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Jewish World Review July 17, 2002 / 8 Menachem-Av, 5762

Tony Snow

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Musings | Let's review some cliches about the United States. We're the greatest civilization ever. We have produced more knowledge and wealth than any nation in history; we have extended the boundaries of liberty to realms hitherto unknown. We defend the freedoms of speech, religion and even irreligion. We were the first nation born of an idea -- that of virtuous liberty -- and that legacy has inspired the dreamers of the world. We celebrate accomplishment -- and historically have thrown open our doors and arms to anybody eager to accept the challenges and responsibilities of freedom. Our citizens come from every land on earth. We speak hundreds of languages, but lately have reclaimed the power to speak with one voice. We are determined in war and generous in victory. We are the world's superpower, but remain as scrappy and ambitious as when we were young.

Despite our greatness, our best days lie ahead. These are some of our cliches. But they're also our truth and our destiny.

Today, let's sing the praises of Ted Williams -- the splendid splinter, Teddy Ballgame, the sweetest hitter in baseball history.

He died recently. But Williams lived larger than most of us, racking up records that boggle the mind -- the second-highest slugging percentage ever; highest on-base percentage, 18 all-star games, six batting titles, two most valuable player awards -- all this and more, even though he gave five of his prime years to Uncle Sam, as a flyer in World War II and the Korean War.

He didn't take a desk job, either. He was John Glenn's wing man -- and once landed a flaming jet on one wheel -- at 225 miles an hour. Williams was cantakerous as a young man, but he aged gracefully and graciously -- throwing his energy behind good causes, and helping any kid who wanted to make it big in the major leagues.

Williams once said he wanted his actions to do the talking for him -- and you know what? They did.

Baseball players and management seem to have agreed secretly to annihilate the sport we once called America's pastime.

Players are threatening to go on strike, and management is eager for them to do so -- even if it means canceling another world series.

What are these guys thinking? Baseball has enough trouble staying afloat: It's a slow, often dull game, increasingly performed by snide prima donnas who make millions and then insult the people who pay their salaries: us.

We've gotten an earful this year about steroid use and other forms of idiotic behavior. And of course, let's not leave management out of the picture. Baseball bosses figure they might save some bucks by forcing a strike and then driving a hard bargain with baseball players and their union.

By the time the dust settles, they might save more money than they reckoned -- because there won't be any more fans in the stands at the old ball game.

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