Quit erecting statues of living people

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This has almost nothing to do with baseball, so spare me the “slow news day?” comments and just move along if you don’t like it.

There’s a story in the Arizona Republic about how people want to build a statue of Jerry Colangelo, the original owner of the Diamondbacks and previous owner of the Phoenix Suns.  The problem: local business politics make it awkward:

Ken Kendrick, the team’s managing general partner, once feuded with Colangelo, who unceremoniously left the team after the 2004 season. Their relationship is much improved, and Kendrick said he’d be supportive of any plans to honor Colangelo. But he also said it “creates some awkwardness for me to participate in this discussion.”

and

… it would require a new mayor, Greg Stanton, to impose a statue on a [Phoenix Suns] team now owned by Robert Sarver, who has struggled to match the popularity of his predecessor.

At John McLeod’s recent Ring of Honor ceremony, Colangelo and Sarver were introduced in succession. One man received heavy applause, while the other received the opposite reaction. How amenable would Sarver be to furthering that perception with another celebration of Colangelo?

Know what? There are a bunch of statues on the Statehouse lawn here in Columbus. And there are are tons in Washington D.C. There are statues of notable people in every other city too. And there are buildings and museums and colleges and airports and bridges named after famous people all over the place.

Know what else? Until very, very recently, all that naming was done after the namesake was dead. And there was a reason for that: so no one had to worry about whether the honoree’s successors would feel uncomfortable or awkward about it like they do in Phoenix.  Also, so that there can be some perspective about the honoree’s accomplishments.  It was also done that way in case the honoree, after his statue was erected, decided to go on a multi-state killing spree, thereby leading to more awkwardness about what to do with the friggin’ statue now that it honors a mass murderer or something.

Now we insist on honoring people like this while they’re living for some reason.  With politicians, I think it’s done to stake territory and claim some sort of political victory or to rewrite history.  Ronald Reagan got the the second largest and most expensive federal building ever constructed named after him — a building which questionably meshes government and private sector functions — despite the fact that he deplored federal power and involvement in the private sector and was an enemy of government sprawl, bureaucracy and waste. But hey: it’s a trophy on some prime real estate and that’s what matters despite the fact that it’s a pretty inappropriate honor for the guy given what he represented while in power.

In the private sector I think there’s something about rich people who are afraid of death. Or who crave immortality maybe. Give them (or their friends, because most people don’t spearhead these things for themselves) a statue or a park or whatever now so that they may bask in the glory and the honor now, while they still can. Which, hey, understandable.

But it doesn’t seem to me that that’s what such honors should be about. They should be about history and lessons for the future and inspiration to others, which are decidedly outward looking, not inward looking, and thus the honoree’s current status — dead or alive — should be irrelevant.

Maybe it’s not the most important thing in the world, but I think of all of this as just one of many ways in which an old civic culture we once had in this country is disappearing. I’ll spare you all of my other examples because they have even less to do about baseball than this thing.  But for now: we used to put up statues of dead people. Now we put up statues of living people.  And that just seems wrong to me.

And That Happened . . . Classic!

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Due to the All-Star break, we now bring you a special “Classic” version of “And That Happened.” The following originally ran in the HardballTalk Tribune, the former print edition of this publication, on July 17 1949. 

Reds 7, Dodgers 6: I haven’t seen Reds rally like this since Mao kicked Chiang Kai-shek’s butt over to Formosa! Brooklyn built a 4-1 lead after seven innings, but then Preacher Roe began to falter and Cincinnati clawed back. After a run on a fielder’s choice, Virgil Stallcup knocked in two with a single in the eighth to things at four. They’d trade runs and it was tied at five after nine, but Walker Cooper’s two-run homer in the top of the 10th gave the game to the visitors. This is a terrible Cincinnati team overall — you’re more likely to get a hit from a Red on the Hollywood 10 list than from one who plays in Crosley Field — but they really put it together yesterday afternoon.

Braves 9, Cubs 1: Pete Reiser tripled and knocked in three. I was thinking of ole Pistol Pete just four days ago when the owners got together and agreed to build warning paths before each fence in the outfield. Nice move, but it’s a few years too late for Pete, even if he’s still grinding it out. Meanwhile, Johnny Sain went the distance, allowing one run on six hits. Spahn won the day before. Consulting the forecast for the doubleheader in Cincinnati tomorrow now and . . . ugh, it looks sunny. I like the Reds’ chances. 

Indians 7, Athletics 3: Jim Hegan hit a three-run home run to lead the Tribe’s offense, but I’m more taken with what happened with their pitching. Steve Gromek got the “start” for the Indians, but he’s more often used as a relief pitcher. He pitched only an inning and a third, after which three other relievers — Mike Garcia, Gene Bearden and Satchel Paige — finished out the game. Seems like a kinda loopy thing to do, but it worked. I wonder if manager Lou Boudreau is trying out some sort of new strategy in which he just uses bullpen arms every few games for some reason? I’ll call it “Boudreu-ing.” I’m sure it won’t catch on.

White Sox 5, Senators 1: Cass Michaels hit a two-run double and a two-run single and Chisox starter Bob Kuzava allowed only an unearned run in a complete game. You won’t see a performance from Senators this bad until the real ones get together to ratify that “NATO” treaty next week. Don’t do it, fellas! Sure, NATO is great in theory — I’m all for stopping those Russkies before they can even get going — but this joint-defense thingamajig is TOTALLY dependent upon everyone agreeing its good and showing confidence in it! If even one country — one backwards banana republic that elects some tinpot wannabe dictator somehow — starts to undermine it, the thing will unravel and Russia’s power will grow immensely! This report hopes to God it doesn’t happen in his lifetime, but what about down the line? Hopefully the US of A will keep all of these other shaky members in line and backing their commitments.

Red Sox 11, Tigers 1: The Bosox beat the tar out of Virgil Trucks and Marv Grissom, with Williams, Doerr, Zarilla and Tebbetts each hitting homers and driving in multiple runs. The Tigers — as close to two games back of the Yankees in the American league a couple of times this year — need to get their pitching on track or else they’re gonna plummet faster than James Forrestal did in Bethesda.

Too soon?

Phillies 4, Cardinals 2: Willie Jones homered and singled in a run and the Phillies scored two more on an error and a wild pitch. Guess the catcher was more crossed-up by Harry Brecheen’s screwball than the Phillies were. Despite the win, the Phillies are struggling lately and remain 6.5 back in the National League. A month ago they were only two games out. That injury to first baseman Eddie Waitkus (15-day DL, shot in the goddamn chest by obsessed fan Ruth Steinhagen) is really starting to affect them.

Browns 4, Yankees 2: 3,481 fans showed up for this one, which isn’t bad for a Browns game! They only played six innings here because of bad weather. It may have been the greatest game so far this season for the 25-55 Browns. As for the Yankees, yes, they’ve been doing OK, but rookie manager Casey Stengel is no Joe McCarthy, and I’d wager that last year’s third place finish is a more likely result this year than them staying in first place. The Red Sox are too strong and I think Boston will take the pennant. To be honest, those two clubs should investigate a big trade — Williams for DiMaggio — that helps unload each team’s biggest problem on the other. Do it Yawkey and MacPhail! 

Pirates 9, Giants 0; Pirates 7, Giants 6: From 30 feet away the Giants look like they have an OK lineup. From 10 feet away it looks like something made up to be seen from 30 feet away. At least that’s how it was in Game 1 of this twin bill when Bob Chenes shut ’em out. Wally Westlake — who hit two longballs — and the rest of the Pirates lineup beat Giants starter Clint Hartung’s teeth out and then kicked him in the stomach for mumbling. Game two was a closer affair. The Giants still couldn’t find a way to win but when you play extra innings you lose more slowly. The Giants were in first place for a time this year, but not anymore. Now they’re in the deep water. It’s dark and unclear and the taste of the salt is in their mouths. By the time the second game of the twin bill was over it was getting dark on the streets of the big city, with the rain-clouded lights of the stores soaked up by the black street.