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Billy Altman: HEY, HARRY REID: WHO’S ON FIRST?

December 26th, 2009, 03:12 am admin Leave a comment Go to comments

I’m sure that by now just about everyone is aware of the fact that the Health Care Bill was passed by the U.S. Senate on Christmas Eve in a strictly partisan vote that saw all the Democrats voting for it and all the Republicans voting against it. Of course, if you watched the roll call on C-Span, you got the added-value bonus of seeing Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid bizarrely call out “No” when it came time for his vote, which led to a loud mix of gasps and laughs across both aisles before he quickly changed it to an “Aye.”

Afterwards, Reid told reporters that “To be honest, I’d like to say I was being funny or create some bipartisanship, but I was just in dreamland, thinking about where we had come. It was just…I am bushed.”

Now admittedly, I’m willing to give the mild-mannered Mormon from Searchlight Nevada a pass for this particular exhaustion-propelled brain cramp – although I should note that if this had been Jeopardy, as the first thing out of his mouth, the “No” vote would have counted, and all those months of political wheeling and dealing would have been for nothing.

However, it just so happens that a scant forty-eight hours previously, at Tuesday’s press conference following a key preliminary vote on the bill, Reid singled out Montana’s Max Baucus, Connecticut’s Chris Dodd and Iowa’s Tom Harkin for their roles in helping to push the bill through with a gaffe-filled gusheroo in which compared them to some “heavy hitters” from the world of baseball. After reading his words, all I can say is that I hope Give-’Em-Hello-Harry wasn’t the one who actually wrote the Health Care Bill, or else, my fellow Americans, we are all in, er, premium trouble.

Here, as reported by The New York Times’ David M. Herszenhorn, are Reid’s baseball- referencing remarks, in their entirety:

The lead-off for this whole venture has been Max, Chairman Baucus. And the person that bats second is someone – if you look at some of the great players that have batted second: Joe Morgan, he hit – he was leadoff sometimes, but mainly he hit second. He could – he was a switch-hitter. He could hit from the left or the right. He had speed; he had power. And that’s Chris Dodd, a great…

“Now, if – now if you look at some of the great players that have batted third, who are some of those players? How about Lou Gehrig? Lou Gehrig was a set-up man for Babe Ruth. The reason they had Lou Gehrig there is that they knew that they had to pitch to him, because if you got past him you had Babe Ruth. And that’s what managers look for.

And so for me, for once in my life, I’m batting cleanup, because when I played baseball I couldn’t bat cleanup. But by the time it got to me through Baucus, Dodd and Harkin, it was pretty easy. So I appreciate the nice words everyone has said to me, but by the time that this thing got to me, most of the hard work had been done.”

Where do we begin? Joe Morgan? “He was leadoff sometimes, but mainly he hit second.” Does Reid mean during the Hall of Fame second baseman’s heyday as a cog in Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine teams of the 1970s? Well, not only did Joe Morgan not bat leadoff – Pete Rose did that, day in and day out – but Morgan mainly didn’t hit second, either. Most of the time, that was Ken Griffey’s spot in the order. Morgan batted third. Let’s continue: “He could [hit second] – he was a switch-hitter. He could hit from the left or the right.” Umm: That’s a hard one to get around, even for a slippery politician. That’s because Joe Morgan wasn’t a switch-hitter. He hit lefthanded for his entire 22-year big league career.

“How about Lou Gehrig?’ Well, okay, how about Lou Gehrig? “Lou Gehrig was a set-up man for Babe Ruth,” said Reid. “The reason they had Lou Gehrig there is that they knew that they had to pitch to him, because if you got past him you had Babe Ruth.” Sounds logical, doesn’t it? Only one problem: Babe Ruth hit in front of Lou Gehrig, not behind him. And most students of the game know that fact for a very good reason. In 1929, the Yankees became the first team in major league baseball to wear uniform numbers – and they did it the simplest way imaginable: Their “roll call” started with the batting order itself. Centerfielder Earle Combs batted first, and wore Number One. Shortstop Mark Koenig batted second and wore Number Two. Rightfielder Babe Ruth batted third, and wore Number Three. And first baseman Lou Gehrig batted fourth and wore Number Four.

I conclude with several thoughts. First, I’m glad Reid didn’t put himself in the pitcher’s spot, because who knows where this lineup would have gone after Ruth and Gehrig. Second, speaking of pitchers, was it just sheer coincidence that, following Reid’s highly publicized bloopers, the lone Senator who didn’t vote on the Health Care bill was Kentucky Republican Jim Bunning, who just happens to be the one and only former baseball player in the whole joint? Which leads me to my third and last thought about the whole silly thing. Harry, here’s some advice. The next time someone asks you a tough question, just remember this: “I don’t know is on third.”


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