John Delach

On The Outside Looking In

Month: December, 2021

The Christmas of Our Discontent

I returned home on December 23 from an overnight stay in St. Francis Hospital where I received a clot preventer called, “The Watchman.” This device was implanted into a chamber in my heart to prevent blood clots from exiting that chamber and killing me. My Watchman is nothing more than an inanimate shield that blocks threatening clots from leaving their source. Delach:One, blood clots: Zero.

A device almost too good to be true, I still can’t abide by the name, Watchman. It sounds like something Sony introduced in the 1970s. So, I decided to name it Stevie.

I did experience a few delightful quirks on the way to my operation. The surgeon was late for the procedure. His crew covered for “MD God.” On arrival, he did give me a “We got this,” in the prep room cameo.  

When I arrived in the OR, I was wheeled into the room to the voice of John Fogarty and CCW from a speaker. They shaved my groin after which I was introduced to all the operating staff. My last recollection before everything went dark was a bit disconcerting. As I began to fade toward midnight, I heard two nurses observe: “You know, he has high blood pressure and a low heart rate at the same time?” followed by a sarcastic: “Perfect!!”

I desperately wanted to call a time out, but I was too far gone toward the other side to voice my objection.

My procedure went well, and after an overnight stay and a morning echo-cardiogram confirmed Stevie was in place and on guard, Tara, my supervising nurse said I was good to go.

Absolute and total relief was my reaction. Relief that Mary Ann, me, the doctors and the nurses had pulled this off during attacks by both the Delta variant and this new hyper- contagious, Omicron  COVID variant. The last thing I needed was to test positive for either one of these abominations, and I had avoided both.  

Mission accomplished. A stop at, Let There Be Bagels, our local bagel store for a lox and cream cheese sandwich on a plain bagel let me know I had made it home.

Meanwhile, the Omicron variant continued to go through America faster than the Metroliner went through Metuchen, New Jersey. Vaccinated or not, it seemed there is no place to hide and no place to run. Friends and family seem to be infected in the blink of an eye. 

Our daughter, Beth, and her family, chose to spend their Christmas vacation at Little House, our place in New Hampshire. Our Son, Michael, and his family decided to stay in Connecticut.

We cancelled all our plans and chose to weather the pandemic at home in Port Washington until we can  turn the page. We had to minimize our expectations. Unbelievable, almost two years removed from the first assault, and every one of us completely vaccinated, we remain trapped by this latest variant!

But life’s own matters do not always wait for better times. That same day, December 23, Ruby, the Connecticut Delach senior family dog experienced noticeable distress. Michael and Drew took her to the emergency veterinarian who determined Ruby had massive tumors blocking her digestive tract. Brave souls, both, father and son did right by their very best friend and put her to sleep.

In honor of Ruby and all our very best friends, I have included the piece I wrote about the day we met Ruby and her brother, Max, for the first time.

Max and Ruby’s’ Arrival

Max and Ruby were eight weeks old when they arrived by truck from Missouri on Thursday, November 11, 2010.

 Their litter was born on September 9, and they were transported to Long Island by a dog trucking company called PetEx Express as part of a shipment of eighty-two puppies destined for private owners and pet shops in Virginia, New Jersey and New York.

As disturbing as this sounds, think about the alternative; flying the baby Golden Retrievers to New York by a commercial airline. .

When Mary Ann and I were first presented with a plan to fly the puppies to New York, at first, it seemed to be fine.

 We had lost Maggie that summer and decided that we had one last Golden in us, but we would wait until November to welcome our new addition. In the interim Mary Ann decided to buy a second pup for our daughter-in-law, Jodie, as a birthday gift.

Jodie wanted a female, and we wanted a male. We picked the name Max and Jodie picked Ruby after the other principal characters in the comic / cartoon show: Max and Ruby.

When our flight back to JFK from Fort Myers, Florida turned into an awful rockem-sockem, rodeo ride. I dreaded what would happen to the puppies if they had a similar experience. “Mary Ann, I fear that we will find two traumatized pups covered in poop.”

That’s why we were relieved when the service we were using advised the puppies would be coming by truck. However, that had its own complications. Steve, the driver, a good fellow who gave me his cell number, was clueless when it came to delivering in the New York Metropolitan area.

He expected to arrive on November 10 and Jodie drove down with our three grandchildren, Drew (11), Matt (8) and Samantha (4). The idea was for them to be with us that evening when the dogs arrived so they could meet and greet their Ruby. By eight o’clock that night, the kids had had it and poor Steve was lost in Manhattan. Mary Ann took charge, called him and told him, “We’ll see you tomorrow.”

 He told her they had a stop at a local Port Washington pet store called Barkingham Palace and would deliver our puppies after that stop. “We’ll sleep in their parking lot.”

Knowing that my oldest grandson, Drew, was an early riser, I found him in the kitchen watching TV when I slipped out of bed the following morning. “Hey, Drew, let’s take a ride to find the truck. Don’t bother to change, just throw something on to keep warm”

Drew’s eyes lit up. He threw on slippers and a coat and off we went only to find an empty parking lot. Right, I called Steve on my cell phone: “Where are you?”

“We’re at Burger King having breakfast.”

“Don’t go back to the pet store. My house is between Burger King and that store. Use your GPS.”

I gave Drew my phone so he could call home to tell his mom and Mary Ann what was up while I headed for Burger King. “Grandpa, how will we know what truck to look for?”

“Simple, Drew, look for a truck with Missouri plates.”

We arrived to see a panel truck with “Show Me” state plates pull out of the lot. “See those plates, Drew, that’s our truck. Let’s follow it. Call home, tell them we’re on our way.”

Drew and I reached the driveway at the same time as the PetEx truck. Everybody poured out onto Roger Drive in eager anticipation. Steve’s helper emerged from the truck and presented these two beautiful babies into the loving hands of their new families.

Mary Ann and Jodie each hoisted a into the air to confirm who was Max and who was Ruby.

Shouts of joy, squeals of delight, pandemonium, we welcomed two very confused puppies who soon would come to realize, they were home. Once again, we had a big orange dog in our lives.

And so, it goes…Ruby has gone to that place where the spirits of all good dogs go.

We will intern her ashes in New Hampshire next summer under our baton rouge.

When New York was Baseball and Baseball was New York

The period from 1947 until 1956 was identified by Ken Burns, the creator of an award-winning documentary about baseball as the era when New York was baseball and baseball was New York. It would be difficult to dispute that statement as during nine of those ten baseball seasons, one of the three New York baseball franchises participated in the World Series. In fact, in seven of those years, both opponents were New York teams. All involved the New York Yankees, and six, the Brooklyn Dodgers, and one, the 1951 series saw the Bronx Bombers play the New York Giants.

The Yankees won that series four games to two, but to reach the World Series, the Giants had to play the Dodgers in a best of three game playoff. Tied one-game apiece, Game 3 was played in the Polo Grounds. In the bottom of the nineth inning with two men on base, the Giants slugger, Bobby Thompson hit what became known as “The shot heard around the world” while Russ Hodges, the team’s radio voice screamed into his mic: “The Giants win the pennant, the Giants win the pennant…”   

1948 was the only exception. That year, the Cleveland Indians outlasted the Boston Braves winning that series, four games to two. The Cleveland team’s superb pitching staff overwhelmed Boston since the Braves only had two aces of their own. Their only recourse was to chant the Braves mantra: “ Spahn  and Sain and pray for rain.” Unfortunately, Mother Nature didn’t cooperate and, despite the best efforts of Warren Spahn and Johnny Mize, that formular fell short of victory!

Arnold Hano, a lifetime Giants fan wrote a delightful book about the first game of the 1954 World Series between the Cleveland Indians and the Giants played in the Polo Grounds with the title: “A Day in the Bleachers.” In it he describes his take on the characteristics of Giant fans and their rival fans of the other two teams.

He explained that Giant fans were unique, but he could have added a bit peculiar, because of the strange layout of the dressing rooms at the Polo Grounds. Instead of being located under the infield stands behind the first base and third base dugouts, the locker rooms at the Polo Grounds were in a building behind the bleachers that towered over the fans. Teams, going onto the field had to take a passageway out of the building and on to the field in full view of the fans.. So too did unlucky pitchers who had to make the reverse journey after being taken out of the game.

Hano believed this forced Giants fans to have a unique perspective when greeting their opponents. “On the whole, it was a quiet, well-behaved crowd. It seemed that the Giant fan held no deep animosity for the Indians.”

Hano characterized Dodger fans to be…” a surly lot, riddled by secret fears and inferiority complexes. The sight of two Dodgers on one base is legend. It seems a Dodger trademark and the fans know it. To compensate they become rude, overbearing and superlative-addicted.”   

In contrast, he described Yankee fans as follows. A Yankee fan is a complacent ignorant fat cat. He knows nothing about baseball except that the Yankees will win the pennant and World Series more often than they won’t and that a home run is the only gesture of any worth in the entire game.”

The Yankees beat the Brooklyn Bums in the 1952 and 1953 series forcing their fans to again react in the manner that Hano described them with their vows of: “Wait until next year.”  

Next year, 1954 belonged to the Giants and Hano was one of their fans who waited on line to secure a bleacher ticket for Game One of their World Series against the Cleveland Indians. In the top of the ninth inning with the score tied at 2-2 and runners at second and first base, Vic Wertz, the Indians first baseman hit a long flyball into the deepest reaches of the Polo Grounds’ center field commonly known as Death Valley.

Willie Mays, the Giants center fielder took off at the crack of the bat. Mays blazed a run in the direction of the bleacher seats in center field. At a point, 385 feet from home plate, Mays and the ball came together, and the Giants superstar made and unbelievable catch over his left shoulder imitating a football receiver catching a long pass thrown by his quarterback.

But instead of continuing on, Mays came to a dead stop and used his momentum to pivot 180 degrees and as he made a sweeping turn to his left. He brought his right arm around his body extending it full length before releasing the ball in a laser throw that reached second base on a fly. Both runners were aware of Mays’ arm strength forcing them to remain on base in case he managed to catch Wertz’s blast. When he did, his throw to second guaranteed that they would remain there.

The Giants won that opening game 5-2 in extra innings and they won the 1954 World Series in four games. Most experts believe that Willie May’s sensational play that became known as, “The Catch,” was the turning point of that series.

What Mays did in the field, James Larmar (Dusty) Rhodes accomplished at the plate. He won Game 1 by breaking up the tie in Game One with a pitch hit home run in the tenth inning. In game two he battered in two runs for a 3-1 Giants victory and in Game Three he hit a two run single in the team’s 6-2 victory,

Said manager, Leo Durocher: “He thought he was the greatest hitter in the world, and for that one year, I never saw one better.  

(To be continued.)

On the Outside Looking In will not publish on December 21 but I expect to return on December 28. May each of us who celebrate Christmas have a warm and joyous Christmas.

Eightieth Anniversary of FDR’s “Date of Infamy” Speech

Eighty years ago, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt went before a joint session of Congress requesting that a declaration of war be issued against the Empire of Japan following the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.  Set out below in its entirety is his so called “Day of Infamy” speech.

 Mr. Vice President, and Mr. Speaker, and Members of the Senate and House of Representatives:

Yesterday, December 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that Nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its Government and the Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American Island of Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleagues delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for a continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Wake Island. And this morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of the Nation.

As Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. 

But always will our whole Nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory. I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our own interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces – with the unbounding determination of our people – we will gain the inevitable triumph – so help us God.

I ask that Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.

On this anniversary of that awful day, we should give pause to remember all our citizens who were caught up in the Second World War, those who perished, our friends and family members who answered the call and especially our surviving veterans. They are our link to history; they are our national treasure.

 God bless them one and all and God bless the United States of America.  

Fate is the Hunter*

*With apologies to Ernest Gann, the author of the real “Fate Is the Hunter,” the greatest book ever about commercial aviation. I can think of no better title for this story.

In February of 2019, I published two pieces about Pan American’s early flying boat operations. At that time, flights originated from and returned to their transatlantic base located in Port Washington, Long Island. The first paying passenger flight ever to Europe originated from this base in late June of 1939 flown by the crew aboard the Dixie Clipper.

I noted that: Pan American’s “Port Washington operations ended the following March when the brand-new Marine Air Terminal opened at LaGuardia Field. The first flight to Lisbon left LaGuardia on March 31, 1940.”

Recently, I found a piece about that flight on the Pan American Historical Foundation’s ( PAHF) website that gives a shout out to my town, Port Washington. The piece explains that unexpectedly, the old base on Manhasset Bay participated in both the outgoing and return legs of these inaugural flights. In fact, because of curious circumstances, both transatlantic legs were flown between Port Washington and Horta in the Azores.

On that celebratory day, Captain Charles Lorber, Pan American’s veteran flying boat skipper, taxied Yankee Clipper, the Boeing B-314 Flying Boat under his command, out from the Marine Air Terminal at LaGuardia Field into the waters of Bowery Bay as the 10,000 spectators who had gathered for this historical event looked on from the shore cheering their departure.  .

Captain Lorber lifted his charge into the sky, but little did the spectators know or the press report, that his first destination was not the Azores. Instead, it was Manhasset Bay, the old Pan American’s base where he was scheduled to have an additional 1,000 gallons of aviation gasoline pumped into the tanks of the Yankee Clipper before making the, now compromised first  passenger flight over the Atlantic from LaGuardia to the Azores.

Back in the day, operating flying boats was risky business requiring extraordinary sailing, navigating and flying skills. The pilot and flight crew had to solve all problems on the fly with a minimum of instruments. The cockpit devices provided the status of speed, altitude, direction, stability and  the status of the four engines. Other than that, they flew without any concept of electronic assistance.

The navigator used a sextant during the day to shoot the sun, and at night, to shoot the stars using a clear dome above his compartment where he could take his readings. If the sky was socked in, the pilot and the navigator had to depend on dead reckoning, an educated guess of their location and direction based on their previous experiences and their navigation training and skills..

The health and well-being of the four engines was the responsibility of the flight engineer and the radio operator was their only voice to speak to the outside world when he could.

The captain and his first officer flew the airplane, made the takeoffs and landings, kept it in the air and, also safely navigated their vessel when it became a boat on the water.

Without radar, modern means of communication or transponders, the pilot and crew had to depend on their own skills and experience to estimate where they were, who was around them. Predicting changes in weather during their 15-hour outbound flights over water was impossible and they could only react and deal with these changes.

The 2,375-mile return flight from Horta to LaGuardia Field was scheduled to take 17 hours with an ETA of 7:00 AM. The Atlantic headwinds must have been light that day as Captain Lorber arrived over LaGuardia Field at 4:30 AM, three hours early, an hour before sunrise.

Unfortunately, Lorber’s early arrival was trumped by a fog that blanketed Long Island Sound. Both of his alternative landing terminals, LaGuardia’s  Marine Air Terminal and Pan American base at Port Washington were both socked in.

Lorber’s radio operator checked the conditions at their Baltimore base, but visibility was just as bad there.

 Lorber still had enough fuel remaining for three more hours of flying time, so he decided to circle the sound. Conditions didn’t change once the sun came up over the horizon, but about an hour later, the visibility at Port Washington improved marginally,

Far from ideal, but close enough for a skilled pilot like Lorber, this Pan Am captain was able to make a successful landing on to Manhasset Bay. Once safely floating on the bay, conditions deteriorated to the extent that the normal five-minute taxi to the dock took half-an-hour.

It was almost 8 AM before the crew of 11 and their seven passengers emerged from the flying boat.

The irony of this round-trip Atlantic crossing was that they began and ended at Pan American’s old Port Washington terminal, perhaps its last hurrah?