Saturday, March 9, 2013

Better for Whom?

One of my favorite activities is downloading YouTube videos; most of the more than 1,800 showings I've captured have had to do either with music or sports.

Because of, I've been able to find a short, two-part video about the first game of the 1950 World Series (between the New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies). What happened was someone's home footage of the pregame preparations and of some of the action made it onto the Website.

One thing about YouTube and its counterparts is that you get to make comments about the videos you're seeing. Part 1 of this two-part video (shot at Philadelphia's old Shibe Park) provoked several comments from YouTube visitors; the last comment posted struck a real nerve with me:

"The country was so much better then."

The first thing I thought when I read this comment was: "Better for whom?"

Yes...I know the divorce rate here in the United States was nowhere near what it became in the 1980s, let alone what it is here in the 2010s. (In 1950, this country's divorce rate- rising since the 1920s, at that- was just over 2.0%; by 1981, it had risen to 5.3%. In 2010- the most recent year for divorce stats here in America, according to the 2013 World Almanac- it was 3.6%.)

I truly believe that what the person who thought America was so much better in 1950 than when he or she posted this comment (2011) was lamenting was that the face of the nation isn't the same in this day and age as it was during the middle of the 20th Century. 

Matter of fact, the 1950 Fall Classic (the Yanks won it, 4-0) was the final one where neither of the teams had African-American players. (The Phils had a utility infielder named Ralph "Putsy" Caballero. Okay, he batted just .187 in 1950 and had no homers or RBIs. But at least Caballero got to play in the World Series, appearing in three of the games...although his lone at-bat didn't work out.)

Philadelphia had won just one National League flag coming into the 1950 "Whiz Kids" campaign (and that earlier pennant came in 1915...but the Boston Red Sox socked it to the Phils, 4-1). After Eddie Sawyer's club became the Yankees' second straight Series victims, Philly didn't make it back to the World Series until 1980. 

Dallas Green's Phillies snared the World Series title that year.  

The 1980 Phils made it to the top not only because of Pete Rose, NL MVP Mike Schmidt, and NL Cy Young Award winner Steve Carlton...but also because of teammates such as Bake McBride (his .309 batting average led Philly's regulars), Lonnie Smith (the reserve outfielder whose 33 stolen bases led the club), Manny Trillo, and Garry Maddox.

By then, Richie Ashburn (one of Schmidt's and Carlton's fellow Baseball Hall of Famers) was the color commentator on the Phillies' broadcast team. Thirty years earlier, he'd helped the Whiz Kids dethrone the old Brooklyn Dodgers by batting .303 and leading the Senior Circuit with 14 triples.

After the 1980 "Wheeze Kids" won it all at the expense of the Kansas City Royals (one of ten teams formed during the Phils' thirty-year wait between NL championships), someone asked Ashburn why the 1950 club couldn't stop the Bronx Bombers.

Richie said: "We were too damn White."

He had a point.

Me, I believe the country- for all its current troubles- is better off now than it was during the first year of the Korean War (a war that officially began five years after World War 2 officially ended) because more groups of people are having their say about where the Red, White, and Blue should go.

I guess the YouTube visitor who liked how America went in 1950 misses the days when only the oldest of Caucasian men were the only ones allowed to be heard...let alone allowed to be taken seriously.  

This also meant you didn't take Caucasian women seriously, either. [Not even US Sen. Margaret Chase Smith (R-ME), who, four months before said World Series began, gave a speech denouncing the tactics of her fellow Senate Republican, Wisconsin's Joseph McCarthy.]

Even then, especially then, America's top spokespeople loudly proclaimed that the country's very name meant freedom.

Never mind that the United States was still heavily under apartheid (okay, segregation) back then.

That's right: Five years after passing up twelve other lands to become the world's leading military power, America had to answer one big question on the minds and lips of many people in many other countries: "If you've got such a free country, then why can't certain people in your country vote...despite the fact that they're citizens of your country nonetheless?" 

How simple could the answer have been?  

I mean, dig CAN'T keep groups of people in the background for years...decades...centuries...without them wanting to rise up and move to the foreground. That's human nature!  

At any rate, the country's leaders in all sorts of fields (not just government) just weren't ready to give an answer. They knew it would mean egg on their faces.

Speaking of simple...what if the person who showed he or she liked the US of A better in 1950 than in 2011 (or 2012 or 2013) had typed in "simpler" and not "better?"

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