By John Kass
September 29, 2022
Professor Charles Lipson joined Jeff Carlin and me on our podcast, the Chicago Way. He didn’t intend to launch me on a baseball column with his story about hot buttered “throwed” rolls, and I didn’t see it coming either.
It snuck up on me.
But I do hope you listen to the podcast, by clicking on the link provided, like the one at the photo above. Just listen. You’ll hear the seeds planted in those “throwed” rolls that grew into a column that grew up and away from me, like the vine from “Jack and the Beanstalk” although there are no giants that need slaying.
And yes, we talked about our favorite places for spicy shrimp and grits, and Freedom of Speech under assault on college campuses, did we also talk movies?
We must’ve. We finished the Lipson podcast around nine on Tuesday and then I stayed up all night working on Wednesday’s column for johnkassnews.com but I think we also talked a little politics. Lipson, the Peter B. Ritzma professor of Political Science Emeritus at the University of Chicago, has spent his lifetime studying politics.
And the critical mid-term elections that will decide control of Congress are just 40 days away. And Gov. J. B. Pritzker is slugging it out with conservative radio host Dan Proft over Pritzker’s controversial and dangerous bow to the hard left in Illinois, the “Safe-T Act.”
Pritzker is a fool.
Lipson sees the fault lines tearing the country apart and hopes for the rise of civic nationalism in our discourse. The media jumps to cover Hurricane Ian and ignore the border chaos and the fentanyl deaths.
Democrats are none too happy about President Joe Biden seeking another term, American news media is lockstep against newly elected Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, a conservative who has become the latest object of American journalism’s Orwellian Two Minutes Hate.
And Charles offered a prediction, reading from one of his own tweets that he billed, rather modestly, as a ‘sure-fire prediction.’
“This is a sure-fire prediction, the national media will watch (Fla. Gov Ron) DeSantis’ response to the hurricane with a microscope, looking for any flaws to the emergency or rebuilding effort. The mainstream media consider DeSantis a top contender for 2024, so sinking him is a high priority.”
Lipson does love his grits. And he’s fond of another restaurant when he drives back home to Mississippi, a place of immense hospitality where they throw rolls at you rather than place them at your setting.
It’s in Missouri and these are St. Louis Cardinal fans. And baseball, including the playing of defensive baseball and knowing about what do to with your glove, has always been a big deal to Cardinal fans.
On the podcast, Liposon told a story about a toddler snatching a “throwed” roll out of the air. As Charles spoke, I couldn’t help thinking of baseball fiction writers who should have been sitting with us in that café, eating grits and watching the rolls get “throwed.”
We’d have sat with John R. Tunis novel of Brooklyn Dodger mythology (The Kid from Tomkinsville) to Mark Harris and his story of the eccentric beanpole lefty Henry Wiggen (The Southpaw) to David Carkeet, who wrote an intriguing novel of a team of mentally ill ballplayers in a pennant race (The Greatest Slump of All Time) with each team member exhibiting various illnesses that you’d might read about in “Psychology Today.”
Why the baseball writers? I can’t say. Perhaps that’s the kind of thing that happens to some of us when we talk to friends we respect. Conversation takes you places you don’t intend to go. Just look what it’s done to a rather straightforward column about a podcast. Now I’m thinking of barbeque at Thelma’s in Houston in 2005 before the White Sox’ big game.
Once I remember that Lipson, Jeff Carlin and I somehow got talking about Raymond Chandler and the fat man Sidney Greenstreet and his gunsel, Wilmer. Or that story of my father’s white Missouri mule.
And that’s why Jeff and I like having Charles Lipson on the Chicago Way. Not for Sidney Greenstreet per se, though it was interesting, but because with Lipson around anything can happen.
We hope you listen to the Chicago Way and tell your friends and family about the podcast and have them listen, too. We’ll always keep it free.
About baseball. I don’t know if the baseball fiction writers I mentioned are living or dead, now. Tunis can’t be alive. He was impossibly old before I was born when the Dodgers hated the Giants. Oh, I just checked. Tunis is gone.
But they were alive once. And when you read them, Henry Wiggen’s incredible awkwardness for example, or Roy Tucker hurting his pitching elbow in the shower and learning how to play the outfield, they live again.
I’m really not a baseball fan anymore. The juicers killed it for me and my sons looking up at the juicers killed it forever. The sportswriters rolling over didn’t help.
I keep baseball in a locked drawer now. It remains frozen in fiction as if it were amber of ancient days. I leave it there. But then, something happens whether I intended or not, and I happen to take it out of the drawer to initially appreciate the small subtleties of the game.
Cool nights. The lights. You can see the vapors of their breath on the infield. Somewhere there’s Steve Bartman and my sin of how I treated that noble man that terrible night. Somewhere there’s Paulie Konerko, arms out like an airplane in 2005, the ball gone, Paulie making that turn at first for the home run trot.
Somewhere there’s Roy Tucker in a pennant race, the fans mocking the Giants, shouting, “Is Brooklyn…still…in the…league?”
And baseball comes alive for me every October, the way politics comes alive 40 days before the mid-term, men playng a child’s game for all the marbles, although, really, who ever played with marbles?
Nothing against marble playing. I just don’t see the thrill.
But whether you admit it or not, while catching a throwed roll, slapping butter on it and wolfing it down, or imagining that you and the great University of Chicago professor Charles Lipson are sitting around telling tall tales, eating spicy shrimp and grits with imaginary baseball writers, or lamenting the absence of the great Vin Scully the one thing for certain is the truth that every kid knows:
That lie about tomorrow. There really is no tomorrow.
And it all comes down to this.
(Copyright 2022 John Kass)