SATURDAY, JUNE 4, 2022
The sunshine of the prairie summer would come sifting down: We'd planned to do something a little bit different today.
For a hint of the statistical glory involved in that plan, see this morning's postscript. That said, for better or worse, we were knocked off course earlier this morning.
First, we watched the tape of Cooper and Prokupecz all over again. We marveled anew at the immensity of their corporate and tribal arrogance.
(We recalled Cooper's pair of pandering interviews with Candidate Trump back in 2016. As has been widely acknowledged, the corporate bosses at cable channels were cashing in on the high ratings associated with Candidate Trump at that time. "None of us human beings is perfect," we kept reminding ourselves.)
At any rate, we watched Cooper and Prokupecz again, as the pair performed their moral greatness and their journalistic ineptitude. Then, we spent the 7 A.M. hour listening to C-Span viewers discussing President Biden.
It was a painful though highly instructive hour. It drove us to one of the greatest books—Sandburg's poetical two-volume biography, Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years.
The nation was much smaller in those years, and it was in great trouble. At the end of his second volume, Sandburg describes the last journey Lincoln took, as president-elect, before heading off to meet his fate in the nation's capital.
As we've noted before, Lincoln took one last journey out of Springfield to visit his beloved stepmother, Sally Bush Lincoln. She was the one who had seen the potential in Lincoln when he was still a boy.
By most accounts, she was the one who had encouraged him to be himself—to respect his heart and his head. Now he was going to see her for what would turn out to be the last time.
Lincoln hitched a ride in the caboose of a freight train out to Coles County, Illinois. He spent the evening conversing with friends. Sandburg takes over from there:
SANDBURG (page 417): The next day Lincoln drove eight miles out to the old farm along the road over which he had hauled wood with an ox team. He came to the old log house had cut logs for and helped smooth the chinks; from its little square windows he had seen late winter and early birds.
"From its little square windows," Sandburg noted, Lincoln "had seen late winter and early birds."
Lincoln's stepmother still lived in that house. Sandburg continues from there:
SANDBURG (continuing directly): Sally Bush and he put their arms around each other and listened to each other’s heartbeats. They held hands and talked; they talked without holding hands. Each looked into eyes thrust back in deep sockets. She was all of a mother to him.
He was her boy more than any born to her. He gave her a photograph of her boy, a hungry picture of him standing and wanting, wanting. He stroked her face a last time, kissed good-by, and went away.
She knew his heart would go roaming back often, that even when he rode in an open carriage in New York or Washington with soldiers, flags or cheering thousands along the streets, he might just as like be thinking of her in the old log farmhouse out in Coles County, Illinois.
The sunshine of the prairie summer and fall months would come sifting down with healing and strength; between harvest and corn-plowing there would be rains beating and blizzards howling; and then there would be silence after snowstorms with white drifts piled against the fences, barns, and trees.
"The sunshine of the prairie summer and fall months would come sifting down with healing and strength." Or, at least, so Sandburg alleged. His chapter ends as shown.
It's hard to listen to the foofaw which comes at the modern-day citizen from so many sides—for example, from cable stars like Cooper, who is presumably doing what he thinks is best.
At the start of the week, we may show you what some of C-Span's callers said this morning. For today, Cooper and Prokupecz, and those callers, drove us back to Sandburg's book—to his poetical portrait of a future president who was said, by a Springfield resident, to be "a man who often had dry tears."
Something a little bit different: Recent events on the NBA front had us thinking of a certain set of statistics.
Those statistics describe the invention of the modern home run. The numbers look like this:
American League home run champions, 1916-1920
1916: Wally Pipp, 12
1917: Wally Pipp, 9
1918: Babe Ruth, Tilly Walker, 11
1919: Babe Ruth, 29
1920: Babe Ruth, 54
That's right! In 1920, Babe Ruth led the league with 54 home runs. Three years earlier, another Yankee—Wally Pipp—had led the league with 9!
It was during that era that Babe Ruth invented the modern home run, at least within the MLB context.
Players had hit home runs before, of course—but never in anything resembling these numbers. Ruth hit 59 in 1921, and baseball never looked back.
In a somewhat similar way, Bill Russell invented the modern blocked shot back in the mid to late 1950s.
People had blocked shots before, but never in numbers like this. Today, everyone in the NBA is Bill Russell, if perhaps a tiny bit less so.
(Even by professional standards, Russell was unusually gifted athletically, something he demonstrated as a college track star.)
Today, everyone is Bill Russell! Back then, there was no Russell but Bill Russell. There was no one but Russell himself.
We ourselves were just a kid, listening on our bedside radio as the brand-new Celtic accomplished this feat roughly ten miles from our home. In 1960, we got lucky. Our family moved to California. We were twelve years old.
Not long ago, Stephen Curry invented the modern 3-point field goal. There had been plenty of 3-pointers before Curry came along, but he basically reinvented the practice.
As he did, he also helped engineer a changing of the guard within the NBA. Is it possible that today's Celtics will author a new changing of the guard within the next two weeks?
On Thursday night, did the Celtics begin to author a changing of the guard? We wondered about that possibility after Thursday night's game. It's possible that they'll do so, of course—or the Warriors could win the next four games.
Meanwhile, gaze on that hundred-year-old data set. Babe Ruth invented the modern home run. At least within the world of sports, you rarely see a set of statistics which look anything like that!