Memorial Day: Remembering Those Who Have Fallen

It’s become an annual tradition for me to post on Memorial Day. Since shortly after the Civil War families of those who were killed in war have felt the need to commemorate their sacrifices. Since 1868 it has been a national holiday, now celebrated on the 4th Monday of May. Last year I noted that 4083 of our young men and women have died in Iraq since 2003. The number is now 4300.

That is, in a sense, good news in that only 217 have died in the last year, but that’s of little consolation to their families. The major focus of the war is moving to Afghanistan and I’m having a hard time finding a web page that tracks casualties there.

Regardless, it’s a good day to thank a veteran.

Manny Ramirez: How I'll Spend My Summer Vacation

As many of you know, I am part of a mixed marriage: I root for the San Diego Padres while my wife Nancy is a lifelong fanatic for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The news this week for the Dodgers has not been good: their star player Manny Ramirez has been suspended for 50 games for using a banned substance. Manny released this announcement when the results were known:

Recently I saw a physician for a personal health issue. He gave me a medication, not a steroid, which he thought was OK to give me. Unfortunately, the medication was banned under our drug policy. Under the policy that mistake is now my responsibility. I have been advised not to say anything more for now. I do want to say one other thing; I’ve taken and passed about 15 drug tests over the past five seasons. I want to apologize to Mr. McCourt, Mrs. McCourt, Mr. Torre, my teammates, the Dodger organization, and to the Dodger fans. LA is a special place to me and I know everybody is disappointed. So am I. I’m sorry about this whole situation.

OK, now for some facts.

First, I’m not impressed with the fact that he passed about 15 drug tests; we expect the players to pass all their drug tests, not 15 out of 16. Many people in this country who don’t play baseball (myself included) work for companies that do drug testing and none of us could imagine defending ourselves by claiming that we’re usually clean.

Second, he tries to distance himself from this by claiming that he went to a physician for a “personal health issue.” I’m not sure what this issue is, but the team physicians on all teams tell players not to take anything they haven’t approved. They are the MD’s who know what is allowed and not allowed and even if Manny felt the need to seek medical treatment outside the team, he could at least have shown the medication to the team MD and asked if it was allowed.

Finally, this medication is not something you’d expect a healthy 36 year old man to take. It’s called human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG. This is normally taken by women who are trying to conceive and it’s also used as an early pregnancy test. Manny is probably not trying to get pregnant but it’s also used to mask the use of artificial testosterone which was also found. You can read an excellent article on ESPN; it states that a test during spring training showed an elevated level of testosterone. Further tests showed the testosterone came from an artificial source, and there was other evidence of hCG use. This gave MLB the justification for the suspension.

The worst of this is that the Dodgers were doing so well. They are currently 21-9 and until just recently were undefeated at home. They are still a good team and I expect they will win the NL West this year but there’s no way around the fact that Manny has let down his teammates, his team, and the fans in Los Angeles. His bat will be silent for the next 50 games and this was because he made a poor choice.

I hope he spends the next 50 games looking for ways to pay back the fans of Los Angeles.

Baltimore: It's No Hawaii

It’s the beginning of May and that means it’s time for Nancy’s annual PAS meeting. Last year was in Hawaii and we knew it would be hard to beat. While Nancy goes to meetings, I get to explore the city and do some genealogy research. Or at least I could if it weren’t raining the whole time. We’re planning to leave today and it’s been raining nonstop since we arrived.

Baltimore may appear to be a strange place to do family tree research, but there is a connection. Some of my ancestors were Acadians who inhabited present day Nova Scotia (I was called “Acadia” then). In 1763 the British deported them. My ancestors went to New Brunswick, many went to New Orleans (where they became Cajuns) and a few went to Baltimore. One of these was my 2nd cousin, 6 times removed, Daniel LeBlanc (1729-1810) who died in Baltimore. The chance of finding his tombstone is essentially nil (the original cemetery was abandoned and the bodies moved with the stone. Stones at that point were marble and would not have survived 200 years and a move) but perhaps there were some descendants I could trace. Alas, the idea of taking a bus halfway across town and tramping around a cemetery in the pouring rain didn’t sound very appealing and I’ll have to wait until my next trip to Baltimore for this.

The good news department is that we leave today for Virginia. My nephew Nathan is graduating from Old Dominion University on May 9th and I’ll be able to be there for that. I just hope the weather breaks.