Five times the farewells

Today I say goodbye to not one daughter, but five. Adios Kiera. So long Kiki. Sayonara Munder. Ciao Butler. Goodbye Poggy.

Oberlin College and Conservatory, one of the finest liberal arts colleges in the country, welcomes my daughter of many names. It wouldn’t surprise me if it found a way to bestow a few more on her before she’s done.

Kiera, the name on her birth certificate, was the extraordinarily hard-working student who got into Oberlin. The girl who competed in a one-way academic war with her older brother. When he graduated second at Nativity, she pushed herself to finish first (tied with oldest friend Allison). When he got accepted into one of the nation’s best universities, she was determined to get into a school of similar renown. My counting skills aren’t strong enough to tally the number of times I entered her room to say goodnight, only to find her finally conked out, her schoolwork still across her chest as she studied late into the evening. It’s extremely gratifying to see that insane work ethic rewarded with her acceptance into such an outstanding school.

Butler is the name given to her by her older brother when a Bulldog basketball game happened to be on TV, and is a fitting name for her when she’s in her public servant guise. The girl who joined the United Fund’s Power of Youth group as a mere freshman. Over the past four years, she and her cohorts raised close to $50,000 for various community endeavors. Butler is the girl who, sparked by a video of injustice, decided to pursue a career in civil rights work, the ultimate manifestation of her desire to leave the world a little better than she found it.

Kiki, the name given to her by her younger brother when he struggled to say Kiera, is the performer. The girl who amused her siblings and friends with a charming English accent or spot-on impersonations of Sarah Palin and Shakira. The Andrean Theatre Company member who stole damn near every scene she was in for four years. Her freshman-year, impromptu, unapproved dance number during the troupe’s performance of Zombie Prom remains one of the funniest and most bizarre things I’ve seen. Her explanation why she went off script, “It was your fault. You were a terrible audience. You weren’t laughing at any of our jokes, so I had to do something,” was indisputably Kiki.

Munder’s the soccer player. My nickname for her, a shortened version of the equally ridiculous Shortmunder. There were few things in this life that gave me greater pleasure than watching her on the pitch, controlling the back, exhorting her teammates and, of course, launching throw-ins over the heads of surprised opponents who couldn’t believe a girl that small could be that damn strong. For three years she almost never left the field. So it was fitting that, as beaten up as she was from 80 minutes of Lawrenceburg thuggery and the hard turf at IUPUI’s stadium, she was on the field when the 59ers claimed their first state championship in soccer last fall. She achieved this all while remaining true to her nature, offering regular “Thank yous” to each and every boy and girl who handed her balls before her throws and to the fans who complimented her, even as she raced back into position. She fouled infrequently and routinely offered to help her opponent up when she did. She proved one didn’t need to sacrifice sportsmanship and character to be successful. Others could take note.

That she is joining Oberlin’s women’s soccer team, giving me a few more chances to watch her play over the next four years, thrills me to no end. I’m sure I will make the four-hour trip across the Indiana Toll Road/Ohio Turnpike more often than is recommended for either me or my vehicle.

Finally, and perhaps most meaningfully, is Poggy, the name her older brother called her before she even exited the womb. Poggy is the unique, true-to-herself goofball who has been an immense source of pride for 18 years. Poggy’s the three-year-old girl who returned home soaking wet from a trip to the mall, explaining her condition to her mother with a simple, “I fell in the pond, kersplash.” She’s the girl who at her first high school dance casually informed her date, “I don’t slow dance,” so she spent those lame ballads doing a slowed-down version of her fast dancing. Her first date with her first high school boyfriend took her to three playgrounds and a hardware store, because damn if she doesn’t like a good hardware store visit.

Poggy never met a silly hat she didn’t have to have. She never saw a pair of ugly socks she didn’t think would go great with her Catholic school uniform. And on the occasion of her 16th birthday, she proudly walked the school halls sporting the sash and tiara her mother gave her that morning to commemorate that special day.

She’s never doubted who she was, and what makes her happy. She never felt the need to conform to others’ expectations or preferences. If you didn’t like her, that was on you. As a person, I envy that. As a father, I treasure it. I knew she might make mistakes. But if she did, they would happen because that was her choice, not someone else’s. That’s remarkably reassuring to an old man.

All five of these wonderful young women leave today. Our home will be a lot emptier.

TBtB: Rangers voting thread

So, we’re down to four.

The overwhelming choice in the nominees was some kind of return to the original name for the Rangers joint, though opinion seemed divided on the full name or the half-measure. So, we’re leaving both options available.

Choose between any of the four selections. However, if you prefer Choice A), then please follow it up with 1) the naked version or 2) the full throw-back to the Ballpark in Arlington.

For those who don’t like either of these options, you’d probably better head to the still-open nominating thread to coalesce behind a single alternative among the expected also-rans.

A) The Ballpark
1) The Ballpark (by itself)
2) The Ballpark in Arlington

B) Lone Star Stadium

C) The Stockade

D) Vandergriff Park

Voting will be open until this time next Monday, at which point we’ll announce the BTF choice, then throw out our third team.

Be careful what you wish for

Whether you hate him or simply don’t hate him yet, it would be hard to argue against the idea that Donald Trump’s tenure as president has a better chance of ending before its printed expiration date than all previous commanders in chief. Combined, I suppose, if that made any sense. Such a declaration hardly seems controversial.

Maybe he’ll become too toxic for the Republicans in Congress (or the Democrats grab control of both houses) and he’ll face impeachment. Perhaps he’ll quit in a fit of pique when Congress, narrowly, rejects his request to send troops into CNN. Or, given his age and lifestyle, it’s possible he could be struck down with a fatal case of Acute Thumbosis, the third-leading fictional cause of death among early a.m. Twitter users.

At any rate, a premature evacuation from the White House is a distinct possibility, which makes it necessary for us to take a look at who’s poised to become 46. Unless he goes all Agnew on us, that’s Mikey Pence, who reports say is already sizing up a run for the big desk in 2020, if not occupying it sooner.

That’s where I come in. As a longtime Hoosier, and former resident of Indiana’s sixth congressional district, I have more of a firsthand look at the career of one Michael Richard Pence than your average Internet idiot.

Full disclosure here: I have met him. I asked him a few questions in a GOP debate when he was running for his House seat, and I later walked around Greensburg High School with him in a one-on-one setting, asking him about his plans for his first term. And I’ll say this, as I have since that afternoon, he struck me as a hell of a nice guy. Very pleasant, respectful. Basically decent, which made him an outlier in Indiana’s House delegation at the time. Some of those dudes were meaner than that nun I had in CCD back in third grade.

So, having established my personal fondness for the VeePee, I’ll also point out that as a governor, he was frigging abysmal. Just awful.

Obviously, he’s a devout Evangelical Christian, and his policy positions tend to derive from there. But whether you love you some Pat Robertson, Tim Tebow and Stryper, or recoil in horror at that brand of religiosity encroaching on the public sphere is irrelevant to the fact that he was simply a terrible leader who had a very good chance of losing his re-election bid in Republican Indiana.

Here are six examples of just why he belonged in any discussion with Paul LePage, Chris Christie and Sam Brownback on The Worst Governors of 2016 list (you won’t believe No. 7), none of which is directly related to his hard-right ideology.

  •  Hoosier Pravda. Midway through his tenure, Pence announced plans for a state-run news organization in the bowels of the Capitol. Across-the-board condemnation of the plan scuttled it before it got off the ground, though I suppose it might have caught some longing Manafortian eyes a few hundred (or thousand, depending on the day) miles east.

 

  • His illegal, and decidedly not Christian, approach to the Syrian refugee crisis. Already fully vetted and approved-for-relocation Syrian refugees were bound for Indiana and the Christian organization that was planning to host them. He announced they wouldn’t be allowed to enter the state, a decidedly and undeniably illegal act (and probably difficult to enforce, given the complete absence of the long-sought border wall separating us from those dirty Buckeyes to the east). The refugees ended up in Connecticut, where they have managed, as all evidence pointed, to not blow anything up.

 

  • His dreadful handling of the Scott County AIDS crisis. Yup, that’s right, we had ourselves a bona fide AIDS crisis in Indiana in the two thousand and teens. Scott County, a rural, economically hard-hit community in Southeastern Indiana was in the throes of a drug crisis, which morphed into an AIDS epidemic. Pence’s first response was to try to pray the issue away. Then he dragged his feet on even going there, as local leaders pleaded for help from the state. Finally, after weeks of health professionals and others in the community begging to initiate a needle exchange program to at least curb the spread of AIDS, he last-resort agreed. His management of the situation was blasted from all sides. Oh, and it’s quite likely that his policies helped create the problem in the first place.

 

  • Pence was given a second chance to respond to a health crisis, this time on the other side of the state in East Chicago in Northwest Indiana (my current stomping grounds), which was facing a lead crisis not unlike what happened in Flint, Mich. Pence demonstrated he had learned from his original mistake with Scott County. This time, he simply pretended the situation didn’t exist. He never visited, and barely acknowledged there was a problem. In his defense, it did overlap some with his run for vice president. You can understand how defending Trump’s latest Twitter feud on the Sunday morning shows was a little more important than sick babies in a county that always votes for Democrats.

 

  • The Keith Cooper case. Perhaps his most despicable turn as governor. In 1996, Cooper was convicted of armed robbery in Elkhart, Ind. He served nearly 10 years before new evidence was discovered that cast considerable doubt on the case. The prosecutors gave him a choice – plead guilty and accept time served, or take a shot at another trial. Given he had a family struggling at home, and his previous luck with the justice system, Cooper took the deal (his co-defendant went back to trial, and was acquitted). Fast forward a few years, and the gentleman was finding it difficult rebuilding his life with a felony conviction still on his record, and asked for the state to vacate the guilty verdict. By now, the original verdict was not just in doubt, but was known to be a miscarriage of justice. The actual perpetrator had been located. Everyone associated with the case: the original prosecutors, police and witnesses who wrongly identified him, plus the state Parole Board, asked the governor to grant this man his freedom. Pence wouldn’t, perhaps frightened that looking soft on crime wouldn’t play well during the presidential campaign. In his first month in office, Eric Holcomb, the Republican who followed Pence into the governor’s mansion, did what Mike Pence was afraid to do. He did the right thing, and granted complete freedom to a man who spent almost a decade in our prisons for a crime he had nothing to do with.

 

  • And finally, the RFRA, the issue that first thrust Governor Pence into the national spotlight. Now, whether you side with the anti-gay bakers or the anti-anti-gay bake shop customers is kind of beside the point here. Mike Pence completely screwed that thing up. What’s often forgotten about the case is the Indiana legislature passed the bill a few days before Pence signed it. In the meantime, the outcry had begun, and was obviously going to get worse. Companies and conventions announced they would cancel plans to come to Indiana if the bill was signed into law, and business leaders throughout the state pleaded with the governor to back away, recognizing the fecal storm on the horizon. This was a forwardlash, not a backlash. But Governor Mike needed to reassure his friends at the Indiana Family Institute and all the other places they go to hate the gays that he was their man, and he signed it anyway. All hell broke loose over the course of a week, leading the state’s leading newspaper (the Indianapolis Star, a historically right-leaning publication once owned by the family that gave us the original Pence, Dan Quayle) to run an issue with three words screaming across most of the front page: “Fix This Now.” Pence and the legislature had to revamp the bill to curb the mass exodus of business ventures and travel that was taking place, so the religious conservatives didn’t even get the bill they wanted. The entire mess was predictable and preventable, and Mike Pence still blew it.

So there you go. Fills you with confidence, doesn’t it?

About that blog title

If you haven’t checked out the updated thing on the side, and who really checks out that thing on the side, you would not have noticed  there’s now a short explanation for this blog’s title. I have put together a collection of my work over the years in an ebook called, The Pursuit… (you get the picture).

The collection was prompted by a question a few years back, when a friend over at Marky Zuckerberg’s place asked me if I’d ever written a book. Now, the answer to that query was “yes,” though then as now the only potential audience for those works was any little shit who had managed to install malware on my hard drive. And, as evidence of my brilliance, I deduced the fix to this issue was to put together another unpublished piece of work.

I spent the past few years rounding up some of my favorite pieces from my nearly 30 years of writing, covering the subjects of news, sports, general interest columns, personal anecdotes, politics and fiction. My former newspaper employers were mostly receptive to me reusing my old works, except one who I won’t name here. I then put those works together in the ebook format, figuring I’d give that method of publishing a test drive to see if it was something I wanted to pursue further down the line.

Right now, the book is available only at Amazon, here. If I see any reason to expand it to other platforms, I’ll do that in time.

RIP to the HBP Maestro

Don Baylor died over the weekend. It can’t be said enough, but screw cancer.

For many, Don Baylor will be remembered as the 1979 AL MVP, the first DH to earn the honor, even if further examination shows he was not the most meritorious selection in the award’s history. Others will remember him for his undeniable leadership skills, both during his days as a player for six different AL clubs and then as a manager of two different NL teams. Still other fans might recall him as one of baseball’s most imposing figures, whether in the batter’s box or on the basepaths, where he was remarkably nimble for a man so solidly built.

But to me, none of that is what defines Baylor. The essence of Baylor was the pivot.

Don Baylor is No. 4 on the all-time hit-by-pitch list, and second among players whose career took place when the world was in color. Yet Baylor’s got a legitimate stake on the modern-day crown, given his higher rate of HBPs than Craig Biggio and the fact that Biggio’s post-19th century record was helped by PEDs (his enormous, space-age-fibered elbow guard was unquestionably a Plunking Enabling Device). And, most important, lil’ Craiggy didn’t perfect the pivot.

Of Baylor 267 career HBPs, an imaginary 86 percent were of the exact same type. The pitcher would deliver a fastball up and in, and Baylor would rotate his shoulder inward about three inches, allowing the ball to catch him on the soft space (to the extent Baylor’s body had any soft areas) on his upper back, while satisfying the rule mandating the batter try to get out the way while not actually doing anything to get himself out of the way. Baylor was as interested in getting out of the ball’s path as Pete Rose was of verifying the ages of his spring training conquests.

And after each plunking, Don would saunter down to first, no hesitation, no glares at the pitcher who just gifted him a base and absolutely no rubbing. The ball was the only participant in the exchange to suffer any damage.

No one took a hit by pitch like Baylor did, at least in my baseball-watching lifetime. And now that he’s gone, perhaps MLB can make it possible that no one ever has to.

The idea that batters need to make an attempt to get out of the way of inside pitches to earn an HBP has simply never made sense. It should be the pitcher’s responsibility to avoid hitting the batter, not the batter’s obligation to bail him out for his wildness.

It’s a simple change, and one that would be easier for the home plate ump to determine. If a pitch hits the batter on a ball that’s anywhere inside the vertical plane of the batter’s box, the batter gets first. And if the batter is hit anywhere outside the box, it’s simply a ball or strike, depending on the pitch’s location. C’mon Rob, don’t just be open to talking about considering the idea of a change. Do it for Don.

After that, then we can find a way to honor fellow weekend loss Darren Daulton, perhaps with a rule requiring at least one World Series participant per decade be comprised of oddballs, cranks and future felons.

TBtB: the Results

As revealed over at BTF, the name chosen as the new moniker for the San Francisco Giants is China Basin. You are cordially invited to use this in all future internet conversation.

  1. San Francisco Giants – China Basin
  2. Texas Rangers – The Ballpark in Arlington
  3. San Diego Padres – Mission Field
  4. Boston Red Sox –  Fenway Park
  5. Washington Nationals – Nationals Park
  6. Tampa Bay Rays – Suncoast Dome
  7. Philadelphia Phillies – Citizens Park
  8. Seattle Mariners – Cascadia Field
  9. Pittsburgh Pirates – Allegheny Park
  10. Kansas City Royals – Kauffman Stadium
  11. New York Mets – Willets Point
  12. Los Angeles Angels – Autry Field
  13. St. Louis Cardinals – Busch Stadium
  14. Detroit Tigers – Tiger Field
  15. Miami Marlins – Fish Tank
  16. Cleveland Indians – Jacobs Field
  17. Chicago Cubs – Wrigley Field
  18. New York Yankees – Yankee Stadium
  19. Milwaukee Brewers – Miller Park
  20. Baltimore Orioles – Camden Yards
  21. Colorado Rockies – Coors Field
  22. Houston Astros – Astrodome 2000
  23. Arizona Diamondbacks – Sonoran Grounds
  24. Minnesota Twins – Great Northern Park
  25. Cincinnati Reds – Riverfront Park
  26. Toronto Blue Jays – SkyDome
  27. Los Angeles Dodgers – Chavez Ravine
  28. Chicago White Sox – Sox Park
  29. Atlanta Braves –
  30. Oakland A’s –

TBtB: Texas Rangers

Part 2: Texas Rangers
The next stop on our cavalcade of taxpayer palaces is Arlington, the hyphen in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area. We’re going here next because the venue is in danger of soon meeting the wrecking ball, on account the old ballyard has already been hosting pro ball for more than two whole decades.
Among the very first of the retro parks, it was long known by the clunky The Ballpark in Arlington, a name that would fit nicely in front of a gated subdivision, a place the McMansions Suck woman would ridicule. The Chalets on Kensington. The Cottages of Red Hill. The Ballpark in Arlington. It has sported two other forgettable names before landing its current moniker, the even clunkier Globe Life Park in Arlington. All of the iterations have what must be a city-mandated “in Arlington” appendage. I doubt any makes the cut in our exercise.
However, coming up with a suitable replacement might be a little tricky, given the location. Arlington doesn’t have the rich history of a San Francisco, or even that of Dallas or Fort Worth. It’s a city that seemingly only exists to support pro sports teams and to employ Baseball Think Factory’s Bob Dernier. We may need to get a little more creative on this one, or at least extend our reach throughout the Metroplex.
Make your case for a new name below, and try to avoid any Cowboys references. Virtually the entire internet doesn’t like that, as far as I can tell.

Ballpark History

Built: 1994
Capacity:  48,114
Name: Globe Life Park in Arlington (previously: The Ballpark in Arlington Ameriplex Field in Arlington, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington)
Other Ballparks used by Club inCurrent City  Arlington Stadium (1972-1993)
Distinctive Features: The grassy hill in center that serves as batter’s eye, where teenagers scramble to retrieve homers blasted to straightaway center.
Ballpark Highlights:  In just the 54th game ever played there, Kenny Rogers threw a perfect game for the Rangers.
On June 12, 1997, Texas lefthander Darren Oliver delivered a pitch to San Francisco’s Darryl Hamilton, officially kicking off interleague play in Major League Baseball.
On July 1, 2006, Gary Matthews Jr. made one of the most incredible, and lucrative, catches in recent baseball history, robbing Houston’s Mike Lamb of a homer.
In 2010, in the 39th season of Texas baseball, Ranger fans finally got to witness a home postseason victory with a 7-2 win over the Yankees in the American League Championship Series. Texas had lost its first seven home playoff games, including two in the team’s ALDS win over the Rays.