Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Here's your ticket, and the cost is ... $220

      Took a $220 right turn at a "STOP" sign this morning.
      Received my first ticket in a dozen years for it. Did not deserve it. 
      But Mr. Motorcycle Cop -- excuse me, Mr. Motorcycle Policeman -- said I did. We disagreed, and it was not a pleasant conversation.
      I did not like it. I do not like it. 
      I told him at the end of our little disagreement -- after he handed me the ticket (and he did not have me sign a summons), I would challenge it. He said I had that right. 
      (I ended up not doing so. More on that below.)
The dastardly STOP sign and
intersection, today's troublemaker.
      This is one of life's no-win situations. When you fight the law -- especially on a simple stop-sign violation -- the law is going to win. You can take it to court and challenge it, but the fight is not worth the hassle.
      This was a stop sign we encounter 4-5-6 times a week, less than a mile from our apartments. It is often a busy intersection, traffic rolling off the nearby parkway or headed toward the busy University Drive and/or Interstate 30.
      So I darned well know the stop sign is there, and I always stop, and make sure nothing is rolling past us or turning from the other direction. (It is a three-way stop.)
      At any stop sign, I make sure the car rocks back a bit before I continue on. Have made a habit of that for years. Try to never dart out into the intersection, even delay a count.
      OK, I am coming back to this, and explain why I know I stopped and why I got the ticket. Hint: I was not the only one stopped.
      First, though, we went on to our intended destination -- the Wednesday yoga/stretching workout with Ms. Lorie at the downtown Central YMCA.
      Amazing how well you can exercise if you are a little fired up. I did have a slight pain in the back, but then -- thanks to the ticket -- I already had an encountered a pain in the butt.
      Here is why I know I stopped:      
Stopped here, the angle to the
left is where the motorcycle
policemen were sitting,
clearly within view.
-- As I came to the corner, I looked to my left and saw the two motorcycle policemen stopped at their stop sign as they had come off the parkway. So I knew they were there. You think I wasn't being careful?

      -- At any stop sign, I make sure the car rocks back a bit before I continue on. Have made a habit of that for years. Try to never dart out into the intersection, even delay a count.
      -- Bea, in the passenger's seat, was as surprised as I was. "They're pulling you over?" she asked. I thought maybe I had not turned on my right-turn blinker. To be told that I had not stopped properly was stunning.
      -- These two motorcycle guys, I contend, were intentionally looking to hand out tickets. 
      Moments after I stopped and the one officer -- I know the name, but I will keep it to myself -- approached me, the other officer pulled over two more cars. So there were three of us on the left side pulled over on the left side of the road.
      Maybe it was because it is Fort Worth Invitational golf week at nearby Colonial, and it is a busy, busy area. Maybe Fort Worth needs the money. Maybe these guys were trying to justify their existence. Maybe they were bored.
      Maybe they were being hard asses. My guy sure acted like it. 
      OK, he didn't like it that when he came up, and made his check to see all our licenses/tags were in order, asked for my driver's license and as he was punching in on his hand computer, I asked -- not happily -- "Why did you pull me over?" 
      He asked me why I was asking him that, that he didn't understand my question. I replied: "What did I do? (More loudly) "I STOPPED THE CAR." 
      He did not like that, any more than I liked his attitude. "Because I said you ran the stop sign," he told me. Don't think he appreciated me questioning his judgement and he told me I "was being disrespectful."
      His attitude basically was "because I said so."
      Then he told me to get in the car and wait for him to bring me the ticket.
      When he did, I assured him I was not trying to be disrespectful. I do have a lot of respect for law officers; I know how tough their jobs can be. We all should know that, and respect that.
      I then told him I was not trying to be disrespectful, but I wanted to talk to him about my (non)-stop. It was obvious he wasn't going to discuss it any further.
      He felt, as an officer, he had the right to stop me -- and he does. I felt, as a citizen, he made an incorrect judgement.
      Felt to me, with the others also pulled over, they were on a mission.
      Guess he did not have to explain himself, and I know they should be business-like; they are not there for chit-chat. But my guy seemed pretty full of himself, self-important, entitled, arrogant. Sorry I feel that way. He likely felt that way about me. Obviously he did not like me questioning -- or challenging -- him.
      Also, it seems as if this is a nitpicking violation/situation. No harm done, no one endangered. In basketball, the rule is "no harm, no foul." OK, I am whining.
      I am not a great driver (right, Laurin Baum?), never have been. But I am a respectful and courteous one -- use my blinker even with no one around, try not to speed or switch lanes carelessly (not careful enough at times), never honk my horn at anyone (haven't for years, don't believe in it), let people cut in front (sometimes to my wife's dismay), try not to swerve or crowd the car in front of me, stop at stop signs.
      Swerving caused my last ticket -- also undeserved -- at 12:30 a.m. leaving downtown Fort Worth after work. A group of kids in a convertible pulled up next to me at a stop light, loud and likely to have had some soda pops. So I swerved right to avoid their intrusion; unfortunately, a police car behind me pulled me over. He thought I was the one who had been drinking. I was too tired to be disrespectful that night.
      It was 12 years ago; in fact, the address the Fort Worth municipal courts system -- where fines are paid -- had for us was in North Richland Hills, two residences ago.
      So I have to rationalize this. Figure that one violates driving laws from time to time -- run a red light, go over the speed limit, drive recklessly (but not intentionally reckless) ... whatever. And you are not ticketed because no police is around.
      Today the timing was such that the motorcycle guys arrived at the stop-sign intersection just as we did. That's the way it goes. There was no stopping those guys' intent. 
      Went downtown in early afternoon, was sent -- after some paperwork -- to the traffic-court judge and she gave me my options.
      A trial date? No thanks. My word against the policeman's word (and if he brought his partner, it's one-against-two).
      The pro tem judge -- let's call her a veteran judge -- was nice enough, willing to set the court date. Said court costs would be involved. Asked her what my chances were, and she told me discussing that was not her task.
      Pay the fine and probation? OK. And the cost is ... ? Answer: court costs $102.10; special expense fee $117.90. That's $220. Go to the cashier window and pay.
      It is not so much the money; we have it. It is the principle. The word of a man with an officer's badge is stronger than a 70-year-old driving -- driven -- to exercise.
       Going to cut way back on our driving soon, and planning to give up the car. As for the money, believe me I have found more on my walks this year. But it does cut into the profit margin.
      Told the judge that I was going to write about this. "Be sure you say that you had options," she said. Assured her I would be fair ... "unlike the guy this morning," I added.
      I think she laughed. But if not, fine. I already paid mine.
      Sure that Fort Worth needs the cash. Maybe to pay the police.

Friday, May 4, 2018

A package sent to Europe (on a return trip)

      Today we had two pieces of artwork -- wrapped in a nice package -- sent to our cousin Heleen in Belgium.
      That is a simple sentence. The significance of the artwork and package is more than simple. It is, we think, a good story.
       These are pen-and-ink sketches of two scenes in The Netherlands: (1) a typical Amsterdam canal setting and (2) boats in a small river.
       Nothing fancy, not spectacular. But the sentimental value is -- to borrow a phrase -- priceless.
       What is important to us is that our family -- first Mom and Dad, then us -- has had these longer than I have been alive. So more than 70 years. They came with us from Amsterdam to Shreveport, and after July 2010, to Fort Worth.
       Now they are returning to Europe -- going home, in a sense. We are pleased to send them where they will be as greatly appreciated as they have been by us.
       The artist was Philip Kopuit. He was my mother's uncle; her mother's brother.
       He drew them before the Holocaust. He might have drawn them (don't know this for sure) while he, his wife and his pre-teen son, Maurits Kopuit, were hidden in South Holland, hidden from the Nazis.
       Philip, sadly, died during that time; he was only 39. Heart disease.
       Maurits was my mother's first cousin, her closest relative after World War II (until she married Dad). He would become editor of the Jewish newspaper in Amsterdam; in my opinion -- and I wrote a blog on him three years ago -- a brilliant writer, student of human nature ... and a funny, funny man.
       His mother, our aunt Helena (Lena, we called her), lived two houses over from us in Amsterdam for my first 8 1/2 years. She gave Mom these two pieces of artwork some time between 1945 and 1947. 
       They were in our little house with the paper-thin walls in Amsterdam; they hung for years in my parents' houses in Shreveport; for 41 years in what was my sister Elsa's old bedroom in South Broadmoor.
       Bea and I have been downsizing for years, and we did not have room to hang these two framed pieces. But now they are out of the closet.
With Heleen, April 2013, Amsterdam
       Elsa suggested that we offer them to Philip Kopuit's grandchildren, Maurits' children -- Heleen in Antwerp, Philip in Israel (both named for Maurits' parents). Elsa and I share great grandparents (Kopuit family) with them.
       Heleen gladly, thankfully, accepted.                
       We took the pieces to a nearby art dealer's gallery. Bea has done business there previously, trusted the owner would care for the pieces (at plus-70, they are as fragile as we are), and so he carefully packaged them for overseas shipping, tightly sealing them (varnish was the last step).
      We think Heleen (and husband Jacky) -- so gracious when they came from Antwerp to Amsterdam to spend an afternoon with us on our visit there in April 2013 -- will treasure having these. Would have been the same if they had gone to Philip (and Puah) in Jerusalem.
       We picked up the package Thursday, took it to FedEx today -- and it is on its way. Maybe it is not right to ask for prayers for a package of artwork, but let's do it.
       Happy to keep these in the family. Our sense of pride in this artwork indeed is priceless.

Monday, April 23, 2018

What's in a nickname: Tech's Blond Bomber

     So, in case you were wondering 50 years later about the best of Terry Bradshaw's nicknames ...
     My old buddy, O.K. "Buddy" Davis, was wondering Saturday when he sent this text: "Can u give me background on when you, Paul Manasseh came up with the Blond Bomber nickname?
     "Can't recall my input, either," he added.
     So because it was yesterday -- well, 1968, actually -- this required a little research. Hello, microfilm on
     It is not exactly what we have thought for decades.
     We always have given the credit to Paul Manasseh, the veteran sports publicist from Shreveport who that fall was the sports information director at Louisiana Tech University. 
     He had one student assistant (me, a senior at Tech) and one regular office visitor who helped us in SID work, Ruston Daily Leader sports editor Buddy Davis, a recent Tech graduate.
In 1967 and 1968, Terry Bradshaw still
had hair on top of his head, and it was
very blond ... so "The Blond Bomber."
     Bradshaw, everyone at Tech knew, was a huge talent, but going into that season had never started a college game. He did not have a nickname, as we remember it.  
      But soon his talent blossomed, and he was on his way to being the best quarter back in college football -- at any level (Tech was an NCAA Division II team, but Terry could have played for any "major"). Proof: In January 1970, he was the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. You likely know the rest.
     Oh, the nickname ...
     Manasseh -- wise media person, personable, guiding force for many budding sportswriters/broadcasters as, after nine months at Tech, he moved on to 14 years as SID at LSU -- loved Bradshaw's talent (heck, all of us at Tech did). Began writing and talking about it soon after he took the Tech job in July.
     Shortly into the season -- which began with Bradshaw, in his first start, starring in a victory against a "major," Mississippi State (albeit a weak one -- 0-8-2 -- that year), Manasseh tagged Terry with two nicknames: (1) "The Rifleman" and (2) "The Blond Bomber."
     Those references were made in releases sent out from the Tech SID office.
     For years -- and I noted this in an April 14, 2012, blog piece on Bradshaw -- Manasseh, Buddy and I have received credit for those nicknames. Thanks, but it ain't exactly so.
     Because Buddy and I have kidded each other for more than 50 years, I replied to his text Saturday by saying, "Think Manasseh came up with it and you took the credit." 
     Buddy's comeback: "We all did (football emoji) (smiley face)."
     Now the real kicker: Don't believe Manasseh was the originator, either. He adopted it, and adapted it.
     It was not original. Actually, it was a takeoff on "The Brown Bomber," longtime heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis in the 1940s.
      Looked this up: "Blond Bomber" was used -- several times -- by pro wrestlers, and by a body builder (Dave Draper) earlier in the 1960s, and there was a 1954 TV show, Adventures of the Falcon, with an episode titled "The Blond Bomber."
     And reading about a book a couple of years ago about Texas' football legends, we noted that Bobby Layne -- the 1940s University of Texas and then 1950s Detroit Lions' great quarterback -- was nicknamed, yes, "The Blond Bomber."
     In Louisiana, though, the first blond bomber reference -- note, it was lower case -- we could find in 1968 for Bradshaw was by sports editor/columnist Bill Carter of the Alexandria Town Talk in a Sept. 27 story (the week after the Mississippi State game). He had not used it in a column effusively touting Bradshaw's promise eight days earlier.
     So here is what I think happened (feel free to correct us, if you have a better version):
     Manasseh was very good friends with Carter, and saw his blond bomber reference in the Alexandria paper. Paul picked up on it for Tech releases, and changed it a bit: He upper-cased it.  
     Ah, from then on, Tech's Blond Bomber. It caught on.
     Buddy loved it, I loved it, and we began using it ... a lot ... for years and years.
     So did all the Louisiana sportswriters; it become commonplace. For instance, we found references in columns in the next month by The Shreveport Times' Larry Powell, Jim McLain and Bill McIntyre.
     McLain, in fact, doubled up, starting his post Tech-Northwestern State column -- the one after the Bradshaw-to-Ken Liberto, 82-yard winning TD pass with 13 seconds remaining -- by calling Terry "The Rifleman" and later "The Blond Bomber."
     (McLain, too, first used "The White Knight" nickname for Joe Ferguson -- like Bradshaw a star QB at Woodlawn High -- in 1967 because great offensive-line protection allowed Ferguson's white jersey, when his team wore white, to remain spotless through games.)
     "The Rifleman" nickname was a natural because of the very popular 1960s television series.Terry had the "rifle" right arm and he much resembled Chuck Connors, the 6-foot-6 baseball major leaguer-turned-actor who starred as Lucas McCain, with his ever-present, often-used rifle.
     "Blond Bomber," too, was a natural. Terry then still had hair growing on top of his head -- first a crewcut, then a little longer and combed over -- and that hair was more white than blond. Plus, he could throw long passes on target -- bombs -- as well as anyone we've seen.
     (By the way, we have seen it written often as Blonde Bomber. No, not for Terry. We are not grammar experts, but our understanding is that blond is masculine and blonde is feminine. So there.)
     In time, Bradshaw would become the Pittsburgh Steelers' "Blond Bomber." But I don't remember hearing him ever talk about nicknames. 
     To him, that was never as important as winning football games -- and he was very good at that, and nearly as good as he has been in his show business/football analyst career. 
     Outspoken, yes. Crazy, goofy, funny ... certainly. He has played those roles well. Also, a helluva lot smarter than we all realized. 
     Criticize him if you want, but that doesn't play well with me. He has represented Shreveport-Bossier and Louisiana Tech well through the years.
     Does not matter who gets credit for the nickname. It worked, and it remains a cherished part of a football legend. We were there for its genesis.
      Terry Bradshaw, The Blond Bomber. (How many times have we written that?)   


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Remembering the Holocaust ... and Charlottesville

Rose and Louis (The Shreveport Times photo)
     This Sunday afternoon, I will be thinking of Mom and Dad ... and millions of other people.
     I also will be thinking of last August, and the tumultuous weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia.
     Thinking, remembering, and reflecting. That is what the annual Holocaust Remembrance Service in Shreveport-Bossier is for me. And I am sure Beatrice Van Thyn feels the same, as do many others.
     That is why we attend. To honor those who suffered through the Holocaust, those who paid the ultimate price (6 million Jews, 11 million victims, 60 million altogether -- military, people of the world). Our family lost too soon: four grandparents, two uncles, one aunt, an in-law aunt and uncle, one nephew, and my parents' first spouses. 
     This Sunday (3 p.m. start), I especially will think of Mom. Because the service this year will be in Brown Chapel on the Centenary College campus.
     Special connections: (1) Mom often was a featured speaker at the Shreveport-Bossier Holocaust Remembrance Service; (2) she and Dad, as Holocaust survivors, were among those lighting the 11 eleven candles commemorating the 11 million victims of Nazi occupation/persecution; (3) Mom loved Brown Chapel, was a speaker there several times, and chose it for her memorial service (eight years ago in July).
     As many people remember, for years she spoke publicly about the Holocaust, her experiences in it and in life.
     She wrote prolifically in English, her second language, although I am sure she wrote Dutch to her friends back in the old country. Long takes on her and her original family's Holocaust days; poetry -- most her own, some borrowed -- and letters to the newspapers.
     I am sharing some of those editorial-page letters (saw them again recently as I culled our paper files and created digital files).
     One of her favorite subjects -- and not in a positive manner -- was David Duke. Surprised?
1990 The Shreveport Times
     Is there anyone in the United States, and with Louisiana ties, that is more symbolic of anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and white supremacy advocate? He was the America's leading Nazi wannabe and Grand Wizard (of the Ku Klux Klan), so the answer is ... no.
     Much as I love my home state, it is a forever-stain on Louisiana that he actually had success there politically.
     He was -- among other things -- an elected state representative and a finalist in the 1991 state governor's race, having drawn 80,000 more votes in the primary than the incumbent governor, Buddy Roemer. It took a "Vote for the Crook" campaign for Edwin Edwards to keep a Nazi promoter/sympathizer out of the governor's chair. (Soon enough Edwards and Duke were convicted felons.)  
     Duke is still around, of course, spouting his white trash, and he has enough followers to draw attention ... from those who want to pay attention. 
     Which brings us back to Charlottesville. He was there, he was on camera, and he had plenty of would-be-Nazis company. 
     Just as a reminder, I again watched the "Vice News Tonight" behind-the-scenes coverage of the Nazi/KKK/white-supremacists types ... and the slanted hatred they espouse. It is really head-shaking. Pitiful. Annoying. Obnoxious. And, well, laughable.
     Had my say on this last August:
     Do not care to rehash it any further, except to say that I will not agree with the "many sides," "both sides" were guilty. That argument is an overreach, a misinterpretation.
     And those Nazi/KKK/white supremacists publicly loved that people -- influential people -- are at least partially, if not fully, taking their side, giving them an out or an excuse.
     Of course, this protest also involved the Confederate-hero statue issue -- in this case, Gen. Robert E. Lee -- so the question of slavery, of those clinging to their Southern roots and heritage, was combined with the pro-Nazi cause.
     We could write a whole blog on that. Personally, I like statues; I did a sports page piece on the sports statues in the Fort Worth-Dallas area. But, hey, statues of Stalin and Saddam Hussein -- and for football's sake, Joe Paterno -- came tumbling down. Can you imagine statues of Hitler, Goebbels, Rommel, etc.? Yeah, right. 
     So the Confederate statues symbolize heroes to some, slavery to others. Heritage or shame. There is both sides of this debate.
     But both sides guilty in Charlottesville? C'mon. It is just not right.    
     No, no, no -- one side is bent on hate speech, and prone to violence, eager to provide that violence and, in this case, even defending and slanting the facts about a car driven into the crowd, injuring many and killing one young woman. 
     The other side is sticking up for decency. 
     Even if we disagree on politics and social issues today, I would hope we could agree that David Duke and his cronies are wrong, wrong, wrong. 
     They were waving their Nazi, KKK and Confederate flags, carrying their lit torches through the night, chanting "this is our country" and "blood and soil" -- the Nazi standby from the 1930s -- and "Whose streets? Our streets!" and, the twist on the current-day slogan, "White Lives Matter."
     The decent view is: It is all our country -- no colors needed -- and all lives matter. 
     To equate the thugs in Charlottesville with a left-wing radical shooting bullets rapidly into a Republican baseball practice, we don't consider it the same thing. Our U.S. Congresswoman from the district here in Fort Worth did that in echoing the "both sides" claim, and a couple of people on my Facebook page agreed with her. 
     Mrs. Kay Granger's office is close to where we live, across the street off University Drive, so I took a copy of my blog piece and a short note there. To her credit, she answered with a lengthy, well-done letter and strongly denounced -- twice -- the white supremacists' actions and views.
     She cited the baseball practice shooting as "an example of political violence, and I denounce it as well" and went on to write, "... I cannot imagine that anyone but severe partisans would not agree with my position in denouncing both actions."
     I don't consider myself a severe partisan -- you might -- but that was one man with an obvious mental-health problem (we've heard this description repeatedly in other cases). How many one- or two-person violent acts have we seen here in recent memory?
     One lone wolf, not a mob or a movement. It is not a parallel situation.
     Cannot deny that the counter protesters in Charlottesville -- the anti-fascist group -- were ready for battle, that some went there knowing they would have to fight to protect themselves. History tell us how violent the Nazi/KKK types love to be.
     But the rally itself -- the largest white supremacists gathering in the U.S. in a decade, they bragged -- was the instigator. 
     Look, the Charlottesville movement had a license to protest (so giving that crowd permission was the first problem ... but where do you draw the line on protests?). 
     Tried to tell you before the current administration was in office that there would be plenty of protests. Got lots of criticism for defending the Hamilton cast ("wrong place," "wrong time," "disrespectful). 
     And now you have had the women's marches, the NFL players' national-anthem protests, the young people-led gun-restriction protests, the abortion/anti-abortion protests won't subside, the Black Lives Matter protests. We don't all agree, but -- Lord help us -- we don't want violence.
1994 The Shreveport Times
     So about Charlottesville, it's not anger I feel (although my friend in Holland, daughter of a Holocaust survivor, wrote a note saying she thought that). It's sadness. Sad that the Nazi/KKK/white supremacy loudmouths are there and visible.
     It is, true, a small and loud faction of our society. It is, unfortunately, a growing menace -- again -- in Europe. We don't need to ignore them; we need to pay attention. We need to tell them, often: You are just wrong.
     We don't need to be scared, either. Guarantee you that Rose Van Thyn was not scared of David Duke or any of the others.
     Don't think she ever was in the same room with him. She chose not to be; he had some public appearances in Shreveport-Bossier.
     But one member of our family -- my sister Elsa -- was an LSU student at the same time as Duke in the early 1970s. The other night, when I told her I was going to write this blog, she remembered several times listening to him speak at LSU's Free Speech rallies, almost always wearing his Nazi uniform (as did often on campus).
     And she remembered laughing at how outrageous he was, that while others were denouncing the Vietnam War, Duke was blaming the Jews for it and blaming Jewish women for inciting protests.
      Had my mother seen Duke, she would have gone face to face, toe to toe with him -- well, sort of, at 4-foot-9 and 110 pounds (maybe), perhaps not face to face.
      She did not use bad language, but if there was something she did not like, you knew it. She would not have backed away from David Duke. She would not have been violent, but you could see his always-present bodyguards stepping in, couldn't you? Rose did not need bodyguards. 
      What happened in Charlottesville last year, and the Nazi-type rallies and speeches we read and hear about (too often) are very good reasons why a Holocaust Remembrance Service is important. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Baseball needs a shift in the scoring rules

      Don't want to change how baseball is played, only how to mark it up on the scorebook. My thoughts are on the web site.…/baseball-scorekeeping/
        F5 or F7? That is the question. 
      If you are a baseball person, you might understand this. If you are not, you won't care.
      Those of us old-school baseball purists who -- grimace -- accept that defensive shifts are now part of the game have a suggestion for baseball's rules makers.
      If you don't want to outlaw defensive shifts -- and make people play in the positions as they have for 150 years -- at least change the scoring rules. Change how outs are recorded on the official scoresheet.
      If you have kept a baseball scorebook since you were about 10 years old, if you learned early on that 1 is pitcher, 2 is catcher, 3 is first base, 4 is second base, 5 is third base, 6 is shortstop, and 7-8-9 are outfielders, left to right, think about what happened last Thursday on Opening Day.
      The Houston Astros used a four-man outfield. We've seen it before, we think, over some 60 years of watching the game. But ...
      On his first at-bat this season, Texas Rangers first baseman Joey Gallo -- faced an Astros' defense without a third baseman. Sort of.
Astros' defense against the Rangers' Joey Gallo
      The Astros' third baseman, former LSU star Alex Bregman, was playing in deep left field. Yes, the "5" was playing in the "7" spot. (So was the regular "7" to Bregman's left.) 
      And Gallo, a left-handed hitter -- very much a pull hitter -- flied out to the third baseman ... in deep left field.
      Score it F5 (Bregman's position) or F7 (where he was playing)? First thought I had when it happened. If you have been a scorekeeper, and been paid for it, these things cross your mind.
      Seconds later, we heard the Astros' announcers ask the same question,  and debate it. 
      By current scoring rules, it has to be F5. We're suggesting that it needs changing. 
      It should be changed to reflect the defensive positioning. So maybe make it 7-B (and in the official statistics, give Bregman an outfield putout).  
      Just as if the third baseman -- in the current trend of defensive shifts -- is playing in the shortstop spot, and the ball is hit to him, he should be "6-B." And if the shortstop is on the right side of second base, he should be "4-B."
      A friend this morning suggested that it could be scored F7 (5) to indicate where the ball was caught and the player who caught it. My view is that it could be F5 (7).
      Whatever, it needs changing from the current system.
      A couple of times already this season -- and often in the past couple of years -- we have seen the second baseman, playing in shallow-to-medium right field, field a ground ball and throw the batter out at first base. Against a conventional defense, that is an single.
      So why not make it a 9B-3 putout, or 4(9)-3?
      Simple changes, in our thinking, and more of an indication where the outs were made. 
      But changing baseball scoring rules -- and we have several we could point out need changing, but save that for another time -- is rarely done. 
      If baseball's stats keepers want to be more accurate, and reconstruct games on paper to show what really happened, they need a Plan B, or another way to do it. Shift the system.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

A Holocaust survivor ... a television (behind-the-scenes) legend

      The man's name is Peter Lassally, and he was a television star -- not in front of the camera, but behind the scenes.
     He is known in the TV world as the "host whisperer."
     Some of us who consider The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson the greatest of all television programs know who Peter Lassally is.
     What I did not know until earlier this month is that he (1) is a Holocaust survivor; (2) lived in Amsterdam; and (3) has an Anne Frank connection.
      And that draws my attention. I have known Holocaust survivors from Amsterdam quite well.
      Learned all this from a 9 1/2 minute segment on Lassally during CBS' Sunday Morning program March 11. 
      Lassally was executive producer of Carson's Tonight Show for the bulk of Johnny's 29 years of legendary television.
      After Carson's death early in 2005, I remember Lassally appearing on several programs to talk about Carson's life, career and personality. But Lassally's personal background was not part of those discussions. 
      He was as close to Johnny -- very much a loner despite his show-business persona -- as anyone could be, including Ed McMahon. But Carson was only one of the stars Lassally promoted.
      He produced Arthur Godfrey's television show in the 1960s when Godfrey was, arguably, the medium's biggest star (as he had been on radio previously). After Carson retired, Lassally was executive producer for the late-night shows of David Letterman, Tom Snyder and Craig Ferguson,  and also an advisor for Jon Stewart.
      Thus, the "host whisperer" title. Well-deserved.
      On Sunday Morning, Mo Rocca -- entertaining, informative and usually a bit zany -- was Lassally's  interviewer. No zaniness this time.
      Here, taken from CBS' Sunday Morning web site, is the 2 1/2-minute transcript from the interview pertaining to the Holocaust:
      If Peter Lassally sounds blunt -- even dour at times -- it may have something to do with his life before television. 
      He was born in Germany in 1933. Jewish, the family fled to Holland. For a time, he was in grade school with Anne Frank.
       Lassally: "Well, she wasn't in my class, she was in my sister's class, who told me afterward that she was not a popular girl. I mean, all her experiences were not unusual or strange to me; you hid from the Nazis the best way you could. And we tried and failed."
      When he was 10 his father died. Soon after, he and his sister and mother were sent to the first of two concentration camps [note: Westerbork and Theresienstadt].
      Rocca asked, "Was there ever, in your 25 months in the camps, even just a moment where you sort of forgot where you were?"
      "No. No. Never forgot where you were," Lassally replied. "I remember watching from my window a little baby being swung against the lamppost and, you know, that's what my life was like: Watching them kill an innocent baby in the most brutal way possible."
      Lassally recalls another cruel tactic of his captors, this one psychological: "The middle of the night, word comes to the barracks, 'Everybody outside, form a formation.' You didn't know whether it was a transport going out to another concentration camp, or you'd stand there for hours in the rain, in darkness. And they did it just to scare you and make you nervous. They always had you off-balance."
     Rocca: "So that you were always scared?"
     Lassally: "Always scared. Always scared. Which is what our President is doing."
     He elaborates on his refusal to watch any news programs these days. The video runs another couple of minutes and ends with Lassally reflecting on his life.
     Looking at a photo of Lassally in his TV executive producer days, Mo Rocca says, "What I see is a little bit of wariness. A guy who has seen a lot."
     "I saw a lot, you are right about that," Lassally answered. "I saw plenty. Everywhere!"
       The remaining Holocaust survivors are dwindling, but for us, the story is never diminished. Lassally was among the fortunate; his life -- like that of so many others -- is a tribute to what's possible.
      We never forget those we lost in the Holocaust; personally, the family we never knew.
      Nor do we forget the survivors we knew, the ones we lived with, the ones who were their friends.
      We never forget. Peter Lassally never forgot. 
      Link to the full interview:
      Photos taken from the interview on CBS' Sunday Morning web site 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Butch Williams' life has been one of achievement

         Those of us who for decades have known Wayne Williams Jr. -- always "Butch" to just about everyone -- know that he has been an achiever all his life. And a battler.
     We admire that. We have for all those years.
The Williams family -- at the Frisco (Texas) Bowl, December 2017
     He was, when we first knew him in the mid-1960s, a darned good athlete. Not a superstar, but he was a difference maker. And it was that way in his career, too.
     Whether it was in athletics, as a player and coach, or in education, as a teacher or administrator, he met with success -- and earned respect.  
     He always has been a big man in Minden, Louisiana -- and Webster Parish -- and his family has been a treasured one in that area, especially in education.
     Most proudly, he was -- to use an expression we favor -- the son of the father. Wayne Jr. (Butch) followed Wayne Sr.'s career path -- teaching and coaching, then school administration, from high school principal to the same job:  superintendent of Webster Parish Schools.
     And Irene Williams ("Mama Rene") -- Sr.'s wife, Jr.'s mother -- was right there -- for 34 years the school secretary at Minden High.  
      It was a dynasty of sorts.
The young just-married couple, April 1969
     But Butch's biggest achievement, as I am sure he said repeatedly over the years, is the family he and Ki built over nearly 49 years of marriage.
     She was Karen Marlowe of Mangham, Louisiana, when they began dating and fell in love as students at Louisiana Tech University in the late 1960s and married in the spring of 1969, a few months before Butch's senior football season.
      Three sons and six grandkids are their pride and joy.
      Here is the reality: For more than a decade, Butch faced an opponent tougher than Springhill and Northwestern State in football or Jesuit and Bossier (in baseball). Cancer sucks.
      Even as schools superintendent, he worked through the early battles. After his retirement (in June 2011), his life -- with Ki -- was his kids and grandkids, his love of gardening, staying in touch with friends, and following Louisiana Tech athletics. 
      But cancer kept striking. It attacked his neck and his liver last summer; a Facebook post on Aug. 11 told of his infusion treatments. And the couple of times we spoke in the fall, he told me about the every-other-week treatments in Baton Rouge -- where son Trey (Wayne III) lives -- so it was a difficult, demanding process.
      It sapped his strength; it took his hair. He no longer was the beefy guy who -- after being tried in several positions -- bulked up to 235 pounds and became an all-conference offensive tackle ... in front of quarterback Terry Bradshaw. 
      Still, he was hopeful, optimistic ... but cautious.
      Time now is precious, and it is short. Prayers are in order.
      The personal connection: We arrived at Louisiana Tech at the same time, as freshmen in August 1965. He was a football linebacker and end, or had been at Minden High; I was a student sports information assistant.
      Butch for years was a good source for stories and background information on high school athletics and Tech football (especially about our years there, the Phil Robertson and Bradshaw years at quarterback).
      When he was coaching and afterward, Butch was a cooperative media source. But not always a happy one. I remember a young coach not being enamored with a few stories or columns -- slanted, he said -- written by a young sportswriter. Oh, well. But ... always friends.
      In early December, when he did not reply to phone and Facebook messages and an e-mail we sent him, seeking info on Tech's 1969 football bowl game, it was unusual. And not a good sign.
      So, it was a pleasure -- a treat -- to see Butch and Ki at Tech's pregame Frisco Bowl gathering in late December.
      It was nice to be with our son and two oldest grandsons that evening, but to visit with Butch for a few minutes -- twice -- was even better than Tech's rout of SMU.
      He was feeling good that night and that week, and detailed his health issues. He apologized for not getting back to me and assuring me that rumors that the seniors on Tech's  football team in 1969 did not want to play in the Grantland Rice Bowl in Baton Rouge -- Bradshaw's last Tech game -- were not accurate, that as team captains, he and center John Harper urged their teammates to relish the experience.
      (It was a long day for Tech, especially for the offensive line and Bradshaw, sacked 12 times by East Tennessee State. Butch, for one, played, although he was needing surgery on an injured knee.)
      Plans for us to talk about this prospective blog piece did not develop after that, as he again met physical challenges. But with his family's permission, here is the tribute to Our Man in Minden.
      A recap of his sports career: 
      -- He was a starting linebacker and end as a junior on Minden's talented, unbeaten Class AA state championship football team in 1963; he was the best player as a senior on the '64 team. 
     -- He was a good and versatile baseball player. He became an all-conference offensive tackle at Louisiana Tech.
     -- He was a dedicated, hard-working football assistant coach for a decade at Minden High. 
     -- More significantly, he was a state championship-winning coach in baseball (1972) and, for a couple of decades, spent summers coaching Minden's American Legion baseball team; twice his team made the North Louisiana finals.
     -- As principal at Sibley High (10 miles south of Minden), he helped start the football program.
      How good an athlete was he? In researching for this piece, we came across these highlights:
      -- In the spring of 1964, the eventual Class AA state champion Jesuit (Shreveport) baseball team beat Minden 7-0 as super pitcher George Restovich gave up one hit. Butch got that hit.
      -- He was the placekicker for Minden in 1963 and 1964. The '63 team eased to most of its victories, but in 1964, Butch's PAT delivered a 7-6 victory against Airline (Bossier City), a first-year school. His PAT late in the game saved a 20-20 tie for Minden in a bitter rivalry game with Jesuit.
       (About that game: Jesuit's sensational junior running back Tony Papa was badly injured early that night when a Minden player hit him from behind long after Papa had handed off the ball on a trick kickoff return. Jesuit faithful always thought it was a "cheap-shot" hit -- that's what we heard -- and the Minden player who did it, they recalled, was Butch Williams. He swore to me it wasn't him ... but he knew who it was.)
      -- In his greatest '64 game, he scored 29 points in a 35-20 victory against Homer on four touchdowns (two short runs, a 42-yard pass reception, a 52-yard run with a fumble).
      -- Against North Caddo in '64, he intercepted a pass and ran it back 60 yards for a touchdown on the last play of the first half. Minden went on to win 41-18.
      Butch, as like many of us, was a great admirer of Louisiana Tech's legendary head football coach-athletic director Joe Aillet, and he recalled these moments:
      As an eager freshman linebacker during a controlled scrimmage in the fall of 1965, Butch made the mistake of tackling QB Billy Laird, who that fall would be all-conference for the third year in a row. Coach Aillet -- soft-spoken, polished and polite, a professor-type coaching football -- rushed up (he was past age 60) and practically yelled, "No, no, no, we don't hit Billy."
      Another day, leaving the field after practice, Butch had his head down when Coach Aillet walked past. "He stopped me and asked, 'How are you doing, Wayne?' -- he always called me Wayne. I said, 'I don't know, Coach; I'm doing a lot of things wrong.' He said, 'Wayne, when we correct you, it means we think you have a chance to be a very good player. So keep at it.' "
      Two years later, Butch Williams was a regular in the Tech offensive line.
      The highlight of Butch's coaching career, no question, was the 1972 Minden baseball season. It was one of the most dramatic, and surprising, events we covered in prep athletics.
      The 3-0 state-championship victory spoiled a perfect season for Bossier, a team that had gone 26-0, including three victories against district rival Minden. But junior pitcher Ronald Martin no-hit the Bearkats that day.
       It was Butch's second year as the Crimson Tide baseball coach and his team, tied for second in the district with Jesuit, had to be voted into the playoffs by a district committee.
        Reading back over the two stories we wrote that day, the funniest quote was Butch, finally greeting his pitcher after the title celebration and telling him, "You did a goooooood job."
     More Williams family history: Wayne Sr. and Rene met in Dayton, Ohio, where he was stationed just after World War II when he was a captain in the US. Army Air Corps. By 1947, when Butch was born in Haynesville, La., his dad was principal at Shongaloo High School. He also had coached there.
     After the family's move to Minden in 1950, he became principal at Minden High, from 1952 to 1961, took a supervisor's position and then became superintendent. In honor of his 44 years of service, the Minden High football stadium -- "The Pit" -- was named for him in 2009.
     When Mama Rene retired from Minden High in May 1986, the city honored her with a "day." 
      The Williams family influence in Minden and the parish extended into business. For 4 1/2 decades, Butch and Ki  have owned Minden Athletic Supply in the old downtown, and younger brother Jimmy Williams helped manage it. Even Wayne Sr. worked there after his retirement from the education field.
      Butch's career took him from coaching and teaching biology and chemistry at Minden High to assistant principal there, then moving to Sibley as principal and staying on when that school consolidated with several others in the area to become Lakeside High.
       After 21 years as principal, in June 2003, he moved to his father's old job -- superintendent of Webster schools.
       Two contracts extensions followed. So did financial challenges in the schools and a controversial plan to consolidate several parish high school/middle schools.
       The superintendent has to make tough decisions and needs school-board support. It was waning. And so if Butch was beloved by most people in parish schools, he also has to take the heat. And he did ... until his surprise announcement on March 7, 2011, that he was ending his 38-year career in education.
       "I have had about all of this fun I can stand," he said at that school board meeting, then took his accrued vacation/sick time ... and left the building.
       He did consulting work in area schools for a short while, and took the time with Ki, the kids, grandkids, Tech athletics, Facebook, his garden and his friends.
       And, unfortunately, with many doctors, nurses in hospitals and clinics. Cancer is a brutal opponent.
       The last couple of times we talked -- his voice obviously weakened -- or traded messages, he told me how blessed his life had been, how grateful he was for friends and especially Ki and his family.
       The old offensive tackle is still battling, trying to block cancer. Our friend Wayne Williams Jr. -- Butch -- never backed down. He has done a goooooood job. 
Butch and his three sons

The grandfather always was a gamer.