Friday, September 30, 2011

Play ball! We're on the road to the World Series.


Yes, I am a hockey-loving Canadian but I am also an ardent baseball fan.  September has come to an end and autumn is in the air.  This is a great time of year for both hockey and baseball with the new NHL season about to begin and, of course, the baseball postseason set to start.  It is certainly disappointing that my beloved Toronto Blue Jays won't be taking part in the playoffs again this year.  Unfortunately, Toronto's hometown heroes finished the season with 81 wins and 81 losses, a perfect .500 team.  To the dismay and frustration of their fans, the Jays have not participated in postseason play since they won the World Series in 1993.  That's 18 years and counting.

In the sports media, there has been a great deal of debate about expanding baseball's postseason.  Many relish thee thought of more teams having the opportunity to participate in the playoffs.  They argue that it would create more interest in more cities.  I'm ambivalent.  Here's why.  I think baseball would be better off with a salary cap rather than increasing the number of teams in the postseason.  Sure, some small market, small payroll teams such as Tampa Bay make the playoffs, but they are few and far between.  They are the exception. The majority of teams in the postseason have huge payrolls.

I do not believe, however, that Major League Baseball will adopt a salary cap any time soon.  Teams such as the Yankees, the Red Sox and the Philadelphia Phillies are not about to give up their advantage.  Sadly and realistically, I can't see that happening.  So, is expanding the playoffs the only alternative?  Unfortunately, it appears that way.  Otherwise, with 30 teams in the majors, some cities will continue to wait 15 to 25 years just to make the playoffs, never mind win the World Series.  The status quo is simply untenable.  The situation has to change. 

Here is my problem with expanding the playoffs.  One of the things I enjoy about baseball is that the postseason doesn't last too long.  I am loathe to see MLB go the route of the National Hockey League where the playoff season has become a two-month marathon.  The World Series is known as the October Classic, not the October-November Classic. 

I realize that adding a few postseason games will not make the postseason last until Christmas.  My concern is that it will allow baseball to continue down a slippery slope.  It will be easier to just keep extending the postseason, particularly if more teams join the league in the future.  However, an extended postseason seems to be the only viable solution as long as baseball refuses to impose a salary cap.  I would support it, albeit reluctantly. 

An expanded playoff format would be more palatable for me if the number of regular season games were reduced.  How about 160 games instead of 162?  That would be acceptable to me, but probably not to Major League Baseball.  That works out to a lot of games throughout the league and a lot of lost revenue.  It won't happen.

Here's another postseason problem baseball should address.  The sport needs to win the hearts and minds of children and youth.  They are the fans of the future.  Yet, due to the lure of television advertising dollars, these young baseball fans are being shut out.  There was a time when children rushed home from school to watch the pennant races and the World Series, but that has become part of a bygone era.  How many school children can stay up into the wee hours of the night to watch a playoff game or World Series game go into extra innings?

Okay, I've finished venting.  Post season play remains exciting and irresistible.  I watched the ignominious collapse of the Boston Red Sox and it felt almost surreal.  I could not believe how all the stars aligned for the upstart Tampa Bay Rays.  I would be quite pleased if the Rays went all the way to the World Series. 

The New York Yankees have a fantastic team as usual, with players such as Curtis Granderson,, but I'm tired of seeing them win.  The other teams I like are the Detroit Tigers and the Arizona Diamondbacks.  What a season Justin Verlander has had for the Tigers!  The D-backs recently acquired Aaron Hill and John McDonald from the Blue Jays.  Johnny Mack is a class guy.  I'm so happy for him that he has the opportunity to play in the postseason, but I'm hoping that he'll be back in a Blue Jays uniform next season.

- Joanne

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Who increased America's debt?


The biggest problem for world economies is unemployment. - not debt.   When employment increases, the debt decreases. Conversely, as employment falls, the debt rises.  If people are laid off, or if they are afraid of losing their jobs, they do not spend money and the economy stagnates.  When the economy stagnates, more workers are laid off.  As workers lose their jobs and their income drops, they do not pay as much in taxes and revenue is lost.  It's a vicious cycle of misery!  The only way to escape that cycle is get people back to work.  Jobs are the first priority.

Having said all that, let's take a look at the "debt crisis" in the United States.  Let's look at the facts and see under which president the United States accumulated the most debt.  Study the chart below.

You can see that the debt increased the most under Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.  It increased a whopping 189% under Ronald Reagan, 55% under George H.W. Bush, 37% under Bill Clinton, a whopping 115% under George W. Bush and 16% under Barack Obama.  The most right-wing conservative presidents preached fiscal restraint and ended up spending the most money on wars, prisons and tax breaks for billionaires.  Voters in the United States should consider these facts as they head toward the presidential election of 2012.

Here in Canada, Stephen Harper, a staunch economic conservative turned the surplus he was left with into a deficit.

- Joanne

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Why rugged individualism is not enough: The case for government and regulation


James Madison

If men were angels, no government would be necessary.

- James Madison (1751-1836), Fourth President of the United States
From The Federalist [1777]

Ah, there's the rub!  Human beings are not angels and, therefore, government is necessary in an imperfect world.   Government doesn't have to be oppressive and unduly intrusive.  It just has to be there when needed.  It has to be there in times of emergency.  It has to be there to prevent human selfishness and greed from running rampant.  It has to provide a balance against those who put profit ahead of all else, those who would put the lives and health of others at risk in order to make inordinate amounts of money.  Good government protects the welfare and safety of the people from the excesses of unfettered capitalism. 

Americans value rugged individualism.  It is their grand perception of the American dream.  It's the John Wayne mentality.  It's the cowboy creed and it is not without merit.  Self-reliance is an admirable quality and should be encouraged.  Those of the extreme right-wing persuasion, however, advocate individualism to the exclusion of almost everything else.  This is a flawed vision of society, a flawed vision of a nation.  There can be no liberty and justice for all without a sense of community.  As the poet John Donne so eloquently put it:  "No man is an island entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main."

Community and individuality are not mutually exclusive.  We are not faced with an either/or choice. Individual initiative and individual responsibility can and do flourish within strong communal bonds.  Ronald Reagan was wrong when he said that government is part of the problem, not the solution.  Government can and should be looked upon as a force for good and not as the enemy.  Just as we should not suppress the human spirit and the need for every human being to have individual freedom, neither should we suppress the human capacity to work together as one in order to solve problems and to assist each other.

A society of conforming robots is not desirable, but neither is a society of great inequity where those in need are trampled on and left behind.  It is sad and reprehensible that in developed nations such as Canada and the United States children go to sleep hungry and people live in abject poverty.  We cannot just shake our heads and say it's too bad that those unfortunates cannot keep up with the survival of the fittest.  Nor can we shrug self-righteously and dismiss the poor and disadvantaged as lazy and unmotivated.

On September 8, 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama addressed Congress to provide details of his proposed American Jobs Act.  I have provided an excerpt from Obama's speech because I believe the words ring true.  They set forth the case for the necessity of government regulation and spending - not excessive and irresponsible spending, but necessary spending.


We should have no more regulation than the health, safety and security of the American people requires.  Every rule should meet that common standard.  But what we can't do, what I will not do, is let this economic crisis be used as an excuse to wipe out the basic protections that Americans have counted on for decades.  I reject the idea that we need to ask people to choose between their jobs and their safety.  I reject the argument that says for the economy to grow, we have to roll back protections that ban hidden fees by credit card companies or rules that keep our kids from being exposed to mercury or laws that prevent the health insurance industry from shortchanging patients.  I reject the idea that we have to strip away collective bargaining rights to compete in a global economy.  We shouldn't be in a race to the bottom where we try to offer the cheapest labour and the worst pollution standards.  We should be in a race to the top.  And I believe we can win that race.  In fact, this larger notion that the only thing we can do to restore prosperity is to dismantle government and refund everyone's money and let everyone write their own rules and tell everyone they're on their own, it's not who we are!  It's not the story of America.  Yes, we are rugged individuals.  Yes, we are strong and self-reliant.  And it has been the drive and initiative of our workers and entrepreneurs that has made this economy the engine and the envy of the world.  But there has always been another thread running throughout our history: A belief that we're all connected and that there are some things we can only do together as a nation.  We all remember Abraham Lincoln as the leader who saved our Union, founder of the Republican Party.  But in the middle of a civil war, he was also a leader who looked to the future, a Republican president who mobilized government to build the transcontinental railroad, launch the National Academy of Sciences, set up the first land grant colleges.  And leaders of both parties have followed the example he set.  Ask yourself, where would we be right now if the people who sat before us decided not to build our highways, not to build our bridges, our dams, our airports?  What would this country be like if we had chosen not to spend money on public high schools, on research universities or community colleges?  Millions of returning heroes, including my own grandfather, had the opportunity to go to school because of the GI Bill.  Where would we be if they hadn't had that chance?  How many jobs would it have cost us if past Congresses decided not to support the basic research that led to the Internet and the computer chip?  What kind of country would this be if this chamber voted down social security because it violated some rigid idea about what government could or could not do?  How many Americans would have suffered as a result.  No single individual built America alone.  We built it together.


What has happened to moderate conservatives?  Are they around anymore in Canada and the United States?  Have they gone the way of the dinosaur?  If not, why aren't their voices being heard?  Why don't they speak up?  Why have they allowed the Tea Party types to dominate the political agenda?

Here in Canada, those of the conservative stripe used to be more moderate and reasonable.  We used to have a Progressive Conservative Party.  Now it's the Conservative Party.  As for Red Tories. they are no where to be seen or heard.  Where once we had John Diefenbaker, Robert Stanfield and Joe Clark, we now have Stephen Harper.  What a shame!

- Joanne

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Jim Croce: Photographs and Memories of His Life


Photographs and memories
Christmas cards you sent to me
All that I have are these
To remember you
From the song "Photographs and Memories"
Lyrics by Jim Croce
The songs we listen to in high school tend to linger in our minds.  They are never forgotten.  That is why I will always remember the impact Jim Croce's music had on me.  When I was in high school in the 1970s, Jim was one of the most popular singers of the day.  He wasn't a flashy dresser and he wasn't given to fancy stage antics or high tech glitz.  Jim had an honest, down to earth style.  He was a blue-collar kind of guy who preferred to wear jeans.  His hair was thick and wavy and he sported a handlebar moustache.  On stage, it was just the man, his music and his acoustic guitar.

Croce told stories through his songs and people related to them.  Of his music, Jim once said: "I kinda like to write songs about things that a lot of people have experience with, 'cause it really makes the songs communicate."

I am paying tribute to Jim Croce today because it is the 38th anniversary of his death.  Jim was only 30 years old when lost his life in a small commercial plane crash on September 20, 1973.  He had just performed a concert at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana and was flying to Sherman Texas. for another concert.  The weather was foggy and the Beechcraft 1E8S plane Croce had chartered crashed during takeoff from Natchitoches Regional Airport when it failed to clear some pecan trees at the end of the runway.  The pilot and all five passengers perished in the accident.  The passengers included Croce, his lead guitarist Maury Muehleisen, his booking agent Kenneth D. Cortose, his road manager Dennis Rast and opening act comic George Stevens.

Just prior to his death, Jim had finished recording a new album.  The album was called I Got a Name and it was released posthumously on December 1, 1973.  Its title track had been featured as the theme to the movie The Last American Hero which premiered two months before Croce's tragic passing.

James Joseph "Jim" Croce was born in South Philadelphia on January 10, 1943 to an Italian-American family.  He took an interest in music at an early age and learned how to play "Lady of Spain" on the accordion.when he was five years old.  He started to become really serious about music as a career while attending Villanova University in Pennsylvania in the early 1960s.  He formed various bands there and performed at fraternity parties and at coffee houses.  In those early days, Jim played anything the people wanted to hear, from blues to railroad music.  He eventually found a job at a Philadelphia R&B station. 

After a stint in the United States Army, Jim returned to Philadelphia and taught special education at a high school before deciding to give his music career another chance.  On August 28, 1966, he married Ingrid Jacobson.  Jim and Ingrid performed as a duo and sang the songs of Ian and Sylvia, Gordon Lightfoot, Woody Guthrie and Joan Baez.  Eventually, they began composing their own music.

In 1968, on the advice of record producer Tommy West, the couple moved to New York City where they played the coffee house circuit.  In 1969, they recorded an album titled Jim and Ingrid Croce.  For the next two years, they promoted their album, performing at small clubs and colleges. 

Disillusioned with New York, Jim and Ingrid returned to Pennsylvania and settled in the countryside town of Lyndell in Chester County.  On September 28, 1971, their only child was born, a son named Adrian James Croce, known as A.J.  During that time, Jim worked in construction and did some studio work in New York, mostly background for commercials.

Croce's big breakthough came in 1972 when he signed a three-record deal with ABC Records.  That same year, he released two albums, You Don't Mess Around with Jim and Life and Times.  The title track from You Don't Mess Around with Jim was released as a single and it reached the U.S. Top Ten.  Another song from the album, "Bad Bad Leroy Brown" became a huge hit.  By August of 1973, "Bad Bad Leroy Brown" was the #1 song in the United States.  Jim toured the country and appeared on television several times.  He was a guest host on the then-popular late night music program The Midnight Special

To watch  video of Jim singing "Bad Bad Leroy Brown" on The Midnight Special, click on the link below.

Jim Croce's "Time in A Bottle" was featured as the theme in the opening and closing credits of the ABC made-for-television" movie She Lives!, which aired on September 12, 1973.  The next day, radio stations across the U.S. were inundated with requests for the song.  Jim would never see "Time in A Bottle" climb to the top of the charts.  He died only eight days later, another in a list of singers and musicians who have been killed in accidents while travelling on small planes.  The list includes Patsy Cline, Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens, Rick Nelson, John Denver, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Otis Redding and Ronnie VanZant, Steve Gaines and Cassie Gaines of the group Lynyrd Skynyrd.


Ingrid Croce owns and operates a restaurant dedicated to her late husband.  It is located in the historic Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego, California.  It is called Croce's Restaurant & Jazz Bar and it was opened in 1985.

Jim and Ingrid's son, A.J. Croce, is a musician.  He is an accomplished songwriter and pianist.  On September 28th, just eight days from now, Adrian will turn 40 years old.  According to his website biography, A.J. lost his eyesight temporarily in early childhood due to a brain tumour.  From the ages of four to ten, he gradually regained his vision.  A.J.'s website refers to a wife and children, but does not mention any details such as names, dates or ages.

- Joanne

Friday, September 16, 2011

Doris Day is back!


Doris Day lives a quiet life near Carmel-by-the-Sea, California.  She's 87 years old and has long been retired from show business.  For years, she has dedicated her life to the welfare of animals.  The Hollywood legend, however, has just released her first collection of new songs in 17 years.  It's called My Heart and was produced by Doris' late son, Terry Melcher.  The CD includes a track, "Happy Endings," performed by Melcher, and recorded before his death in 2004.  Day has also included a poignant, spoken- word introduction to her son's song.

Melcher, a record producer and musician, was Doris' son by her first husband, trombonist Al Jordan. When he was about ten years old, he was adopted by Day's third husband, Martin Melcher, and took his surname.  After battling melanoma cancer, Terry died on November 19, 2004 at the age of 62.  During his career, Melcher worked with The Beach Boys, The Birds and Ry Cooder.  He also co-wrote the Beach Boys' popular "Kokomo" from the movie Cocktail starring Tom Cruise.

Of her deceased son, Doris told Britain's Daily Telegraph: "I miss my Terry every day.  But I keep him here and I'm so happy that he's singing on the album.  I used to love to hear him sing and he should have done more things."  She said, "I get mail from his friends all the time saying he had so much talent and he was always laid back.  He didn't push himself.  He was such a good guy and I loved him dearly."

The Daily Telegraph published a Doris Day interview with Paul McCartney.  Doris and Sir Paul became friends about ten years ago when McCartney visited her home in Carmel Valley, California to discuss her animal rescue efforts through the Doris Day Animal Foundation.  McCartney, an ardent vegetarian, and Day, have a mutual interest in animal rights.  In the Daily Telegraph interview, Doris told McCartney that she just loves "animals, babies and music" (She didn't specify in which order).  To read the McCartney/Day interview, click on the link below.

My Heart was released in Austria and Germany on September 2, 2011, the United Kingdom on September 5th and in the United States on September 12th.  Its remastered recordings span from 1951 to 1994 and do not reflect Day's present voice.  In an interview with the UK's Yorkshire Post, Doris explained how it was brought to her attention that the recordings were in storage and that Sony wished to release them.  She admitted to having some "misgivings" at first, but liked them after they were remastered.

My Heart made it into the top ten charts in Britain, debuting at No. 9 and outselling Lady Ga Ga and Bruno Mars.  Doris Day made history by becoming the oldest artist to reach the top 10 in Britain with previously unheard material.  Tracks on the album include "You Are So Beautiful (To Me)," the Joe Cocker hit from the 1970s, and classics such as "My Buddy," which Day sang in the 1951 film I'll See You In My Dreams.   Also included is "Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries," Terry's favourite of his mother's recordings, and "Ohio," form the Leonard Bernstein musical Wonderful Town.  Ohio just happens to be Doris' home state and she was raised there.

The Cincinnati-born Day, whose first hit was "Sentimental Journey" in 1945, revealed to the Post that she does not listen to much current music.  She did, nevertheless, express a liking for Canada's own crooner, Michael Buble.  She remarked, "I think Michael Buble is marvellous but perhaps that's because he sings in a style I'm so familiar with."

To listen to a BBC interview of Doris Day speaking about her album, please click on the link below.  This is her website on which occasionally records messages for her fans.

- Joanne

EDITOR'S UPDATE (April 11, 2014): Doris Day celebrated her 90th birthday greeting fans and posing for photos.  She was born Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff in Cincinnati, Ohio but there has been a public dispute about whether her actual birth date is April 3, 1922 or April 3, 1924. Throughout her career, Doris has given her birth year as 1924.  However, census records and her biographer (David Kaufman) cite 1922 as the correct year of her birth.

Since Doris considers April 3, 1924 to be her birth date, she decided to make her first public appearance in years at her 90th birthday party.  She was the surprise guest of honour at the birthday celebration in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California on Friday, April 4, 2014.  Fans from all over the world were invited to attend the event, although it is uncertain whether there had been definite plans for Doris herself to show up.  

The party took place at Carmel's Cypress Inn, owned by Doris since the 1980s.  It was held to benefit the Doris Day Animal Foundation and Peter Marshall, who hosted The Hollywood Squares, was the emcee.  Fellow animal lover, 92-year-old Betty White, conveyed birthday greetings to Doris via video.

EDITOR'S UPDATE (April 4, 2017):  The mystery surrounding Doris Day's actual birthdate has finally been solved.  The Associated Press did some investigating and obtained a copy of Doris' birth certificate from Ohio's Office of Vital Statistics.  The birth certificate indicated that Doris Mary Kappelhoff was born on April 3, 1922, not 1924.  Therefore, she turned 95 years old yesterday, not 93.  Doris took the news in stride and issued the following statement: "I have never paid much attention to birthdays, but it's great to finally know how old I really am."  

The revelation also means that Doris is only a few months younger than her friend, Betty White.  Betty was born on January 17, 1922.  

EDITOR'S UPDATE (May 13, 2019): Doris Day passed away on May 13, 2019 in Carmel Valley, California.  She was 97 years old at the time of her passing.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Denny McLain: The last 30-game winner


When you can do it out there between the white lines, you can live any way you want.

- Denny McLain

Let's enjoy another baseball memory.  Let's return to Tiger Stadium on September 14, 1968.  It was 43 years ago today that Denny McLain won his 30th game of the season for the Detroit Tigers.  There were 44,087 fans in attendance as the 24-year-old right-hander became the first major league pitcher in 34 years to achieve 30 wins.  In the crowd was Dizzy Dean, the man who had accomplished the same feat for the St. Louis Cardinals back in 1934. 

Denny McLain's 30th win was not an easy one.  There was high drama in the Motor City that day as the Detroit Tigers came from behind to defeat the Oakland A's by a score of 5-4.  A game-winning run by Willie Horton in the bottom of the ninth inning sealed the comeback victory for the Tigers.  In the midst of the celebratory mob scene, there was a poignant moment as Dizzy Dean embraced a triumphant McLain.

Denny McLain went on to achieve a remarkable 31 victories that year against only 6 losses.  1968 was truly his dream season.  Unfortunately, it wasn't long after that magical season that everything went downhill for the talented pitcher.  In fact, his life turned into a nightmare and he found himself in prison. 

Nothing, however, can take Denny's 1968 achievements away from him.  McLain had an amazing record that year and he took the baseball world by storm.  In addition to his stellar 31-6 season, he boasted an ERA of 1.96.  He was the league leader in victories, winning percentage (8.38), complete games (28) and innings pitched (336).  Not too shabby, eh?  How many pitchers throw 28 complete games in a season anymore?

The awards amd accolades just kept on coming for Denny McClain in 1968.  He was selected as American League All-Star.  He won the Cy Young Award and he was chosen as the Most Valuable Player in the American League.  His Detroit Tigers went on to win the October Classic and he received a World Series ring. Oh yes, and if that weren't enough, the Associated Press named him male athlete of the year.  At the age of 24, Denny McLean was sitting on top of the world.

Dennis Dale "Denny" McLain was born on March 29, 1944 in Chicago, Illinois.  He attended Mount Carmel High School in Chicago and was initially signed by the Chicago White Sox.  The Detroit Tigers selected him off waivers and he became a major leaguer in 1963 at 19 years old.  In 1965, his breakthrough season, Denny posted a 2.61 ERA and a 16-6 record.  Although it was practically impossible to top his extraordinary 1968 season, McLain continued to excel in 1969.  He won another Cy Young Award which he shared with lefty Mike Cuellar of the Baltimore Orioles.  Both pitchers had 24 wins. 

1970 was the year that everything began to unravel in the life and career of Denny McClain.  In February of that year, Sports Illustrated featured McClain on its cover with the blaring headline "Denny McLain and the Mob: Baseball's Big Scandal."  His problems began to mount after he found himself the subject of an investigation by a Detroit grand jury for possible involvement in gambling activity.  When he admitted to investing in a bookmaking operation, Commissioner Bowie Kuhn suspended him indefinitely on April 1, 1970.  Although the suspension was removed on July 1, 1970, McClain's woes continued as his conduct became quite bizarre.

The Detroit Tigers suspended Denny twice during the 1970 season for incidents such as pouring buckets of water on a couple of Detroit sportswriters and carrying a gun on a commercial airliner.  He only played 14 games that season posting a record of 3 wins, 5 losses and a 4.63 ERA.  During the 1970 World Series, McLain was traded to the Washington Senators, a trade which Bowie Kuhn later described in his autobiography Hardball: The Education of a Baseball Commissioner as "a foolish gamble" on the part of the Senators.

Subsequent events proved Kuhn's assessment of the trade to be quite correct.  Denny spent one season with the Washington Senators and it was a disaster.  He was in continual conflict with manager Ted Williams who had objected to the trade and did not approve of McLain's lifestyle.  Denny was not pleased with Williams either.  In fact, he and four other Washington players formed the "Underminers Club" and dedicated themselves to getting Williams fired.

On the mound, Denny McClain's 1971 season was absolutely miserable.  Plagued by a sore arm, he became incapable of throwing fastballs.  He recorded a whopping 22 losses to go along with his 10 wins.  In two years, Denny had gone from leading the American League in wins to leading it in losses.  Little wonder he was traded to the Oakland A's after the 1971 season for journeyman pitcher Jim Panther and prospect Don Stanhouse.  Stanhouse would go on to have success as a closer for the Baltimore Orioles in the late 1970s.

Denny McClain's major league career came to an end in 1972.  The two-time Cy Young winner was traded to the Atlanta Braves after five unimpressive starts for the Oakland A's.  He made his final appearance in the big leagues on September 12, 1972 against the Cincinnati Reds.  He was sent into a tie game in the ninth inning and allowed three runs without retiring a batter.  How's this for irony?  The last batter McLain faced in his career was Pete Rose who also became embroiled in a huge gambling scandal.

The Atlanta Braves released Denny McLain during spring training in 1973.  After a couple of stints in the minors in Des Moines and Shreveport, Denny decided to retire from baseball.  He was only 29 years old.  It is interesting to note that he came out of retirement to play a season in the Intercounty Baseball League here in Canada.  In 1974, McLain was a pitcher, shortstop, first baseman and catcher for the London Majors at Labatt Memorial Park in London, Ontario.  Due to his arm problems, he only pitched nine innings for the Majors.

During his post-baseball years, Denny McClain's downslide continued.  In 1985, he was sentenced to 23 year in prison for drug trafficking (cocaine), extortion and racketeering.  He served 30 months before winning an appeal.  His conviction was overturned and he was released.  In the 1980s and early 1990s, between his incarcerations and his rehabilitation programs, McClain made appearances on various radio and television shows in the Detroit area. 

Denny and his family suffered a tragedy on March 20, 1992 when his eldest daughter, Kristin, 26, lost her life in a car accident involving an impaired driver.  She had been living in Florida and was moving back to Michigan when she was killed near the home of her parents.  After his daughter's death, McLain and some partners purchased the Peet Packing Company, a meat packing plant, in the town of Chesaning, Michigan.  The company went bankrupt and in 1996 Denny was convicted on charges of embezzlement, mail fraud and conspiracy in connection with theft from the employee's pension fund.  McLain was jailed for six years although he maintained that he was unaware of the shady dealings.

In 2007, Denny McLain published his autobiography, appropriately titled I Told You I Wasn't Perfect.  The book was co-written by veteran Detroit sportscaster and author Eli Zaret.  Now 67 years old, McLean lives in Pinckney, Michigan with his long-suffering wife Sharon (some sources spell her name Sharyn), the daughter of Hall-of-Fame baseball player, manager and announcer Lou Boudreau.  They couple married on October 5, 1963 and had four children: the late Kristen, Denny Jr., Tim and Michelle.  They divorced in 1998 but later remarried.

Despite his struggles and his personal demons, Denny McClain was a great pitcher.  He had a career record of 131 wins, 2 shutouts and a 3.39 ERA.  He struck out a total of 1,282 hitters.  One can only wonder what he would have achieved without his personal problems and the pain and inflammation of a torn rotator cuff.


* Denny plays the organ and the "Denny McLain Quartet" appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1968, accompanied on the guitar by fellow pitcher and Word Series opponent Bob Gibson.

* Denny wore #34 during his first two seasons with the Detroit Tigers in 1963 and 1964.  During the remainder of his time with the Tigers, from 1965 until 1970, he wore #17.  He also wore #17 with the Washington Senators in 1971 and the Oakland Athletics in 1972.  During his brief stint with the Atlanta Braves in 1972, he wore #30.

- Joanne

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Infamous Edwin Alonzo Boyd


Edwin Alonzo Boyd was born in Toronto on April 2, 1914.  Four months after his birth, World War I broke out in Europe.  Ed's father, Glover Boyd,.was an electrician and was employed by Eaton's department store.  Glover joined the army in the summer of 1915 and served overseas during the earliest years of his son's childhood. When he returned home in 1919, he worked as a lumberer in the Muskoka woods.

In 1920, a second son, Gordon, was born to the Boyds and Glover decided to search for work closer to his family in Toronto.  Accordingly, he answered a recruiting ad and was accepted as a police constable with the Toronto Police Department.  Glover Boyd was to remain with the force for a quarter of a century.

Two more children followed Gordon, a son named Norman and a daughter, Irene.  Gord and Norm contracted scarlet fever in early 1930 and the family was quarantined.  In March of that year, Ed's mother, Eleanor, died of the disease. Ed was only 15 years old when she passed away.  After her death, he dropped out of school and left home.  As a youth, he drifted across Canada and had some minor run-ins with the law during the Depression years of the 1930s. At the age of 22, he served time at Prince Albert Penitentiary in Saskatchewan for robbing a gas station.

During World War II, Boyd joined the Canadian Army as an infantryman. While overseas, he married Doreen Mary Frances Thompson and the couple had three children.  After the war, he returned to Toronto with his British war bride and found employment as a streetcar driver. Unhappy and bored with his job, this son of a police officer turned to crime.

Boyd with Doreen and children

It will be exactly 62 years ago tomorrow, on September 9, 1949, that Edwin Alonzo Boyd committed his first bank robbery.  Operating as a lone bandit and wearing a disguise, a drunken Boyd robbed a branch of the Bank of Montreal in Toronto.  Armed with a pistol (a Luger he had taken from a dead German soldier in France), the inebriated thief escaped with $3,000, a princely sum in those days.  Acting alone and with the help of accomplices, he committed six more robberies before being captured and imprisoned in Toronto's Don Jail.

Boyd's mugshots.  He was described as 37 years old, 5'7 3/8 ", slim build, black hair (grey), blue eyes 

It was in the Don Jail that Boyd met Leonard "Tough Lennie" Jackson and Willie "The Clown" Jackson (not related) who were to become his partners in further criminal activity.  Lennie Jackson, an ex-hairdresser from Niagara Falls, had an artificial foot (he lost his foot in a railway accident) and the three men escaped from prison on November 4, 1951 by concealing hacksaw blades in Jackson's prosthetic device.  The trio of  convicts used the blades to saw through the bars on an outside window.

After their escape, a fourth man joined the band of thieves.  His name was Valent Lesso (alias Steve Suchan).  The group committed four more robberies in four months and was dubbed "The Boyd Gang" by the press.  Although "Tough Lennie" Jackson was the real leader, it was Edwin Alonzo Boyd who was better looking and more charismatic.

The Boyd Gang engaged in further bank robberies and on March 6, 1952, two of the gang members, Steve Suchan and Lennie Jackson, shot and killed police detective Edmund Tong, a crime for which they would later hang.  They and Boyd were soon apprehended, but escaped from the Don Jail a second time on the night of September 7, 1952.  Once again, they used hacksaw blades hidden in Lennie Jackson's wooden foot along with a cell key they had created from the palm print of the original. 

The exploits of the Boyd Gang made sensational front page headlines.  On September 8, 1952, their escape was also detailed by anchorman Lorne Greene (of Bonanza fame) on the first news telecast of the new CBC television network.  Ten days later, some men were seen at a barn in the Don Valley, about 24 km. (15 miles from the prison) and the Boyd gang, except for Boyd himself, was captured there without incident. 

Edwin Alonzo was later found at the rented flat of his brother Norman.  Police had kept the flat under surveillance and obtained a key to the back door from the owner.  They watched from a neighbour's home as Boyd moved into the flat.  At the break of dawn, they entered the house and captured Boyd and his wife while they were still sleeping in bed.  Norman, who was sleeping in another room, was also apprehended by police. 

The Toronto Nugget reported that "Edwin Alonzo Boyd, Canada's Public Enemy Number One, surrendered meekly with his henchmen to two suburban detectives, ending the greatest criminal man hunt in the Dominion's history."

In 1952, Edwin Alonzo Boyd Boyd was given eight life sentences while Willie Jackson received a thirty year sentence foe his crimes.  Both men served their time in Ontario's Kingston Penitentiary and both were released in 1966.  On December 16, 1952, the last rites were administered to Steve Suchan and Lennie Jackson.  Nor long after midnight on the morning of December 17th, they were executed, hanged back to back.

Boyd was originally paroled in 1962 after spending 10 years in prison, but was returned for four more years due to parole violations.  After serving 14 years, the notorious bank robber was released on lifetime parole.  He then moved near Victoria, British Columbia where he lived under an assumed identity and drove a bus for disabled people.  He remarried and devoted himself to the care of his disabled wife, Marjorie, whom he had met on the bus.  Edwin Alonzo Boyd died in British Columbia on May 17, 2002 at the age of 88.


* Edwin Alonzo Boyd was the subject of an episode of the CBC biographical series Life and Times.  Boyd's biography contains interviews with the notorious bank robber himself during the months just prior to his death.  His  ex-wife, his daughter and his adopted son also speak out on the program.  During the interviews, Boyd, the man known as the "Gentleman Bank Robber" chillingly confesses that he "did a few things that could have got me hung."

* I have obtained some of the information in this piece from a book entitled Edwin Alonzo Boyd: The Story of the Notorious Boyd Gang by Brian Vallee.  I recommend the book to those who want to read further about Edwin Alonzo Boyd and the Boyd gang.

- Joanne

Where do people live the longest? Reflections on age and longevity


We turn not older with years, but newer every day.

- Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), American poet
From an 1874 letter

Japan has the highest life expectancy in the world according to a recent study conducted by the department of Global Health Policy at the University of Tokyo.  The results of the study appeared in Lancet, the highly respected British medical journal.  Several factors, such as an increase in female literacy in the ealy 20th century, were cited as reasons for the improvement in child survival rates.

The report found that a Japanese child born within the last few years will live to an average of 86 years of age.  It attributed this longevity to several factors including universal health care, better education and a healthy lifestyle.  It credited government investment in public health during the 1950s and 1960s with lowering mortality rates for infectious diseases among children and adolescents. 

The study also be noted that having certain drugs covered under health insurance lessened the number of deaths due to strokes, one of the major reasons for the continual increase in Japanese longevity after the mid-1960s.

Government investment in health care and education leads to beneficial results.  The results of this report should be required reading for those who want to cut and slash education spending and oppose public health care.


Rowan Atkinson, the British comedian who is best known for his portrayal of the bumbling Mr. Bean, announced that he is too old to play the character anymore.  Atkinson, who is 56 years old, said in an interview in Australia that he has a feeling that he probably won't play the part of Mr. Bean again.  "Never say never," he remarked, "but I just feel I'm getting too old for it.  I've always liked Mr. Bean as a cartoon-like figure, who doesn't really age much."  He added that he's always seen Mr. Bean as "an ageless and timeless being and I'm clearly not ageless and timeless."

As a fan of Rowan Atkinson and his Mr. Bean persona, it saddens me that he may never play that role again.  Yet, I realize he can't portray the Bean character forever.  The problem lies in determining how long an actor or athlete should continue performing.  Should they, as the poet Dylan Thomas put it, "rage against the dying of the light" of should they, as Kenny Rogers sang, "know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away?"

Many athletes continue way past their "best before" date  because they love their sport and they enjoy competition.  Even when they are past their prime, they still have a desire to compete.  Some are willing to adjust and make changes, if possible, to extend their careers.  In baseball, older pitchers become knuckleballers or closers.  Older position players assume the role of designated hitter. 

Who has the right to tell star athletes how and when to retire?  I know that If I were an athlete, I'd want to finish my career in the same manner as baseball great Ted Williams.  Williams went out in a blaze of glory by hitting a home run in his final at-bat on September 28, 1960.  How's that for a grand finale?

Hockey's Lanny McDonald also ended his career in glory.  The Alberta native is considered a local hero in Calgary for leading the Calgary Flames to their one and only championship in 1989.  McDonald retired after hoisting the Stanley Cup and is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Entertainers can have much longer careers than athletes.  Singer Tony Bennett, born August 3, 1926, is still performing at the age of 85.   Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones is still strutting on stage at 68.  Jagger, who was born on July 26, 1943, once famously remarked, "I'd rather be dead than singing 'Satisfaction' when I'm forty-five."  You certainly changed your mind about that, didn't you, Mick?

Paul McCartney and the late John Lennon composed a song that asked "Will you still need me, will you still feed me, When I'm Sixty-four?"  McCartney, born June 18, 1942, is now 69 years old.  In October of 2006, not long after he turned 64, the former Beatle remarked, "In one old people's home they changed the words of the song to 'When I'm 84' as they considered 64 to be young.  I might do that."

Some of the most prominent world leaders are septuagenarians and octogenarians.  Here is a list of them:

Queen Elizabeth II (85 years old, born April 21, 1926)

Pope Benedict XVI  (84 years old, born April 16, 1927)

The 14th Dalai Lama (76 years old, born July 6. 1935)

Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India (78 years old, born September 26, 1932)

Raul Castro, President of Cuba (80 years old, born June 3, 1931)

Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe (87 years old, born February 21, 1924)

King Abdulla of Saudi Arabia (born 1924)

Here are some great quotations on the subject of age:

The man who works and is not bored is never old.

- Pablo Casals (1876-1973) Spanish musician and composer

It's not the years, honey, it's the mileage.

- Spoken by Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones in the 1981 film Raiders of the Lost Ark (screenplay by George Lucas and Philip Kaufman)

Every man desires to live long; but no man would be old.

- Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)
From Thoughts on Various Subjects (1727 edition)

The tragedy of old age is not that one is old, but that one is young.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
From The Picture of Dorian Grey [1891]

So much about age is relative.  Swiss tennis champion Roger Federer recently turned 30.  He was born August 8, 1981.  In the sport of tennis, Federe is a greybeard, a grizzled veteran.  There is always some up-and-coming 17-year-old ready to challenge.  If, however, Federer were a 30-year-old politician, he'd be considered a greenhorn, too young to be a national leader.

- Joanne