Category: History

I say, what’s on the telly?

The Decades channel apparently carries old TV, which remains increasingly popular the farther away we get from those old shows’ original broadcast dates.

That includes shows that weren’t produced in the U.S. (Or North America, given how often Toronto and Vancouver substituted for U.S. locations in the 1980s, apparently a tax thing.)

Decades lists several British TV shows that came here in the ’60s, including a few I watched. Unlike the many British shows that showed up on PBS, including “Upstairs Downstairs,” these showed up on CBS, NBC and ABC.

The British Invasion went beyond the Beatles and Herman’s Hermits, beyond music in fact. Perhaps more so than any other time, the 1960s saw Americans devouring British pop culture, from Mary Quant’s miniskirts to Mary Poppins. James Bond was the king of the big screen and MG advertised its cars in magazines.

Naturally, this carried over to television. The spy craze led to an influx of British television productions on American networks. Here were shows produced in the U.K. on the Big Three networks in primetime. Often, the imports were plugged in as summer replacements. Some of these shows were so massive — or used American actors — it’s easy to forget they were English.

Here are nine British shows with their American network and year of U.S. premiere. They were all action series. No comedies made it over the pond to network primetime, because some things just don’t translate culturally, despite the fad. In fact, the only thing that didn’t seem to click with 1960s Americans (at first) was Monty Python. The comedy troupe’s Flying Circus premiered on the BBC in 1969, but would not turn up on PBS for half a decade.

The Avengers

ABC, 1966

Though it now struggles against Marvel blockbusters in Google searches, the Avengers were once popular enough to merit its own (and admittedly regretful) cinematic remake in 1998. The sexy, tough Emma Peel and the posh John Steed made for a perfect pair, first appearing together in the fourth season in 1965. ABC paid a handsome $2 million for 26 episodes in 1966, affording the series high production values.

I actually watched the decade-later sequel, “The New Avengers,” before the original. Both were on CBS after the 10 p.m. news before David Letterman left NBC.

The Baron

ABC, 1966

Novelist John Creasey cranked out hundreds of books, page-turning adventures with characters like Gideon of Scotland Yard and the Baron. The latter earned a television adaptation with American actor Steve Forrest in the title role as John Mannering, an antiques dealer and undercover agent. Filmed in the U.K., the dialogue was overdubbed to change terms like “petrol” to “gas,” etc. Like any good agent, Mannering had an enviable car, a Jensen CV-8 Mk II.

The Champions

NBC, 1968

Why did the title have to cover up Alexandra Bastedo’s face in the opening? (Not to mention the other two.) The stunning blond would at least get to show her features on the cover of a Smiths album in 1988. Bastedo, Stuart Damon and William Gaunt starred as a trio of agents for Nemesis, a United Nations intelligence agency based in Geneva. The three trotted across the globe, taking down Nazis and madmen.

Journey to the Unknown

ABC, 1968

Iconic horror house Hammer Film Productions Ltd. turned out this deliciously dark anthology series that featured American stars such as George Maharis and Patty Duke. In the episode “The Last Visitor,” Duke plays a woman stalked at a resort. It fits nicely alongside series like Thriller and Night Gallery.

Man in a Suitcase

ABC, 1968

When Patrick McGoohan jumped from Danger Man (a.k.a. Secret Agent) to The Prisoner, much of the Danger Man crew shifted to this espionage thriller. Like The BaronMan in a Suitcase featured an American actor in the lead. Unlike the jet-setting spies of the era, this show’s hero, McGill, was pushed into the shadows, a disgraced CIA agent forced to resign and take work where he could find it. With its gray morality and increased violence, this Man was ahead of his time.

The Prisoner

CBS, 1968

The brilliant blend of spy thriller and science-fiction became a cultural touchstone despite lasting a mere 17 episodes. The premise — an agent being held on a mysterious resort island — has been repeated, parodied and referenced countless times over the last half-century. Some fans theorized that McGoohan’s character, No. 6, was in fact his earlier character John Drake of Secret Agent/Danger Man. The actor denied it, yet the debate rages on. It is fascinating to view The Prisoner as a Secret Agent sequel.

The Saint

NBC, 1967

Before Roger Moore slurped his shaken martinis as James Bond, he was another dapper secret agent, Simon Templar. The adventures were based on the Templar novels originally written by Leslie Charteris in the 1920s and ’30s. In the early black and white episodes, Moore breaks the fourth wall and addresses the audience, though the gimmick was given up when the series went color. In 1997, Val Kilmer starred in a Hollywood remake.

“The Saint” also had a decade-later sequel.

Secret Agent

CBS, 1965

Sing along now: “Secret… AY-gent Man! Secret… AY-gent Man!” The twangy Johnny Rivers theme song helped popularize this American retitling of Danger Man, and the tune was later covered by Devo and stuck in the first Austin Powers movie. But this was far more than a catchy song, with McGoohan’s John Drake taking on realistic Cold War threats.

Thunderbirds

Syndicated, 1968

Puppet action! Just how popular were these marionettes? In 2015, Amazon Prime launched a new Thunderbirds Are Go series, though sadly it was computer animated, not controlled by strings. The inventive creation of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson was the Voltron for 1960s kids, mixing the family dynamics of Lost in Space with the low-budget thrills of playing make-believe with dolls. There was some serious special effects talent at work here. Effects director Derek Meddings went on to work on James Bond and Superman films. Miniature models beat CGI every time.

“Thunderbirds” was preceded by …

… both of which were on TVs all over the U.S. in the 1970s.

There were other series that didn’t make it over here, either because they wouldn’t translate well (or were already here in a different form) …

… or because Americans couldn’t understand the thicker British accents:

PBS viewers got to see “Inspector Morse” …

… who looks an awful like DI Jack Regan of “The Sweeney.” In a neat touch, the sequel put Morse’s young partner in a series of his own …

… with a young partner of his own.

The real King

Robert L. Woodson on Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.:

As the nation celebrates the birth of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the progressive left will again seize the moment to twist the story of black Americans’ struggle, to the detriment of those who suffered most in that struggle. They’ll put all the attention on the oppressive conditions faced by black freedom fighters—what white racists did to them—rather than on their own spirit in fighting to gain equal rights under the law. Instead of celebrating blacks’ achievements and the progress made toward delivering on America’s promissory note, the left will transport yesterday’s real injustices into today’s false social-justice narrative, ignoring the principles that were so crucial to Dr. King.

History is full of inspiring examples of black people succeeding against the odds, including building their own schools, hotels, railroads and banking systems when doors were closed to them. According to the economist Thomas Sowell, “the poverty rate among blacks fell from 87 percent in 1940 to 47 percent by 1960.”

These accomplishments were made possible by a set of values cherished among the blacks of the time: self-determination, resiliency, personal virtue, honesty, honor and accountability. Dr. King understood that these values would be the bedrock for black success once true equality was won. As early as 1953, he warned that “one of the most common tendencies of human nature is that of placing responsibility on some external agency for sins we have committed or mistakes we have made.

Today the progressive left wants to ignore the achievements and pretend that blacks are perpetual victims of white racism. The New York Times “1619 Project” essay series is the latest salvo in this attack on America’s history and founding, claiming “anti-black racism runs in the very DNA of this country.” This statement is an abomination of everything Dr. King stood for. Further, the left’s disinterest in historical accuracy—as evinced in the Times’s dismissal of corrections sought by prominent historians—and its frequent perversion of blacks’ story will have grave consequences not only for blacks but the nation as a whole.

In sharp contrast to the claims of the “1619 Project”—which disparages the American Revolution and Declaration of Independence and insists America is hopelessly racist—Dr. King believed deeply in the need to remain true to the Founders’ vision, the “patriot dream that sees beyond the years.” To him, that was the only avenue toward fulfilling America’s promise. As he wrote in his 1963 “Letter From a Birmingham Jail”:

“One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo-Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

“We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny.”

Dr. King, who sought full participation in America, would never have indulged today’s grievance-based identity politics, whose social-justice warriors use race as a battering ram against the country. In fact, in “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” Dr. King explicitly warned against the type of groupthink that characterizes identity politics: “Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.”
Yesterday’s values prepared blacks to walk through the doors of opportunity opened to them through civil rights. Family, faith, character and moral behavior were all crucial to their victories. Today’s social-justice warriors trade on the currency of oppression, deriding the concept of personal responsibility and always blaming external forces. I can think of no better way to instill hopelessness and fear in a young person than to tell him he is a victim, powerless to change his circumstance.

During the civil-rights movement blacks never permitted oppression to define who we were. Instead we cultivated moral competence, enterprise and thrift, and viewed oppression as a stumbling block, not an excuse.

Dr. King would have refused to participate in today’s identity politics gamesmanship because it frames its grievances in opposition to the American principles of freedom and equality that he sought to redeem. He upheld the country’s founding principles and sought to destroy only what got in the way of delivering the promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, as well as the recognition that all men are created equal.

Last month the school board of Westfield, N.J., approved a history course on critical race theory, which is the embodiment of the oppressor narrative embraced by the left. At the board meeting a young woman spoke passionately in favor of the course, ending her comments by blaming slavery for the absence of black fathers in the home. This is how successful the left, with its lethal message of despair and distortion of history, has been at undermining agency within the black community.

To honor the legacy of Dr. King, we must not only acknowledge the evil he confronted, but also focus on his example in overcoming it. He persevered and triumphed in the face of evil because he was beholden to truth, honor and love for all mankind, driven as he was to see blacks share fully in the American dream. We must not let the purveyors of identity politics fudge the record: Martin Luther King Jr. believed in the promise of America. In fact, he helped to fulfill it.

On your Madison rabbit ears

Long-time (or perhaps long-suffering) readers know that I’m from Madison,  I watched a lot of TV as a youth, and I have an interest in media history, including Madison media history.

All of that came together when I was as usual looking for something else and came upon a bunch of TV Guide ads from Madison TV stations that apparently are for sale on eBay. The possible irony here is that my parents never subscribed to TV Guide, though my grandparents (who were able to get both Wisconsin and Iowa TV stations due to living in Southwest Wisconsin) did.

First, some Madison TV history. WKOW-TV, an offshoot of WKOW radio (now WTSO)

It appears that WKOW may have been a country station based on this 1952 Wisconsin Historical Society photo. So perhaps things went full circle when what became WTSO went back to country in the mid-1970s.

 

… was Madison’s first commercial TV station after the Federal Communications Commission lifted its Korean War-era moratorium on new TV station licenses.

The owners of WKOW ended up creating their own statewide network, starting WAOW-TV in Wausau in 1965, then WXOW-TV in La Crosse, and then WQOW-TV in Eau Claire. (There is also WYOW-TV in Eagle River and WMOW-TV in Crandon.) The TV stations were sold to one company in 1978, another in 1978, and another in 1985, around the time that I was sitting in UW–Madison journalism classes listening to the School of Journalism director say that TV stations were “licenses to print money.” Six years later, WKOW’s owner filed for bankruptcy, meaning either that my prof was wrong or that TV stations were not always licenses to print enough money. WKOW was then purchased by its previous owner, who had purchased a “beautiful music” FM station in Baraboo with a freakishly large FM signal, changed its format to oldies, and made enough from one radio station to repurchase four TV stations.

WKOW was originally a CBS station because WKOW radio was a CBS affiliate. Station number two was WMTV, originally at channel 33, which went on the air about a week after WKOW.

WMTV also originally carried NBC, ABC and Dumont, a practice that in some TV markets continued into the 1980s.

The Dumont network died in 1956.

WISC-TV arrived in 1956 as Madison’s only VHF station, on channel 3. WISC-TV was started by WISC radio, which became WISM radio, which was Madison’s top 40 radio station, and thus the station most non-adults listened to.

 

CBS decided that being on channel 3 (more coverage for less power) beat being on channel 27 and moved to WISC, which left WKOW without a network until it got ABC from WMTV, which moved from channel 33 to channel 15 in 1960.

That, however, isn’t the whole story about WISC. My source is the late John Digman, former WISC reporter and weatherman (not “meteorologist”) who talked to my high school journalism class while working in Madison radio, and sadly died of a heart attack at 40. (His daughter went to La Follette.)

This has to be some sort of put-on by Digman. How can it be 110 in Chicago and 27 in St. Louis?)

Digman told the class (and I may have been the only student listening to this) that WISC was supposed to be on channel 21 while WHA-TV, the state’s first noncommercial TV station, was supposed to have channel 3, but WHA went on the air in 1954 not on channel 3 and WISC went on the air in 1956 not on channel 21.

Speaking of WISC …
Bill Dyke had one of southern Wisconsin’s most interesting careers. He was a disc jockey at WISC and WISM and did sports (at least in 1959 here) and other things on channel 3. Dyke was credited by Vilas Craig, who created southern Wisconsin’s first rock and roll band, for playing Vicounts records (with, as you know, my father on piano) on the radio. 

Dyke parlayed his broadcast career into two two-year terms as mayor of Madison. Then he was defeated by Paul Soglin in 1973. Then after Soglin left the first time (voluntarily, as opposed to the other two times), Dyke, who as a side thing was a producer of the movie “The Giant Spider Invasion,” …

… and Soglin did a weekly point/counterpoint appearance on WISC’s Live at Five. Dyke ended up as Iowa County circuit judge before he died.

This is from 1964, when apparently ABC’s and WKOW’s evening news were 15 minutes each. Cochran was a former FBI agent who got to announce John F. Kennedy’s assassination on ABC’s glitch-filled newscast. Russell later became WTSO’s station manager.

That same year …

Jerry Deane (real last name Druckenrod) did the news. Bill Brown did weather before moving to news when Deane was moved to “The Farm Hour,” where he read not just the news but farm prices. I remember watching Deane reading farm prices and having no idea what any of them meant. (My first Boy Scout Scoutmaster, who worked for Oscar Mayer, told me what “canners and cutters” were.) Mader was better known in Madison for being the morning DJ on WIBA radio and for narrating Zimbrick Buick commercials.

Schermerhorn started in sports, and then apparently moved to sales, but was best known for hosting “Dairyland Jubilee,” a Sunday morning polka show.

By 1969, Bob Miller was the sports guy on WKOW TV and radio and its Wausau station, WAOW-TV. Miller’s radio duties included Wisconsin Badger hockey, which meant Miller got to announce the Badgers’ first national championship. That proved good for Miller’s career, because on the recommendation (following pestering, the story goes) of Los Angeles Lakers announcer Chick Hearn, the Lakers’ owner hired Miller to announce the Kings hockey team.

Miller’s replacement was Paul Braun, who had been announcing hockey (and, one assumes, other sports) at WMAD radio. While Miller got to announce UW’s first hockey championship, Braun got to announce the next four (on WTSO and then WIBA), and did cable TV for national championship number six.

This is from 1977, back when WKOW’s month of state tournament coverage began with a tape-delayed broadcast of state swimming from the UW–Madison Natatorium and then live coverage of the state wrestling finals. (Which I got to cover on radio last year for the first time.) One week later was state hockey, followed by girls basketball and then boys basketball — in this case, my alma mater’s first state title.

After Miller and before this, WKOW employed Gary Bender, who went to college with the eventual owner of the station. Bender was a busy guy, doing the sports in Madison, announcing Badger football on Saturdays and then announcing Packer football on Sundays, both with Jim Irwin.

WKOW’s news anchor for most of the 1970s was Milwaukee native (or so I’m told) Roger Mann, who came to Madison, left and then came back.

After and before Mann was John Lindgren, who went to WKOW from WISC when in-market moves were hardly ever done (and it’s still rare in the Madison market).

Lindgren then went to Kentucky and was on two TV stations there. Then he contracted colon cancer, but continued to work while fighting the disease, which ended up killing him at 55 in 2001.

The weather was done by …

… Terry Kelly, who was the first in Madison to have the cool weather gadgets, most of them developed by his company, Weather Central. Kelly also was known for horrible puns just before going to commercial.

Kelly’s predecessor was Tom Skilling, who worked at WKOW and WTSO while he was a student at UW–Madison. Skilling then spent three years at WITI-TV in Milwaukee, where he did forecasts with Albert the Alley Cat. Those were the days.

This next photo almost needs no introduction …

… Marsh Shapiro, sportscaster, and before that “Marshall the Marshal,” and along with that owner of the Nitty Gritty bar, along with …

This apparently is also from 1977. WISC was the first station in the market to do news besides noon, 6 and 10. Before that WISC ran a one-hour “Eyewitness News” at 6 p.m. starting in 1971. (According to Digman it was because WISC was having license problems. Also according to Digman the news was a little thin at times.) “Eyewitness News” was replaced by “Action News,” with a 5 p.m. newscast that became “Live at 5,” which is still on.

By 1980, Mann was gone, replaced by two people, Paul Pitas and Suzanne Bates. The last time I saw Pitas, he was doing public relations for Culver’s, which is probably not a bad gig.

Finally, here is something you never see from radio or TV stations anymore:

It’s a radio- and TV-station-sponsored bake-off, which was cosponsored by a TV station that, I assume, didn’t have a strong enough signal to get to any of the counties whose cooking women were eligible for the contest. (I wonder how Wausau viewers felt about that.) Click here for the recipes.

 

Тридцать лет назад и не забывайте это

Daniel Greenfield:

The Soviet Union was dissolved on the 26th of December.

An empire that once seemed unbeatable and threatened the very survival of the human race with its nuclear arsenal collapsed after popular protests brought down a failing and corrupt regime.

Leftists around the world had worshiped at its feet. They had spied for it, conspired on its behalf, and undermined their home countries for it. And when it died, it left behind their detritus in the form of aging Marxists like Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders, and their wider circles, who no doubt sigh as the anniversary comes once more.

The anniversary of the fall of the USSR should be a time to remember the many millions who were murdered in pursuit of the great socialist dream. And the fact that these murders were covered up by the media. The mass murders in the Soviet Union, in Communist China, by Pol Pot and by Che, could not have happened without the active collusion of Western leftists who labored to suppress the stories, discredit political dissidents, and, toward the end, push fake peace efforts meant to help keep failing Communist regimes going.

All these efforts failed.

The old Communist regimes collapsed into oligarchies, some, as in China, retained their Communist brand, others, as in Russia, took on a more explicitly nationalist brand, but none of them could sustain the purity of the ideals for which they had massacred, starved, and imprisoned countless millions whose full numbers will never be known. The Black Book of Communism can only tell us so much. Even to this day, Putin’s regime continues suppressing efforts to find mass graves from the Stalin era. China censors its own massacres from its internet.

And our media continues to glamorize Communism while promoting activists who want to see America go down the same path again.

Leftist theories are unworkable and innately destructive. Their idealism is a hollow shell for narcissism and a lust for power. When they are implemented, millions die.

The last sportscast (for now?)

I am, I must say, opposed to Jay Wilson’s retirement from WISC-TV in Madison.

I’m opposed because I remember when WKOW-TV in Madison hired Wilson to do weekend sports. Then he left for WISN-TV in Milwaukee, and then he came back as WKOW’s sports director when I was a sports intern there, working mostly with Paul Rudy, now found in San Diego.

One of my highlights was when he sent me (and my then-girlfriend) to Green Bay to pick up videotape from the Packers–Chicago Bears game:

I also interviewed then-New Orleans Saints coach Jim Mora and UW hockey players after their 1988 WCHA Final Four title (where I played for the UW Band).

I went into print instead of TV largely because I got my first job offer from a weekly newspaper instead of a radio or TV station. But working at 27 was an interesting experience, including answering the phone and hearing someone say “somebody’s going to blow up your fucking TV station” because the station chose to run informercials instead of Formula 1 racing that Sunday.

He has always presented himself as someone who doesn’t take himself too seriously and has fun doing what he’s doing, but is always informative and insightful. The first piece of advice in broadcasting is to “be yourself,” but if I were showing a college student how to be a TV sportscaster, I’d show him Jay Wilson video. The reason he was called the dean of Madison sportscasters was not just because of his longevity, but because his work was good enough for much larger markets.

My favorite work of his was in 1993, when Wisconsin needed Michigan to beat Ohio State to give the Badgers a chance at the Rose Bowl. All Wilson did was show highlights of the game with no narration, but the Michigan fight song, “The Victors,” which the Wolverines were that day. That came a few weeks after the Camp Randall Stampede, when the Badgers’ win over Michigan was concluded by students’ trying to rush the field and getting crushed against a nonmovable fence, resulting in 70 injuries. Wilson demonstarted that he could report news as well that day.

One perk of being WKOW’s sports director is getting to announce the state basketball tournaments on TV. That is one thing I’ve wanted to do and have never been able to do since I’m not on the air for one of  WKOW’s owner’s stations. (That, though, comes with its own challenges due to the WIAA, from what announcers have told me.) Wilson got to announce state games, and I was always impressed at how well he did on play-by-play for someone who didn’t do play-by-play on a regular basis. Most people get good at it only by seasons’ worth of games.

For a few years Jay and I would run into each other at the WIAA state football championships, where he called games for Fox Sports North. I have been privileged to announce a state game for four years in a row on the radio. (Including, this year, the game that had the first two replays in WIAA history.) Since WISC’s parent company also owns the stations where I broadcast, I guess that made us coworkers of a sort.

Wilson calls his departure a “resignation, not a retirement.” Let’s hope we see him on the air around us.

 

Remembering “Ronnie Raygun”

One of the features of our body politic is the increasingly hysterical predictions that second-term Donald Trump will cause the earth to boil over and/or lock up everyone in government concentration camps, or something like that.

The funny part for those of us who were paying attention is when your favorite leftist compares Trump unfavorably to a previous Republican president — for instance, either George Bush or Ronald Reagan.

About the latter, Ira Stoll remembers:

The New York Times ad was so effective that four days later …

… Reagan won 49 of the 50 states, and it seemed as though every left-wing college newspaper (but I repeat myself) used the same headline, “There he goes again.” Fortunately for the ad’s signers, none of them appear to have suffered negative career consequences for their non-credible hysterics.

 

What you weren’t told about the Pilgrims in school or church

Lawrence W. Reed:

Next year at this time, Americans will mark the 400th anniversary of the landing of the Mayflower in 1620 and the subsequent founding of the Plymouth colony by English Separatists we know as the Pilgrims. They, of course, became the mothers and fathers of the first Thanksgiving.

The first few years of the settlement were fraught with hardship and hunger. Four centuries later, they also provide us with one of history’s most decisive verdicts on the critical importance of private property. We should never forget that the Plymouth colony was headed straight for oblivion under a communal, socialist plan but saved itself when it embraced something very different.

In the diary of the colony’s first governor, William Bradford, we can read about the settlers’ initial arrangement: Land was held in common. Crops were brought to a common storehouse and distributed equally. For two years, every person had to work for everybody else (the community), not for themselves as individuals or families. Did they live happily ever after in this socialist utopia?

Hardly. The “common property” approach killed off about half the settlers. Governor Bradford recorded in his diary that everybody was happy to claim their equal share of production, but production only shrank. Slackers showed up late for work in the fields, and the hard workers resented it. It’s called “human nature.”

The disincentives of the socialist scheme bred impoverishment and conflict until, facing starvation and extinction, Bradford altered the system. He divided common property into private plots, and the new owners could produce what they wanted and then keep or trade it freely.

Communal socialist failure was transformed into private property/capitalist success, something that’s happened so often historically it’s almost monotonous. The “people over profits” mentality produced fewer people until profit—earned as a result of one’s care for his own property and his desire for improvement—saved the people.

Over the centuries, socialism has crash-landed into lamentable bits and pieces too many times to keep count—no matter what shade of it you pick: central planning, welfare statism, or government ownership of the means of production. Then some measure of free markets and private property turned the wreckage into progress. I know of no instance in history when the reverse was true—that is, when free markets and private property produced a disaster that was cured by socialism. None.

A few of the many examples that echo the Pilgrims’ experience include Germany after World War II, Hong Kong after Japanese occupation, New Zealand in the 1980s, Scandinavia in recent decades, and even Lenin’s New Economic Policy of the 1920s.

Two hundred years after the Pilgrims, the Scottish cotton magnate Robert Owen thought he’d give socialism another spin, this time in New Harmony, Indiana. There he established a community he hoped would transcend such “evils” as individualism and self-interest. Everybody would be economically equal in an altruistic, fairy-tale society. It collapsed utterly within just two years, just like all the other “Owenite” communes it briefly inspired. Fortunately, because Owen didn’t have guns and armies to glue it together, people just walked away from New Harmony in disgust. They learned from socialism, even if today’s socialists don’t. You can read all about it in this splendid 1976 article by Melvin D. Barger, “Robert Owen: The Wooly Minded Cotton Spinner.”

Socialism flops even when it’s the “pretend” or “voluntary” variety. Imagine the odds against it succeeding when it’s compulsory! The use of force prolongs the agony but doesn’t breed any less bitterness, resentment, or decline. It magnifies the calamity, in fact.

Consider this as you feast at the Thanksgiving table this week: The people who raised the turkey didn’t do so because they wanted to help you out. The others who grew the cranberries and the yams didn’t go to the trouble and expense out of some altruistic impulse or because of some nebulous “sharing” fantasy.

Sacrificial rituals, even if they make you feel good, rarely bake a bigger pie. Charity is laudable, and I engage in it, too, but it’s not an engine of production or prosperity. For that, you need profit, incentive, and private property.

In North Korea and Venezuela, socialist regimes work to see that almost nobody makes a profit or owns a private business. There won’t be anything like widespread Thanksgiving dinners in either country this week, and that’s no coincidence. I wonder if that lesson is still taught in schools these days; polls that suggest young people are attracted to socialism suggest maybe it isn’t.

I’ll be offering gratitude for more than just good food on Thanksgiving Day. I’m going to give a prayerful thanks for private property and the profit motive that has made abundance possible. When God instilled a measure of peaceful, productive self-interest into the human mind, he knew what he was doing.

Donald J. Kennedy

UW–Madison graduate Jeff Greenfield has a provocative thought:

Have we ever had a president before this one who so disdains the advice and policies of those who have spent their lives working for the government he leads? Have we ever had a chief executive who is so skeptical of the judgments of career diplomats and military leaders, who rejects the advice of top intelligence leaders, who trusts his family more than those with a lifetime of experience?

Yes we have. His name was John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Kennedy and Donald Trump are hardly similar men, nor are they similar presidents. JFK’s 14 years of experience in the House and Senate, his knowledge of history and his prudence in public (as opposed to private) matters make that notion absurd. But in one way they are alike: Throughout Kennedy’s presidency, he came more and more to distrust the received wisdom of the “permanent government” or “deep state” or “military-industrial complex” or whatever term seems apt today. In his case, that skepticism may have saved the planet from nuclear annihilation.

During the tumult of the Trump years, generals like H.R. McMaster and Jim Mattis have been glorified as steadying influences in the room—military wise men whose opinions on everything from Syria to NATO Trump has recklessly disregarded. And that is true. Trump deserves censure for his refusal to listen to the advice of experienced hands, and his White House can be faulted for jettisoning decades worth of scientific, economic and military expertise.

But in the reflexive rush to criticize Trump, we risk forgetting the lesson of the Kennedy years: There is danger in relying too heavily on the “wisdom” of the elders. A president with a well-honed resistance to the certainties of experts and a strong sense of history can be a crucial protection against disaster. Unlike Kennedy, Trump possesses only one of these traits. But we shouldn’t let the current president’s lapses reset our expectations for civilian control over the military and foreign affairs.

JFK campaigned in 1960 as a conventional Cold Warrior, warning that the United States was falling behind the Soviet Union, arguing that a (nonexistent) “missile gap” was threatening our security, embracing the idea that the fall of any nation to communism would threaten surrounding nations—the domino theory. But he had also come to office with a strong belief that the power of nationalism was changing the dynamic of world politics. He’d been skeptical about France’s ability to hold Indochina in the early 1950s. And in his first days in office, Kennedy rejected the advice of his military advisers to place troops in Laos—advice that included the use of tactical nuclear weapons.

His skepticism about the military grew steadily. After the Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1961, he said, “Those sons of bitches with all the fruit salad just sat there, nodding, saying it would work.” He was furious when it took hours for the army to deploy troops to deal with rioting at the University of Mississippi when the first black student was admitted. And in the closest brush with nuclear war ever—the 1962 Cuban missile crisis—Kennedy repeatedly refused to strike at Soviet missile installations on the island.

Side note: Those of us who went to John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Madison in the 1970s could tell you that Kennedy was in the Navy Reserve during World War II as a PT boat captain. Perhaps that’s where he got his disdain for higher military authority.

His judgment may well have made the difference between war and peace. But the military and intelligence heavyweights saw it otherwise. “The greatest defeat in our history,” Air Force Chief Curtis LeMay called it. Former Secretary of State Dean Acheson—the ultimate “wise man” who had confidently assured JFK that the Soviets would not respond to a military strike in Cuba—called the peaceful resolution of the crisis a matter of “luck” and later said, “We have to face the fact that the United States has no leader.” And Allen Dulles, the longtime CIA chief cashiered by JFK after the Bay of Pigs, said in retirement: “Kennedy is weak, not a leader.”

Kennedy, in turn, was sufficiently worried about his military advisers that he encouraged director John Frankenheimer to make a movie out of Seven Days in May, a novel about an attempted military coup, and even vacated the White House for a weekend to accommodate the movie’s shooting schedule.

By June 1963, Kennedy was signaling his intention to break with the Cold War consensus. In a speech at American University, he called for a new approach toward the Soviet Union. While condemning its totalitarian system, he said: “Let us not be blind to our differences, but let us also direct attention to our common interests and the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”

Lyndon Johnson inherited Kennedy’s “new approach” to the Soviet Union. So did Richard Nixon, who inherited one of LBJ’s advisors, Henry Kissinger. Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter had the same approach to the U.S.S.R. It took Ronald Reagan to come up with better strategy: “We win, they lose.” In other words, the hawks ultimately were right and the doves were wrong about the Soviets.

Kennedy sought to lessen criticism of his proposed new approach to Moscow with huge increases in the defense budget. And he bears substantial responsibility for sending 15,000 “combat advisers” into Vietnam. But history suggests that he was looking for ways out of that quagmire, while dealing with the harsh domestic political realities. He told a friend: “We don’t have a prayer of staying in Vietnam. Those people hate us. They are going to throw our asses out. … But I can’t give up a piece of territory to the communists and then get the people to reelect me.”

Keep that last quote in mind for everyone who continues to lionize Kennedy more than 50 years after his death.

Kennedy pushed back against the “permanent government” by relying on different eyes and ears for advice and information. Most obvious was his turn to his brother, Robert Kennedy, as a key adviser on any and all matters, beyond RFK’s job as attorney general. During the Cuban missile crisis, JFK used ABC correspondent John Scali as a go-between with Alexandr S. Fomin, a KGB official in Washington and a personal friend of Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. When Kennedy learned that French journalist Jean Daniel was going to interview Fidel Castro, he met with Daniel and asked that they meet again on his return. He encouraged Deputy U.N. Ambassador (and former journalist) William Atwood to maintain contacts with members of the Cuban delegation.

This was dramatized in …

No one can know, of course, whether JFK would have moved further from the Cold War consensus in a second term. What we do know is that throughout his presidency, he was one of the few voices pushing back against the assumptions of those around him. Virtually every “wise man”—McGeorge Bundy, Walt Rostow, Dean Rusk, the joint chiefs—argued for escalation in Vietnam, but Kennedy pushed back. He would say, for example, if you can convince Douglas MacArthur that a land war in Asia is a good idea, let me know. And after his death, his successor—far less grounded in history or foreign policy, and without Kennedy’s deep doubts about the wisdom of the military, presided over the full-scale tragedy that was Vietnam.

The wrong lesson, then, is that it is acceptable for a president like Trump to carry out an ignorant, narcissistic foreign policy. But it is equally wrong to think that presidents should mindlessly defer to their military and diplomatic advisers. It was “the best and the brightest” who led us into Vietnam; it was the counsel of seasoned, experienced leaders who led us into Iraq in 2003; it was a team of well-versed experts who presided over the descent into the Great Recession of 2008.

Under Trump, we have seen that a president without the gifts of knowledge and judgment is ill-served by ignoring advice from the grownups in the room. By relying on his own instincts in a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president greatly strengthened the hands of Iran, Russia and ISIS while shaking our allies’ faith in America’s judgment.

The heavy costs of ignoring sound advice may lead the next president to reaffirm respect for the “deep state.” But if respect becomes veneration, if the next president does not know how and where to look for alternatives to the consensus, that could well lead to a new series of destructive policies. A president without the ability to thoughtfully contest the conventional wisdom, without the ability to argue for new alternatives to old problems, does the office and the nation no favor.

 

50 years ago, holy cow

Actually we’re starting 51 years ago with a long Sports Illustrated story written by Myron Cope:

Even before the World Series got under way Wednesday, it was shudderingly clear that one result was as predictable as bunting on the commissioner’s box: Millions of television and radio listeners, whose eardrums may have healed in the year since the Cardinals-Red Sox Series, are once again going to be exposed to a feverish clamor coming from a Cardinals delegate to the NBC broadcasting team. It was equally certain that across America the baseball public would then divide into two camps—those who exclaimed that by God! Harry Caray was almost as exciting as being at the park, and those who prayed he would be silenced by an immediate attack of laryngitis. Caray, should you be among the few who still have not heard him, is an announcer who can be heard shrieking above the roar of the crowd when a hitter puts the ultimate in wood to the ball: “There she goes…! Line drive…! It might be…it could be…it is! Home run…! Ho-lee cow!” You may not know that with a second home run his more dignified colleagues have preferred to flee the broadcasting booth before the ball has cleared the fence.

In the past decade the trend of play-by-play broadcasting has been decidedly in the direction of mellow, impassive reporting, a technique that strikes Harry Caray as being about as appropriate as having Walter Cronkite broadcast a heavyweight championship fight. “This blasé era of broadcasting!” Caray grumbles. “‘Strike one. Ball one. Strike two.’ It probably hurts the game more than anything, and this at a time when baseball is being so roundly criticized.” Never one to burden himself with restraint, Caray more or less began hoisting the 1968 pennant over Busch Stadium clear back in early July when, following a Cardinals victory, he bellowed, “The magic number is 92!”

The fact is that Harry Caray’s 24 years of broadcasting St. Louis baseball have been one long crusade for pennants, a stance that might be expected to have endeared him to all Cardinals past and present, but which, on the contrary, has left a scattered trail of athletes who would have enjoyed seeing him transferred to Ping-Pong broadcasts in Yokohama.

“What’s Caray got against you anyway, Meat?” asks Mrs. Jim Brosnan in a passage from The Long Season, a reminiscence her pitcher-husband wrote in 1960.

“To hell with Tomato-Face,” answers Brosnan. “He’s one of those emotional radio guys. All from the heart, y’know? I guess he thinks I’m letting the Cardinals down, and he’s taking it as a personal insult.”

“Well, you ought to spit tobacco juice on his shoe, or something. It’s awful the way he blames you for everything.”

Caray remembers Brosnan’s peevish prose with equanimity now that Brosnan is out of baseball. “I’ve seen him many times since,” he says, “and we get along splendidly. Of course,” Caray adds, repaying Brosnan with a needle straight to the ego, “he doesn’t throw the home run ball anymore.”

In the prudent little world of sports announcers, most men stand ready to go to the North Pole, if necessary, to avoid any conflict. The announcer is hired and fired by the ball club or sponsor, or by the two in concert; he is, in short, an organization man, whose paycheck is a writ of mandamus that says, “Be positive.” Inasmuch as the Cardinals are owned by a brewery, Anheuser-Busch, Inc., and in a sense are a continuous promotional campaign for its various beers, their announcer figures to be positive through hell, six percent, and 10-game losing streaks. But the trouble with Harry Caray—born, orphaned at 10 and raised in St. Louis—is that he has never got it through his head that he is not still sitting in the bleachers, still endowed with the right to issue a loud raspberry.

“Harry is a fan,” says Cardinals Manager Red Schoendienst. “Hell, he dies with the Cardinals.” Their acts of heroism move him to deafening cheers, but their failures make his teeth grind. And because his exasperation leaks from his lips into his microphone, he has been despised by more than one Cardinals manager, denounced in print by a clutch of Cardinals players, and called onto the carpet so often that it is almost threadbare. Pinching his forefinger and thumb together, Caray says, “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been this close to getting fired.”

A fairly typical example of Caray’s attraction to turbulence involves Eddie “The Brat” Stanky. As he lunches at Busch’s Grove, a posh suburban St. Louis restaurant not owned by Cardinals President Gussie Busch, Caray traces Stanky’s antipathy toward him. Caray’s face is, as Brosnan suggested, right off a tomato counter, but at 51, a thickset man measuring a fraction of an inch under six feet, he is a picture of sophisticated leisure. Fresh from a $15 tonsorial treatment by Walter of the Colony Salon, his wavy hair is graying gracefully. He wears a black blazer, white turtleneck, tattersall slacks, white loafers and, of course, large sunglasses. He orders another Scotch sour—”Have Otis make it,” he specifies to the waiter—and then delves to the bottom of the Stanky-Caray Seventeen Years War.

It seems that one day in 1951, when Stanky was on his last legs as a New York Giant second baseman and Caray was at the mic during a Giants-Cardinals game, an umpire gave Stanky the heave-ho. His replacement then made a sensational play to snuff out a Cardinals rally. “Great stop!” Caray cried into his mic. “There’s a case where the Giants get a big break. If Stanky’s not out of the game, it’s a base hit!”

The next year Stanky—a clean-living, churchgoing family man but equipped with a blowtorch temper—became the Cardinals’ manager. “You’re the guy,” he groused at Caray, “who said I couldn’t get off a dime.”

“I did not,” Caray fired back. “I didn’t say anything about a dime. I didn’t mention the word.” Much preferring offense to defense, Caray then drove Stanky to the wall, so to speak, by railing, “When you deliberately twist someone’s words, doesn’t it hurt your conscience, you being such a devout man?” In the ensuing years the dialogue between manager and broadcaster lacked flavor only in that the two antagonists did not wear spurs on their heels, but somehow Stanky never got around to taking a punch at Caray. “Oh, no,” says Caray over his Scotch sour at Busch’s Grove. “Nor I at him.”

As the Cardinals sank toward seventh place in Stanky’s fourth season as manager, Gussie Busch’s Anheuser-Busch lieutenants took a hard look not only at Stanky but at Caray as well. “Stanky was very unpopular with the fans,” Caray recalls, adding with heavy sarcasm, “and the reason he was unpopular was me.” Caray fingers Busch’s top public-relations adviser, one Al Fleishman, as the man who advanced this theory in high councils, although Fleishman maintains he did nothing of the sort. “Fleishman’s approach was that I should be more sympathetic to Stanky,” Caray insists. “I can’t recall ever criticizing his managing tactics. I got enough headaches as a broadcaster without worrying about Stanky’s image. He’d step onto the field and there would be a loud boo. The thinking was that there was something I could do to keep that boo from being so audible over the mic.”

In the end it was Stanky who was fired, but the two continued to search out one another’s jugular vein from a distance. The Cardinals, bewildered by a slump last May, could cure themselves by consulting Harry Caray’s keen baseball mind, Stanky acidly suggested in a radio appearance. “KEEP UP THE WONDERFUL WORK,” Caray wired Stanky as the White Sox, with Stanky as manager, staggered through a torrent of defeats that led to Stanky’s resignation.

One reason that Caray has been able to survive the acrimony of field managers and high-echelon counselors in the Anheuser-Busch palace is that for two decades he has possessed the most fanatical following of any broadcaster in baseball. Through a network of 124 stations in 14 Midwestern, Southern and Southwest states, his unabashed trumpeting of Cardinals rallies brings genuine excitement to small towns and villages. Moreover, untold numbers of Cardinals fans, long since transplanted to the distant East or Northwest, sit glued to car radios to pick up the extremely powerful nighttime signal of Caray’s St. Louis station, KMOX, which under the right conditions can be heard in 45 states. “Cardinals win! Cardinals win! Cardinals win! Cardinals win!” the faithful hear Caray scream as if he were on closed circuit to the Home for the Deaf. When he appears at smokers and Elks Club gatherings in the provinces, grown men beg him to describe an imaginary home run. He does, and as the imaginary ball clears the imaginary wall the grown men bolt to their feet cheering.

No sir, Caray is having none of that drawing-room dignity affected by the boys with pear-shaped tones. Nor, as he settles into his Busch Stadium chair for a series with the Giants, is he having any of that kid-glove technique the ballplayers love so well.

“Here’s Ty Cline, who’s modeled a few uniforms,” Caray announces in the first inning. “His name reminds you of Ty Cobb.” Then the withering appendage: “And he’s batting .185.” From the enemy Caray soon turns to the home team. “Here’s slumping Orlando Cepeda, with two strikes on him and two runners waiting to be driven in. Struck him out, on a bad ball!” Back to the Giants. At bat is Willie Mays, of whom broadcasters speak encomiums. Steve Carlton fires. “Hooo! What a cut he took!” Carlton fires again. “Hooo! What a cut! Man, I’ve never seen Mays take a more vicious cut in his life. Looked like he left both his feet!” Carlton fires a third time, and Mays lands among the mortals. “Struck him out—on a bad fastball over his head!”

Although one might interpret these outcries as nothing more than blunt reportage, legions of ballplayers categorize such technique as the work of a “ripper.” In the peculiar accountancy of many baseball players all criticisms and harsh truths are entered upon the memory with indelible ink, while compliments are apt to fade away like dandelion chaff in a spring breeze. (“And the funny thing is,” points out a San Francisco Giants official, “that ballplayers take it for granted that every nice word said about them is absolutely accurate.”) Sensitivities being what they are, it was not surprising that Tracy Stallard, pitching for the Cardinals three years ago, rose to a boil when Caray said of him over the air, “I’m surprised more clubs don’t bunt on him. He’s slow fielding bunts and slow covering first base.” To St. Louis Globe-Democrat baseball writer Jack Herman, Stallard issued a furious denunciation of Caray, who was deeply wounded when he read Herman’s story. Caray hints he’d done Stallard personal kindnesses. “He’s a real nice kid, he really is,” Caray adds. “He’s a big, good-looking guy, a night person, my kind of guy.” One night, shortly after Stallard had leveled his blast, Caray was standing at the bar of a St. Louis club. Stallard, seated at a table with a young lady, arose and strode to the bar. “This girl I’m with would like to meet you, Harry,” he said. “Would you sit down with us for a minute?”

To the real nice kid Caray answered, “Drop dead.”

Caray’s detractors insist that he can damn a ballplayer in his broadcasts without misstating a single fact, but merely by employing the inflection of disgust. It is said, for example, that simply by repeating time and again the number of base runners ex-Cardinal Ken Boyer left stranded, Caray planted St. Louis fans squarely on Boyer’s back. Around the National League, ballplayers do takeoffs on Caray’s narration of a Boyer turn at bat. “It’s the last of the ninth,” goes one version. “The Cardinals have the tying run on second. Two out. Boyer’s the hitter. We’ll be back in one minute with the wrap-up.”

“Listen,” says Caray in defense of himself, “I don’t believe any ballplayer ever put on a Cardinals uniform who shouldn’t have known that I wanted his success as much as he did. But I refuse to fool the audience. These ball club-controlled announcers think they can, but they’re crazy.”

Put in perspective, Caray’s skirmishes with players and managers are infrequent happenings spaced over a broadcasting career of more than two decades; yet, because he works in a world of play-by-play pacifists, he emerges as a sort of Roland daring the Saracen jockos to take him on 50 at a time. Still, a great many ballplayers like him. A fun-loving man who talks the earthy language of the ball field, he hears raucous, good-natured greetings as he approaches enemy dugouts. “Harry is my friend,” says Cepeda with evident sincerity. Caray seldom passes a ballplayer’s restaurant table without sending over a round of drinks, and when players find themselves short of cash on the road, they know he always will come up fast with $100.

Up in Caray’s booth, the athletes are not always getting the short end of his critical stick—not by a long shot. “I have never seen a better play!” he bellows orgiastically as Mike Shannon makes a rather pretty play along the third-base line. Second Baseman Julian Javier charges a slow roller and goes into the Hall of Fame alongside Napoleon Lajoie and Frankie Frisch. “Beautiful! Ho-lee cow, he got him! There’s no play he can’t make, that Javier!” A batter pops a foul back toward Caray’s booth, whereupon Caray, who may have stripped to his shorts in St. Louis’ hot, humid climate, seizes a long pole, a fishing net attached to its end. He crashes over an empty chair to his right, lunges halfway out of his booth in an unrewarded attempt to snare the foul, and then returns to his chair grimacing, having given his elbow a terrific crack on the railing.

To Caray’s left in the booth sits a mountain of unopened fan mail, and beside that rises a growing hill of messages scrawled on crumpled pieces of paper and bits of cardboard. The messages, constantly being delivered by an usher, come from fans who have traveled to Busch Stadium from outlying points. (Surveys have shown that 40 percent of the Cardinals’ summertime crowds come from Caray’s out-of-town strongholds.) “My favorite town!” he crows as he glances at a note and reports the name of a fan in attendance from Monkeys Eyebrow, Ky. or Number Nine, Ark., at which the high-powered public-relations firm of Fleishman, Hillard, Wilson & Ferguson, the P.R. men representing Anheuser-Busch, scowl, calculating that for every fan Caray mentions he offends 20 others.

“Fleishman said this bit isn’t class,” Caray snorts. “I said, ‘You’re talking about people who come to the ball park. If I got a guy here from Timbuktu, I’ll help him to be proud of Timbuktu.’ I told Fleishman, ‘Class, my ass!’ “

An analysis of Caray’s audience impact—one that is repeated so often it is almost a refrain—is that Cardinals fans either love Caray or hate him, there being no middle ground. The haters, most of whom seem to be concentrated in St. Louis, where big-city sophisticates doubt his melodramatic word pictures, worry Fleishman, the Philistine in Caray’s nightmares. “Anheuser-Busch’s motto is ‘Making Friends Is Our Business,’ ” Fleishman points out. A tanned, slightly paunchy man with white hair and a cigar clenched in a curled forefinger, Fleishman recalls that Caray, in reply to a critical letter from a woman listener, exploded on the air, denouncing the woman in terms that judges save for those who molest old ladies. Top-level conferences had to be called. Indeed, when Caray’s eye lights on a harsh fan letter, he is apt to dictate a reply that is doubly nasty. His secretary, Mrs. Bea Higgins, surreptitiously throws the dictation into the nearest wastebasket and sends out a gentle thank-you-for-your-interest note instead.

Fleishman, meanwhile, denies that he has ever tried to have Caray fired (“Never, never—that’s not my role!”) and, in fact, relates that when Anheuser-Busch purchased the Cardinals in 1953, it was he who convinced Gussie Busch to keep Caray at the mic. Of course, he did not foresee the fun to follow. “About six years ago,” Fleishman says, “Harry called me a liar in a dispute over a contractual matter. I said, ‘The fact that you call me a liar doesn’t make me one. Only the facts can do that.’ This was in Mr. Busch’s presence.” Busch wearily ordered them to knock it off and shake hands. “But we’ve really gotten along—amazingly enough,” Fleishman says.

Caray agrees this is so. “But I never walk with my back to him,” he says.

Unable to purge himself of his unruly bleacherite ways, Caray goes on inviting little enemy fires around his existence which, on an annual income somewhat in excess of $100,000, is cushy indeed. Besides broadcasting Cardinal baseball, he does a daily 10-minute sports show on KMOX and broadcasts University of Missouri football. “When he hollers ‘Touchdown!’ ” says one Caray critic, “your ears can fall off.” The father of five children, two by his present wife, Marian, and three by an earlier marriage, Caray lives in an exclusive suburb called Ladue, in a 10-room colonial-style house with heated swimming pool, three French poodles, a black Labrador retriever, and a shaggy Sicilian donkey named Buzzy. The donkey is a result of a conversation Gussie Busch and Caray had at the side of the Caray pool.

“You don’t have a Sicilian donkey,” Busch suddenly observed, as if no home is complete without one.

“Of course I don’t have a Sicilian donkey,” Caray replied.

“You ought to have one,” snapped Busch.

At 7:30 the next morning a Sicilian donkey stood at the Carays’ doorstep. Somewhat grimly, Caray points out that it cost him $1,380 for a corral and shed as well as a harness and rig for the amusement of his children. The feed bill runs from $45 to $55 a month, Marian Caray points out, and the donkey keeps kicking the shed apart. Gussie Busch, fretting not long ago that Caray’s donkey needed a companion, had one of his employees phone the Caray residence to say that a second Sicilian ass would be sent over in the morning. “Forget it!” screamed Caray. The fact is, however, that he could afford a herd of elephants, for in addition to his broadcasting income, he has invested shrewdly in securities, principally Anheuser-Busch stock. Even his St. Louis friends who know him as an irrepressible check-grabber are unaware that Harry Caray, ex-orphan, is a millionaire.

Born Harry Carabina of French-Italian-Rumanian parentage, he spent his early years in a tough neighborhood a few blocks from downtown St. Louis. When he was an infant his father died, and when he was 10 his mother died of cancer. Passed around through foster homes, he was the only child in his grammar school class who did not own a pair of white duck trousers for commencement. “It was a mortifying feeling I’ll never forget,” he says. In his teens he landed with an aunt, Mrs. Doxie Argint, and moved to Webster Groves, a tony suburban address at the time. But soon after, Mrs. Argint’s husband moved out, leaving her to raise Harry and two children of her own. Among Webster Groves’ affluent youth, Harry was a pauper child.

“I was always a nut about baseball,” he says today, describing himself as having been a weak hitter but a dazzling fielder. “Well,” says a St. Louis advertising executive named Frank Fuchs Jr., once a high school classmate of Caray, “in his mind, he was damned good. He was a wiry little guy, but a competitor. Even if you benched him he’d be throwing every pitch, swinging every bat.” Following graduation from high school, Caray hoped to fatten up his 130-pound physique and become a big-league hitting prospect. He spent two years working as a flunky in a fight camp but then took a $17-a-week office job in St. Louis, married a home-town girl and finally, at 23, when it was too late, began to put on weight. Casting around, he hit upon an idea.

Seated in the bleachers at old Sportsman’s Park, Caray found that baseball made him quiver with excitement, and he felt that what St. Louis baseball needed was an announcer who could breathe that excitement into a broadcast. One day he wrote a brash letter to Merle Jones, then general manager of KMOX, informing him that he, Harry Caray, who had never spoken into a microphone, was that announcer. Jones auditioned him and, Caray likes to recall, immediately declared, “You have the same exciting timbre as Ted Husing and Graham McNamee!” Nevertheless, the best that Jones could do was recommend him to a station in the industrial town of Joliet, Ill. There, in the summer of 1940, Caray scored his first success. As a man-in-the-street interviewer he accosted immigrant housewives lugging shopping bags and dirty-faced children and demanded of them, “Did you marry your first love? Have you ever caught your daughter necking?” The housewives fought for the privilege of telling him their intimate secrets.

Inching upwards, Caray moved on to Kalamazoo, Mich. and finally, in 1944, what with big-city stations losing personnel to the wartime draft, landed back in St. Louis as a staff announcer and then sportscaster. (The army had rejected him because of myopia, a development that his critics of today may view with a knowing nod.) Late that sameyear Caray got his big break. Griesedieck Brothers, a St. Louis brewery, decided to sponsor Cardinals and Browns broadcasts. The company’s ad agency formed a completely new team of broadcasters and hired Caray to be No. 3 man. “I was to read commercials, that’s all,” he says. Then the ad men set out to find a big-name, play-by-play broadcaster who could hold his own against a competing station. But as the winter dragged on, the search yielded no star. So Caray barged into the office of Ed Griesedieck, the brewery president, and said, “Why not me?”

Griesedieck frowned at his uninvited visitor. Look, he said, the job demands a man of experience and craft. “When a real pro is at work,” Griesedieck went on, “I can have a cup of coffee and read a newspaper without having my concentration interrupted.”

“That’s why you want to hire me,” Caray cried. “You’re spending big money to put your message across. Shouldn’t you have a broadcaster who makes people put down their newspaper?”

For a full minute Griesedieck stared at Caray. Finally he said, “Dammit, you’re right.”

Off and running, Caray battled the competition—play-by-play man Johnny O’Hara and his famous sidekick, folksy Dizzy Dean—with his breathless excitement. It is said that Dean, seated in a booth adjacent to Caray’s, one day overheard Caray describe a routine infield play in terms suited to a miracle of acrobatics, whereupon Diz leaned into Caray’s booth and slowly shook his head, as if to say, “Are we broadcasting the same game?”

The next year, 1946, Caray made his big breakthrough. That season the Cardinals forged into the thick of the pennant race, whipping public interest to a fever pitch. Accordingly, the radio stations decided that on days when the Cardinals were playing on the road and the Browns were idle or rained out, the Cardinals game would be broadcast in “recreated” form—that is, the announcers would broadcast from their St. Louis studios, giving the play-by-play as it came in on a Western Union ticker. The chief flaw in this arrangement was that the ticker frequently broke down, sometimes for as long as five minutes, leaving the listening audience with deadly stretches of silence or meaningless helpings of trivia from the announcers. Caray, however, put his wits to work.

“I developed a helluva flair,” he says. “When the ticker slowed up or broke down, I’d create an argument on the ball field. Or I’d have a sandstorm blowing up and the ballplayers calling time to wipe their eyes. Hell, all the ticker tape carried was the bare essentials—B1, S1, B2, B3. So I used the license of imagination, without destroying the basic facts, you understand. A foul ball was a high foul back to the rail, the catcher is racing back, he can’t get it—a pretty blonde in a red dress, amply endowed, has herself a souvenir!’ ” It sold Griesedieck beer.

Also, it sold Caray to Cardinal club owner Sam Breadon the next year when Breadon assigned exclusive radio rights to a single station. Choosing Caray’s Griesedieck beer over O’Hara’s and Dean’s Falstaff, Breadon told Caray, “You put people in my ball park.” In the years since, Caray has proceeded on a course that somehow has continued through four Cardinal presidents—Breadon, Bob Hannegan, Fred Saigh Jr. and Busch—and enough strife to reduce the ordinary play-by-play man to quivering jelly. Regarded, for example, as a second-guessing so-and-so by onetime Cardinal Manager Eddie Dyer, Caray reported to club headquarters one day in 1950 for a press conference at which Dyer was scheduled to announce his resignation. “Stay out of the room,” Saigh told Caray, blocking the entrance. Dyer had warned Saigh that if he laid eyes on Caray he would punctuate his swan song by belting him in the teeth.

“Baloney,” said Caray. “He saw me yesterday. He had a chance to punch me yesterday.”

“Do me a favor,” Saigh said wearily. “Just stay away, will you?”

The St. Louis press devoted generous space, possibly with relish, to Saigh’s quarantining of Caray in an anteroom. Understandably, the newspapermen bore him little love, for on his increasingly popular afternoon sportscast, Sports Digest, he had adopted a tired, but nevertheless effective, artifice: “You won’t read this in the papers, but”—as if to convey that only he shared his information with the public.

Though his radio fans multiplied, Caray’s pugnacity inevitably carried him to a precipice overlooking oblivion, where he teetered on an evening in 1957. That year Cardinal General Manager Frank Lane resigned, embittered by interference from Busch’s brewery lieutenants. Soon after, Busch held a formal dinner party at his home, Grant’s Farm. The guest list consisted of the Carays and a dozen important St. Louis men and their wives. During cocktails, Busch hovered about Caray, repeatedly asking him, “What do you think about Lane? Don’t you think we’re better off?”

Caray sidestepped Busch’s questions, but Busch persisted into dinner. “All right,” said Caray finally, “if you’re forcing me to, I think Frank Lane would have been great, just perfect, if there weren’t so many stumbling blocks thrown into his path. Hell, are you kidding?” he roared at Busch. “Who the hell do you have who can carry Frank Lane’s briefcase?”

A whisper could be heard as clearly as a cannon in the horrified silence that followed. Then, far down at the foot of the table, a slender matron in a sequined gown leaned into the ear of her neighbor, Mrs. Gussie Busch, and whispered.

“If I were Gussie,” she hissed, “I’d fire the son of a bitch.”

Marian Caray, a black-haired woman seated to Gussie’s left at the head of the table, came up from her chair with fists clenched and dark eyes flashing. “Did I hear you call my husband a son of a bitch?” she demanded.

“No, no,” came the reply. “I was talking about the stableboy.”

“You are not telling the truth,” snapped Marian.

“Shall we have after-dinner drinks in the living room?” Mrs. Busch interrupted sweetly.

As the guests filed into the living room a member of the Cardinals board of directors, Mark D. Eagleton, drew alongside Caray and said, “I admire your guts, Harry, but I don’t know about your judgment. I hope things work out all right.” Next, Robert Baskowitz Sr., a glass manufacturer who sold bottles to Anheuser-Busch, sidled up and said, “Harry, it took a lotta guts. Good luck.”

“Well,” said Caray to himself, “there’s gotta be some good jobs around somewhere.” To his wife he sighed, “Come on, Marian. Let’s get out of here.” Then, suddenly, he heard Busch’s rasping voice bellow at him.

“Where the hell do you think you’re going?”

“I’m going home. I got indigestion.”

“You’re staying right here,” Busch commanded. With that, he threw his arm around Caray and growled, “You son of a bitch. Are you afraid I’m going to fire you? Hell, if you’d have given me any other answer to that question about Lane, you would have been fired.”

In retrospect Caray suspects—and Busch confirms the suspicion—that Busch knew of his admiration for Lane and deliberately had been putting his veracity to a test. “You see,” says Caray, “everybody’s got the idea that you gotta be a yes-man to Gussie Busch. Hell, he’s the most democratic bastard in the world.”

Certainly Caray stood in need of the democratic tycoon’s goodwill when, four years later, the brewery hierarchy sat down to what one of them—a man named Curt Lohr—has described as the Court Martial of Harry Caray. The prelude to this crisis sounded when Caray popped up before his Sports Digest mic and read an editorial from a Lexington, Ky. newspaper condemning the St. Louis Hawks basketball club and the Boston Celtics for a lackluster exhibition they had played in Lexington. “The gist of it was that you saw more action in a University of Kentucky practice session than in an NBA game,” Caray says. In almost less time than it takes to say “I’ll have a Bud,” the long tentacles of the advertising industry had Caray by the throat.

Gardner Advertising of St. Louis, you see, had just come off a hard sell to Hawks club owner Ben Kerner, persuading him to switch Hawks broadcasts from Falstaff to Busch beer. Caray’s Sports Digest also was sponsored by Busch. So Kerner bearded the Gardner boys in their lair and said in effect, “First you tell me how much you love me, and in the next breath you’re letting that guy blast my property.” Gardner raced into conference with Anheuser-Busch executives, then fired off a telegram to Caray informing him that he was suspended indefinitely from the air.

Caray at once suspected a plot to rid the airwaves of him once and for all. “I think it was a squeeze play,” he says. Kerner, he believes, was trying to pave the way for his friend Buddy Blattner to seize Caray’s chair in the Cardinal broadcasting booth. “And the agency felt that I’m hard to control.” For four months Caray remained suspended while broadcasting people, a species that by instinct can spot a vulture 20 yards and beat it to a dying body, buzzed excitedly that Caray was a goner.

Finally, the Gardner ad men called for a meeting to settle his fate. Busch presided, surrounded by his big guns in advertising, P.R., and beer sales. Through the room ran the sentiment that life would be simpler if Caray’s contract were terminated. But then, as Busch patiently heard each man in turn, he at last got to Curt Lohr. Lohr, a stocky, fair-skinned man who at the time headed the brewery’s sales in the St. Louis area, spoke his piece bluntly.

“All Caray did,” he said, “was read an editorial that was printed in a newspaper that already had been read wherever it was circulated. What this boils down to is a personality clash. A good company does not deal in personalities.”

Now Busch himself spoke. “Has everybody had his say?” he asked. “Okay, then pack up your briefcases and get the hell out of here. You’ve taken up enough of my time. If you think I’m gonna fire the greatest broadcaster in baseball just because you people can’t get along with him, you’re crazy.”

Actually, with each passing crisis, Caray has seemed to grow stronger. He wound up, ironically, doing telecasts of Ben Kerner’s Hawks games, while his eldest son, Skip Caray, did the Hawks’ radio broadcasts. Busch gives Caray absolute freedom of speech, although Busch points out that “I can go crazy when he gives it that ‘Ho-lee cow, it’s going out of here!’ and then it’s a foul ball.” In recent years, both insiders and the general public have come to suspect that Caray is a power behind the Cardinals throne—a voice in Busch’s ear telling him which Cardinals to value and which to get rid of. Cardinals Public Relations Director Bob Harlan recalls that when he spoke at a smoker in a southern Illinois town, a fan in the audience asked him if it was Caray who persuaded the club to trade Ray Sadecki to San Francisco for Orlando Cepeda. “Nobody laughed, either,” says Harlan.

“Caray plays cards with Gussie, doesn’t he?” notes a St. Louis sportswriter pointedly. Caray not only does, Busch agrees with a wry smile, but vehemently accuses him of cheating.

During the 1964 season, when Busch was thinking of replacing Manager Johnny Keane with Leo Durocher, it was Caray whom he ordered to make contact with Durocher, then a Dodger coach, and speed him quietly from a St. Louis hotel to Grant’s Farm at an early morning hour. And before Busch eventually gave the job to Red Schoendienst, it was Harry Caray whose opinion he sought. But Caray disclaims the role of court sage.

“I’m positive Gussie already had made up his mind about Schoendienst before he talked to me,” he protests. “He asked me about Red at a party. Listen, I’d like to believe I’ve had something to do with some of these things but, honest to God, I haven’t.” Busch himself pinpoints exactly how much influence Caray has. “Not a damn bit,” he specifies. If he were to consult Caray on a trade in the works, Busch adds, “Harry probably would blab the trade all over town.”

At any rate, Caray contends that he has his hands full just trying to survive. “What play-by-play announcer do you know who criticizes players, who criticizes a trade?” he demands. “I like to think that if I’ve accomplished anything, well, I’ve tried to develop the feeling in the little man, the man we call the fan, that I have his interest at heart. In the baseball business I’m the last of the nonconformists. I feel that eventually, in this day and age, my kind of guy’s gotta get fired.”

Or perhaps confined to a padded cell. In Caray’s scrapbook rest four lines of doggerel clipped from an unidentified newspaper, that say: “If you lack the tickets to see the Cards, you can listen in your own backyards, and the greatest show, no ifs or buts, is to hear Harry Caray going nuts.”

Cope (more on him presently) wrote this in 1968, when Caray was about to announce his third World Series in the days when NBC’s TV and radio World Series announcers included one from each team:

So Caray was at the top of his career to that point.

And then, one year later, 50 years ago today, the St. Louis Post–Dispatch reported:

Harry Caray, after 25 years of broadcasting Cardinal baseball games, was job hunting today.

His employer since 1954, Anheuser-Busch, Inc., dismissed him yesterday. Caray said he was told at 3:25 p.m. by Anheuser-Busch advertising director Donald Hamel that his contract would not be renewed for 1970 and that he would be replaced by Jack Buck as head of the Cardinal broadcasting team.

Caray said he expected to talk to representatives of other major league teams, when he attends the World Series next week, about joining another broadcasting operation. He said, “I love the Cardinals but I love baseball too much not to broadcast it.”

A statement issued by company president August A. Busch Jr. said the decision was based on a recommendation from the company’s marketing division. Busch said, “We have been very glad to have had Harry Caray as a member of our broadcasting team since 1954, and we can assure our fans that we will do everything possible to make the Cardinal broadcasts of the future both interesting and enjoyable.”

In an interview after the announcement, Caray said, “I’m bruised. I’m hurt, and I feel badly about it.”

He disputed the marketing reason given for his dismissal, saying that Busch beer sales had risen from 200,000 cases to 3,000,000 barrels annually since he began advertising it.

Caray said, “I want to know why I was fired, I’ve heard a lot of rumors involving personal things.”

Referring to Busch, Caray said, “I think the world of Mr. Busch. I’d cut off my arms for him. But you’d think that after 25 years, they would at least call me in and talk to me face to face about this.”

The brewery said the decision was made “in conjunction with the entire advertising, promotional, and merchandising plans for next year. This has been the practice for many, many years and has not been deviated from this year.”

George W. Couch Jr. of Anheuser-Busch’s advertising department would say only, “We felt Caray would not fit into our 1970 program. I think the announcement speaks for itself.”

Robert Hyland, general manager of KMOX radio, the principal station on the Cardinal radio network, said that Buck would continue to be sports director for KMOX.

Who will assist Buck in broadcasting the games has not been determined, Hyland said.

Cardinal broadcasts are carried over a network of more than 100 stations in 14 states. Rumors that Caray would be dismissed had been circulating in the last half of the baseball season. Caray said a report in August that he would be replaced by Pittsburgh Pirates broadcaster Bob Prince might have been a trial balloon.

Monday, Caray was given about six hours’ notice that he had been dropped as announcer of a 10-minute evening sports show on KMOX.

Hyland said that he called Caray at Shea Stadium in New York about noon when he received word of the cancellation from the brewery’s advertising agency.

Hyland said he expected Caray to continue his broadcasts of the University of Missouri football games trough the fall season.

A group calling itself the Harry Caray Fan Club has called a protest rally at 10 a.m tomorrow at the Musial statue at Busch Stadium. Jerome Collins and Robert Brown, spokesmen, expressed hope that baseball fans who enjoy the Caray broadcasts turn out in an effort to have Caray rehired. Petitions will be circulated. Meanwhile, a movement to gather petitions asking Anheuser-Busch to reverse its decision began in Jefferson City.

The petitions began as a joke Thursday, but John Harm, executive director for the Missouri Oil Jobbers, has started circulating them seriously. The petition says in part “Out here in the boondocks, Harry Caray IS the Cardinals to many of us. He makes the names in the line-up dance with reality, and the quivering faith or haunting doubt that goes into the outcome of every game, every play, gives new reality and lasting emotion to all of us who love the Cardinals.”

Caray, born Harry Carabina in St. Louis 52 years ago, attended Webster Groves High School. He was originally hired by Ed Griesedieck, president of a brewery that decided to sponsor Cardinal and Brown broadcasts in 1944.

He was selected by the Sporting News as the outstanding play-by-play announcer of the National League for 1946, 1948. 1949 and 1951. Caray brought great enthusiasm to his reporting and acquired a large and loyal following.

He had critics, however, who believed that his enthusiasm for the Cardinals detracted from the objectivity of his description.

He was the subject of a long feature story in Sports Illustrated magazine a year ago, in which writer Myron Cope said that “Cardinal fans either love Caray or hate him, there being no middle ground.”

His cry, “Ho-lee cow,” and his preparation of listeners for home runs “It might be, it could be, it is! ” became famous.

Caray was injured seriously when struck by an automobile Nov. 4, 1968, near the Chase-Park Plaza Hotel. He recovered in time to resume his broadcasts when the season opened last spring.

Buck said he had been offered the job yesterday and that details of his contract remained to be forked out. He said that he and Caray were on good terms.

“We always were and still are,” he said, “I always wanted to be No. 1 but not at the expense of Harry or anyone else.”

Caray, when interviewed last night in a suburban St. Louis restaurant, noted that about all could do in protest was to scrap Busch products and pick up another beer, which he did – a Schlitz.

He said that he considered the separation from the brewery final.

As for the aforementioned “rumors about personal things,” one widely reported rumor is that while Caray was convalescing from his accident he was also having an affair with the wife of August Busch III, son of Cardinals owner August “Gussie” Busch. Caray was quoted in a 1991 book, Under the Influence, that “You couldn’t say I did and I wouldn’t say I didn’t.” I was then told by someone who knew Caray that Caray wasn’t having an affair with Gussie Busch’s daughter-in-law; he was having an affair with Gussie Busch’s girlfriend.

Whichever rumor was true (and I suppose it’s not an either–or thing), Caray’s alleged violations of the adultery commandment angered at least one of his broadcast partners, who was quoted not by name as being disgusted when Caray said on the air one day that he mailed alimony checks to his ex-wives that day.

This did not harm Caray’s career, however. He announced for the 1970 Oakland A’s, then went to Chicago to announce the White Sox one year later. Caray was an institution, along with someone who had been institutionalized, Jimmy Piersall, at Comiskey Park …

… until the White Sox got new owners who had pay-TV plans. Caray then jumped ship for the Cubs and a nationwide contingent of fans thanks to WGN-TV.

One more thing about Cope: The year he wrote the Caray story he started doing radio sports commentaries in Pittsburgh. Two years later, Cope was hired to do color commentary on Steelers games, and he covered the Steelers for 35 years. He was rarely accused of being “one to burden himself with restraint.”

The 1964 Cardinals, by the way, had three players who became announcers — outfielder (later third baseman) Mike Shannon, with the Cardinals; catcher Tim McCarver, with ABC and Fox, and backup catcher Bob Uecker …

… from whose World Series check was deducted the cost of repairing the dents from balls that hit the tuba Uke used to catch fly balls.

 

Tanna meets Magnum

I have written here before about the requirements for my TV-watching in my younger days — cool detective(s) who drives cool wheels and whose show has a cool theme song, preferably by the great Lalo Schifrin.

That cinematic cornucopia known as YouTube unearthed this …

… described by the Internet Movie Database as …

Tom Selleck is a member of the “Bunco” squad, the squad in charge of nabbing con men, cheats, and swindlers. Most of their time is spent dealing with penny-ante street-corner crooks. But their investigations start to reveal a larger con game in progress…

Odd that IMDB doesn’t mention “Bunco”‘s other star, Robert Urich, who first got attention on the TV series “SWAT” …

… a concept that became a movie …

… and a rebooted TV series …

… each with the same theme music (somewhat in the movie’s case) …

… which was the first 45 I purchased, for $1.03 at Walgreen’s in Madison. But I digress. (I know what you’re thinking. “You certainly do digress.”)

“Bunco” — produced by the producers of “Dallas” and “Knots Landing” — was one of five pilots Selleck did that didn’t get sold to one of the networks.

Selleck was also in the pilot to “Most Wanted,” but wasn’t cast for the series.

A year later, Tanna was cast in “Vega$.”

For those unfamiliar with this one of producer Aaron Spelling’s 17,343 TV series, Urich was cast as Dan Tanna, a Vietnam veteran turned private eye in Las Vegas, where he worked for a somewhat eccentric casino owner, where he lived and from which he got to drive a 1955 Ford Thunderbird.

Two years later, CBS came out with “Magnum P.I.” …

Selleck was cast as Thomas Magnum, a Vietnam veteran turned private eye in Hawaii, where he worked for an eccentric novelist and under the eye of a British World War II veteran. He lived in a house on the novelist’s Hawaii estate,  from which he got to drive the novelist’s Ferrari 308GTS.

And people complain about Hollywood’s lack of originality today.

A note about the music: The theme to “Bunco” was written by John Parker, possibly better known for …

The “Vega$” theme was written by Dominic Frontiere, who also did a lot of TV and movie work:

The first “Magnum” theme was written by Ian Fairbairn-Smith. The second, and much better known, theme was written by Mike Post, and his TV work would clog the Internet if I listed it here.

“Vega$” was created by Michael Mann, later better known for …

Tanna lasted four seasons in Vegas … or Vega$.

“Magnum” was created by Donald Bellasario, now known for …

… soon starting its 17th season.

Magnum lasted eight seasons and was a huge hit, one of the quintessential ’80s TV series, and it made Selleck an international star. And as always, Hollywood success will breed attempted imitators, with subtle changes, such as rich businessman-turned-PI …

… or beach bums-turned-PIs:

The imitators include the inevitable reboot: