April, 2012

22 Apr 2012, by

It’s out!!!

Susan and I went out of town this weekend, and when we got home this afternoon, she noticed a box on the front steps of our house. When she grabbed it, she saw that it was from the Kent State University Press, which could mean only one thing: I had gotten my author copies of You Stink! Major League Baseball’s Terrible Teams and Pathetic Players! After 38 years of waiting, I can finally hold the culmination of my idea.

I’m wearing the hat of the 1969 Seattle Pilots in the photo. The Pilots are one of the teams profiled in You Stink!, so I thought it appropriate to wear their hat for the first photo of me holding a copy of the book. In my humble opinion, that’s the ugliest hat ever worn in the history of the Major Leagues, so it’s also appropriate for the subject matter of the book.

Please visit our You Stink!blog for more fun stories, and please contact me if you’re interested in acquiring a copy of the book.

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2012 is a memorable year for the commemoration of historical events. The sesquicentennial of the Civil War continues. The bicentennial of the war of 1812 is celebrated this year. And today marks the centennial of the sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic. Given my lifelong fascination with the sinking of the Titanic, I would be remiss if I did not at least mention it here, off topic as it may be.

I’ve long been fascinated by shipwrecks. Perhaps it stems from the fact that the anchor of the U.S.S. Maine rests in my hometown of Reading, Pennsylvania, and I went on a childhood search to learn the story of that big anchor in the park. I have a small shelf full of books on the sinking of the Titanic, and we made a special trip to Chicago to see the traveling museum exhibit of artifacts from the sunken liner. The arson fire that destroyed the Morro Castle in 1934 has long fascinated me. I have several books on the sinking of the Andrea Doria in 1959. Even the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald intrigues me. I have read several books on its tragic ending. I’m sure that when the books begin to appear on the wreck of the Costa Concordia, I will invest in them too.

None, however, hold sway over the public’s imagination like the Titanic. Certainly, James Cameron’s movie stirred another generation’s fascination. Personally, I could have done without the distracting love story, but the footage of the shipwreck and Cameron’s slavishly and eerily accurate recreation of the ship made the mawkish story of Jack and Rose tolerable. The scene at the beginning of the movie where the image transitions from the shipwreck to the promenade deck of the recreated ocean liner alone was worth the price of admission.

I’ve read a bunch of books about the tragic ship and her only voyage, and I find myself just as drawn to it today as I did the first time I ever read A Night to Remember as a boy. The story of the bravery of the musicians, as one example, as they continued to play even as they knew they were doomed, has always been very moving to me. The courage, bravery and dignity of the male first-class passengers, such as John Jacob Astor, one of the wealthiest men alive, as they stepped aside to allow women and children to board the lifeboats awes me. The quiet dignity of these men changing into their finest clothes so that they could die like gentlemen inspires me. The story of Isadore and Ida Strauss choosing to die together even though Ida could have taken a spot in a lifeboat has always moved me too. The story of the cowardice of Bruce Ismay, who refused to do the honorable thing and go down with his ship equally repels me. The human toll is what I find most fascinating. And being a dog lover, the story of the dogs of the Titanic is equally compelling. I have always wanted to visit the cemetery in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where so many of the victims of the disaster were buried, and it’s on my bucket list of places to go.

Often overlooked in the tragedy of the Titanic is the eerily similar fate of her sister ship, the R.M.S. Britannic. Britannic was the largest of the three sister ships, and she also sank. She was launched just before the outbreak of World War I, and was used as a hospital ship during the Great War. In that role she struck a mine off the Greek island of Kea, in the Kea Channel on November 21, 1916, and sank with the loss of 30 lives. Only the R.M.S. Olympic, the third sister ship, managed to avoid the fate of her sisters.

Let’s not forget the 1,514 souls that departed this earth one hundred years ago today when the Titanic sank.

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I wanted to take a moment to explain why there haven’t been a lot of substantive posts from me recently, and I wanted to apologize to you for that.

On July 4, 2007, my father had a massive cerebral hemorrhage five weeks before his 87th birthday. It was the sort of stroke that normally kills the victim. The only reason why he survived is because it was far enough to the outside of his brain that he never lost consciousness. Fortunately, my mother recognized that something was wrong and called 911. There is a level-1 trauma center roughly two miles from their house, which meant that my father got treatment within the so-called “golden hour.” They were able to reverse a lot of the damage, but the stroke destroyed his speech center. Very little of the constant flow of gibberish that comes out–he lost his filter with the stroke–can be understood, so communicating is exceedingly difficult for him. He gets very frustrated when people don’t understand him because he does not realize that there is a major disconnect between his brain and his mouth, and to him, he makes perfect sense.

The stroke also sent him spiraling down the rabbit hole into dementia. He’s now 91, and has the mentality of a five year old. He cannot be alone at all, and can do very little for himself. As of a week ago, he still knows who I am, but I harbor no illusions that that will continue much longer. I view these last nearly five years as borrowed time. Because Susan and I have paid for it, we’ve managed to keep him at home with help, but those days are rapidly coming to an end for his own safety and well-being.

My mother has also started down the same rabbit hole. She is 87 and presently has mild to moderate dementia. She had two bad falls in a week and was hospitalized after the second one. She was released yesterday and was involuntarily sent to a local nursing home for a rehab stint. She is the only person on the face of this earth who doesn’t think that she needs to be in a nursing home, and she’s determined to make everyone else just as miserable as she is. We’ve never had a good relationship, as we are two completely different people, she does not understand me, and I have never understood her. The dementia has brought about negative personality changes that have made her substantially more difficult to deal with than she was previously. She’s combative, demanding, and very unpleasant to deal with most of the time. The phone rings constantly with one unreasonable demand after another, regardless of what I’m doing or whether I have time to speak to her and have the same conversation again and again and again. I am subjected to a constant barrage of emotional and verbal abuse, and it just exhausts me. The bottom line is that I just don’t have the tools or energy to handle this ordeal, but there is no escape.

I recognize that I am very fortunate to still have both of my parents at the age of 51, and I try never to take that fact for granted. However, as this situation grows worse and worse, and as my nerves get more and more frayed, that becomes more and more difficult to do.

I am an only child, and I live 400 miles away from where they live. I’ve had to bear this burden alone, with only Susan to fall back on. Aside from the financial burden, the emotional toll has been terrible. I won’t bore you with the details of what I’ve been subjected to, as nobody really cares. I only bring any of this up because it has dramatically impacted my productivity. This never-ending and ever worsening ordeal drains me emotionally and mentally, and leaves me completely exhausted at the end of each day. It’s all I can do to make myself get up and go to work each day–which I have to do for financial reasons and because I have employees who depend on me–but by the time I get home at night, I am so tired and emotionally drained that I just cannot muster up the degree of intense focus needed to sit down and write to the level of excellence that I demand of myself. Instead, I simply don’t have the emotional energy to do much more than be a video idiot in front of the television for a few hours until 10:30 at night, at which time I drag myself upstairs and crawl into bed. Consequently, I have not written a word in months, largely because I just don’t have it in me right now. It also means that I lack the focus to tackle anything ambitious here, which is why there have been so few forgotten cavalrymen posts or other items of substance lately.

I tell you this not because I seek your sympathy, but rather because I feel that I owe you all an explanation and an apology. I think that I finally have mustered up some energy to go back to writing–I have projects that need to be completed, and time inevitably marches on–and I intend to do so this weekend. If I’m right about being able to muster up some focus and some motivation, then hopefully more substantive posts will begin rolling out again very soon. All I can say is that I’m sorry. It hasn’t been intentional, and it surely hasn’t been something I ever wanted to have happen. Life, such as it is, interfered, and all I can do is to try to keep on doing the best I can to manage the situation.

Thank you for your patience. My interactions with you here mean more to me than I can possibly say.

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My co-author Michael Aubrecht and I have launched our You Stink! blog as we count down the days until the publication of the book. The blog will feature lots of fun stuff, including material that we had to cut out of the book for purposes of length. We will also look at those noteworthy epic fails that take place over the course of the coming season.

Please check out the You Stink! blog. We hope you will enjoy it.

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I’ve watched the whole “Virginia flaggers” thing play out for some time with great amusement. For those unaware of this idiotic phenomenon, I refer you to Kevin Levin’s coverage of this stupid practice. The idea is that “defenders” of “Southern heritage” protest decisions not to exhibit the Confederate battle flag by “flagging” in public places. I’ve watched this whole moronic scenario play out for a number of months now, but haven’t said anything about it in public before today. The reason is that I find the whole thing to be so galactically stupid that I haven’t wanted to dignify it by giving it coverage here.

This all fits into the idea expounded by some of the leaders of the so-called “Southern heritage” movement that Confederate heritage has nothing to do with historical accuracy, which, of course fits squarely into the context neo-Confederate doctrine. In other words, the truth is irrelevant so long as you romanticize it and make it your own. You will find an excellent example of this neo-Confederate nonsense here. Corey Meyer, Brooks Simpson, and Kevin Levin have done such a superb job of covering this ridiculousness that there’s been no reason for me to get involved.

However, today’s events at the dedication of the new Appomattox branch of Museum of the Confederacy have finally made me say that it’s time to address this stupidity. The SCV and the “flaggers” are all up in arms over the fact that the MOC, believing the Confederate battle flag to be a divisive symbol, has decided not to fly the battle flag outside the new museum. As a result, and as Kevin Levin reports, the response of the “flaggers” and the SCV has been to call visitors and executives of the MOC such mature names as “scalawags” and, even better, “stink faces.” How are we supposed to take seriously any adult who actually calls someone a “stink face”? The only words that I can some up with to describe these people and their idiotic “flagging” are “galactically stupid.”

The terribly classy approach of these knuckle-draggers is amply demonstrated by the photo posted above, which was taken today at the Appomattox museum. Click on the photo to see a larger version of the image in which you can read the warm and loving message behind the airplane. Very classy and elegant, isn’t it?

I’ve had extensive dealings with the management of the Museum of the Confederacy over the years, and I know them to be serious professionals dedicated to preserving the real history of the Confederacy (as opposed to making things up, as these neo-Confederates are so fond of doing). They most assuredly do not deserve the abuse heaped upon them by the SCV and the “flaggers”, and I commend them for sticking to their guns on this moronic issue.

And congratulations on your excellent new facility. I hope it thrives in spite of the efforts of these morons, whom I hereby declare the winners of the coveted title of worst proponents of neo-Confederate hooey of the year for 2012.

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