Sunday, April 30, 2006

Getting the news and "Take the A-train"

We remember Duke Ellington who was born in 1899 in Washington, D.C.  He became one of the legendary jazz figures of music history.  Ellington died in 1974.
In the early 1960s, my family was in Cuba and struggling to get honest information about everything.  We would often hear the news from the Spanish and English editions of The Voice of America.  
For example, my parents listened to President Kennedy’s Missile Crisis speech and later his funeral over the shortwave radio in our living room.
My father loved a VOA special jazz show hosted by Willis Conover.   The show’s theme music was Duke Ellington’s  “Take the A-train” and it quickly became a hymn of freedom for millions around the world.
Every night, the opening notes of that wonderful song went over the short wave signals heard in Moscow, Prague, and down in Cuba.  
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April 30, 1789: George Washington became the first President of the US

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On this day in 1789, George Washington was inaugurated as the first President of the US.  

How do you recommend a book about President Washington?   You can't.   My suggestion is that you read one from time to time.   He was an amazing man who generated tremendous loyalty among the men who served under him.

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1945: The BBC and Hitler is dead

According to reports, Hitler was shocked when he got reports that Mussolini had been executed in Italy.    Mussolini’s body, along with Clara Petacci, was put on display for Italians.
He did not want the same ending.   
On this day in 1945, he was reported dead by the BBC.  Later, we learned that it was a suicide and that his ashes were allegedly found along Eva Braun, his wife.  
The European war ended a few weeks later when Germany surrendered.    (Of course, the Pacific side of the war went on until Japan surrendered in September 1945)
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We remember Bobby Vee (1943-2016)



Bobby Vee

We remember Robert Thomas Velline who was born in Fargo, South Dakota on this day in 1943.    

We known him as Bobby Vee, one of the most popular pop vocalists of the early 1960's.    

He put 30 songs in the Billboard Top 100 including several in the Top 10:  “Take Good Care of My Baby” # 1, “Devil or Angel” “Rubber Ball” “More Than I Can Say”, “Run to Him”, “The Night Has a Thousand eyes”, and “Come Back When You Grow Up”.    

As I understand, he was one of the first artists to use what we now call a video to promote a song.

Bobby Vee died in 2016.

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April 30, 1961: Willie Mays hit 4 home runs against the Braves


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As far as I’m concerned, Willie Mays is the most complete player in baseball history.   He was the ultimate 5-tool player and could do everything well.  

Mays also stayed free of injuries, unlike Mickey Mantle who battled bad knees for his entire career with the Yankees.

Willie Mays had many big games in his glorious career, specially April 30, 1961.    
Mays hit 4 home runs at the old County Stadium in Milwaukee.   He went 4 for 5 with 8 RBIs.   
The Giants beat the Braves, 14-4.     

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Saturday, April 29, 2006

We remember Duke Ellington (1899-1974)

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We remember Duke Ellington who was born in Washington DC on this day in 1899.    He died in 1974.

Duke was a jazz giant.   However, I first heard of him many years ago when my father used to listen to The Voice of America in Cuba.

Duke’s “Take the A train” was the intro-music for Willis Conover’s jazz show broadcast to the world on short wave.     
Conover broke the Iron Curtain, The Berlin Wall and came into Communist Cuba, too. 

It was a very catchy tune and millions around the world came to know Duke that way.
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Remembering "Respect" by Aretha Franklin



Image result for aretha franklin respect images(P.S.  You can listen to my show (Canto Talk).  If you like our posts, drop a dime here.)


"Respect" was released on this day in 1967 and hit # 1 by mid-June.  

Over time, "Respect" became one of the most popular records of the 1960s and a frequent addition to movie soundtracks.

The story of "Respect" is rather interesting.  It was ranked # 5 in Rolling Stone's Top 500 all time songs.

"Respect" was written by Otis Redding, another one of my favorite performers.

Click here for the song:

Winchester '73 is still a great movie







What's the test of a good movie?   In my opinion, a great movie is one that you can watch years later and still enjoy.   Or one where you pick up a few new things that you missed the first time.

"Winchester '73" is such a movie.  It stars Jimmy Stewart.   He is not "George Bailey" or the idealistic senator who goes to Washington.    He is a rough guy in this film.

It is the story of that famous rifle in the hands of several men.

Intense?  Very intense!  

You can get a copy here!


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How Duke Ellington crashed the Iron Curtain

Cuba, the Voice of America, and Duke Ellington (1899-1974 ...
In the early 1960s, my family was in Cuba.  We would often hear the news from the Spanish and English editions of The Voice of America.  

I don’t think most Americans ever understood just how significant the VOA was.  It was the only source of clean news in Spanish or English.  For example, my parents listened to President Kennedy’s Missile Crisis speech and later his funeral over the radio.
Duke Ellington was born in 1899 in Washington, D.C.  He became one of the legendary jazz figures of music history.
In the communist world, his version of “Take the A-train” was the closest to a hymn of freedom.
Every night, the opening notes of that wonderful song went over the short wave signals heard in Moscow, in Prague, and down in Cuba.  It was Willis Conover and his jazz show:
For more than 40 years, Willis Conover’s long-running “Jazz Hour” introduced millions of people in Europe and the former Soviet Union to American jazz. 
He produced jazz concerts at the White House, the Newport Jazz Festival, and for movies and television.  He was the voice of jazz around the world. 
Back here, few people knew Conover.  Over the Berlin Wall, beyond the Iron Curtain, and elsewhere, his voice and those jazz tunes brought U.S. music to people hungry for a little freedom.
So we remember Duke Ellington one more time.  He was one of the best.  I cannot help but remember listening to “Take the A-train” and all that jazz in Cuba.  
As my father said many years later, Conover brought down communism all by himself.  Probably not, but he did bring a lot of happiness and Duke Ellington to a lot of people.
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A word about April 29



April 29. Vector flat daily calendar icon. Date and time, day ...



We remember Duke Ellington who was born in Washington DC on this day in 1899.    He died in 1974.   Duke was a jazz giant.   However, I first heard of him many years ago when my father used to listen to The Voice of America in Cuba.  Duke’s “Take the A train” was the intro-music for Willis Conover’s jazz show broadcast to the world on short wave.  

We say happy birthday to Luis Aparicio who was born in Maracaibo, Venezuela, on this day in 1934.  Aparicio was inducted to The Hall of Fame in 1984.

Aretha Franklin's "Respect" was released on this day in 1967 and hit # 1 by mid-June. The story of "Respect" is rather interesting.  It was ranked # 5 in Rolling Stone's Top 500 all time songs.

We remember "Hair", the musical that opened in Broadway on this day in 1968.     The music was good but everything else did not matter to me.

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We remember Tammi Terrell (1945-1970)

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Tammi Terrell was born Thomasina Montgomery in Philadelphia on this day in 1945.  

She died in 1970.    Tammi died from complications of a brain tumor.


Along with Marvin Gaye, they were the romantic duo of Motown with hits like "Ain't no mountain high enough" and "Your precious love".

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1968: The musical "Hair" opened in Broadway

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We remember "Hair", the musical that opened in Broadway on this day in 1968.     

There were two angles to "Hair".    

The first was "political" and it did nothing for me.   It still doesn't.     

The second was the music and that was great, including "Aquarius/Let the sunshine in" by The Fifth Dimension, "Easy to be hard" by Three Dog Night and "Hair" by The Cowsills.

The music was good but everything else was not that important.

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2010: Happy anniversary Prince William & Kate






Happy anniversary to Prince William and Kate.  

Back in 2010, we hoped that their wedding would serve as a revival of marriage in Europe.    Today, we hope that their beautiful kids put having babies on the European "to do list".

Unfortunately, Europe is a very different continent than the one that saw Diana and Prince Charles get married in back in 1981.

First, "birth rates" are insufficient to maintain population: The EU's baby blues---Birth rates in the European Union are falling fast.

Why do "having babies" matter?  Babies are the future!  You can't maintain your population, and culture, without babies carrying your name, traditions and identity.

Second, marriage is also undergoing a huge crisis across the ocean: 
"Marriage is in decline across much of northern Europe, from Scandinavia to France, a pattern some sociologists describe as a "soft revolution" in European society -- a generational shift away from Old World traditions and institutions toward a greater emphasis on personal independence." (Washington Post)
Why does marriage matter?  It is the central institution in a society.  It is the foundation of the family unit.

Third, the churches are empty:  Religion takes a back seat in Western Europe.

It's sad to see how Europe has changed.

Let's hope that the royal couple puts marriage and babies back in style!

The Europeans need to rediscover religion, get married and have babies or we won't recognize the land of our grandparents.

About 10 years ago, George Weigel wrote about Europe and its demographic problems.

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Friday, April 28, 2006

We remember President Monroe (1758-1831)



We remember James Monroe who was born in Virginia on this day in 1758.  He was one our 5th president and the author of The Monroe Doctrine about European interference in the Americas.    He died in 1831.

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April 28, 1961: Warren Spahn pitched second career no-hitter

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On this day in 1961, 40-year old Warren Spahn threw his second no-hitter against a very tough Giants lineup.   

According to SABR, it was a very cold day and only 8, 518 fans showed up at County Stadium to watch the game. 

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1945: Mussolini & Clara were shot by Italian partisans

San Francisco Examiner Headlines On April 30, 1945 | Historical ...

On this day in 1945, Benito Mussolini & Clara Petacci were shot by Italian partisans.  

They tried to escape and were captured.  Eventually, their bodies were hung upside down and displayed publicly.

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April 28, 1956: Frank Robinson hit # 1 of 586 career HR

1958 Frank Robinson Team Issued Cincinnati Reds Photo

On this day in 1956, Frank Robinson hit the first of his 586 lifetime home runs.   The pitcher was the Cubs’ Paul Minner in the old Crosley Field in Cincinnati.    Frank hit 38 in 1956 and was selected NL Rookie of the Year.    
He won the NL MVP in 1961 & AL MVP in 1966.    

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The death of Cleopatra and the movie with Elizabeth Taylor


Elizabeth Taylor Cleopatra Hair And Wardrobe Test Photograph | Etsy
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We discussed the death of Cleopatra with Leslie Eastman and Barry Jacobsen.  

Of course, this is another anniversary of Elizabeth Taylor's role as Cleopatra in 1963.      Leslie has a link to a review of the movie.


I have not seen all of the Cleopatra movies but it's hard to top Elizabeth Taylor.


Click for our show:  The Battle of Actium and the Murder of Cleopatra.........click to listen........https://t.co/yPnokdz178



Tuesday, April 25, 2006

A very difficult April 1980 for President Carter

If you remember late April 1980, then you recall two huge front page stories that rocked the Carter presidency.
Second, it was Iran and the on-going story about US diplomats held hostage when the US Embassy was attacked the previous November.
On another front, President Carter approved a mission to go into Iran and rescue the hostages.
Unfortunately, he had to address the nation a few days later to tell us what went wrong.   It was a terrible morning and we heard that 8 US servicemen were killed when one of the departing helicopters collided with a AC-130 transport airplane on the ground.
It was horrible week of April and things only got worse that summer with one economic shock after another.
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We remember Conrado "Connie" Marrero (1911-2014)

Conrado "Connie" Marrero was born in Sagua La Grande, Cuba, on this day in 1911.   He died in 2014.

Marrero was born in my father's hometown.  He pitched in the majors in the 1950's with the Washington Senators.   


He was 39-40 with a 3.67 ERA & selected to the 1951 AL All Star team.  Without question, his statistics have to be seen in the context that the Senators were a very bad team.  


In other words, wonder how many games Marrero would have won with a better team?


My late father told me many stories of Marrero pitching in the old Cuban winter league.


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We remember Bobby Estalella (1911-1991)



Roberto Ventoza Estalella was born in Cardenas, Cuba, on April 25, 1911. Bobby, as he was known, made it to the majors in 1935.
Bobby played 9 years and retired with a very good .282 batting average with the old Senators (now the Twins) and the A’s.
His best seasons were 1944-45 when he  hit .298 and .299. We will never know for sure but the end of World War II probably impacted his playing career. In 1946, many American players returned and teams were under pressure to give them their old jobs back.
In 1975, Luis Tiant’s father was allowed to travel to the US to see his son Luis pitch in the World Series.    As a consequence, Luis, Sr. and Bobby met again after having been teammates in the old Cuba leagues.
Victor, his son, and grandson Robert, also played in the major leagues.
Bobby died in 1991 and is buried in Miami.
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Monday, April 24, 2006

1980: The Iran rescue mission failed

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

1960: Camilo Pascual and 15 K's on opening day


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Like many of you, I grew up trying to throw a curve ball like my idol Camilo Pascual. 
On this day in 1960, Camilo Pascual of the Washington Senators (now The Minnesota Twins) set an opening day record of 15 strike-outs.   In other words, 15 of the 27 outs were either a called strike three or swing and miss.
The opening day record still stands. Randy Johnson came close twice with 14.
From 1959 to 1965, Pascual won 100 games and led the AL in complete games and strike outs 3 times.   He retired with 176 wins and a 3.63 ERA.  
Pascual pitched for the 1965 AL champs Twins. Unfortunately, injuries limited him that season. He did start game 3 of the World Series against the Dodgers. 
On this day in 1960, Camilo’s curve ball was the talk of baseball.
PS: You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) .



We remember Ernie Pyle and "The story of G.I. Joe"


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A year ago, I wrote a post about Ernie Pyle.    You can read it here.
Not long ago, I watched a great movie:   “The story of G.I. Joe”, a tribute to Mr Pyle.  
This is from a review published in 1945:
Director William A. Wellman’s approach is starkly realistic. The documentary quality of the picture is enhanced by the frequent use of authentic Signal Corps footage of the North African and Italian campaigns, and the sparse, idiomatic dialogue.
The opening scene shows a truckload of Eighteenth Infantry greenhorns, waiting to shove off toward Faid Pass and fondling a newly acquired mascot. “Get that pooch out of here,” barks the lieutenant, “want to get him killed?” And much later, on a bleak, cold, and sodden Christmas night in the shell-pocked valley below Cassino, the captain sums up his men’s aspirations with simple eloquence: “If only we could create something good out of all this energy, all these men.”
Ernie Pyle was an unobtrusive sidelines observer, more interested in the individual doughfoot than the strategic deployment of regimental power, and his Story of G.I. Joe depicts infantry action in the terms of rain-soaked, mud-caked, and desperately tired men. They are of all types. The tough sergeant who carries a carefully wrapped record of his baby’s voice, the Brooklyn lothario who makes romantic capital out of his Italian heritage, the long-legged G.I. who was washed out as an air cadet because of his height and talks about cutting off his legs, and the taciturn captain, who understands his men better than he did his wife.
As the wandering correspondent who brings all the threads into sharp focus, Burgess Meredith plays Ernie Pyle with the same humility and spirit of camaraderie which endeared the correspondent to so many G.I.’s.
The movie is above all a tribute to the soldiers.   
Pyle was killed before the movie was released.
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Monday, April 17, 2006

God bless the men of Brigade 2506

On this day in 1961, my parents and lots of other Cubans woke up to “la invasion,” or the military operation that most of us expected and were ready for.  There were groups in Cuba who had been fighting Castro, from sabotage to confronting the regime block by block.   By the spring of 1961, a lot of the Castro magic had faded because promises about elections and reforms never happened.
The veterans of the brigade have a museum in Miami, a reminder to the young about the men who were willing to fight and remove communism from the island.
The politically correct explanation is that the invasion failed because Cubans did not rise up against Castro.  Actually, it failed because the total plan was never carried out, and the men were left stranded, as Michael Sullivan wrote:   
The invasion force, with four supply ships, landed at dawn, with a strength of 1,400 men. Initially things looked promising, American planes struck at Cuban air force bases and destroyed Cuban planes on the ground. However, the tide quickly turned on the insurgents. President Kennedy, anxious to cover up America’s role, inexplicably called off all American air support, leaving the rebels stranded on the beach. Cuban army and militia units, organized by Castro himself, swarmed the invasion site to block the rebels from gaining the interior of the island. The Cuban Air Force rallied to strafe the landing site and the supply ships moored in the bay.One ship sank and the remaining three barely made it out to sea. Without resupply or air support, the men of 2506 Assault Brigade managed to hold out for two days, until nearly all were either killed or captured by pro-Castro forces. When the smoke cleared, 114 died and 1,189 languished in Cuban prisons. There they remained for 22 months, until the Kennedy administration paid more than $50 million in food, medicine and cash for their release.The accusations flew around Washington, as well as Havana, in the aftermath of the Bay of Pigs and an administration struggled to retain its credibility.
It was a bad day, and many Cubans were thrown in jail after that.
Over the years, I have personally spoken to many of the veterans of Brigade 2506.
Like my parents, they started their new lives in the U.S., and many served in the U.S. military.  Every one of them tells me the mission would have succeeded if the plan had been carried out.
The lesson of The Bay of Pigs is simple.  Presidential weakness, and confusion, has consequences way beyond the event in question.
God bless the men of Brigade 2506.  They are heroes in my book.
PS: You can listen to my show (Canto Talk).  This is a good book about the story:



Saturday, April 15, 2006

April 15, 1947 (the day that Jackie Robinson & Dodgers changed baseball)


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On this day in 1947,  baseball changed when Jackie Robinson opened the season playing first base with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Robinson was one of the key players in those Dodgers' teams that won the NL pennant in 1947, 1949, 1952, 1953, 1955 and 1956.  The Dodgers finally beat the Yankees in the 1955 World Series.   

Robinson and his teammates spent spring training in Cuba in 1947. It gave many Cuban fans a chance to see the man that would open the door for so many players from the island.

Jackie was followed by black Cuban baseball players, from Orestes Minoso to the many others who followed.


PS: You can listen to my show (Canto Talk).  This is Ed Henry's book:





1954: Camilo Pascual made his major league debut


In the 1950's, the Washington Senators had many Cubans in their farm system.   They had a scout who looked for players in the island.

Camilo Pascual, a pitcher from Havana, Cuba, broke with the team in 1954.   He was one of those players that scout Joe Cambria found in Cuba.

It took him a few years to get going but Camilo was 17-10 in 1959 with a very good 2.64 ERA.   He also led the AL in complete games with 17 and shutouts with 6.

From 1959 to 1965, Camilo Pascual was one of the most consistent pitchers in major league baseball.  He won 109 games, completed 95 and 3 strikeout titles during those 7 seasons.   He did this despite pitching for mediocre teams in Washington and later in Minnesota.   

Unfortunately, Camilo was injured in 1965 and did not get to enjoy a full season with the Twins who lost to the Dodgers in the World Series.  He did start game 3 but lost.

In 1967, the veteran was traded to the new Washington Senators where he won 25 games over a couple of seasons.

Camilo finished his career with 174 wins and a 3.63 ERA.   He was one of the most successful Latino right handed pitchers.    Wonder how many games he would have won with a better team?

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1947: Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers



On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson broke “the color line”, or he became the first black man to put on major league uniform. He played first base that day for the Brooklyn Dodgers and went 0 for 3 at the plate.
Robinson achieved two great things in his brilliant career. 
On the field, he was one of the key players for the Dodgers who won five NL pennants and the 1955 World Series. 

In 1949, Robinson, now playing second, was the National League’s Most Valuable Player. 

In 1950, he became the Dodgers’ highest paid player ($35,000). 

In 1955, Robinson led Brooklyn to its only World Series victory. 

He retired with a .311 average, 1,518 hits, 137 HR and a .409 On Base Pct. 

It got him elected to the Hall of Fame in 1962.    
We also remember him for being the man that he was:   
Robinson stood up for equal rights even before he did so in baseball. He was arrested and court-martialed during training in the Army for refusing to move to the back of a segregated bus. He was eventually acquitted of the charges and received an honorable discharge.    
After baseball. Jackie Robinson continued working for civil rights. 

Back in 2013, in anticipation of the movie 42Michael Long wrote about Jackie Robinson’s post-baseball life: 
  
After integrating baseball, Robinson became a full-fledged leader in the civil rights movement. As a board member of the NAACP, he traveled across the country in an effort to build morale among African Americans fighting for racial justice in their local communities. 
And as a friend of Martin Luther King Jr., Robinson helped to lead civil rights campaigns in Albany (Ga.) and Birmingham. While in Albany, he was so moved by the efforts of black parishioners to register African-American voters — despite the fact that their church had been burned to the ground — that he offered to raise enough money to rebuild several torched churches.
In 1964, Robinson then founded Freedom National Bank in Harlem as a protest against white financial institutions that discriminated against African Americans by denying them loans or setting interest rates artificially high. 
And while he criticized Harlem resident Malcolm X for advocating racial separatism and the use of “any means necessary,” Robinson saved his harshest public criticism for white politicians, including Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy and Richard Nixon, when they hesitated, as they often did, to advance civil rights legislation.
These few examples of Robinson’s post-baseball life can help us begin to understand a claim he made in 1968: “I think I’ve become much more aggressive since I left baseball.” Coming from a man who stole home plate in the 1955 World Series, this claim gives us some indication of the importance he attributed to his baseball life.
What fueled Robinson’s aggression after baseball? No doubt, deadly violence against civil rights activists played a role. But if we dig a bit deeper, we can see that he was especially driven by his long-held belief that the people of God have an obligation to “set the captive free.” 
Thanks to religious mentors, especially his mother Mallie, Robinson embraced a social gospel that called for freedom and justice right here and right now.
My last recollection of Jackie Robinson was during the 1972 World Series. He was honored on the 25th anniversary of his first game with the Dodgers. He looked weak, spoke very softly and died a few weeks later.
Jackie Robinson was consequential stealing home and in everything else that we remember today. A great American of the 20th century!
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