Tuesday, October 25, 2016


Image result for cubs world seriesRelated image

   I really can’t root for the Cubs.  I was born and raised in Chicago to a family devoted to the White Sox.  Well, most folks in my mother’s family were Cubs fans, but we forgave them for that and for the most part simply ignored their Cubi-ness.  The year I was born (1935) the Cubs won the National League Pennant and, of course, lost in the World Series to the Detroit Tigers.

   In a vain attempt to convert me, my uncle Bud took me to a Cubs game in ’45.  He was not happy when I laughed at Bill – Swish – Nicholson when he struck out.  The Cubs lost in the World Series that year to Hank Greenberg and the Detroit Tigers.

  A neighbor, Steve Austin, was a long time associate of the Cubs.  He knew the players from way back and also was a friend of gum mogul Phil Wrigley the Cubs owner.  Steve took my brother and me to Cubs games.  We went as a duty. Mom said we should be nice to Steve, but my brother John once told Steve that the Cubs were “all gummed up.”  It wasn’t his fault – our Aunt Helen told him to say it.

Johnny Evers 1910 FINAL2sh.jpg

 My claim to fame is that Steve introduced me to Johnny Evers who played in the last World Series won by the Cubs.  Even my Dad was envious.  The double play phrase ‘Tinker to Evers to Chance’ is still used.  I remember also – ‘Miksis to Smalley to Addison’ a border street of Wrigley Field which codified Cub’s shortstop Roy Smalley’s wild throws to first base.  The first black players for the Cubs were hall-of- famer Ernie Banks, shortstop, and Gene Baker, second base.  Double plays were described by Cubs’ announcer Bert Wilson as “Bingo to Bango to first.”  It may be that Bert Wilson is the cause for extending the Cubs’ curse to the present and perhaps the beyond.  
   After the war, (WW II) our aunt Carlotta and uncle Ed lived briefly  with relatives close to Wrigley Field.  Aunt Carlotta took John and me to a game on Ladies’ Day.  A foul ball into the screen behind the plate seemed to be the most exciting event in the ball game.   The crowd sung, and John with them, “whoop boom” as the ball went up and down the screen then to the ground.  I was embarrassed – this is baseball?

   I made friends with the kids in the neighborhood.  We would charge a dollar to watch a parked car during a game to assure it wouldn’t be damaged.  There was more money in this than delivering newspapers or caddying, but then, Carlotta & Ed moved to the far South Side. 

   The Cubs’ opponent in the World Series is the Cleveland Indians.  I think of Lou Boudreau, the manager and star shortstop of the 1948 world champion Indians. Cleveland won the series but lost the first game on a controversial run scored in the eighth inning.  Phil Masi, Boston Braves catcher, was picked off second base by pitcher Bob Feller but was called safe by the umpire.  Photos show shortstop Boudreau tagging Masi out.  A base hit followed and Masi scored the only run of the game.  


   A baseball card show in Milwaukee was attended by Johnny Sain of the old Boston Braves – wining pitcher of the controversial game and Bob Feller of the Indians who, despite pitching a two hitter was the losing pitcher.  Our son Joel asked Sain about the game and to write his comments on an 8 x 12 Johnny Sain photo.  He wrote:

Bill Stewart made a great call when he called Phil Masi safe   John Sain

The next day I accompanied Joel to ask Bob Feller what he thought.  We caught Feller as he entered the hall and he started to apologize for being late.  We showed him the Sain photo and asked for a comment.  Bob Feller was angry and wrote on his photo:

Phil Masi was out by 2 feet in the 1948 WS in Boston World Series we won    Bob Feller

That was the last World Series that Cleveland won.

   Lou Boudreau went on to be a broadcaster for the Cubs then manager – then broadcaster.  Boudreau was from Harvey, a Chicago area town, a University of Illinois basketball player, a great baseball player but not as good as Luke Appling of the White Sox.

   I remember Boudreau being picked off third base by Tony Cuccinello of the White Sox using the ‘hidden ball trick.’  I reminded Boudreau of the incident at a card show, and he said that jogging back to the visitor’s dugout behind first base from third base was very embarrassing.  After all he was the manager, and he considered Chicago as his home town.   
       Will the curse continue?  It is Halloween time, and I wonder what influence the long-gone-but-present-in-spirit Lou Boudreau will have?  Then there’s of course my Aunt Helen and I suspect she may have the most influence in heaven among all the baseball saints. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

School of the Americas Protest 2016

Joanne and I had seen the effects of U.S. imperialism first hand for years in Bolivia so when we returned we naturally took to protesting the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, GA.  The S.O.A. has trained troops for Latin America since 1946.  It was established in Panama then moved to Fort Benning in 1984.  Protests began in 1980’s by Maryknoll priest Roy Bourgeois and continue to this day.  The purpose of the protests was to close the “School” but without success.  This year the protest was in the split border city of Nogales:  Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Mexico.

   We were more than willing to go this year; the protest at the border directly related to our work at the Milwaukee Immigrant Worker Center Voces de la Frontera and The New Sanctuary Movement.  I will relate our personal experience of this year’s protest which, of course, does not capture the totality of the event.  It’s not a story you will find in the corporate media.  (oops –see N.Y. Times Sunday Review 10-17-16)    
   We flew to Phoenix to meet with family living there, then drove to Tucson to meet with Milwaukee friends who would accompany us.  The many Milwaukee\ans who went on the trip were related to “Voces” and/or St. Benedict the Moor parish.

   We drove with two companions both long time S.O.A. activists.  In Tucson we went to the beautiful campus of the University of Arizona to attend an exhibition of border crossing quilts made from clothing of those who risked death in a desert crossing to escape poverty and violence.  The courtesy and kindness of the students in directing us to our destination on campus was moving.  We talked of bringing the exhibition to Milwaukee.

   We headed north of Tucson to the Eloy Immigrant Detention Center run by Corrections Corporation of America.  It is a “for profit” detention center, isolated in the desert, where prisoners receive minimal medical attention and many die as a result.  We were joined by two Capuchin brothers one from Milwaukee and one from Chicago to witness and challenge – evil without shame.

   The first event in Nogales was a Veterans March.  The veterans were protesting against war and the militarization of the border.  The veterans informed us that many undocumented Mexicans who had served in the U.S. military were deported to Mexico after discharge.

  We joined the march where it split; half going to Mexican side of the border.  We went to the Mexican side with our Voces – Sanctuary banner without a problem at the check point.  For some of us it was our first visual encounter with the wall.  It was intimidating and humiliating; we were out in the open in a desert town, but I had a sense of claustrophobia.     

   After a brief rally Joanne and I attended three of the workshops on the Mexican side of the border: “Migration Crisis; From Europe to the United States and Beyond,” presented by CODEPINK; “Borderland Identity: Expectations and Realities” presented by: Colectivo de Dialogo Transfronerizo; and “The Climate Crisis: Refugees and Martyrs in the Americas,” presented by George Martin and Julie Enslow of Milwaukee.  The presentations were excellent – hope was expressed and tears were shed.  The image of Don Quixote jousting with Maquiladores dominated my consciousness.  Workshops were also available on the U.S. side.


 We went to an evening interfaith prayer session at the border that featured offerings by various faith groups.  It was affirming and an inspiration to action.  I became more aware that Faith is a matter of trust and not simply an ascent to particular doctrinized myths.  A Sufi Muslim leader made the connection between Justice and Mercy.

          AL KORAN- Chapter I  IN THE NAME OF THE MOST MERCIFUL ALLAH – Praise be to Allah, the Lord of all creatures; the most merciful, the king of the day of judgment.

 It reminded me of a passage in Zechariah referenced by our New Sanctuary Coordinator, Nayeli Rondin-Valle:

          This is what the LORD Almighty said: Administer true justice – show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner  or the poor.  Zech. 7: 9-10

   On Sunday there was a demonstration at a Check Point north of Nogales.  We were not able to participate because of our various old-age infirmities.  The action lasted several hours and no one was arrested.

   The S.O.A. Watch rally in Nogales was a valuable experience.  We learned a lot and it was a joy to reunite with old friends and to connect in solidarity with the oppressed all over the world.

  It is a frustrating struggle but there is still Hope.  It looks like Humpty Trumpty will get some help in falling off the wall from Latinos as well as other minorities and allies.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Working Catholic: Broken Ladders by Bill Droel

Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of Las Cruces, New Mexico, grew up in a small Texas town. There were six Mexican-American families on his block and others nearby. One large family “was unique,” writes Ramirez, a member of the Basilian Fathers, in Power from the Margins: the Emergence of the Latino in the Church and in Society (Orbis Books, 2016). How was this family unique? “They gave high priority to school.”

All parents want the best education for their children. But all families are simultaneously nurtured by and restrained by their environment. An environment that has responsive institutions and thick supportive networks makes it easier for a family to be successful, whole and holy. By contrast, an environment with unaccountable institutions in a relational desert requires extraordinary effort to gain success, wholeness and holiness. There has been deterioration in the “family environments” for Puerto Ricans, Dominican-Americans and Mexican-Americans over the past 40-years, says Ramirez.  A glaring symptom of this deterioration is a high dropout rate.

Latinos have the highest high school dropout rate; double the black rate. As Ramirez implies, this rate has grown by about 50% during his 40-year timeline. Of those in college, the majority do not attain a bachelor’s degree within six years of enrolling. Of those Latinos who begin at a community college over 75% do not earn a bachelor’s degree even within eight years. These attrition rates come at a time when a degree is the primary economic ladder.

Ramirez profiles a handful of small though suggestive experiments designed to improve the education completion rate for Latinos.  Cristo Rey High School Network is sponsored by the Jesuits. There are about 30 of these schools with perhaps 300 students in each. Each student is matched with an employer—someone identified through Jesuit contacts among the order’s alumni and friends. The student is employed at least five days per month at the company or firm. Often a mentor relationship emerges through the employment. There is, as befitting any Jesuit school, rigorous classroom study and homework.

Nativity Miguel Network drew inspiration from the Jesuit experiment. It gained momentum from the De LaSalle Christian Brothers. It has 64 middle schools that require extended hours in the classroom during the week. These schools also have a longer academic schedule. The graduates are monitored/mentored into high school.

Ramirez mentions the Alliance for Catholic Education at University of Notre Dame. As part of their degree program, some Notre Dame students teach in Catholic schools. A typical placement is in a Latino neighborhood for two years. In addition to their competence, the college students bring the social capital of their friends to the project—not only during the two years, but ideally for the near future.  

The notion of social capital is critical. One student alone will not likely move up the ladder. It is only by joining lots of otherwise disparate pieces that Latinos will succeed. Cristo Rey and other promising programs know the importance of getting the entire family into the school picture. After that, success parallels the interest taken by small businesses, community organizations, parishes and more.

Social capital is not automatically accumulated; it cannot be assumed. Deliberate face-to-face encounter is necessary. Thus any intervention or program on behalf of students cannot be only about tutoring for information content. It is about the fourth R: reading, [w]riting, [a]rithmetic and relationships.
Ramirez puts the secret in faith language: Effective school programs must allow people to personally and collectively interpret their own story as “a real occasion of grace” and understand it as a contribution to “the entire church,” the whole people of God.

Footnote: The terms Hispanic and Latino are, in my opinion, political contrivances meant to put several distinct cultures into a single voting block or a concise demographic. I prefer to use a hyphenated-American style. However, in keeping with Ramirez this article uses Latino.

Droel edits INITIATIVES (PO Box 291102, Chicago, IL 60629), a newsletter about faith and work.