One of the most iconic moments in the history of baseball took place on October 8, 1956, the fifth game of that year’s World Series between the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers.
The moment was captured on film when Yankee catcher Yogi Berra, a 5-foot, 8-inch fire plug, leapt into the arms of his battery mate, 6-foot, 4-inch Don Larsen. They were celebrating Larsen’s moment of perfection – a perfect game in the World Series, something never done before or since.
Larsen, a 14-year Major League veteran and, with all respect, a player with a genuinely mediocre career save for that perfect game, never did anything on the field even remotely as memorable as that Game Five in 1956.
Big Don, who lived his post-playing life in Hayden Lake, Idaho and was a very affable guy, ended up with an overall losing record as a pitcher – 81 wins, 91 loses. During his career Larsen won more games than he lost in only six seasons. Maybe the second most memorable thing he did was get traded to the Athletics in 1959 for an up-and-coming right fielder named Roger Maris.
I thought of Don Larsen this week as I read a biting takedown of another mediocre, fluky one-time winner by Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney. “It’s like the aging pitcher who keeps losing games,” Romney said of a proven political loser who wants the ball again. “If we want to win, we need a different pitcher on the mound.”
Don’t count on it.
Reports of the demise of the most corrupt, incompetent, sedition-inspiring president in American history are likely premature. There remains 40 percent of the GOP electorate willing to join him in burning his party to the ground as he warms up to complete a historic losing streak.
Still, it’s almost an insult to a mediocre ballplayer to compare Don Larsen’s losing record to The Former Guy, but there are some parallels, and some differences.
Donald Trump’s one moment of triumph came against arguably the one person in American politics he could have beaten. At least Don Larsen created his one moment in the sun by no hitting a line-up that included Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges, Pee Wee Reese and Duke Snider, all Hall of Famers.
Trump, on the other hand, prevailed over a remarkably lackluster Republican primary line-up – remember Lyin’ Ted, Little Marco and Low Energy Jeb – and then lost the popular vote to the hardly “likeable enough” Hillary Clinton. It wasn’t a feat of strength of real ability, it was a testament to being in the right place at the right time and having lightening strike.
Now having lost a second presidential election, after being impeached twice, after inciting an insurrectionist attack on the Capitol, after grifting through his oath of office, and now facing more legal jeopardy than a Gambino family crime boss, he wants another chance. There is no fast ball, but the sucker pitch is still in his repertoire.
Larsen began his 1956 season with what the New York Times called “an early dawn escapade” during spring training when the lanky pitcher “wrapped his automobile around a telephone poll.” Larsen said he had fallen asleep at the wheel, an explanation about as believable as Trump’s claim that he declassified hundreds of documents, many top secret that he pilfered from the White House.
When the failed real estate developer announced for president again this week not a single Republican member of Congress bothered to attend his low energy rollout of grievance and lies. Rupert Murdoch’s conservative propaganda empire has written him off. Billionaire donors are saying they’ve had enough.
Wyoming Republican Senator Cynthia Lummis, no liberal squish, bristled when asked if she’d be backing Trump again. “I don’t think that’s the right question,” Lummis said, “I think the question is who is the current leader of the Republican Party. Oh, I know who it is: Ron DeSantis.”
Such displays are “completely cynical,” in the words of Peter J. Wehner, a top aide to the second George Bush. “They’re now breaking with him not because he’s done anything unethical or immoral — he’s been doing that for decades. It’s simply because they are now making the judgment that he is no longer the path to power.”
If you recall, it was just a few weeks ago that Lummis and most fellow Wyoming Republicans united behind a Trump backed election denier in order – and on Trump’s orders – to defeat Liz Cheney, the anti-Trump scourge who has vowed to make sure the GOPs permanent seditionist never again gets close to the Oval Office.
Two weeks is a lifetime in politics and the last two have shown how fleeting influence and power can be. The one thing every politician understands in self-preservation. They don’t like to lose, and while most Republican’s aren’t saying it out loud they know The Former Guy is a loser.
Yet, hold on. Don’t count him out. In the coming GOP primary insult-a-fest where policy counts for nothing and bombast will rule again, it’s entirely possible an indicted, seditious former president will prevail. Which is to say if you’re betting on DeSantis, you might like some of the swamp land for sale in Florida.
Trump won’t go away. Period. He can only be defeated – again. If you think he cares about the Republican Party or its prospects you haven’t been paying attention to that fragile ego and profoundly unbalanced personality. He’ll gladly point to the smoking ruins of the modern GOP and blame the wreckage on anyone and everything but himself.
Trump, for one, brief and altogether tragic moment caught his lightning in a bottle. He was and remains a political fluke, not unlike a mediocre journeyman pitcher hurling a perfect game in the World Series.
However, Don Larsen was man enough to admit he wasn’t happy with his won-loss record, and he knew, as Richard Goldstein wrote at the time of his death in 2020, that he had been damn lucky on that long ago October afternoon.
In the fourth inning of that historic game at old Yankee Stadium, “Duke Snider missed a home run to right by a few inches. In the fifth, Gil Hodges’s drive to left center was run down by [Mickey] Mantle, and Sandy Amoros missed a home run to right by a hair.” Any of that would have ruined Larsen’s one big moment.
“Goofy things happen,” Larsen once said. And surely they do.
Goofy things like Donald Trump projecting off Mitt Romney in 2016, “He was a failed candidate … He failed miserably and it was an embarrassment to everybody. I guess obviously he wants to be relevant, he wants to be back in the game.”
The sucker pitch is all he’s got. He’ll keep throwing it.
A few more items I found interesting this week …
It wasn’t just “the economy stupid”—it was abortion
Why did Democrats do so much better than most of us thought they would?
“If you put together the sheer size of the women’s vote, the intensity of the issue and the fact that, unlike inflation or the economy, the two parties have stark differences on the issue, you get a powerful driver of the vote. There were five states with abortion referenda on the ballot and in every single one—including the deep red state of Kentucky—the pro-choice position won.”
A good think piece from Brookings.
What Joe Biden and LBJ Have in Common
A good piece from Washington Monthly.
“When Joe Biden took office days after insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol, many with Confederate flags, he drew comparisons to Abraham Lincoln. After passing significant economic and social spending packages, Biden welcomed references to Franklin D. Roosevelt. As inflation and gas prices rose, observers noted the similarities to Jimmy Carter.
“Perhaps the most unappreciated presidential parallel is between Biden and Lyndon Johnson. Both became unexpected civil rights presidents and promised sweeping legislation if voters and activists delivered crucial support.”
I’ve been deep into Lyndon Johnson’s presidency for my next book on the Senate in the 1960s, and I think this comparison is apt.
Why Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ goal is priceless – and unforgettable
I never played much attention to soccer until a trip to Argentina some years ago. The game is a national obsession there and this story offers part of the explanation for why.
“Such is its legacy, that some 36 years after bouncing into the back of the net, the soccer ball involved was set to be sold at auction on Nov. 16, 2022, at an expected price of up to US$3.3 million.
“So why does this goal, which should not even have been a goal, carry so much significance? As an economist who studies sport, I’ve long believed that you have to grasp the cultural significance to understand the financial dimension of sports. This goal was one of soccer’s most iconic events for a number of reasons.”
How to move a country: Fiji’s radical plan to escape rising sea levels
Still wonder if climate issues are being overplayed?
“What Fiji is attempting to do is unprecedented. For years, politicians and scientists have been talking about the prospect of climate migration. In Fiji, and in much of the Pacific, this migration has already begun. Here, the question is no longer if communities will be forced to move, but how exactly to do it. At present, 42 Fijian villages have been earmarked for potential relocation in the next five to 10 years, owing to the impacts of climate crisis. Six have already been moved. Every new cyclone or disaster brings with it the risk of yet more villages being added to the list.”
From The Guardian.
That’s it for me. Have a good weekend … and thanks for reading.