of the people in the country cemetery near Camp Hill also saw Rebel soldiers as they rode or walked south, toward Gettysburg.
We stayed in a comfortable Marriott Courtyard, made coffee in our room. Child hockey players were congregating for a holiday tournament.
                  *    *      *
Footnote 1: I just learned from a terrific web site by Steven B. Rogers that there is a Wolfe Diner in Dillsburg on Route 15. But now I’m home.
Footnote 2: My wife reminds me that in Dillsburg there is a nice restaurant, Pakha’s Thai house, which we have visited several times. The web site says: “The most authentic Thai meals this side of Bangkok.”
Footnote 3: James Taylor, son of North Carolina, long moved north, wrote a lovely tribute to Confederate soldiers, limping home from war.
<![CDATA[Giving Thanks for Continuity]]>Tue, 24 Nov 2015 19:58:21 GMThttp://www.georgevecsey.com/home/giving-thanks-for-continuity
Photo courtesy of Anita Ruthling Klaussen
Uncle Harold is cooking duck, because Barbara always loved it for Thanksgiving.

Since it is Maine, three families have invited him over on Thursday but he wants to be alone, with Barbara, he says. They were together for more than six decades until she died last December. Someone is bringing dessert, and I am sure they will stay a while.

Thanksgiving is for remembering people. My mother-in-law, Mary, who passed early this year, always set a great table and made superb pies the kids still talk about.

I am sure that on Thursday a few of the older grand-daughters will talk about visiting my father in his bedroom on Thanksgiving evening in 1984, and how Pop surveyed the anxiety on their faces and said, “What is this, a death watch?” He passed a few hours later.

The Band played its Last Waltz on Thanksgiving of 1976. We still have the music, and the Scorsese movie, and thanks for that, rocking in my earphones. 

Thanksgiving is also for people who are with us. The other day I wished a waiter from Central America “Buen Dia del Pavo” – Happy Turkey Day. He said, “Lo mejor” -- the best.

I give thanks for the higher power who is there for me, for my wife and our children and their children, and for so many friends from Jamaica High and my student-athlete buddies from Hofstra and my writer pals from the round table, thankful that we still meet, and for the people who protect us, including the good man who has gone gray in six years of a brutal job.

And while I am saying thanks, I include the correspondents who enlighten the Comments on my little therapy web site. Every click is part of a community I value.. Thank you.  
The New York Times Upshot reassures us that it's okay to eat pie on Thanksgiving.
<![CDATA[Fraternité -- Now More Than Ever]]>Sat, 21 Nov 2015 01:40:51 GMThttp://www.georgevecsey.com/home/fraternite-now-more-than-ever
It took a week  
before I could even link
the horror in Paris
with my little site.
Then, in my head,
I formulated a tribute to Paris,
But it turned out,
I had written it, last January.

I cannot write another one
about the deep shuddering joy
of  being in the City of Light
On a Friday evening.
One ex-pat friend,
Living in La France Profonde, wrote me,
“No one does life better than the French.”
That’s why they are targets, he added.
Another friend is flying over, next week. 
“It'll be my little contribution to saying %$&# you
to the murderers who tried to take the city away from those of us who cherish it
and what it represents.”
I won't write about the narrow streets
Or the aroma of coq au vin in the mist.
Better I write about the French people
Who spoke to us in English  after 9/11
and made room for us on the Metro.
Now I watch survivors like the beautiful couple on Anderson Cooper,
the woman's face haunted
the young man (a model, I looked it up),
volunteering sympathy for Syrian migrants, who have their own misery.
Another man lost his lovely wife
In the music club
and wrote a tribute to her,
And promised to live without hatred. 

Is it possible? 
The young man volunteered that he understood the plight of Syrians, also.
<![CDATA[Arnold Hano, Wrote about Mays' Catch, Honored at 93]]>Sun, 15 Nov 2015 13:17:13 GMThttp://www.georgevecsey.com/home/arnold-hano-wrote-about-mays-catch-honored-at-93
Check the grip. It comes up in the coda of the documentary.
Nice to be re-discovered.
For many decades, Arnold Hano was one of the best magazine writers in America. He is best known for his slender jewel of a book, “A Day in the Bleachers,” which he wrote on impulse after witnessing Willie Mays’ catch in the 1954 World Series.
But he is so much more than that, a 1930’s guy who still talks about “the social contract” – the relationship between individuals and society.

“He met and talked with Babe Ruth, JFK and John Wayne, saw Mays’ iconic catch, Larsen’s perfecto, and successfully battled racism, land developers, big corporations, and the federal government. says Jon Leonoudakis, a California-based film-maker who was so taken with Hano’s body of work that he has put together a documentary about him.

“His story has flown under the radar of popular culture for nearly a hundred years -- until now,” Leonoudakis added.

Hano is 93 and living in Laguna Beach, Calif., with his wife Bonnie. They have been together for 67 years as he wrote about protecting wildlife from Disney and other developers.

Two baseball stars, Orlando Cepeda and Felipe Alou, testify in the film about Hano’s fair depiction of Latino players.

The Hanos also demonstrated against prejudice in their adopted beach town. And they joined the Peace Corps in their 60’s and built schools in Costa Rica.

The film-maker became entranced with Hano and began interviewing him, with Hano insisting there was no story. (Larry David would play him in the bio-pic.)

Leonoudakis rounded up a gaggle of admiring colleagues (including me) and added an artistic blend of original jazz, original art (not the usual sports schlock) and touching photos, including Arnold and Bonnie Hano, young and old.

The couple was back in New York the other day (at Bergino Baseball Clubhouse) to publicize the documentary. She was there on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, Sept. 29, 1954, when Hano – without any assignment or credential -- decided he would walk to the Polo Grounds for the opening game of the Series between the Giants and Cleveland. 

Bonnie Hano, as wives do, told her husband not to be silly. He was never going to be able to walk up and buy a ticket. He did not listen to her, and stood two hours on line and paid $2.10 (he remembers all that stuff) to sit in the bleachers, the left-field side, so he could call balls and strikes from 500 feet away.

He started keeping score -- that’s what people did at ballparks before selfies -- and taking notes in the margin of his paper (The Times.)

Top of the eighth. Tie game. Nobody out. Runners on first and second. Then Willie Howard Mays began running toward Arnold Hano to track down a mammoth drive by Vic Wertz. Hano watched as Mays, arms outstretched, caught the ball as it soared over his shoulder, and then, in one fantastic powerful whirling motion, turned and dispatched the ball to second base, on a powerful arc.
Larry Doby did move from second to third, but Al Rosen had to go back to first because of Mays’ howitzer shot. .
(“Wertz flew to center field,” tersely reports the play-by-play on the invaluable Retrosheet.)

Hano watched the Giants win, 5-2, on Dusty Rhodes’ homer in the 10th. Then he went home and typed up his report, which turned into a small book that did not sell much at first but has become one of the classics of the sport.
I wrote about the book on the 50th anniversary of the Mays catch, in 2004:

Arnold and Bonnie Hano downgrade the book as something short of literature. They do have their opinions, which Hano has injected into the copious details and color and quotes -- one of the best dossiers of sports magazine articles, ever.

Now he has been captured in a knowing 53-minute film. Leonoudakis is seeking space on television and festivals and archives devoted to baseball – and journalism, and America.

The film is film is available on DVD from the film’s website:

It is also available for streaming:

Oh, yes, and check out the cover art (above). It figures in the delightful coda to the documentary. Carl Hubbell. That’s all I’m saying. 
Arnold and Bonnie Hano Back in New York, Nov. 13, 2015
<![CDATA[Alcoholism and Baseball: Bob Welch's Book Lives!]]>Thu, 12 Nov 2015 14:02:20 GMThttp://www.georgevecsey.com/home/alcoholism-and-baseball-bob-welchs-book-lives
There is no consolation for losing a friend way too young, but at least Bob Welch’s book on his alcoholism has a new life – in electronic form. 
Bob died suddenly in June of 2014 at the age of 57. I wrote a tribute to him, how he went through rehab in 1980, at the age of 23, after nearly wrecking his pitching career. He stayed sober and wound up winning the Cy Young Award, but his real victory was sobriety. He set an example for others, particularly young people who think they are immune to being alcoholics at such an early age.

​Bob gives examples --  frightening, graphic, and illuminating  -- of the acts and  cover-ups of the alcoholic. 
His son Riley was the driving force behind the re-publication of Bob’s book. He wanted his dad to be remembered, for all the right reasons. 

I have written a new prologue and epilogue to cover the main points of Bob’s life after pitching. (There are also some links to stories about Bob, as well as a couple about alcoholism.) Bob always reminded people – and himself – that alcoholics need to be vigilant, day by day.
I’m not an alcoholic, but I surely learned from Bob and my other friends that you don’t have to drink, at this moment.

Of all the books I have written, this one has done the most good. Alas, the earlier versions of Bob’s book are out of print, but I hope anybody interested in “the problem” – particularly in the young -- will consider clicking off an e-copy of Bob’s book, via Open Road Integrated Media: 
                                     Thank you,
                                      George Vecsey