Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Earning Fame

If you work hard, good things will happen.
~ Tony Gwynn

I had waited many years for July 29, 2007. When it finally arrived, I was driving 100 miles through Pennsylvania farmland, catching a cross-country plane, suffering through a weather-delayed connection, and totally missing the historic moment I had so long anticipated.

On Sunday, July 29, 2007, my all-time favorite baseball player, Anthony Keith Gwynn, was inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. As Tony said when he got the phone call, “Validation.”

Tony Gwynn is my sports hero for a multitude of reasons. He played outstanding baseball with stunning consistency for 20 years. His five Gold Glove awards were the least of the opposing team's problems. Tony’s 3,141 career hits speak for themselves, proclaiming his untouchable supremacy at bat. He struck out only 434 times in 9,288 career at-bats. When Tony came to the plate in a clutch situation, San Diego fans relaxed. We had faith he would get the job done.

A Padre fan’s delight was to watch the opposing team scramble around the field, hand signaling each other and whispering behind raised gloves, when Tony walked to the plate. Frequently, there was the obligatory catcher’s trot out to the mound, to steady the unfortunate pitcher who had to face baseball’s best hitter.

"All I know is how I felt when Gwynn came up with a man on second," said Jason Schmidt, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher. "And if there was a man on third? Forget it. Run scores."

The air in the stadium would hum with anticipation. A workhorse contact hitter that made the most of any opportunity, Tony was a fielder’s worst nightmare. “You just hope he hits it straight at you,” said Larry Walker, two-time National League batting champion.

But when he hit it into the hole, as he usually did, Tony made the whole city stand up and cheer. As the television commercial says, “Priceless.”

Tony hit a rare home run at Yankee Stadium during the 1998 World Series, but the Padres lost the game. “I would rather have had the win,” Tony said afterwards. The Padres were crushed in that series by the ‘90s powerhouse Yanks, but even New Yorkers acknowledged that Tony Gwynn was something special.

There are many baseball stars with more spectacular careers than Tony Gwynn, but none who can surpass his quiet integrity, both as a player and as a person. Resisting the seductive pull of wealth and celebrity, Tony stolidly placed home, family, and community above the astronomical salaries he could have commanded in bigger markets. He played for the San Diego Padres throughout his entire professional baseball career, earning the moniker “Mr. Padre” and, with it, the enduring love and loyalty of his city. In a pre-induction interview, Tony said "when you're identified with one club and one city, it doesn't get any better than that."

The charity work of Tony Gwynn and his wife within the San Diego community has been local legend for decades, although it’s difficult to get all the details. Being the true class act that he is, Tony doesn’t advertise his contributions.

Today, Tony Gwynn coaches baseball at San Diego State University, his alma mater. Just as he did when he was one of the game’s superstars, he stops to give autographs with a smile. He never allowed himself to be impressed by his achievements; he just kept demanding more of himself. In doing so, he set a gold standard for young ballplayers wise enough to learn from his example.

His lesson is simple, but not easy. Keep your eye on the ball, in life and in baseball. Work hard, and good things will happen.

Tony Gwynn, Hall of Famer. For this baseball fan, it doesn’t get any better than that.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Summer Freedom

We are fighting bin Laden's al Qaida in Iraq; Iraq is central to the war on terror; and against this enemy, America can accept nothing less than complete victory.
~ George W. Bush, 7/24/07

Summer's the season for taking long weekends, so I'll be out of pocket again for a few days.

President Bush gave a good speech today at Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina. I hope he gives many more like it. I wish he had started doing this in 2003, and I'll never understand why he hasn't done so. But, better late than never.

Al Qaida is proud of wrecking plenty of vacation plans in the worst possible way. So while we're enjoying our summer vacations, let's keep in mind the sacrifices of our troops in the Middle East, who make our normal everyday lives possible.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Progress Unsung

You won't see this on CNN, but it's worth linking.

More good news from Iraq can be found here.

As I heard Mark Steyn put it during an interview, eventually "people wake up to" who is actually doing the killing. As Iraqi citizens, its law enforcement and new soldiers, and the U.S. military already know, Al Qaeda is the enemy. Significant progress is finally being achieved against them.

If only we could figure out a way to explain that to Congress and the MSM.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Where Are the Headlines?

One Marine's View has this very positive report. It's not something we'll ever see on the nightly news, or read in the morning paper. Hearing it from the Democratic Congress is even more of a fantasy. Harry Reid just pulled the plug on a troop pay raise, so we know for sure he's not too interested in the troops' progress.

On his show today, Hugh Hewitt interviewed Gen. David Petraeus for over a half hour. It was fascinating to listen to the general's direct and informative answers. I'm grateful to have heard this, because it's information I never would have received otherwise. Is there not a single MSM anchor interested in talking with the war's commander? Evidently not.

Since that's the case, the troops need to make their own news. Vets for Freedom has been very busy promoting the troops' mission on Capitol Hill. That's our U.S. military, just getting the job done, with or without the headlines.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Give Me a "C"

I’ve been digesting various reactions to Pope Benedict’s pronouncement on the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church, and I knew they would generate a post once I gathered enough data.

With the receipt of this link to Mark Alexander’s “Catholic v. catholic?” today, I’m good to go.

It is astonishing, the depth of ignorance (and often, bigotry) displayed by critics of the Catholic faith. Even those who are undoubtedly highly educated, scholarly, devout religious people get so many of the facts wrong that it’s hard to know where to begin addressing them.

It’s no surprise that Benedict’s firm position on Catholicism would upset the ecumenical applecart. In view of the angst-filled reaction to the Pope’s temerity in stating he actually believes that his religion is correct, it seems that all Christian denominations will no longer be singing the same verse of “Kumbaya” around the theological campfire.

That’s a good thing. There are differences between Catholicism and Protestantism, and Pope Benedict is courageous enough to state that fact plainly. It's not meant as personal criticism to our brethren in Christ, but rather an indication that it's time for Christians to stop nodding and smiling at each other, with no real progress towards cohesiveness, and to start talking and working together towards the one unified Church that Jesus Christ envisioned.

I, for one, am relieved and happy. For many years, the Catholic Church has been drifting ever more deeply into the sea of change, to the point that I was sometimes queasy. Benedict has drawn a bold line against the sands of that shifting sea. My Church is back ashore, and with a winner's attitude. From his heavenly box seat, St. Paul must be smiling.

Why should Catholics be expected to apologize for our faith? Absolutely no reason. Yet this outrageous demand has been pressed upon our Church by the modern world (as Christ predicted it would be). We must “respect” Islam, no matter what atrocities it supports. But the Catholic Church is “divisive” simply because it publicly asserts the tenets of its faith?

The Catholic Church is not “divisive.” It is different. It distinguishes itself from other Christian denominations in many significant ways. Pope Benedict XVI can trace his lineage all the way back to Peter the Apostle, under Christ’s authority. Not under Henry VIII’s authority, not Martin Luther’s, not John Calvin’s—under Jesus Christ's authority.

You know. Our Lord.

Hence, this Christian will stick with the pope and his Catholic Church. He's got the best backing. Think about it; the Catholic Church did not endure through two millennia, and grow to over one billion members, because it is fatally flawed.

Another dramatic difference from other Christian denominations is our belief in transubstantiation, the miracle of the Mass. At consecration, the bread and wine are transformed into the Holy Eucharist. For Catholics, this is the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ. The Eucharist was not meant to be “symbolic,” as more than one Protestant cleric has argued with me. Read what Our Lord actually says in the Gospel retellings of the Last Supper. The words are simple and easy to understand. He clearly states that the divine transformation of bread and wine is the real deal—His own body and blood.

Call us crazy, but we Catholics take Our Lord at His word.

Alexander’s article contained a wealth of errors and misinterpretations. It would take many posts to address all of them, so I’ll chose two of the most glaring: Papal authority and the seven sacraments (which are: Baptism, Confirmation, Sacrament of Reconciliation, Holy Eucharist, Sacrament of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony). These are hardly “false doctrine.” All are directly traceable to the words of Jesus Christ as recorded in the Gospels.

As for devotion to Mary, I would ask my Protestant friends this question: Where would the catholic Church be without her?

I could expand indefinitely on this topic of Benedict's reinvigoration of our Church. It is a subject of endless fascination to me. I haven’t even touched upon the announced return of the Tridentine Mass, which has me singing “Tantum Ergo” in joy and counting the days until September 14.

Meanwhile, I say “Go, Benedict!” Thanks for reminding us, and encouraging us to be excited, that we’re Catholic. With an upper case C.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Weekend Reading

I'm going to be offline for a few days, so I thought I should post something with plenty of heft and food for thought. The brutally logical and insightful dissection of the New York Times' disgraceful editorial (HT:HH) by--who else?--Victor Davis Hanson, should suffice. It's lengthy, yet without a wasted word.

If you'd like to go further, this grim analysis by James Jay Carafano compacts the same message bluntly and succinctly.

Michael Yon's Iraq reporting is always valuable reading. It's shameful that none of his gritty news makes the MSM cut. That's probably because he highlights our military progress and successes rather than the setbacks and failures.

Whenever I'd like to finish a stretch of sober reading with a chuckle, Mark Steyn's byline is the place to go.

Happy weekend, all.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Unschooled, Easily Fooled

Victor Davis Hanson nails it again in this article. It is a cogent explanation of how our current political troubles are more easily understood if we realize that there are a lot of ignorant people running the show these days.

I've listened to morning talk shows hosts, college graduates, who said they had never heard of such historical realities as the Bataan Death March or poet John Donne. This lack in their education didn't seem to perturb them, either. (I had to stop listening to that show, it was bad for my blood pressure.)

Celebrities hold concerts to preserve the planet's ecology, yet expend mind-boggling amounts of gas to fly there in private jets and more to fuel the lights and sound systems. I don't know about the sea levels, but critical thinking certainly is at a low ebb.

Today, Sen. Joe Biden stated in all seriousness that "epiphanies" are "Christian things," not an experience a Muslim would have. Biden is happily clueless that the word has other meanings besides the Christmas time holiday celebrating the Magi's visit to the Christ child.

Epiphany, with a lower case "e," is derived from the Greek word meaning "appearance." It means a showing or a manifestation, especially of divinity. Any human being, regardless of religious persuasion, can have an epiphany. Even Joe Biden.

I wonder if there's anyone on Capitol Hill who might be able to explain that to him?

Monday, July 09, 2007

A Call To Action

I received a couple of e-mails today from Vets for Freedom. These military heroes are concerned that Congress, perhaps even the White House, is about to sell out our troops with premature demands for withdrawal.

So am I.

It's difficult to realize that this is the same country that never wavered in its support for our troops throughout the hundreds of thousands of casualites during World War II (different sources provide varying numbers; the lowest recording is 291,000+ killed). The U.S. lost over 5,000 troops in a few hours on D-Day alone. Can you imagine any member of Congress standing up after that grim report to announce a discussion to withdraw the troops?

Our military men and women deserve the trust, respect, and consideration they have earned with their hard work, blood, and tears. The vast majority of the troops believe in what they are doing. In spite of coming elections, why can't Congress believe in them? In view of what our troops are enduring for us at present, it seems a small thing for a pampered politician to do. Especially when so much, for both America and the Middle East, is at stake for the future.

One of the e-mails from Vets was entitled "A Call to Action" and listed specific steps veterans and citizens alike can take, one of which is calling ten wobbly Republican senators--their names and numbers are listed. I encourage all to visit the Vets for Freedom website to learn how each of us can truly support our troops.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Living Free on Independence Day

Each year, in honor of my personal 4th of July tradition, I go to a movie on Independence Day. This year, I saw "Live Free or Die Hard," for a few reasons.

First of all, I saw the original (far superior) "Die Hard" movie on this same day in 1988. Secondly, it stars one of my favorite actors, Bruce Willis, who for the fourth time is portraying the hapless yet indestructible John McClane. And lastly, the plot (such as it is) deals with a terrorist attack against the communications and infrastructures of the United States.

This last aspect is a chilling scenario that we don't think about often enough. Just consider for a moment how paralyzed our civilization would be without the computerized technology we now view as mundane as a cup of morning coffee. To suddenly lose connections with our cell phones, blackberries, computers--and traffic lights--would indeed cause the immediate and universal panic in the streets depicted.

Of course, Hollywood still doesn't have the stones to portray Islamic terrorists as the bad guys. Oh no, these are American terrorists, whose ringleader is an arrogant former DoD computer brain who took umbrage when the government wouldn't listen to his warnings about the vulnerabilities of our security systems. Now, he's going to teach the country a lesson.

Sure, it could happen. So could world peace, but don't hold your breath.

All that aside, the film features the spectacular pyrotechnic overkill demanded of 21st century movies. The special effects are indeed jaw-dropping, but such flamboyance overshadows the appealing character of John McClane. Although some chuckles remain, gone is most of McClane's witty patter with the bad guys. It appears that in the 19 years ensuing since his first battle-to-the-death, gritty veteran McClane has indeed learned to "think, dammit, think!" All that high speed driving, air diving, car ramming, and assorted scenes of climbing, dangling, falling, rolling, punching--and of course, nearly endless shooting--doesn't leave too much screen time for any dialog, witty or otherwise.

In fact, poor John seems a bit weary and worn around the edges--perfectly understandable, as he has his AARP card but is still getting body slammed with alarming frequency. His 50+ age doesn't stop him from leaping to his feet, however--something I, speaking as one in his age group, found more incredible than his countless last-second escapes. Oh, he may hobble for a few frames, but rest assured that Teflon John will soon break into his next sprint to save the world. Emerging ever more tattered and bloodied from each explosion and fist fight, McClane resembles a bald, sad-eyed Terminator in desperate need of a 60,000 mile tune-up.

However, this is the "Die Hard" series, so you just have to accept that it's ridiculous and jump on to go for the thrill ride, anyway. It's always a fast-moving, fun show, and in this sequel, we learn that McClane is a Creedence fan. No wonder I've always liked the guy.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Worth Ten Thousand Words

The old media television networks revel in announcing the body counts of our soldiers, but they aren't as interested in telling us why we fight.

Read Michael Yon's June 29 report. View the photos, if your stomach is strong. Then, ask yourself why we're fighting this war. You'll get a much better answer than the nightly news would like you to have.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Lessons in Concessions...

...taught with the pithy humor that only Mark Steyn can deliver so eloquently.

If only we would learn.