Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Mini-Review - “Notes from Underground” by Fyodor Dostoevsky

I remember as if it were yesterday the moment I discovered the genius of Dostoevsky. I was sitting in English class in old Blanchard Hall at Wheaton College in Illinois – back when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, or so it seems! In her regal voice, Dr. Beatrice Batson intoned words from “The Brothers Karamazov” that have remained etched in my memory. She quoted the middle brother, the tortured, alienated intellectual nihilist, Ivan, as he tells his younger brother, Alyosha, that he cannot accept this dark world—a world in which innocent children suffer and die—and that he wants to opt out of life. And yet, even in the midst of his nihilistic funk, he admits that he still loves life. “Though I may not believe in the order of the universe, yet I love the sticky little leaves as they open in spring.”

I think of those “sticky little leaves” each spring and rejoice at the wonder of what God has created.

Recently, a friend, knowing my love and appreciation for the writings of Dostoevsky, made me the gift of a copy of “Notes from Underground,” a short novel written in the form of a memoir. In the few pages of this novel, Dostoevsky manages to sum up his philosophy of life and view of humanity – the belief that contained within each human breast rages a perpetual war for dominance between good and evil – between hope and despair. The publisher of this edition of the book boils it down very concisely: ’I am a sick man. . .I am a wicked man.’ With this sentence Fyodor Dostoevsky began one of the most revolutionary novels ever written, a work that marks the frontier, not only between nineteenth- and twentieth-century fiction, but between two centuries’ visions of the self. For the unnamed narrator of Notes from Underground is a multiplicity of selves, each at war with the others – all at war with everything else.” (Back leaf of Vintage edition)

Dostoevsky was one of the keenest observers of the human condition. Every page of his writings offers new insights into the complexities of our behavior and thought patterns. He explains with simplicity why his unnamed narrator, undistinguished as he may be, has chosen to tell his story: “But anyhow: what can a decent man speak about with the most pleasure?

Answer: about himself.

So then I, too, will speak about myself.” (Page 6)

I found particularly poignant and thought-provoking the narrator’s description of his treatment of a young prostitute and what those actions and attitudes reveal about his heart.

This is not light, summer reading, but more of an aerobic workout for the mind and soul that is well worth the effort.



No Apology Needed – Discussing Faith on Campus in the Ivy League

Andrew Schuman is the son of my friends, Tim and Pam Schuman. I have watched with interest as Andrew has grown into a young man of great promise – in his intellect and in his character. He excelled at Philips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire and is a now member of the Class of 2010 at Dartmouth College. Along with several other Dartmouth students who take seriously dialogue about faith, Tim has launched a journal of Christian thought, The Dartmouth Apologia. The choice of Apologia as the title for the journal sends a strong signal that these students intend to stand on the shoulders of the early Christian apologists in offering reasoned discourse about what they believe and why they hold to these beliefs. This initiative is a welcome bridge across the widening chasm that separates the world of faith from the world of the Academy. For too long, many intellectuals have dismissed issues of faith as unworthy of their consideration. On the other side of the chasm, too many fundamentalists – of all stripes and belief systems – have been guilty of anti-intellectualism. Faith and reason belong together as partners in the search for truth, and the students at Dartmouth are to be commended for their efforts to keep the marriage alive.

Apologia - a formal written defense of something you believe in strongly

Chis Blankenship makes a strong case for carrying on the tradition of the Apologist from the early Church:

Christianity has been a pivotal driving force behind human history for more than two thousand years. Therefore, apologia may seem like an odd choice of name for a journal dedicated to articulating the Christian perspective, as its English derivative connotes penitence for wrongdoing. This is not our intention. Rather we seek to evoke the original meaning of the word.

Apologia means defense. It is an answer to criticism grounded in logic and reason. Its goals are to parry an ideological attack and to convince the attacker of the validity of the defended belief. The discipline of apologetics began in the second century when “Christians felt the need to refute rumors and misconceptions regarding their beliefs and practices.” 1 Writers such as Justin Martyr and Irenaeus sought to counter claims of cannibalism and incest levied against Christians due to the practice of communion and the habit of referring to one another as brothers and sisters. 2 These accusations proved relatively easy to dispel, but a far more difficult task remained. Greek and Roman intellectuals—drawing on a centuries-old tradition of rationalism—declared the faith intellectually lacking, a religion for the simple-minded. Contemporary literature argued that Christianity drew its converts from children and uneducated women and declared that Christians should focus on day to day matters instead of eternity. In response to these assertions, the apologists began to adopt the same tradition of rationalism, which “enabled them to explain Christianity to the educated… They presented it as the rational religion…” 3 Christianity was not seen by the apologists as valid only if left unchallenged by the dominant philosophies of the day, but rather as a belief system at least worthy of consideration by even the most erudite citizens.

It is to this tradition that we aspire. While religion necessarily requires faith, faith and intellect are by no means antithetical. We strive to articulate Christianity in a manner that requires neither blind acceptance nor the rejection of one’s education. Furthermore, we seek to bring the weight of a two thousand year old intellectual tradition to bear in discussions of contemporary issues in society. Our goal with the Apologia is to present our views in a manner reflective of the level of thought that we bring to our own personal faith, and in doing so promote discussion among the Dartmouth community. The relationship between faith and intellect is worthy of exploration and challenge. We hope you’ll join us in this journey with a pedigree of more than two thousand years. (Pages 4-5)

In the inaugural edition of the journal, Andrew Schuman, Executive Editor, lays out the vision for the journal:

“We endeavor to think critically, question honestly, and link arms with anyone who searches for truth and authenticity. We don’t claim always to be right or to have all the answers. This is a journal of seekers, people who desire to love God with their minds as well as their hearts and souls. The Dartmouth Apologia does not exist to proselytize but to discuss, and I warmly invite you to join us in this discussion.”


I encourage seekers of truth of all ages to enter into the dialogue with the young scholars at Dartmouth.


Monday, May 21, 2007

Jim Dalton's Innovative - Putting Frequent Flyer Miles to Work for Good

My friend, Jim Dalton, recently made me aware of an initiative he has undertaken to use donated surplus frequent flyer miles to allow volunteers from Jim’s home church to travel to Romania to work on a short-term missions project.

With Jim’s permission, I have chosen to share the letter that he sent explaining the concept. I share the letter for several reasons. Some readers of the White Rhino Report may wish to contribute directly to the Romanian project by donating surplus miles. Others may be inspired by the idea and use the idea to support projects initiated by their own congregations or non-profit organizations. Others may be inspired to consider participating in a short-term missions project or a non-sectarian humanitarian outreach.

Over the course of many years, my family and I have benefited from our involvement in a variety of projects – internationally and in the U.S. – including projects in Yugoslavia and Romania and a Habit for Humanity project in Chicago. I would ask you to read Jim’s letter while asking yourself the question: “How should I respond to this idea?”

The purpose of this letter is to introduce you to an important project of mine and to personally ask for your support. I believe that the most impactful changes in the world come not from policy, laws, popular demand, or from intellect…but from a change in a person’s heart. I believe this because I have experienced it in my own life.

I have been developing a plan to better equip missionaries to reach the world. Since you can live on a handful of dollars per day in some parts of the world, it’s really no surprise that one of the largest expenses for a missionary is airline tickets. Therefore, as a first step in this effort, I am facilitating donations of airline frequent flyer miles to be used for specific missions. This will enable more missionaries to travel and will allow more money to go directly to the missionary projects instead of the airlines.

The initial effort is at the local level. I am working with a friend in my

church, Pastor Jamie Booth, who is currently overseeing missions activities for our church and is coordinating a trip to Romania in May or June of 2008. There are currently 12 people who have expressed interest in going on this trip. These individuals will be working closely with Touched Romania (http://www.touchedromania.org/index2.htm), a ministry that helps children who have been abandoned in Bucharest, the capital city. On this trip, those traveling to Bucharest will be working with the “Bucharest Baby Rescue Project.” Each day they will be touching the lives of dozens of neglected babies throughout the city by providing the proper care and nurture for these

children. The team will also be completing some renovation and clean-up projects in the different orphanages they will be visiting.

While I have not yet been on one of these trips, many of my friends and family members have. I regularly hear stories of what bringing hope and love to downcast lives and communities means, and how helping to transform lives within a needy community changes a missionary’s worldly perspective forever.

I expect that we will be able to hear and see front-line reports back from the individuals on the impact of this trip. My intent is to roll this out at a regional and national level and to expand the scope to provide other needed resources for international mission teams.

Depending on the final dates of travel and the airline used, the number of miles needed for each roundtrip from Boston to Bucharest are:

40K for low season (10/15 - 5/15)

60K for high season (other dates)

Please let me know if you would like to participate. I am not asking for a firm commitment at this time. If you have a rough idea of how many miles you are willing to offer, please let me know. Also, if you have a particular airline you fly and have a lot of surplus miles, please indicate which airline that is. Or if you are like me, you fly a number of different airlines and have enough miles for one or more tickets on any airline. The plan is to coordinate this so all of the members of a particular team can travel together on the same flight.

As with most of my goals, I would like to exceed the number of miles

estimated to be needed at this point. I want to demonstrate a clear

commitment of support and a viability of this important effort. In this regard, I would like to set a minimum goal of collecting 900,000 miles by the end of June. This is the equivalent of 15 travelers X 60,000 miles. Why don’t we just shoot for a million miles! Imagine what would be possible if we could collect 1 million frequent flyer miles in only 45 days.

I don’t expect you to deplete your frequent flyer accounts or to forgo a long-awaited trip to Disney World. I simply ask that you consider donating some “extra” miles for this trial and check with your friends who might be interested in participating (or have more miles than they know what to do with them or that are due to expire).

I am thankful that my church, Calvary Christian Church in Lynnfield,

Massachusetts is so supportive of domestic and international missions through prayer, financial support and time.

I am also thankful that God has given me a passion to change the world through the work of missionaries that have responded to His calling. I welcome any questions or suggestions you have about this effort and appreciate your consideration.


Jim Dalton

E: mitselplix@verizon.net

A few days ago, Jim shared with me an interesting update on the project.

“One of my friends in Israel shared that his parents suffered a lot before and during World II for being Jewish and that his grandfather and uncle were killed by Romanians. Regardless, he's offered his miles (on El Al) as he realizes that this is a way to break the cycle of cruelty and indifference that his family has experienced.”

Broadway Alert – Kevin Spacey in O’Neill’s “Moon for the Misbegotten” Only Through June 10

I am a huge fan of Kevin Spacey’s superb acting. His work in such films as “American Beauty,” “Glengarry Glen Ross” “Se7en,” and “The Usual Suspects” is of the highest caliber. I was not aware until last week that he has been involved as the artistic director of London’s Old Vic Theater. In that capacity, he has put together a revival of Eugene O’Neill’s classic “Moon for the Misbegotten.” After a very successful run in London, Spacey brought the production to Broadway for a very limited run of a few weeks.

I was fortunate enough to see the play last week, and was mesmerized by the performances of the three principal actors – Spacey in the role of Jim Tyrone, Colm Meaney as Phil Hogan, and Eva Best as Hogan’s daughter, Josie. These three consummate stage actors are a triumphant troika that pulls the sled of O’Neill’s haunting drama over the rough terrain of family dysfunction and romance gone wrong. As is the case with most of O’Neill’s plays, the action is seen through the fog of alcohol and its distorting effects. Spacey’s character, in the throws of a drunken crying jag, has a cathartic moment that leaves the audience spellbound and breathless.

This is acting and drama of the first order. The play runs only through June 10 in New York. See it if you can.


Monday, May 14, 2007

2 Mini-Reviews of Christopher Moore Novels – “A Dirty Job” and “You Suck”

Last year, I first became aware of the writings of Christopher Moore. I read and reviewed his fascinating and entertaining work: "Lamb - The Gospel According to Biff."


I was pleased when Mr. Moore responded to my review, thanking me for my comments:

What a terrific review and post. Thanks so much. I think you'll like my new one, A Dirty Job, which comes out in a couple of weeks. While not quite as ambitious, theologically, as Lamb, I think it hits a similar funny bone in that it deals with a subject that people try to sanitize: Death.

Again, thanks for the thoughtful and fair comments.

Life is full of distractions and balancing priorities, so it took me much more than a few weeks to getting around to reading “A Dirty Job.” I enjoyed it so much that I immediately read Moore’s next work, “You Suck,” which is, in many regards, a sequel to “A Dirty Job.” Many of the same characters and San Francisco settings appear in both works. It helped my enjoyment of these two books that I read them after having recently spent almost a week in San Francisco, so I was able to visualize many of the neighborhoods where Moore set the action of the stories.

Christopher Moore’s writing style is distinctive, yet it contains elements that remind me of Tom Robbins and of Harlan Coben. Like Robbins, Moore uses outlandish characters and outré subject matter to entice his readers to consider deep philosophical issues. Like Coben, he is note perfect in picking up the regional and generational diction of his characters. All three authors couch their sensitive regard for human suffering under a layer of pseudo-cynical and deadpan humor. I would love to be a fly on the wall for the conversations that would ensue from an all-night drinking session made up of this unlikely trio of wordsmiths.

In “A Dirty Job,” the conceit is that Charlie Asher, a fairly normal owner of a thrift shop, is tapped to become an agent of death. Through the maze of bizarre action and even more bizarre characters, Moore leads us through a deep consideration of the emotions that surround the impending death of a loved one, and the cornucopia of feelings and actions that ensue. He pays tribute – albeit in a very non-traditional way – to those human angels who ease the passing of those facing death; he dedicates the book to hospice workers and volunteers.

To enjoy Moore’s writing, one cannot be squeamish or put off by the outrageous or the profane. He paints pictures of truth using sometimes garish colors, but the truth emerges. Here is a fairly lengthy example of his gripping and smirking prose:

“Sometimes Charlie’s walk took him through Japantown, where he passed the most enigmatic shop in the city, Invisible Shoe Repair. He really intended to stop in one day, but he was still coming to terms with giant ravens, adversaries from the Underworld, and being a Merchant of Death, and he wasn’t sure he was ready for invisible shoes, let alone invisible shoes that needed repair! He often tried to look past the Japanese characters into the shop window as he passed, but saw nothing, which of course, didn’t mean a thing. He just wasn’t ready. But there was a pet shop in Japantown (House of Pleasant Fish and Gerbil), where he had originally gone to buy Sophie’s [his young daughter] fish, and where he returned to replace the TV attorney’s [pet fish named after TV attorney’s] with six TV detectives, who also took the big Ambien a week later. Charlie had been distraught to find his baby daughter drooling away in front of a bowl floating more dead detectives than a film noir festival, and after flushing all six at once and having to use the plunger to dislodge Magnum and Mannix, he vowed the next time he would find more resilient pals for his little girl. He was coming out of House of PF&G one afternoon, with a Habitrail pod containing a pair of sturdy hamsters, when he ran into Lily [his young, Goth employee], who was making her way to a coffee house up on Van Ness, where she was planning to meet her friend Abby for some latte-fueled speed brooding.

‘Hey, Lily, how are you doing?’ Charlie was trying to appear matter-of-fact, but he found that the awkwardness between him and Lily over the past few months was not mitigated by her seeing him on the street carrying a plastic box full of rodents.

‘Nice gerbils,’ Lily said. She wore a Catholic schoolgirl’s plaid skirt over black tights and Doc Martens, with a tight black PVC bustier that was squishing little pale Lily-bits out of the top, like a can of biscuit dough that’s been smacked on the edge of the counter. The hair color du jour was fuchsia, over violet eye shadow, which matched her violet, elbow-length lace gloves. She looked up and down the street and, when she didn’t see anyone she knew, fell into step next to Charlie.

‘They’re not gerbils, they’re hamsters,’ Charlie said.

‘Asher, do you have something you’ve been keeping from me?’ She titled her head a little, but didn’t look at him when she asked, just kept her eyes forward, scanning the street for someone who might recognize her walking next to Charlie, thus forcing her to commit seppuku.

‘Jeez, Lily, these are for Sophie!’ Charlie said. ‘Her fish died, so I’m bringing her some new pets. Besides, that whole gerbil thing is an urban myth-‘

‘I meant that you’re Death,’ Lily said.” (Pages 105-106)

In much the same vein, if you will pardon the pun, Moore stays in the same seedy San Francisco neighborhoods for “You Suck,” an outrageous tale of two young vampires and their misadventures. In delving into the imagined world of the undead, Moore treats us to a lively examination of the things in life we take for granted and should treasure. If Christopher Moore’s writing is an acquired taste, then I have been bitten! Fair warning – no reading this novel after sunrise!



Friday, May 11, 2007

A New Twist to “Oldie’s Music” – Meet The Zimmers

My friend, Marv Goldschmitt, has made me aware of a remarkable group of senior citizen musicians who have just recorded an album at the legendary Abbey Road Studios. The album is scheduled for release later this month. This band of superannuated songsters is not a novelty act, but serious musicians with attitude. Take a minute to listen to the cut from their single, “My Generation.”

Here is a quick overview of their story:

The oldest and greatest rock band in the world - meet The Zimmers and their amazing cover of The Who's "My Generation".

Lead singer Alf is 90 - it's quite something when he sings "I hope I die before I get old". And he's not the oldest - there are 99 and 100-year-olds in the band!

The Zimmers will feature in a BBC TV documentary being aired in May 2007. Documentary-maker Tim Samuels has been all over
Britain recruiting isolated and lonely old people - those who can't leave their flats or who are stuck in rubbish care homes.
The finale of the show is this group of lonely old people coming together to stick it back to the society that's cast them aside - by forming a rock troupe and trying to storm into the pop charts.

Some massive names from the pop world have thrown their weight behind The Zimmers... The song is produced by Mike Hedges (U2, Dido, Cure), the video shot by Geoff Wonfor (Band Aid, Beatles Anthology), and it was recorded in the legendary Beatles studio 2 at
Abbey Road.

Look out for the single being released from May 21 - with proceeds going to a good cause.

And check out more photos and info at:


If just goes to show that aging is just an issue of “mind over matter; if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter!”



Thursday, May 10, 2007

“Frost Nixon” – A Tour de Force on Broadway

I had a hole in my schedule of meetings in NYC this week, and was able to pick up half-price tickets at the last minute to see the acclaimed production of “Frost Nixon” starring Frank Langella and Michael Sheen. It was a moving two hours of high drama.

“Frost Nixon” is the first stage play by the award-winning screen writer, Peter Morgan, whose recent films have included Academy Award Winner, “The Queen” and “The Last King of Scotland.” In this play, Morgan has captured the riveting behind the scenes maneuvering that led to the historic media event of David Frost interviewing the disgraced former President, Richard Nixon. The way the action develops, it has the feel of the run-up to a classic Ali-Frazier fight. In fact, some of the principles involved in handling Nixon and Frost allude to the boxing analogy, at one point commenting that leading up to the taping of the final interview, Nixon is “leading on points, and the only way that Frost can win the battle is by administering a knock-out punch.”

The writing and the acting is so good that at several points along the way, the audience spontaneously erupted in applause, in effect stopping the show for a moment. I have occasionally experienced this phenomenon in musical theater, but have rarely seen this happen in a drama. Frank Langella as the woodenly haunted ex-President manages to present both a caricature of the man and an emotionally vulnerable portrait of the enigmatic Nixon. It is a performance guaranteed to garner both a Tony nomination and a Drama Desk nod (officially Tony nominations for this Broadway season will be announced on May 15).

In analyzing what made this such a memorable theater experience for me, I went through a fascinating progression of thoughts. When I learned that Peter Morgan had written both this play and the movie, “The Queen,” my first thought was that the role of David Frost in “Frost Nixon” served many of the same purposes that the role of “Tony Blair” served in the film, “The Queen.” The young, brash and ambitious Blair stood in stark contrast to the stolid and venerable Queen Elizabeth II, and he served as a goad to her as well, functioning as a sounding board for bringing to the surface thoughts and feelings that had lain long hidden. David Frost played similar roles in relationship to Nixon – his flamboyant Hollywood lifestyle standing in contradistinction to Nixon’s dour and anti-social mien. The distinction is brilliantly symbolized by a pair of Italian loafers that Frost wears during the taping of the interviews. Nixon viewed those loafers as “unmanly and even a bit effeminate.” As a parting gift, Frost presented Nixon with his own pair of the stylish loafers. And, even as I write these words, it occurs to me that through the gift of the loafers, symbolically Frost was saying to Nixon: “If the shoe fits . . .”!

And then I learned that the actor, Michael Sheen, had played both roles – Blair and Frost! He is brilliant in both roles, and holds his own in the ring against the heavyweight, Langella/Nixon.

I have been haunted by Richard Nixon – the politician and the man - since my boyhood days when he served as Eisenhower’s Vice-President. I have always found him to be fascinating and repulsive, someone I enjoyed hating in the abstract. Like the character in the play, Jim Reston, upon seeing the man portrayed in light of these interviews, I was forced to develop a more three-dimensional view and appreciation of the complex and troubled man whose legacy – for good and for ill – will be indelible for generations to come. The character of Reston offers a kind of brief prologue, talking about the Greek playwright, Aeschylus, portraying the gods as condemning successful men with the fatal flaw of hubris – the seeds of self-destruction. The career of Richard M. Nixon does indeed play out as a Greek tragedy, and Morgan masterfully offers the tragedy to us in contemporary garb as a cautionary tale.

If you live near NYC or will be traveling there in the next few weeks, you should consider this a “not-to-be-missed” event. The play is scheduled for a limited run at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater at 245 W. 45th Street.



Thursday, May 03, 2007

A Day at the Beach – Worth the Wait!

I am blessed in many ways, one of which is the incredible richness and diversity of my network of friends and acquaintances. Last week, my friend, Matthew Beach, and I shared a Keystone Kops moment. We had agreed to meet for coffee at “The Au Bon Pain in Kendall Square.” Neither Matthew nor I was aware that there are two Au Bon Pain locations within a block of each other in Kendall Square, so naturally we each had in mind a different location. After waiting for about 15 minutes for Matthew to appear, I called his wife, who assured me that he had left home in plenty of time to make our arranged rendez-vous. So, I asked one of the employees if there were another location in the Kendall Square area. “Oh, yes. There is one across the street in the Food Court at the Marriott.” So, I crossed the street in hopes of finding Matthew at the other location. I later learned that he had done precisely the same thing, and we must have crossed the street at the same time – missing each other like “two ships passing in the night.”

I eventually had to give up waiting in order to make it to my next appointment. I learned later that day of Matthew’s side of the misadventure, and we agreed to reschedule our meeting for this week.

When Matthew appeared at the right place at the right time this Tuesday, he honored me by presenting me with a draft copy of a poem he had written about our experience of having to postpone by a few days out meeting. He had found a creative way to build a lemonade stand out of the lemons of our earlier missed appointment. With Matthew’s permission, I share with readers of The White Rhino Report the poem he gave me as a gift.

Worth the trip

Trip Two would do

what One did not.

Two people at 10 a.m.

in the very same spot.

A mere three hours there

by motorcar and trains

for me. Anticipation, checked fair,

with gently held reins,

sniffed for scent of prayer’s goal.

A seat at a table where someone

will be waiting to break bread

with a friend long absent.

What a present.

Worth the trip.

By Matthew J. Beach

From poetry book manuscript draft: Iguana Iguana

By Matthew J. Beach / All Rights Reserved / 1 May 2007

35 Kinglet Drive, Shrewsbury, Massachusetts 01545-4316 U.S.A

Email: mjpjbeach@yahoo.com

Thank you, my poet friend!


A Call to Action: Put Pesky’s Posterior back on the Pine!

A National Treasure needs our help. Let me explain.

I have written in past postings in The White Rhino Report about my work as a volunteer at Fenway Park as part of a program called Autograph Alley. Before each home game, the Red Sox bring back a former player who signs autographs for fans in a special location just inside the ballpark near the Yawkey Way entrance. Last night’s Red Sox alumnus was none other than the venerable Johnny Pesky, inspiration for the naming of the eponymous “Pesky Pole” in right field. Johnny first played for the Red Sox in 1942, and was a beloved teammate of Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Dom DiMaggio and other baseball legends. The story of their unique bond of friendship was told beautifully by the recently deceased David Halberstam in his book “The Teammates.”

Pesky has served the organization as a player, manager and coach for over 55 years. And, until recently, he was a fixture on the Red Sox bench during home games. He is no longer allowed to occupy that position during games. See Gordon Edes Boston Globe column of March 30 for the details.


Last evening, as I handed out photographs of Pesky in uniform in his playing days, numerous fans offered their opinion about Major League Baseball’s decision to assiduously enforce a rule that no one cares about. “Pesky needs to be back in the dugout.” “It’s not right that Johnny can’t sit on the bench!” “Tell Johnny we want to see him back where he belongs!”

As Johnny was signing the last of the hundreds of autographs that he penned last night, I sat with him at the Autograph Alley table. He began to reminisce about his life. “I have had a pretty good life; I can’t complain. You know my wife died two years ago. I really miss her. . . . We were married 61 years!” Johnny continued, telling me about how they met while he serviced in the Navy during WWII and Ruth was serving as a WAVE. She was from Lynn, Massachusetts, and they were married in 1945 at Lynn’s St. Joseph’s Parish. Johnny returns there all too frequently nowadays for the funerals of his friends and contemporaries. He is at that stage in life when there are more funerals than weddings.

Pesky is 88 years old, and still is considered the best fungo hitter on the Red Sox. He is still able to make a contribution to the game that has been his life for much of Red Sox history. Johnny was born in 1919 - the year the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees!

Red Sox Nation has been deeply impacted this season by the addition of two outstanding pitchers – Hideiki Okajima and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Thousands of fans and hundreds of Japanese media follow each pitch that these men threw for the Sox, and Red Sox Nation has been enriched by their addition. I would like to suggest one more way that we can benefit from the new Japanese flavor of the team. The Japanese culture does a better job than we do in honoring senior citizens who have made a lasting contribution to a field of art or sport or national affairs. They declare such persons to be Important Intangible Cultural Properties, more commonly known as Living National Treasures. I propose that we urge Major League Baseball - in particular, Commissioner Bud Selig and Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations, Joe Gargiola, Jr. – to find a way to grant an exemption for the likes of Pesky and Cardinals’ Hall of Famer Red Schoendienst. Declare them Living National Baseball Treasures. Grant them “grandfather clause” status. Amend the rule so that someone who has worked in baseball for over 55 years is allowed on the bench. Do something. Be creative.

So, let’s have some fun and put some pressure on MLB to do the right thing. I urge you – whether or not you are a Red Sox fan – to contact Selig or Gargiola and express your desire that they find a creative way to allow Johnny Pesky back in the dugout. I plan to write and to call, and on my next visit to NYC, I will also stop by the Commissioner’s office to put in my two cents worth on the issue. I ask you to invest five minutes and take some action, as well. I know that Johnny will appreciate it. Please inform me of what you have done, and I will pass the word along to Johnny Pesky so that he will be aware of your support.

Pesky’s parents were born in Zagreb, Croatia – a city that I have visited in my travels. So, Pesky and I often greet each other or say good-bye in Croatian. As I left him last night, his parting words to me were: "laku noć" – “Good night!”

Let’s give him some good nights back on the bench on the Red Sox dugout. On Johnny’s behalf, I thank you in advance for your support.


The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball

Allan H. (Bud) Selig, Commissioner

Joe Garagiola, Jr., Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations

245 Park Avenue, 31st Floor
New York, NY 10167
Phone: (212) 931-7800