Bill Mazeroski & the Uncertaintly Principle

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Bill Mazeroski & the Uncertainty Principle


by Gary Gordon
Oct. 21, 2002

“Peace Is At Hand”
     --Henry Kissinger, Oct. 26, 1972

I am certain that I am uncertain about many things. But I’m certain that I’m certain about this: On October 13, 1960 Bill Mazeroski of the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Yankees and in retrospect that may be the defining moment that marks the beginning of “The Sixties”.

With one swing of a bat, Mazeroski showed the world that the underdog could win, that David could be more than an allegory, that talent and persistence and timing and more persistence could make its mark and topple the pillars of-well, you could beat the New York Yankees and their imperial dynasty.

For the last several weeks, during the baseball playoffs, Fox TV has been teasing its audience, saying that during the fourth game of the World Series the winning Most Important Moment in Baseball would be announced.

Apparently, people voted on this, and MasterCard is involved.

I had just turned eight when Mazeroski hit his home run. I cut his photo out of the paper and taped it to my wall, next to my impressionistic crayon drawing of Davy Crockett at the Alamo.

When we played soldiers, I was Robert E. Lee or Mosby, the gray ghost guerilla leader. When I played baseball at the grade school field, named after a Confederate general, I was Bill Mazeroski.

Beating the Yankees was impossible, but it was a moral imperative, so when Mazeroski hit that home run, all good things were suddenly possible. And this became a critical notion as some of the folks in my hometown worked hard to perpetuate Jim Crow and had to be defied; and when the old men sent the young men to die in Vietnam, and had to be defied.

By all evidence, the second-class “citizenship” of the Negro was never going to end. And the unjust war would go on forever. You had to have hope. You had to believe. You had to know because you’d seen something with your own eyes that convinced you that as bleak as things might be, as hopeless as the situation might be, as much as the odds might be against you, an upheaval could still occur, the world could be turned upside-down: things could change.

When I was in high school, “change” was a magic word. We wanted change. Change the rules to allow long hair, jeans, public displays of affection, off-campus lunches, free speech, relevance. We all wanted to change the world.

How do you beat those odds when hitting a figurative home run won’t do it?

You need folks like Mario Savio, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, William Kunstler, Ceasar Chavez et al. People willing to be courageous and take the hit. Despite the obvious wonderful humor in “Barbershop”, the simple-minded, ignorant gratuitous attack on Rosa Parks and King was unnecessary: she did a helluvalot more than “just sit her ass down on a bus.” And King was not shot by an irate husband: he spoke out and worked for what he believed in and many agreed with and was shot by those who opposed civil rights and his stand against the Vietnam War.

There are those who say the world was changed, and there are those who say we were fooling ourselves. There’s even a cottage industry lead by Bill Bennett, David Horowitz and George Will who argue that “the 60s generation” never stood for anything and that everything we stood for was wrong. (I never have been able to figure out that dichotomy.)

To paraphrase Lincoln, now we are on the verge of a-what, 2 wars? Three? (It’s as if Bush has taken Tom Hayden’s phrase from the Columbia University strike-“One, two, three… many Columbias” and made it “One, two, three… many wars.”)

“Is the war on poverty one of them?” Senator Paul Wellstone (D.-MN) might ask if he had time and didn’t have to deal with a challenge from the Green Party candidate to his left.

With all this information, point of view, and in some cases utter frustration, the discussion at the Sunday Main Street Farmers’ Market Table was all over the map. But it did center for a while on a leaflet calling for folks to participate in an anti-war event and fundraiser to support the Venice Co-op. The event was criticized by several at the table because it was a fundraiser for a single group being held on the same day as a national anti-war action (like the Moratoriums in ’69 and ’70) meant to get as many people as possible who are against the war to turn out, especially in the large cities.

“We want the news to report 50,000 here, 100,000 there, 250,000 there, and anything that draws away from that attendance doesn’t serve the overall effort,” Carolyn argued persuasively, to the agreement of most at the Table.

Someone (me?) suggested the anti-war movement was alive and well, what with one quarter of the Senate and one-third of the House having voted against Bush’s War Resolution (The Gulf of Reason Resolution?). And some (me again?) suggested that the corporate media was less likely to report anti-war activity than the relatively decentralized national media of the 60s.

The national demonstrations, and the Venice Co-op event are scheduled for Oct. 26. I mentioned that was thirty years to the day from when Secretary of State Henry Kissinger held a televised press conference that I watched in Norris Center at Northwestern University, during which he emphatically though gutterally declared “Peace Is At Hand”. Of course, he didn’t mention at the time that saying this roughly two weeks before the Presidential election was a transparent yet shrewd political maneuver, not to mention that it wasn’t true.

Peter, a mild-mannered musician looked up from the newspaper and asked, mildly, “Why is Kissinger still alive?”

“It proves the flaw in that Karma philosophy,” John said.

“Only the good die young,” someone else (yeah, me) said.

Two months after Kissinger’s declaration, Nixon et al dropped more bombs on Vietnam than ever before. The Christmas Bombing, it was called. In January ’73 Nixon signed a peace deal with Hanoi that gave him exactly what Ho Chi Minh had agreed to in ’68.

Although John suggested no one planning the Oct. 26th event knew that it was the anniversary of Kissinger’s statement, I insisted that at least one guy in the back of the room did.

Probably Christopher Hitchens.

His book, The Trial of Henry Kissinger, was published last year. It contends that Kissinger is a war criminal many times over, from Vietnam to Cambodia to Chile.

And the documentary based on the book opens Friday, Oct. 25, at the Nuart in Santa Monica. Almost 30 years to the day from… what’s at hand?

Many of our leaders these days are passionately insisting that if A then B. They are certain. As certain as everyone was that the Yankees would beat the Pirates in 1960.

Bill Mazeroski may not serve everyone as a role model, as a modern David, but when you’re down, up against the wall, up against the largest, best paid, best organized machine in history, you can still hit a home run and win the game. (Perhaps ironically, he played his last game in October, 1972.)

As for the most important moment in Baseball: Jackie Robinson plays for the Brooklyn Dodgers. I’m certain of that.

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