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The worse it gets, the more I need baseball. The worse what gets? Well, what have you got? Watched the evening news lately? Some days, the promise of a three-hour break from what novelist Philip Roth called “the indigenous American berserk” draws me like a fountain in the desert.

Roth, of course, was a great baseball fan. He even wrote a 1973 book called “The Great American Novel”—a ribald saga about a New Jersey minor league team whose owner rented the stadium to the War Department, forcing his team to play the entire season on the road. If not Roth’s best, it has moments of antic hilarity. He told an interviewer that he had more fun writing it than any of his other novels.

When I was a kid, baseball was unquestionably the most important American sport. Nothing else came close. Debating the relative merits of Mickey Mantle, Duke Snider and Willie Mays—Hall of Fame center-fielders for the three New York teams—consumed much of my youth.

In my neighborhood, which team you supported was a more reliable indicator of personal identity than race or religion. We didn’t know from politics, but we all knew Monte Irvin. (My dad played semi-pro ball with Irvin, and he never quit talking about it.)

We also played baseball every day in warm weather. Also wiffle ball, stick ball, stoop ball, etc. To be a boy back then was to play baseball. You didn’t have to be an all-star, but you did have to know the game. Somebody said they didn’t understand the Infield Fly Rule, what they were telling you was they basically didn’t understand anything.

These days, not so much. Indeed, a whole genre of “baseball is doomed” articles appear regularly in the sporting press. The latest is called “Why No One Watches Baseball Anymore” by Dave Zirin, sportswriter for The Nation. I know what you’re thinking: The Nation has a sportswriter? Along with all those articles about “the inspiring energy of progressives?” Yeah, and a lively, provocative sportswriter at that, if a bit dogmatic for my taste.

There’s no doubt that major league baseball is less central to American culture than it once was. But then no one sport is anymore. Zirin cites polls showing that only nine percent of Americans call baseball their favorite—the lowest since Gallup started asking. In Monte Irvin’s heyday, it was in the 30s.

When the Pirates’ Bill Mazeroski hit a walkoff home run to win the 1960 World Series, so many kids were covertly listening on transistor radios that a subdued roar went up in my high school. That wouldn’t happen today. World Series games are played at night, and young people pretty much aren’t into it. Gallup says only six percent of Americans under 34 favor baseball.

Eleven percent favor basketball and soccer.

I love basketball too; soccer sometimes. Football only intermittently. Here in SEC country, the local team plays a dozen games—three they can’t lose, three they never win, and six maybes. No sooner does one disappointing season end than everybody yaks obsessively for eight months about the next. Meanwhile, I’ve watched 100 Red Sox games. I think it’s a game for people who don’t like sports as much as drinking parties.

But that’s just me, although football’s slipping in popularity too. But here’s the thing: You don’t need to know one thing about football to watch it on TV. Baseball, you do.

Zirin says that his problem with baseball is that “the games are too damn long.” He cites the recent Red Sox-Yankees series in London, England as an example. Both games lasted around four and a half hours. “Though a typical game falls more in the three-hour range,” he writes, “this is too damn long.”

To me, it’s just right. Three blessed hours of taut competition in which he who shall not be named, won’t be. Perfect. The problem with the London games was playing in a soccer stadium whose aerodynamics made pitchers unable to control breaking balls. So it became Home Run Derby.

Seventeen to 13, for heaven’s sake. That’s a slow pitch softball score. The English crowd seemed enthralled, but it wasn’t big league baseball.

Speed things up? Absolutely. Put in a 30-second pitch clock; limit hitters to one, maybe two time outs per at bat. Stand in there and hit.

The dramatic effect of defensive shifts could be altered by requiring two infielders on either side of second base. More situational hitting, fewer second basemen swinging for the bleachers and striking out.

Mostly, though, major league baseball needs to sponsor more youth leagues. You play baseball, you learn to love it.

Zirin also confesses to being a Mets fan like my brother Tommy, making the yearly transition from “Let’s Go Mets” to “Fire the Manager and Burn the Stadium.”

Usually in July, come to think of it.

IMAGE: Former New York Yankee Yogi Berra stands at home plate before the final regular season MLB American Leugue baseball game at Yankee Stadium in New York in this September 21, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Mike Segar/Files

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Former President Donald Trump, left, and former White House counsel Pat Cipollone

On Wednesday evening the House Select Committee investigating the Trump coup plot issued a subpoena to former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, following blockbuster testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who said the lawyer had warned of potential criminal activity by former President Donald Trump and his aides.

The committee summons to Cipollone followed long negotiations over his possible appearance and increasing pressure on him to come forward as Hutchinson did. Committee members expect the former counsel’s testimony to advance their investigation, owing to his knowledge of the former president's actions before, during and after the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

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