Halby's Morsels

Halby’s Morsels: Olympics; Sports in wartime; Baby boomers’ crisis; Voices’ command of language +

 

I was asked by a reader to identify the top ten local baseball voices of all-time with the best commands of the language. So in alphabetical order, these are my top ten and their primary teams. This is not a science. It’s just my opinion off the top of my head. I hope I didn’t miss anyone glaring.

Mel Allen (Yankees), Red Barber (Dodgers and Yankees), Dick Enberg (Angels), Ernie Harwell (Tigers), Bill King (A’s), Ned Martin (Red Sox), Jon Miller (Giants), Lindsey Nelson (Mets), Vin Scully (Dodgers) and Chuck Thompson (Orioles)

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I checked with a reliable industry source about talent salaries during the suspension of sports. What I heard is that most are fine through April 15th. After that, being paid could get iffy.

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With the Olympics pushed back a year, NBC will have to do what it hoped to avoid, market and sell both the Olympics and the Super Bowl in the same selling season. The network will have the Tokyo Olympic games next summer, 2021 and the Super Bowl in Los Angeles on February 6, 2022.

You’ll recall that with the approval of the NFL, CBS and NBC traded Super Bowls 2021 and 2022. Based on the usual scheduling cycle, NBC would have had the next Super Bowl, the game in Tampa on February 7, 2021 and CBS the 2022 Super Bowl. But NBC was eager to lighten the preparatory load heading into the Olympics and not have to get ready for both big events at roughly the same time. But now NBC has no choice with the Tokyo games pushed back. The network faces an enormously busy winter and spring next year. Its sales and production troops will be getting ready for two huge events in close proximity.

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Crisis big and small introduce new words into our daily vernacular. When the results of the 2000 presidential election focused on ballots in Florida, the word chad was often used. Chads were the rectangular holes punched by voters into the ballot next to each candidate’s name. The election boards and even judges in several Florida counties examined many of these chads with magnifying glasses when recounting ballots.

In 2008, during the country’s great financial crisis, the acronym CDO became part of our jargon. CDOs turned into an anathema. For those who forgot, credit default obligations are financial products backed by a pool of loans and other assets. They contributed to poisoning the economy. Another, of course, was sub-prime lending which was the bane of the financial crisis.

Now, relatively new words are heard daily like pathogen, defined as a causative agent of disease. What’s likely to stick for at least this generation is social distancing. Then there’s epidemic, a disease that spreads over a wide spread area and makes many ill at the same time versus pandemic that affects an even greater portion of the population.

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In an interview in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times, Al Michaels said, he can imagine “sporting events taking place without crowds in the coming months, but that he has a hard time envisioning people sitting shoulder-to-shoulder anytime soon.”

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Frightening times during baby-boomer years, spelled out chronologically:

The coronavirus has us frozen in an almost catatonic state. We’re being weighed down by fuzzy guidelines, helplessness and uncertainty. Thank God for electronic communication, social media and eCommerce. Let’s also appreciate today’s extensive technology which continues to lighten the blow somewhat by enabling many of us to work at home. Imagine if this had happened 25 years ago!

Time to take stock historically. These are formidable and daunting events that baby boomers have suffered through their lives. I identified these events through the lens of someone who was reared in New York. Most though pertain to all American baby boomers.

Nikita Khrushchev, Fidel Castro and John Kennedy (l-r)

1962Cuban missile crisis – It was about as close as the U. S. and the Soviet Union came to nuclear war. The 45 year old U.S. President John F. Kennedy stood up to 68 year old Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. Students in our elementary school in New York were taught to take shelter, albeit who knows what good it would have done. During the twelve day October showdown between the two world powers, there were fears among classmates heading home each day that we may never see each other again.

1963Assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22nd was disheartening, shocking and unsettling. The young president who brought hope to our great country was dead and the nation wept. Two days later, the assumed assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was himself killed by Jack Ruby who died of natural causes in prison. The conspiracy theories began immediately.

1965 – New Yorkers suffered an Electricity Blackout which shut down much of the Northeast. Subways were stopped dead in their tracks. Radio and television stations were knocked off the air. Some were able to get back on air using emergency generators. There was no way to communicate. Cellphones wouldn’t be ubiquitous for another 35 years.

1967 – Israel was being threatened by three of its four neighboring countries. There was great fear in the New York Jewish community and elsewhere across the country over the impending danger to their homeland. Israel though shocked the world winning what was called the Six Day War.

1969 and 1970Vietnam War – Draft Lottery Conscription in the United States lasted from 1946-73. Many in the military came home form Vietnam in body bags. America lost 58,000 soldiers in the Southeast Asian conflict. There were two lottery drafts to determine the order of call to the military. The lower the number the more likely it was to be drafted. Talk about waiting for the final score! Young men of draft age hustled for newspapers with the list of birth dates and their corresponding draft numbers.

1976 – 1977 –  New York was terrorized by the Son of Sam who went on a killing spree targeting young women and often their companions. He then teased newspapers and police, daring them to identify or catch him. By the summer of 1977, young adults walked fearfully through the city. Many were afraid to leave their homes. Richard David Falco, the Son of Sam, admitted to eight separate shootings, killing six people. Falco was sentenced to multiple life sentences. He is still in an Upstate New York prison. The Son of Sam is 66.

1977Electrical Blackout. In contrast to the 1965 blackout this one resulted in looting, criminal activity and arson. (I was at a World Team Tennis match at Madison Square Garden and had a scary and unsettling walk to the other side of town in a pitch black city when the looting began.) It was a particularly tough summer for New York which at the time was beset by a major financial crisis, a killer on the loose in the Son of Sam and the blackout.

20019/11 forced America and Americans to tighten security at airports, office buildings, stadiums and almost any place of mass assembly. We were a more trusting society before the terrorist attacks. Since 9/11, all of us have been forced to strengthen our defensive reflexes.

2008The Great Recession From January, 1973 to December, 1974, the Dow lost 45% of its value. I was just starting in the workplace, fresh off college graduation. I might have had $1,000 saved. All I needed was proverbial beer money. I knew nothing from a stock market. Flash forward 35 years or so to 2008, investments meant lots to baby boomers. The 50% or so hit that the markets took then was indeed devastating to many. 401Ks were called 201Ks.

2020– Coronavirus is a pandemic the likes of which we’ve never faced. It’s shaken all of us to the very core. Stay safe!

A war time president

How history treats President Trump’s leadership during these difficult times is way too early to project. Trump says he and the country are fighting an invisible enemy. Tough to argue. Is Trump considered a wartime president?

Franklin D. Roosevelt held Americans’ hands in the years of World War II. Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt was asked by Commissioner Kenesaw Landis for his thoughts about continuing baseball. Roosevelt unofficially encouraged the commissioner to keep the games scheduled. In a letter dated January 15, 1942, FDR wrote that baseball would serve as a diversion and increase the need for a workforce. He also suggested more night games so that those who work in the day shift can enjoy baseball at night. Roosevelt’s letter is in Baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. A copy is posted below.

The suspension of sports today is a must to contain the spread of the potentially deadly virus. Still, my irrepressible stream of consciousness led me to look up what happened during World War II.

From what I read, Roosevelt didn’t push to continue other sports. A such, colleges suspended their football programs. Due to wartime military service, NFL teams had to merge for a while (e.g. The Steelers and Eagles merged during the 1943 season. The name of the team was Steagles!) The Masters was cancelled for three years. The Olympic games in 1940 and 44 were also wiped out.

Note that in Roosevelt’s letter, he references baseball as a two or two and a half hour game. Not anymore, sir.

Historian Curt Smith wrote this about Roosevelt and baseball:

On January 14, 1942, Baseball Commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis wrote FDR: “I venture to ask what you have in mind as to whether professional baseball should continue to operate.” Next day, Roosevelt read aloud what came to be called “The Green Light Letter.” He said: “I honestly feel that it would be best for the country to keep baseball going. There will be fewer people unemployed and everybody will work longer hours … They ought to have a chance for recreation … Baseball …  in my judgment is thoroughly worthwhile.”

 

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David J. Halberstam

David is a 40-year industry veteran who served as play-by-play announcer for St. John's University basketball in New York and as radio play-by-play voice of the Miami Heat in South Florida. He is the author of Sports on New York Radio: A Play-by-Play History.

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Jeff
Jeff
4 months ago

David, I would add a few — the assassinations of MLK and RFK. Also the Rodney King riots and some various parts of the OJ Simpson investigation, Bronco chase and trial results to your list.