Madison County Opinion...

 November 21, 2000


Column
By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
November 22, 2000

Frankly Speaking

Trying to exclude veterans' votes is shameful
On Saturday, Nov. 11, this nation paused to remember her veterans.
On November 15th, a lawyer supporting Democrat Al Gore sent out a letter on how to disqualify overseas ballots from future veterans, thus denying them the right to take part in the selection of the next president. I find the juxtaposition of these events to be astounding.
It is not an easy thing for military personnel to vote. First, you have to fill out a form requesting a ballot from your home county. On the form, you have to include your permanent home address, your military address and proof that you are registered to vote. The registrars of your county then mail a ballot to you. After receiving the ballot, you are required to fill out the ballot in the presence of a witness. You then must fill out a certificate saying you cast the ballot, include the date and location of the vote, sign the certificate and have the witness sign the certificate. The entire package is then returned to the Board of Registrars by the deadline.
I went through this process in 1960. As some of you might remember, that was a very close election that included charges of voter fraud on the part of the Democrats that put President Kennedy in office. In that election Richard Nixon refused to challenge the vote, saying that he would not cause a crisis. (Al Gore, take note!)
Having served in the military, including a tour in Europe, I am painfully aware of the sacrifice members of the armed forces make for this nation.
I have seen the vast fields of stones that mark the graves of those men and women who fell in combat. I know of those who were injured both physically and mentally in combat. I experienced the months of separation from home and family, the intense and often dangerous training and the tedious duty that is typical of military service.
I can only feel anger when someone comes along and tries to prevent those hard-won ballots from being counted. Members of the military are under the direct control of the President. He is the Commander in Chief which all military people must obey. If the President says to go to Vietnam, the Gulf Cost, Africa, Serbia or any other location, the military must go. The very idea that someone with a bad case of egomania would try to prevent these people from helping choose that Commander in Chief is simply inexcusable.
Those political operatives who are dedicated to victory at any cost have gone too far this time. The deliberate effort to block votes from our nation's military, in my opinion, disqualifies the Democrats from any further consideration for the Presidency. It is time for Al Gore to concede the election and allow George W. Bush to proceed with the formation of the next government.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His web page can be accessed at www.mcga.net. His e-mail address is frankg@mcga.net.



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Column
By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
November 22, 2000

From the Editor's Desk

Remembering Josh Gibson
Here's an interesting fact: Jackie Robinson was not the first black Major League baseball player. That distinction belongs to Moses Fleetwood Walker, who suited up with the Major League Toledo Blue Stockings in 1884. (See "Fleet Walker's Divided Heart: The Life of Baseball's First Black Major Leaguer" by David W. Zang.)
In the 63 years between Walker and Robinson, no black player was allowed on a big league club. And in this gap, many great players were left in the shadows, players like Oscar Charleston, Cool Papa Bell, Judy Johnson and Satchell Paige. Paige eventually made it into the majors, but way past his prime at the age of 42.
But it's Josh Gibson, who was born in Buena Vista, Georgia, in 1912, who intrigues me most.
He was, by many accounts, the greatest hitter ever. Gibson was often called the "black Babe Ruth." But many who saw him considered Ruth "the white Josh Gibson."
Gibson, who moved from Georgia to Pittsburgh at the age of 12, was a power hitter, who also hit for average. He had enormous upper body strength and was known for having a tremendous eye and lightning reflexes.
There are countless tales of the catcher's power.
He is rumored to have been the only man to hit the ball out of Yankee Stadium in fair territory, though this tale is supported by little fact. But other stories have more credence. William Brashler, in his book "Josh Gibson: A Life in the Negro Leagues," writes about the time the mayor of Monessen, Pennsylvania, stopped a game to pace off one of Gibson's blasts at 512 feet. There's the story of Gibson blasting a ball out of a park in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and over a prison fence, some 525 feet away, narrowly missing some inmates.
Perhaps the most awe-inspiring feat of strength was a mere 375-foot blast. Gibson faced a pitcher named Sonny Cornelius in Indianapolis. Cornelius threw a curve that fooled Gibson. Off balance, and with his left hand no longer on the bat, Gibson swatted at the ball with his right hand and drove it out of the park.
It's good that there are tales to relate, because the numbers are suspect.
Baseball statisticians recently added an RBI to Hack Wilson's all-time single season RBI record - from 190 to 191. This highlights a telling difference in old-time white versus black baseball. While one RBI may be called into question in Wilson's record year, Gibson's career home run total ranges from 600 to 900, depending on who you ask.
The Negro Leagues lacked solid statistics. And numbers are the primary tools in establishing greatness across the ages.
Still, Gibson's gargantuan home runs drew large crowds and turned the heads of some of the white players of the time.
Gibson, who played for two Negro League teams - the Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords - also traveled south of the border several years, playing winter ball against some of the white Major Leaguers of the day, like Jimmie Foxx, since there was no color barrier outside of the states and the money was better in places like Venezuala, Mexico and Cuba.
In an interview late in his career, Gibson said his greatest achievement in baseball was winning the MVP of the 1941 Puerto Rican League, a modest prize for a man who was considered a premier slugger in baseball.
In 1972, he received a much greater honor, an induction into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. But he wasn't there for the recognition. Diagnosed with a brain tumor in 1943, Gibson avoided surgery and died four years later at the age of 35, the winter after Robinson broke into the big leagues.
It's interesting to think about today's game without Pedro Martinez, Frank Thomas, Ken Griffey Jr., Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, Albert Belle or Andruw Jones.
Certainly, the game would suffer. And it did during the Jim Crow days too. The lacking was real and guys like Gibson and Paige are proof of that.
November is a time for reflection in baseball. The World Series is over. Postseason honors are awarded. Greats of today are measured against the legends of yesteryear.
The arguments over who is the all-time best are fun. You must weigh the differences in the game then and now, such as how the development of relief pitching has skewed the numbers, blurring comparisons between the eras.
But a well-rounded argument will also acknowledge those who were left out of the game - and a Georgia-born man who could have left lasting ink in the record books, if given a shot.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.


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