Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Early Thoughts on Ripken in the Hall of Fame

Last night, I spent some time surfing the web for tour packages to the Hall of Fame Induction ceremony next year. Cal Ripken will certainly be a first ballot selection and I'm investigating the possiblity of attending. There's not much else going on in Birdland these days--not a creature stirring all through the house. We've signed a couple of pitchers, a so-so outfielder and that's it. B-List actors in a B-Movie that might be good enough to surpass the Devil Rays. With the Orioles out of the race by August, Cal will take over the franchise spotlight. When he enters the Hall of Fame, the Oriole Way and all it represents will go with him. Writers will opine about the streak and it will surely eclipse the depth and versatility of his game. The many things he did right that never showed up in the box score, day in and day out, such as sacrifice bunts, hitting behind the runner, and hard slides reflected a vast knowledge of the game bestowed upon him by his father. A career .276 lifetime hitter, he constantly made adjustments to his stance to improve himself. He hit over 400 home runs and collected 3,000 hits. He was the first of a new breed of shortstops, tall and rangy, whose footwork was impeccable. Suffice to say, he did more than show up. He also excelled at soccer and basketball and those sports aided his defensive prowess. A friend of mine played in his pick-up basketball game at the gym in his house. Known for his outside shot, my friend let his man beat him on a fast break. Cal appeared out of nowhere and pinned the player's lay-up to the backboard. He told my friend that if it happened again, he could turn in his jersey and never come back. He also hated to lose.

Friday, December 08, 2006


I caught a glimpse of British Prime Minister Tony Blair yesterday when his motorcade turned in front of me at 16th and M Streets in DC. The police had cordoned off the area and you couldn't really tell who it was until the limousine appeared from behind the lead black Suburban. The motorcade was long and wide with the bright winter sun glinting off chrome bumpers. The American flag waved from above one headlight while the Union Jack flew proudly from the other side. The two flags together under official auspices marked a rare and exotic moment. Immediately and instinctively, I gave Tony a thumbs up and pumped my fist in the air. I'm not sure what came over me. Tony Blair helped seal the deal for US involvement in Iraq. He brought credibility to the operation from the beginning. Without his unwavering support, the occupation may have disintegrated long ago. Over the past few years, I've watched him on CSPAN debate effectively and with aplomb in British Parliament against a barrage of difficult questions. I must have subconsciously gained respect for him on those occasions. A combination of Mick Jagger and Harry Potter, Blair evokes a boyish magic that is sorely lacking in his American counterpart. Blair is as British as bangers and mash, Wine Gums, and blood pudding. He possesses style and panache. However, his days are numbered as Prime Minister and his support of the war a major reason why. Still, I approve of him and even like him, regardless of the fact that he may be partially responsible for 3,000 dead American service men. I like him even as I speculate what deal he may have struck with our government for Britain's participation in the conflict. He has mojo, even gravitas, and at times, humility. The humility piece for me seals the deal. As the motorcade passed, he rolled down the window and smiled, waving to my friends and I standing on the corner. It felt like victory. "There goes a real leader," someone behind me said.
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