Katrina Revisted

The news today is a reminder that two years ago Hurricane Katrine struck the Gulf Coast. The months after the hurricane I wrote a timeline that shows how this was a multiple system failure of government at every level.

The New Orleans Times Picayune has always been the best source of information and they did incredible work during and immediately after Katrina. The front page today discusses some of the ways people helped and the gratitude the city feels toward the rest of the nation.

He Clearly Suffers From an Irony Deficiency

On August 7th Matt Murphy caught Barry Bond’s 756th home run and has become an instant celebrity. The obvious question here is what the 22 year old will do with the ball. It seems obvious that the ball (tainted though it may be) belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. So what do you do if you have something that belongs in the Hall but could fetch $500,000 if sold? Matt’s answer is this: “Ideally, what I would love to happen would be for someone [ie, not me] to buy the ball and donate it to the Hall of Fame. It’s a piece of history and belongs in the Hall.” I guess the idea of donating it himself isn’t an option.

Who Says Democracy is Not Responsive?

I try in this blog to give information that goes beyond the headlines, and as best I can I list people who are running for President in 2008. If you get most of your information from the mainstream media you might think there are only 3 Democrats (Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Barack Obama) and 4 Republicans (Rudy Guliani, John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Fred Thompson) running but there are actually more. A few months ago I spent the afternoon with Google looking for other candidates and came up with several, none of whom I’d heard of. A few days ago I got an email from Jason Bootie, son of John Bootie, one of the independent candidates. I’m not sure how he found this blog but he wrote to thank me for including his father in my list. Now who says people aren’t grateful anymore.

Of course, the only problem is that I looked closer at Mr. Bootie’s web page and found that he and I disagree on nearly every issue. I’m a little surprised that Jason didn’t read my page and ask me to remove the link to his father. I’m hoping after the election I can publish how many votes each candidate received.

By the way, if there is someone running for President that I’ve missed, please let me know.

Thoughts on Barry Bonds, Home Runs, and Steroids

This past weekend Barry Bonds tied the home run record of Hank Aaron at 755. It appears that he will break Hank’s record; this is tarnished by the assumption that Barry used steroids from about 2000 until MLB started testing for steroids in 2005. I posted something on this on March 9, 2006.

It is interesting to look at the home runs over the careers of both players. One of the things that many of us notice is that Barry’s production of home runs increased at a time when they tend to slow down for other players. Here are the numbers:

Babe Ruth (age) Year HR’s Hank Aaron (age) Year HR’s Barry Bonds (age) Year HRs
19 1914 0 19 1954 13 23 1986 16
20 1915 4 20 1955 27 24 1987 25
21 1916 3 21 1956 26 25 1988 24
22 1917 2 22 1957 44 26 1989 19
23 1918 11 23 1958 30 27 1990 33
24 1919 29 24 1959 39 28 1991 25
25 1920 54 25 1960 40 29 1992 34
26 1921 59 26 1961 34 30 1993 46
27 1922 35 27 1962 45 31 1994 37
28 1923 41 28 1963 44 32 1995 33
29 1924 46 29 1964 24 33 1996 42
30 1925 25 30 1965 32 34 1997 40
31 1926 47 31 1966 44 35 1998 37
32 1927 60 32 1967 39 36 1999 34
33 1928 54 33 1968 29 37 2000 49
34 1929 46 34 1969 44 38 2001 73
35 1930 49 35 1970 38 39 2002 46
36 1931 46 36 1971 47 40 2003 45
37 1932 41 37 1972 34 41 2004 45
38 1933 34 38 1973 40 42 2005 5
39 1934 22 39 1974 20 43 2006 26
40 1935 6 40 1975 12 44 2007 21
41 1976 10
Totals: 715 755 755

Ruth’s most productive year was 1927 (age 32); Aaron’s was 1971 (age 36); Bond’s was 2001 (age 37). That seems to argue that Barry isn’t that unusual but on closer observation I’ve noticed a few things. In the years when we assume he was juiced (2000-2004) he hit 258 home runs. In the five years before (1995-1999) he hit 186 home runs. It’s hard to imagine that his body was strongest in his early late 30s and early 40s. Most hitters start off slowly either because they aren’t yet playing every day or because they are still learning the craft of hitting. Barry did very well for the first 10 years, hitting 292 home runs (Ruth hit 238 in his first 10 years and Aaron hit 342). For whatever reason he decided that wasn’t enough.

Since Babe Ruth, home run statistics have become the “gold standard” of baseball and power was king. Since this statistic has become tainted, perhaps other records will gain more popularity. There are records that would not be helped by steroids (and even hurt by them). I’m thinking of Cal Ripkin’s 2,632 consecutive game streak or Joe DiMaggio’s 56 consecutive games with a hit. There is also Cy Young’s 511 games won as a pitcher. This is just a guess but I’m hoping that endurance will unseat power. It would, in a sense, be the ultimate penalty for Barry: he abuses his body and the game to reach a record that garners less respect because of the way he went about it.

Back Home From Vacation

We got back from New York yesterday afternoon and are getting back into the home routine. I downloaded lots of pictures and will post them soon. New York City was kind of a nostalgia trip for me: when I was a Paulist novice in 1990 I lived an hour west and went into the city fairly regularly. I also spent the summer of 1991 living there while I worked at the Paulist Press. Nostalgia trips are always dangerous because the place inevitably can’t live up to the selective memories, but with that caveat I have to say it was a fun trip.

The one thing we wouldn’t do again is the Empire State Building. The line to get to the 86th floor didn’t look too bad when we got in. We found out very quickly that the employ Disneyland’s “hide the line” trick. Once you purchase your (nonrefundable) ticket there are a series of lines and guards before you get into the elevator to the 80th floor. There you have your picture taken (available for purchase of course) and are told you can rent headphones. Finally after that series of lines you take an elevator up the final 6 stories to the observation desk. All told we were in line for nearly an hour.

We also had some “classic New York” experiences. When we visited Strawberry Fields in Central Park there were two guys on benches nearby. They spent the better part of our 15 minutes there yelling at each other to shut up. They both wanted the same thing but neither would let the other have the last word. During our stay we took the famous New York subway several times. One of those times was using the 1 train uptown in morning rush hour. It seemed that we were waiting on the platform for longer than usual and when the train arrived it was already crowded. Like everyone else we crowded out way in and I was wedged between so many people I couldn’t even reach a pole to grab onto. Fortunately we were only on for a few stops.

The weather in New York was what you would expect in late July and early August: HHH: hazy, hot, and humid. It was in the low 90s for most of our stay and we were grateful for New York’s legendary good drinking water. Fortunately we both prefer hot weather to cold and it didn’t stop us from doing what we had planned.

All told, it was a good trip and I hope to do it again soon.

Return to New York City

Nancy and I are currently in New York City. I haven’t been here since 1997 when I told the Paulist Fathers that I was leaving the priesthood to get married. It’s been a good few days (and we still have tomorrow) and I’ve noticed the things that are the same and the things that are different. It’s the same city in the sense that there’s still the same energy: New York is a city with lots and lots of people and I like getting caught up in the frenzy. Nancy, not so much. It’s also nice seeing some of the same landmarks. Last night we had dinner with my friend Tina who I hadn’t seen since 1997. We walked by St. Paul’s Church where I was ordained on May 14, 1994. Earlier in the day we spent the morning and afternoon at the Bronx Zoo: it’s a terrific zoo and I’m embarrassed that I hadn’t been there before.

Today we walked down to Greenwich Village and Washington Square Park. I always liked that part of town and we enjoyed walking around there. I dreaded this part, but we felt we needed to go down to where the World Trade Centers used to be. I haven’t been back since 9/11 and dreaded this but knew I had to go. The funny thing was that the Twin Towers were so much a part of lower Manhattan that it was hard to get a sense of that part of town without the Towers. I brought my camera but didn’t take any pictures because there simply weren’t any places that were good shots. I was, in a sense, relieved that there wasn’t a “Kodak place” there because no picture could get a sense of the horror of that day. I spent most of my time not looking at the place where they were (it’s now a construction site where they are rebuilding). Most of my energy was spent on the buildings in the immediate area. In the last (almost) six years I’ve spent countless hours thinking about what it must have been like to have been in one of the towers or one of the planes; today I wondered what it must have been like to be in one of the buildings nearby. To have seen those towers collapse and be enveloped in the dust. To have known what it all meant. To have to return to work in that area and have to look at the cloud of dust and debris for weeks and months. To have knows how close it all was and to wonder when all the screaming was going to be over.

On one hand it was nice to see New York working so well but it was hard not to be caught up in how it was then.