NO * NECESSARY! The Judge – All Rise

NO * NECESSARY! The Judge – All Rise

Televised Yankee games are blacked out in this part of Connecticut. Aaron Judge may hit a 61st home run at any moment. The stakes are very high. Desperation takes me back to radio – WFAN-AMFM, radio with John Sterling’s play-by-play and color commentary by Suzyn Waldman. 

Have no fear. I’ll wax rabid about Judge and about the significance of this season’s milestones, but my first tip of the cap goes to Sterling and Waldman, an elegantly balanced broadcasting duo who remind me of the power of the spoken word. I grew up in an oddly televised baseball mixed marriage as I was stuck in the Northwest corner of Connecticut. Until the Giants left for San Francisco, New York’s WPIX, channel 11, broadcast Yankee and Giant home games. A slightly less predictable signal carried Brooklyn Dodger games, and an occasional shift in the weather allowed the Boston Red Sox to flicker in and out. I became a Yankee fan early on as Joe DiMaggio gave way in center field to Mickey Mantle. Simply remembering the pantheon of Yankee demi-gods brings back the excitement I felt in watching the Yankees at work: Mantle, Yogi Berra, Hank Bauer, Billy Martin, Gil McDougald, Bobby Richardson, Gerry Coleman, Andy Carey, Bill Skowron, Elston Howard, Tony Kubek, Enos “Country” Slaughter, Whitey Ford, Don Larsen, Sal “The Barber” Maglie, Ralph Terry, Bob Turley, Bob Grim.

As William Wordsworth put it, “Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven.” For Wordsworth it was The French Revolution, for me Yankee baseball in the 1950’s, and I couldn’t stand to miss a game. Home games were locked in, but when the Yankees went on the road, I had to depend on Mel Allen or Red Barber to take me to the ball game. I built a ham radio and listened with headphones until I received a Sony transistor radio and the world grew larger. I suppose every baseball market has a string of beloved voices, but Allen and Barber were, to me, how baseball was meant to sound. Both announcers had been raised in the south; their voices were as smooth as Tupelo honey. Allen was the more excitable; if he didn’t coin the phrase,”Going – Going – Goooonnnnn!!”, he made it part of the baseball lexicon. Later, as an announcer, retired shortstop Phil Rizzuto would rely on “Holy Cow” to describe all manner of events. Allen’s “Well, how a-bout that?” was only attached to moments of Yankee heroics. I have to restrain myself in writing about Red Barber (“Red Bahbah, Heyah”) because his use of metaphor in the heat of a game was broadcasting at its best. I will pass on a cautionary note that Barber included in his memoir, Rhubarb, his word for a scuffle on the diamond: Barber NEVER swore in any circumstance or setting. It was his conviction that were he to allow a single curse to leave his lips, it might leap out in a moment of excitement in the booth. Excellent advice. Never taken.

OK, so back to AAron Judge.

He is the first contender for baseball’s Triple Crown since Miguel Cabrera played for the Tigers in 2012. Before Cabrera, the most recent crown belonged to Carl Yastrzemski who earned it in 1967. Since 1940, the only other winners were Ted Williams (1942 and 1947), Mickey Mantle (1956), and Frank Robinson (1966). As I write, he has a commanding lead in home runs (60), RBIs (128) and is tied for the leading batting average (.317). Winning a Triple Crown is good stuff but not epochal.

Those 60 home runs, on the other hand, have already put Judge in a conversation about how baseball, a game imbued with precise statistical measurements since Henry Chadwick’s reporting in the 1850s, can compare milestones, such as the home run record, as conditions of play change over the decades. 

The most widely shared concern has to do with the explosion of home run power in the decade following the baseball strike and the cancellation of the World Series. In 1998, Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa battled to the wire, Sosa pounding out 66 home runs, Mark McGuire rocketing 70 into the bleachers. In 2001, Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs, retiring in 2007 as the all-time home run leader with 762 home runs.

None of these three have been chosen for the Baseball Hall of Fame; all three have been linked with the use of performance enhancing drugs during the height of their careers.

For all of recorded history (my first baseball game), the gold standard had belonged to Babe Ruth. He hit 60 home runs in 1927 after hitting 59 in 1926. He ended his career with a total of 714 home runs, what seemed an unassailable lifetime record. Henry Aaron hit 24 or more home runs from 1955 to 1973, amassing 755 home runs when he retired. Home run 715 was celebrated widely as Aaron had been an All-Star and model of consistency throughout his career. Aaron’s stats are unvarnished.

No whiff of impropriety accompanied Roger Maris’ benchmark season of 1961, in which he passed Ruth’s seasonal record by hitting 61 home runs. But … the great scorekeeper in the sky affixed an asterisk to the total in the record book because Ruth had hit his home runs in a 154 game season and Maris hit number 61 in game 162. 

The gods give and the gods take away.

The asterisk virtually nullified Maris’ record, but baseball purists have since taken another look at the Ruth years. The ball might have not been as lively, but neither was the pitching Ruth faced. Today’s batters regularly see fastballs exceeding a hundred miles an hour. Estimates vary, but the only pitchers of Ruth’s era who came close to contemporary flamethrowers were Walter Johnson, Lefty Grove, and Bob Feller. Of course another daunting pitcher was Leroy “Satchel” Paige who pitched in the Negro Leagues from 1926 until 1947. He was still formidable when he joined the Cleveland Indians in 1948, but we can only guess at what his skill and the skills of the many who never got a chance to play Major League baseball. Ruth was occasionally called The White Josh Gibson for example, as Gibson may have hit as many as 800 home runs.

When Aaron Judge comes to bat tonight, he will already have hit 60 home runs in 148 games. At the same point in the 1927 season, Ruth had hit 58, Maris 56. Bonds and McGuire have higher totals, but … there is no asterisk big enough to put next to their haul. Judge is not only facing pitchers Ruth and Maris never saw, but facing three or four different pitchers in the course of a game. Fresh arms. 

So, I’m blacked out. My laptop acting as my transistor radio, I’ll have John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman in my ear. I’ll be waiting for the crack of the bat each time Judge steps up, that distinctive sound of solid contact, and in my mind I’ll be saying, “Going – Going – GONNNNNNNNN”!

Calvin Coolidge’s Presidential Pets

Calvin Coolidge’s Presidential Pets

It all started when I discovered that Donald J. Trump, James K. Polk, and Andrew Johnson were the only presidents whose time in the White House was spent without the comfort of a pet of any sort. “Yow”, I said, suddenly aware of the lack of attention I had given pet ownership in reviewing the history in the United States. Interesting to note in passing that two of the three were impeached twice.

 “Who doesn’t have a pet?” quickly gave way to a superficial swan dive into the meticulous records of pets in the White House, wherein I was stunned to find that one of the most pet-centered presidents was the otherwise infrequently mentioned Calvin Coolidge. This is not the forum in which to debate his legacy, but it does seem appropriate to make reference to his public persona. Widely known as “Silent Cal”, Coolidge was said to be “…silent in five languages.” Jokes about his lack of animation and taciturn delivery when forced to speak probably arose from Coolidge’s discomfort with the trappings of celebrity inevitably attached to the office of the presidency. When asked why he attended state dinners, Coolidge responded, “Got to eat somewhere.”

Alice Longworth Roosevelt described Coolidge as having been, “weaned on a pickle.” When Coolidge died in 1933, the acerbic wit, Dorothy Parker, replied, “How can they tell?” 

That’s the Coolidge I expected to find, but the first mention of a Coolidge pet describes the President walking a racoon on a leash every morning during his term in office. That alone would put Silent Cal in the Pet Owner Hall of Fame, but the racoon was but one of the menagerie that accompanied Coolidge during his presidency and in his four years of retirement. 

We’re not going to get into the fine points of pet ownership, but the Founding Fathers had horses, of course, horses being the mode of transportation and most had dogs. Horses may have been necessary, but Washington named one of his his horses “Sweetlips” indicating fondness that went beyond utility. Of course, we named our Dodge station wagon “Harley” so …

Jefferson is but one of the presidents to have owned bears, two grizzly cubs, but the most lethal of his pets was a ram which purportedly killed a child. John Quincy Adams is reputed to have had the highest IQ of any president, spoke eight languages, and was socially awkward. He barely qualifies as a pet owner as his wife kept silkworms, and his short stewardship of an alligator could well be apocryphal. It was no surprise to find that Andrew Jackson rased fighting cocks, but deliciously unexpected was the account of his parrot’s flood of obscenities during Jackson’s funeral. 


Coming soon, but, and I was about to say, “the elephant in the room”, is the nation’s larger than life naturalist, cowboy, historian, Rough Rider, pugilist, and president, Theodore Roosevelt. Among the 5,013 mammals, 4,453 birds, and 2,322 reptiles that Roosevelt brought back from his Smithsonian Expedition of 1909 was an elephant, one of eight elephants currently on display in the American Museum of Natural History. We’ve all seen the photograph of Roosevelt riding a moose, I assume. A blinking moose! Living creatures sharing his home included the usual panoply of dogs and cats, a badger, hens, an owl, pigs, a laughing hyena, and a bear named Jonathan Edwards, after one of Mrs. Roosevelt’s ancestors.  

That’s a tough collection to match, and one would assume that its counterparts would be found in the roughest and toughest of presidencies. 

Nope. Let’s take a look at Cal’s household:

Ten dogs, several cats, two racoons (one walked daily), a donkey, a bobcat, lion cubs, a wallaby, Pekin ducks, a duiker, and Bruno, a black bear. Oh, and a pygmy hippopotamus. Reserved, silent in five languages, Calvin Coolidge, professional New England stoic, walked a racoon and bathed a hippopotamus.

Adages abound – “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, “Don’t judge a person by the chapter you walk in on,” “All that is gold does not glitter,” and so on. Cal and I would have disagreed on almost every aspect of government, but anybody who walks a racoon? 

America’s Best Kept College Equestrian Secrets

America’s Best Kept College Equestrian Secrets

In revising the descriptions of the colleges that make up America’s Best Kept College Secrets 2022, I paused in updating Albion College in Michigan. Albion is among the under-appreciated small liberal arts colleges in the Midwest (Albion, Kalamazoo, College of Wooster, Ripon, Lake Forest, DePauw, Beloit, Lawrence, Earlham and many more!) and is one of the small colleges offering a significant equestrian program and excellent equestrian facilities.

Hmmmm, I thought. What are America’s Best Kept Equestrian College Secrets? Time to do a quick survey before returning to the compiling of the next edition of …  well, the name of the next edition is to be determined, as  America’s Best Kept College Secrets seems to have confused people who are looking for scandal and outrageous tales of college life.

My wife and daughter, who have more than a passing acquaintance with horses, barns, turn-out facilities, tack, forage, and many, many more horse-related subjects, advise me that “equestrian” is a broad descriptor ranging from international competition in dressage, jumping, and eventing to barrel racing in a rodeo program. 

Keeping the barrel racing dive somewhat shallow, allow me to simply identify the top colleges offering intercollegiate rodeo competition. The top six men’s programs are: College of Southern Idaho, Missouri Valley College, Feather River College (CA), University of Tennessee-Martin, Panhandle State University(OK), and McNeese State(LA). The top six programs for women are: College of Southern Idaho, Montana State University, Dickinson State University (ND), McNeese State (LA), Northwestern Oklahoma State University, and Gillette College-Sheridan  College (WY).

Now, the exercise gets tricky. The U.S. Equestrian Federation is the national governing body for most of the competitions, keeping track of: dressage, driving endurance riding, hunt seat equitation, hunter-jumper, para-equestrian, reigning, roadster, saddle seat equitation, vaulting, and western riding (which consists of equitation, western pleasure, reigning, trail, western dressage, and other unnamed events).

Before identifying intercollegiate competition, however, it’s prudent to present a brief description of academic courses of study that might intrigue those whose noses twitch when the term “equine” is bandied about. An AA or BA degree in Equine Science unsurprisingly considers the science of all aspects of the horse in a scientific manner, Biology, Anatomy, Reproduction, and other equine issues. There are programs that offer certification in Equine Therapy, Equine Business Management, Equine Production (daily management of an equestrian facility), and Equestrian Science (sports science in equestrian events).

Most of the colleges offering rodeo competition offer a program in equine studies. Similarly, most of the schools competing in the National Equestrian Competition also offer a major or minor in equine studies. 

Here goes:

NOT in the NCEA

William Woods University

Fulton, Missouri

Stephens College

Columbia, Missouri

Albion College

Albion, Michigan

(Profiled in the Third Edition)

Centenary University

Hackettstown, New Jersey

Earlham College

Earlham, Indiana

(Profiled in the Third Edition)

Alfred University

Alfred, New York

St. Andrews University

Laurinburg, North Carolina

University of Findlay

Findlay, Ohio

Emory & Henry College

Emory, Virginia

(Profiled in Third Edition)

Savannah College of Art and Design

Savannah, Georgia

Berry College

Berry, Georgia

(Profiled in the Third Edition)

Cazenovia College

Cazenovia, New York

University of Kentucky

Lexington, Kentucky

Murray State University

Murray, Kentucky

Colorado State University

Fort Collins, Kentucky


Auburn University

Auburn, Alabama

Auburn will be profiled and will include a description of the six time national championship equestrian team and the equine center. Auburn offers up to 15 equestrian scholarships.

Baylor University

Waco, Texas

Baylor will also be profiled with particular attention directed toward the size of its equestrian team (more than 80 riders) and its hosting of the NCEA’s National Championship. Baylor offers up to 15 Scholarships.

Bridgewater College

Bridgewater, Virginia

Bridgewater competes in Division III of the NCAA, and so, cannot offer athletic scholarships. The admission office, on the other hand, can offer “Merit” scholarships, some of which may assist in the recruitment of riders.

Brown University

Providence, Rhode Island

Brown is one of three “Ivy League” colleges competing in the NCEA. None of the colleges in the Ivy League offer athletic scholarships, but do offer need-based scholarships.

College of Charleston

Charleston, South Carolina

The College of Charleston is located in Charleston, but it is a university with an undergraduate student population of more than 10,000 students. A state supported university, COC offers equestrian scholarships.

(Profiled in the third edition)

Cornell University

 Ithaca, New York

Both public and private, the Cornell Equine Park is the location of Cornell’s outstanding Equine Hospital.

Dartmouth College

Hanover, New Hampshire

The newest addition to the NCEA, Dartmouth’s equestrian team competes nationally.

Delaware State University

Dover, Delaware

DSU offers majors in Animal Science and Equine Business Management and offers scholarships.

Fresno State University

Fresno, California

Fresno State’s Equine Program includes the Horse Unit, raising American Quarter Horses.

University of Georgia

Athens, Georgia

Georgia, established in 1785, is among the oldest universities in the United States and cometes n Division I.

(Profiled in the Third Edition)

Long Island University

Brookville, New York

The C.W. Post campus of the university is located in Brookville offering a BS in Equine Studies.

University of Lynchburg

Lynchburg, Virginia

University of Lynchburg was formerly Lynchburg College and now enrolls about 3000 students

(Profiled in the Third Edition)

University of Minnesota Crookston

U Minnesota Crookston is located in Minnesota’s Red River Valley, where the forested area to the east meets the Great Plains of the Dakotas.

Oklahoma State University

Stillwater, Oklahoma

OSU (not Ohio State or Oregon State) offers a degree in Animal Science and a certificate in Equine Enterprise Management. The program’s website also offers horses for sale.

Sacred Heart University

Fairfield, Connecticut

Sacred Heart is the second largest Catholic university in New England with extension campuses in Dingle, Ireland and Luxembourg. Women’s wrestling became a varsity sport this year.

Seton Hill University

Greensburg, Pennsylvania

Seton Hill is a private Catholic university enrolling about 3000 students on a campus near Pittsburg.

Southern Methodist University 

Dallas, Texas

SMU is a university enrolling almost 7000 undergraduates on a campus in the heart of Dallas.

University of South Carolina

Columbia, South Carolina

USC (not Southern California) has a campus of almost 400 acres near the state capital of Columbia.

South Dakota State University

Brookings, South Dakota

The South Dakota State Jackrabbits study in Brookings, the fourth largest city in South Dakota (population 23,000),

Stonehill College

North Easton, Massachusetts

Stonehill is a private Catholic university located in the greater Boston area. Stonehill has recently moved up to Division I in most sports.

Sweet Briar College

Sweet Briar, Virginia

(Profiled in the Third Edition)

Although Sweet Briar competes in Division III, its program is among the most highly regarded in the nation. The Vixens ride in a newly renovated equestrian facility and on the 2400 acres of Virginia countryside.

Texas Christian University

Fort Worth, Texas

TCU’s Division I program is located about three miles from downtown Fort Worth.

Texas A&M

College Station, Texas

Texas A&M has the largest undergraduate student enrollment in the U.S. – almost 60,000 students.

University of California – Davis

Davis, California

UC Davis, located in California’s Sacramento Valley, competes in Division I and is the home of an outstanding program in veterinary medicine.

University of the South

Sewanee, Tennessee

Most frequently known as Sewanee, the University of the South looks and feels like a New England college. The campus is located on 13,000 acres of the Cumberland Plateau and is often mentioned as one of the most beautiful colleges in the U.S.

(Profiled in the Third Edition)

University of Tennessee – Martin

Martin, Tennessee

One of the five campuses of the University of Tennessee, Martin’s equestrian program, the Skyhawks, compete in Division I.