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Baseball is AmericaA Child of Baseball
By Victor Alexander Baltov, Jr.
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2009 Victor Alexander Baltov, Jr.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneRedlegs And Reds
The 1992 Ron Howard-directed film, Far and Away, starring Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise as Shannon Christie and Joseph Donnelly, depicts a fictitious adventure tale of destiny for two inhabitants of the British Isles during the latter part of the nineteenth century. Across the Big Pond, back in the States, at the time of the story, America's National Pastime consisted of only one single eight-team Senior Circuit league; however, due to its enormous popularity, expansion to twelve teams was in progress. The first of baseball's "big secret nobody's supposed to talk about," a.k.a. "no blacks allowed in organized ball," was in the infancy of its sixty-year stronghold on America's tainted game. The odd couple depicted in the 1992 Ron Howard-directed film came from very different social structures. The romantic plot summary has Shannon and Joseph falling in love while encountering a number of twists and turns along the way to their destiny, the Oklahoma Territory and the Land Run of 1893. My parents' real-life story share strikingly similar elements to the saga of Joseph Donnelly and Shannon Christie. The disparity in the backgrounds of my parents represents a greater extremethan the former married couple that would also star together in the 1999 drama directed by Stanley Kubrick titled Eyes Wide Shut.
Victor and Catherine were from entirely different parts of the world. By a twist of fate, they met each other in the British Isles after World War II, married, crossed the Atlantic Ocean by liner, settled initially in the Northeast portion of America for several years, and later migrated to the former Oklahoma Territory, which had become America's fortieth state in 1907. The time era of their arrival to the home state of Mick, Hands and Mr. Everything was approximately eighty years later than Shannon and Joseph. Their fiery, argumentative natures, coupled with serious reservations from my mommy's parents with respect to their daughter's choice of man, closely paralleled the plot in the film Far and Away. The journey to the Sooner State was analogous to the title of the Beatles final number-one hit single released May 23, 1970, "The Long and Winding Road," in addition to being highly improbable. Unlike the Hollywood film, my parents' odyssey really happened. A family of five resulted, including one male offspring named Victor Alexander, Jr., a.k.a. Vic, who would experience the privilege of playing America's Favorite National Pastime at the state university whose football stadium is named after the Texas energy tycoon famous for oil price prediction accuracy, plus devising an energy independence plan in a time of national crisis. The Cowboys' baseball program can boast a 1959 National Championship plus a host of Major League ballplayers, including two of the top three All Century collegiate players: Batman, who owns the all-time collegiate consecutive hitting streak, which bested the Yankee Clipper's Major League mark by a couple, and Inky, who is college baseball's single-season long ball king with forty-six. The former Gotham City Bronx Bomber and Metropolitans third baseman, Batman, also claims the honor of being college baseball's most outstanding player for the latter two decades of the twentieth century. Strictly by the numbers from a very "liberal" point of view, I would end my four-year collegiate career at OSU with a batting average more than 200 points higher than the two-time Major League All-Star and six-time Golden Glove winner!
Shannon and Joseph were native to the British Isles, Ireland to be specific, and the film ran out of reel before the marriage issue developed. Victor, a journalist, and Catherine, a spinster employed by the American embassy in London, were native to countries other than the one in which they met, England, but were, in fact, married on March 29, 1949, in the Metropolitan Borough of St. Marylebone in the London District of St. Marylebone at the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, Marylebone Road, by a Catholic priest by the name of Father Bentley. A lifelong and devoted follower of the Virgin Mary, mother of America's Creator in human form and rightful heir to the throne of Israel through the house of David, it was fitting that mommy was married in a Madonna-named church. The account of the events leading up to tying the knot and those that followed the long and winding road to the city in which Big John, a.k.a. Hands, was born on the sixth anniversary of Pearl Harbor are fascinating.
My parents were extremely unique. If Barack Obama were to categorize them with his "typical white people" stereotype, he wouldn't even be in the in the ballpark. Mommy grew up in southwestern Ohio on the north side of the Underground Railroad in the region of America's heartland, which has been a tough place for racial relations and credited with baseball's first all-professional team. She was an extremely independent American woman for her era, a traditionally conservative feminist, with a persona that incorporated traits of Mother Teresa, Doris Ann Kappelhoff, a.k.a. Doris Day, Sarah Palin, and Elisabeth Hasselbeck. Women's suffrage, the economic and political movement aimed at extending the right for women to vote, achieved success in 1920, as liberal fascist and sometimes tyrant, the Schoolmaster of Politics, and #28 on America's presidential scorecard, passed the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Mommy was two years old when this historic event occurred but it did little to alter the male-dominated world that predominated her Roaring Twenties childhood, the Great Depression that followed, and the infancy of the New Deal. Young, single women prior to World War II were not commonly known to leave their midwestern rural roots, travel alone, and secure employment in various American offices far from home, and then, after the war, travel overseas to Europe.
Victor had a personality like none other, directly out of the Greco-Roman era with a mind-set entrenched in ancient Greece with heroes named Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, and early America with his greatest hero, named the Father of His Country. Brendan Fraser as Adam was a fictitious Blast from the Past in the 1999 film by the same name, whereas Victor was the "real deal" blast from the past. He was brutally honest like no other, a constant rebellion against the forced political correctness of his homeland. His battle demeanor and physical appearance during the war was similar to Maximus, played by Russell Crowe in the 2000 Best Picture Gladiator, which is appropriate since he was an actual gladiator during World War II, No. 000201 to be exact. To nickname him using the cliché "Roma Victor" from the same Gladiator film, while being a gender oxymoron, is fitting. His physical appearance mysteriously transformed into the body-double image of Sean Connery in the 1990 film Hunt for Red October, when he aged and grew a beard. What brought my parents together from different worlds, resulting in my creation, America's Creator only knows. They had very little in common with respect to hobbies and worldly interests but did share a passion for clinging to their traditional and orthodox Christianity, a fierce sense of independence running through their veins, and a conviction for preserving traditional, conservative values. The two were like raccoons, friendly until cornered on principle, which transformed them into vicious fighters.
The dual persona of Roma Victor, a.k.a. RV, was the sum of the two characters of Russian ancestry during the town scene in the 1985 film Witness. In one aspect, he was like Daniel Hochleitner, who described fighting back as "not our way," while another part of him was similar to Detective Captain John Book, who responded, "Well, it's my way!" RV was a turn-the-other-cheek-type of guy but would transform into a fighter like John Book if taunted by an "ice cream cone in the face," a.k.a. Secular ("S" is for Stalin) Humanist ("H" is for Hitler) Liberalism ("L" is for Lenin). He had witnessed the effects of secularism, humanism, and liberalism when people en masse experienced extremely difficult economic times and metaphorically lived "Under the Bridge Downtown" with Red Hot Chili Peppers lead singer Anthony Kiedis and ex-Astros flame-throwing J.R., transforming, in response to dire straits and desperation, into creatures from the 1990 film The Night of the Living Dead. The oft-quoted phrase from Dostoyevsky's 1880 novel The Brothers Karamazov, "Where there is no God, all is permissible," never left his being. An interesting aspect of common ground shared by my parents was the name of their home team, the Reds. One thing was a certainty; they were 100 percent authentic and spoke directly from the heart with DNA void of political correctness. The possibility of either of them engaging in "follow the yellow brick road" lockstep behavior, a.k.a. monarch programming, as depicted in the 1939 classic film, The Wizard of Oz, and again in Stanley Kubrick's 1999 film Eyes Wide Shut, simply did not exist. In the words of Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church on a December 2008 Hannity & Combs interview, "Everybody is betting on something, I'm betting God is not a liar." Upon completion of their regular season, they had both bet the farm that Jesus Christ laid down the Sacrifice so that they could enter the Postseason.
But baseball has marked the time. Back in the States, the glory days of baseball, the period between 1947 and 1957, when the Big Apple ruled the baseball world, were in progress. It was a time of prosperity for the world's number-one post-WWII city when the Yanks, "Dem Bums," and the Giants were entertaining the world's greatest generation, their depression-surviving parents, and their infant baby boomers in Gotham City cathedrals, more commonly known as Yankee Stadium, Ebbets Field, and the Polo Grounds. During baseball's eleven-year Golden Age period, the twenty-four-square-mile island formerly known as New Amsterdam would proudly enjoy the privilege of supporting the Pinstripes in the Fall Classic a total of nine of those years, with an unprecedented five straight between the years 1949 and 1953. In addition, one of their hometown Senior Circuit teams would vote "present" in all but three World Series. The Yankees would enter the Promised Land seven times during baseball's day in the sun, with the Dodgers and Giants each entering once.
The year 1949 saw the Bronx Bombers dedicate a monument in centerfield to the Babe and plaques to the Iron Horse and Miller Huggins during season-opening pregame ceremonies on April 19. All three would become centerpieces in the infamous Monument Park that now adorns the outfield area at Yankee Stadium. The inscription on the Bambino's monument said, "A great ballplayer. A great man. A great American." The 1949 postseason alternated the settings for the Series between the House that Ruth Built and Ebbets Field, where fictitious 1960s author Terence Mann dreamt about playing as a child in the 1989 film Field of Dreams. The Yanks entered the winner's circle for the twelfth time out of sixteen Series tries in their history, which began in 1913, using five games to keep Dem Bums winless during postseason play. The traditional Bum chant "Wait til next year" would comfort the disappointed and renew the faith of those passionate Dodger blue fans. Joltin' Joe became the first six-figure-dollar man in Major League Baseball in 1949 but the Splinter was the man throwing the lumber around that year. On the Junior Circuit, Jackie was doing his thing, setting records stealing the plate, while Mr. Home Run and Stan the Man lived up to their names on the Senior Circuit.
My mommy was born to George and Lena White Minges, a.k.a. Grandpa/Dad and Grandma/Mom, during the twilight of the Great War and at the very early stages of the 1918 Flu Pandemic, a.k.a. Spanish Flu, which claimed the lives of 20 to 100 million people worldwide over a two-year period. She was the second of five children, on a farm in Shaker Village, Ohio, located in the Ohio River Valley bordering both Indiana and Kentucky. The farm was approximately thirty miles southwest of the city that would play baseball's first night game in 1935. The Shakers, as original settlers to the area, were similar to Quakers (Friends) in their orthodox Christian belief, but were distinctly different due to their expressive nature (dance) during worship services. She was born right into the heart of Reds territory as Catherine Faye Minges on March 16, 1918.
The family was the right size needed to maintain the land in an era and place void of modern equipment or slaves. Children would perform daily chores essential for survival. The rhythm method, as the only form of birth control, acted as a form of insurance guaranteeing a large family unit. On the farm, everyone stayed fit and trim without the assistance of those synthetic little buddies. Obesity was never an issue since daily physical labor burned calories and built lean muscle tissue. Grandpa was of second-generation German Catholic stock, while Grandma White's heritage was of English and Scotch Irish Protestant and a Daughter of the American Revolution. The kids were raised practicing Catholic while attending Mass every Sunday.
Life on the farm was very low tech. There was no electric power or running water, just candle and lantern power and well water. Outhouses served as lavatories, and they were fortunate enough to be one of the approximate 10 million customers in the Bell System, which provided switchboard-operated local communication service using an early crude telephone model. The weather was colder during the early part of the twentieth century according to my mom, as she periodically referred to Grandpa barking "twenty below bingo" while reading the thermometer on a cold winter morning. The legend of the world's greatest generation walking five miles to the local schoolhouse in the snow was applicable in my mother's case; a schoolbus did not exist.
But baseball has marked the time. The 1918 season saw the Sultan of Swat, as a Bosox, capture his first long ball crown, a shared one at that, with a whopping total of eleven. This Ruthian feat was accomplished while splitting time between pitcher and first-time outfield duty for his team, which would "go the distance" and win it all that year. The season ended early during the twilight of the Dead Ball Era in response to the war efforts, with Beantown clinching victory in six on September 11 over the beloved Cubbies. Little did the Bosox realize that it would be their last crown of the twentieth century! The Bambino had to fight his way to the top as a hitter in 1918, having to navigate his way past an overpowering choo-choo named the Big Train and the third-place Senators. Spoke was also having a very good year while leading the Tribe to a runner-up finish. The Georgia Peach was doing everything possible to keep his Tigers out of the cellar by leading the league in AVG, on-base percentage (OBP) and three-baggers. The almighty Yanks were a no-name sub-.500 team in 1918. The hometown Reds were a hitting machine on the Senior Circuit, leading the league in six offense categories led by Susan Derringer's future Hall of Fame grandfather, 48-Ounce Edd. Without a solid pitching staff, a third-place finish, 151/2 games off the pace, was the best the team that called Crosley Field home could muster. Initial Hall member Big Six was the Reds best pitcher; however, he had hung up his cleats, throwing his last competitive pitch a couple years earlier to become the full-time skipper. As a manager, Matty had his hands full with possibly the slickest-fielding first baseman of all times: a ballplayer unhappy with his pay grade who liked to rub elbows with gamblers, actively throwing games for some spare cash. He was an early advocate of "going green" by having the audacity of recruiting his starting pitcher onto his "green team" of "green heads" by slipping some green during games in progress as a safeguard to protect his "green environment." The following year, the year in baseball that serves as a historical marker, 1919, would fill a Reds roster void of both Big Six and Prince Hal but would participate in and capture the Fall Classic in an epic climax to the Fixed Era.
The year 1918 also welcomed the birth of the legendary sports journalist and commentator of the twentieth century, Brooklyn-raised Howard "Speaking of Sports" Cosell; possibly the best pure natural hitter of all times, the City of Saint James-born Teddy Ballgame; the hardest thrower of the pre-Synthetic Era from Heaven, a.k.a. Iowa, Rapid Robert; and the baseball man who would add color to the old ball game at a time, the 1970s, when it was losing traction to football, Gary, Indiana-raised Charlie O. Across the Big Pond at the time of Mommy's birth, the godless Bolsheviks, as successors interest to the Russian Social Democratic Labor party, were reforming Mother Russia into a totalitarian police state and a so-called "worker's paradise" while changing their official name to the Communist party. More commonly known as the U.S.S.R., a.k.a. Soviet Union, they moved their capital from St. Petersburg to Moscow that year. Regardless of what they were called or where they were located, their mission was to marginalize the Creator, grab life by the horns, and spread their poisonous brand of secular liberal humanism worldwide. The great moral equalizer for planet earth in 1918 was the birth of an American "good guy" in North Carolina, the Reverend Billy Graham, on November 7.
Excerpted from Baseball is America by Victor Alexander Baltov, Jr. Copyright © 2009 by Victor Alexander Baltov, Jr.. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents
PART I: FAR AND AWAY....................xiii
Chapter 1. Redlegs And Reds....................1
Chapter 2. The War to End All Wars....................25
Chapter 3. Coming to America....................47
PART II: THE WAY WE WERE....................62
Chapter 4. A Boy of Summer....................63
Chapter 5. Building Spiritual Muscle....................83
Chapter 6. Pinstripes of a Different Species....................95
Chapter 7. The Sixties in the Garden State....................101
PART III: DAMN REDS....................135
Chapter 8. Radio Ball....................137
Chapter 9. Grandpa with the Pipe....................151
Chapter 10. 1919 World Series....................161
Chapter 11. On Broadway....................173
Chapter 12. Cincinnati Baseball....................179
PART IV: THE WONDER YEARS....................191
Chapter 13. That's One Small Step for Man....................193
Chapter 14. The Hail Mary....................211
Chapter 15. Baseball in the Land of Mick....................223
Chapter 16. Senior Year....................235
PART V: COWBOYS AND CALIFORNIANS....................255
Chapter 17. Freshman Year....................257
Chapter 18. Poke Ball during the Birth of Free Agency....................295
PART VI: FIELD OF DREAMS....................323
Chapter 19. Heaven....................325
Chapter 20. My Mind was Always on the Game....................349
PART VII: FOREVER YOUNG....................363
Chapter 21. New Lease on Life....................365
Chapter 22. A Child of Baseball's SyntheticEra....................375
Chapter 23. Tales from the Trenches, Coaching Synthetic Era Youth Football....................389
Chapter 24. Tales from the Trenches, Coaching Synthetic Era Youth Baseball....................413
Chapter 25. State of Synthetic Era Youth Baseball....................439
Chapter 26. The Comeback....................445
Chapter 27. In the Buffs....................459
Chapter 28. All Good Things Must Come to an End....................481