Revered for signing Jackie Robinson, Brooklyn Dodgers President Branch Rickey triggered the Negro Leagues' demise. Rickey refused to compensate Robinson's Negro Leagues team, the Kansas City Monarchs, as well as not paying other black teams when he ...


Branch Rickey stole Negro League stars, author finds and more...

Branch Rickey stole Negro League stars, author finds

Revered for signing Jackie Robinson, Brooklyn Dodgers President Branch Rickey triggered the Negro Leagues' demise.

Rickey refused to compensate Robinson's Negro Leagues team, the Kansas City Monarchs, as well as not paying other black teams when he signed their players, according to Negro Leagues historian Andrea Williams' article in Thursday's New York Times.

The article appeared on Jackie Robinson Day, the anniversary of Robinson's debut with the Dodgers in 1947. Honoring the major leagues' first black player, the members of each team wear Robinson's number 42.

Williams, the author of "Baseball's Leading Lady: Effa Manley and the Rise and Fall of the Negro Leagues," reveals that Rickey believed the Negro Leagues were illegitimate and "in the zone of a racket."

Rickey went on to sign several Negro League players without compensating their teams. Manley, the owner of the Newark Eagles, complained about Rickey stealing her all-star pitcher, Don Newcombe.

In another shift of historical reputation, Williams says that notoriously tight-fisted Washington Senators owner Clark Griffith called for Rickey and other Major League teams to pay the Negro Leagues for raiding their talent.

Griffith, castigated as a racist by black sportswriters, rented his stadium to the Negro League Homestead Grays, a practice followed by other major league teams. Griffith's principled support of the Negro Leagues contrasts with his refusal to sign black American players, instead looking for talent in Latin America.

The sainted Rickey's disparagement of the Negro Leagues mars his reputation. Williams notes Rickey's racist arrogance: "Clark Griffith on the contrary, I have not signed a player from what I regard as an organized league."

Rickey's odious position clashes with that of Major League Baseball, which recently accepted Negro League records as equal to those of the Major Leagues.

Many Negro League stars went on to gain fame in the Major Leagues. Now, baseball has fewer and fewer black players from the United States.

In signing Jackie Robinson, Rickey advanced racial progress, yet displayed a disturbing contempt for the Negro Leagues.



Farewell, Frank Jacobs, Mad magazine's mad parodist

Frank Jacobs never wrote for Broadway.

Instead, Jacobs contributed countless parodies of show tunes to Mad magazine during its glory years.

With more than 500 bylines in his 57 years, he played a major role in defining the magazine, upon which Baby Boomer kids like me gorged.

His value to the magazine is summed up by the title of a collection of his poem parodies: "Mad for Better or Verse."

He made "Fiddler on the Roof" "Antenna on the Roof," skewering suburban America. "A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody" he turned into "Louella Schwartz Describes Her Malady." In "East Side Story," based on "West Side Story," the Soviets and Americans took the place of the Jets and Sharks.

Jacobs, who worked as a writer with many of the magazine's noted illustrators, died April 5 at age 91 in Tarzana, Calif., according to a New York Times obituary.

His work brought an important landmark in First Amendment law in a court victory over Irving Berlin and the estates of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein and other composers, who sued the magazine claiming that Jacobs' parodies violated their copyrights.

A federal appeals court ruling in favor of the magazine noted that iambic pentameter isn't subject to protection. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed.

He wrote a number of books, many of them collections of Mad material. While writing for Mad, he also contributed to other publications ranging from Playboy to Sports Illustrated.

So, goodbye, Frank.
We give you thanks
for so much fun
in your splendid run.





Not so blue skies: Carbon emissions rise during pandemic

Carbon emissions rose during 2020, barely slowed by the covid pandemic.

The amount of CO2 in the earth's atmosphere has reached its highest level in 3.6 million years, according to a  new report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a Salon article said.

While the Covid economic shutdown impeded carbon emissions, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere rose to 412.5 parts per million, an increase of 2.6 parts per million over the year. Scientists say that the carbon level must be reduced to 350 parts per million if the world is to escape the worst effects of climate change.

The Biden administration seeks zero admissions by 2050, but that will not prevent damages from the carbon already in the air. Biden's massive infrastructure plan calls for a shift to electric cars and more efficient buildings, without seeking major changes in the U.S. economy. But the current economic model is no longer sustainable.

A total of 300 corporate executives representing companies ranging from Apple to Johnson & Johnson and McDonald's sent an open letter to Biden calling for the United States to double emissions-reductions standards by 2030 and move to zero emissions by 2050.

The letter appeared on the same day that corporate leaders and entertainment personalities signed an ad in The New York Times and Wall Street Journal opposing Republican voter-suppression laws.

Those actions indicate that the Trump-dominated, climate-change denying GOP is further divorced from corporate and mainstream America.

Representing a shrinking minority of American voters, the party keeps its stranglehold on power through constitutional manipulation and voter suppression.

Yet the divorce is not yet final: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce demanded that the Senate reject the Democratic Party's voting rights legislation. That position conflicts with the prevailing views of American companies.

President Biden has made reversing climate change a top priority, yet his ambitious plans remain too small. Corporate leaders and journalists such as The Times' Tom Friedman and Paul Krugman believe that the growth-oriented global economy can keep accelerating after a shift from carbon. That's increasingly doubtful.


Ronald Acuna Jr. a rare baseball talent

The Braves' mediocre start hasn't stopped Ronald Acuna Jr. fever from raging.

AJC columnist Mark Bradley, whose pronouncements make me nervous given his track record of being wrong, anointed the buoyant Braves right fielder the best player in baseball, along with the stolid Angeles outfielder Mike Trout.

No Atlanta fans would disagree, after seeing Acuna hit a routine grounder to Phillies shortstop Didi Gregorius and beat Gregorius' good throw to first base for an infield hit. That made the sports world sit up in wonder.

In the Braves dismal loss to the Marlins Monday night, Acuna again accomplished an amazing feat, scoring from third on pal Ozzie Albies' pop up to just past second base.

Acuna's infectious spirit reminds old-timers of the young Willie Mays and Roberto Clemente. Like Mays and Clemente, Acuna plays the outfield, hits and runs the bases with flair.

If Acuna played in New York City or Los Angeles, he'd be the national star that baseball so desperately seeks. 

He's as fast as Cool Papa Bell, and the young Mickey Mantle. He possesses the power of the late superstar Henry Aaron, who also played right field for the Braves. With the muscular physique and powerful legs of Jackie Robinson, Acuna runs with the same reckless, half-back's abandon.

Watching him beat Gregorius' throw made me anticipate future feats.

Like Robinson, Acuna will make stealing home part of the game.

With his ability to leg out infield hits, he can hit .400, joining Ted Williams and Josh Gibson, the last players to do so.

He'll hit 60 home runs, and steal 60 bases.

He'll switch off the light and make it to bed before it gets dark.

As players land $300 million-plus contracts, Acuna's $100 million deal with the Braves is a steal for the club.

The Braves keep the 21-year-old until he's 28. Then, if Acuna's career keeps soaring, New York or LA will offer him the sun and the moon, and a few planets.

Until then, Braves fans should appreciate seeing a rare talent in his first flowering.





Ken Burns' Hemingway documentary condemned for ignoring FBI surveillance of writer

Ken Burns' Ernest Hemingway documentary is drawing fire for neglecting the FBI's surveillance of the writer.

Journalists David Talbot on his web site and David Masciotra in a Salon article berated Burns and Lynn Novick for ignoring longtime FBI director J. Edgar Hoover's vendetta against Hemingway, which worsened the anguish that led to the author's suicide.

The Hemingway series' avoidance of the FBI harassment is all the more glaring when several Academy Award-nominated films examined the FBI's surveillance of black civil rights leaders and entertainers and white leaders of the antiwar movement during the 1960s.

Hemingway attracted the FBI's attention with his support of Republican anti-fascist forces while reporting on the Spanish Civil War. Never a communist, Hemingway also sympathized with Fidel Castro's Cuban revolution.

Burns and Novick have been accused of distorting and even falsifying history in their PBS documentaries.

Critics claimed their Civil War series romanticized the Confederacy, especially historian Shelby Foote's glorification of Nathan Bedford Forrest and other Southern leaders.

The film-makers' Vietnam series was condemned for its rosy view of the American escalation of the war.

Burns and Novick’s series on baseball, jazz, country music and World War II were marred by broad, sanctimonious generalizations, which I found less prominent in the Hemingway series, also written by longtime Burns and Novick collaborator Geoffrey C. Ward.

Avoidance of the FBI's persecution of Hemingway is puzzling for film-makers known for exhaustive research. The FBI campaign to destroy the writer's reputation is well-documented in several books.

Masciotra cites more than 100 pages of FBI documents, 15 of them redacted, that were released in the 1980s after a Freedom of Information request by Hemingway biographer Jeffrey Meyers.

The file included Hoover's orders to monitor Hemingway, plans to tap his phones, and even the disclosure that Hemingway's Mayo Clinic doctor gave the agency reports on the writer's deteriorating physical and mental condition during his final years.

Masciotra also faults Burns and Novick for discounting mental illness as the cause of Hemingway's worsening abusive behavior.

While the series cites Hemingway's multiple concussions, Masciotra blasts Burns and Novick for not interviewing a neurologist about how such injuries affect personality changes, such as occur with pro football players.

The last episode of the series cites a vignette in which Hemingway says he is being watched by two men in a Ketchum, Idaho restaurant. Hemingway also believes that bank employees are working after hours to alter his account. Hemingway's wife, Mary, rejects Hemingway's beliefs as paranoid delusions. Masciotra and Talbot demonstrate that Hemingway's suspicions were plausible.

Burns gave several publicity interviews before the program's broadcast, but has not been asked about why the FBI's Hemingway probe was not included.

Whatever justification Burns might eventually give, the absence is another of his serious violations of history.