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Archive for the ‘WISTFUL’ Category

CORONAVIRUS 5.0 Quarantine Stella Uno

August 10, 2020 1 comment

“Social distancing?  I’ve been practicing social distancing since 9th. grade.”

PASSING: PETE HAMILL, 1935-2020

August 5, 2020 1 comment

Pete Hamill has passed.

Mr. Hamill was a contemporary and real life friend of departed journalists Jimmy Breslin and Jack Newfield.

Mr. Hamill wrote for the DAILY NEWS, N.Y. POST, NEW YORK and the VILLAGE VOICE.

Mr. Hamill, like Mr. Breslin and Mr. Newfield, began as a sportswriter and wrote occasionally about sports for his entire writing career.

Indeed, my first recollection of reading Mr. Hamill was an article in SPORT magazine about AFL star Cookie Gilchrist wherein Mr. Gilchrist related his thought that the A.F.L. and  Canadian Football league were friendlier to black players than the N.F.L.

This was at Merrick Avenue Elementary School in 1966!

Mr. Hamill’s A DRINKING LIFE is a pinspot accurate account of alcohol’s delights and drawbacks.

I have definitely read over 1100 hours of Mr. Hamill’s writing.

It wasn’t’ enough.

 

 

 

 

CORONAVIRUS 4.0 Quarantine Stella Uno

July 23, 2020 2 comments

*”Life is full of road games.

HAIKI 5*7*5* Frozen pineapple juice

July 18, 2020 1 comment

Thinking of my Mom

The frozen pineapple juice

Still the July bomb

CORONAVIRUS 3.0 Quarantine Quintella

July 6, 2020 1 comment

*1  Computer screen is now dust free courtesy of daily cleaning by a static free microfiber cloth from Economy Hardware, 219  Mass. Ave, Boston.  $2.99 well spent.

*2  PORTNOY’S COMPLAINT by Philip Roth is a swell read.  Philip Roth has written 2 kinds of books; the great, AMERICAN PASTORAL and the very good.  PORTNOY’S  was published  in 1969 and sold over 400,000 copies in its first year of publication.

PORTNOY’S COMPLAINT was scandalous upon publication what with its meaty, very literally; descriptions of self-abuse and yearning for the carnal carnival of his girl friend Monkey.

Much of the scandalous aspect of the novel has diminished in the mist of the last 50 years but the narrative and the descriptions of Jewish life from the 1930s to the 1960s is funny and sociological.  Recommended.

*3  SuperCuts at 101 Summer St. in Downtown Crossing is now open.  Sam has been cutting my hair for 13 years, is on duty and as friendly and efficient as ever.  Taming my grown out cut is not for the faint hearted.  Sam has game.

*4  Raccoons are ever more frequent here in the Eat Fens.  Waddling along Edgerly Rd, climbing into dumpsters in back of the Morville House and scampering among the cattails in the Fens the masked marauders have more than adapted to urban environments.  Condominiums next?

*5  MLB is gearing up for a 60 game season.  I am relieved that the MLBPA and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred have made a deal that both seem to hate…and that is a good thing.   In a related story S.F. Giants manager, and former Red Sox outfielder Gabe Kapler is assuring ESPN’s Buster Olney that the 5’11” and at 268 highly theoretical pounds former Red Sox Pablo “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval is “healthy.”  Play ball!

CHANGE: Dorothy’s Costume Boutique, 1947-2020

June 26, 2020 3 comments

Dorothy’s Costume Boutique located at 190 Mass. Ave, NEVER Massachusetts Avenue, will be closing on June 30, 2020 after 73 years in business.

I stopped by to listen to Jon Diamond, the son of the founders about the history of this Fenway institution.  I am greeted by a cash register sprouting more buttons and levers than I can count. 

“Perhaps it is of World War II vintage? I ask Mr. Diamond?

“It is my grandparents.”

“When was this store founded?”

“My parents…

“Not a parent company …”

“Ha, ha.  Yes, my folks Dorothy and Harold.  It was kind of like Bernie and Phyl’s.  A family business.”

…Mexican sweaters, Afro wigs, digital watches…

“What was the original concept?”

“We were a millinery in the neighborhood.  Kind of an alternative to downtown.  We also had costume jewelry.”

…a dozen faceless, eyeless Styrofoam ovals peer down from a shelf just below the ceiling bedecked with a variety of headwear…

“So you were always alternative?”

Mr. Diamond looked over his shoulder while straightening out the necklaces perched precariously above the watches and laughed.

“One thing we’ve been able to do is retain our core business.”

“Yes, I can still see that you sell a lot of hats.”

“Yes, and we’ve branched out into other stuff.”

“That’s OK I can put back the makeup,” Jon said as 2 guests were leaving with a cart chock to the brim with hats, wigs and a cornucopia of theatrical makeup.

The gentleman dressed up with a COVID-19  mask with a Jolly Roger death’s head moved to the back where Jon and I stood and actually returned the merchandise!

“Yeah, I guess you could say that… Hey, please pay attention to the customers, puh-leaze,” said Mr. Diamond with the 1/2 grimace 1/2 smile used so often by folks engaged in the direct supervision of staff in customer service venues.

“What qualities do you look for in employees?”

“They have to be honest, energetic, learn the stock and be able to run a register.  You’ve gotta be able to engage with people all of the time with a smile and you can’t be too sensitive.  She, [Mr. Diamond gives a head nod], is a good worker but she gets upset too easily.  You can’t take things personally.  She’s been working here for 3 years and she just doesn’t talk with customers as much as she should.”

“When did you start working here?”

“I was in grade school.  I worked downstairs in stock and tagged merchandise.  My brother Rich worked here too.”

“What was the neighborhood like then?”

“Black.  This whole stretch of Mass. Ave. from Boylston all the way to the end of Mass. was black.”

“All of the real estate ads say ‘Back Bay’ now.  I used to live at 4 Symphony Rd. for $25 a week for a furnished room.  It seems the Fenway doesn’t even exist as a neighborhood.”

“Definitely, this was pre-gentrification.  A lot of what is now called the South End was called Roxbury for years.  Boylston Linen was next door and there was Symphony Deli…”

“Symphony Deli became Dixie Kitchen.”

You’ve got a good memory.  There was the Bostonian Market, which became City Sports.”

“What was your clientele like?

“Well, women looking for hats and costume jewelry.  And we always had neighborhood folks and Berklee, Conservatory and Northeastern students.  Black women came by for wigs.

We added theatrical make-up in 1985.”

“For the drag queens?”

“Ha ha.  Yes, and we had kids from the drama departments of the schools so we just expanded our inventory.

We’re a mid mark-up store.  We try to keep things affordable.

In 1988 we doubled the size of the store by taking over the Boylston Linen slot next door.”

“I’ve always come in even for just a few minutes to look at what have you and about once a month make a purchase.”

“Yes, we’ve always had neighborhood semi-regular customers.  That goes to what I’m talking about when I’m talking about our core.”

“You used to sell underwear and T-shirts.”

“Wife beaters..”

“You mean spousal disablers.”

“Ha ha.  Well A-shirts and socks.  The problem was that  street people would come in buy 1 and walk with one and we were spending all of our time watching them even when the underwear were tucked in the back so it got to where it wasn’t worth it.”

“So where do you get your stuff?”

“I buy a lot of close-outs in clothing and visit vintage store quite a bit.  For other stuff, [waving his hand around the store] I use specialty sales reps.  Facebook, Instagram, whatever.”

…fishnet stockings, stocking caps in June, devils and angels for Halloween…

“You know the very first time I was here was in my first summer here in the Fenway back in 1979.  I was across the street and I heard  disco coming from an open door so I walked across the street and looked in.  I couldn’t believe what I saw…a bunch of punks trying on dog collars and buying black bandanas.  Then I looked to the back of the room and saw Afro wigs.  I couldn’t believe it!”

Jon looked up from the sunglasses he was re-arranging and laughed.

“A lot of musical trends have been outfitted here you know with Berklee and this area once had a lot of musicians living here.

“My folks were involved until 1984.  I bought out Rich in 2007.”

“Who is the landlord here?”

“Christian Science has always been the landlord.  This building is from the 19th. century.  it is far from ‘green.’ 

“Is Christian Science a good landlord?”

Stepping out from behind the jewelry counter Jon grimaces.

“Well we’ve gone from $600 to $6000 in rent.”

“Is the building maintained?”

Jon gives me a sour look, gives a hand signal to the cashier on duty and takes a deep breath, “No, they do as little as possible.”

I have improved the building, which is not my job.  I added the awning in 2004 and in 2000 took out the lay-in ceiling and exposed the original ceiling which is a lot nicer.”

Indeed the pressed tin ceiling is a nice look.

“But now that they know we are leaving they let me out of the lease which ran until 2022.”

…camouflage jackets, ergonomic backpacks, Pride flags…

“You know on Halloween the line stretches around the corner.”

Jon straightens up from picking a piece of paper from the floor and smiles.

“Yes, ever since we doubled the size of the store it has only gotten bigger.  We have all kinds of costumes, toys, hats and just about whatever anyone could want for Halloween.

“I’ve seen you guys on TV.”

Jon says nothing but gives me his best fake smile…and I laugh!

…American flags, MAGA hats, Uncle Sam Hats…

“So, why are you closing?”

“It’s everything.  COVID-19, Amazon, no Red Sox.”

“Yeah, I remember when the Sox won you had Red Sox T’s in the window.”

“Definitely.  The Sox, Pats, when the Celtics and Bruins win, there is always a lot of interest. I always root for us to win a championship every year!

…I spy a dour Bill Belichick mask…

St. Patty’s is my 2nd. biggest holiday.  4/20, tourists in town buy Boston t-shirts all the time.  The Sox not playing has hurt us not just for the Sox but for foot traffic.

I have colored contact lenses I would be selling.  They are a hot product right now.”

“I know I’ve seen them at the club.

So is COVID-19 why you’re closing?”

“Yes, that and Amazon.  Once Amazon got on phones it got very tough.

COVID-19 is the big one.  I’m over 65 so I’m in the high risk group and with business the way it is.”

Jon shrugged his shoulders and gave a half smile.

“So what is the future?”

“Maybe I’ll open up a pop-up across the street.”

“One week a month!”

Jon and I laugh.

Many will miss Dorothy’s. 

I among them.

PASSING: Little Richard and Richard Penniman, December 5, 1932-May 9, 2020

June 13, 2020 1 comment

Little Richard/Richard Penniman passed on May 9, 2020 from bone cancer at his home in Tullahoma, Tennessee surrounded by his brother, sister and adopted son Danny Jones Penniman who gave the cause of death as bone cancer.

Little Richard came into my ears upon my Dad’s 1970 purchase of the Gallanter family’s Harmon Kardon Slimline AM-FM/Turntable/Cassette stereo.

WCBS FM 101 SOLID GOLD became my first choice of radio as the Rock & Roll Revival of that time had spawned a radio format.

I had heard of Little Richard…

…hearing him was a whole other thing. A screaming messianic yell  filled with what this 12 year-old was just figuring out was sexuality along with an evangelical intensity that I associated with my Mom’s Mahalia Jackson records.

“Rip It Up,” “The Girl Can’t Help It” and “Reddy Teddy” prompted my begging my folks for headphones so that I could hear Little Richard as loudly as possible.

So taken with Little Richard was I that my brother Peter purchased me FRIENDS FROM THE BEGINNING-LITTLE RICHARD AND JIMI HENDRIX an album that purported to be from Hendrix’ time as a sideman for Little Richard.

(Whether either Jimi or Richard is on this LP is argued at Wikipedia).

en.wikipedia.org>wiki>Friends-from-the-Beginning

(Boston proto punks Reddy Teddy took their name from “Reddy Teddy” as sung by Little Richard in THE GIRL CAN’T HELP IT).

On that note, listening to Little Richard’s singing of “The Girl Can’t Help It” with Bobby Troup’s lascivious lyrics while watching  Jayne Mansfield clutching 2 bottles of milk to her 2 bottles of milk brings the glory of repression to fruition!

https://youtu.be/W4XVKl4j1VA

Sylvester’s masculine femininity wouldn’t exist without Little Richard.

Ru Paul’s feminine masculinity wouldn’t exist without Little Richard.

Richard Penniman played piano for Little Richard.  To listen to “Lucille” is to hear the caffeinated left hand banging out rapid rhythm on 80 gauge strings over an enthusiastic snare while the right hand plinks dainty suggestions of melody.

“LOU…SEAL..UHHH,” with the last elongated syllable adding a scoop of beat to Little Richard’s full throat declaration and then the sax comes in with a sensual wail echoing and commenting on Little Richard’s voice,which is a saxophone while Richard Penniman hammers away.

By beginning “Lucille’s lyrics with the title Little Richard anticipated James Brown’s vocabulary template of funk.

Femme? Yes.

Soft? Never.

Little Richard’s chart run began in January, 1956 with “Tutti Fruitti,” and ended with “Good Molly Miss Molly” in February, 1958, per MusicVF.com perhaps not a long run by today’s standards but remember that this era was the the rise of rock & roll.

It is integral to Little Richard’s story to understand that America was on the cusp of the civil rights era.  “Cover version” referred to versions of R&R and R&B hits, “race records,” as they were called at the time, were remade over by white artists as retailers such as Sears Roebuck were loath to display records with black performers.   Indeed, Little Richard his own self proclaimed in LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL that “Pat Boone couldn’t move his mouth fast enough to get around “a wop bop a lu bop a bomp bam boom.”

Indeed, Pat Boone’s version went to #12 while Little Richard’s original went to #17 per MusicVF.com

Richard Penniman took over from Little Richard in October, 1957.

“That night Russia sent off that very first Sputnik.  It looked as though the big ball of fire came directly over the stadium about two or three hundred feet above our heads.  It shook my mind.  It really shook my mind.  I got up from the piano and said ‘This is it.  I am through.  I am leaving show business to go back to God.”

Richard Penniman enrolled in Oakwood College, (now Oakwood University), and became an ordained Minister of the 7th. Day Adventist faith.

In 1958 Little Richard formed the Little Richard Evangelistic Team that criss-crossed the South bringing 7th. Day Adventist faith and gospel music.

In 1959 Richard Penniman married Ernestine Campbell.

As recounted to biographer Charles White in The Life and Times of Little Richard: The Quasar of Rock; the 7th. Day Adventist faith “cured” Little Richard’s “contagious” homosexuality.

(This book will also tell you more than you could possibly want to know about Buddy Holly’s love life.  Not for the religious).

Richard Penniman was no more politically correct than Little Richard was correct.

1959 also brought Richard Penniman’s GOD is REAL LP.

The tension between the rock and roll sexual love of Little Richard and the gospel spiritual love of Richard Penniman love was to remain the dynamic for the rest both lives.

To see Little Richard discuss his faith and life as Richard Penniman this interview is very revealing .

https://youtu.be/OXldBnWFjB8

Richard Penniman had a certain machismo that shocked The Advocate in yet another twist in Richard Penniman’s challenge for the soul of Little Richard.

www.advocate.com..people.2017/10/06 “Little Richard, once Gay is Now Antigay-Again”

1961 brought his Mercury LP King of the Gospel Singers, produced by Quincy Jones no less, featuring Richard Penniman, billed as Little Richard singing the gospel classic [There Will Be] Peace in the Valley(For Me).  This is not similar to the version sung by Elvis on How Great Thou Art, but a more traditional rendition with a pipe organ behind Little Richard’s throaty tenor.

https://youtu.be/Ovz-98UAt80

Little Richard returned to rock in 1962, touring England and being watched and emulated by Paul McCartney as  Mr. McCartney relates in the Introduction to The Life and Times of Little Richard: The Quasar of Rock.

1964 brought the LP Little Richard is Back(and There’s A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On) which slipped into obscurity. 

Little Richard’s time as a popular American  recording artist had passed.

Dedicated fans of Little Richard can enjoy his very swampy 1970 US hit #48, UK hit #27 “Freedom Blues”

https://youtube/zRNLyACJcSK

Indeed, England remained a vital market for Little Richard until the end of his performing career.

Richard Penniman continued to perform at 7th. Day Adventist churches on a regular basis adding straight up preaching to his gospel stylizations.

While Little Richard’s recording career had withered away his appeal as a live entertainer was about to skyrocket.

1973’s LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL movie showcased Little Richard performing as part of Richard Nader’s Rock & Roll Revival collated with footage of Little Richard performing in his 50’s heyday.

To see Little Richard fluffing his bouffant and proclaiming “Ooh, my soul,” in front of a mirror is to see a man who would be totally at home today.

By the filming of LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL Little Richard was performing in a flowing aquamarine caftan with trapezoids of mirrors affixed.

Little Richard’s drama queen persona was never in finer fettle than while chatting with manager Bump Blackwell in a limo on his way to a Rock n Roll Revival show, saying

“I was washing dishes in a Greyhound bus station in Macon, Georgia.  I was the only Jewish cat there.  Everyone else was colored.”

https://youtu.be/9vcGZdPxNBw

Humor aside Little Richard had most of his vocal range during his Rock n Roll Revival phase and the hyper dynamic left hand of Richard Penniman enabled all.

All through the 70s Little Richard was a staple guest of Dick Cavett on late night TV as the oldies radio format declined.

https//youtu.be/eSylFhKk8

Little Richard-Lucille and Lawdy Miss Clawdy (The Dick Cavett Show 1970).

  It is often offered that celebrities become “self parodies” but Richard’s makeup encrusted face seemed as natural as his appearance was unnatural.

The 70s also saw Little Richard drinking prodigiously and taking cocaine while performing up to 100 nights a year.

Richard Penniman remained in my mind when viewing the Cleophus Robinson show whose gospel enlivened my teen and Nassau Community College years.  When Al Green retired from popular music with the Belle LP’s  title pronouncement of “It’s you that I want, it’s Him that I need,” I wondered whether Little Richard had had such a thought and whether Richard Penniman had the LP.

Little Richard never really left my mind completely as his hysterical cameo in the 1986 movie DOWN AND OUT IN BEVERLY HILLS inspired my playing of “Lucille” as on the soundtrack of LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL.

Richard Penniman continued to wrestle with spirit and sex his entire life.  In 2017 telling GOD REPORTS, “If I had my life to do over again, I would be ‘Little Richard the Preacher,’ standing on street corners.”

At a certain age those who reached us at an early age pass.  On May 9, 2020 the passing of Little Richard prompted a digital wave of remembrances from rockers, critical evaluations of his musical legacy and lengthy treatises on Little Richard as a signifier of Afro-queerness.

It is Richard Penniman who has passed. His contradictions are now eased forever.

Little Richard?

A WOP BOP A LU BOMP A BOMP BAM BOOM!

SOURCES: 

MusicVF.com for chart positions. 

The Billboard Hot 100 as a combined chart of retail, jukebox and airplay began August, 1958.  MusicVF.com combines the previously separate Billboard charts and is the citation for all chart positions noted.

Little Richard, GOD IS REAL Peacock GOSPEL CLASSICS, 1959

http://www.amazon.com>God-Real-Little Richard

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF LITTLE RICHARD: THE QUASAR OF ROCK  Little Richard as told to Charles White. 1985. 269 pp. 33 B&W photos. New York

A chronological biography in the ‘as told to’ vein that recounts Little Richard’s rise to fame and the religious life of Richard Penniman.  Paul McCartney’s Introduction credits Little Richard with his ambition to become a musician.  Cool pix.  Available in the Boston Public Library.

God Reports

godreports.com.2017/10>little-richard-his-truth-frutti

LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL

https;//youtu.be/C90UuBWV8TS

A wonderful non-fiction film that includes wonderful performances, some not-so-wonderful performances and more than a little sadness.  Filmed at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y. and Cobo Hall, Detroit, MI.

http://www.bostongroupienews.com>ReddyTeddy

This website gives a short chronological history of the Boston proto-punk band that appropriated its name from Little Richard.

The Belle Album, Al Green, Hi, 1977

This was Reverend Al Green’s, now State Rep. TX/D, last secular L.P. of the 1970s.  The title track’s “It’s you that I want, it’s Him that I need,” sings the contradictions of Little Richard and Richard Penniman.

CORONAVIRUS 2.0: Quarantine Quintella

May 29, 2020 1 comment

*1  Strainer thingy in bathroom tub is clear of hair and shampoo residue.

*2  FRONTIERS: THE EPIC OF SOUTH AFRICA’S CREATION AND THE TRAGEDY OF THE XHOSA PEOPLE by Noel Mostert is a 1292 page tangled epic of England, the Dutch India Trading Company, Xhosa Khoikhoi, slave traders, anti-slavery missionaries, Boers, cattle and a catastrophic attempt at salvation by Xhosa tribal folk.  African history is all too rarely in the mainstream of American thought.  Recommended.

*3  Floyd’s Barbershop at 189 Mass. Ave; 617-236-4838; is now open by appointment only via phone or website.  No walk-ins and face coverings are required.  Standard cuts are $28 and specialty coloring and perming is not yet available.  Josh does good work.  Good hair days are back!

*4  Rats are visible here in the East Fens.  With the closing of Steve’s Pizza, and the Bebop and with Amelia’s Taqueria, Boston Burger Bar, Pad Thai Cafe, Boloco, Shah’s Kitchen and Subway offering only take-out and delivery the buffet of dumpsters underneath the 1076-1124 restaurant strip cannot support the rodent community.  Rats in search of entrees are visible as never before.  Darwinism is ugly.

*5  The NBA is a no go for the time being.  Commissioner Adam Silver and the NBAPA are attempting to set up a playoff format.  In the meantime, NBA TV offers replays of 1980-1981’s Game 7 of the Celts vs. Sixers Eastern Conference Final with players hitting the floor hard on every possession.  Young fans will be taken aback at the violence of the game 40 seasons ago.

HAIKU 5*7*5* Coronavirus bus

April 30, 2020 1 comment

The 39 bus

Has only 2 passengers

Where’s the rest of us?

PASSING: Al Kaline 1934-2020

April 16, 2020 1 comment

Al Kaline passed away on Monday, April 6, 2020, of undisclosed causes.

Al Kaline was the very first inductee into my own personal Baseball Hall of Fame.

My very fist baseball bat, bought by my Dad for my 8th. birthday, was an Al Kaline Little League Louisville Slugger model.

My Al Kaline bat met its sad demise when Kieran McLeod threw it into the asphalt of North Bayles Ave. after popping up to Ricky Lapera during one of the innumerable self-hitting baseball games of my boyhood.

The knob, and my heart, broke.

My next bat was a Steve Whitaker model, a perennial prospect of the Yankees. 

Such is life.

I had just learned the basics of baseball even as I had begun collecting baseball cards at 5 years of age.

Mom took the time to cut out the baseball cards from the backs of Post Cereals boxes so I could impress my 1st. grade classmates in Mrs. Ristori’s 1st. grade glass in the Merrick Ave. school in Merrick, Long Island.

(“They’re the wrong cards!” I whined as Mom didn’t know that Topps cards were the medium of exchange.  The Post cards are now quite valuable.  I still have the Tony Taylor card from Taylor’s first stint with the Phillies).

As a rotund boy in Merrick kickball was my only ball sport even as I filled Keds sneaker boxes with baseball cards.  Moving to Port Washington’s 42 North Bayles Ave’s dead end street enabled what little athleticism I had and my year at Sands Point Academy in Sands Point had Coach Mayerson’s considerable patience being rewarded by my elevation to “shoot it out to play” status. 

Dad’s purchase of an Al Kaline Little league Louisville Slugger bat and Ray Culp MacGregor mitt became my favorite possessions.

Al Kaline was born into a working class Baltimore family.  His father, Nicholas (1), was a former semi-pro baseball player who worked in a broom factory.

His mother, Naomi,(1), scrubbed floors.   Al Kaline aimed for a career in MLB from grade school and his parents did everything to enable their son.

Al Kaline was born within a year of Henry Aaron, Frank Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Roger Maris and Rocky Colavito, so 1934 was a good year for right fielders.   Hmmm…(2)

The Detroit Tigers signed Al Kaline from Baltimore’s Southern High School the day after high school graduation.(1)

Mr. Kaline was in the major leagues a week later without playing even  a day of minor league baseball, let alone college ball.(1)

Kaline lead the American League in hitting in 1955 with a .340 mark at 20 years of age.  66 seasons later Mr. Kaline is still the youngest batting champ in MLB history.(2)

Kaline, like Mickey Mantle, suffered from osteomyelitis which resulted in a brittle bone structure and necessitated the removal of a diseased bone from his foot long before Kaline’s debut with the Detroit Tigers.(1)

In 1962 Kaline broke his foot and his foot speed diminished.  Never again would Kaline reach double figures in stolen bases or hit more than 5 triples. (2).

Indeed, Kaline’s career was defined by injuries.  1965 saw foot surgery, 1967 had Kaline breaking a pinky jamming a bat back into its rack and most famously having his left forearm broken by an errant pitch delivered by Lew Krausse of the Oakland A’s in 1968.(3).

Mr. Kaline played 2384 games over 22 seasons.  Given his talent it is reasonable to guess that Kaline missed about 500 games with bone-related maladies.

From 1963-1968, in what my old customer Dave called the “ERA era,”  runs scored in both leagues plummeted as the number of night games increased annually and  Little League trained hurlers threw from 15” mounds at a strike zone expanded in 1963.

Along with Kaline’s various injuries this produced a dampening effect on hitting stats.  Indeed quite a few players; Kaline’s Tiger teammate, 1960-1963,  Rocky Colavito comes to mind, saw their careers shortened by this phenomena of  my baseball boyhood.

Indeed, Kaline’s 399 HRs stand as a talisman of the Hall of Very Good(HOVG).(2)

So, how good was Kaline anyway?

Unlike Henry Aaron, Kaline is not an all-time great.  Kaline never scaled the Olympian heights of Frank Robinson or Roger Maris.  While Rocky Colavito wasn’t a high BA guy and not nearly Kaline’s equal in the field Colavito did hit 40+ HRs 3 times(2) while Kaline’s apex was his 29 HRs in his 100 game 1962.(2)

Yin/Yang was a concept I learned of while attending Jr. High Religious Education at North Shore Unitarian Universalist(NSUU) in Plandome, Long Island.

Yin/Yang applies very well to the cosmic baseball duality of Al Kaline and Roberto Clemente.

Roberto Clemente was my brother’s first favorite professional athlete in any sport and indeed may very well still be.

Kaline was great early, then an All Star, and pretty good at the end.

Clemente was pretty good early, then an All Star and great at the end.

Kaline’s greatness came when he had conquered his initial physical challenge and before their chronic nature had worn him down.

Clemente had a variety of woes; among them the after effects of malaria and misaligned back discs.  Clemente’s greatness came during these episodes.

Kaline’s greatness occurred prior to the increase in the size of the strike zone in 1963 and at a time when the American league was significantly less talented than the National League.

Clemente’s greatness came when the strike zone was expanded and the National league was significantly more talented than the American League.

Kaline hit for significantly more power, even though both Kaline and Clemente topped out with 29 HR; with Kaline’s in his 100 game 1962 season and Clemente with 29 in his MVP 1966 season.(2)

Kaline ran well prior to 1963 but was never as fast as Clemente.

Clemente retained his speed and added power as he aged.

Kaline lead AL RFers in Put Outs 5 times, 3 times in Assists , 5 times in Fielding Percentage and won 10 Gold Gloves.(2)

Clemente lead NL Rfers in Put Outs twice, 12 times in Assists; leading all of MLB 5 times, and won 12 Gold Gloves.(2) 

Clemente also lead NL RFers 6 times in errors!(2)

Kaline fielded grounders on 1 knee and flashed his glove to true his throw to the cut-off man.

YouTube(3) video of Kaline show him warming up before the World Series with his old school fundamentals.(3)

YouTube video of Clemente shows a wayward rush to pick up the ball on the move and javelin the ball to the infield.(3)

Mr. Kaline hit 399 HRs and amassed 3007 hits along with 15 All Star nods.(2)

Mr. Clemente had 240 Hrs and amassed 3000 hits along with 12 All Star nods.(2)

Kaline won 1 batting title with his .340 in 1955.(2)

While Clemente won in 1961, 1964, 1965 and 1967.(2)

Kaline was the 12th. player to garner 3000 hits.(1)

Clemente was the 11th. player to garner 3000 hits.(1)

Kaline had a greater career by the virtue of his power and .376 OBP, both of which are greater than Clemente’s .359 OBP.(2)

Clemente’s peak was greater and he played in a significantly better league.

The first winner of the Roberto Clemente Humanitarian Award in 1973 was…Al Kaline!(1)

Al Kaline played with a talented Tiger cast from 1961-1968.  Denny McLain, Mickey Lolich, Jim Bunning, Dick McAuliffe, Bill Freehan, Willie Horton, Norm Cash and Rocky Colavito all garnered All Star nods.(2)

Yet, Mr. Kaline won only the 1968 World Series trophy.  As mentioned Mr. Kaline missed a good deal of the 1968 season after having his forearm fractured.

Kaline returned at the end of the season and was playing well as Tiger manager Mayo Smith juggled Jim Northrup. Mickey Stanley and Kaline in a 3-guys-for-2 positions roulette.

With shortstop Ray Oyler having “hit” a lusty .135 Mayo Smith threw the dice and inserted CFer Mickey Stanley at shortstop.

It worked and the Tigers won the only World Series of Kaline’s career.

Kaline hit .379 for the 7 game triumph over the St. Louis Cardinals.(2) 

Mr. Kaline’s singular greatest accomplishment may have been his 2 run go-ahead single off Joe Hoerner in Game 5 held in Tiger Stadium to power Mickey Lolich to the 2nd. of the 3 wins Lolich would notch in the 1968 world Series.(3)

My 6th. Grade teacher Mrs. Mendenhall had been a Phys. Ed. teacher and brought out the TV so that we could watch the World Series which began at 1 P.M.  Mrs. Mendenhall was enough of a fan to let us boys watch until 3:30; even when the school day had ended at 2:45.

The Tigers rebounded from a 3-1 deficit to defeat Bob Gibson in Game 7.  Jim Northrup hit a grand slam in Game 2 and the Game 7 go-ahead hit on a triple that slid past Curt Flood on a rain-slicked field.  Mickey Stanley played O.K. at short.

The 1968 World Series was the fist time I bet on a sporting event.  I had $5 committed in wagers which was quite the princely sum for an 10 year old with a .75  allowance.  Collecting $1 from my 6th. Grade teacher Mrs. Mendenhall and $1 from Mr. Heinz, our Phys Ed. teacher at Flower Hill in Port Washington, Long Island remains one of the most exciting things I have ever experienced and that is true to this very day…

…Mr. Heinz walked out of the back of Flower Hill school into the asphalt “field” formed by the nexus of the Carrie Palmer Weber Junior High School and the football stands for  Paul D. Schreiber High School where I was flinging my rubber-covered hardball against a brick wall emblazoned with handball dimensions and a chalked strike zone

My goal was to be better than the 7th. guy picked for the 4 on 4 “4 ball” self hitting games always springing up on the front lawn of Flower Hill and Weber.  If I could only be picked 6th. then…

“Practice makes perfect,” said Coach Heinz before flashing the tight closed-mouth smile that punctuated all he did.

I shrugged sheepishly, loath to acknowledge the importance of this achievement to a pudgy 10 year old.

“Let me see that again,” he said with a chin nod that preempted any anxiety that performing in front of “Coach” may have produced.

I cranked up and threw as hard as I could achieving considerable velocity only to be crestfallen as I had missed the chalk strike zone by several feet.

Coach Heinz was a nice man who lived to make his students better.

“I see you have an Al Kaline bat.  Kaline throws very well.   Now have your front shoulder at about 1 o-clock,” he said wheeling his shoulders into place.

“Put the ball behind your neck and point your front elbow at the strike zone,” he said, demonstrating as he spoke.  Without any apparent effort the ball flew to the strike zone hitting the brick wall with a profound PLOCK! and 1-hopping to my glove.

“Nice stab, Steve.  So your front shoulder is at 1, the ball is behind your neck, your elbow is pointed at the zone, so just go straight over the top and the ball will go where your elbow points,” he continued.

I began to get the sense that Coach Heinz had done this instructional before so I wheeled my shoulders, pointed my elbow and fired.  The ball was within a foot of the strike zone.

“Pretty good, but I know you can do better,” said Coach with the very same tight lipped smile.

“Now when you grip the ball,” taking the Spalding rubber-covered hardball from my Ray Culp MacGregor glove, “Have your fingers across the seams and that will true the ball.  Take your time, no one is keeping score.”

I nodded hurriedly,  gripped the ball across the seams, wheeled my shoulders, pointed my elbow and fired.

Miraculously the ball hit the strike zone with a resounding PLOCK!

“Good one,” exclaimed Coach.

“Now do it again.”

Muscle memory was a foreign concept to this chubby 10 year old but wanting to be picked better than 7th. was very close to my heart.

I repeated the form and there was another strike!  My heart was racing.

Coach rewarded me with a closed mouth smile once again.

“Hey, is that really your bat?” Coach inquired, spying my bat leaning against the connective hall between Flower Hill and Weber.

“Yes.”

“Ha, an Al KalineAlways one of my favorite players.  He does things right!  Here take the bat, and hold it right by the tape and pinwheel it 25 times.  Then take the bat and twirl it backwards 25 times.  Take a tad off to catch your breath and then repeat 3 more times.  Does this every day and you’re throwing 100 times.  By the summer you should have a strong arm.”

Taking the bat I pinwheeled it 25 times forward and 25 times back. Sweat was bursting from my brow.

I was rewarded with the same closed mouth smile.

“Good form.  Keep practicing,” said Coach Heinz as he began strolling to his car.

I pinwheeled and twirled my Al Kaline bat at every opportunity through the Winter although I never counted what would now be known as “reps”.

I became the 6th. picked in 4-on-4 “4 Ball,” a self-hitting baseball game indigenous to Port Washington.

(I have been tempted to put that achievement on my resume’).

For the 6th. Grade Track and Field Day at Flower Hill I competed in the baseball throw; finishing in 2nd. place; ahead of Ernie Jenkins, and just behind Ted Kramer.

For this Coach Heinz presented me with a blue 2nd Place ribbon.

That blue ribbon remained affixed to my bedroom wall at 42 North Bayles Ave from 1969 to my last day of residence in 1978.

2nd. place in the Flower Hill 6th. Grade Track & Field day is my proudest athletic achievement.

(I have been tempted to put that achievement on my resume’).

Al Kaline made me an athlete.

1972 proved to be the last triumph of Kaline’s career as his 21-41 streak in the last 10 games of the season brought Billy Martin’s Bengals to the AL East title clinching the division with the Woody Fryman vs. Luis Tiant of the Red Sox in the match-up of come-backing veterans, before succumbing to the eventual World Champion Oakland A’s.(2)

I was happy for Al Kaline even as I was embarrassed to indulge in my boyhood enthusiasm for the game I no longer played.

In 1974 my brain was occupied by Joni Mitchell’s COURT AND SPARK LP, the fiction of Kurt Vonnegut, the LAPD novels of Joseph Wambaugh and the North Shore Unitarians’ Senior Seminar Religious Education social circle.

I didn’t follow baseball, as it was “too 6th. Grade.”

Al Kaline retired in 1974; DHing and playing some 1st. 

I never mentioned to anyone that I was sad.

1984 found me in Michigan attending to the details of Dad’s passing.  One redeeming factor was watching George Kell and Al Kaline provide the TV commentary for the “Bless You Boys” 1984 World Series Champion Tigers.(3)

To watch Mr. Kaline’s Hall of Fame acceptance speech is to hear virtues which once seemed corny and almost dishonest, uttered with complete sincerity and evident effect.(3)

There is no other way to put it than other that the white, blue collar players of my youth, reared during WW II, had a certain modest charm that resides only in the memories of those who are nearing or beyond 60.

My current home contains a bedspread of multiple hues of blue that Al Kaline’s passing has brought to mind.  It was on my bed in 269 Lincoln Blvd. where I first collected baseball cards and was gifted with Al Kaline’s bat. 

Al Kaline is exactly at this very minute as much a part of my life in 2020 as he was in 1966, 6th. Grade, 1974 and 1984 in Michigan.

Al Kaline’s spirit calls to me, right now.

Al Kaline is the ultimate Hall of Famer.

SOURCES

1) SABR bio.

2) Baseball-reference.com

3)  YouTube

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