Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Dad's encounter with Dick Allen

Former Major League Baseball player Dick Allen died Monday at age 78. He began his career with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1963 and, as a Black superstar in the stormy decade of civil rights, had seven sometimes tumultous seasons in the City of Brotherly Love. He then returned to Philadelphia as an aging slugger in 1975 and 1976. 

Dad says he and Allen once sat side-by-side in the back of a Lockheed L-1011 going from Philadelphia to Los Angeles. It would have been 1980 or 1981. 

They had a few drinks and Dad "tried to talk about everything but baseball." Allen had a lifelong love of horses and owned a horse ranch, which was one topic of discussion. 

"Great player. Great person," Dad says.

Despite having the necessary credentials, Dick Allen is still not a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. 

Andrew B. Distler wrote a great piece about Allen for The Undefeated in September. An excerpt:
"Allen is among the most famous of the 'second wave' of Black MLB players who became stars in the 1960s and ’70s. These players came of age watching Black stars such as Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. Some, including Allen, had grown up in integrated towns. Yet they were expected to abide by a double standard. Though the league was integrated, Black players were expected to be quiet, humble and grateful that they were allowed to play professional baseball. ...

"Allen was anything but quiet. He spent his career defiantly rejecting the role of 'grateful Black player.' He demanded a higher salary to match his immense talent and didn’t bother to cozy up to sportswriters. He famously fought with a white teammate who had hurled a racial slur — and ended up being blamed for the altercation himself, enduring death threats in the aftermath.

"While Allen’s statistics match those of many white players in the Hall, his reputation as a troublemaker — the stereotypical 'angry Black man' — derailed his chances."

If Allen eventually is enshrined in Cooperstown, it's a terrible shame that it will have happened after he could have attended the event.

Allen's No. 15 was retired by the Phillies in September.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Postcard of former school house in Avis, Pennsylvania

What a building! Every time I see a postcard or photo of an old school of this type, I think of the building that's described so perfectly (and forbodingly) in Dan Simmons' 1991 horror novel Summer of Night

The front of the postcard indicates that this is the School House in Avis, Pa. If you look closely, two numbers have been written on the building. Under the photograph, the handwriting states: "(1. my room before noon) (2. my room afternoon) L.B.B."

Avis is a tiny borough in northcentral Pennsylvania, about 18 miles west of Williamsport. Its population took a big jump in the 1960s and has been steadily around 1,500 for the past three decades. 

This postcard was mailed from Avis to Mrs. L.E. Campbell in the logging town of Cross Fork sometime in the 1910s.

The cursive message states:
Dear Mrs. C. — Suppose you will be surprised to hear I have another position as Grammar Grade Teacher here. Like it first class, yet the offer was a surprise have 40 pupils of my own and in afternoon have part of the High School students in my care. Don't know how long I'll have to stay the regular teacher has a broken arm, may be here 3 wks, maybe 3 mo, Write me a long letter soon, Love to all.
Your friend
Leah, Avis, Pa.

So, Leah is L.B.B., but that's the extent of what we know of her name. Surely that won't be enough to indentify this substitute teacher of a century ago. Too bad. 

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Semi-psychedelic book cover: "Gather in the Hall of the Planets"

  • Title: Gather in the Hall of the Planets
  • Author: K.M. O'Donnell (a pen name for Barry N. Malzberg)
  • Groovy cover illustrator who is 90% of the reason for this post: Jack Gaughan (1930-1985)
  • Publisher: Ace Books (Ace Double 27415, paired with O'Donnell's In the Pocket and Other S-F Stories on the flipside)
  • Cover price: 75 cents
  • Year: 1971
  • Pages: 121 (the flipside novel is 132 pages, followed by 3 pages of advertisements)
  • Format: Paperback
  • Title page secondary text: "Being a novelized version of the remarkable interplanetary events that took place at the World Science Fiction Convention of 1974."
  • Dedication: For Donald A. Wollheim
  • First sentence: In the August night, three aliens come to Kvass and sit to converse with him.
  • Last sentence: Considering the way that things were going his career when the whole goddamned thing broke open over him, this is probably for the very best.
  • Random passage from the middle: "Hey, Marcus, would you notice if there seem to be any aliens around the convention? People who don't seem quite human, that is to say; people a little bit out of the ordinary."
  • Random long sentence from the middle: "Katie Elizabeth Templeton is gathering strength and force; Katie Elizabeth Templeton is reaching deep into her history to emerge with a stinging left hook that is somehow intrinsic to her quest for human relationships and Kvass, succumbing once again to his feeling of detachment (but with a good overlay of panic as well; he recognizes at least three of the editors to whom Katie has been talking; he needs these markets), floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee, slips the hook and a following jab and, discovering a small space between bodies to his left, runs to daylight."
  • Amazon review excerpt: In 2015, Timo Pietila wrote: "An alien visits an almost-past-his-prime science fiction author and tells him that one of the visitors of the upcoming Worldcon is an alien in disguise. He is supposed to find out who the imposter is, or humanity is doomed as the aliens will then destroy humanity as unworthy. The alien is supposed to be someone he knows very well. Unfortunately, most people he meets at the Worldcon are pretty strange – but they are being their normal selves. How will it be possible to find the alien? Or since his career is nothing really spectacular, should he even bother? Why should he even care about humanity? A very cynical book with a cynical protagonist and cynical outlook towards fandom. The author seems to hate fandom and conventions and lets it show."
  • Excerpt from Rich Horton's Strange at Ecbatan blog: "The bulk of the action takes place at the Worldcon. Naturally a big part of the joke is that SF fans and writers are strange enough that there is no way you can tell if one of them is an alien. ... Besides Kvass's search for the alien, there are passages describing rather cynically a typical convention, with annoying fans, sex-mad quasi-groupies, and drunk pros. There are what seem to be portrayals of a few well-known SF figures: A. E. van Vogt, Sam Moskowitz, Fred Pohl, Damon Knight, John Campbell, and probably others I missed." ... Check out Horton's full post for other interesting thoughts on Malzberg's bibliography.