Powerball and Chess

I recently finished reading, Power Ball: Anatomy of a Modern Baseball Game,

by Rob Neyer,

and decided to write about the book because of a couple of references to Chess.

“Baseball IS statistics!” – Former Georgia Chess Champion and head writer for the College Bowl Michael Decker, aka, “Lousiville Lefty” (Not from the book)

“I never keep a scorecard or the batting averages. I hate statistics. What I got to know, I keep in my head.” – Former Major League baseball player and announcer Dizzy Dean (1910-1974) (From the book)

Many years ago a fellow Chess player and I were at the Atlanta Public Library, located in downtown Atlanta, on one of the upper floors containing books about Baseball. We were discussing some of them when he asked, “How many Baseball books have you read?” I began pulling out the ones previously read while he watched. When finished I stood back to survey the racks and noticed a stunned look on his mug. “Bacon, if you had read that many Chess books you would have become a Master!” he said. “Probably not,” I replied. “To become a Master one must want to become a Master player, and I could have cared less. What I wanted was to become a Major League Baseball player.” He smiled knowingly.

Although continuing to read Baseball books they were becoming infrequent as my interest in Baseball waned this century. While in a bookstore I noticed the title, and the name of the author, a writer with whom I was familiar. Taking the book from the shelf I began reading the preface. For some time I had wanted to read a book concerning the recent changes made to MLB that has caused the game to become a boring version of home run derby.

“Inspired by Hano’s A Day in the Bleachers

and Okrent’s Nine Innings,

we’re going to explore today’s Baseball through the lens of a single game: Athletics vs. Astros in Oakland, September 8, 2017.” The next paragraph begins, “In many ways, this was a meaningless game.”

I knew at that moment the book would be read. This was because of having previously, somewhere, sometime, read about a dying man who had been asked what he would miss after departing. One of the things he mentioned was “Being able to watch a meaningless regular season Baseball game.”

“Once you train yourself to see it,” Ben Lindbergh

wrote a few years ago in Grantland, “it’s almost impossible to stop seeing it. Baseball is often described as a chess match between batter and pitcher. But it’s more like a chess match between batter and pitcher in which, once in a while, the catcher grabs the board and moves someone’s piece.” – pg 210

“With Marisnick aboard in a tie game, we’re treated to a small chess game that you can follow even from the cheap seats. ‘I’ve come up against him a lot,’ Hendriks will later say of Marisnick. ‘I know that he runs well, and he runs a lot off me.”
“Before throwing a pitch to Maybin, Hendricks pivots for a pickoff throw to first base. Once, twice, three times. Marisnick dives back safely once, twice, three times. But is that enough?” -pg 223

All the world is a stage…upon which a Chess game is played.

This book concerns Baseball but is about so much more than Baseball. It is about change, and not just about how Baseball has changed. For example, Mr. Neyer writes: “In Oliver Sack’s last book,

he wrote, “Nothing is more crucial to the survival and independence of organisms – be they elephants or protozoa – than the maintenance of a constant internal environment.” This constancy is called homeostasis.

“Further, Sacks writes, “It is especially when things are going wrong internally – when homeostasis is not being maintained, when the autonomic balance starts listing heavily to one side or the other – that this core consciousness, the feeling of how one is, takes on an intrusive, unpleasant quality, and now one will say, ‘I feel ill – something is amiss.’ At such time, one no longer looks well either.”

“Justin Verlander

might not feel ill, but something is amiss; Baseball no longer looks well. When a team can go through an entire season and hit only five triples – as the Blue Jays did in 2017, setting a record low – it doesn’t look well. John Thorn,

MLB’s official historian, who loves baseball as much as anyone I’ve ever known, says of Two True Outcomes baseball, “We love surprises, since we were children. But this is a game I don’t like.” Because surprises – they’re disappearing.”

A month or so after the World Series, Steven Goldleaf wrote a long essay for Bill Jame’s website, titled “How Sabermetrics Has Ruined Baseball.”
That headline’s just a grabber, but Goldleaf’s central point is a good one: “Sabermetrics could ruin baseball, in that its goal is to create a type of game that optimizes winning, while fans want to see a type of game that is entertaining to watch.” (https://www.billjamesonline.com/how_sabermetrics_has_ruined_baseball/)

Having devoted so much time to playing, and writing about, Chess, it was simply impossible for me to not think about the current state of the Royal game while reading this wonderful book. For example, substitute the word “chess, and Chess” for “baseball, and Baseball” in the following sentence: “There would still be baseball without these millions of fans, but there would not be Baseball. And it’s worth mentioning that in the first half of the 2018 season, attendance is down significantly: something like 6 or 7 percent.” This was written in the very last part of the book, Extras: Future Ball, and was written in July of 2018. I will add that the ratings for the 2018 World Series tanked. See: Why World Series Ratings Took a Nose Dive in 2018 (https://www.si.com/mlb/video/2018/10/31/world-series-ratings-took-nose-dive-2018)

It was not just the World Series: Baseball Playoff Ratings Are Down (https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/baseball-playoff-ratings-are-down-blame-yankees-cubs-1153938)

Rob writes, “Media types tend to forget something, though: the baseball business is not a two-sided coin, with the players on one side and the owners on the other. They forget about the millions of baseball fans who pay for all these nice things. The business does not exist without the fans, just as Kellogg’s doesn’t exist without hungry kids and Southwest Airlines doesn’t exist without thrifty travelers. There would still be baseball without these millions of fans, but there would not be Baseball.”

The World Human Chess Championship is the Showcase Event of the Chess World. The recently finished 2018 WHCC, culminating with all the real games drawn, turned off many fans and left a sickening taste in the minds of many others, especially the “Media types.” This is not good because potential fans read what the “Media types” write. I have no idea how long, or even if, Chess will have any interest whatsoever in the minds of people. It is possible in the future chess will be played, but not Chess, as has been the fate of checkers.

The Assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy

“I never let schooling interfere with my education.” – Mark Twain

Today is the anniversary of the brutal murder of POTUS John Fitzgerald Kennedy. The event which transpired in New York city on September 11, 2001 has been equated with what happened in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963, which to anyone my age is laughable. The enormousness of the killing of a POTUS dwarfs any other day of infamy.

The death of President Kennedy was announced at a pep rally at my high school on a Friday afternoon. Half of those in attendance cheered. JFK was reviled in the South, not only because he was a yankee, but also a Catholic. Southern Baptists did not like Catholics. Actually, most of them did not like anyone other than those who were like minded.

I had turned thirteen a few months earlier and was in the eight grade at a new high school where I knew only two other students, both from my grammar school. Fights broke out after the announcement. Fortunately I was not involved.

Like most other Americans my family gathered around the television to watch the continuous coverage. One could tell how important an event was this because there were no commercials broadcast for days. I saw Jack Ruby allegedly shoot Lee Harvey Oswald, if it was really Lee Harvey Oswald, in the basement of the Dallas police department. Oswald said he was a patsy. Some do not believe Ruby, an FBI informant, actually shot Oswald. Only a few people know the truth, and they are not telling. One reason may be what has been written about something in the office of organized crime figure Carlos Marcello’s office: “Three can keep a secret if two are dead,” which is a quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin.

I read Rush To Judgement, by Mark Lane, in the late 1960’s and was hooked. At one time I could count the number of books on the assassination, but that is no longer the case, and has not been for decades. Former Georgia Chess Champion Michael Decker once told someone that I “Had read EVERYTHING!” It may have been close to the truth then, but there have been so many books written now that it is virtually impossible for anyone to read all of them. Michael, like most other Americans, refused to believe anything other than what the government said had happened. On one of the many visits I made to visit him in Louisville I noticed a copy of Best Evidence: Disguise and Deception in the Assassination of John F. Kennedy, by David S. Lifton. When asked if he had read the book he looked like a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He refused to discuss the matter, so I let it drop. I could discern his faith in our institutions had been shaken.

I even read discredited books concerning the assassination considered by knowledgeable people to be disinformation. When asked why I would reply, “In order to know what they leave out, or where they want you to go, so I can go the other way.” I drew the line, though, at the doorstop, Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, by Vincent Bugliosi. After all, my time on this earth is limited and reading that piece of trash would be a complete waste of time. I will admit, though, that the reviews panning it were even better than the reviews of Gerald Posner’s terrible book, Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK.

I went to the Atlanta Historical Society one evening to listen to a lecture by a man some call an “eminent historian,” Robert Dallek, who had written, An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917 – 1963. I was in line to ask him a question when the first question to him was, “What books have you read on the assassination of JFK?” When he said, “Case Closed,” the questioner asked, “That’s all?” When Dallek said there was no need to read any other books after reading that one, the audience booed, and hissed, and booed some more. I turned and walked out. Need I tell you this is one of the highlights of my life?

Back in the 1980’s Michael “Mad Dog” Gordon, another Chess player, watched a two-hour program on the JFK assassination, which he thought made him an expert. The Legendary one, had told Mike that I had read many books on the subject, so Mad Dog began asking me questions one evening while taking a break from playing fifteen minute games. We did not play another game. Many hours later he offered his couch because of the late hour. I could not do that now because my memory is not what it used to be. I have forgotten names, dates, and details, unfortunately. The program Mad Dog had watched “proved” that LHO had shot JFK. As the man from the High Planes, Life Master David Vest, former Georgia Chess Champion and Georgia Senior Chess champion, would say, “I refuted the Mad Dog.”

Whatever one thinks of John Fitzgerald Kennedy the fact that you are here today and reading this is testament to the man because if he had not been POTUS during the Cuban Missile Crisis there would have been a nuclear war. There would have been an alternate timeline, one that possibly would not have included humans. You see, the hawks who wanted to bomb the hell out of Cuba did not know that nuclear weapons were positioned there, ready to strike the US, and that the Russian battlefield commanders had authority to fire them in case of an invasion. This was learned decades later at a conference in Cuba.

A few who have learned of my continuing interest in the sordid affair have asked me what book to read, as if there were one, and only one, book to read on the assassination of President Kennedy. My usual response has been to scoff at such a ridiculous question. Now I am old and today may be my tomorrow, so I have decided to share the titles of the books I would recommend one read, if interested in the subject.

When I began researching the subject I focused on not who had killed the POTUS, but why was he killed. This is the best book to answer that question:

JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters, by James W. Douglass.

Garrison Keillor puts out an edition of The Writer’s Almanac every day, which can be listened to on NPR and found here: https://writersalmanac.org/

Mr. Keillor writes in today’s edition, “As they drove through Dealey Plaza, Lee Harvey Oswald opened fire from a sixth-floor window in the Texas School Book Depository.” Lee Harvey Oswald was later that day tested for nitrates on his face, something he would have had if he had fired a rifle earlier in the day. He tested negative.

Because it is his birthday a piece on Charles de Gaulle, a former President of France, follows, which is ironic because when asked about the Kennedy assassination, de Gaulle, who had survived numerous assassination attempts, said, “His security was compromised.” This is the book to read in order to understand what happened that November day in 1963:

Survivor’s Guilt: The Secret Service and the Failure to Protect President Kennedy, by Vincent Palamara.

Douglas Horne has written a five volumne set of books that is simply de rigueur if one wants to know what happened in Dallas that terrible day: Inside the Assassination Records Review Board: The U.S. Government’s Final Attempt to Reconcile the Conflicting Medical Evidence in the Assassination of JFK.

If one wants to know the empirical evidence he should read the masterful: A Deeper, Darker Truth, by Donald T Phillips.

That’s it, unless one is interested in speculation, when I would highly recommend: Target JFK: The Spy Who Killed Kennedy? by Robert K. Wilcox, the author of the highly acclaimed, Target Patton: The Plot to Assassinate General George S. Patton.

Then there is, THE MEN THAT DON’T FIT IN, by Rod MacKenzie. Can it really be true that these last two books are true? With the JFK assassination, anything is possible.

The Men That Don’t Fit In
By Robert W. Service
There’s a race of men that don’t fit in,
A race that can’t stay still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin,
And they roam the world at will.
They range the field and they rove the flood,
And they climb the mountain’s crest;
Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood,
And they don’t know how to rest.

If they just went straight they might go far;
They are strong and brave and true;
But they’re always tired of the things that are,
And they want the strange and new.
They say: “Could I find my proper groove,
What a deep mark I would make!”
So they chop and change, and each fresh move
Is only a fresh mistake.

And each forgets, as he strips and runs
With a brilliant, fitful pace,
It’s the steady, quiet, plodding ones
Who win in the lifelong race.
And each forgets that his youth has fled,
Forgets that his prime is past,
Till he stands one day, with a hope that’s dead,
In the glare of the truth at last.

He has failed, he has failed; he has missed his chance;
He has just done things by half.
Life’s been a jolly good joke on him,
And now is the time to laugh.
Ha, ha! He is one of the Legion Lost;
He was never meant to win;
He’s a rolling stone, and it’s bred in the bone;
He’s a man who won’t fit in.

‘Mr. Kentucky Chess’ Found Beaten and Stabbed to Death

Stephen Dillard, 55, was found beaten and stabbed to death Friday in his Jeffersontown, Kentucky, home, and police charged one of his former foster kids with murder. (http://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/crime/2015/03/14/mr-kentucky-chess-found-stabbed-jtown/24771833/)

Police said around 11 a.m., Ronshai Jenefor beat and stabbed to death a man at his home on Thelma Lane. Jeffersontown investigators found Jenefor walking in the rain, not far from the scene, two hours after the body of the Carrithers Middle School teacher was discovered in the home. Police said Jenefor confessed to the killing and had lived there. (http://www.whas11.com/story/news/crime/2015/03/13/20-year-old-faces-murder-charge-after-teacher-killed-in-jeffersontown/70310244/)

Even in confirming the death of 55-year-old Dillard, police disclosed scant details about the events leading up to Dillard’s homicide and the arrest of Ronshai Jenefor, 21, a foster son who had lived with Dillard for several months. (http://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/local/2015/03/15/community-mourns-slain-chess-mentor-teacher/24820687/)

These are the basic facts as they are known at this time. Having lived in Louisville and having known the man everyone called Steve, I was obviously shocked upon learning of his death in such a brutal fashion. I cannot stop thinking about something former Georgia Chess Champion Michael Decker, a native of Louisville, used to say so frequently it became almost a mantra, “No good dead goes unpunished.”

During one of my first visits to the quick-play tournament Steve directed at a big box store, called Monday at Meijer’s, Steve introduced me to a woman seeking a chess teacher for her son. I did not know then, but now know, why Steve knew so much about the boy, who had been expelled from school. Before his brutal demise all I knew about Steve was that he was a school teacher. Because I tried to teach this boy for about two years, I have a practical understanding of why Fernand Gobet & Guillermo Campitelli wrote in Educational benefits of chess instruction: A critical review (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2015/03/05/chess-offers-low-level-gains-for-society/) “…compulsory instruction is not to be recommended, as it seems to lead to motivational problems.” Steve also gave me what turned out to be prophetic advice on a personal matter which I, being the recalcitrant type, did not take, to my detriment.

Steve and I met over the board only once, with that being a quick-play game at a Barnes & Noble. I had the black pieces and played the Dutch. We reached a locked-up position and he offered a draw, which I refused. After losing, Steve asked me why I had turned down his draw offer, and laughed uproariously when I said, “Because I play to WIN!” I did not understand his laughter then, but after reading the following, I can better understand why he laughed.

“Wow. I am stunned.

A story about Steve, as remembered nearly 30 years later:

I still tell this one from time to time. Steve told it to us during my High School days (back in the 1980s) when someone directing a tournament (Geoff McAuliffe?) ejected Steve from the tournament floor because Steve simply could not stop laughing.

What triggered that laughing fit? A rated game Steve was playing against Don Ifill, where Don had checked Steve … with his own king … and punched the clock.”

Russ Billings (http://kcachess.webs.com/apps/forums/topics/show/13151200-steve-dillard-has-passed?page=2)

For the first time in years I went to the Kentucky Chess Association website to read about the death, bringing back memories of some of those writing on the forum. Nothing better exemplifies why Steve Dillard was known as ‘Mr. Kentucky Chess’ than this:

“Steve paid for my first membership and encouraged me to get involved with KCA politics. He believed that I could be a positive figure in that process. The last time I spoke to him I was worried that my chess play would suffer because of my KCA board involvement. He reassured me that I could still achieve my master rating while being president.

Without Steve I wouldn’t know anyone on this thread. I probably wouldn’t even be involved in chess if Steve hadn’t left that chess club flyer at my second job in 2002. It’s funny how things turn out sometimes.

This is truly a sad day in chess.

R.I.P Steve. You will be missed.

Randas Burns

KCA President”
(http://kcachess.webs.com/apps/forums/topics/show/13151200-steve-dillard-has-passed?page=1)

In an article on the USCF website, Chess Community Loses Great Ambassador, Steve Dillard, Frank Niro writes, “He was known for his “Steve Dillard rule” where he allowed players to deduct five minutes from their clocks and not keep score, as a way to encourage new players.” (http://www.uschess.org/content/view/12989/806/)

The rule transmogrified into any player being able to deduct five minutes from their clocks and not keep score , in contravention to USCF rules, but the chess community allowed it because of the stature held by Steve Dillard. Few reach a point when they are above the rules, but Steve Dillard had obviously reached that point in USCF. Steve had as much gravitas in the chess community as anyone has ever had in any local chess community. Steve Dillard was, first and foremost, a chess player. It is said that, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” From some of the comments on the Chess Affiliate thread concerning “threats and accusations” it is obvious the internecine war in Kentucky chess has begun, and this before Steve has been laid to rest. From what little I know about Steve Dillard it is obvious he would be appalled at some of what has been written. We can only hope the chess community in Derby City can use this tragic event to come together, not pull apart. Before they write, say, or do anything, they could ask, “What would Steve do?”

My condolences to the family, and the Kentucky chess family, of Steve Dillard. May he rest in peace.

Here is a link to Steve’s obituary: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/louisville/obituary.aspx?n=stephen-p-dillard&pid=174427909&fhid=4753