Monday, April 11, 2011

"Lessons from sixty years ago"

“Lessons from sixty years ago.”
by John Alexander Madison
April 11, 2011

The phrase “the shot heard ‘round the world” is from the poem "Concord Hymn" penned by Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1837. It referred to the first clash of the American Revolutionary War and since used to apply to other dramatic moments, military and otherwise. One such use was in game seven of baseball’s 1951 National League Championship when the New York Giants’ Bobby Thompson hit a game-ending home run off Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca. Almost everyone over 65 years of age will remember Russ Hodges’ call of that home run on WMCA-AM radio at 3:57 p.m. on October 3, 1951. Here is the call which continues to give me chills to this day; it was that dramatic, especially for a NY Giants fan:

“Bobby Thomson... up there swingin'... He's had two out of three, a single and a double, and Billy Cox is playing him right on the third-base line... One out, last of the ninth... Branca pitches... Bobby Thomson takes a strike called on the inside corner... Bobby hitting at .292... He's had a single and a double and he drove in the Giants' first run with a long fly to center... Brooklyn leads it 4-2...Hartung down the line at third not taking any chances... Lockman with not too big of a lead at second, but he'll be runnin' like the wind if Thomson hits one... Branca throws... [audible sound of bat meeting ball]

There's a long drive... it's gonna be, I believe...THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! Bobby Thomson hits into the lower deck of the left-field stands! The Giants win the pennant and they're goin' crazy, they're goin' crazy! HEEEY-OH!!!'' [ten-second pause for crowd noise]

I don't believe it! I don't believe it! I do not believe it! Bobby Thomson... hit a line drive... into the lower deck... of the left-field stands... and this blame place is goin' crazy! The Giants! Horace Stoneham has got a winner! The Giants won it... by a score of 5 to 4... and they're pickin' Bobby Thomson up... and carryin' him off the field!

The use of the phrase “the shot heard ‘round the world” became synonymous with Thomson's home run and may have been inspired by the high number of U.S. servicemen who listened to the game on Armed Forces Radio while stationed in Korea. Yes indeed, the aforementioned Horace Stoneham, owner of the N.Y. Giants, had a winner. And that is where this week’s story begins.

For reasons that I may share at a later date, I was shopping on line recently for a book published in New York in 1948 by Vista Publishing Corporation entitled “My Paradise is Hell…The Story of the Caribbean.” The on line listing described the book as “in very good condition, signed by the author in 1950 and presented to Horace Stoneham, owner of the N.Y. Giants.” Having been raised on a regular diet of N.Y. Giants baseball, both in the Polo Grounds and on the radio, I couldn’t buy the book quick enough. Upon receipt of the book, the inscription read: “TO: Horace Stoneham. It is always darkest before dawn. Giant fans are made of tough fabric. We will be rooting until we come up with a winner. Best wishes, (author’s signature).”

And how prophetic that was. The following year Bobby Thompson made Mr. Stoneham’s dream come true.

In the introduction to “My Paradise is Hell” the author describes his love affair with the Caribbean describing a wild jasmine “whose fragrant petals are white as the communion dress of a child…the drums of voodoo in the jungle still beat in my ears…the provocative invitations of golden-legged Creole rumba dancers will not vanish from my mind. I am a Caribbean captive forever.” He talks about “flirtations on a hotel patio with a girl you will never meet again but never quite forget, of fishing for tasty snapper and kingfish, of filming waterfalls and smiling native children. But one day, I met Francisco, and Francisco opened my eyes for other things. He told me a grim tale…” And that tale is the theme of this historical novel, of a paradise right on the front door of America, yet one which Francisco described as ‘my paradise is hell.’

Sixty-three years ago the author wrote that “very near our shores, there live people with burdens so great, that they are sure to affect America’s future.” Another prophecy for sure and below are a few excerpts from the author’s Introduction upon which, in 2011, we must reflect.

The author writes:
“Of necessity, Americans will eventually build the United Republics of America. The republics of such a union will retain their traditions of history, religion, language, and their national independence. But their materials resources they must pool, to make the American way of life available to all Americans, thus protecting ourselves.

“No country is better equipped, materially and spiritually, than the United States to support the concept of such a Union. Individual freedom and equality of opportunity, though yet imperfect in their American reality, are more likely to be achieved here than under most other systems (of government). For the people of a democracy pursue these ideals by popular consent, not violence. Convictions rather than imposed authority are the world’s strongest force.

“If the American Republics are successful in ending social and economic injustice in the Western Hemisphere, it will be the American system of freedom that prevails. If “One World” comes, this new America will be among its best spiritual and physical guarantees. If America fails, Western democracy will go into decline.”

More than six decades later, we now hear talk of a “One World Order,” which is a vision for some and which creates fear for others. The author suggests that the United States of America would benefit from and gain strength by reaching out to other countries throughout the North American community. It is certainly worth discussion and consideration.

Since 1948 the United States has supported humanitarian causes throughout the world and spent enormous amounts of our treasure and young lives in support of citizens of the world fighting tyranny where absolute power is vested in single rulers, dictatorships and other oppressive regimes. The author of “My Paradise is Hell,” suggested sixty-three years ago that under our own noses, within our own hemisphere, we have plenty of work to do to improving the quality of our neighbors.

Reading on: “No one can help the Caribbean adequately if he does not know its history…’My Paradise is Hell’ is directed to the general reader, the men and women who make democracy work, rather than to those who feel they speak on their behalf. It is the first general history of this important part of America from the days before Columbus until today. The author does not claim to touch upon all Caribbean matters…He has aimed at encouraging Americans to study Caribbean life in a narrative which he believes has omitted no important phase. If the reader is encouraged to acquaint himself further with a part of America which is close enough to influence our destinies, the author will feel richly rewarded. A world of worried men wonders whether our system of democracy has a conscience. The Caribbean, because it is our front yard, is one of our most important testing grounds.”

If we, as a nation, are to take away one important message from this book it is all our neighbors, not only our offshore neighbors in the Caribbean, but our neighbors to our north and south should be our most important priorities. This author’s message has been out there for seven decades and maybe, just maybe, it is time to act.


This book’s reference to a one world order, as written in 1948, should not be confused with an idea being promoted by our current President, which subjugates American independence to a multi-national governance model and eliminates any suggestion of traditions of history, individual freedoms, and American independence and American exceptionalism.

I think the author was on to something.

The lesson we learned from Bobby Thompson’s epic moment in baseball history is as Yogi Berra might say, ‘it ain’t over until it’s over.’ One lesson we can take away from “My Paradise is Hell” is things aren’t what they appear to be on the surface. As ideal as many Caribbean islands may appear with year-round tropical breezes, abundant native and indigenous flora and a laid back lifestyle there are socio-economic and political conditions which do not serve many of their citizens well.

*For baseball trivia buffs, do you know who was in the on-deck circle when the game ended at 3:57 p.m. on October 3, 1951? The answer: Willie Mays. #83

No comments:

Post a Comment