Ash baseball bats endangered by insects, rise of maple

January 18, 2018

 The bats Ted Williams demanded, with their 25 growth rings per inch, came from the Allegheny Mountain forests that unfurl in all directions from this flyspeck Warren County town. So did the wide-grain models Pete Rose preferred and Dick Allen's 40-inch, 40-ounce wagon tongues.

This vast and remote region, straddling Route 6 along the Pennsylvania-New York border, has long been the mother lode of best youth baseball bats. For a century or more, nearly all those used by major-league hitters came from the white ash that grows and is milled in this bat belt.

Rolling terrain, moist soil, and temperate climate created a variety of ash trees whose weight, density, and flexibility were ideal for bats.

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The Never-Ending Conversation

November 18, 2017

''Ike Maxwell was Elyria's high school football hero in the 1971 season. Now, at 59, he walks the town a troubled and damaged man, a reminder of glory and regret and of the vexing subject of race''

Ike Maxwell

Friday evening in Elyria, and once again the Pioneers of Elyria High School take the field. Football and baseball has always been a part of the ongoing conversation in this small Ohio city, but few players have been more talked about than No. 42, Dynamite Ike.Back in 1971, running back Ike Maxwell led the Elyria Pioneers to an undefeated season. He dominated Saturday headlines, was named an All-American, had dozens of college recruiters knocking on his door.So everything that all of us were, he was, too.

To look back and remember what kind of a person like that, and to make those moves, and then to see him the way he is now where -- I don't know what -- you know, I don't know what's going on, you know, in his mind and that; as far as what it's like to be there.On that best baseball bat on the market. The words he shouts may sound like nonsense.

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Gun Control Will Reduce School Violence

September 18, 2017

Couldn't two angry thugs find other weapons if guns were not available? Of course they could. But none is as efficient as firearms. Baseball bats? Knives? There is a good reason you have never heard of a schoolhouse baseball-bat massacre. You can tackle a best youth baseball bats wielding sociopath. You might outrun a nut with a knife. But the victims at Columbine High School had no chance against two deranged young men armed with not only pipe bombs but also two sawed-off shotguns, a semiautomatic rifle and a semiautomatic pistol.

In the following viewpoint, Cynthia Tucker asserts that recent mass murders at schools have occurred because young people have too easy access to firearms. According to Tucker, adolescents have always been cruel to one another, but when angry teens have access to guns, they kill more people than they could with knives or other weapons. Tucker argues for more laws regulating firearms in order to reduce the likelihood of more school shootings.
As you read, consider the following questions:
  1. According to Tucker, what weapons did Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold use unsuccessfully during the Columbine school shooting?
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CFL commissioner Mark Cohon talks to Charlie Gillis about NFL incursion

July 30, 2017

When Mark Cohon became commissioner of the Canadian Football League last spring, the perennially dysfunctional league appeared to be gaining momentum. Then, with the Grey Cup scheduled to take place in Toronto, it emerged that two separate groups in the city--including the current owners of the CFL's Argonauts--were vying to bring a National Football League franchise to town. Cohon, the 41-year-old son of McDonald's Restaurants of Canada founder George Cohon, spoke to Maclean's correspondent Charlie Gillis.

I've noticed that your name is no longer always mentioned in the same breath as McDonald's. Is that a nice switch for you?

You know, I grew up with parents I was proud of, and who were proud of me. So if it keeps happening I don't mind. I'm secure with myself.

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A new England

December 24, 2016

A revealing handwritten letter emerged at the weekend from the England scrum half Danny Care, who wasn't playing in the first Test against New Zealand, to his Harlequins and England colleague Joe Marler, who very much was. And how! 'Joe, Just wanted to wish you all the best when you step on the battlefield tonight,' wrote Care. 'Go hard my friend, I wish I could be out there in the trenches alongside you.' Say what you like about the military metaphor--and I think it's bang-on for a match against the All Blacks--that note says as much about Stuart Lancaster's England as a whole forest of commentary.

The comradely spirit, this band of brothers and all that, is to Lancaster's immense credit and a world away from previous ego-filled teams to tour New Zealand. At the 2011 World Cup, England spent most of the time in bars tossing dwarves or snogging mystery blondes, when they weren't chucking themselves off ferries or generally mucking about. Their rugby was shockingly mediocre.

In 2008, their previous tour, four England players were accused of 'sexually' violating a teenaged waitress after a drunken evening out (they all denied it, and no charges were brought). Two of them, Danny Care and Mike Brown, are stalwarts of the current England side, which shows there is room for redemption under Lancaster. Care, you may remember, also built up a string of offences for relieving himself in public. But clearly this coach would not put up with any more bad behaviour. Once the wastrel NCO, Care has become an inspirational senior officer. Now Lancaster looks like he can rehabilitate Danny Cipriani, too: a miracle-worker indeed.

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Big hits

September 29, 2016

Rugby's World Cup has been surprisingly engaging--hooray for the gallant grandeur of England, France and the other small-fry nations! It has been salutary for the Celts, however, with Wales and Ireland given such a contemptuous bums' rush that each had to watch last weekend's quarter-finals on television back in their own homes and behind closed curtains. If their self-esteem is in shock, it's nothing to the severe clattering their bodies had to endure.

Mind you, that goes, with knobs on, for the surviving teams still scrapping to contest next week's final, for any rugby pitch is now a major crash site--bell-clanging ambulances, paramedics and all.

The skilful, expertly timed low tackle is a thrill of the past. The game no longer refers to tackles, but 'hits', preferably 'big hits', and the more hurtful, it seems, the better. Zap! Pow! Ughh! A sports injuries whitecoat-boffin said the other day that serious injuries in rugby had more than doubled since the game went professional a dozen years ago, with almost 70 per cent of them caused by one or other of those involved in heavy 'hits'. Bushy-tailed young colts are no longer taught or encouraged to dart or dodge, swerve or jink or sidestep: sole aim now is the sumo-collision, torso-on-torso, full-on and as powerful, even injurious, as possible. Licensed Neanderthal mugging.

The classic, extempore low tackle--taking down an opponent at full-pelt 'on the wing', and extolled by generations of schoolboy coaches--was part of the heroic lore. No more. Most fabled for my generation was the cornerflagging secateurs job on Cambridge's electric hare, John Smith, when all five of Oxford's John MacGregor Kendall-Carpenter took him round the ankles at the end of a palpitating length-of-the-field chase in the Twickenham gloaming at the very end of the 1949 University match. Five years later, same famous field on my first school trip, I saw All-Black legend, bald and bandy Bob Scott, boldly upend England's Martin Regan at full, heady gallop. Golly, did you see that? Wow!

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Goodbye to the game

September 22, 2016

Maybe Michael Jordan knew it would be his last shot. With his Chicago Bulls trailing by one point in the dying seconds of Game 6 in last June's NBA championship series, His Airness shook off a Utah Jazz defender with a couple of quick fakes, pulled up 17 feet from the basket and launched a high, arcing jumper. The shot, to no one's surprise, hit nothing but net--Jordan is as famous for buzzer-beating heroics as he is for his soaring dunks. But instead of pumping his fist in celebration and leaping into the air, as he had on other series-winning occasions, Jordan held his position, his shooting hand suspended at the point of his follow-through. Then, showing no emotion, he turned and jogged back into the Bulls' defensive zone. Was the high hand a signal? At his retirement news conference last week in Chicago, Jordan said no. 'It turned out to look like I was posing for all the photographers,' he explained, smiling his enigmatic smile. 'But that was not the case.'

What a loss to the NBA. The league rebuilt itself from near-bankruptcy in the early 1980s by marketing its top players--including Larry Bird and Magic Johnson--and with each generational change, attendance and TV revenues climbed higher. But now the NBA may have to adjust its player-driven marketing scheme. Jordan wasn't just the best player of his time; he was the best of all time. And any successors, at least for a while, will seem wanting. Jordan could do it all. His dunks were acrobatic, his passes had eyes, he could make moves that left the best defenders flat-footed and he could score from just about anywhere on the court. There is a reason his company logo is a silhouette of his spread-eagled form suspended in midair, ready to slam the ball into the net. Midair was his office--it was as if his shoes were filled with helium.

Not content with just offensive glory, Jordan became the best defender, too. Fittingly, he made a crucial steal under his own basket, denying Jazz star Karl Malone, just before sinking the winning shot last June. And opponents say his greatest weapon was a strength of mind that enabled him to remained focused under the pressure of the big game. 'He has no discernible weakness,' marvelled hall-of-famer Bob Cousy. 'He's the best, without question.' Just as important in the image-driven NBA was that His Airness looked great. He was handsome, graceful, and he had that great smile.

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Finally another team can win the NBA

June 29, 2015

They wasted no time re-retiring Michael Jordan's hallowed No. 23. Just minutes after Jordan made official what had been known for days, suspected for weeks and dreaded for months, Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf gave a signal and the throng assembled in Chicago's United Center looked to the rafters. As the banner with Jordan's number on it was unveiled, a large black cloth that covered it dropped away. It floated through the air, like Michael through the lane, until it landed, a shroud for one of the luxury boxes in the House That Jordan Built.

That black cloth seemed a most appropriate symbol, both of the moment and of the mood that now greets the return of NBA basketball. Even before the league's disquieting labor war and Jordan's departure, fans had begun grumbling about everything from stratospheric ticket prices to tedious, low-scoring games to a new breed of me-first, me-only stars. Had Jordan not capped his career with the most extraordinary of his last-second heroics, last season's most enduring image would be Latrell Sprewell's choke hold on his coach. No. 23 himself admitted no gloom and doom at his retirement, insisting gracefully that "the game is a lot bigger than Michael Jordan." But Peter Roby, vice president of marketing for Reebok, takes a different view. "You don't ever want to say 'never'," he says, "but I don't think the NBA will ever again attain the glory it did with Michael." About the only silver lining is that the league has taken its biggest hits all at once. "We start over again from scratch," says veteran power forward Derrick Coleman. Of course, none of today's players really knows what scratch means.

Commissioner David Stern does, having arrived at the NBA as league counsel back in the '70s when the championship series wasn't even televised live, let alone in prime time. The bicoastal rivalry of two court geniuses, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, saved the league in the '80s -- and then they retired. "People were voicing the very same concerns about the NBA after Larry and Magic," says Stern. "They didn't quite appreciate what Michael Jordan's impact would be." Thanks to Jordan's magic, the game's growth not only continued but accelerated through the '90s into a global marketing phenomenon. Because of that growth spurt, the recent lockout battle was over $2 billion a year in revenues, hardly scratch money. And it's why NBC and Turner Sports thought enough of the league's prospects last year to pony up $2.65 billion for the next four years of NBA games, knowing it was likely that Jordan wouldn't play in a single one of them.

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