Sunday, June 30, 2024

Great Newspaper Reads: Eddie Murphy makes #2 on my list of favorite Saturday Night Live players

In honor of Eddie Murphy’s upcoming Netflix movie Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F, The New York Times makes him this subject of The Interview this weekend.

Here are the highlights:

  • When Murphy joined Saturday Night Live in 1980, the show was thought to be on the verge of cancellation. His memorable characters like Mr. Robinson, Gumby, Mr. White, Buckwheat, and James Brown contributed significantly to making me a life-long SNL fan.
  • Murphy knew around age 13 or 14 that he would become famous.
  • 1987’s Eddie Murphy: Raw remains the top-grossing standup-comedy movie ever.
  • His look in that movie and also what he wore everywhere around that time was influenced by Elvis.
  • He met Richard Pryor on a plane and gave him a cassette of his first album. Sitting a few rows away, he could see the back of Pryor’s head and that he was laughing. “I could have died right there,” he says.
  • Murphy says he’s never seen a better comic than Pryor or a better actor than Charlie Chaplin.
  • Most people likely know him from his movies, although SNL is by far his high water mark for me. That said, Beverly Hills Cop and 48 Hrs. are classic comedies. 
  • After 48 Hrs., Marlon Brando called to see if Murphy would have dinner with him. Brando told him acting was bullshit and that anyone could do it, naming “that kid” Clint Eastwood - one of my all-time favorites - as someone he couldn’t stand.
  • He doesn’t drink and he turned down participating when Robin Williams and John Belushi would hang out with him while doing coke. Murphy said he smoked weed but not that much and not until his first time at age 30.
  • He thought there was plenty of racism directed against him over the years. One that he points out in the interview is when David Spade made a reference on SNL to Murphy’s career being in free fall. Murphy said hearing that from his own people at the show was a cheap shot and somewhat racist. That said, he’s cool these days with Spade and SNL mastermind Loren Michaels.
  • He calls Pluto Nash his worst movie.
  • He describes himself as so out of touch these days that he can’t even name a single Taylor Swift song.
  • His ideal day sounds a lot like mine: sit around and not do much other than play guitar and hear the kids somewhere playing around. 
Not an easy task, but I'll add my all-time 10 favorite SNL cast members (not based on what else they have done in the careers, just based off their SNL output):

10. Gilda Radner
09. Mike Myers
08. Will Ferrell
07. Steve Martin (regular guest)
06. Adam Sandler
05. Bill Murray
04. Martin Short
03. Chevy Chase (with just one season!)
02. Eddie Murphy
01. Chris Farley

Saturday, June 29, 2024

Cahokia, Illinois is a key example to how robust life was in the Americas long before Christopher Columbus

The Americas prior to Christopher Columbus were far from the untouched wilderness we have long been taught in school. They were instead a complex environment that worked because of the interplay between humans and natural forces, as I noted in my recent article about historian Charles C. Mann’s book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus.

I was particularly interested to get back to the section about Cahokia, which is now present day in Illinois just down the highway from where I grew up in Edwardsville and practically in the shadow of the St. Louis Arch (see these photos from my most recent visit to Cahokia).

I would have liked Mann to include more about Cahokia. But he colors in a bit of the amazing story of the Cahokia tribe of the Illiniwek people. Here are some of his highlights:

  • Anyone traveling up the Mississippi River in 1180 would’ve seen the 120 "Cahokia mounds" looming in the distance. 
  • Monks Mound was (and still is) the largest of the mounds and is the largest man-made mound ever built in the United States. Its base is larger than both the Pyramid of the Sun in Mexico and the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.
  • With about 15,000 people, Cahokia was the largest concentration of people north of the Rio Grande. It was also really the only city - period - north of the Rio Grande. The population at the time was comparable in size to London, which, if you think about it, is kind of astounding.
  • It had few specialized craft workers and no middle-class merchants. The inhabitants really knew nothing about how cities worked so they had to invent everything for themselves as they progressed.
  • Much at the heart of Mann's thesis is that Cahokia's mounds weren’t always thought to be Native American. In the 19th century, various scholars believed them to be Chinese, Welsh, Phoenician, or others. In fact, there was very little serious study at all about Cahokia until the 1960s. 
  • Since then, there has been a flood and we have learned a lot, including the 270 bodies that have been found, with all of the burials occurring between 1000 and 1200, including overwhelming evidence of sacrifical burials. Mann notes that about 50 women appear to have been buried alive.
  • What eventually killed Cahokia's earliest society was the agricultural runoff created by their maize production, which got into Cahokia Creek and other waterways nearby. Cahokia's leaders were so focused on keeping a strong hold over their people that they didn’t pay enough attention to external environmental factors. 
  • By 1350, there was almost no one left. Never again would be that large of a Native American community be established north of Mexico.

Thursday, June 27, 2024

The right way and the wrong way to bring Girl Power

I just watched two very different, I suppose you could call them, "girl power" movies - one whose role in history played a major role in the advancement of women and is excellent and the other that played no role in the advancement of women and arguably almost brings them stooping down to the level of the male part of the species.

Before there was Barbie, there was Greta Gerwig's 2019 adaptation of Little Women. Based on the classic novel published in 1868 by Louisa Mae Alcott (I'm just realizing that somehow I've never read any of her other works), at first glance, this remake might seem unnecessary since the 1994 version starring Winona Ryder was so excellent.

But along with Gerwig as an awesome director who creatively plays with the story's timeline, the six-time-Oscar-nominated movie is essential because of the cast. Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet are clearly among the top talents in Hollywood today, likeably playing the roles earlier perfected by Ryder and Christian Bale. When Meryl Streep, Emma Stone, Laura Dern, Bob Odenkirk, and Florence Pugh are relegated to supporting actors, you know a film might be great. 

Little Women is set just after the Civil War, as young people finally get the chance to throw out some of their worries and focus on good times. This means, for most young women, falling in love with a suitable future husband. But Jo, played by Ronan, is conflicted about this and is committed to being alone and chasing her dream of being a novelist. The movie's release was delayed by the Covid pandemic, which ironically must have felt a lot like the time during the Civil War for young people in stunting their development.

5 out of 5 stars

Now we fall to the other end. Other than the cool ending that reveals who the new Charlie is (the old one has passed away), Charlie’s Angels: The IMAX 2-D Experience, also from 2019, is a high-glitz, low-intelligence stinker. I suppose a case could be made for the Elizabeth Banks-directed production as eye-candy entertainment, but life is a little too short. How the otherwise wise-decision-making Kristen Stewart got attached to this as one of the Angels is what offers the true suspense. Yuck. 

1.5 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Thurston Moore's autobiography surprisingly leaves too much off the table

I'm a big reader of rock-music books, and it's not that often that I find a rock bio about (and especially by) one of my favorite artists that I don't end up finding all that compelling. That has happened with Sonic Life: A Memoir, by Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth.

It's not that Moore didn't put his heart and soul into the book, which is a big one, but he really devotes it to the sounds and bands that influenced him throughout his life. I, on the other hand, was excited about reading it because I actually wanted to learn about his life and his awesome band (which I only got to see once, when they blew my brains out - in a great way, on the Rather Ripped tour - in Dallas).

The interesting stuff I gleaned from his book before abandoning it about a quarter of the way through:
  • Moore was not named after anyone from Gilligan’s Island. It was a family name and the future rock star was born in south Florida, where he lived his first decade before later becoming an icon of New York City along the likes of Lou Reed and The Ramones. 
  • Five-year-old Thurston heard his older brother’s single for “Louie, Louie” and loved it. Up until that point, nothing was played on the stereo in his family's house other than classical music. After that, his brother had a guitar that no amount of padlocks or other blockades could keep Thurston away from.
  • At 16, he heard Iggy Pop and the Stooges and wanted to get Iggy’s haircut. He started taking the 90-minute train ride from his hometown of Bethel, Connecticut to see bands in New York City. 
  • Thurston loved David Bowie, Roxy Music, and Sweet, unlike most kids around him who loved bands like Yes, Boston, and the Allman Brothers. His dad even worried about his sexuality because of all his glam-rock posters. 
  • After high school, his dad unexpectedly slipped into a coma and died.
  • Thurston went off to college, but once he realized that he wasn’t very good at writing gonzo articles about music in the school paper - and the only thing he enjoyed about the whole university experience was smoking cigarettes in the classrooms - he quit. At this point, Thurston needed to stop reading and writing about rock and go down much more frequently to New York to experience it.
  • His true arrival on the NYC scene was in 1976, meaning bands like Lou Reed solo, Talking Heads, Blondie, and Television were around. He loved seeing shows at CBGB, but when Thurston and his friend Harold walked into Max’s and stumbled into a Cramps and Suicide show, he became a rock n’roll goner at that point. 
  • At a Wayne County show in 1976, Thurston met Joey Ramone. They chatted and he felt pretty comfortable around the star, helped by the fact that they were both 6’6”. On his first journey to CBGB, he and Harold were able to say hi again to Joey in the entryway and, not having enough cash to get into the $2.50 Mumps and Blondie show, were lucky enough to sneak in under the auspices of being friends of Joey. 
  • At all the gigs he was seeing, he would agree to smoke weed, do acid or mescaline, and drink alcohol, but it was never really his thing. “I preferred focus. I wanted to study every move, each gesture [of the bands].” Through music, he was looking for “transcendence, devotion, sonic love.” 
  • At 19, he was becoming pretty restless to move to the city - even though Bethel was perfectly comfortable - and devote his life to rock n’roll.
I would have liked to learn more about that life, rather than the many lives that inspired him.

3 out of 5 stars

Monday, June 24, 2024

Great Magazine Reads: First impressions don’t always matter, like when it comes to Pearl Jam

I was always much more on the side of the Nirvana/Mudhoney/Screaming Trees family tree of 1990s Seattle grunge. I flat-out didn't like Pearl Jam for a long time. But over the years, I've acquired a taste for the Hall of Famers and even learned to appreciate the band's earliest, most popular work. 

I'll likely never want to read a full book about Eddie Vedder and the gang, but the legendary rock journalist David Fricke's cover feature in the May issue of MOJO Magazine is just about the right amount I need. The article celebrates 40 years since the first Green River demos. Here are the eight most interesting things I learned and my 39 favorite Pearl Jam songs.

  • Sub Pop Records called Green River the first grunge band. Mark Arm of Mudhoney was the singer/guitarist alongside future Pearl Jammers Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament. The group had all kinds of troubles, including a tour-cancelling van breakdown, almost no audience at CBGB in New York, and broken promises from label reps. I still love a handful of their songs, including “Swallow My Pride.” Goddard and Ament were soon headed to their new band Mother Love Bone.
  • Vedder moved to Seattle from San Diego and wasn’t very appreciated for a while by the tight-knit musician scene and even his new bandmates’ other friends. 
  • Chris Cornell of Soundgarden was integral to acclimating Vedder into the scene, taking him out for beers, talking, and helping the newbie in very kind ways. Of course they would go on to collaborate on the classic “Hunger Strike” in Temple of the Dog.
  • Vedder had been born in Evanston, Illinois and took his mother’s maiden name. His parents had divorced. He sang in a bunch of failed bands but a tape of Ament and Gossard’s music landed in his hands and he wrote lyrics to it, sang over the music, and sent it to them. 
  • In 1991, Ten (named after NBA star Mookie Blaylock’s uniform number) was number 2 on the album chart for a month but could never break past Billy Ray Cyrus.
  • MOJO ranks 1996’s No Code as the band’s greatest album, which is interesting because it’s the one I didn’t have in my collection until now. It’s definitely not my favorite, although “Mankind” is one of my favorite Pearl Jam songs and sounds a lot like the music I was making in bands back then.
  • Nine young men died in a mosh pit crush at Roskilde in 2000 while Pearl Jam played “Daughter.” The band eventually decided to continue on in the spirit of hoping to find solutions to the world’s problems.
  • Vedder found the experience of making and trading bracelets with his daughter when they attended a Taylor Swift concert a lot like the long-ago days of the punk community.
And, drum roll, here are my favorite 39 Pearl Jam songs. Any suggestions for a 40th are more than welcome:

39. Present Tense (No Code, 1996)
38. Seven O’Clock (Gigaton, 2020)
37. The End (Backspacer, 2009)
36. Once (Ten, 1991)
35. Off He Goes (No Code, 1996)
34. Comes Then Goes (Gigaton, 2020)
33. Retrograde (Gagarin, 2020)
32. Upper Hand (Dark Matter, 2024)
31. I Am Mine (Riot Act, 2002)
30. Light Years (Binaural, 2000)
29. Dissident (Vs., 1993)
28. Buckle Up (Gigaton, 2020)
27. Nothingman (Vitalogy, 1994)
26. Parachutes (Pearl Jam, 2006)
25. Worldwide Suicide (Pearl Jam, 2006) 
24. Wreckage (Dark Matter, 2024)
23. Just Breathe (Backspacer, 2009)
22. The Fixer (Backspacer, 2009)
21. Something Special (Dark Matter, 2024)
20. Got Some (Backspacer, 2009)
19. Wishlist (Yield, 1998)
18. Given to Fly (Yield, 1998)
17. Sirens (Lightning Bolt, 2013)
16. Yellow Ledbetter (Jeremy single, 1992)
15. Jeremy (Ten, 1991)
14. Sometimes (No Code, 1996)
13. Black (Ten, 1991)
12. Last Kiss (Last Kiss single, 1999)
11. Breath (Singles soundtrack, 1992)
10. Rearviewmirror (Vs., 1993)
09. Crazy Mary (Sweet Relief compilation, 1993)
08. Alive (Ten, 1991)
07. Even Flow (Ten, 1991)
06. Better Man (Vitalogy, 1994)
05. Daughter (Vs., 1993)
04. Corduroy (Vitalogy, 1994)
03. Mankind (No Code, 1996)
02. Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town (Vs., 1993)
01. State of Love and Trust (Singles soundtrack, 1992)

Sunday, June 23, 2024

Unfrosted tells a lovable origin story of the Pop Tart wars

The unhealthy diets and tummy aches of the Civil War-era led a drive to culinary innovation, and by baking water and graham flour, Dr. James Caleb Jackson of New York was able to create the first breakfast cereal, Granula. 

From there, a Seventh Day Adventist in Battle Creek, Michigan named John Harvey Kellogg set about making “ready-to-eat cereals widely available at grocery stores.” Kellogg called his formula Granola. Creative, eh? By 1902 there were 40 cereal manufacturers in Battle Creek, including Grape-Nuts, Grape-Nut Flakes, Shredded Wheat, and Toasted Corn Flakes.

For more on cereal history, I highly recommend The Great American Cereal Book and also T.C. Boyle’s The Road to Wellville from 1993, which I somehow haven’t read yet.

The evolution of breakfast was on my mind when I watched Jerry Seinfeld’s new movie Untoasted - an Austin Powers-like, star-studded, rapid-fire, candy-colored comedy on Netflix. Jerry plays a Mad Man-like exec at Kellogg's in 1963 in, yes, Battle Creek who is doing battle indeed with Amy Schumer's Post to be the first to land on a pastry that will take kids' minds off always eating nothing but cereal for breakfast. Which company will get what we've come to know as Pop Tarts into the hands of the most kids?

The cast of characters is not only an endless stream of stars, but Jerry equips them with really funny material. Melissa McCarthy and Jim Gaffigan shine on the Kellogg's team, as does Hugh Grant as an extremely strange Shakespearean Tony the Tiger, Christian Slater as the head of the evil milkmen syndicate, Bill Burr as a sexually debauched President Kennedy, Mikey Day as the leader of the Snap Crackle and Pops, Kyle Dunnigan as Walter Cronkite and Johnny Carson, and John Slattery and Jon Hamm as ad men.

The movie doesn't get great reviews and, while it is a lot of eye candy to handle, I really like it and think it's the kind of thing - because its bowl is so overflowing with jokes - that might actually be good to watch a few times.

4.5 out of 5 stars

BONUS: When I recorded Avalanche on Fubo, I didn't really know what I was going to get. I thought it might be a high-school movie along the lines of Porky's or Hot Dog: The Movie. But instead it's a melodramatic disaster flick from 1978. Bad as it is, I couldn't take my eyes off it because it's a Roger Corman production, which means just off-kilter and weird enough - and bad enough - to be good. Mia Farrow attends her ex-husband Rock Hudson's ski-resort opening. Robert Forster tries to warn them that the resort is in an environmentally unstable location. They get into a three-way relationship and the whole thing is a big mess. The movie, filmed in Colorado, cost a ton to create and bombed at the box office. 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Friday, June 21, 2024

Wilco continues to play rock concerts that just can't be beat for me

I've seen quite a few Wilco concerts, and it's good to know the band still has it. Last night's show at Wolftrap in Virginia was among the best ones I've seen. I wasn't sure if they would call it in on the way to the curated gathering the band puts together every summer called Solid Sound, but instead it appeared the players were in complete synchronicity with each other, and Wolftraps's sound on the lawn was very crisp.

One way to describe what I heard is the way Glen Kotche described his instrument back in 2004's The Wilco Book (which is a fun picture book about the making of the album A Ghost Is Born):

"I think drums - percussion - can be used not only as a rhythym instrument, but also for color and texture (as in an orchestra). I think that the drum kit hasn't been explored enough outside the parameters of groove-based jazz or rock and that has an exciting future."

Kotche's drums bashed in pastiches when leader Jeff Tweedy wasn't singing, and sometimes when he was. Meanwhile, Tweedy is a masterful Jerry Garcia-type figurehead, with beautiful singing to guide the path with his own ripping guitar and the iconic lead playing of Nels Cline and Pat Sansone's Nels Cline-approaching talents as well. Bassist John Stiratt quietly plays up a strorm while holding everything together tightly.

The setlist:

  1. Misunderstood
  2. Forget the Flowers
  3. Handshake Drugs
  4. At Least That's What You Said
  5. I Am My Mother
  6. Cruel Country
  7. I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
  8. Meant to Be
  9. If I Ever Was a Child
  10. Theologians
  11. Cousin
  12. Bird Without a Tail / Base of My Skull
  13. Hummingbird
  14. Evicted
  15. Box Full of Letters
  16. I'm Always in Love
  17. Jesus, Etc.
  18. Impossible Germany
  19. Heavy Metal Drummer
  20. A Shot in the Arm
  1. California Stars (Billy Bragg & Wilco cover)
  2. Falling Apart (Right Now)
  3. Via Chicago
  4. Spiders (Kidsmoke)
"Meant to Be" and "Evicted" are great new entries into the Wilco cannon from Cousin (my 9th-favorite album of 2023). Look at all those other classic entries into the set: "Misunderstood," "Handshake Drugs," "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart," "Theologians," "Hummingbird," "Box Full of Letters," "Jesus, Etc.," "Heavy Metal Drummer," "California Stars," Via Chicago," and "Spiders (Kidsmoke)." Then there's my favorite "Impossible Germany." I fear the thought of someday making a list of my favorite Wilco songs. It will not be easy.

As if I needed more evidence on a fun night under the moon with friends before a major heat wave arrives in Washington, D.C., this show cemented Wilco/Uncle Tupelo/Son Volt as my fourth-favorite band of all time. And openers Cut Worms were also very good in a Buddy Holly-meets-Grateful-Dead-way.

5 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

We are part of Sapiens, which is just one of the multiple human species that have existed

I've started reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari, and - if you're interested in people at all - it's a gripping read with each and every paragraph. It's broken into four parts, or revolutions: cognitive, agricultural, the unification of mankind, and scientific. My multi-part overview begins with Part 1 on the start of The Cognitive Revolution.

Harari's timeline at the beginning includes the most crucial of stats and puts everything nicely in context. That was what was missing in another history of humankind I recently read, A Little History of the World, by E.H. Gombrich. (Side conversation: If you’re looking for a chronological human history, Gombrich's book is a little all over the place and probably not for you. That said, his humor - and the narrator in the audiobook is very good too - is really well worth the read all by itself.) 

Back to Harari:

  • Matter and energy appeared 13.5 billion years ago - the world of physics beginning about 300,000 years later with the Big Bang. The world of chemistry began with atoms and molecules interacting.
  • Earth was formed 4.5 billion years ago. Then, about 3.8 billion years ago, the world of biology started when molecules formed organisms.
  • Fast forward to 6 million years ago, when humans and chimpanzees shared the last of their immediate relatives.
  • The genus Homo - species that evolve from a common ancestor and which are very closely related to modern humans (Homo Sapien self gratuitously means wise man) - evolved in Africa and invented the first stone tools 2.5 million years ago.
  • Humans spread from Africa to Eurasia 2 million years ago.
  • Neanderthals evolved in Europe and the Middle East 500,000 years ago.
  • After an astoudingly long time continuing to exist and evolve in the cold, fire was invented and being used daily 200,000 years ago.
Harari's narrative begins 70,000 years ago with "The Cognitive Revolution," with this being essentially the start of our history, language emerging, and Sapiens finally spreading beyond Africa (long after other types of human species did). They settled in Australia 45,000 years ago, alongside the extinction of that continent's megafauna. Neanderthals became extinct 30,000 years ago. Sapiens setted America 16,000 years ago as American megafauna went extinct. 

From about 2 million years ago to 10,000 years ago, there were several different human species roaming the world. It wasn’t exactly like the posters we see of apes slowly progressing into modern humans. It was just like how today there are many species of dogs, foxes, bears, and pigs. Someday there very likely could be multiple human species on Earth as well.

If you traveled back 150,000 years ago, most scientists agree there were humans walking around East Africa that looked pretty much like us today. 70,000 years ago they started spreading through Eurasia. There are differing theories, but it seems most likely that Sapiens somehow killed off Neanderthals and everyone alive today harkens back to that original Sapien species from East Africa. This species made its way from Africa to Europe and Asia then to Australia and North America and finally to South America. There is some evidence and ongoing research to determine if Neanderthals weren’t completely killed off but actually merged with Sapiens and still exist in some small percentages to this day.

Homo Sapiens have long viewed ourselves "as set apart from animals. But that's just not the case. Like it or not, we are members of a large and particularly noisy family called the great apes. Our closest living relatives include chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans. The chimpanzees are the closest. Just 6 million years ago, a single female ape had two daughters. One became the ancestor of all chimpanzees, the other is our own grandmother."

Humans have paid dearly for our many advantages. While being upright is nice because we can scan the landscape for threats and use our hands for things like throwing rocks at those threats, it is not easy to carry upright our heavy brains. These big-head-causing brains also have made it so we need to be born premature for mothers to survive childbirth, which is why it takes us a much longer time than animal babies, which typically start walking, eating on their own, and doing other mature things much faster than humans. 

The human place in the food chain, until recently, was right in the middle. We only jumped to the top about 100,000 years ago. While species like sharks and lions evolved over a much longer period of time to rule the food chain, humans ascended quickly, which made us “full of fears and anxieties over our position, which makes us doubly cruel and dangerous.”

Fire was huge for us to because we could chew and digest our cooked food in an hour or so while chimps would take about five hours to do the same thing with raw foods. Cooking is believed to have “opened the way to the jumbo brains of Neanderthals and Sapiens.”

RIP Willie Mays

I didn’t go baseball crazy until the late 1970s, so I missed all the hoopla by a handful of years. But anyone who knows a little about the game knows that one highlight of Willie Mays sprinting straight towards the outfield wall with the #24 on his back facing directly to home plate. The ball somehow magically drops in straight over the back of his head and into his waist-high glove.

Perhaps most pertinent here, Mays was a fixture in pop-culture commentary, by the likes of Woody Allen, Peanuts, and songs “Say Hey (the Willie Mays Song)” in 1954 by the Treniers and “Talkin’ Baseball (Willie, Mickey, and The Duke)” in 1981 by Terry Cashman.

Here’s the line on Mays, who has passed away at the age of 93 in Palo Alto, California, from heart failure:

  • He played in the Negro League as a teen and then from 1951 to 1973 for the Giants, first in New York and then when the team moved to San Francisco. He missed time from 1952 to 1954 for his stint in the Army.
  • A case can be made that he’s the greatest baseball player ever, including the full package of speed, arm strength, excellent fielding, home-run hitting, and hitting for average.
  • He was the oldest living member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
  • His nickname, “The Say Hey Kid,” was based on his optimism and his love for the game.
  • Mays had a lifetime .301 average, with 660 homers and 3,293 hits. He was named to 24 All-Star teams and awarded 12 Gold Gloves. Ridiculous numbers.
  • He finished his career third overall in home runs at the time behind only Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron.
  • He made more than a few of those over-the-shoulder catches but that famous one was in the 1954 World Series against Cleveland, and that was his only championship.
  • Mays came along four years after color-barrier-breaking Jackie Robinson, which was fortuitous for Mays because Americans were getting TVs en masse so he became an even more massive superstar than would have been possible just a few years earlier.
  • While Robinson became an outspoken hero of civil-rights causes, Mays laid low on that front and, in a different way, did his part to bring whites and Blacks together, if only because so many white fans enjoyed watching him play so much.