Archive for July, 2009

Bristol Baseball’s Best

July 28, 2009

Frederick Ivor-Campbell

Only a few miles and nearly 125 years to the day from the start of one of the greatest feats in baseball history, the sport tragically lost one of its top ambassadors. On Friday, Frederick Ivor-Campbell was traveling on Route 195 E when his car was struck head-on by a westbound vehicle after its driver lost control and swerved across six lanes of traffic. Fred was pronounced dead at the scene, while his wife Alma was seriously injured in the crash. The news of his passing is being mourned by the thousands of loyal fans, friends, and colleagues across the country who had the honor of knowing him.

A former English professor at Kings College in New York, Fred Campbell was a member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) for three decades and was, as the Bristol Phoenix described him in 1997, “one of the foremost experts on the origination and early days of baseball”. Fred wrote or edited several books including “Total Baseball – The Official Encyclopedia”, “Biographical Dictionary of American Sports”, and the Sporting News/SABR Award-winning “Baseball’s First Stars”. In addition to his fine research, Fred served in many official capacities for SABR, such as chair of the 19th Century Committee, member of the board of Directors, and Vice President. His tireless work ultimately earned him the group’s highest recognition, the Bob Davids Award, in 2003.

I first met Fred eleven years ago when he graciously shared his vast knowledge with a gritty bunch of ballplayers known as the Providence Grays Vintage Base Ball Club, while we prepared to recreate the sport the way it was played in Rhode Island back in 1884. As Fred explained to us at our first team meeting, that was when pitcher Charlie “Old Hoss” Radbourn did the impossible — leading his Providence Grays almost single-handedly to the National League pennant and first-ever World’s Series, winning an astronomical 59 games in the process! Today’s Grays, thanks much to Fred’s input, have been a pioneering force in the burgeoning sport ever since our first game on the Bristol Town Common in 1998. We, and the dozens of vintage clubs throughout the region that have followed, all owe a huge debt of gratitude to this kind, soft-spoken gentleman. With a youthful sparkle in his eye and loving wife by his side, Fred’s joy in watching the game, which he knew so intimately, being played on one of the nation’s oldest ball fields, was something special to behold. In his typical humble fashion, I’m sure he would claim this was repayment enough… but it’s not even close.

Like his favorite story of Old Hoss’ march toward immortality that he worked so hard to preserve, Frederick Ivor-Campbell’s memory should also be kept alive for future generations. However, just as a mid-season suspension of Radbourn was lifted on July 23, 1884 by Providence’s management after their only other pitcher jumped to another league, pressure must again be exerted on the powers that be in order for Fred to have his chance at lasting glory.

If the Bristol Athletic Hall of Fame can induct members who reached their prime as teenagers or whose impact was felt only at the local level, then surely there’s plenty of room for one of the most profound baseball intellectuals of his or any era — not to mention all of Bristol‘s other baseball greats missing from the plaques adorning the wall in the Town Hall. Indeed, not only are the two Bristolians who reached the majors absent from our Athletic Hall of Fame (that would be John Hamill and a player known only by the name of Sullivan in case you’re wondering), but so too is the best ballplayer to have ever called this town his home:

William Whyte

Billy Whyte was denied what certainly would’ve been a solid big league career simply because of the color of his skin!

In the above-mentioned Phoenix article, Frederick Ivor-Campbell coyly admitted he loved “seeing [his] name in print.” Well, I can’t think of a more fitting tribute to Fred, a person who filled so many minds and touched so many hearts with the history and wonder of our national pastime, than for him to see his name posthumously etched alongside the rest of Bristol baseball’s best.

Fred With The 2003 Bob Davids Award

He will be missed but hopefully never forgotten.

Independence Day Awards

July 8, 2009

Here are the Bullraker’s picks for best and worst of Bristol’s 4th of July parade.

The Worst

Death And Taxes

Death And Taxes

A last-minute addition to the procession, the R.I. Tea Party floated their boat through the streets of downtown Bristol. As they passed me along the route, I wondered if anyone else could see through the patriotic facade. Comparing themselves to the colonists who rebelled against taxation without representation, the non-profit organization claims to be a watch dog group dedicated to “transparency and clarity” in government. If only these activists could view one another with that same transparency and clarity, they may find a few more reasons to be angry about the current state of politics.

A closer examination of the membership of R.I. Tea Party reveals a much bigger concern for anti-taxation than representation. The national Tea Party movement has been supported by right wing zealots posing as non-partisan organizations and Rhode Island’s version is no different, receiving backing from the innocuously named Ocean State Policy Research Institute and Rhode Island Statewide Coalition. This Republican smokescreen, while deplorable, is predictable given the fact we live in one of the bluest states in the country. The RI GOP is so desperate they are resorting to grassroots activism to push forward their elitist agendas. The irony would be amusing if not for the success of the movement.

Thousands of protesters gathered in Providence on April 15 for the Tax Day Tea Party and several hundred converged on the city again for the Gaspee Tea Party last month. The R.I. Tea Party, though appalling to some, may seem appealing to those who are rightfully outraged by the mishandling of tax dollars by politicians on both sides of the aisle. However, while the worst of our government’s fiscally irresponsible deeds are bi-partisan efforts (like the deregulating of finance and trade, the subsidizing and/or bailing out of big industry, and the waging of endless wars in the Middle East), the misguided Teabaggers are wrongly, and perhaps unwittingly, polarizing the issues and calling for yet further shifts toward so-called “free market” capitalism –  the radical ideology which has led us to this point!

The original Boston Tea Party was a revolutionary act that flew in the face of the ruling class but its present incarnations are counter-revolutionary, serving only to strengthen those already in power. The response to politicians who spend our money unwisely shouldn’t be to demand the death of taxes, but to demand that they be used solely for the public good and not the personal or private enrichment of the few. Hopefully, the R.I. Tea Party can read the tea leaves and find a better platform from which to toss their grievances. Here’s a good place to start:

The Best

America: Made In China

America: Made In China

Victims of the economic crisis stretch far beyond our borders. As China has grown into a superpower, thanks in large part to the Clinton administration’s lifting of U.S. trade restrictions in the 1990s, its stranglehold on peaceful religious groups like Buddhists, Uyghurs, and Falun Dafa has tightened.

Vicious crackdowns on political dissent are nothing new to the Chinese. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre and a generation before saw the downfall of the Cultural Revolution. But now that China has become a major force in world economics, they’ve stepped up their efforts to crush internal opposition without any fear of external retribution. During the 2008 Olympics, when the country’s litany of human rights violations (including the deadly beatings of protesting Tibetan monks a few months earlier) should have been on display for everyone to see, there was a great wall of silence. China did their part, contracting with Google to prevent access to websites that reveal what is actually going on there, though they weren’t alone in the cover up. U.S. athletes were warned not to make any political statements and even President Bush, who was present for the opening ceremonies, didn’t say a single discouraging word.

You see, it’s much easier for the U.S. and its allies to look the other way when human rights abuses take place in countries that are part of the global market – just look how long it took to find countries willing to accept the Uyghurs wrongfully detained at Gitmo! However, when countries more isolated from U.S. business interests, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, are guilty of crimes against humanity… well, you know what happens. We bomb and rebuild. Watch out, Iran, you could be next!

But China is the elephant in the room. We can’t upset them because they’re now at the heart of America’s manufacturing sector – not to mention they’ve helped fund said wars in the Middle East. It’s simple: The more the Chinese economy grows, the wealthier the U.S. becomes. So how can we bite the hand that feeds us? And, of course, by “us” I mean the filthy rich. I’m not sure if the shrinking middle or expanding lower classes, whose jobs are continually being outsourced to overseas sweatshops, would feel the same way.

All this brings me back to Bristol, where I was thrilled to see the Falun Dafa proudly marching down the Red, White, & Blue road with their equally colorful garb and dragon figure. Despite their persecution at the hands of the Chinese government, Falun Dafa has grown to 100 million followers in 114 countries around the world. And, despite the role of the U.S. in aiding brutal regimes like China’s, we can still offer a sanctuary for people to express their ideas freely – a reassuring message that America has what it takes to make the world a better place. Like the Falun Dafa, we just have to be willing to fight and persevere.

Chinese products are ubiquitous. At times it must seem impossible not to own something that was made there. But, what the heck, why not give it a try? Take the Bullraker Boycott Challenge and eliminate all the cheap, unfairly traded Chinese crap from your life. You’ll be doing yourself and the planet a big favor.