The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. - Wm. Blake

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Earth Day Post

Well, we've got crummy weather here, so instead of planting a tree, a couple things about Rachel Carson.

First, one of the icons of Pittsburgh is the Three Sisters bridges, once known as the 6th, 7th, and 9th Street Bridges. When they built PNC Park beside the 6th, they renamed it the Roberto Clemente Bridge (a lot of people had argued for naming the ballpark after Roberto, but when the humanitarian martyr's widow didn't pony up the $20M, well, you know). They close the bridge to cars on gamedays, and the walk over from Downtown has become one of our great gameday traditions. The folks at The Warhol, which was already near the 7th St. Bridge, then got the idea, so that one is now the Andy Warhol Bridge, after Pittsburgh's favorite son who got the hell out of town once he reached his majority (actually, he was a good Pittsburgh boy at heart - he lived with his mother, Julia, a sweet old Carpatho-Rusyn baba who lived upstairs from the Factory. Really.). I don't recall who first floated the idea, but someone was smart enough to suggest Rachel Carson for the 9th St. Bridge, and the dedication ceremony is today. Rachel grew up about ten miles upriver (where her Homestead is preserved as an environmental center) and went to school here, so it's a great monument.

The dedication was the cause for an excellent editorial in today's Post-Gazette. Fiona Fisher, who's the coordinator for the upcoming 2007 Rachel Carson Centennial, writes to debunk the "confounding charge [that Rachel Carson is responsible for every single death caused by malaria in Africa] which is repeated with monotonous frequency on special-interest Web pages, right-wing radio shows and in less than open-minded newspapers." This has come up repeatedly on Crooked Timber, and Tim Lambert at Deltoid has done yeoman's work in knocking it down. But for those few souls who may not read CT religiously, this column is a firm rebuttal. With a nice note about raptor recovery at the end, I might add.

On a minor note, I was tickled to learn that Charles Schultz, who had such an idiosyncratic relationship with pop culture with his strips, included Carson in at leats one early-60s strip. Lucy quotes her - it's obvious that she looked up to Carson as a hero, and that she was. For fussbudgets and the rest of us.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

While we're on the subject....

Beautiful post on baseball and parenthood from the snarky and enigmatic TBogg. I can't wait until my girl is old enough for baseball (not that she hasn't already hit a wiffle ball with my hand as the tee...)
What I really miss is the feeling of having accomplished something after every afternoon spent with the kids, watching them throw, then practice their swings, and learn to watch the pitchers back foot for the pickoff move. Primary leads and secondary leads and hitting the cut-off man. Calling for the ball and, most importantly, putting it away with two hands. I miss warm afternoons and what a kids baseball field sounds like at dusk when everyone has been picked up and the bases have been stored and the equipment has been bagged and you can sit for a moment and listen and it doesn't sound like work or home and you just want to stay awhile and breathe it in.
There's more. Go read it.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Who's Your Team?

Josh over at the mighty TPM has offered up a conundrum: how do you choose a baseball team? As he acknowledges, it's an unusual problem, because fandom is - as someone once said of Ruth - an heirloom handed down from generation to generation. One of the reasons baseball - and to a lesser extent, other sports - works through history as it does is that kids grow up hearing about the exploits of their team's past heroes. The novelty "Joltin' Joe DiMaggio" by Les Brown has a transcendent line: "Our kids will tell their kids his name;" when I sing that line to my two year old girl (she likes Take Me Out to the Ballgame, on the same CD), I get choked up. Because, indeed, 65 years later, I'm doing it.

But Josh has a legitimate point: in our peripatetic nation, we can lose the threads of team loyalty. My sister is still a bit offended that the Pirates are my team; we both grew up Mets fans, and she still is. I still pull for the Amazin's, but how could I go to 20+ games a year at Three Rivers and not develop a rooting interest? But my choice was easy; Josh has two teams to choose from, and was raised with a prejudice against expansion teams that balances any good American's natural antipathy towards the Yankees. So he asked for opinions, and I offered this:
Well, one game in, and I think you've got your answer: Will you root for the store-bought Murderer's Row, overpowering its outspent opponents, or will you root for the scrappy Amazin's, pitching and finessing their way to close victories?

I suppose I've betrayed my prejudice, but I think that it's a pretty apt synecdoche for the relative merits of the two teams. Obviously, the Mets also have bucks, and Glavine and Wagner, the yesterday's biggest stars alongside homegrown wunderkind David Wright, were free agents. But the Mets under Omar Minaya - the game's only Latin GM in an era of Latino dominance - are a team being carefully assembled, not a roster of All-Stars compiled in a desperate effort to assuage The Boss's wrath. If you want to see what a team does without big free agent signings, then I encourage you to revive your fealty to the Battlin' Buccos. Their 3-2 loss to the Brewers is probably a pretty good indicator of what you'll get there, too.

As for the idea that the Mets aren't real, I would offer these thoughts:

The Mets were in the first generation of expansion teams, and are approaching a half century of history. Unlike most expansion teams, they have a real history and lore - the epically bad '62 team (40-120); the prodigal Yankee, Casey Stengel, becoming the wise guru (note that he called them the Amazin's when they were bad, not when they became the Miracle Mets); those Miracle Mets with Seaver and young Ryan and Cleon Jones; the team colors that honor their NL forebears (Dodger blue and Giant orange); the 10 years spent in the wilderness after the worst trade in history, sending Seaver in his prime to the Reds for a pack of trading cards; the '86 Mets who were one of the all-time best teams, but spent too much time partying to fulfill their promise.... There's more, but the point is that being a Mets fan is being part of a tradition in a way that fans of most other expansion teams can't imagine. Whereas, as Peter Vescey wrote last year, "Yankee fans fear the worst but demand the best. That is part of the peculiar joyless attraction of being a Yankee fan, I guess."