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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review May 18, 2011 / 14 Iyar, 5771

Baseball as Civic Theater

By Paul Greenberg




http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Dear Baseball Fan,

It was wholly a pleasure to get your letter wondering how the home team here in Little Rock, the Arkansas Travelers, is doing this season.

Much better, thank you for asking.

After a fumbling start, the Travs' pitching seems to have kicked in, and they've got a beautiful young ballplayer in center field who's a joy to watch. He looks like the platonic ideal of a ballplayer that was in vogue when I started going to games as a boy in the long-ago '40s and '50s. More often than not, he even plays like that ideal.

All the rained-out games of late seem to have upset the Travs' rhythm, but they'll get their groove back. The Great Flood of 2011, which proceeds apace downriver in poor, engulfed Louisiana, has had far more serious consequences. Besides, imagine all the double-headers the rain has made possible, much to the delight of fans who like their baseball games doubled.

The secret of the Travs' revival this season has been a new manager of the old school who never, never, never gives up. And always levels with players, fans and even reporters.

You ask if you should check out this year's team next time you're up here from south of the (state) border. Do. Take the family out to a Travs game -- best show on dirt, as good ol' Bill Valentine, the team's long-time general manager, used to say.

I'm one of those who hated to leave Little Rock's collapsing old ballpark, Ray Winder Field, with all its sentimental appeal accumulated over the years. Every rusty beam and collapsing roof held memories.

But, boy, have I ever been converted! Get yourself out to Dickey-Stephens, the Travs' shining new home and bandbox of a ballpark right on the river. Kick back with a ballpark hot dog and a cold one, and survey the scene on the field and off. (Little Rock snaggle-toothed skyline makes a fine backdrop.)

See where real baseball still lives, which is in the minor leagues. In this case, the Double-A Texas league. It's a fine way to spend an evening. It's not whether the Travs win or lose, though winning is always nice, but how much you enjoy the game -- The Game.

You confess to being a Cubs fan. I don't qualify. My much extended family in Chicago put down its American roots on the other side of town. The next generation moved out to the suburbs, and the generation after that moved back downtown. You could write a history of American social mobility, upward and downward, just by tracing my various cousins' changes of address. But once a South Sider, always a South Sider.

It's been half a century now since I saw my first major-league game at the old, original Comiskey Park on the South Side. You never forget your first time.

What a game that was in a boy's eyes. Luke Appling, also known as Old Aches and Pains, was at short for the White Sox, while a mummified Connie Mack in his powder-blue suit sat in the visitors' dugout signaling the As with just the slightest tremor of his scorecard. He used it the way I imagine a veteran geisha uses her fan. Every movement meant something. The hapless White Sox of that year would win the game -- against the even more hapless Philadelphia Athletics of that era.

Old Comiskey Park aged less than gracelessly as the malice of time took its toll. Like a white elephant slowly sinking to its knees. Yet it retained the charm of a stadium filled with warm memories. There is a majesty about certain forms of decay. Ask anybody from New Orleans.

The original Comiskey Park had a working-class feel, and solidarity. White Sox fans prided themselves on wanting performance, not prettiness. All that ivy across town at Wrigley Field turned us off.

As for the new ballpark, U.S. Cellular Field doesn't have quite the same ring to it, does it? Or any ring at all. No wonder Chicagoans keep calling it Comiskey Park. A corporation can buy naming rights but not tradition. Or loyalty. Carl Sandburg would understand. As surely as he understood Chicago, or at least what Chicago was in his time. ("Stormy, husky, brawling,/ City of the Big Shoulders ...")

Mike Royko, urban chronicler and local-color columnist extraordinaire, would understand, too, even if he rooted for the Cubbies. But he's gone, and so is something about Chicago. As if he took it with him.

The city is much more civilized now, genteel, trendy, almost California-ized here and there. Whole swaths of it have been gentrified. This is not progress. It never is when a town loses its character. Even if its character was dubious.

One cousin of mine still has his father's shoe jack, burnished to a shine and put in a place of honor -- under a spotlight at the end of the long hallway in his posh apartment off Michigan Avenue. Another cousin still resoles a pair of shoes on occasion in the basement of his house in Skokie, where he keeps some of Uncle Harry's old shoemaker tools.

We were a family of cobblers even in the old country, and one of my great regrets is that I never learned to resole a pair of shoes or lead a minyan (the Jewish quorum of 10 for a prayer service) with the competence, the dedication, the intention my father had. It must be the sad plaint of every generation: We are not the men our fathers were.

I miss the grit and grime of old Chicago, of Maxwell Street when it was still genuine instead of a reconstruction for tourists, the camaraderie of second-hand shoe dealers on Jefferson, and the leathery smell of my uncle's shoe repair shop on Halsted. Or rather Shoe Hospital, as the modern, up-to-date neon sign in the window used to say.

There is something about imperfection that appeals, just as there is something about a fabricated perfection that appalls. Or maybe it's just my nostalgia overcoming my judgment, which is no match for it.

I may be a South Sider by family, history and class, but I must say the one thing the Cubs have going for them is a sense of tragedy -- complete with all three classical elements: hubris, nobility and a sense of inevitable doom. Aristotle would have loved the Cubs. Talk about catharsis. How fear our own failure after watching the Chicago Cubs make an art of it season after season? Oh, the terror and pity of it. The White Sox may offer comedy, but the Cubs still lead in the tragedy department.

I'm kind of sorry for the Red Sox, who also have a city-state of their own: Boston and surrounds. But they lost their tragic sense in 2004, when they won their first World Series since 1918.

While that historic losing streak lasted, it seemed foreordained, and destined to last forever. In '86, when Bill Buckner at first base let that grounder -- and the World Series -- roll through his legs in Game Six, it made for tragedy on a Sophoclean scale. What victory can compare to so memorable a defeat?

To this day the memory of that tragic moment unites Bostonians wherever they go or whatever they have become. It wasn't just an error but a shared historical experience. The way the legend of the Lost Cause still unites Southerners.

Who can ever forget that error of errors -- or even remember what team the Red Sox were playing against in that year's Series? (It was the New York Mets.) So does failure outweigh success in collective memory, much as a grief engraved in our hearts outlasts fleeting joy.

Be well, and keep enjoying life and baseball, which for some of us are much the same. You can take it from an

Inky Wretch ]

Paul Greenberg Archives

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