Today in History: Nov. 17

The “Heidi Game” was played on this date in 1968.

A late afternoon football game, New York Jets at Oakland Raiders, was on NBC. That network had been advertising the television debut of a new TV movie, Heidi, based on the children’s story, all week. It was an expensive movie, with one sponsor, Timex, footing the entire bill. A football game with interested viewers on both coasts was a great venue for advertising the movie.

The announcements about the movie continued all game long. But so did the game. At 7:00 p.m. EST, with the Jets in the lead 32-29 and very little time left on the clock, NBC started the broadcast of the movie, as advertised. The game was as good as over, as far as NBC executives were concerned.
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Fly the W

When I moved to the Midwest in the summer of 2000, I learned that Phil Rizzuto was not the baseball announcer who had coined the phrase, “Holy cow!” I also learned that there was a controversy about this, and that, as a fan of the New York Yankees and a native New Yorker—and worse, someone unaware of any controversy—I was on the wrong side of said dispute. Born wrong.

No, I was informed, the recently departed Harry Caray was the first to use the phrase on-air and was the announcer with whom “Holy Cow!” should always be associated. Not the beloved Yankees announcer.
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Gordie Howe, 1928–2016

He remains the only professional hockey player to play in six different decades: full-time from 1945-1980, when he retired at age 52—wait, pause there. 52.

And then he skated one shift for a professional minor league team in 1997, when he was almost 70. Six decades. Gordie Howe died today at the age of 88.
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Dylan, Ali, an Apple

“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee—his hands can’t hit what his eyes can’t see.”—Muhammad Ali, of course

Today is our first day without Muhammad Ali. If the world seems to be off its axis today, I would point to that sad fact.

The photo at top is from the great photographer Ken Regan, who took it backstage at Madison Square Garden on December 8, 1975. Bob Dylan had brought his Rolling Thunder Revue to New York City and Ali joined the parade of well-wishers.

Regan wrote, “Ali had brought Bob a giant boxing glove that was about as big as Bob; just the right, spontaneous, quirky touch that captured the spirit of the Rolling Thunder Revue.” You can see the pair of gloves and a silk robe on the bench between them. Ali is finishing off an apple and Dylan appears almost kid-like in glee. Even Bob Dylan seemed to regard Muhammad Ali as “really famous.”
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A Letter from Jackie Robinson

[This is one of my favorite posts from 2015. A sports story that is not about sports.]

On June 12, 1970, Dock Ellis, a pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates who would go on to some success and much controversy, threw a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres. No-hitters are headline news but not usually career- or even season-defining.

If you are a baseball fan, you may know why Dock Ellis’ no-hitter is remembered, 45 years later. If you are not, please keep reading, as this is not a post that is only about baseball.
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All but the Grand Slam

Some flash fiction-comedy follows.

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“Metaphors was as rare for me as things I can’t find anywhere.”—Pop Hinks.

Pop was describing a time when he was stretching, reaching, striving for an easy analogy, a way to convey the idea that one thing led him to thinking about another, second, thing. It eluded his thinking brain like a bird that had flown away from his grasp, though. The whole thing was a moment and a bird and Pop himself. Just those three things and they were themselves complete and entirely themselves.
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A Missing Ingredient

Forty-five years ago today, Dock Ellis, a pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates who would go on to some success and much controversy, threw a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres. No-hitters are headline news but not usually career- or even season-defining.

If you are a baseball fan, you may know why Dock Ellis’ no-hitter is remembered, 45 years later. If you are not, please keep reading, as this is not a post about baseball.
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The Legend of Pop Hinks: A Legend

“Metaphors was as rare for me as things I can’t find anywhere.”—Pop Hinks.

Pop was describing a time when he was stretching, reaching, striving for an easy analogy, yet it eluded his thinking brain like a bird that had flown away from his grasp. It was a moment and a bird and Pop. Just those three things and they were themselves complete and entirely themselves.

The bird alighted and then flew away just past his gripping fingers, but it was still close enough for him to catch a thought about a moment in which he could envision, or so he said, a time when he caught that bird. A starling, he said it was.

Metaphors, analogies, similes could be similarly elusive but in a literal sense. “Slippy eels,” Pop Hinks took to calling them.

He was a blues player, one of the greatest slide guitarists on the north side of Kansas City, but the Kansas side, where there were no blues players. It was long a source of frustration for him that he regularly was ranked the third-greatest slide player even though he was the only one. He did not play with a slide, which may have presented most of his trouble.

Pop Hinks also played professional baseball in that far-long-ago era of the 1930s. He starred in a semipro league that was an imitation of the Negro Leagues, but one that starred white players only.

His baseball days were filled with long nights of transcendent sadness spent daydreaming on the bench about playing baseball, and sometimes his daydreams coincided with the game he was watching and not participating in. His blues nights were spent waiting in the backrooms of the seedless bars he did not play in, waiting eagerly to hear the one name he most wanted to hear called to the stage: his own. He never heard it and it was even more rarely called.

He could never find, not till his dying day, which has not yet come, he could never find the analogy that would match his baseball love with his blues love. One song, “A Grand-Slam,” he never played. Another, “The Walk Off,” was never requested. Yet another, “The One-Four-Five,” describing a little-seen play in which a pitcher fields a hit and inexplicably throws to an out-of-position second baseman who throws to third to catch a confused runner off base, was never written, although we debut it below.

It is difficult, Pop Hinks would say, to find a metaphor that covers all analogies, communicates something about real-life situations like love and baseball and the blues to fit most listeners. There are few walk-off homers in life or art or the blues. But if you asked him about those long-ago nights in Kansas City, he would shake his head and say, “I can take you there. But I’ll have to charge.”

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The Magnificent Glass Pelican (MGP) is a live half-hour radio comedy show that my friends and I have written, produced, and acted in for over two decades. Lately, it has been an improvised half-hour, produced by us and scripted live on-air. The current season is our 23rd consecutive or so.

Each Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. (tomorrow), the MGP half-hour is broadcast on 88.7 FM WFNP (“The Edge”) in the Rosendale-New Paltz, New York, area or is streaming live here: The MGP on WFNP. This is at 7:30 p.m. Eastern, and the broadcasts are not archived, so if you can check us out live tomorrow, thank you.

“Pop Hinks” was a monologue I wrote 15-20 years or so ago, when I had not yet started thinking. Sean Marrinan plays Pop Hinks, and that is Sean with the impressive beard on his face. John Burdick plays the guitar. I wrote the words.

“The One Four Five,” written by John Burdick:

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[Historical note: Before the Brooklyn Dodgers brought Jackie Robinson to the major leagues, white team owners maintained a ban on playing black baseball players, so the black community built a professional baseball league for itself. It was called the Negro Leagues and it existed from the late 1800s till the 1950s, when Major League baseball started integrating. I hate explaining jokes, but there might be readers who may not know this, who might think something called the Negro Leagues was a weird joke. In reality, it was not a joke, which is a sad fact for America. In the joke, which I have now killed utterly dead, I am picturing a world in which white America, upon seeing the success of the Negro Leagues, would create a baseball league to steal black America’s thunder, even while professional baseball was in fact all-white.]

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The WordPress Daily Prompt for October 21 asks, “The World Series starts tonight! In your own life, what would be the equivalent of a walk-off home run? (For the baseball-averse, that’s a last-minute, back-against-the-wall play that guarantees a dramatic victory.)”

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