Part 1—Triggers "Brabender effect:" On several occasions, we've recalled the deathless words of the late Gene Brabender, who was, as far as we know, a totally decent person.
From 1966 through 1970, Brabender—reportedly, his nickname was Lurch—was a major league pitcher. He may have achieved his greatest fame as a character in Jim Bouton's celebrated 1970 book, Ball Four.
Bouton was a major league pitcher too. Ball Four was a diary of his 1969 season with the Seattle Pilots, a short-lived franchise which later became the Milwaukee Brewers.
Ball Four was widely praised when it appeared. Its fame has lived on after that. According to the leading authority on the book, it's "the only sports-themed book to make the New York Public Library's 1996 list of Books of the Century."
Also, Ball Four is "listed in Time magazine's 100 greatest non-fiction books of all time," a list which appeared in 2011. (More precisely, Time's honor roll represents "the 100 best and most influential [nonfiction books] written in English since 1923," the year Time began.)
Bouton's book was quite good; Brabender was one of its stars. In one of its most memorable passages, Brabender becomes angry when Bouton and several teammates conduct a long, abstruse discussion of an absurdly pointless topic during the latest long, boring day out in the Pilots' bullpen.
As his teammates conduct their pointless debate, the raw-boned country boy's gorge starts and continues to rise. Finally, "Lurch" can restrain himself no longer. Advising his teammates to shut the heck up, he authors his most famous speech:
"Where I come from, we just talk for a little while," the irate righthander exclaims. "After that we start to hit."
Brabender didn't want to hear any more discussion. According to major anthropologists who sometimes appear to us in our dreams, our flailing, floundering, irrational species may be wired that way—may be wired for (lack of) sound.
At any rate, at the end of last week, we thought of Gene Brabender's words. Here's the way we were triggered:
Last Thursday morning, the New York Times engaged in a bit of unusual conduct. The newspaper published fifteen (15) letters from people who still support Donald J. Trump.
The letters consumed that day's entire editorial page. Atop the page, the editorial board explained its unusual conduct. Hard-copy headline included:
Trump Voters, One Year InFifteen letters in praise of Trump appeared beneath that apologia. Interminably, people explained why they still support Donald J. Trump.
The Times editorial board has been sharply critical of the Trump presidency, on grounds of policy and personal conduct. Not all readers have been persuaded. In the spirit of open debate, and in hopes of helping readers who agree with us better understand the views of those who don’t, we wanted to let Mr. Trump’s supporters make their best case for him as the first year of his presidency approaches its close. Tomorrow we'll publish some letters from readers who voted for Mr. Trump but are now disillusioned, and from those reacting to these letters and our decision to provide Trump voters this platform.
For whatever reason, the editorial board had decided to publish those letters. There they stood last Thursday morning, apparently offending against everything decent, American, good.
Why do we say that? Here's why:
The very next day, as the editors promised, our own liberal team was allowed to reply to those letters. In our view, the letters the New York Times posted that day had a certain Gene Brabender feel.
According to Brabender, people where he came from only talked for a while. After that, they started brawlin'.
(Brabender grew up in Black Earth, Wisconsin, a small community which is part of the Madison Metropolitan Statistical Area.)
Brabender hated all that talk. Out in the bullpen that day, he wanted the others to shut the heck up—or at least, so Bouton said.
He wanted the others to shut the heck up. To our ear, it sounded that way, at least a bit, when our own tribe's letters appeared in the Times.
Our species may even be wired that way, or so it can sometimes appear.
Tomorrow: First the Trump voters. Then Us.