Diamond Brick Road this year
looks very strange because Major League Baseball started very late
due to coronavirus considerations. The chart below is for the
National League Central Division, where all the teams except
Pittsburgh are now in the playoffs. Never before had a sub-.500
mark like Milwaukee's 29-31 qualified a team for the postseason, but
2020 is a year like no other.
a shortened regular season of 60 games, Pittsburgh managed to win
only 19. At the top of the graph I've extrapolated to the usual
162 games. The Pirates' .317 winning percentage would have led
to a 51-111 final record, 65 games behind the league-leading
Dodgers. The last teams to lose more than 111 in a year were
the 1952 Pirates and 1965 Mets (112 each).
the regular season did end after only 60 games. The middle-of-the-pack
teams had not yet gotten untangled, and Pittsburgh wasn't even in
the pack. Their pennant chase was essentially over by August 5,
when the Cubs had a 10-2 record while the Pirates were 2-10 (as
indicated by the little outlined blue and gold diamonds near the bottom).
2020 Pirates posted MLB's lowest numbers in wins, runs scored,
on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and saves. They lost
15 games by a single run, most in baseball. They committed 47
errors, second most. Since the 2019 All-Star break, their
record is only 44-89 (.331).
there were some late-season bright spots. Pitching showed
improvement, with the starters achieving an MLB-best 1.46 ERA over
one 12-game stretch. And a September roster addition,
slick-fielding rookie third baseman Ke'Bryan Hayes, batted .516 with
three homers and four doubles over his final eight games. In
the final three, he put together a streak of eight consecutive hits.
right now can feel like a big experiment. Certainly, life on
campus does, note the editors
of the student newspaper at my alma mater, Oberlin
College. No one knows what's going to happen. So
far, our version of the experiment is going rather well.
But really, the truth is this: There may be a world in which you can
put roughly 1,900 students on a college campus during the COVID-19
pandemic and it works. There also may not be. There are
too many variables this year to trust in guarantees.
we believe that if anyone can make it happen, it's Obies. Our
care for our community and our commitment to accountability makes us
strong. We hold each other accountable to be better people, to
fight for a more equitable world, and to put our money where our
mouths are. It's one of the reasons a lot of us came to Oberlin
in the first place: to grow and learn in an environment where we are
constantly challenged to be better and make the world better.
from the ObieSafe
website (scroll down to hear Covid Conversations): Students
will be required to log their temperatures and complete a symptom
assessment checklist each morning through the Full Measure app.
A quarter of all students, faculty, and staff will be tested every
week, so that each individual is tested once a month. All
students will be issued five reusable masks, which they are expected
to wear everywhere except in a private bedroom with the door
closed. If you are hosting an intimate partner in your room,
please follow all guidelines for affirmative consent and utilize
self-isolation and other strategies to reduce the risk of COVID-19 to
others. Parties will not be permitted for students living on-
or off-campus. Protests will only be permitted out-of-doors,
and all such events must require that all participants wear masks and
maintain physical distancing.
went to grad school at the Newhouse School of Public Communications
at Syracuse University, which is also dealing with the situation.
weren't allowed to attend today's football game in the newly-roofed
dome, but they're doing their best to stay six feet apart. The
Newhouse School produced a video.
associate professor Simon Perez showing broadcast- and
digital-journalism students how to hook up electronic gear.
may not be practical when the snows arrive in upstate New York next
month, and in northern Ohio the month after that. However, my almae
matres will deal with that problem when the time comes.
WHERE HAVE ALL THE AUROCHS GONE?
years ago, when I entered the labor force, life on Earth was more or
less in balance between humans and other creatures.
2016, however, human numbers had doubled. Meanwhile, global
populations of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles had
plunged by two-thirds. That's according to the WWF and
Zoological Society of London's biennial Living
Guardian summarizes: Wildlife populations are in
freefall around the world, driven by human overconsumption,
population growth and intensive agriculture.
situation has developed over a long period of time. Eighteen
years ago, I wrote a story about the prehistoric hunter Og. His
sister had been abducted. Worse than that, a tiger ate his
father, and another tiger ate his brother. Also, Og developed a
rash. But he was assured that every misfortune happens for
I've written another Og story, in which global warming and
overhunting have brought new challenges. Food shortages have
forced a neighboring tribe to abandon the nomadic life and invent
agriculture and with it, civilization. Og and his friend
encounter civilized females, but Og himself is unconvinced about this New
Way of Life.
19, 2010 IT
COULD BE WORSE
years ago on this date, on September 19, 1890, the Pittsburgh
Alleghenies played a game of Base-Ball against the visiting New York Giants.
the time, the Alleghenies were in eighth and last place in the
National League with a record of 21 wins and 105 losses. They
were 61 games behind the first-place Brooklyn Grays, having lost
thrice in one day to the "trolley dodgers" in a Labor Day tripleheader.
present team was eliminated from winning its division only 47 games
into this shortened season. But they're not as bad as they were
130 years ago. Their winning percentage may be disappointing,
but it's still higher than Branch Rickey's underachieving 1952 squad
of Ralph Kiner, Joe Garagiola, and Dick Groat.
there was some hope for the Alleghenies on September 19. Most
of their contests that season had been on the road. So far,
they had played only 31 games at Recreation Park, and they had
actually won 12 of them!
they took the field that Friday afternoon, an enthusiastic hometown
throng of 100 fans cheered from the grandstand. (Yes,
thats right, one hundred. The teams estimated
attendance for the entire season was only 16,064, which also ranked
last in the NL.)
the home team did not win. And we know what the rooters say
about the home team: if they dont win, its a
shame. The game ended in a 7-7 tie.
another two weeks, the 1890 season would come to a merciful
conclusion. The Alleghenies finished 23-113, with a road record
of 9-88. That season remains the worst in franchise history,
considerably worse than even the current team's record of 50-98
(15-59 on the road).
was nowhere to go but up.
the Players League folded that fall, Pittsburgh picked up
second baseman Lou Bierbauer. In signing him, they were
pirating him away from the Philadelphia Athletics, who
supposedly still held Bierbauer's National League rights.
following spring, the Pittsburgh nine moved into a new home, Exposition
Park. And they embraced their reputation as bad boys
by adopting the pejorative nickname Pittsburgh Pirates. Within
another dozen years, they were in the Worlds Series!
the present-day Pirates should try to steal second baseman Chase
Utley from the Phillies? Couldn't hurt. Anything could happen.
POOL DRYING UP
the high school football season getting under way, you may have
noticed that fewer players are going out for the sport these
days. That's true across the nation, according to the National
Federation of State High School Associations.
particular, here's the data for the state of Pennsylvania, where
participation in 11-player football has been steadily dropping from a
high of 26,910 participants in 2008-09. The state lost another
225 high school football players in 2019-20. Roughly speaking,
over the past 11 years the participation rate of boys of high-school
age has dropped from 7.0% to 6.6%. (Nationwide, it's down to
6.2%. One possible reason is a fear of serious injuries.)
feeder system may be in decline, but there are still 130
universities in the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision seeking high
school graduates to fill out their rosters.
those FBS teams are members of the elite Power Five
conferences. For the most part they're still awarding the same
number of scholarships, but a decreasing share of those scholarships
are going to players from around here, specifically the Western
Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association and Pittsburgh's
an NCAA signing day last February, Mike White of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
wrote, It has been documented before by yours truly that the
talent pool of major-college football talent in Western Pennsylvania
is nowhere near as deep as it was even 10 years ago. But the
pool has never been as shallow as the class of 2020.
the blue line. Thirty years ago, FBS schools signed 50 players
from the WPIAL/City League. Between twenty-five and ten years
ago, the average was 30. Seven years ago, the total dropped to
19, an all-time record. But 2020 marked the lowest total ever,
many local kids go to Power Five schools? Follow the gold
line. Thirty years ago, 27. Between twenty-five and ten
years ago, an average of 18. Last year, only 8, an all-time
record. But 2020 was even lower, with just 6.
area certainly has gifted players year after year, White
noted, but not as many are suitable for big-time
colleges. They may lack size and speed.
it be because most of the area steel mills have shut down?
Half the burly steelworkers lost their jobs between 1980 and
1984. Many have gradually migrated elsewhere to find work,
leaving an aging population. A large part of the remaining
families are in technology or health care or education, fields that
don't require muscular genes.
Sept. 2, 2021: Mike White reports that ten years
ago, the depth chart for Pitt's season opener had 11 WPIAL players in
the starting lineup, but this year there are only two.
Both are offensive linemen.
15, 2010 WORLD
TO STOP TURNING
the spring of 1956, I was only nine years old. At our house we
still didnt have television, but my recently widowed
grandmother did have it at her place. That's her in her rocking
chair, with the TV set in the background.
the daytime she watched soap operas. Like everyone else, she
called them my shows. (How did that possessive term
arise?) A soap opera was a 15-minute serial drama, broadcast
live from a studio in New York, accompanied by music improvised on
the Hammond organ, and sponsored by a soap company.
April 2, 1956, one such program upgraded the genre. Its grand
opening theme was played by both organ and piano. And it
was twice as long as the others. The announcer said, And
now, for the next 30 minutes, As the World Turns, brought to
you today by Ivory Snow.
since then, ATWT has been a daytime fixture on CBS.
After our family finally bought a TV set, my mother watched too.
She may have been watching on November 22, 1963, when Walter
Cronkite interrupted with the news that President Kennedy had been shot.
after this Friday As the World Turns will go off the
air. In more than 54 years, there will have been 13,858 episodes.
sounds like a very large number, doesnt it? But if you
want a really large lifetime number, consider retired Pittsburgh
baseball announcer Lanny Frattare. In his 33 seasons of
describing 162 games per year, assuming each team threw 143 pitches
per game (the current pace), Lanny saw over 1.5 million pitches!
FLYING INTO D.C.
I was booked on the TV crew for a sportscast in our nation's
capital, I usually traveled by air to the conveniently-located
Washington National Airport, now Reagan National. The short hop
from Pittsburgh on a regional airliner would typically use the
Mount Vernon approach, turning left near George
Washington's old estate and heading due magnetic north (360°) up
the Potomac River. The plan was to aim for the White House but
touch down 3½ miles short of it on Runway 36.
date is uncertain maybe 1994, give or take a few years
but one day I was sitting in my usual window seat, gazing out the
right side of the plane at the river, preparing for landing.
However, instead of touching down the pilot banked left and advanced
the throttles. It was a missed approach! He explained
that another plane had come too close, so we had to fly elsewhere,
come around, and make another try.
right, I thought, we'll need to circle counterclockwise over
northern Virginia and revisit Mount Vernon. But we didn't gain
very much altitude. Before I knew it, we were on final approach
again. Apparently, Plan B was to obtain clearance and then
circle right, proceeding to Runway 15 instead. (I assume
our plane didn't require the longer runway and the wind didn't
require us to land in a certain direction.)
out my window as we descended, I was amazed to see the Pentagon
directly beneath us. Were aircraft allowed to buzz the Defense
Department? I guess so. I noticed various antennas on the
roof only a few hundred feet below. Then we landed, and I
proceeded to my broadcast venue located elsewhere in that rather
congested metropolitan area.
dates are less uncertain.
I actually was inside one of the rings of the Pentagon. Our
small group of Syracuse graduate students was visiting the Deputy
Assistant Secretary of Defense, who explained how the DoD releases
news to journalists.
Runway 36 was renumbered Runway 1 because the earth's magnetic field
American Airlines Flight 77 visited the southwest side of the
Pentagon on this date at an even lower altitude. The five
hijackers were killed along with 59 others on board and 125 workers
inside the building.
damaged section reopened within a year, with 184 benches in a new
Pentagon Memorial adjacent to the crash site.
10, 2010 BRING
I was a manager for
our high school football team in the early 1960s, I sometimes had to
run out onto the field carrying the trainer's emergency kit.
This was a big metal toolbox painted orange, our team color. It
held first-aid supplies and rolls of tape for patching up athletes.
item was a scary-looking oral screw, a plastic tool that looked
something like this. As it was explained to me, sometimes an
unconscious player would swallow his tongue, leaving him unable to
breathe. In such cases, the coach would have to insert this
screw between his teeth and rotate it to force his jaws open, then
reach into his mouth and retrieve the tongue. Fortunately, I
never witnessed this procedure.
kit also contained a handful of smelling salts. These were
little glass ampoules, maybe an inch and a half long, containing
aromatic spirits of ammonia. Each was encased in a loosely
woven white sleeve, designed to contain the shards of broken glass
that would result from squeezing the ampoule between thumb and
forefinger to release its contents. The coach would hold the
strong-smelling ammonia under the nose of a dazed player to shock him
back into consciousness.
of course, were beginning to realize that when a football
player gets his bell rung, its unwise to merely
revive him with a whiff of smelling salts and send him back into
action. Instead, he needs to be checked for a possible concussion.
in those days, we didn't understand the importance of hydration,
either. Studies had shown that in marathons, the winners were
the ones who lost the most water weight. Therefore, losing
fluids was necessary to maximize performance. Dehydration was good!
know better now, of course, but a Richwood Tiger football player
wasn't allowed to drink any water on the practice field. None
at all. He got thirsty, of course. We managers had these
plastic containers of lemon juice that we could squirt into his dry
mouth on request.
a manager, I described the play-by-play for several basketball
games, one of them on an actual radio station. But I never
called a football game. A few months after graduation, I got a
chance to try. It was on this very Friday night, 45 years ago,
that I carried my tape recorder up to the roof of the pressbox at
Memorial Field. I had permission from the school to tape a fake
I am. Well, no, actually that isn't me. The photo was
taken at a Richwood High School game on the same field a couple of
years earlier. But it could have been me.
next week, I would be in college, and the next year, I would be broadcasting
college football games for real.
10, 1965, was an historic date. Richwood High School had
consolidated with Byhalia to form the new North Union High School,
though they were still using the same Richwood facilities until a new
North Union building and football field could be constructed on the
north edge of town. This would be the very first game of the
North Union Wildcats!
I described the event in a letter five
Wildcats lost, 26-0. Neither team was any good at running, as
the blocking from a pair of underweight offensive lines wasn't
working; only once was anyone able to turn the corner on an end
sweep. Marysville gained a good part of its yardage through the
air. North Union tried to pass, but [Jim] Blue was consistently
wild; he either led his receivers too much or threw too short.
So, we can't run and we can't pass, and something's going to have to
[North Union] school spirit? Well, to me it seems about as
little as that of Richwood recently, except that there's less
tradition. No one seems to know the fight song or the Alma
Mater; no one knows what a wildcat looks like; there's nothing to be
proud of yet, not even a new high school building such as most other
newly-consolidated schools have. It's just a little bit
dead. Things are bound to improve as an NU tradition is formed,
but this takes time.
wasn't until their 45th season that the Wildcats finally qualified
for the state playoffs in football, finishing with a 10-0 regular
season record in 2009.
the pandemic changed everyone's routine, I usually paid my
restaurant check with a $20 bill. My change included $1 bills
which I crammed into my wallet.
few weeks I noticed my wallet was bulging with singles, so I removed
ten or so and stashed them on a shelf. Last winter I realized
there was nearly $200 on that shelf. I really ought to put the
currency to better use, but how? I didn't really want to walk
up to a cash register clutching a pile of small bills.
the pandemic changed everyone's routine, I began visiting more drive-through
windows at fast-food places. Aha, I thought.
a paper clip to package five $1 bills together, I stuffed a few such
packets into my car's sun visor. I hid a few more singles
behind the other visor. So if my order comes to $7.42, I simply
hand over one packet plus three singles. The clerk counts the
bills and hands me a few coins. I drop those into the car's
center console, to be deposited at the bank when I've collected
enough. As of this week, the hoard on my shelf has been liquidated!
step: switching over to using a credit card.
Orange kick off their football season at noon next Saturday)
March I directed you to a 100 Moons article consisting
of letters I wrote from Syracuse around the time of the University's
100th anniversary in 1970.
year on campus included another centennial, as commemorated by these
helmets that I watched the football team wear in the fall of
1969. Dozens of universities wore similar logos to honor what's
considered the first college football game ever, in which Rutgers
defeated Princeton 6 goals to 4 on November 6, 1869.
course, I wasn't aware at the time that a group of Black football
players were beginning to hold secret midnight meetings about the racial
injustice they were experiencing. Eventually, the Syracuse
8 (below) would sit out the 1970 season.
Syracuse University is foremost an institution of higher
learning. What was I studying there in 1969-70?
previous article didn't explain much about that. Therefore,
here's this month's 100 Moons to fill in more details.
WHY ARE POLICE RECRUITS
do you want to be when you grow up? You can be anything you
like. That's what we tell kids.
of course, people are told what to do. In old China, if you
applied for a job as a civil servant the state would consider its
needs, test your aptitudes, and then assign you to become a teacher
or a policeman or an administrator or whatever. In 1943
America, more than three million Americans were drafted into military
service that year including my future father, the 33-year-old
office manager at a Chevrolet dealership. He obviously wasn't
cut out for the infantry, so the Army wisely trained him to sit
behind a desk and issue soldiers' paychecks. They also let him
drive the payroll Jeep.
today, most of us do not have careers assigned to us. We
freely choose. That can lead to problems, according to Ken
Jennings and John Roderick in a recent
episode of their Omnibus podcast.
lot of the people who go for a job are the last ones who should have
it, because of their reasons. It's just like politics.
The politicians are all narcissists, and the cops are all
bullies. The people who become cops are the ones who really
want to do that kind of stuff. They want to bonk heads!