Monthly Archives: February 2013

150 Years Ago Today: A Victory for Modern Naval Warfare…

cropped-Carnage-140th-Spotsylvaniamontauk1pAs we continue to acknowledge the Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War…

On Saturday, February 28, 1863, 150 years ago today, a now-forgotten Civil War engagement pointed the way toward the future of naval warfare.

imagesOn this day, Federal Naval Commander, Captain John L. Worden (former captain of the original Union ironclad USS Monitor) was at the helm of the Union ironclad warship USS Montauk on the Ogeechee River south of Savannah, Georgia — when he saw the CSS Nashville, sold as a privateer and now named Rattlesnake, run aground, lying under the guns of Fort McAllister.

With the U.S. Navy gunboats Wissahickon, Seneca and Dawn providing supporting fire, Captain Worden trained The Montauk’s batteries upon the enemy ship and started firing.

h59286Minutes later, the Montauk’s cannonade hit the CSS Nashville, struck her gunpowder magazine — and the Confederate ship exploded with “terrific violence.”

Alas, after his brief, triumphant engagement with the Confederate privateer, Commander Worden’s own ship hit a submerged mine, and he had to beach the USS Montauk on a mud bar to make repairs.montauk1j

The Confederacy could hardly afford the loss of the Nashville. The CSA commissioned shipbuilders to build 50 warships — and 22 were built and sent into battle, including CSS Virginia, CSS Arkansas, CSS Tennessee, and CSS Nashville.

21862The fate of the Nashville on this day in 1863 is not very well known – but what happened one year earlier to the CSS Virginia — the first steam-powered ironclad warship in the Confederate States Navy – became an epochal moment in naval warfare.

Built as a Confederate ironclad from the hull and steam engines of the scuttled Union warship, USS Merrimack — the CSS Virginia was sunk by the Union ironclad USS Monitor in the Battle of Hampton Roads on March 9, 1862: the first battle between ironclad, armored warships.

h58899150 years ago today – on the banks of Georgia’s Ogeechee River — the American Civil war adds another explosive, revolutionary chapter to the history of modern warfare.

Five months from now, in July, we’ll note the 150th anniversary of The Battle of Gettysburg.

And there won’t be a boat, ironclad or otherwise, anywhere near the battlefield.gettysburg

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A Day at the Races: Birthday Fun at Santa Anita Park.

Club House and Grand Stand Santa Anita, Los Angeles Turf Club ArcadiaDSC_6796 - 2013-02-16 at 14-12-58DSC_6805 - 2013-02-16 at 14-18-03(Color photos by Steve Stroud.)

Damon Runyon would have loved it: a splendid day at Santa Anita, the crown jewel of So Cal horse racing.

RUNYON-DAMON-PHOTOOf course, Runyon was a New City habitué, following the ponies at Aqueduct rather than the historic track at the foot of the mountains in Arcadia, California.

But the guys and dolls who gathered at The Turf Club to mark our great friend Jim Newton’s 50th birthday were the kind of colorful characters that Runyon would have loved to populate his classic stories.

It’s fitting that Runyon was a newspaperman, because “Gentleman Jim” Newton — and so many of our dear friends who joined us at Santa Anita Park on Saturday, February 16th — are journalists who have toiled at The Los Angeles Times.DSC_6914 - 2013-02-16 at 17-17-59

the-lemondrop-kid-bob-hope-william-frawleyIt felt a bit like a scene from Sorrowful Jones or The Lemon Drop Kid as this Pulitzer Prize-winning group of writers and reporters were soon turned into a bunch of rabid horseracing railbirds.

My wife Victoria, daughter and I were attending Santa Anita Park for the first time – nearly eight decades after the oldest racetrack in Southern California opened on Christmas Day 1934.
img_5288-dress-code-signMovie producer Hal Roach – the guy who brought us Laurel & Hardy and The Little Rascals – helped to open The Turf Club: the very same swanky section of the park that we gathered to celebrate Jim’s birthday.

We were all dressed appropriately for the venue — and ready for an afternoon of adventure at the track.

Carol "Lucky Lady" Stogsdil peruses the racing form in search of a winner.

Carol “Lucky Lady” Stogsdill peruses the racing form in search of a winner.

Henry "The Horse" Weinstein makes notes on his next wager.

Henry “The Horse” Weinstein makes notes on his next wager.

hollywood-park-inglewood-curtis-burnett-grantIn its glory days, Santa Anita attracted Hollywood luminaries including Betty Grable, Lana Turner, Jane Russell and Cary Grant. Bing Crosby and Al Jolson were among the stockholders. Spencer Tracy, Errol Flynn, and “Jeopardy” host Alex Trebek have owned horses that raced at Santa Anita. (One of horses racing the day we were there is owned by pro golf great, Greg Norman.) Santa Anita was the place where, in 1940, the legendary racehorse Seabiscuit won the Santa Anita Handicap in his last start.

021912-opinions-history-internment-matsumoto-gallery-4-ss-662wOf course, historian Jim Newton was quick to inform me that from 1942 to 1944, Santa Anita Park was used by the U.S. government as a transport center for nearly 20,000 Japanese-Americans bound for internment camps like Manzanar in California’s Owens Valley.

Unlike those unfortunate internees during that infamous episode in Santa Anita’s history, we came to the racetrack voluntarily – and once we beheld the glorious view from the grandstand, gazing out across the exquisitely groomed grounds to that mountainous backdrop – it was hard to understand why, after more than 20 years of life in Los Angeles, we’d never been to Santa Anita before.DSC_6924 - 2013-02-16 at 17-54-54

Spending the day at The Turf Club made our Santa Anita experience even more special. You can’t find a better place to people-watch between races.

DSC_6807 - 2013-02-16 at 14-27-15Ordering a drink at the luxurious Turf Club bar or placing your bets at the club’s private wagering windows, it’s easy to conjure the excitement and glamour of Santa Anita’s heyday.

With its dress code strictly enforced and its aura of opulence and classic, old school charm, the Turf Club is a bastion of civilization in a rapidly changing time.

And then there are the horses.DSC_6734 - 2013-02-16 at 13-32-47

DSC_6749 - 2013-02-16 at 13-44-50Over the course of the 10 races that day, Victoria and I placed our wagers on thoroughbreds with names like God Of War, Smil’n From Above, Great Hot (an 8-1 shot that earned Victoria $80 on a $10 bet), Camille C, Jubilant Girl, Jesse’s Giacomo and Hard Buns.

DSC_6854 - 2013-02-16 at 14-50-43I should have bet on Judy In Disguise to win in the 8th race. My rock & roll instincts told me to go with the filly named after the 1968 hit song by John Fred and his Playboy Band (also covered by Gary Lewis & The Playboys later that same year) – but I second-guessed myself. Judy in Disguise won the race going away.

One of the horses was named Ghost of a Chance. C’mon. Really? How can you put your money down on a horse his owner calls a Ghost of a Chance?

By the time the last horse crossed the finish line, Victoria and I broke even betting on the ponies – but our day at races was a clear winner.

And here’s a sure bet.

It won’t be another two decades before we pay our next visit to Santa Anita Park.

Birthday boy Jim Newton celebrates a winner!

Birthday boy “Gentleman Jim” Newton celebrates a winner!

Our photographer, Steve "Shutter Bug" Stroud, at The Turf Club.

Our photographer friend, Steve “Shutter Bug” Stroud, at The Turf Club.

Our hosts, Jim & Karlene: the First Couple of Cool.

Our hosts, Jim & Karlene: the First Couple of Cool.


Filed under Beauty, History, Sports

Wrestling with an Olympic Outrage

wrestling banner 2Wrestling banner 1If anyone needs a clear sign of the end of Western Civilization, as we know it, they can look no further than the decision of the International Olympic Committee to drop wrestling from the Olympic program beginning with the 2020 Games.

Somehow, the brilliant minds that guide the modern Olympic movement saw fit to preserve team handball, rhythmic gymnastics, and badminton over a sport that has been an Olympic staple since 708 BC.

The-Ancient-Olympics-2Olympic wrestling has a time-honored place among such revered, historic, millennia-old classical athletic events as marathon running, sprinting, and tossing the javelin and discus. You won’t see beach volleyball or curling pictured on ancient Greek vases, but scenes of grappling wrestlers festoon plates, vases and mosaics throughout ancient Greece: the birthplace of the Olympic Games.

Wrestling 2For the ancient Greeks, wrestling was highly valued as a form of military exercise without weapons. For those of us who grappled for high school wrestling teams (like Cleveland Central Catholic), scholastic freestyle wrestling was the one-on-one crucible that tested our will to achieve personal excellence – and our capacity to do more than we ever imagined we could.

Wrestling 1Of all my high school experiences, it was my years as a varsity wrestler, under the guidance of my inspired coach Joel Solomon, that taught me the value of hard work, perseverance, commitment to a goal — and to never, never sell myself short: to never quit on myself.

Right now, across America and around the world, the sport of wrestling is teaching those values to young men and women – as they strive for what?

DownloadedFile-6Do high school, college and Olympic wrestlers strive for professional riches? (There’s no real professional wrestling. Sorry, WWE.)

Do they compete for lucrative endorsements? (Did the great NCAA and Olympic Champions Dan Gable and Cael Sanderson make a fortune selling Wheaties – let alone a Rolex watch or a KIA Optima?)

DownloadedFile-5The boys and girls who grapple on the high school and college wrestling mats of America (and around the world) do so to measure themselves against their competition. And the very best do so with one goal in mind: to someday compete for an NCAA championship, to win the U.S.A. Olympic trials – and compete for an Olympic Gold Medal. Why take that away from them?

Wrestling, both freestyle and Greco-Roman events, goes back to the inaugural modern Olympics in Athens in 1896 — which means that wrestling had been an Olympic sport for 2,686 years.

DownloadedFile-2And this year, the IOC decides that wrestling is no longer an Olympic sport???

For shame, IOC, for shame!

If this incomprehensible decision stands, then I have watched my final Olympic Games.

If wrestling is not reinstated as an Olympic Sport, I will never watch the Olympic Games again.

DownloadedFile-3Am I serious?

Take a look at Dan Gable.

Does Mr. Gable look serious?


Filed under History, Sports, Truth

It Was 49 Years Ago Today…

Beatlesbanner1101934-004-CD2C8F59I was just a young, working class Cleveland boy — two months shy of my 6th birthday — and what happened on this day, 49 years ago, at 8:00 pm ET on Sunday February 9, 1964 became an unforgettable moment in my life.

2e76b29da002e58a18b357d85a67a91ae0a2392aOn that incredible, magical, epochal day, The Beatles – Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr — made their first live appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in New York City. There were just three TV channels in those days – and most televisions in America had their rabbit ears tuned in to the Sunday night broadcast that marked the U.S. debut of the rock n’ roll band that would soon transform international pop culture.

Beatles_399x400Upon their arrival in New York and in the months to follow, I was besotted by The Beatles. My older brother Peter and I would hang out beneath our neighbor Dino Zaccardelli’s bedroom window on West 33rd Street, listening to the glorious, transformative album that Dino’s mom had just bought for him: Meet the Beatles.

I vividly remember how Peter and I listened to that thrilling album over and over, playing passionately along on badminton rackets posing as guitars. Unfortunately, we rocked out while standing on his older brother’s car – and that got is in trouble. (We left a lot of jubilant, rocking footprints on his hood and fenders.)

220px-IntroducingtheBeatlesAt the time, I had no clue that Meet the Beatles was actually the second Beatles’ album released in the United States. Ten days before the release of Meet the Beatles, Chicago’s Vee-Jay Records released the Beatles’ first U.S. album, Introducing…The Beatles.

As far as my brother Peter, Dino and I were concerned, Meet the Beatles was where it all began – and The Ed Sullivan Show on CBS 49 years ago was our introduction to full blown Beatlemania.

usa_meet-the-beatlesFrom those indelible days in February 1964, my life was changed in ways I am still learning to appreciate. To have grown up during Beatlemania is a formative, fundamental  blessing that subsequent generations cannot possibly understand or fully appreciate. (Because they take rock & roll for granted.)

My daughters learned to love The Beatles.

RR0910_603_lgBut I was grew up with The Beatles.

49 years ago – my brother Peter and I got lucky.

All us kids got lucky.

Yeah, yeah, yeah!



Filed under Art, Beauty, Music

Why I’m Cheering for the San Francisco 49ers Today!

Ray 2011313-5-NFL-Ravens-Ray-Lewis-OB-PI_20130113211537682_660_320As a Cleveland boy, I already have a very good reason to root against the Baltimore Ravens in today’s Super Bowl. Hell, The Ravens used to be the legendary Cleveland Browns until owner Art Modell screwed The Best Location in the Nation and, in the dark of night, ran off to Baltimore with our storied NFL franchise in 1996.

So, I already have one very, very good reason to bet against, cheer against, and plead to the Good Lord against the Baltimore Ravens.

But the biggest reason I’m rooting against the Ravens is Ray Lewis.

-be9303484bf781dbI’m old enough to remember Ray Lewis as the guy who got in a fight in January 2000 that resulted in his indictment on murder and aggravated assault charges. Of course, rich, resourceful, pampered athlete Ray was able to plead guilty to obstruction of justice in exchange for testimony against the two other defendants: his buddies.

Let’s remember Ray’s murderous misadventure – just a lucky 13 years ago…

Following a Super Bowl XXXIV party in Atlanta on January 31, 2000, Ray and his pals got into a fight that resulted in the stabbing deaths of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar.

ray_lewis_51965686_620x350Lewis and his buddies, Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting, were indicted on murder and aggravated assault charges. Lewis testified that his pals Oakley and Sweeting bought knives earlier that week from a sporting goods store where Lewis had been signing autographs. The blood of one of the victims was found inside of Lewis’s limo.

The suit Lewis was wearing the night of the killings has never been found.

Lewis’ attorneys negotiated a plea agreement. The murder charges against Lewis were dismissed in exchange for his testimony against Oakley and Sweeting — and his plea of guilty to obstruction of justice.

nfl_a_lewisr_600Lewis was sentenced to 12 months of probation and fined $250,000 by the NFL — the highest fine levied against an NFL player for an infraction that was not drug related.

The following year, Lewis was named Super Bowl XXXV MVP.

raylewisSIRay Lewis is no MVP as far as I’m concerned. And I’m tired of his whole, pious, proselytizing “God is amazing” act.

I know Christians love a redemption story ever since they forgave Saul for assisting at the stoning of St. Stephen and allowed him to become St. Paul.

But Ray Lewis is no saint. He’s no hero. He’s not a redemption story.

He’s a charlatan and a scoundrel who can hit like a ton of bricks.

I hope the San Francisco 49ers run him over and drive his reputation into the ground.

And I hope Art Modell is watching the Raven’s loss – whether in heaven above or hell below.


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