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Yore Movie Swells: The 25 Best Westerns in Filmdom

15 Aug

Vintage Varieties

The American movie Western: As genres go there’s never been one bigger. Not the rat-a-tat-tat of the gangster, surreal sci-fi, hairy horror, animated adorables, action packed drama, marvelous musicals, cockeyed-romance, screwball comedy nor mad-cap adventure. None has measured up to the Western wherewithal.

..........HighNoon.wc.1952,112k.UA(SB2)It had a great run spanning most of the 20th century, from the silent era (“Inceville”) lasting well into the 1980s, generating reliable revenue for all the studios from big dogs like MGM to pesky pups in Monogram (Allied Artists), not to mention the jobs created in the thousands in costumes, stunt-work, catering, cattle-care and the like.

Horse-opera was a celluloid staple, so big King Kong loaded the Swingline®.

From the days of the nickelodeons (How cool were they!) to Main Street cinema and well into TV time, Western heroes, darling damsels, dastardly villains, loyal sidekicks like Gabby Hayes, Pat Brady and Smiley Burnette and trusty steeds, together pulled in fans and ruled ratings from coast to coast, driving many to vacation destinations West in dude ranches and National Parks to capture a little of the sunshine & adventure seen on screen.

With a few exceptions (The Big Valley (Stanwyck) / Westward the Women / Calamity Jane (Day)), the quick-draw artist was a man and focus of the fable.

......Bonanza.Blocker.1960.nbc.wc.87k(SB3)He could be a sheriff (The Tall Man / Gunsmoke) or Federal man (The Wild Wild West), a rancher (Bonanza / The Rifleman / High Chaparral), scout (Hondo), card-shark (Maverick), gun-for-hire (Have Gun Will Travel / Wanted dead or Alive), cattle-driver (Cheyenne) or roaming Robin Hood (The Restless Gun / The Lone Ranger / The Cisco Kid) promoting pistol justice whenever the need arose.

You think today’s celebrity slurp is awesome? Practically peanuts compared to the star-power emitted by the sagebrush set. Oh my darling!

Even as the Babe topped Hoover in 20s salary rank, the chaps chaps, stars like Tom Mix, William S. Hart, Will Rogers, Harry Carey, Richard Dix, later marquee mojos Tim Holt, Randolph Scott, Joel McCrea, Bill “Hopalong Cassidy“ Boyd, Glenn Ford, Jim Stewart, Robert Taylor, Audie Murphy, balladeers Gene Autry, Roy Rogers & Dale Evans, Ken Maynard, Dick Foran, numbered so many they’d fill the ‘house Ruth built’ and needed a crane to haul their loot, all the while keeping kids debating merits of their favorites and Mom & Dad the value of merchandise in toys n‘ such branded with likeness of the heroes.

Which all helps explain why America’s most popular team in it’s most popular sport is named the Dallas Cowboys. Coincidence? I think not, Packer-backers and Pats-rats. Over 20 years since Dallas saw a Super and they still out-sell all. That should tell ya’ something about the motif because it sure ain’t the football.

......CowboysHat.wc.5.16.8.DukeHa.109k(SB4)I caught the tail-end of the trend on TV, back when it was as free as the air you breath. Really.

Nearly all of silver screen big-shots rode the range at least once. There were Bing Crosby & Francis Farmer (Rhythm on the Range), Charles Ruggles & Laughton (Ruggles of Red Gap), Shirley ‘I know I‘ve been here before’ MacLaine (Two Mules For Sister Sara), the “Maid” Olivia de Havilland (They Died With Their Boots On) and even The Public Enemy turned Yankee Doodle Dandy, James Cagney, starred in a Nicholas Ray horse drama, Run For Cover.

What made the Western so popular? They made people feel good. Course, The Simpsons and The Walking Dead do the same for some people.

Maybe it was the independence, bound to no one but a cowboy’s code, one that city dweller and farm folk alike could dream about in their workaday. A fictional world fraught with dangers & corruption but where brains, brave soul and trusty amigo could together find a bright-line solution to save the day in a simpler world than the complicated, ever-changing one of their own times. What’s new?

....Gulager.NBC.Hill.282k.wc.1960-62It was a standard most every Western espoused, not just for fans to admire but maybe one to emulate, aspire towards or one that might simply buck the spirits in a life where getting a fair shake is never automatic.

A cowboy ideal promoting virtues in courage, calm in crisis, sagebrush savvy, trust, comity (sidekick), though, non-conformist man alone was typical, confident but humble, apostle of due process (anti-mob, i.e., Fonda-Morgan The Ox-Bow Incident), reasonable risk and rangy romance but forgoing that if duty dictated (The Searchers). Aces, they were natural born leaders who took all in stride, could be contemplative (♫) and had the rare capacity for self-sacrifice (“Ask not what your country…(JFK)”), a trait you won’t hear touted this 2016 Presidential campaign on either trail.

With success will come the comical treatments. Joe E. Brown (The Tenderfoot), crooner Dick Powell (Cowboy From Brooklyn), Red Skelton (Texas Carnival), Dustin Hoffman (Little Big Man) and Mel Brooks (Blazing Saddles), all using the genre as a backdrop for laughs, romance & song. “♫ Yippee-yi-yo-kayah! ♫”

But the glory days of the saddle stars have long since passed.

......Duvall.wc.S.Quigley.AFPS.WRAMC.9.25.7.63k(SB6)As the public clamored for themes in realism, war drama, soap opera, sex, social change, sci-fi-fx, teen-topics in music (Elvis et al) and the anti-hero like The Wild One, Bonnie & Clyde and Billy Jack, all whose genesis could be traced to the cowboy chromosomes, the Western’s moral play proved incongruent with the Fast Times at Ridgemont High and there abouts.

Excepting that rare Western that appears on the movie plain like a stray steer separated from the herd (Lonesome Dove / Dances With Wolves / Brokeback Mountain / The Unforgiven), it has for the most part ridden off into the cinematic sunset.

And as long as the classics remain, the Western legends and the pros who gave them life will remain too as benchmarks n’ beacons for those spirited souls who seek to come in from the cold reality that blows from today’s typical fare.

Best Westerns*

Lonely Are the Brave (1962 – Universal)

Directed by David Miller, written by Ed Abbey & Dalton Trumbo and stars Kirk Douglas, Gina Rowlands, Michael Kane, Walter Matthau, Carroll O’Connor and George Kennedy. “Jack Burns” is a man with a horse (“pretty little fuzz tail”), an anachronism who won’t change to suit the time. He’s two friends in a jailed brother whose wife can’t understand either. Monte Walsh had he lived to see Mantle & Maris. Part of the realism wave, it’s tension-filled and a tear-jerker. The good guys are real good, including Sheriff Matthau, the bad oh so bad, i.e., George (deputy) and one-armed force of fierceness, Bill Raisch of TV The Fugitive fame who, had he met up with Tracy’s tenacious character in Bad Day at Black Rock, the outcome would’ve been anybody‘s guess. Ouch!

Shane (1953 – Paramount)

......Ladd-Arthur.wc.Shane.Paramount.1953.39k(SB7)Directed by George Stevens, written by A.B. Guthrie, Jack Sher & Jack Schaefer and stars Alan Ladd, Van Heflin, Jean Arthur in her finale, Ben Johnson, Jack Palance, Elisha Cook and Emile Meyer as “Ryker” the cattle king who’s a story to tell. Masterfully works a dichotomy of duel between good & greed (not evil), cowardice & courage. Panoramic back-drop highlights young Brandon de Wilde’s call to stranger turned family friend “Shane.” Heartfelt and haunting, Ladd’s film noir pedigree is well-suited to this genre crossover (See; Ending).

Red River (1948 – United Artists)

Directed by Howard Hawks, written by Borden Chase, Charles Schnee and stars John Wayne, Monty Clift, Walter Brennan, Noah Berry, Harry Carey (& Jr), John Ireland, STB wife, Joanne Dru, Paul Fix and cattle crew that put on one hellacious stampede. Better is pretty Coleen Gray’s early passion plea to corral the Duke: “Sun only shines half the day, Tom, the other half is night.” Zowie! Often talked about as Clift’s 1st flick (released after The Search), this Western’s most notable for its strong cast, memorable music (D.Tiomkin) and survey of cowboy life in the heyday (1820s – 90s), here, figuring on the famous Chisholm Trail that drove doggies north to Kansas cars, then to Chicago stockyards.

The Big Country (1958 – UA)

Directed by William Wyler, written by Rob Wilder and stars Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons, Carroll Baker, Charlton Heston, Chuck Connors, Burl Ives & Charles Bickford. Full flavor flick: Opening tune (J.Moross) will set your spurs a spinnin’ to a feature with strong-willed men, equally determined women, a moonlight fist-fight, good natured hazing, clever horse (“Old Thunder”) and insightful ranch-hand in veteran actor A.Bedoya (“A man like him (Peck) is very rare”) making his finale (d.1957)). Grudge and non-conformity are over-riding themes but water rights and intoxicating nature of the West are under-currents.

Dances With Wolves (1990 – Orion)

......Dances.wc.Juhijbljb.324k(SB8)Directed by Kevin Costner, written by Michael Blake and starring Costner, Mary McDonnell, Rodney Grant, Graham Greene, Wes Studi, Bob Pastorelli & Maury Chaykin in two brief but strong supportives. Next to Kev & Stone’s follow-up flick in JFK (91), Dances remains the great movie of our time, smoothly blending realism, romanticism and humor to depict culture clash that defines the inevitable human expansion into the Western Hemisphere. The Sioux bison hunt, the following feast & trade (Dunbar hat), another smart horse (“Cisco”), playful wolf (“Two Socks”), Pawnee angst (“He’s gonna’ get us killed”) all make indelible marks. The opening Civil War scene is as poignant as it is exhilarating while the river raid and goodbye at closing (“You are my friend”) tie this epic masterpiece up nicely.

The Last Picture Show (1971 – Columbia)

Directed by Peter Bogdanovich, written by Larry McMurtry & Peter and starring Tim Bottoms, Jeff Bridges, Ben Johnson, Cloris Leachman, Cybill Sheperd, Clu Gulager & Ellen Burstyn. Peter knew what Billy knew and convinced Monroe of (Some Like It Hot), that some scripts must be shot in black & white for full desired effect. The effect was an armload of Academy nods, receipts and critical acclaim for both. Tale of a year in the lives of a small, fading Texas town centering on two school seniors and the knowing adults who shape their lives. Think of a dustier, relaxed, more interesting version of Peyton Place.

Lonesome Dove (1989 – CBS – Motown – Pangaea – Qintex)

Directed by Simon Wincer, written by Larry McMurtry & Bill Wittliff, stars Bob Duvall, Tommy Lee Jones, Ricky Schroder, Danny Glover, Diane Lane, Angelica Huston, Bob Urich, Frederic Forest, D.B. Sweeney, Barry Corbin, Glenne Headly & Steve Buscemi. Four-episode TV mini-series recounting the tale of a troop of ex-Texas Rangers who embark on an ambitious cattle drive to Montana, battling assortment of foes on the way, notably an Indian bandit “Blue Duck.” Wildly popular and, excepting the awkward “Clara” sidetrack (Neb.), the story and characters are so engaging you’ll probably last the entire 6 hour trek.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966 – PEA – UA)

......Eastwood.wc.S.Leone.1965.428k.AFDM(SB9)Directed by Sergio Leone, written by Agenore Incrocci, Furio Scarpelli, Luciano Vincenzoni, SL, Sergio Donati & Mickey Knox, stars Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef & Eli Wallach. Third in Clint spaghetti trilogy (A Fistful of Dollars / A Few Dollars More), GBU had biggest budget and it paid off as best of the bunch. Trouble today is too much epic with DVD add-ins of three needless scenes (“Tuco” cave / “Angel Eyes” CSA camp / lead to monastery). Lesson: Editor cuts (theater) are to be respected (choisis). Best Civil War treatment ever done, and by an Italian, The Good is that rarity where the finale of a series is the tops, typically it’s reversed (Terminator 3, Aliens 3). Emerging Tuco – Blondie alliance pleases while the music (E.Morricone) camps on the lips for days.

Monte Walsh (1970 – National General)

Directed by William Fraker, written by David Zelag Goodman & Lukas Heller, stars Lee Marvin, Jeanne Moreau, Jack Palance, Jim Davis and Mitch Ryan. Like Lonely, this one flies under the radar. Not to be confused with fine TV remake (T.Selleck ‘03) that lacks depth of the original. The vehicle is a late 19th c. liquidation of the ranching business, demise of the cowboy life and the harm absentee ownership and “capital” consolidation can wreck on workers. Lee tries to hang on without “spitting on his life,” Jack makes adjustments and Jeanne concessions. The humor’s subtle but warm, the love stories moving and the message on change is potent. Marvin’s best movie.

True Grit (1969 – Paramount)

Directed by Henry Hathaway, written by Charles Portis & Marguerite Roberts and stars John Wayne, Glen Campbell, Kim Darby, Jeff Corey & Robert Duvall. Again, not to be confused with the remake (2010 (Aughta’ be a law)). Quirky dialogue delivery takes getting used to but like GBU dubbing becomes endearing. Also like GBU, friendships forged in the long journey satisfy. Stagecoach was good, The Searchers and Liberty Valance toppers but Grit is Duke’s best, where his full acting range flows free like a wise old owl on the prowl.

Winchester ‘73 (1950 – Universal International)

......Winchester73.wc.1950.52k.Winters(SB10)Directed by Anthony Mann, written by Borden Chase & Rob Richards and stars Mann regular Jimmy Stewart and Steve McNally, Millard Mitchell (“High-Spade”), Dan Duryea, Shelley Winters & Will Geer as “Wyatt Earp.” Classic: Big stars, top support (Jay Flippen, John McIntire, James Best, Steve Brodie, Charles Drake) and future top-bills in Rock Hudson & Tony Curtis. Family feud is focus between “Lin” vs estranged “Dutch Henry” and how the new Winchester repeat rifle, won in contest, then stolen, serves as connector, passing through sets of hands. Hate displayed by brothers is intense (Need more Oscars®). Another nice call on B&W, it’s the ricochet of bullets (Sound: Leslie Carey – Richard De Weese (Western Electric mono)) that authenticates this beauty and leaves its mark on your mind.

Little Big Man (1970 – National General)

Directed by Arthur Penn, written by Tom Berger & Calder Willingham and stars Dustin Hoffman, Chief Dan George, Faye Dunaway, Dick Mulligan, Martin Balsam, Cal Bellini & Carole Androsky. Big budget ($15M), no Oscars® for this tour de force. Dustin’s best. Tootsie was tops but it’s blue-ribbon apples to gold-medal oranges. Support in Faye (“Mrs. Pendrake (“Poor Jack”)), Martin (“Meriwether (“There’s element of risk in every profession”)), Carole (“Men!”), Dan (“Sometimes magic works, sometimes it doesn’t”) and Cal (“Next time I can kill you without becoming an evil person”)” is super. Noted for its comical yet harsh portrayal of Custer, the truth may fall in between Boots and LBM. Age make-up (“Jack”) could not be better today while creator’s refusal to sanctify the Sioux brilliantly brings out the “human“ in the “beings.”

Some of the Rest of the Best of the West

The Searchers (1956 – Ford – WB): Wayne’s doorway exit at end onto the panoramic plain is the greatest visual close in American moviedom, just edging out Pierce’s ‘can’t-get-away-from-that-crazy-brat-finally-behind-bars-fast-enough’ exit from L.A. Gothic City Hall in sun streaks of the Mildred closing.

Jeremiah Johnson (1972 – S. Pollack – WB): Sound of prying that Hawken rifle from the frozen, dead grasp of “Hatchet Jack” was special, as too was the “Swan (D.Bolton)” unveiling (“Dear Lord!”).

.....Grapes.Fonda.1940.Zanuck.wc.thm(WP.USA11)The Grapes of Wrath (1940 – John Ford – 20C-Fox): Evolution of the genre. Now the Westerner (“Tom”) has a family, forgoes the pistol, drives an old truck, picks fruit and still will never abide a bully.

Rio Bravo (1959 – Hawks – Warner Bros.): Story’s a bit thin but sure beat’s El Dorado (Caan: “Mississippi”). What was Bing Russell thinking anyway, hassling Claude Akins? But its likeability n’ lyrics (“♫ My Rifle, My Pony and Me ♫”) will hit your high notes and bring you back for more.

Blood on the Moon (1948 – Robert Wise – RKO Radio): No “Joey” nor off-limits married woman (“Marian”), but before Ladd cleared the Wyoming “valley” of guns, Bob Mitchum did the same in AZ. Cinematography by Nick Musuraca.

Hud (1963 – Martin Ritt – Paramount): A persona reprised by his Butch Cassidy & Sting partner in “Little Fauss & Big Halsy.” Filmed by J.W. Howe.

.....Misfits.1961.wc.MacfaddenPub.608k(SB12)The Misfits (1961 – John Huston – UA): Clark Gable is 100% cowboy in this tense, tearful drama marking his and co-star Marilyn Monroe‘s final films and arguably best showings on screen. Monty makes the grade as well, matching his Red River role in quality if not character traits. Marilyn gives her best line: “If I could be anyone, a child who could be brave from the beginning.” Amen.

High Noon (1952 – Fred Zinnemann – UA): Too tall to remake.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948 – Huston – WB): Down Mexico way. Tenacious ticket hawk little Robert “Bobby” Blake nearly steals the picture when early on he takes a bath in failing to heed Bogart’s warning (“I’ll throw this glass of water”) to the irritant, but hangs tough and melts “Dobbsie’s” heart.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962 – Ford – Paramount)

The Outlaw (1943 – Hawks – UA): Russell, who’d become a fine actress, was ill-suited and subject of an absurd ad-campaign at benefactor Hughes behest, but Tom, Walter and under-rated lead Jack Buetel were terrific, the later looking the quintessential Kid, skillfully selling a clever persona central to Billy legend.

.....Walsh.1.1.18.wc.thm(WP.USA13)The Big Trail (1930 – Raoul Walsh – Fox): Over-looked, under-loved but billed as “most important picture ever produced“ and that wasn’t far off.

City Slickers (1991 – Ron Underwood – Columbia): Comedy-drama, “Norman” scenes choke me up. But like Vince said, “If you’re gonna’ get in this business (NFL) you better bring your emotions.” Veteran cowboy (WW2) Jack Palance hoists an Oscar® and delivers best line: “I crap bigger’n you (BC).” The #2: “Colorado, it’s always the last place you look.” Not for Lombardis, it ain’t.

Author’s Addendum: This “Western” perspective is of course relative to my own land (USA) with exceptions in The Treasure, set in Mexico, and Italian-made TGBU.  Another, more informed version could go global to include greats like Seven Samurai (54) set in 1500s Japan but with a Western flavor in themes of tumult, weapon-play and community, where the relevant region in need of justice (or ♫ song ♫) might instead be known as Eastern, North or South.

....brass.thumbtack.J.Dalton.wc.thm(WP.SB.USA14)Steven Keys
Brass Tacks
Photo credit: L.VanCleef, wc.cca, PEC-UA; G.Cooper, wc, 1952-HighNoon, UA; D.Blocker, Bonanza, NBC, wc, 1960; Dallas-Cowboys-helmet, wc, DukeHa, 5.16.8; Clu Gulager-M.Hill, wc, TheTallMan, 1960-62; R.Duvall, wc, S.Quigley, AFPS-WRAMC, 9.25.7; Ladd-Arthur, Shane, Paramount, 1953, wc; K.Costner, DWW, wc, Juhijbljb; Clint-Eastwood, wc, 1965, S.Leone, AFDM; Winters-Stewart, Winchester73, 1950, wc; Henry.Fonda, The Grapes, wc, Zanuck, 1940; Monroe-Gable, TheMisfits, 1961, MacFaddenPub, wc; R.Walsh, wc, 1.1.18; brass.thumbtack, J.Dalton, wc.
Posted: 8.15.16 @ 6:15pm, edit 8.22, 6.28.17; Copyright © 2016
Asterisk (*): Random order
Sources of reference: Wikipedia and IMDb

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MLB16 Chin Music: Barry Bonds, Elections & Lies-by-Right

4 Mar

‘You knew but what’d ya’ll do?’

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive!” Marmion, by Walter Scott (1808)

Webmaster Barry Bonds rejoined his “fraternity” last month to serve as hitting coach for the Miami Marlins as baseball‘s spring training got underway in the Cactus (AZ) and Grapefruit (FL) Leagues. As expected the official home run king was queried by reporters on the Cooperstown topic and his failure to win election. Bonds’ response: “God knows I’m a Hall of Famer.”

......Bonds.J.Accordino.wc.1993.thmbNearly everyone, excepting, if I recall right, Tom Boswell at Washington Post who speculated on steroid use in the late 80s, looked away, cheered wildly while Bonds and his brothers in bash appeared to be juicing with reckless abandon, some afraid of player backlash, some in hero-worship and others defending memorabilia cachets.

That fact poses a cultural conundrum: What do you, the BBWAA, do with a Cooperstown candidate whom you, and the majority, believe tainted himself, his marks and MLB by engaging in a PED-plan during his career while you sat on your pens? Leave Bonds, McGwire, Sosa and their ilk, some proven, some admitted, others strongly suspected PED‘ers, off of your ballots, even as you gave tacit approval, seems the answer.

Barry is the official, if not, publicly sanctioned holder of the two most cherished marks in the annals of baseball: Single-season (73) and career home run totals (762), yet, he pays a price for what appears to’ve been a career fueled by performance enhancers. His arrogant persona doesn’t help his case, though, younger voters seem to find it fascinating.

And what price do we the fans pay for letting the players, their union, formerly an agent for equity, embed steroids, HGH and the other cheat-drugs into our sports, at all levels, causing a cancer we have still not engaged with aggressive treatment (In pro ball “115 failed drug tests…since January 2015 (“Jenrry Mejia’s Free-fall” / 2.12 / SI / Verducci)”)?

......McGwire.wc.6.29.11.6m.K.Allison.thmAs Big Mac and Sammy were barreling over Maris’ mark (61) in ‘98, some of us were neither fooled nor pleased. One apologist at the time engaged me on the topic and made this sorry claim in their defense: ‘Even if they are using, steriods don’t improve performance.’ Yeah, that’s why they juiced, ‘cause they didn’t help. Like sticky-gloves (NFL), they wear ‘em ‘cause they look good, right? Oy vey.

Besides providing an unfair, unnatural aid in play, i.e., cheating, and, if used outside the supervision of a medical pro who administers in open practice, causing a slew of serious, long-term side effects, PEDs do add muscle mass which increases swing velocity and power. It‘s pretty simple.

That public complacency, along with the window of opportunity remaining open for PED cheats by an absence of mandated in-season blood draws for every MLB rosteree, are the 10,000 lbs elephants in the room everyone ignores.

And it is that complacency which is Barry’s best argument to persuade voters to back his enshrinement. Even in a mental state of deceit, how can one be said to be cheating if near everyone, though suspecting skullduggery, does not make serious statement to prevent the behavior until years later? Arguably, it‘s not.

.....Coperstown.Sign.7.26.8.O.Yamamoto.thm“To sin by silence when we should protest makes cowards of men (Ella Wheeler Wilcox (JFK (‘91))).” If a tree falls in the forest to send campers dodging for cover who claim they did not see it crash, did it actually topple, did it make a sound and can we still use it for firewood? Hmmm.

Additionally, while steroids were banned by baseball in 1991, testing didn’t begin until 2003, then a ramped-up Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program in 2006, one year before Mr. Bonds’ final year and spring blood draws finally instituted in 2014. That fact that it’s taken so long to even get to this point in the fight (and window of opportunity still ajar) must go to the issue of wrongfulness on Bonds’ part.

Barry & Co. would add that he never tested positive for steroids. But that’s not the hand he really wants to play. When you and your union (MLBPA) stave off for decades the best method to detect illicit drug use, i.e., timely blood draws, a player crowing that he never tested positive is a poor defense, indeed.

Martha Knows

But employing the complacency defense would of course require Barry come clean, admit to a knowing, intentional use of PEDs. Words toxic to his psyche.

Everyone already believes he juiced. The grotesque ballooning of his head alone is pretty persuasive sign. Now, he’s just seen by most as a stubborn, somewhat frightened man. Life can be scary, oh, boy, can it, but choosing the truth can help.

“One brave thing.”

That’s what Joseph Cotton (“Holly”) opted for as events came to a head in the great film, The Third Man (’49) set in post-war Vienna.

It might invite the feds back into his life stemming from the BALCO matter (2003-15) if not precluded by double jeopardy. His lawyers would give him the skinny on how the feds might proceed.

.....Stewart.wc.thm.D.Shankbone.9.21.9I’m not one but I can’t imagine such a show of courage would be met with anything less than a forward-thinking response by prosecutors (those that bungled the case), something to maintain perjury precedent and negotiate agreements on fines and maybe even a brief jail stay. Barry could do that standing on his head, even today’s smaller version.

Consider billionairess Martha Stewart. Today the Super Chef is groovin.’ She’s in a better place now than before she landed in the clink.

Coming clean would sway the court of public opinion, cloak Barry in garb of leadership and grant him bully-pulpit to argue for more stringent PED-prevention. Big dog Bonds could become a bridge between former users and guardians of the game in discussing a solution to how exactly baseball’s Elias record book might be revised.

What I fear is that younger voters who will soon be majority block of BBWAA, an age that watched in awe as Barry piled-up MVPs and they filled-up boxes of memorabilia, elect him before a progressive catharsis could ever take place.

In 2016 Bonds received roughly 44% of votes (75%), up considerably from the 35% he’d been receiving his first 3-years of eligibility. Barry and Roger Clemens both (45%) are now well positioned for future gains though they could just as easily get mired in the 40s.

Winning election to the Hall of Fame, however, will change little for Barry.

....Bonds.8.25.06.thm.K.Rushforth.wcWithout a doubt, taking up residence in Cooperstown validates one’s career and all appurtenant to it, i.e., titles, awards and records, like a wave from the magic wand of wonderful. Ting! Barry, however, he’s a special case.

The distrust that his name inspires among most fans, sustained by his aloofness which includes his failure to admit an apparent PED protocol, will keep that dark cloud stationary over head and probably Cooperstown as well if elected. And though he has his supporters, their children aren’t likely to carry Dad’s passion forward: Do the different is how it usually works in generational ways.

Coming clean presents a great opportunity for Bonds.

Yes, it’s an outrageous act that comes with risks, some dread. Great acts don’t come easy nor their results cheap. But when you admit to something most already believe to be true the effect can be cleansing, open up avenues to progress & pride that living the lie will never do, even with a bronze plaque.

Public ridicule, even hatred would intensify for a time, giving fodder to trogs who think through their digestive tracts. You prepare for that. In time, truth and the courage it took to express it become a bastion for baseball fans and the brave.

“A rose is rose is a rose”

And Barry best beware of those who’d dissuade by comparison to Rose’s mea culpas that won him no new fans nor a lift of his lifetime ban.

Firstly, most of us aren’t really sure Pete’s come completely clean anyway, and then don’t really care to know anymore.

....Rose.K.Junstorm.1.11.08.thm.LV.wcSecond, while druggies cheat the game like gamblers and both make themselves subject to blackmail by associates, the motives can be quite different. Roid-heads at least seek to enhance their play, win the game. Gamblers on the other hand, they use the game, sometimes in loss, to fuel their real motive, the chance habit.

Besides that, Rose violated a code well known since Black Sox (1920), entered a contract (‘89), waited too long to make public admission and even then left doubt as to veracity when he finally did, i.e., maybe playing to lose.

A concern for Barry comes from the same supporters who may soon elect him to the Hall. They might advise against any revelation of wrong-doing. Barry’s likely lie is their lie, too. Overnight they’d turn his harshest critics. Officially establish PED use through admission and Bonds’ collectible stock drops like a rock.

Giambi and McGwire came clean though Mark passed on his initial opportunity, coining one of the queerest quips ever uttered in testimony before Congress: “I’m not here to talk about the past (‘05).” ¡Ay, caramba! But in 2010, likely at urging of Cardinals’ brass, Big Mac confessed to using steriods in his MLB career though he took shelter in the now all too common recovery-from-injury excuse rather than performance boost.

Then there’s Canseco, Mark’s brother-in-bash during their salad days as A’s.

....Canseco.wc.5.14.11.B.Horowitz.thm.WorJose’s opted for cartoon figure, afraid to embrace his iconic status as a game-changing whistleblower. Some in his profession call him a rat. Like Count Dracula, cheats hate the light of day. The revelations (claims) made in his book “Juiced (‘05)” slapped us wise on the rampant use of PEDs in MLB and gave impetus to the on-going reclamation project with no end in sight.

But Barry’s the big dog. He holds, by hook, crook or natural talent, records and MVPs. His admission, full and heart-felt, would carry weight in the war on drugs.

That shouldn’t, however, punch his ticket to immortality (HoF).

MLB banned steroids in 1991. The honor-system (test-free), but a rule is a rule and PEDs do enhance production, substantially. That makes his marks unlikely the stuff of Ruth, Mays, Mathewson and Roberto.

A solution might be a separate wing for PED’ers, proven and suspected. A stigma would attach, a neo-segregation, of sorts, this one integrity-based. But it would offer a much needed compromise to a festering problem we all helped forge that works a black mark on our era that we must accept, must embrace: Recognize achievements but chances forgone and a cowardly greed that tarnished our time.

Bonds & Clemens side would say they never failed / tested positive for PEDs nor can be tied to reliable evidence of having engaged in doping behavior. And that statement could be compromised with credible information.

While both did as federal defendants essentially prevail in their trials, evidence did come to light that could lead a neutral-minded person to form the reasonable belief that both men did engage in the use of PEDs during their careers.

....Clemens.wc.thm.K.Allison.6.27.07Brian McNamee had been a personal trainer to Roger and did give what could be deemed compelling testimony and provided physical exhibits (syringe) he claimed to’ve used on Clemens, while federal prosecutors obtained BALCO files that included a set of linking documents on Bonds from November 2000. On one, Bonds’ name with a number that corresponded to the other containing the name “Barry B.” and positive test results for two anabolic steriods.

Bonds claims to have not knowingly taken PEDs.

You can choose to believe Barry but it’s not unreasonable to disbelieve, given his corresponding super surge in power numbers with the time feds claimed he was using enhancements, together with his BALCO association, known to’ve provided and administered the regimen. If it walks, quacks like a duck.

Even if you think neither baseball star can be tied to unethical supplementation when contemplating your imaginary ballot, strong suspicion can be sufficient to form a reasonable belief that both Bonds and Clemens cheated the game with PEDs based on their physical appearance and on-field performance patterns.

Your own standard of review need not conform to those required in a court venue where civil (C&C / PoE) or criminal (BRD) matters are adjudicated. Always Shepardize, so to speak, but no one’s liberty nor property are at issue when voting on a Cooperstown plaque.

Captain’s Courageous?

What is the best voting standard?

Informed, free of bias and prejudice, of course, and if a claim of wrong-doing may attach to a candidate, a standard analogous to that by which a magistrate would base issuance of a search warrant seems apropos: Reasonable suspicion.

As noted, MLBPA forestalled blood draws for years, the preferred method, only agreeing to a spring test in 2014. To argue on one hand ‘I never tested positive’ while on the other having collectively prevented yourself from being tested or only in the most cursory fashion (urine) during your career is a faulty premise.

...blood-test.wc.Vegasjon.9.11.14.thmHad a player been outspoken about instituting high-level or any testing in early days of PED signing (90s), that man should receive a consideration. But I don’t recall any such man having taken that stand (some White Sox in spring 2005 took a position, briefly (union)), certainly not Misters Bonds nor Clemens.

As it stands, Bonds the batter and Clemens the pitcher are symbols, PED sign-posts to two destinations: 1) Big boost in production, longevity & moolah ($), and 2) the state of disgrace if pulled over for violation or waving red flags.

A likely third destination for riders on the PED junket: Related health concerns in the immediate or future states such as a compromised immunity, candida and as serious as heart disease and stroke. The younger one begins, the greater the risk.

Enshrine Barry and Roger and the symbolism is destroyed.

Message to kids or anyone balancing risk vs gain on the PED call would tilt gain, given the financial rewards, MLB’s on-going promotion of power (HRD), pretty fair chance you won’t get busted with the window that remains open and that the ultimate accolade in Cooperstown can stay on the table.

Why then should Bonds come clean? Because it’s the right thing to do.

That reads kinda’ corny today. Bravery as cultural norm stopped being cool long ago. The lie is almost hip today. Fibs & fraud are hardly new, it’s been going on since we were fishes? How does a fish lie? Flat in the pan but that’s not the issue (♫ da-boom chh! ♫). Difference today is lies are done with impunity, obviousness, almost a taunt.

...Gandhi.wc.thm.pre1942In coming clean Barry would find tremendous satisfaction he’d never regret. It could also aid his health, everyone’s, as truth-telling is a stress reducing and a major contributor to maladies of the heart (See; “The Sinatra Solution: Metabolic Cardiology,” Basic Health Pub., 2007). Over time his favorability rating would rise.

Remember what Gandhi said: “Even if minority of one, the truth is the truth.” Substance does not need quantity. “The truth cannot be destroyed (O’Dea, Johnny Belinda (‘48)).” It can be hidden, Barryied from public eyes but it will always exist in some state, known by someone, somewhere.

Barry would keep his money and seasonal accolades (MVP) but forgo the Hall of Good ‘n Plenty and concede to a record book re-do. Sacred stuff, and numbers were never so big if somewhat suffocating (See; sabrmetrics (WAR, etc.)).

I don’t see either star finding the luminosity to shine bright. Self-denial is seen as ‘Un-American Activity’ in Consumer 2016. These guys grab with both hands.

“Greed is good.” America’s motto today. Trump is its face. Don has what McCain, even as hero, could never carry off: Maverickness. That can turn loose cannon. Clinton is sharp as a tack, doesn’t ruffle easy and will take at least 2 debates by her experience. She, however, is the face of appeasement. Strength’s a question. Both flag negatives like snow-belt springs pot-holes in March. We’re not doing well with Chiefs in DC these past 40 years. We are what we eat.

Roger and Barry will win election in the not too distant future. They’ll jump for joy and their rookie cards will rise in value. But over time they’ll fare worse in the court of public opinion, if that’s possible, drawing more resentment for arguably ‘getting away with it’ and helping tarnish the game’s sacrosanct Elias record book.

They’ve a great opportunity, a responsibility, in fact, as did Rose, being key cog in the Big Red Machine, arguably the best all-time. It’s in their hands.

Oh, where o’ where are the “Captain’s Courageous?”

...canned cornSteven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo credit: B.Bonds, 7.21.07, guano, wc.cca; Bonds, wc, J.Accordino, 1993; M.McGwire, wc, 6.29.11, K.Allison; Cooperston.Signs, wc, 7.26.08, O.Yamamoto; M.Stewart, wc, D.Shankbone, 9.21.9; Bonds, wc, 8.25.06, K.Rushforth; P.Rose, wc, 1.11.08, K.Junstorm, LV; J.Canseco, wc, 5.14.11, B.Horowitz, Worcester; R.Clemens, wc, 6.27.07, K.Allison; blood-test, wc, 9.11.14, Vegasjon; M.Gandhi, wc, pre1942; canned-corn.
Posted: 3.4.16 @ 12:27p, edit (title) 10.22.16 @ 2:28p ET; Copyright © 2016