Eurasia Review: Ralph Nader: An Unsurpassable Sterling Record Of Stamina – OpEd

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I’ve always been fascinated by stamina. Lou Gehrig was my boyhood
hero, and not just because of his batting average, clutch hitting, and
dignified comportment. From 1925 to 1939 he played 2,130 ballgames in a
row, not missing one, despite injuries and illnesses. (It was the record
until eclipsed by the Baltimore Oriole’s formidable Cal Ripken in
1987).

Stamina by underdogs over great odds in various areas of lawful human
endeavor is engrossing because of all the elements in its making.
Focus, determination, resilience, skill, self-renewal, strategy and, at
its best, reflective idealism.

Who isn’t fascinated by bee hives, ant colonies, birds and squirrels
dutifully building nests, and the sheer alert stamina required of
mammals raising their young during constant peril?

This background provides context for contemplating the end of radio’s
John Sterling’s record announcing 5,060 straight New York Yankees
baseball games without missing one. Since 1989, whether ill or injured,
Sterling showed up every day in city after city to command the airwaves
and perform his duties. He was undaunted by fatigue or repetition.

As an unreconstructed Yankee fan (from the days of Gehrig, DiMaggio
and Mantle), I did not know about Sterling’s dedication. In between
articles on contract negotiations, player trades injuries and modest
misbehaviors, the New York Times finally reported this stunning streak of stamina.

It took a bout of exhaustion and his physician’s advice to convince
Sterling to take some days off, sleep a lot, eat a little more to
recover weight, and drink a gallon of water every day. “I’m just run
down,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with me,” the 81 year old radio
marathoner  told the Times.

Sterling’s record could be more unbreakable than Joe DiMaggio’s still standing 56 game hitting streak.

For five years in the nineteen eighties, the amazing Sterling
broadcast both the Atlanta Braves baseball games and the Atlanta Hawks
basketball games.

For a game with so many tedious intervals between pitches and
innings, Sterling and his co-anchor Suzyn Waldman, make baseball more
interesting with their banter, humor, and player vignettes. Sterling has
been a unique voice in baseball, calling home runs with rhyming ditties
on the hitters’ names and, of course, his breathless game-ending call
when “Theeeeeeeeeee Yankeeees Wiin.” For her part, Suzyn keeps tediously
reporting the pitch counts and pitch speeds, over batting averages.

The Times wrote that Sterling was going to use his time-off
to catch up with a pile of mail, too long ignored. I can resonate with
that chore. Neither John nor Suzyn chose to respond to my letter in 2012
regarding the non-stop, irritating, in-play advertising that
takes the spirit out of exciting plays. I expressed my sympathy for
their having to read these blizzards of ads that interrupt their peak
narrative. Such as “Judge’s homerun is brought to you by Kia,” or “this
consultation at the mound brought to you” by some law firm. Yeah, sure.

There was no in-play commercial corrosion when their famous
predecessor, Mel Allen, used to call the Yankee games on radio.
Ballantine Ale, a major sponsor, was promoted only between innings.

In my letter to the heads of the Yankees and Major League Baseball,
including former Yankee manager, Joe Torre, I included a detailed
listing of these interruptive in-play ads for one whole ball game.
Maddening. Why would advertisers want to turn off so many fans?

None of my letters were accorded a response, or even a courteous acknowledgement. (The Times did briefly write up this story).

The Yankee baseball corporation, a corporate welfare king by virtue
of its stadium and other tax breaks has been, alas, both censorious and
very sensitive to criticism. Recently, John and Suzyn interviewed New York Times sports reporter Bob Klapisch during a ball game. Klapisch is the author of the recently released book Inside the Empire: The True Power Behind the New York Yankees. It seemed to be a friendly narrative.

All three were gushing about the genius of long-time Yankee manager
Brian Cashman for his brilliant trades that have led to the Yankee’s
first place standing in their Division, despite a dozen or more injuries
to their starters. Unmentioned were the disastrous and very expensive
trades over many years that turned out to be bad deals – getting
over-the-hill stars, for instance, by trading away their talented young
farm team players plus gobs of cash from Cashman.

For over a decade, Cashman wrecked the celebrated Yankee minor league
farm teams that had brought forth the great players like Yogi Berra and
Derek Jeter, who won more World Series than any other team. Year after
year, under Cashman, the Yankees’ registered failure after failure,
despite their superior cash hoard, due mostly to “bad deals” Brian. The
one silver lining is that he has proven to both fans and major league
baseball that the biggest treasury no longer gets the biggest victories.
That was always the “knock” on the Yankees of yore from historic rivals
like the Boston Red Sox, still smarting over the sale in 1920 of the
great young pitcher – hitter, Babe Ruth to build the dreaded “Bronx
Bombers.”

Friends often  joke about my rooting for the New York Yankee
imperialists–  especially during the long period of corporate ownership
by loud George Steinbrenner, a jolting, edgy personality whom Donald J.
Trump must have studied carefully.

My response: there are some loyalties absorbed by four year old boys that never go away.

Eurasia Review


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