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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Books, Baseball, and Stingy Brim Fedoras

Monday, July 2, 2012

Heather and I took the Megabus to Chicago last week and saw young phenom Anthony Rizzo make his debut at first base with the Cubs. We got him off to a good start.

Some baseball fans say this year's Cubs are pathetic, but as a close observer, I emphatically reject that accusation. Having just watched two games at Wrigley, we know that they have yet to rise to that level of competency. After a good 4-3 win over the Mets, the next day the Cubs gave up two touchdowns and a field goal, and were drubbed seventeen to one!

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I read two very good books on the bus; "Crazy '08" (Cait Murphy-2007), and "The Amateur" (Edward Klein-2012). "Crazy" is generally about baseball in the year 1908 but it also chronicles life, with references to politics, immigration, anarchy, and corruption.

In the 1890's about a quarter of all Major League Baseball players were Irish but by 1908 many came from the coal mines. Tough guys, many were German or Polish. Companies sponsored teams, as did most small towns, and baseball was a 'way out for guys. There were few mid-westerners, or southerners, and the left coast was hardly represented in MLB.

It would be 1947 before Negro Jackie Robinson would be allowed to play but by 1975 thirty seven per cent of all MLB'rs would be African Americans. Now, only eight percent are A-A, and about 28% are Latinos.

The book makes mention of 'tall' players -- those over six feet. By contrast, of the first 34 players the Cubs took in the draft this year, 85% are six feet tall or more and 65% are 6'2" or more. Brawls were referred to as routine. Baseball has become more of a finesse game, while basketball is now a contact sport.

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When men were men, and women were women, caps were caps, and hats were hats. Into the 1970's most men wore a dress hat, and many wore a hat at work, too. Also popular for work, though, was a cap made out of pinstripe overall material. In the winter a heavy cap, often plaid, with "ear-flappers" was a necessity. This was before the age of 'seed-corn' caps, which now are called baseball hats. Caps of all shapes and colors (mostly not striped or plaid), and even hats, are now available with flappers.

For a couple years I have observed (real) hats making a comeback, and then I spied a snappy little 'stingy brim' black straw fedora, size S/M with a teal-off white band. Really, that was the exact description. I like the look of the very narrow brim, and the 'stingy' name fits me, so I bought it! But, even the smallest is too big for my 6-3/4" head (Heather marvels how all those brains are kept inside such a small cage), so I have to resort to a cardboard bushing in the lining.

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A little research shows that the average head size for a man is 7 1⁄4". During that research I discovered, quite by accident, that "Several scientific studies have been performed on the erect length of the adult penis. Studies which have relied on self-measurement, including those from Internet surveys, consistently reported a higher average length than those which used medical or scientific methods to obtain measurements."

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At the venerable Claussen's Menswear, Stacy told me they do have hats in stock and will order, too. I think guys like Rich Bauerly should wear a stingy brim Fedora, and I'd like to see Mayor Kirchoff in a Churchill-like Homburg.

On our bus ride home a pretty, young woman was wearing a cute hat, which caused me to wonder - is Christy Vilsack still known as the "Hat Lady?"

Recent movies and TV shows have helped with the revival of hats, but social historians are divided about why hats faded away. Some attribute it to President Kennedy. He was usually photographed with just his nice head of hair.

My dad said he quit wearing his once-ever-present wide brim Fedora or Stetson because of cars. "You have to take your hat off to these new cars," he often said, as they became less roomy. In 1940, there were 180 independent major manufacturers of hats operating in the United States. Today there are 10.

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"The towels were so thick there I could hardly close my suitcase." Yogi Berra, about a certain hotel -- certainly not ours.

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More on the book, "The Amateur," another time. The title was inspired by a direct quote by former President Bill Clinton last year -- "Barack Obama is an amateur!"

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Don Paulin, 2carpenterdon@gmail.com, 7557 30th Av, Norwalk, IA 50211 - 515-201-7236

By Don Paulin
Been There, Done That


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