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Monday, February 28, 2011


The Duke of Flatbush

It was good to read all the nice things people wrote today in reporting on the passing of Duke Snider. As a young Dodger fan, Duke was my favorite player. By the time I saw Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese, they were both on the downsides of their careers, though still good enough to be key players on the great 1955 Championship team. But Duke was in his prime that year, the third of five seasons in a row in which he hit 40 or more home runs, and arguably would have been MVP had he not been strangely left off the ballot by one voter. Instead, Roy Campanella, a great teammate and another HOF player won his third MVP. Somehow, Duke never made an issue of the slight. It wasn't really his way, and players were more modest then.

The Dodgers of '55 got off to an incredibly hot start and never looked back, going wire to wire and clinching the NL pennant early in September. In the World Series against their arch nemesis from the Bronx, the Bums lost the first two in Yankee Stadium, but came back to win four of the next 5, the clincher provided by a Johnny Podres complete game shutout in Yankee Stadium. Along the way, the Duke hit four homers, tieing the record that Reggie Jackson later broke (against the LA Dodgers) for most homers in a series. Finally, "next year" arrived and Brooklyn had its only world championship.

Snider had joined the Dodgers in 1947 and had a love/hate relationship with the vocal Brooklyn fans in the early years, but he was a fan favorite during his prime years in the fifties. The troika of New York center fielders of that era has never been surpassed, but certainly Snider was considered by most to be number 3, perhaps unfair since he was older than the still improving Mantle and Mays. Like those two unsurpassed greats, Snider was a five tool player in his prime, and though center field in Ebbets was not spacious enough to showcase his defensive talents, his abilities were frequently on display on the road. I can remember him climbing the fence in Crosley Field in Cincinnati and taking homers away from the hated and muscle bound Redlegs of that era.

Bad knees and the move to the left hand hitter unfriendly Los Angeles Coliseum caused a swift decline in Snider's production, though he contributed significantly to the 1959 championship team hitting over 300 with 23 homers and 88 RBI's in less than 400 official at bats. But by that time, he was playing right field mainly, and never quite mastered the Wally Moon shot over the short left field screen. He was a part time player at age 33 the next year. In 1963, Duke returned to New York to play a season for the Mets, but there wasn't much left in the tank. He finished as a pinch hitter for the Giants.

One thing not well known is that Snider used the reputation he gained early in his career as a dead fastball hitter to great effect after his long swing slowed down. He rarely saw many fastballs but the truth was that he didn't much like the fast ball in his later prime years but feasted on the slower stuff he was always seeing. He was expert on waiting and pulling that pitch to right center and onto Bedford Avenue.

After his career, Snider became a successful baseball announcer, notably with the Montreal Expos. I don't know that his career stats would today make him an automatic HOF - they didn't as it was - but by the criteria I like for HOF voting as written by Stan Isaacs, he was a deserving honoree. Could you possibly write a comprehensive history of baseball without mentioning Duke? No way. Linked forever with Willie and Mickey, he was a baseball immortal and forever will be.
For a rookie Governor, Wisconsin's Scott Walker did a great job on Meet the Press Sunday, patiently enduring the third degree that Conservatives are typically subjected to by the insufferable David Gregory, and sticking to his guns on the need to curtail collective bargaining rights. Putting aside the merits of collective bargaining by public employee unions, which I have addressed in two previous posts, the Democrats' tactic of boycotting sessions to avoid quorums is not going to reflect well on them in the minds of independent voters. At the very least, they should be forfeiting their pay as they decline to show up for work.

In any event, it shows how misguided the left is that they think these situations will backfire on Republicans. Voters have had it with the "public be damned" attitude of these unions and their political allies. By staying on message and maintaining their position, Republican governors are showing how seriously they are taking the need to get fiscal houses in order.

Once again, New Jersey's Governor Christie really made the point in speaking to a union dominated crowd recently. Paraphrasing, he said "Instead of booing me, you should be booing the prior Governors who promised you benefits that the state can't afford. 15 years from now, you will be thanking me for preserving the benefits you actually will receive."

Unfortunately, we are getting no such leadership from the chief executive in Washington. Apparently, Dems believe the can can be kicked down the road forever. Most voters know better, and that's why they are holding newly elected Congressmen's feet to the fire.

And the leadership vacuum extends to foreign policy as well. To be fair, the President did a nice job managing the Egyptian crisis, though it must be pointed out that it is hardly fully resolved. But on Libya, where are we? Are we really going to allow this nut to strafe his own people without NATO instituting a no fly zone? What about Iran? Wait 'til that protest really erupts. The Mullahs will stop at nothing to retain power, I can assure you. And nothing ever seems to be done about North Korea.

When George W. Bush made his unpopular speech about the axis of evil, he was only telling it like it was and is. The Iraq protesters of 1991 saw casualties in the hundreds of thousands at the hands of Hussein. We didn't need a good excuse to remove that butcher, and the world should be thanking us for the sacrifice we made. Lest we forget, Winston Churchill was not immediately beloved for his Iron Curtain speech either.

Liberals would like to believe that people are not inherently evil, that there is a moral equivalence determination you come to when you look at the story from the other guy's perspective. They can make a case that sounds very attractive for that philosophy, and did so for Stalin, Castro, etc. and do so now for the likes of Chavez, et al. But there are people in the world that are just plain dangerous, and its not helpful to disregard the possibility. If we are the good guys (albeit far from perfect, let's stipulate), then, Mr. President, let's dispense with the apology tours and get on with the hard job of leading the free world.
It was so thoughtful of Melissa Leo to apologize for dropping the "F-Bomb" during her Academy Award acceptance speech, but really, isn't it an indication that there are so many people who can't utter three consecutive sentences sans profanity? We've all heard such people, they are our friends, our neighbor's kids, pro basketball players, politicians on tape, etc. They all sound like they came out of a Henry Miller novel. On the Grammy's, they bleeped so many lyrics, you couldn't capture the melody (OK on rap songs, there's no melody anyway).

I was always taught that profanity, unless used for some artistic effect, or to make a point in a special way, is the sign of a weak vocabulary.

Also, we had the obligatory political statement from Director Charles Ferguson, the winner for Best Documentary, who somehow felt that with a captive audience, this was the appropriate time to complain that no financial executives had been put in jail for causing the financial crisis. I remember thinking, "Get this A_ _ hole off, put his A_ _ back in his F_ _ _in seat, and shut the H_ _ _ up." And for that, I sincerely apologize.


On Tuesday, we sold 100 shares of Stifel Nicolaus (SF) from the IRA at 73.24. We bought the shares in two separate purchases in 2007 at an average price of 29.70 (split adjusted). Once the market cracked, we returned to the buy side, purchasing 100 shares of Graham Corp (GHM) for the IRA on Wednesday for 22.92. On Friday, we were buying for the IRA again, this time the RBS Preferred (RBS.PR.E) which continues its dividend thanks to the largess of the British government. We bought 200 shares at a price of 15.09. Today, we bought 100 shares of Newmont Gold (NEM) at a price of 54.60.

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