Sunday, July 24, 2016

Where Have You Gone, Horace Clarke? reports not a single HOF vote for Horace Clarke.
The only sin modern society does not forgive is mediocrity.

Yet – as we grow more connected on the internet, learning more about each other collectively and appreciating how much we don’t know individually – it seems there’s a wide range to the norm… accomplishment is often illusory and its context is never fully understood.

Put it this way: Hardly anyone’s more special than anyone else.

I was thinking about this today, while Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey Jr. were being inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame. I was thinking of my boyhood New York Yankee heroes after the end of the Mickey Mantle era, when one of my favorite players was Horace Clarke.

Years ago I might have written a nostalgic piece titled, “Where Have You Gone, Horace Clarke?” But, these days, it’s pretty easy to find out that he’s alive and well, having lived a full life, and that he has been popularly vilified as the very definition of baseball mediocrity – even including comments in a recent book (see my review below) by his former teammate Fritz Peterson.

Peterson was a career .500 pitcher known for throwing a variety of legal and illegal pitches. He shouldn’t be one to throw stones at teammates, however, since I remember him as a literal control-freak, giving up more than his share of 0-2 home runs. I also remember Horace one year hitting .285 and coming to bat one night with the bases loaded, two out and the Yankees losing by a run in the ninth.

Horace worked the count to 3-1 that night. The opposing pitcher slipped delivering the next pitch, which arrived at the plate as a mini-Steve-Hamilton-Folly-Floater – perhaps a half-foot higher than the top of the strike zone and perhaps 60 mph.

Rather than take ball four and tie the game, Horace sent a meek pop fly to centerfield to seal another loss.

Afterward, he explained to reporters that the pitch looked “as big as a balloon” and that he “couldn’t resist it.”

I think we all know why he swung at that pitch, though. Horace hit only 27 home runs during his career, and his first two were grand slams. That night, he was taking a mighty swing against mediocrity – not knowing that he was destined to never hit a third grand slam in his career.

Well done, Ken Griffey Jr.
So congratulations, Mike and Ken. As a baseball fan, I say, “Well done.”

As one of the 7.4 billion human beings alive today who, like Horace Clarke, have never received a single Hall of Fame vote, I’ll simply – as if standing beside a conquering general parading into ancient Rome – whisper this reminder:

“All glory is fleeting."


When the Yankees Were on the Fritz: Revisiting the Horace Clarke Years.When the Yankees Were on the Fritz: Revisiting the Horace Clarke Years. by Fritz Peterson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is one of the oddest books I've ever read, so I give it an extra star for quirkiness.

Odd editing... riddled with typos, exclamation points, poor grammar, bad exposition (mentioning something as if it had already been explained, then explaining it later), and repeated phrases, anecdotes and even whole sections.

Odd theology... the moral I gleaned is that you can apparently be as big a jerk as you want in life because God forgives everything.

Odd racist overtones... considering that the three teammates called out for lack of hustle were the three black position players during most of Peterson's time with the Yankees; at the same time, almost all the white players are uniformly described as "good guys" with "great wives."

Odd life advice... don't buy life insurance or root for the Mets, but be sure invest in real estate (unless it falls into the hands of your first wife during the divorce settlement, then you can obsess about real estate values for 40 years).

Oh, parenthetically, about that divorce: Odd that this book glossed over the one thing Peterson is most known for... that he swapped wives and children and family dogs with a teammate in 1973. Oh, but that will be the subject of another book, it's explained.

Mr. Peterson, you were a splendid pitcher for the Yankees many years ago. I rooted for you as a boy. Thank you for bringing back those memories. I admire your professional career and if you ever do draft another book, please contact me before self-publishing again.

Odd, but I think I may be able to help you. I'd edit it for free.

View all my Goodreads reviews

Monday, July 11, 2016

42 Ways of Looking at the Garden State

I make no excuses for being proud of my home state. It's a favorite subject of my Instagram account, and even a Tumblr blog.

I feel proud that not only did I grow up here, but I also created a new idea of "home" in New Jersey for my own children. After all -- as the character Andrew Largeman touchingly articulated in the 2004 movie "Garden State" -- "maybe that's all family really is: a group of people that miss the same imaginary place."

So far, in 2016, I've found New Jersey to be particularly real... and various and beautiful and new. Following are 42 of my favorite images (26 slides) in a 3-minute show.