Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Art Imitates Life: Bernard Goetz

It is amazing how inspiration can come about. I was watching the second episode of Season One of the original Law and Order (Originally broadcast back in 1990) and I notice that the episode is strangely reminiscent of a heated case in New York City during 1984. The episode shows an incident on the New York City Subway where a young white woman pulls a gun out of a crowded Subway train and shoots a number of young black men. Now, sitting there I’m thinking that Law and Order made a few noticeable changes to the Bernard Goetz incident of December 22, 1984. Before I go into what happened on that day almost 27 years ago, allow me to describe to you how the New York City Subway system looked during those days from a person who lived it.

I was in my early teens during that time and the trains and the city were nothing compared to what they are today. The trains were dirty, full of graffiti, lacking air conditioning, stations in disrepair and crime in the city uncontrolled. By the end of 1984 the murder count for the entire city sat at 1,786 with a peak of 2,605 murders in 1990. Consider that in 1995 murders stood at 1,550, 2000 at 952 persons killed and 781 in 2009. People today have it good compared to the early 1980’s, but I digress. That is the world that Bernard Goetz lived in. As per’s entry on Bernard Goetz here is how the incident went down:

On December 22, 1984, Goetz entered an empty Manhattan train, carrying an unlicensed .38 caliber revolver. Also on the car were four teenagers: Troy Canty, Barry Allen, Darrell Cabey, and James Ramseur. As witness testimony later stated, Goetz had barely taken his seat when the young men approached Goetz for $5. When Goetz refused, Canty responded, "Give me your money." Suspecting he was being set up for another mugging, Goetz stood up and said, "You all can have it." Goetz started firing his revolver, wounding all four teens. When the train came to a stop, a startled Goetz ran out of the car and eventually fled the city, making his way to Concord, New Hampshire. Eight days after the shooting, Goetz finally turned himself into police.

Where the Mayor of New York City Edward I. Koch stated that “We will not permit people to take the law into their own hands,” the normal folks celebrated the shooter. People saw this incident as a way for the people to take the streets back from the criminal and the thugs who were terrorizing them. On the flip side, race relations in the city, which were already strained, worsened after the Goetz incident. Things came to a head with the two trials against Bernard Goetz.

In the June 1987 trial, Goetz was acquitted of charges of attempted murder and assault at his trial and was sentenced to five years' probation and ordered to undergo psychiatric counseling. The second trial was set for October 1987 for the unlicensed gun charges. The jury found Goetz guilty and sentenced to six months in jail and five years' probation. Goetz’s actions on that subway car in 1984 led to the paralyzing of Darrell Cabey which in turn led to a lawsuit being filed by Cabey in which a judgment against Goetz was $43-million in damages.

Goetz would live a life of brief celebrity after his prison term and has faded into obscurity becoming a footnote for the “good-old days” of the New York City of the 1980’s.


For Further Reading:
- Click Here to access the opinion of the Court of Appeals for the case The People of the State of New York, Appellant, v Bernhard Goetz, Respondent., 68 NY2d 96
- Click Here to access the article WHEN BERNIE GOETZ WAS NEW YORK CITY from the New York Daily News website dated December 19, 2004
- Click Here to access the New York Crime Rates 1960 - 2010 from the
- Click Here to access the article Goetz Given 6-Month Term on Gun Charge from the New York Times website dated October 20, 1987
- Click Here to access the article The Goetz Verdict from the New York Times website dated April 24, 1996

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Edward Donald "The Duke" Snider 1926-2011

During the summer of 2007, I visited the exhibit The Glory Days: New York Baseball 1947-1957 located at the Museum of the City of New York. In it I saw first hand the effect that players such as Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Duke Snider had on their fans and the city of New York. Listening the song Talkin' Baseball by Terry Cashman also brings back memories of a baseball past that I can only see through newspaper articles and news footage. So when I heard that one of the famed trio of the Golden Age of New York City centerfielders and member of the famed Boys of Summer, Duke Snider passed away at the age of 84, well I felt that had to write something.

Duke Snider was born Edwin Donald Snider September 19, 1926 in the city of Los Angeles California, growing up in the South Central area of the city. Snider was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers straight out of Compton High School, where Snider was an athletic standout in the sports of baseball, basketball and football. After serving a tour of duty in the Navy from 1944-1946, Snider began his major league career.

Snider debuted with the Dodgers on April 17, 1947 joining a talented team made up with such outstanding players like Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Gil Hodges and Carl Furillo. This era is considered to be the Golden Age of New York Baseball. The page for the Museum of the City of New York's exhibit The Glory Days: New York Baseball 1947-1957 describes it as so:

The decade between 1947 and 1957 was the golden age of baseball in New York City. With three major league teams—the Yankees, the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the New York Giants—at least one of whom played in the World Series every year except 1948; two National League teams in an intense rivalry each season; and seven landmark subway series, New York was the undisputed baseball capital of the nation.

From 1947, until they left Brooklyn in 1957, the Dodgers won six National League pennants (1947, 1949, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1956) and winning their only World Series in Brooklyn in 1955. The man known as the "Duke of Flatbush" was a main component of these teams. Snider was a seven time All Star and finished in the top ten of MVP voting six times. Snider continued playing with the Dodgers as they moved to his home town in 1958. He has the distinction of being the last player to get a base-hit at Ebbets Field and the first player to get a hit at Dodger Stadium.

Snider helped the Dodgers win their second World Series in 1959 against the Chicago White Sox. Snider's contract was sold to the New York Mets in 1963 and after a brief return to New York City, Snider's contract was sold to the San Francisco Giants in 1964. Snider would retire in the same year after the Giants released him. Snider would be elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1980, joining fellow New York Centerfield Greats Willie Mays (1979) and Mickey Mantle (1974).

Former Los Angeles Times staff writer Mike Kupper describes Snider's career as so:

Snider hit 40 or more homers in five consecutive seasons and during the 1950s led all major leaguers in home runs, 326; runs batted in, 1,031; runs scored, 970; and slugging percentage, .569. He finished his career with a lifetime batting average of .295 and 407 home runs, 389 of them as a Dodger, still the team record. He is the only player to have twice hit four homers in the World Series, matching his 1952 feat in '55, the year the Dodgers won the Series and he was named major league player of the year by Sporting News.

Snider remained in baseball as a broadcaster for the San Diego Padres (1969-1971), Montreal Expos (1971, 1973-1986) and the Los Angeles Dodgers (1991), as well as, being a hitting coach for the Montreal Expos (1973-1974).

Having been child in New York City during the 1970's, I would hear the stories about New York's Golden Era of Baseball on baseball telecasts and be envious that I was born too early to have experienced it. Going to the areas of Flatbush and Harlem where the former Ebbets Field and Polo Grounds existed I find it hard to believe that there were major league stadiums erected there once upon a time ago. Another component of the magical era has gone to rest. The Duke has gone to the big ballpark in the sky, joining the Mick in a fabled homerun contest. May the Duke of Flatbush rest in peace.


For Further Reading:
- Click Here for the Duke Snider obituary written by Mike Kupper from the Los Angeles Times website dated February 27, 2011
- Click Here for the Duke Snider obituary written by Richard Goldstein from the New York Times dated February 27, 2011
- Click Here to access the Duke Snider page from the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown's webpage
- Click Here to access the transcript of Duke Snider's induction speech given at the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown on August 3, 1980
- Click Here to access the virtual exhibit of The Glory Days: New York Baseball 1947-1957 provided by the Museum of the City of New York

Monday, January 24, 2011

James Rivington British Publisher! American Spy?

Ever wonder who certain streets are named after? Take my post of December 25, 2007 named Houston Street? Who is it really named after!! as an example. Here I highlight and clarify who Houston Street is named after and no it is not named after Texas hero Sam Houston, read it to see who it is named after. This time around I wanted to highlight who Rivington Street is named after.

Rivington Street is named after James Rivington who some say led a double life while living in New York City during the Revoutionary Era. Rivington was born in London England in 1724 to a family of successful publishers. After his bookstore failed causing him to lose his fortune, Rivington dedcided to start anew in the colonies and in 1760 arrived in Philadelphia. A year later, Rivington would open a new bookstore in New York City where he would be forever be linked to. (PHOTO CREDIT: THE NEW YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY)

Rivington was a staunch supporter of the British crown and did so in his newspaper which was known as Rivington's Gazetter. At first the newspaper was balanced in its reporting of the news but as events in the colonies took a more rebellious nature the paper took a tone similar to its printer. King's Handbook of New York City 1892 describes one instance where Rivington took the rebellious colonists to task with the revolts following the passage of the Stamp Act of 1765:

In the year 1765 the Stamp Act was passed, and the disruption of America and England began. The New-Yorkers forgot their old-time local controversies, and took sides in the new contest. Rivington's Gazetteer stigmatized the patriots as rebels, traitors, banditti, fermenters of sedition, sons of licentiousness and the like

As you can imagine, press of this kind towards those colonists who were growing more and more anti-British did not go over very well. The rebellious colonists were led by a group known as the Sons of Liberty who grew to become a thorn in the side of the Lieutenant-Governor Cadawallader Colden. Many of their actions took the form of protests, public speeches, erection of liberty poles and to the extreme skirmishes with local redcoats, taking of supply depots and cannons. The Sons of Liberty turned their attention to James Rivington and his Tory newspaper.

As Kara Pierce describes in here scholarly paper A Revolutionary Masquerade: The Chronicles of James Rivington, Rivington's anti-colonist writings caused "satires, effigies and mockeries of Rivington began to appear in writings from popular poets to addresses to the Continental Congress". Rivington seemed to brush off the attacks, often printing them in his paper. Pierce also shows that a war of words had been brewing between Rivington and Captain Isaac Sears, who was considered to be one of New York's leading patriots. Often Rivington printed the letters received by him from Sears and his retort in his paper. These actions infuriated Sears to the point to physical retaliation.

In May of 1775, a group of colonists mobbed the Rivington home and press causing Rivington to flee with fellow Tory Myles Cooper to the British man-of-war Kingfisher. The attacks would come to a head on November 23, 1775 when a group of men on horseback led by Captain Sears attacked on Rivington's printing press. In doing so, the rebels destroyed the press and taking its parts to make bullets. Rivington and his family left New York City for London a disillusioned man only to return to when New York City was under British occupation.

History shows that Rivington continued to print his newspaper through 1783 and after he shut down his operation, Rivington lived with his son something of a poor existence until his death in 1802. Or so we thought. History has a way of making things interesting.

Recent scholarship has brought to light a different angle to James Rivington. It is believed that James Rivington, the staunch Tory publisher was in fact a spy in the employ of the revolutionary spy ring known as the Culper Ring. Based on the research of Robert Townsend's papers by Morton Pennypacker (1872-1956), James Rivington was one of the spies utilized by the Culper Ring and their leader George Washington during the British occupation of New York City. Historian Catherine Snell Crary (1909-1974) published “The Tory and the Spy” in William and Mary Quarterly in 1959 wrote that based on the journals of George Washington's grandson George Washington Parke Custis, James Rivington worked as a spy for the colonies. Historian Philip Ranlet in his book The New York Loyalists states that Rivington worked as a spy for the colonists. As recent as 2006, Kara Pierce has also devoted research to the idea that James Rivington was a spy in the online Journal of History for Binghamton University in the Spring 2006 issue entitled “A Revolutionary Masquerade: The Chronicles of James Rivington”.

Regardless what his reasons for turning against the British, Rivington's actions were essential in the victory of the colonists during the Revolutionary War. Hopefully further scholarship and research can reveal more into the life of James Rivington and maybe he can get some of the credit that he deserves.


For Further Reading:

- Catherine Mary Crary "A Tory and a Spy", William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, Vol 16 No. 1 (Jan 1959) pp 61-72

- Morton Pennypacker, General Washington's Spies, on Long Island and in New York (New York, Aegean Park Press, 1999)

- Morton Pennypacker, The two spies,: Nathan Hale and Robert Townsend (New York, Houghton Mifflin Co, 1930)

- Kara Pierce “A Revolutionary Masquerade: The Chronicles of James Rivington”, Binghamton University Journal of History Spring 2006

- Philip Ranlet, The New York Loyalists, 2nd Edition (Lanham, University Press of America, 2002)

- New York's Tory Printer New York Times March 1, 1896