August 2017




The Death of Anthony Young: A “Noble Loser"



Anthony Young, a pitcher for the New York Mets twenty-five years ago, died this past June at age 51 [Disclaimer: this is not a baseball story].


This is what might be called a cross-over story, in that it transcends the game of ball and speaks to possible applications in dealing with the bummers encountered in life. This is a story about perseverance and grace in the face of failure and the quirks of fate.


Think of the time-honored maxim, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again.” Which was originally used to encourage schoolchildren to do their homework, by American educator Thomas H. Palmer (1782-1861) … should this come up in at your next cocktail party. We might have even uttered it ourselves at one time or another, in advocating a philosophy of what one might call “Sticktoitism.”


But what if you try, try, try, try, 5,10, 20, even 27 “agains” to be exact, and still come up empty? Such was the case for Anthony Young who lost that many consecutive pitching decisions during the 1992-93 baseball seasons.


A non-fan of the game might ask, why did the Mets keep sending him out there if he was so bad? The Alice in Wonderland answer —he had talent! He kept pitching good enough to lose (the White Rabbit ought to be passing by at any moment).


Meaning, he was a lot better on a terrible Mets team than his record would indicate. Many of his losses were of a heartbreaking nature; often so close to victory. And he did perform well in other games that did not result in a won/lost decision on his report card. And finally, at the very least, you would think that the law of averages would have had to kick in at some point to end his cruel punishment.


Hailed for his composure during his Sisyphusian ordeal, a New York Times editorial in the main news section under the headline “A Noble Loser,” had this to say as he was closing in on a major league record for futility:


“Mr. Young endures all this with remarkable dignity, acknowledging the pain of his predicament but never giving in to it by whining.”


An irresistible aside, had the current technology been in existence back then (and thankfully wasn’t), a prominent New Yorker might have Tweeted in response:


FAKE NEWS by a failing newspaper. The guy is a total loser! Sad.


I was moved at the time to write a short poem about his plight and my reaction to it, which was published a couple of years later in Spitball, a literary baseball magazine. Yes, there is such an animal. In fact, a few.


Anthony Young

(Los Angeles Times July 11,1995)


A bolt of lightning flashed in the sky over the bullpen
and a sudden wind kicked up. The cool breeze was soothing
relief from the sweltering heat…


in walks Anthony Young. The number—
         heavy on his back.
With Dred Scott eyes, he takes the mound
         any quietly prays for justice.


As we nurse on the sweet breasts of victory
         of surrogate heroes
do we seek in the misfortune in other men’s eyes
         release from the hanging curveball?


Are we back to life when the string is broken—
         a reordered sky
to be read like tea leaves? Anthony Young
         deliver us! Or at least get out of the inning.

When the string did finally snap, his manager popped the cork on a bottle of champagne in celebration. Now a celebrity of sorts, Young appeared on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show where he said, that it wasn’t a monkey off his back… “it was a zoo.” Yet more bad luck was to follow, in the form of recurring elbow pain requiring surgery. In turn, it would lead to an end of his career just four years later.


An obituary in Sports Illustrated noted that, “After retiring from baseball, Young went on to become a youth pitching coach in his hometown of Houston. He continued giving pitching lessons while undergoing treatment for his brain tumor.”


You can imagine that the kids he was coaching knew of his backstory. They might have heard it from their parents, or even through Young himself. It would have been within character for him, given his sense of humor and acceptance of his dubious place in baseball history. And it might have served as a lesson for them when dealing with the frustrations that come in trying to learn a competitive skill, and overcoming the inevitable doubts that arise along the way.


Though I wonder at their takeaway upon hearing that their coach, Mr. Young, was dead.








Quote of the Month



                                   July 14,1977: NYC Blackout Video - ABC News







“Just when I thought I was out…



…they pull me back in!”


I thought of this line, chewed on by Al Pacino as only he can, from The Godfather III, as I sat there watching the O.J. parole hearing televised last month. Was a parole hearing ever televised before, I wonder? But then again, was there ever an O.J. before, which I don’t need to wonder.


Here I am, having frequently decried the exploitation of reality TV—and is there any other way to describe “The Juice” and his “you-can’t-make-this-up” life saga? —transfixed before my screen. Again?! Yes, …O.J. pulls me back in. Damn.


In anticipation of his entrance in his prison blues, before the parole board (one member of which would be sporting a tie embossed with the logo of an NFL team, we’d find out later), the mind wanders off to that low speed white-Bronco chase. Could it have been 23 years ago already? A time before Twitter?


One can imagine if social media existed back then, that an internet on overload, would have crashed and burned under a deluge of tens of millions of comments and opinions (150 million in the U.S. originally viewed that “trial of the century”).


Some would be denouncing, others cheering on, The Juice in his Keystone Kops attempt at escape. One can further imagine, #Ididntdoit responses coming from the Bronco, thanking those for their support. Perhaps even commenting on how well a Bronco handles (there could after all, be a product endorsement in all of this at some point down the road).


With that ride now completed on my memory reel, I’m once again back in the courtroom watching Marsha Clark and Chris Darden taking feeble swings at the curve balls thrown by the Dream Team, who handled them with “acquit” gloves, so to speak. And this circus sanctioned by star-struck judge Lance Ito, in his Tinsel Town decision to allow TV into the room. One can easily imagine that Ito’d be joining in with the Nevada parole board members, who took a selfie before the hearing to determine whether a man once convicted of spousal abuse and armed robbery, should be let out into society at this time. It would have been a real downer to deny parole after this wonderful celebratory moment.


Had model Prisoner Juice known this beforehand, he would have been even cockier and more mendacious, while turning up his legendary charm another hundred watts, in addressing the board. Imagine:


“I’ve led a ‘conflict-free’ life, which is something I’m trusting you wonderful folks could say as well, so maybe we can play a round of golf after I’m out here on October 1st. Though I’m a little off my game (hee hee), having spent nine years in here as payback for a crime I didn’t commit. Though no hard feelings. Oh, and maybe you can move it up to September 1st in time for a Labor Day barbeque I’ve been invited to (wink)?”


The incredulous “conflict-free” remark (which he actually had the footballs to say), went uncontested by the Board of Fawns. They came to praise Caesar not to bury him. (Wanna’ see their selfie again?). To reference yet another phrase: “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” And so, O.J. stayed. Nine years. For a bungled robbery attempt that most legal experts agreed, would have been only a couple of years at most, for any other regular Joe Schmo, or Kato Kaelin.


Clearly, the sentence was an attempt at some sort of payback for you know what, and to you know whom… their ghosts hovering over the proceedings. Though in the interest of accuracy, O.J. was not really incarcerated in Vegas, but at the ironically named Lovelock Correctional Facility, which is about 450 miles further north.


I hung in there throughout this 90-minute program, despite it being apparent how the "Lovelockians" would decide. And while waiting for their “verdict,” the mind once again wandered. This time, to the awaiting of that 1995 Verdict, and the anxiety it generated in all of us living in LA.


Still fresh in memory, were the riots that ensued just three years earlier, following the acquittal of three police officers who had beaten the absolute crap out of Rodney King.


As I wrote in my journal back then…

April 30, 1992
Thursday 9:30 PM


“Today from the 11th floor of our office, we witnessed a gang zip down Wilshire Blvd.—drive up on a sidewalk—and I will not ever forget this, hit a young guy on a bicycle, with a crowbar. We watched them then break into a sporting goods store…We watched powerless and in fear for our safety—our lives.”


“Flames engulf the city, creeping around boundaries that separate ‘good’ and ‘bad’ neighborhoods.”


When you thought of O.J.’s trial, you couldn’t help but remember all that, and make such an association. And so, you worried what might happen if a guilty verdict came down. Though you wanted to see justice done.


October 3, 1995
Tuesday 8:30 PM




And so much for conventional wisdom…another surreal day in LA. We all held our collective breath this morning at 10 AM. In my office the TV on—about a half dozen people or so in my department crowded around…not guilty…a gasp…tears from the Goldman family—no make that sobs. And out in the streets the disenfranchised down by the court building jumping around, whooping it up, as though O.J. had just scored a touchdown.”


Of course, the tabloids have now had a field day with this latest chapter in the O.J. story.



Where he goes from here? Literarily back to Miami where he lived nine years ago. And to paraphrase legendary Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, “All riots is local.” So, let the locals worry about him and what he might wrought while in their midst. Though watching him lumber into the hearing room, it seems that for this senior citizen, his days of high crimes and misdemeanors are over. Though expect to see him star in a new reality show, that might already be in development. But I’m out! I mean it this time.







Summer Interlude



Though as written by Gershwin that
                is when the living is easy,


a devil sun has been hard at work
         melting spreading wings
                that dare to take to the sky.


And no fish are jumping again this year
         nor in the decade that just flashed past
                the naked eye,


just an East River eel
         in steely water
                slithering by like a run-on sentence.


These dog-eared days
         live if only on the page
                of sense memory

of love and lust and a Charlotte Russe
         a cherry on top
               of sweltering nights upon linen—


time travel interruptus on this August eve:
         I pause to hear in the mind’s ear
                a rhapsody…


from out of the blue mood.
         As if by way of that salmon-colored-
                cloud-concepted baby grand—


excuse me, you in the Great Up There?
         If you please, a request:
                “Someone to Watch Over Me.”



                                      Ron Vazzano







“It’s Just a Number”



Isn’t that what they always say? And who are “they,” anyway? And why are they saying that? And will they still be saying that when “your number is up”? Which is a downer.


But I like numbers. And I like to play games with them. (Yes We KenKen MARCH, 2009 MUSE-LETTER). And though the number that I’m approaching this month is not the “Big Something-O,” it is so mathematically divisible—with ten variations on a theme— that I couldn’t resist:


I will be celebrating my 36th two-year-old birthday.
I will be celebrating my 24th three-year-old birthday.
I will be celebrating my 18th four-year-old birthday.
I will be celebrating my 12th six-year-old birthday.
I will be celebrating my 9th eight-year-old birthday.
I will be celebrating my 8th nine-year-old birthday.
I will be celebrating my 6th twelve-year old birthday.
I will be celebrating my 4th eighteen-year-old birthday.
I will be celebrating my 3rd twenty-four-year-old birthday.
I will be celebrating my 2nd thirty-six-year-old birthday…


…in other words, and numbers, I will be seventy-@#%?&*-two years old!


Just out of a passing curiosity, I checked out to see who else is in deep water, so to speak.

Here is a list of some well-known and not so well-known celebrities who have reached this number, or will have before the year is out, that you may or may not find surprising. Or about whom you might, or might not give a mouse’s butt. A cat’s claw of commentary accompanies some.


Mick Jagger, who with his 29-year-old girlfriend will become a father for the 8th time! He will soon be burping his newborn and his girlfriend.


Bianca Jagger, former spouse, who one would assume is beyond birthing. It’s a long way from Studio 54 and that night on the white horse.


Salvatore (Sammy the Bull) Gravano; “infamous Mafia rat who got a free pass on 19 murders for ratting out John Gotti.” (I swear Sammy, I didn’t say that. I just got it off the internet. Ya’ gotti believe me).


He’s released from prison this year, and “… he is in talks for making his own TV show when he gets out.” Thereby dispelling F. Scott’s Fitzgerald’s famous contention that there are no second acts in American life, even if the first one was criminal in nature. And of course, just what we need. Another reality show. (This is Reality? JUNE, 2016 MUSE-LETTER).

Burt Ward


Ward as Robin: "I am a little hungry."


The late Adam West as Batman: "Of course, Robin. Even crime-fighters must eat. And especially you. You're a growing boy and you need your nutrition."

season 2, 1966-67


Priscilla Presley, married to The King 50 years ago— this month also marks the 40th anniversary since he left the building—she has seemed forever young. Even up close. I’d see her at our kids’ school, and even though she acted like a just another mom, through six degrees of separation, I guess I’m connected to Elvis. Holy overworking it!


Carly Simon: You’re so vain, I’ll bet you think this age is about you.


Steve Martin, who has been prematurely gray since the mid-seventies, now finally looks his age. When his parents came backstage one night following a play I was in, and I asked them who Steve got his sense of humor from, “Oh, his mother”—replied his father curmudgeonly. Sorry I asked. Bitter strokes, for different old folks.


Rod Stewart: “Do Ya’ Think I’m Sexy?” No. Not for a while now. Though he is on tour with Cyndi Lauper, which concludes on the 12th of this month in Sugar Land, Texas, where the climate is classified as “humid subtropical.” As a public service, might I suggest to his old fan base that should they chose to attend, please hydrate first. Thank you.

And to round out the list in no particular order:


Eric Clapton Tom Selleck Lorne Michaels Jacqueline Bisset Itzhak Perlman Steven Stills Phil Jackson Richard Belzer Gabe Kaplan (“Welcome Back Kotter) James Carville Micky Dolenz (“Hey, hey we’re The Monkees”) Joey Heatherton Danny DeVito Brenda Lee Jose Feliciano Lauren Chapin (“Kitten” on Father Knows Best”) Michael Douglas David Sanborn Kim Carnes (“Bette Davis Eyes”) Swoozie Kurtz Tony Dow (brother of the Beaver) John Heard (who passed away last month) Deborah Harry Barry Bostwick Adrienne Barbeau Clifton Davis (“That’s My Mama”) Van Morrison Maud Adams Helen Mirren Ernö Rubik Henry Winkler Bob Seger Neil Young John Lithgow Bette Midler Chris Matthews Diane Sawyer Jacelyn Smith.


And my point is…light summer reading?







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