Good morning, it’s Friday, April 2, 2021, Good Friday on the Christian calendar and the day of the week when I reprise a quotation meant to be uplifting or educational. Today’s concerns a baseball fan and English professor — literally a Renaissance man — who died too young at 51.
Angelo Bartlett Giamatti, “Bart” to his many friends, was a professor of English literature at Yale (he specialized in the Renaissance period) who became the university’s president and then the seventh commissioner of Major League Baseball before having a fatal heart attack only five months into his tenure.
At the time, Giamatti was embroiled in the morass of the Pete Rose gambling scandal and was replaced by his deputy, Fay Vincent, who tried to hold the line against cheats and liars as well as the systemic greed that sullies big-time athletics.
It would have been an impossible task, even for Bart Giamatti, but he thought it was important to try. “Baseball has the largest library of law and lore and custom and ritual,” Giamatti once said, “and therefore, in a nation that fundamentally believes it is a nation under law, well, baseball is America’s most privileged version of the level field.”
He made that observation shortly before his death in 1989. He was mourned by baseball fans, Yale colleagues, a generation of literature students, and mostly by his family: wife Toni, an artist and scholar in her own right who was cherished as the “first lady” of Yale; his daughter Elena, and two sons, Marcus and Paul, who were on their way to becoming professional actors.
I’ll have a bit more on that, and our quote, in a moment. First, I’d point you to RCP’s front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion pieces spanning the political spectrum. Today’s lineup includes Susan Glasser comparing Joe Biden to FDR and Lyndon Johnson (New Yorker); Sheila Jackson Lee on election reform (The Hill); and Tom Cotton on teaching critical race theory in the military (National Review). We also offer original material from our own reporters, columnists, and contributors:
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President Jim Eagle. I consider the brutal history that undercuts Joe Biden’s comparison of Republicans’ election integrity efforts to Jim Crow laws.
Personalized Care Act Empowers Consumers Over Bureaucrats. At RealClearHealth, Colleen Hroncich touts legislation that would address flaws in the health savings account system.
The Alternative to Regulating Health Care Prices. At RealClearPolicy, James Capretta highlights reforms that place consumers into a role they perform in other sectors of the economy.
How Big Oil Uses Big Data to Reduce Emissions. Paul Steidler explains at RealClearEnergy.
Soda Cans and Aluminum Foil Are Essential to National Security. Also at RCE, Tom Dobbins emphasizes the importance of recycling to support America’s critical mineral supply chain.
Delivering What Matters in Global Trade. At RealClearWorld, Penny Naas offers suggestions for the next WTO meeting.
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When I mentioned Bart Giamatti in the context of a quotation that captures the mood of the week, you may have assumed I would reprise a lovely passage from “The Green Fields of the Mind,” Giamatti’s classic 1977 essay about baseball that begins, “It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart.”
Yes, but baseball also can heal your heart, whether it’s the Washington Nationals uniting the capital city (however briefly) in 2019, or the Red Sox or Cubs finally breaking their city’s “curse,” or merely playing catch in the backyard with your kid — or anybody’s kid.
The one I have in mind is Bart Giamatti’s elder son. Paul Giamatti is the more accomplished actor of the two brothers, although I suspect Marcus was the better athlete when they were boys. In any event, it’s Marcus I’m quoting this morning. I recently came across the afterword that Marcus wrote for his father’s posthumously published book “Take Time for Paradise: Americans and Their Games.” Here is an excerpt from that epilogue:
In the oblong, pocked back yard of our house in New Haven, under a blue sky, with a warm June breeze at our backs, we played long toss. Back and forth. No sound, but the lone cadence set only by the solitary pop of a ball in a mitt. Then a sudden shift, and infield instruction became the mode.
My father fired ground balls with a passion in my direction. Always the teacher, he led a supportive tutorial in proper fielder’s techniques. Finally, came my most beloved slice of the afternoon’s adventure: with a flick of his glove, he gave me the familiar signal to assume the position of catcher.
Now, he, Luis Tiant, and I, Carlton Fisk. A sudden hush fell over the crowd, as with a weathered, buckle shoe, he toed the imaginary rubber, shrugged, and with a deep sigh, leaned in for the sign. His face, calm with focus, as he peered down at me, over his glasses.
With a nod of the head (the selection accepted) he ever so slowly arrived at the set position, checked the runner on first (somewhere over by the garage), and froze. Motionless. I held my breath. Pa’s Oxford shirt and red chinos billowed in the breeze. The world’s clock closed down. And then, with a sudden kick of the leg, an El Tiante twist of the body, and a head jolt thrust heavenward, my father let loose a fastball. Right down the middle. A thunderous clap of leather shook the neighborhood as the ball arrived and nestled tightly in my palm’s pocket. Such stillness held, as a smile eclipsed his bearded visage. My hero.
And that’s our quote of the week.
Carl M. Cannon
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics