As the battle rages across the US over the fate of Confederate monuments and Rebel flags are being furled up tucked away in attics where they belong, it’s time for this Yankee to come clean. I was once a proud, Confederate flag waving Johnny Reb. For a brief few weeks in the spring of 1961, […]
Baseball coaches and umpires seem, at best, to have contentious relationships although to “toot” my own horn, I really attempted to cultivate umpires rather than alienate them and most of the time I believe I was successful. Yes, I’m happy to say Tommy and I buried the hatchet before he died and we didn’t bury it in each other.
Chuck Eaton has passed away. Another of my adulthood friends has gone to his reward. Chuck and I began our careers in baseball about the same time, he as an umpire and I as a coach. I can’t count the number of times he called games involving one of my teams but it would have had to be in the dozens. I can remember the first one and the last one and over forty years, I’m just not sure who cultivated whom. My problem with Chuck was he reminded me too much of my dad, somewhat in looks but more in his quiet and respectful demeanor. I guess maybe he cultivated me.
I remember when I first ran afoul of Chuck. It was one of my first games as a JV coach at Mauldin, a high school outside of Greenville, South Carolina. Chuck was behind the plate, a young umpire but not a young man. At the time, I did not realize he had retired from twenty years of military service. I believed the opposing catcher had interfered with my batter’s attempt to bunt the ball. Chuck quietly said, “No coach, the pitch was too high to be bunted anyway.” Ordinarily, such a comment would not have been a good start to a relationship between a coach and umpire but somehow, we were able to get by it.
I learned of his military service on a cool moist night at Riverside High School. We were both older and wiser but I’m sure my interaction with him was somewhat subdued because of the fact we were well ahead. He was behind the plate, and even though it was late in the game, Chuck had still not settled on a consistent strike zone and my fans were unmerciful in their criticism and accused him of changing his strike zone from pitch to pitch. Walking to the batting circle to make a lineup change, I decided to engage him in friendly banter.
“Chuck, my fans are pretty vocal about your strike zone. I’d like to apologize for them but to be honest, I agree with them.”
In his quiet voice, he explained, “Coach, I know they think they are getting to me but I flew single engine props for the Forward Air Control during Vietnam. This is nothing compared to that.” For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Forward Air Control, they flew unarmed, slow moving propeller driven aircraft called “targets”. One of their functions was to attract ground fire so the fast moving, armed guys could swoop in and get all the glory.
Chuck was that kind of guy, not looking for the glory. He enjoyed being a part of the game of baseball and the game called life. During our many phone calls rescheduling games, he never failed to ask about my family and was quick to offer tidbits about his own, including the daughter I taught at Mauldin. He was, as we all should be, quite proud of his family. When we met for the last time on a field of play some three years ago, his first question was, “How is the Missus?”
It was always comfortable to know Chuck was somewhere around and I’ll miss him. As usual, I wish I had kept in close contact. I do feel comfort in his strong faith and I’m sure that if heaven exists, he’s already trying to organize a game. I’m sure his strike zone will be a bit more consistent unless he just misses those coaches and fans yelling at him. “Play Ball, Chuck!”
In Praise of Chiggers And the others feasting unseen upon you, offering their blessings of digestive juices and anticoagulants, allergic reactions and reddened mounds made pleasurable by your fingernails scraping the skin around them, over and raw, again, again, it feels so good!
I wrote this piece eight months ago, well before the events of yesterday in Charlottesville, Virginia. I did update the post and believe my words rang true eight months ago and ring true today.
Countless people are pointing a finger, no not that finger…ok, maybe that finger…. Starting over, countless people are pointing out the racism seemingly enabled by President Donald Trump. Over a thousand documented examples of hate crimes have occurred since his election. Some people seem to believe somehow, this one man is responsible for it all. I also heard a similar argument regarding our previous executive, President Obama. “We are more racist now than ever” resounded through my social media accounts. Remember the old quote, “When you point your finger at someone, three fingers are pointing back at you?” I’m sure you do.
I believe both arguments are misplaced. I don’t know when the concepts of racism, anti-Semitism, bigotry, or any other -ism or -phobia de jure came into being. They may well have been around since a Neanderthal looked at a Cro-Magnon and said, “Hey man you are different.” Yes, Neanderthals had a language and could have said such although I’m sure we would have needed a translator.
I believe our bigotry, anti-Semitism, etc., etc., etc., were just covered up in the same way that a person might add a layer of fresh kitty litter to a soiled cat box. Everything appears well, might even smell well…until your favorite feline steps in and begins to cover up its leavings. The more it tries to cover, the more the unsavory stuff gets uncovered. When Felix gives up, nobody is happy including the cat.
Our racism, bigotry, etc., etc., etc. simply got uncovered. It had been just under the surface waiting to be exposed to the light of day. No amount of legislation or executive action can actually bury it until those three fingers point in some other direction. We must want to change and some of us have tried. The problem is, when the litter box gets uncovered, even those of us who are not overtly racist, anti-Semitic, etc., etc. etc., suddenly feel the need to defend ourselves with statements like “Some of my best friends are (fill in the blank)” or “People just need to let go of (fill in the blank)”
Just because we have a few (fill in the blank) friends doesn’t mean we are not part of the problem, so just quit trying to deflect from the problem and quit pointing fingers at Donald Trump. He is just the enabler. The Alt-Right was there all along, they have simply embraced President Trump. The League of the South or people like them have been there all along and they too have embraced him. Fear bred hatred of people not like us, has been there all along, President Trump’s campaign message just allowed it to uncover the litter box.
Our country has been anti-whatever since before we were a country. Until we actually believe, deep in our hearts, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, all men (women and those unsure) are created equal” it really doesn’t matter who is in the White House. We should worry about the cleanliness of our own litter boxes (hearts) before we point out another needs cleaning.
Blog Picture from ABC News, http://abcnews.go.com/US/unite-rally-virginia-sparks-counterprotests-state-emergency/story?id=49176243
More of Don Miller’s misplaced rantings may be accessed at http://goo.gl/lomuQf
It was October 21, 1962. I’m quite sure of the date. The twelve-year-old me listened intently to the adults gathered around my Mother’s formal dining room table awaiting Sunday dinner. That would-be lunch in more civilized circles. Twelve-year-old Donnie was doing as I had been told repeatedly, “children are to be seen, not heard.” Despite being a pre-teen, I was unsure of my standing and decided not to chance a thrashing with a “keen hickory” at the hands of my grandmother.
The news around the table was terrifying to the pre-teen me. Nuclear weapons right down the road in Cuba. Just ninety miles from the good old US of A. An uncle, a member of the Navy reserves, was afraid he was going to be called up to help blockade the island that had become a bristling launching pad of fire and radioactive ruin. A cousin, an army reservist and paratrooper, was afraid he would be making night time drops attempting to capture the nuclear sites. Everyone at the table agreed they would rather be “dead than red.” Everyone but me. Me? I wasn’t at all sure.
Despite my youth, I understood the Soviets and the United States hated each other even if the reasons behind the hatred escaped me. My civics teacher had hammered the differences between the Soviet Communists and our democratic form of government but I just wasn’t sure about the “dead rather than red” thing. I had a lot of living to do even if it was under the thumb of the goose stepping Red Army and I could see no good in circling the earth in a radioactive cloud.
The following Monday, after an “In Case of Nuclear Attack” drill, I kept watching the heavens hoping not to see a Bear Bomber with its red star dropping a bomb on Indian Land, South Carolina, population…not many. I also prayed not to see the telltale contrail of a missile zeroing in on Indian Land School. Just to be sure I kept my largest textbook nearby so I could protect myself if the bomb went off.
Once home I tentatively approached my father. He was hard at rest working on a crossword puzzle after an eight-hour shift a Springs Mills. Ernest didn’t seem to be the least bit concerned that the “Dogs of War” were nipping at our heels.
“Yes, son,” looking over his reading glasses.
“I’m worried about this Cuba thing. Do you think we ought to get a fallout shelter?”
“I tell you what. Get the shovel and pick a place. When you think you’ve dug deep enough call me and I’ll come see. Right now, I need a four-letter word that means a dueling sword.”
I wish I felt as calm and collected as he appeared. As I read about North Korean nukes and a President threatening “fire and fury”, I am sorely concerned. In 1962 cooler heads prevailed. Russian ships intent on breaking the barricade reversed course, nuclear weapons in Cuba were removed and I did not add my ashes to a mushroom shaped cloud.
I don’t know if we have those cooler heads. The little Korean guy scares me. I think he has “little man’s disease.” Our own guy scares me and if you are waiting for me to say something about “small hands”, well, I just did. I wish it was a sick dream and these two guys were not in charge of nuclear codes but the truth is they are and they are on a collision course with us in the middle.
Think I’ll watch “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.” Maybe Peter Sellers can give me perspective since my own president can’t. Where is Slim Pickens when we need him?
For more of Don Miller’s writings and musings, including his latest release, Olivia, please follow his author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM
Only In TrumpLand does Lady Liberty lament : “Give me your xenophobes, your angry, your middle masses yearning to be free of those damn foreigners….” Donald Trump has been busy recently taking up the case of oppressed white people first going after affirmative action and now keeping out those darn foreigners by supporting the RAISE […]