By Louis A. Zona
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Certain things bug the heck out of me. So I thought I’d share some of these topics with the hope that discussing them in this column doesn’t ruin your day.
So what do the late Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, Babe Ruth, George Gershwin and the largest moon of Saturn, Titan, have in common? For one they were and are quite impressive.
The former position of baseball as America’s game has been eclipsed by the NFL, which truly has become America’s pastime! OK, boys and girls, let’s play nice, as my grandmother used to say.
And speaking of playing nice, our politicians sure don’t do much of that anymore. We hear the stories of President Ronald Reagan and the former Democratic Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neill, going out to supper together after they had engaged in heated argument over the budget. Sadly, those days are way behind us when political opposites could actually have a beer together after a day of wrangling.
Sometimes I think that I am from another planet or have been on an eight-year voyage to Titan. For the life of me, I don’t have a clue as to who the entertainers are who appear regularly on television awards shows, “Saturday Night Live,” “America’s Got Talent” and a host of other programs.
I wonder what Babe Ruth would think about the fact that every Major League ball player, no matter his skill level, will earn $1 million this year. One could only imagine what the Babe would earn.
When a reporter asked him, “What’s it like to make more money than the president of the United States?” Ruth responded, “I had a better year than the president.” Actually, Babe Ruth saved baseball after the infamous Black Sox Scandal turned the fan base away from what was then our national pastime.
If you remember the 1944 film “Laura,” you know that the musical score, especially the title song “Laura,” was amazingly beautiful.
When a reporter asked George Gershwin was if there were a song that he wished he had written, he responded, “Yes, ‘Laura.’ ” How’s that for an endorsement?
It would be like Babe Ruth telling a college coach that he made perfect decisions on the ballfield and should win the College World Series.
On a different note, a friend in Florida donated two chairs the great architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed to The Butler. It was a wonderful gift that we received with great enthusiasm. On the very first day that the chairs were put on display, a young lady sat on one and broke its armrest. What are the chances?
My favorite Frank Lloyd Wright story occurred in Pittsburgh when that city was going through its renaissance. The mayor of Pittsburgh back in the ‘50s was David L. Lawrence.
Pittsburgh business leaders asked Wright if he would fly there in hopes that architect would comment and advise them as to what he believed needed to be done to resurrect the city.
Wright sat quietly in the plane, staring out the window. Upon landing, he took a moment then said, “Well, I think it would be cheaper to evacuate!”
Back to baseball, I was not around when Babe Ruth dominated the sport but one cold Sunday afternoon my dad and two brothers-in-law drove to Cleveland to see the Yankees play the Cleveland Indians.
I remember that it was in September with the wind blowing off the lake, freezing all in attendance. I got to see the Indians incredible pitching staff unable to shut down Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Yogi Berra. The Yankees had great stars back then. Mantle and Maris both homered that day.
Despite the fact that I rooted for the Indians, Mickey Mantle was every kid’s idol. He had everything. He could run like a bullet and hit a ball further than anyone else. It is said that he once hit a baseball 550 feet, a record that holds to this day.
But you could just imagine that people of my generation who got to watch Mantle play were incredibly disappointed to learn of his failings, on and off the field. But hey, it was Mickey and we all forgave him.
What irritates me no end is the fact that so many younger people are uninterested in learning what went on before them. The other day, I was mentioning to a group of college students that one of the most exciting football players in the history of the sport was Red Grange, known as “The Galloping Ghost.” Not one student was curious enough to want to know more about Grange and why he was called that.
I was getting my car repaired when on the radio in the garage played a song that the young man told me was his very favorite song and his wife’s favorite as well.
“That’s a pretty old song, I said. “It was a favorite of mine in the 1960s.”
“You’re kidding me,” he said.
I responded, “And I even have the vinyl Bobby Goldsboro album it appears on!
What’s that old saying? Youth is wasted on the young. It really is.