Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

He’s no no-name! Simply remember which it is

I am a lifetime subscriber to the theory that Murphy’s Law is not only a reflection of how things work in the universe, it is also an article of faith that you don’t want to monkey with, tease, taunt or otherwise take a chance of offending for fear of having it happen to someone very close to you.

The issue at hand is the case of mistaken identity involving an Indians pitcher who has been going by the name of Fausto Carmona.

And I’m sure you can quote Murphy’s Law: If something can go wrong, it will.

In the Carmona matter, don’t say “Murphy’s Law” too loud. If you do, something may indeed go wrong. Let’s be careful how we talk about this. We don’t want anything to go wrong, do we?

My feeling is that no good can come of this.

Those of us who follow baseball are aware that Fausto can be an extremely talented pitcher on occasion.

One such occasion, as Jim Ingraham reminds us, was his second start last season, when he pitched seven shutout innings on two hits in a 1-0 victory over Boston.

That is what we expect of him each time he pitches. But sometimes he is awful. Those are the times when he becomes confused over his identity and thinks he may be Roberto Hernandez Heredia.

I saw him pitch many times for the Lake County Captains when he compiled a stunning 17-3 record at the ballyard on Vine Street known as Classic Park.

He pitched with supreme confidence. He was not confused about who he was. He had an assortment of pitches designed to confuse batters. He was Fausto and he was pitching like Fausto.

Naturally, he went to the big leagues in a hurry. I saw him pitch often, sometimes at Jacobs/Progressive Field but mostly on TV.

The camera closeups of him were revealing. And those TV cameraman can really get in close to players.

When he pitched badly, he began to sweat. He didn’t know his true identity. He got to thinking about how he, Roberto, was no longer Fausto.

And it has now been revealed that it was a case of identity theft, a misstep that sometimes happens in the Dominican Republic.

It seems that the woman who was the mother of the real Fausto was accepting money from Roberto in exchange for their agreement not to share with the world their secret that he was actually Robeto and not Fausto.

It has not been satisfactorily explained why he preferred the name Fausto over Roberto, but it probably has to do with an innocent mistake on his original application for a travel visa to the U.S. so he could pitch in Eastlake.

He mistakenly put down Fausto instead of Roberto (they sound alike), became confused and accidentally put down the wrong last name also.

This is not identity theft in the truest sense. The guy doesn’t need to steal anything. He makes millions of dollars a year, and he can afford a visa, a Visa card, or a Master Card, for that matter.

But the mother of the real person who went by the name Fausto Carbona found out about it and began to extract payments from our man Roberto in order to keep the secret secure.

When that wasn’t preying on his mind, he pitched 1-0, two-hit shutouts. When he began to think about it, it became a matter of concern.

And there was no hiding his concern. You could tell by the way he perspired, took off his cap, wiped the beads of perspiration off his brow and tried to concentrate on his pitching.

I saw it happen over and over. When he didn’t worry about his identity, he was sensational.

But every time he went into his Hamlet mode, he became a worrier. He didn’t say, “To be or not to be.” He said, “Who am I? Am I Fausto or am I Roberto?” And the thought made him sweat.

Every time he began to sweat profusely and started pitching badly, I knew there was something on his mind.
I didn’t know until recently what it was that was bothering him. He aged three years worrying about it! Talk about an unfortunate fast forward! The Indians thought he was 28 and he was really 31. All from worrying.

The Indians would be well advised not to let go of him. He has great talent when he is not worrying, and if they ever let him go, I guarantee you he would come back, pitch for the Yankees, be something like 28-4 with an ERA of 2.04, and change his name to Cy Young. Or maybe Cy Pres.

And you thought I didn’t speak French!

Actually, that spelling is correct. Cy pres is a legal term for “share the wealth.” Cy Prez is a tenor saxophone player by the name of Lester Young. But I digress.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

It's about time to give county a little cushion

The big news last week was that the Lake County Commissioners announced their intention to raise the county sales tax by five-tenths of one percent (0.5) — from 6.25 percent to 6.75 percent.

The big question is — what took you so long?

Some kind of a tax increase was inevitable, but nobody in his right mind is crazy about a property tax hike or some kind of a new income tax.

Like Snow White, the sales tax is the fairest one fall. If it really pinches your budget, I would like to take a look at your monthly spending so I can tell you how you are wasting money. (If you spend money on cigarettes, I already know what part of your spending problem is.)

Oh, I know, a handful of negativists will rail against the sales tax increase, but they are vastly outnumbered by those who understand the necessity.

Some folks despise any kind of a tax, no matter how well justified it may be.

Well, if you make a major purchase of $1,000 after April 1 and pay $67.50 in sales tax rather than the current $62.59 – an additional five bucks! – and you think you are being taken to the cleaners, I say you need to go out and get a breath of fresh air.

Either that, or quickly go buy that new big-screen TV right now, before the tax goes up, and save that $5! You can use it to buy a gallon or so of gas.

Before we proceed further, and lest you get the idea I am some kind of a big tax guy, let me assure that I hate all kinds of taxes, in any forms whatsoever, that are extracted from the public by politicians.

This would be a good point at which to tell you what my belief is in how government should function – at all levels, from Washington to Ohio to Lake County and all its subdivisions.

Government should have only three purposes:

1. To protect the citizens. That means internationally, from our enemies who would do us harm, and at home, from those who would prey upon us.

2. To do the things for us that we can’t do for ourselves. We can’t build roads or bridges or put in sewer systems, so the government should do that for us.

3. Leave us alone. Yes, the third major obligation of government is to leave us alone. This is the function least understood in Washington.

Those people think they get elected to do almost everything for almost everybody. That is nonsense!

They should do very little — and then only for those who are in the most desperate need of having something done to help them.

I strongly believe in the U.S. Constitution. And I believe in having people like Justice Antonin Scalia interpret it for me, in case there is something in there I don’t understand.

But I digress.

At the local level, county spending has been cut about as far as it can be cut without doing egregious harm to the process. Government should operate efficiently and effectively without its employees having to go home at night to huddle under shawls and dine on Spam every night.

Much of the focus on county spending over the past few years has been on the sheriff’s department simply because it is one of the largest consumers of tax dollars.

How tight do you want to tighten that belt? Do you want to have one car on the road, with one deputy to drive it? Without sufficient law enforcement (see Purpose One of Government listed above) we will have meth labs springing up all over the county, which is one of the sad consequences Ashtabula County has experienced from overly draconian belt tightening.

I know very well from my term as foreman of the Lake County Grand Jury just a few years ago that the druggies take over where enforcement is lax (read: under-funded).

I am all for economy in government. I am also for spending money where it is needed to preserve a decent lifestyle for the citizens.

The commissioners as much as said that after all the budget-cutting they have done, they don’t want a general relaxation of that policy after new tax money starts coming in.

I say, right on! Keep almost all the cuts in place.

But please, cut the sheriff’s budget a little slack. Closing the minimum security jail in eastern Painesville Township was not an example of a smart thing to do. I visited there with the grand jury and I understand its value.

So let’s operate a smart, tight-fisted county government, but not a dumb one.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Memories of good friend don't fade over time

The “reunion committee” of my high school class (Willoughby Union, 1946) meets for lunch every three months at Dino’s Restaurant on Route 306.

Our last gathering, in December, brought the sad news from class President Ish Krul that another of our stalwarts, Bud Gibson, had passed on.

Although Buddy and I had not kept in close contact for years, the memories of our comradeship over a long span of years have not dimmed with the passage of time.

We were in Boy Scout Troop 83 together when we were still in grade school. I was in the Daniel Boone Patrol in Wickliffe, and he was in the Panther Patrol in Willowick, but we converged at the church at the corner of River and Union streets in Willoughby for meetings.

By the time we arrived at high school, there were nine young men who became virtually inseparable. We went places together, had a million good times together, and even formed our own softball team that played in the Willoughby Recreation League.

Our first team was called “Alcatraz, Class of ‘99,” with black lettering on yellow T-shirts. Buddy’s father owned a hardware store on Vine Street, and the second year he became our sponsor, so we were called Gibson Hardware.

That lasted for one season, then we became the Brichford Shells, a fast-pitch softball team that was around for many years and eventually started taking in players outside our ranks.

Some of the newer guys were terrific players. The original nine lost interest, drifted away, or went off to college.

Buddy and I decided to go to college together, and after considerable thought, chose Boston University.

Our discovery process, however, revealed it was a Catholic school, so we turned our attention elsewhere — to Kent State.

Our first day at Kent was a miserable experience. Remember, it was September 1946, the first big college influx of World War II veterans.

We stood in the registration line for 3 1/2 hours, and were about to give up and go home when we finally arrived at the head of the line.

At the table the lady asked us if we were veterans. We said no.

“Non veterans go to the next table,” she advised. We went there, found no line at all (there hadn’t been one all day) and signed up, launching our college careers.

He majored in business administration and I in journalism. We were roommates all four years, first in a private home on Water Street, then for the last three years in a private home on College Avenue right across from the library.

The house was jammed with students who lived there during the week and went home every Friday, to return on Sunday night.

We made the trip back and forth in Buddy’s ancient Chevy coupe, about a 1932 model that we sometimes had to crank to get started.

We ate most of our meals together, went once a week to Mandy’s Moon Night Club, where Black Label Beer was 20 cents a bottle, to watch wrestling on a 9-inch black and white TV screen, and managed to have a great time and get good grades despite the distractions.

He constantly complained that I didn’t give him any money for gasoline (it was 18 cents a gallon) and I always reminded him that I lived on $13 a week for all my expenses, including rent and food money, by saving virtually all I made working summers at the Ohio Rubber Co. in Willoughby.

Buddy and I drifted apart after graduation. I started working as a reporter at The News-Herald and he became a hardware salesman, covering a large territory out of Michigan.

When he was making his rounds in Ohio he would stop in to see me at the paper, but his visits became less frequent.

I have been communicating via e-mail with two of our teammates and close high school pals, John Rentschler in Excelsior, Minn., and Dean Phypers lives in Vero Beach, Fla.

I think Don Myers still lives in the Miami area. The rest, Bill Shunkwiler, Wally Haas, Dick Mease, Don Slagle, are gone.

The messages I get from John and Dean make it clear that their minds are as quick as ever.

Their recollection of a sidewalk pushing and shoving match next to Hammerstrand’s Delicatessan over the beautiful — and recently deceased — Nancy Burnett attests to the clarity of their memories.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

For all their hard work, they’re ‘distinguished’

One of the great pleasures in life – at least in my life – is paying tribute to modest and unassuming yet deserving people who enrich the lives of others while making their communities better places to live, work and play.

So I am very pleased to offer some insights and background about the Distinguished Citizens and Distinguished Civic Organization that will be honored Jan. 30 by the Willoughby Rotary Club as recipients of those honors for the Willoughby area.

Please take note of the date — Jan. 30. It was printed incorrectly in the original announcement.
I am also pleased to invite you to take part in the festivities by being present while accolades are bestowed upon:

* Tom and Sue Roseum of Willoughby Hills. The couple will be honored as Distinguished Citizens – a dual honor that is not without precedent. In the 56-year history of the program eight couples have been so honored. Four other couples have also been honored, but in separate years.

* Lake Health Volunteer Services. This is an organization devoted to helping patients and other visitors at all the facilities operated by the Lake Health system.

Before you read any further, however, pick up the phone and call Andrea at Jerry Merhar’s Nationwide Insurance Agency in Willoughby and order your tickets for the Jan. 30 “distinguished” luncheon. Although the ceremony and the honors are a function of the Willoughby Rotary Club, the invitation goes out to everyone within driving distance.

That means you — except, of course, for my loyal readers in Mexico and Argentina. The plane fare might be prohibitive.

Luncheon tickets are $20 each. You can reach Andrea at 946-2040. We’d like you to pay in advance to avoid confusion at the door, but if you insist you can pay at Pine Ridge.

And we will commence eating at 11:30 a.m., so please be there on time.

There is not enough space on this page to enumerate all the good deeds that the Roseums are involved in on virtually a daily basis. There are at least eight community organizations – probably more – that include them among their valued disciples.

Many of their activities are centered on South High School and the Willoughby-Eastlake School District. The interest in music runs deep throughout the entire family, to such an extent that they donated a 48-foot semi-trailer to transport band instruments.

The South High Boosters Club, the Band Boosters and the W-E Schools Foundation are among their other interests – but their passions don’t end with the school system. The Kiwanis Club, United Way of Lake County and Lake County Society for Rehabilitation are also high on their list of involvements.

The reason people are cited as Distinguished Citizens is that they do things for the community they don’t get paid for doing in their everyday jobs. For example, Tom is a contractor and Sue teaches chemistry at South, but those activities have nothing to do with the awards.

It is the “above and beyond” efforts that count for the selection committee as it studies possible recipients of the prestigious award.

The volunteer corps at Lake Health involves between 1,100 and 1,500 people like you and me who voluntarily give of their time — about 115,000 hours worth each year — to make the health system a better and more caring place to perform its primary function of maintaining the good health of area residents.

The program is directed by Loretta Kruse. The work her minions perform should make every resident of the area not only pleased with their efforts, but also to live in the area served by Lake Health.

For example, when you walk into one of the system’s many award-winning hospital facilities, the first person who will greet you at the reception desk is a volunteer. If you stop in at a gift shop, you will be assisted by a volunteer. If you see someone pushing a patient in a wheelchair, it is almost always a volunteer.

The list of their multiple duties is practically endless.

And the amount of money they save Lake Health in funds it would otherwise have to spend on paid staff members is difficult to calculate. But it is a lot.

You can help pay tribute to all these deserving “distinguished” winners by being present at Pine Ridge on Jan. 30.