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.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Knowledge of trivia no match for a know-it-all phone

Sometimes, when we are making idle chatter, the lady of the house and I talk about building on an addition so we can store all the stuff we save.

The conversation, of course, is not totally serious. But to be sure, we are both prolific savers.

I give her much credit. She is constantly going through boxes and throwing stuff away. Some of it I beg her to save, like the magazine with a picture of her hitting a tennis ball on the cover. But she says she was much younger then. And I say, “so what?”

Unlike her, I have a terrible time throwing away keepsakes. I wonder if the Historical Society has any interest of a pile of programs from meetings going back to 1950?

I found on my desktop the other day a souvenir I will never give up. It is a ticket stub from an Indians game played against the New York Yankees on April 8, 1993. There is a big picture of the beloved Chief Wahoo on it.

Why is it so special? It was the game in which second baseman Carlos Baerga became the first player in baseball history to hit a home run both right-handed and left-handed in the same inning!

I understand the feat has since been duplicated twice. I guess that would make it triplicated.

The stub is autographed by Carlos because I gave it to Jim Ingraham, our N-H guy who covers the Tribe, and he had  him sign it for me.

(I remember the occasion very well. It was at that game that Fred Skok, the late, great judge of Lake County Probate Court, asked me where I got the loafers I was wearing. I told him Sharon, Pa. He asked me why I got them there. I told him Pennsylvania doesn’t charge sales tax on clothing. On the spot, Fred made me an honorary Slovenian. But I digress.)

A couple weeks ago, Bobby DiBiasio, the vice president and public relations guy for the Indians, was the speaker at Rotary. I told him about having that ticket stub commemorating Baerga’s amazing feat.

I thought it was not only a rare, but also somewhat obscure accomplishment – truly arcane, as in known only to a few.

Bobby D has an amazing storehouse of baseball trivia lodged in his brain.

He shot right back with: “Who were the two pitchers who threw those home run balls?”

I didn’t recall. “No idea,” I replied.

He recited their names. Both were Steve somebody-or-other. Boy, I’ll tell ya.

Which brings up another point about trivia. If you are a worldly person, I am sure you know there are cell phones which you can talk to. Right. You can ask them questions and get answers. Amazing!

We were having dinner the other evening with Bryan and Sandy Flanigan and he asked me if there was an Irish-American Club around here. I said there was one in Euclid.

He had a know-it-all phone. He asked it, “What is the address of the East Side Irish-American Club?” In a split second, the phone gave him the address on Lake Shore Boulevard.

Example No. 2: I was sitting next to Steve Byron one night last week at a Rotary past presidents meeting.

He had one of those phones that are smarter than most people.

I told him to ask the phone who the pitchers were who threw those home run balls. The phone replied with the names of both guys named Steve.

“OK,” I told him, “ask your phone who finished Paul Revere’s Ride?”

The reply was almost instantaneous. And it is a very long story.

Apparently along the way, Paul Revere was captured, a second rider, William Dawes, fell off his horse but got away, and a third rider, Samuel Prescott, completed the ride.
Steve’s phone knew all that.

I’ll tell you, modern technology scares the wits out of me. The fact that there are now phones that know everything is not only frightening, it is also bizarre and weird.

The possibilities may be unlimited, but there are some things that I don’t want to know!

I already know pi to 20 places. But Bryan’s and Steve’s phones probably know it to a million places. Who cares?

But if they get phones that can predict the future, then I want to have one. I’d like to know who is going to play quarterback for the Browns next year, what is the score of the next Super Bowl, and the hardest question of all – how deep is the ocean and how high is the sky?

I think the answer is, nobody knows, so people just write songs about it.

That’s the key: If  you don’t know something, you make up an answer, as all great speakers do, or you write a song about it.


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