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Posts Tagged ‘1983’

The Kansas City Royals aren’t a very good baseball team.  They’ve been pretty bad for quite a while.  It’s true that the Royals have a bright future, fueled by one of the best farm systems in the game.  But for the time being, Royals fans continue to suffer.

Some of you, however, may remember when the Kansas City Royals were a really good team.  In the mid-1980s, there were winning seasons, division championships, a pennant or two, and (in 1985) a World Series title.  The roster was full of big-name stars with last names like Saberhagen, Cone, and Gubicza.  And of course, there was the biggest name on the roster.

George Brett.

The life-long Royal is, in my mind, the most famous of all to wear a Kansas City uniform.  He is best characterized by his deep crouch in the batters’ box, the big wad of chewing tobacco, and a smooth, sweet left-handed swing.  The results speak for themselves.  A career batting average north of .300 (and 1980, when he and Rod Carew came oh-so-close to hitting .400).  Batting titles.  An MVP award.  A bunch of All-Star appearances.  A Gold Glove.  And ultimately, enshrinement in baseball’s Hall of Fame.

And the Pine-Tar game…remember that?  There isn’t a baseball fan from my generation that doesn’t know the story.  But just in case…

On July 24, 1983, Brett launched a 9th-inning 2-run homer off Yankee closer Goose Gossage that stunned the Yankee Stadium faithful and gave the Royals a 5-4 lead.  As Brett crossed the plate and headed back to the cheers and hurrahs of his dugout, Yankee skipper Billy Martin left his dugout and headed to home plate.  He complained that the pine tar on Brett’s bat went too far up the handle.

After the umpires consulted among themselves for a few minutes, they agreed with Martin and called Brett out, nullifying the home run.  As you might guess, Yankees fans were thrilled.  As you might also guess, George Brett was not.  I remember well Brett leaping up the dugout stairs, flying out to home plate with his hands in the air, and politely disagreeing with the decision…or something like that.

Brett was thrown out of the game and the Yankees ended up with the victory…for the time being.

The Royals immediately launched a protest of the umpires’ decision, and the Commissioner upheld the protest.  The rules stated that pine tar was restricted to the first 18 inches of the bat.  And frankly, George Brett’s bat had about 12 feet of pine tar on it.  But the rules simply called for the bat to be removed from play, because pine tar doesn’t help the ball travel farther.  The Commissioner didn’t believe nullifying the home run was the proper response.

So later in the season, the teams picked up the game where Brett’s home run left off (with Brett still ejected from the game), and the Royals came away with a win.

Recommended Viewing:  The Pine Tar Incident

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Since it’s the end of 2008, we should probably highlight something that had its conclusion today.  Let’s talk phones, since all the kids are digging them so much.  More specifically, let’s talk phone companies, since most of the kids digging the phones probably don’t remember the good old days.

When Alexander Graham Bell got his patent for the telephone back in the 1870’s, he formed the Bell Telephone Company.  The popularity of his new invention meant that, by the early 1900’s, there were gobs of little phone companies all over the place.  Bell Telephone (now called AT&T) began buying them up, increasing its control over the system until, in 1934, the U.S. government stepped in and placed the giant under the Federal Communications Commission, essentially creating a monopoly regulated by the government.

In addition to almost complete control over the U.S. phone network, AT&T owned large chunks of phone operations in Canada and the Caribbean until 1956, when it was forced to relinquish them as part of an antitrust settlement.  In addition, the company was limited to 85% control of the U.S. phone system.  But still, that’s a lot, and almost complete control of the network tempted AT&T to use that power to bury their competition as well as gain a foothold into the emerging computer industry.

Another antitrust suit, filed by the Department of Justice in the mid-1970’s, ended with the breakup of AT&T into regional phone companies, each independent of the other.  The new “Bells” would all begin operation on the first day of  1984.

So as the clocks wound down on December 31, 1983, people around the world gathered to ring in the New Year.  They quaffed their favorite beverages, ate lots of treats, played games, gathered in Times Square, or watched Dick Clark on television.  And in the halls of AT&T buildings all over the country, staff counted down the hours, then the minutes, until one of the largest and most powerful companies in America was split into pieces.

Have a wonderful, safe, and of course, Happy New Year!!

Recommended Reading: A Brief History: The Bell System – Get a little more information from the experts.

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It was almost too unbelievable to fathom.  Wait, it was too unbelievable to fathom.  He stared at his computer screen in shock and horror amid the alarms sounding from the computer system in front of him.  After all these years of speculation, pontification, bluster, and angry back-and-forth rhetoric, it was happening.  The beginning of the end.  Armageddon.  Worldwide cataclysm.  Or was it?

As the clock passed the midnight hour of September 26, 1983, Stanislav Petrov was in the middle of yet another mundane night shift, monitoring his computers.  Holding the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, the computers he watched were in a bunker…near Moscow…in the Soviet Union.  And those computers listened to Soviet satellites that were watching for the telltale ignition plumes that indicated missile launches from the United States or from her ballistic missile submarines.

Well, after years of nothing, the warning bells pealed.  A launch from the U.S. had been detected, and Petrov probably jumped at the sound.  With his mind racing, Petrov focused on the basics:  Soviet doctrine.  It taught that a U.S. attack would not be a “decapitation” strike with a solitary missile, but an all-out attack with many.  And frankly, the computer system had been a little “glitchy” lately.  So the detection of a single missile could only be a computer-processing error.  Whew!!!

But then things got ugly quickly.  Another missile launch was detected.  Then another.  Then a fourth.  And a fifth!!  Now what to do?!?  The Soviets were still bearing the incredible sting of world condemnation for shooting down that Korean jet just 3 weeks prior.  Was that the final straw for the West?!?  The “Start” button in front of Petrov was flashing, and pushing it would initiate the process of a massive Soviet nuclear response.  But still, Petrov wasn’t sure.  Was it a horrible computer failure, or was it the real thing?  Waiting for Soviet radar to detect the incoming missiles would be to wait too long.

It was a calm Sunday evening in the United States, and in a Soviet bunker, complete and utter destruction was a finger-push away.  Stanislav Petrov’s gut told him it was a mistake, even though all available evidence was to the contrary.  So Petrov, going against his orders, did nothing and waited for the ground to begin rumbling, the searing heat, and inevitable death…which never came.

Petrov’s superiors didn’t expressly punish Petrov for disobeying doctrine, but neither did they reward him, as doing so would have shown the faults in the Soviet detection systems, bringing certain consequences on themselves.  Still, Petrov’s career was largely over and he would be retired in short order.  It wouldn’t be until the fall of the Soviet Union and the publication of his superiors’ memoirs that Stanislav’s deeds would become known…to a very appreciative world.

NOTE: I thought I’d try a different look to the site…hope you like it.  A special thanks to my co-worker Beth for her outstanding work on the new graphic.  I think it’s terrific!!

Recommended Reading: Stanislav Petrov Averts a Worldwide Nuclear War – Not wanting to use photos without permission, go to this site for even more details…and pictures of Petrov.

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I have to say it feels pretty good to write about the cold on a day like today.  Outside our house, it’s about 80°F with 70% humidity and bright sunshine, which means we might have storms firing up again tonight.  At 3am this morning, we scampered to the basement, accompanied by the sonorous strains of the tornado siren in harmony with the sound of a freight train (which happily turned out to be just powerful straight-line winds).  The only mess to clean up is some branches in the back and the neighbors’ garbage strewn all over the lawn (storms right before trash pickup are the worst!).

Where was I?  Oh yeah, the cold.  It gets pretty cold here in the heartland, and some of the temperature swings in the winter are downright crazy.  For example, back on March 2, 2008, our noon-time temperature was 60°F. By 6pm, it was just 10 above and we finished the evening below 0…a nearly 70 degree swing in less than 12 hours!!

But I didn’t sit down to right about our weather or even wild weather (though I’ve succeeded at doing both), I wanted to write about cold weather.  I was poking around Wikipedia a while back, looking for “filler” material, and I found this:  on July 21, 1983, the lowest recorded temperature on earth was measured at Vostok Station, a Russian research station in Antarctica.  And how low was that temperature?  A very chilly -128.6°F.

During the summer time…well, there really is no summer at Vostok, because the temperature almost never rises above 0°F (the warmest recorded temperature at Vostok was a balmy +10°F).  But during the “warmer” time, temperatures average about -25°F…so still bitterly cold.  Where I live, the record lows have only touched that level once or twice.

All of which serves only to make me feel like a wuss for griping about the winters here.

The research done at Vostok involves drilling ice cores.  Scientists dig thousands of feet into the ice and remove cross sections of ice.  Using these samples, they try to determine climate conditions from way back and how it’s changed over time.  Honestly, I don’t find ice cores very interesting, but -130°F seems so incredibly cold…

Recommended Activity:  For just a small taste of what Vostok is like, eat a Klondike Bar.  These triple-chocolate fudge ones are simply delicious, and eating just one makes you glad for the cold.

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