Of Presidents, Slaves, and Baseball

Friends sometimes write to correct my misstatements in the Friday Good News. Last week I wrote that Trump was not the most racist president ever because some presidents owned slaves. My friend, Craig Wright, didn’t quarrel with my statement, but did some research on it.

That’s not surprising. Craig was the first sabermetrician (numbers guy) in baseball before there was such a name. After years with the Rangers, Dodgers, and work done for other teams, he retired to became arguably the best historian in baseball. More below about how you can subscribe to his “Pages from Baseball’s Past” if you love the sport.

Craig can tell a good baseball story. He is now famous for the incredible research he does on each story, often unearthing pictures or facts not previously known, and often pointing out errors in other baseball sources, such as plaques in the Hall of Fame.

Craig didn’t argue with me, but did some research he usually reserves for baseball. Here is what Craig wrote about presidents and slaves:

”Personal involvement with slavery was much more commonplace among our US Presidents, and for a longer period of time, than most folks realize.

“Our first President George Washington was a huge slave owner, owning about 600, roughly the same as Thomas Jefferson. In his will George provided for all of them to be set free when his widow passed. She did not wait for that event and freed them a year after George’s death.

“Owning slaves seemed to be a great way to win a second term as President. Through 1837, the only Presidents who did not own slaves were my cousins John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams, and they were also the only Presidents through that time to serve a single term.

“While JQ Adams never owned slaves and said he would not have it in his own family, he did tolerate slavery in his household, including during his time in the White House. Members of his wife’s family were slave owners and even when they stayed for lengthy times with the Adams, they were allowed to bring a slave servant. A slave servant of his brother-in-law died while staying at the White House.

“When JQ’s wife’s niece Mary was orphaned, she was taken in by the Adams and came with an inherited slave companion, Rachel Clark, of roughly the same age. Rachel remained a slave in Mary’s first 8 to 10 years with the Adams. Mary appeared to get with the program in 1828 when she officially joined the family by marrying the middle son, John Adams II. On the day of the wedding she freed her slave companion. Given the specificity of the timing, this may have been required of Mary to become an Adams. Otherwise the marriage would have turned JQ’s son into a slaveowner.

 “Technically, one could say the Adams were the only Presidents who had never owned a slave all the way through 1850.

 “Martin Van Buren (1837-1841) is generally not counted as a slave owner, but he actually did own a single slave. Tom escaped around 1814 and lived free for ten years before being discovered in Massachusetts by an Alonzo Hammond. Alonzo wrote to Van Buren that he would like to capture Tom and buy him from Van Buren.  Van Buren wrote back that if Tom could be captured without violence “I would take $50” for him. That’s a slave owner. Thankfully it appears the two men were not able to reach an agreement and Tom stayed free, though technically still property.

“Van Buren also employed hired slave servants during his time in Washington D.C., a common practice in the city where the “wages” went directly to the slave’s owner. It was hard sometimes to tell who was who, as census records showed that his “colored” servants were a mixture of hired free people and hired slave servants.

” William Henry Harrison (1841) did not own a single slave during his Presidency, but he had owned many slaves in his past and was clearly pro-slavery. When he was governor of the Indiana Territory he had sought to legalize slavery in Indiana. He also chose a strong advocate of slavery in his running mate John Tyler, who became President when Harrison died in office. Tyler was not only a lifelong slave owner but a proponent of expanding slavery into the new territories.

 “It wasn’t all the way until Millard Fillmore (1850-1853) that we had a President outside the Adams family who had never owned a slave. Fillmore incidentally was the last president who wasn’t of the Democratic or Republican parties.

“The last President who had owned a slave was Ulysses Grant. His wife came into the marriage with four slaves, and Ulysses briefly owned a personal slave that was hard to turn down because he was a gift from his father-in-law. It was still more than Grant could abide and he freed the man less than two years later, early in 1859. His wife freed the other four slaves in 1863, about a year before her husband was named General-in-Chief of the whole union army (Mar 9, 1864).

In total, twelve Presidents were slave owners at some time in their lives. So, it wasn’t until William McKinley, whose term took us into the 20th century, that we could say that the majority of our Presidents had never owned a slave!”                                                 Craig Wright

Rusty here again: If you are a baseball fan or know someone who is, here is a Christmas present suggestion. For only $21 for a yearly subscription to Pages from Baseball’s Past, you or someone else can receive a couple of great baseball stories in your email each week. Here are some websites and a couple of reviews by Craig’s readers. Enjoy:

http://baseballspast.com/order/ to use paypal or a credit card

http://www.baseballspast.com/mailorder.pdf to mail a check

“Pages from Baseballs Past is just excellent. I learn a lot from reading it.” Bill James, baseball historian, former Senior Advisor, Boston Red Sox

A friend asked me what was the best baseball book I read this year. I thought a moment and told him to subscribe to Pages from Baseball’s Past – it’s like a good book but better! – James Boyd, Wooster, OH

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Happy Friday the 13th

What’s the best day of the week?

Before the pandemic, Monday would have gotten the most votes for worst day of the week. Saturday night would have won for best night. Churchgoers might have claimed Sunday for best day, although now that many churches are virtual only, you can watch services online any day.

For most people, Friday would have been best day, as in the religiously tinged “Thank God It’s Friday.” But now, with people working from home, or out of work, or retired, one day is pretty much the same as another.

Even before the pandemic, every Friday wasn’t TGIF. Friday the 13th is the second scariest day of the year, following only Halloween in terrifying movies bearing its name.

Not in our house. Pat and I got married on Friday the 13th so that I would remember it. I can’t remember the month, but I know we get 1 and 5/7 extra anniversaries per year, on average.

Wow, that means I forgot to get….

(Later) Back from the store. It means I have that many more chances to forget anniversaries.

We have mixed feelings on this Happy Friday the 13th.

On the one hand, the most narcissistic and lying president of all time was defeated. (He is not the most racist ever — some presidents owned slaves.)

       On the other hand, that same president is actively trying to commit treason by getting Americans to support his lies in order to retain power through fraud. He is being actively abetted in this crime by most Republican office holders so far. Even if they don’t succeed, they are poisoning the body politic.

On the one hand, in 3 months we will have leadership that believes in science, listens to intelligent and competent people, and actually cares about saving American lives.

       On the other, we will still be in a pandemic with a nation of people, many of whom willingly spread the virus through rallies for “freedom.” Their freedom means only one thing — the freedom to be completely free of personal responsibility for sickening or killing others by refusing to wear a mask and acting like an adult. If they all were young teenage boys with this level of immaturity, we would say they will grow out of it. They aren’t.

On the one hand, I and most of my family and friends have avoided COVID-19 so far, and are still working if they are not retired.

       On the other hand, the bar for being a good person has been set so low, that this is the wisdom now making the rounds on an internet meme: “Live your life so that the whole world doesn’t dance with joy when you lose your job.”

Nevertheless, we are having a Happy Friday the 13th in this house today. Hope your 13th is closer to Happy than to a horror movie where people are dying by the ones and twos. Wait a minute, that would still be better than…

Happy Friday the 13th anyway.

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The Mama Hat Controversy

Now that the members of the defunct Montana Logging and Ballet
Company are old, we figure we are supposed to turn into conservative
Republicans, but it’s hard. Don’t say we didn’t try.

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MLBC Designs GOP Voting

Ever since the Montana Logging and Ballet Company officially passed away, kicked the bucket, and lost our poetic license, we zombie members sometimes zoom through the ether to enjoy a weird laugh “together.” Since we are no longer corporately corporeal, we can do things we never did as a group, such as “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.”

          We had a few laughs at our own expense while walking in the Republicans shoes in order to plan a voting strategy. We never thought they would take our advice. If we were a group, we would issue a group apology.

This might lead to the MLBC facebook page. Scroll down and click on “MLBC Designs GOP Voting.”

https://www.facebook.com/MLandBC/

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The Republican Convention

Who says we’re so partisan that we never say something good about the Republicans? We’ve got great ideas for a convention their followers will love.

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A Day in the Life of a Mother of Three Boys

My siblings and I possess several letters written by our mother Dorothy Harper, which only serve to make us more in awe of her.

She raised 5 children, with a husband who was away from home much of the time in the early years in his role as national youth leader for the Methodist Church in the US. She held down the home front, while writing scripts for religious radio programs, and volunteering for church and civic causes.

Here are some excerpts from one of the letters that our mom wrote almost every day that dad was travelling. This one was from the time there were only us three boys — Steve 1 year old, Hal 3, and Rusty 5.

Dear Snookums,

The name of this is “From Morning Til Night.” As you drove out the driveway, the whole tribe, pajama clad, stood on the porch waving til the last streak of you disappeared down the road, then made a mad dash for the kitchen. Stevie hollered, “Bake-bake” (bacon) as he hoisted himself into his highchair. Russ and Hal had the usual verbal skirmish about who would sit in the green highchair. As they ate raisin bread toast and bacon, Hal said, “Mama aren’t you glad I didn’t wet my pants last night? Soon I’ll be a big boy up to the sky! I’ll be so big I haf to stoop down to come in the door.” The veracity of this statement was immediately challenged by Rusty, “Nobody can get that big. They couldn’t get in the house at all if they were that big.” This produced an argument that lasted thru breakfast….

Hal sat dawdling over his scrap of bread. There was something on his mind: “Mommy, what makes food spoil?” I explained how little bugs called bacteria got onto the food and would eat and walk around on it and make it taste bad. Then followed much discussion. “Can we see the bugs? Why can’t we see little enough? Why don’t they like to live in the refrigerator? Why don’t we just keep some left-over bread and things out so they can get on them and not our good food? I want to hurry up and go to school to see that machine so I can look at all those bugs”….

Hal hollered from the living room, “What does m-a-c spell?” I answered, “Mac”. “You mean like Mac-a-roni? Oh! I didn’t know I could spell!” Delighted with himself. (Normally he just calls out letters like v-r-a that don’t spell anything.) This spelling spree is in imitation of Rusty who reads off letters from cereal boxes, signs, etc…

As I was writing this, Hal came up with an old pill box Bert Lyle left under the bed. “You know what I got in this? I got some old raisins I pulled out of my toast, and I’m saving them so the little bugs will have something to eat.”

Meanwhile. Russ is in the back bedroom teaching Stevie to jump across from one bed to the other. One is too high for Stevie to climb, but he pulls himself up and makes as if to dive across, and falls like a chunk of lead into Rusty’s arms. Both are tickled to death…

By this time, Hal is into the refrigerator. “Now, Hal, What am I going to tell you?” “You are going to say get out of the refrigerator—but I’m not the one letting all the cold air out. Stevie’s just standing here punching the light off and on and wasting ‘lectricity!”…but as I return to writing, Hal is back in the refrigerator. “Hal,” I call in my warning voice, and the explanations just flow; “but Rusty wanted some water. Aren’t you glad I’m sharing my cold water with him?” By now Stevie has pushed his highchair over and is walking around on the table.

I herded them out to the front porch with a bunch of toy cars and planks to run them on, but Stevie has decided to call on the Johnsons. He is across the street in a wink at their front door in his diaper. When I get him back, settled with the ball and hammer set, Rusty and Hal want to go across the street to see the new child riding a stick-horse and playing cowboy.…

While Stevie is contentedly banging away, I will recall for you the events of yesterday when ElizabethAnn (a girl from next door) pretended to be the Mommy washing Hal, and Hal squealing, “But I don’t want to be washed AGAIN!” She had washed Stevie’s hair under the hydrant for the third consecutive day, and brought him in curled and shiny on top as a new penny, but with as dirty a face and legs as a street urchin.

At nap time, we discussed deep sea fishing, with special emphasis on octopuses, and “what they do to you!” Before we went to bed, they needed to see a picture of one which I managed to find in a dictionary. Then, as a final gesture to ward off sleep, they wanted to play everybody-take-a-turn-singing-their-favorite-song. Rusty asked for “Go to sleepy little baby”, a song Grandma Harper mostly makes up as she sings. I said I didn’t know it, and Rusty exclaimed. “Well, Mother! I learned how to play “Hallelujah” on the piano and spell cat and tree. It looks like you’d be smart enough to learn one little old baby song!”

When Hal’s 2nd turn came (the first time he always chooses, “I Love Little Pussy”) he picked the song Rusty made up months ago when he told me he was going to “compose some songs.” It has such elevated thoughts as: “Ears from the hall, ears from the hall, earsy, dearsy, mearsy………..” The second verse is : “Nose from the hall…….etc.” Occasionally I choose this song when my turn comes, and this pleases them no end. It has become such a classic in the family.

Hal wistfully remarked, “I wish we had a mother hen and a daddy hen so we could get us lots of chickens, about a hundred, cause you got to have a mother and a daddy hen before you get baby hens, don’t you?”

COME HOME, Daddy Hen!
Love, Snookums

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Marching or Standing By

After telling governors they need to use national guard units to “dominate” protesters; after saying  looters should be shot (rather than arrested); after threatening to bring in the armed forces to any state that doesn’t put down the protesters with violence; our president did in fact use armed forces.

They used tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash bombs to “dominate” completely peaceful protesters who wanted justice for a black man murdered in cold blood by Minneapolis police officers. Our president did this so that he could show how powerful he is and how Christian he is by having a photo op in front of a church, holding a Bible he does not own, and has never read.

cartoon by Tim Holmes

There have been many brilliant responses to the violence advocated and practiced by the president and the heroism of protesters against racism across the county. The best I have seen, in my own biased opinion, is from our Montana Logging and Ballet Company friend, Rev. Steve Garnaas-Holmes, from his blog today at unfoldinglight.com

                                                 UNLESS

 At the cross the people stood by watching;
and the leaders scoffed.
                  —Luke 23.35

Three officers stood silent
while a fourth killed a helpless man, slowly.
Centurions at the crucifixion.

To kill, all we have to do is stand silent.
The killing is already going on.
All we have to do is stand by. Stay silent.

Don’t raise your voice.
Don’t protest.
Don’t question what happens.

Don’t object when the Emperor desecrates the holy place.
Don’t defy the secret police.
Don’t cry out. Don’t disrupt.

That’s all you have to do to abet the killing. Stay silent.
The killing will go on, just fine.
Thank you for your cooperation.

Unless you would like your own cross
to bear. Unless you would stand with the man
with the crown of thorns.

Unless you wish to take your faith that seriously
in these serious times.
Unless in you the Holy Spirit is already crying out.

Unless in this kingdom of death you would be resurrected.
Unless you have already died and your life is hidden in Christ.
Unless in you life is stronger than death, love is stronger than fear.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

The future of our nation will be determined by whether we are able to march together to get freedom for all of us, or whether we will let the killing continue by standing by.

Here are two songs about marching and gentleness that are both essential sides of the freedom coin. Steve wrote them for the Montana Logging and Ballet Company 30 years ago, but they sound like he penned them for his blog this morning. The songs follow one after the other from this link.

“Freedom Way” from “Take the Barriers Down” album and “Oh Be Gentle” from “We Don’t Get It” album of the Montana Logging and Ballet Company, words and music by Steve Garnaas-Holmes https://soundcloud.com/tim-holmes-studio/freedom-way-by-montana-logging-ballet-co

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The Difference a Stable Genius Could Have Made

In a parallel universe, the following might have happened. Warning to conspiracy theorists: this did not really happen. It is what is called “fiction” or even “a feeble attempt at humor.”

The time is 1940. The US has survived the depression, under the leadership of a rich man who is president. Some detractors accuse him of narcissism, racism, womanizing, corruption, and telling lies in every single fireside chat. However, by his own admission, he is a stable genius who singlehandedly rescued Wall Street, drove up the stock market to unbelievable heights, put everybody to work who wanted a job, and made America great again.

September 1940, New York Times headline: German Planes Bomb London All Day

The President calmly goes on the radio for his fireside chat to calm the nation.
“My adoring fans, some people are trying to run down my friend Adolf Hitler. I have looked into his eyes. I trust him. He cabled me that the bomb stories are all lies put out by people in England to destroy his good name. All he is doing is making Germany great again. Fortunately for you, I am here to tell you to ignore fake news from England. As my foreign advisor says, ‘You can’t trust the frogs.'”

December 8, 1941, New York Times headline: Japanese Make War on US and Britain

The President goes on the radio for his fireside chat. “My adoring fans, yesterday the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. I think that’s in California. This a day that will live in infamy. We will fight them with the infamy and the navy and the air force and the space force. We will fight them on the beaches, we will fight them in the houses, we will fight them in the brothels. We will destroy them until not a Mexican is left. I will be a war president and I will win the greatest victory ever. The war will be over by Easter.”

June 1942, NY Times headline: Momentous Victory for US in Midway Battle is in View

The President goes on the radio for his fireside chat. “My adoring fans, I won the war. It cost many American lives, but I am not responsible for any of that. I’ve been a war president for almost 6 months and I’m sick of it. The cure is worse than the disease when it affects my stocks.

“How did I win the war? I called my friend, Adolf Hitler. He said he would let the US invade any countries we want in the Americas. I asked what about Mexico and Canada and Brazil, and he said we could include those too. Naturally I said he could do what he wanted in Europe, as long as we didn’t have to pay for it. He also said he’ll give me a lease for hotels on some really great beaches on the Bering Sea as soon as he conquers Russia.

“Adolf also promised to get his buddy, Japanese Emperor What’s-His-Name, to apologize for Pearl Harbor, and to promise never again to attack California. I don’ really mind if he attacks states that don’t support me and America, but I’ll let that go.

“I have ended the war with a crushing victory for me and the US. The economy will take off like a rocket. I will get the Nobel prize for Peace and for the Economy. Adolf said he will force the Nobel country to send them over. I think it’s Ireland.

“I am keeping the War Powers Act in place, which means I am cancelling the coming election, because I deserve to be president for life. Take to the streets, grateful Americans. I have won the war, and all our troops are coming home to take part in a huge parade in my honor. Do you want to know how much of a genius I am? Unlike any imposter in the future who may claim to be a stable genius who knows more than all the generals and all the scientists put together, I can spell most English words correctly.”

The rest is non-history.

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In Praise of Social Distancing

So how bad can it get? The phrase “you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet” comes to mind. When the whole world is in social distancing, what then? I’ll tell you how bad it’s getting. At our house, Pat put a handwritten sign outside: “HELP. I’m an extrovert all alone in a house with an introvert.”

Apparently, the coronavirus isn’t really dangerous to young people, and the younger the young person, the less the danger. So I have this theory.

Like our president, who is exactly my age, I know nothing about the complexities of the corona virus, but I feel free to make up whatever lies I want, because, like our president, nobody believes anything I say anymore.

So here is my theory, and I’m sticking to it until Pat reads this. Young people are in little danger because they are already pros at social distancing. They do all communication through their little screens rather than speaking to human beings. This virus is all about keeping people from face-to-face contact. That is the purpose, the raison d’être of the virus.

Yes, there are some downsides, like lots of sickness and deaths, the overwhelming of health systems, and the crash of the world economy with the resulting devastation of all that entails. But look on the bright side. The universe is sending us a signal because this virus has some clear preferences.

1. The virus favors young people. Most of the deaths will be of old people who created a political system that has led to complete dysfunction in this country, and authoritarian impulses in almost every other democracy. Who doesn’t believe in science or climate change? Old people. Who doesn’t believe there is anything wrong with racism or homophobia or a system that deliberately rewards the already rich and punishes the poor? Old people. Who voted for Donald Trump and his minions? Ye Olde people. The virus favors the young and is dooming us boomers to make room for them.

2. The virus favors introverts. Admit it, extroverts, your best chance is to behave like an introvert. Read, watch tv, write, listen to music, but don’t go talk to people in person. One of the biggest upsides of all this will be a reduction in the world’s population, less by deaths than by people not getting together face to face, if you get my drift.

3. The virus doesn’t like team sports or music from bands, symphonies, or choirs. It likes one person with one instrument, or one athlete competing against him- or herself for time or distance or whatever measurement. The upside of that is that introverts can spend more time honing their skills without having to take breaks to talk to somebody.

4. The virus doesn’t like lies, neither people who tell them nor people who believe them. Donald Trump’s lies (The virus is no different from the flu — The virus will disappear in April like magic — The virus is a hoax made up by Democrats) led to the US being less prepared and slower to react than virtually any other industrial democracy. And the virus has spread faster than it would have if, for example, Joe Biden had been president, because of the risky behavior by people who believed Trump’s lies. The virus favors the truth.

So I’m personally in good shape because I’m an introvert and our band, the Montana Logging and Ballet Company, is dead and can only make a comeback as a zombie group that doesn’t get together in person. I’m not in good shape about being old. Maybe I can lie about my age, but then I’d be in trouble for the lie, not to mention all the whoppers I have told in this Friday Good News. In fact, that title is a whopper in itself.

OK, I’ll start writing my own obituary. Just because I made up this stuff, that doesn’t mean it won’t prove to be exactly right in a world that has gone crazy. Enjoy, all of you young, introverted, truth-telling loners. The world is your oyster. Hope you like oysters.

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Let’s Give Ourselves a Valentine

I forgot today was Valentine’s Day. After 43 years, I slept in rather than racing down to Safeway at 7:00 in the morning amid the mad throng of crazed flower-buyers to find something that Pat would like. Fortunately, she likes all kinds of flowers, but today I forgot.

Early February, and I’ve already blown my chance for the Husband of the Year award. Pat is very forgiving, so she still has a shot at Wife of the Year.

Once or twice in the past I wrote her a poem, but my brain is clearly not functioning well enough now. I’d probably rhyme “valentine” with “gal o’ mine”, “rise and shine,” and “Frankenstein.”

I’m not the only forgetful one. Our country has forgotten that love is better than hate, that decency is better than bullying, and that honesty is not just the best policy, it is the foundation on which democracy rests. Our foundation is crumbling.

It’s too bad our Montana Logging and Ballet Company is no longer functioning. We would love to have written a valentine to our country from our founding fathers. Fortunately, someone on YouTube did. Turn up your speakers and click here. Happy Valentine’s Day.

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