News of the Week: Baseball Starts, Groucho Sings, and You Might Get $100 in the Mail

Buy Me Some Peanuts and Cracker Jack

It’s funny how you can love some things deeply and then drift away from them over time. I’m not talking about people — though that can happen too. I’m talking about things you enjoy, your hobbies, and the ways you spend your time.

That happened to me and baseball. It’s the only sport I played as a kid (left fielder and pitcher), and I grew up obsessed with the Boston Red Sox. At one time I could not only tell you the team’s lineup, but also their batting averages. I loved baseball throughout my teens and early adult years, too.

Then in my late 20s, I became obsessed with tennis, and my knowledge of how many home runs Carl Yastrzemski hit was replaced with how many Grand Slams Roger Federer has won. I was emotional about the Red Sox World Series win in 2004 — after an eight-decade drought — but their 2007 and 2013 championships I watched only as a fair-weather fan, not as someone with a solid interest. Just yesterday, I saw the lineup for this year’s team, and I can only name three or four players, and the only reason I can is that they’re the ones who have been on the team the longest. Sorry, Blake Swihart and Craig Kimbrel!

Baseball season started yesterday, and if you’re still a fan and plan on watching a lot of games this summer, here’s ESPN’s schedule for the entire season, for every team. Maybe I’ll try to catch a Sox game on one of these warm nights, when there isn’t a tennis tournament being played somewhere in the world.

Since I mentioned “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” here’s how Cracker Jack got its name.

When Her Muscles Start Relaxin’, Up the Hill Comes Andrew Jackson

Quick question: What do Groucho Marx, Tony Bennett, and Harry Belafonte have in common? They’ve all made recordings that were just inducted into the National Recording Registry.

Bennett’s “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” entered the ranks, and so did Harry Belafonte’s album Calypso. Twenty-three others got the honor too, including “Footloose” by Kenny Loggins, “My Girl” by the Temptations, Run-DMC’s album Raising Hell, Artur Schnabel’s The Complete Beethoven Sonatas, and the soundtrack to The Sound of Music.

I know what you’re thinking: Groucho Marx? All recordings that are “recognized as vital to our nation’s audio legacy” are celebrated, and Groucho is in for his 1972 album An Evening with Groucho, which includes the song “Lydia, the Tattooed Lady,” originally sung in the movie At the Circus.

USS Juneau Found

The story of the five Sullivan Brothers, who all died aboard the USS Juneau during World War II, is one of the saddest stories of any war. It not only led to new rules regarding how many family members can serve in the military at one time, it was the inspiration for the movies The Fighting Sullivans and Saving Private Ryan. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and his research company recently found the wreck of the ship at the bottom of the South Pacific, 76 years after it sank.

Drink, Click, Buy

I’ve never bought anything after having a few too many cocktails. Oh, I can remember years ago buying a lot of fast food after a night of drinking, but I’ve never had too much to drink and then gone online and bought something I didn’t need. But apparently that’s a real problem, with people spending an average of $448 last year on tipsy purchases.

I have a problem with this news being described as “costing America $30 billion.” If you’re spending money online, isn’t that good for the companies you’re buying from? And if it’s something you want or need, whether it’s a book, a new jacket, or a subscription to your favorite magazine, how is that a bad thing?

National Poetry Month

The April celebration doesn’t start for two more days, but you can get a jumpstart by reading this piece in The Paris Review on Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” which they call “the most misread poem in America.”

I never knew it was once used in an ad for Mentos.

RIP Louise Latham, Linda Brown, Zell Miller, Frank Avruch, and Charles P. Lazarus

Louise Latham was best known for her roles in movies like Marnie and Firecreek, as well as TV shows such as The Fugitive, Perry Mason, Columbo, The X-Files, ER, and Murder, She Wrote. She died in February at the age of 95.

Linda Brown was not allowed to attend an all-white school, which led to the famous Brown v. Board of Education court case that ended school segregation. She died Sunday at the age of 75.

Zell Miller was a Democratic governor of Georgia from 1991 to 1996 and a senator from 2000 to 2005. He also once challenged MSNBC’s Chris Matthews to a duel! He died last Friday at the age of 86.

Frank Avruch was a longtime host of Boston TV shows, including The Great Entertainment and Man About Town. He was also one of the guys who played Bozo the Clown, wearing the makeup throughout the 1960s. He died last week at the age of 89.

Just a week after it was announced that Toys ’R’ Us is going out of business, the founder of the chain, Charles P. Lazarus, has died. He was 94.

Quote of the Week

“What’s up, deplorable?”

—liberal Jackie to her conservative sister Roseanne on ABC’s Roseanne reboot, which returned to massive ratings

The Best and the Worst

Best: Can you imagine someone starting a job today and staying at that same job for 50 years? Sue Scheible went to work for The Patriot Ledger in 1968, and she’s still there. She wrote a great top-ten list of her reasons why she’s still on the job.

Worst: Valpak, the coupon company with the blue envelopes, is also marking 50 years. In celebration, they’re randomly sending people checks in those envelopes. I didn’t pick this as a “worst” because this is a bad idea — good for them! — I picked it because I didn’t get one.

This Week in History

Vincent van Gogh Born (March 30, 1853)

Vincent van Gogh: painter of famous masterpieces, slicer of ears, and subject of a popular sad song from the ’70s.

Jeopardy! Debuts (March 30, 1964)

The original star was Art Fleming, who hosted the show until 1975 and then again in a revamped version in 1978-79. Alex Trebek has hosted the current syndicated version since 1984.

I couldn’t find video from the first season, but here’s an episode from 1974:

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: Greyhounds (March 29, 1941)

Greyhounds in profile
Paul Bransom
March 29, 1941

I could tell you that I picked this Paul Bransom cover because I like the use of neutral colors and that it’s a different type of cover for the Post, but the truth is, I just really love dogs.

Easter Recipes

We don’t celebrate Easter in my family. It’s one of those in-between holidays, more important than Groundhog Day, but not as important as Thanksgiving, so it’s just another day for us. No ham, no colored eggs, no chocolate. Well, actually, there will be chocolate on Easter. There’s always chocolate! It just won’t be shaped like a bunny.

But if you plan on making a meal for your family on Sunday, you can try Curtis Stone’s Roasted Pork Loin, these Maple Dill Carrots, and this Easter Bunny Cake, which is equal parts adorable and horrifying.

And if you plan on having a lot of people over for dinner, try one of these four farm recipes for home-cured ham from 1950.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events​

Men’s Final Four (March 31-April 2)

I’m not sure how you did in your bracket (do I have the terminology right? I watch basketball even less than baseball), but the final four going for the NCAA Men’s Championship are Kansas, Villanova, Michigan, and Loyola Chicago. Here’s the CBS and TBS broadcast schedule.

April Fools’ Day (April 1)

You could spend the day playing cruel jokes on your friends and family, or you could try to spot all 45 errors in this classic Norman Rockwell Post cover from 1943.

Jesus Christ Superstar Live (April 1)

This live musical, airing at 8 p.m. on NBC and starring John Legend, Sara Bareilles, and Alice Cooper, is the latest live event from the network, after The Sound of Music, Peter Pan, The Wiz, and Hairspray. They’re producing A Few Good Men later this year.

When I Was Young And Charming

The 1929 movie “Cocoanuts” made Groucho Marx a star at age 39. That year he wrote about the changes he’d seen in his two decades as an entertainer.  You’d need at least an associate degree in American History to understand most of his references to obscure events and vaudevillians. Still, it’s interesting to see what nostalgia looked like in 1929.

Vaudeville was at the height of its popularity, and three performances a day, with four on Saturday and five on Sunday, was considered a vacation. A week which only called for one split engagement was a rest cure.

The standard vaudeville wage was forty dollars for a single and sixty dollars for a double; quartets were paid $150 and headliners $200.

Theater curtains were rolled on a log, and to be hit by one was sure death. Stage hands changed the sets in full lights and their shirt sleeves, and the proprietor’s daughter always played the piano. That’s how he came to be the proprietor.

The Three Nightingales became the Four Marx Brothers when Brother Arthur joined the act. When he spoke his first lines we realized he was born to be a pantomimist. We laughed indulgently when he said he’d like to take lessons on a harp and our act was called “Fun In Hi Skool.” This spelling was considered to be very comical in those days and, in fact, was the biggest laugh in the act. As I recall it now, it was the only laugh

Art Fischer,a monologist, disturbed our poker game in Champaign, Illinois, by calling Arthur “Harpo”; Leo “Chico”; Herbert “Zeppo”; and me “Groucho.” He was the only kibitzer on record who ever said anything of value.

Our booking agent was one Minnie Palmer and so was our mother.

Railroad fare was two cents a mile, and hotels had a standard rate of six dollars a week, including a midnight supper after the show.

The musical saw had not made its appearance on the vaudeville stage, and every burlesque show had an Irish and a Jew comedian, as well as a rich widow. It was considered quite the thing to have the saxophone player stretch out across the piano, and the violinist was a bust unless he could fiddle behind his back. All good drummers threw their sticks in the air, and the member of the orchestra who played the loudest was made the leader.

Harvard still won football championships… and men who played golf were considered effeminate.  Every well-dressed man wore an elk’s tooth for a watch charm, and a fellow who could blow smoke rings was a social success.

It was a swell house that had more than one bathroom There were very few two-car families, but there was always meat on the table. No hot dog was complete without sauerkraut. Liver was given away with each purchase of meat

Chorus girls were picked for weight, not speed, and shop girls work silk stockings only on Sunday.

“Skidoo” was considered a pretty smart crack. Girls blushed when a wise-cracker would say, “Oh, you chicken!”… and only in a terrific windstorm were a girl’s knees visible.

What the country needed was a good three-cent cigar Beer was a nickel a glass… and dinners with candles were unknown except in homes of plumbers.

Half the population had stiff necks from looking at Halley’s Comet, and you could park as long as you liked in Times Square.

Actors spent their spare time in pool rooms, and if anybody had told me that a magazine would pay me to write articles I would have sneered derisively — If I had known what that meant.