03 July 2008

Shoeless Jo goes to Washington

Since he was old enough to walk, Jonah has had his own nickname: "Shoeless Jo."

For those of you not versed in the history of baseball, the original Shoeless Joe played for the Chicago White Sox 90 years ago.

He was one of the greatest players in baseball history, topping 3,000 hits (the standard for baseball's greatest hitters), hitting over .400 once, and retiring with the 2nd-highest career batting average when he left the game after the 1920 season.

But it was how Shoeless Joe left the game that obscures the greatness with which he played it. He was part of the eight men on the White Sox who agreed with gamblers to throw the 1919 World Series against the underdog Cincinnati Reds. He accepted $5,000 to play poorly, even though his statistics--.375 batting average & 12 RBI would have won World Series MVP in many other years.

He was part of a legendary encounter outside the federal court house where he had testified in the gambling trial. A young boy, a distraught White Sox fan, confronted him outside the court house with the immortal words, "Say it ain't so, Joe."

It was so. For his ties to gambling, Shoeless Joe was banned from baseball for life and kept out of the Hall of Fame, despite his records. (For the record, my favorite childhood baseball player, Pete Rose, remains banned from baseball for his own gambling problems.)

My own Shoeless Jo earned his nickname through consistent negligence. No matter how hard I try, no matter how many times I remind him, Jonah remains shoeless. Yesterday we were halfway to VBS when I looked in the rearview mirror. "Did you put on your shoes?" I asked. (I had reminded him four times before we left.)

Jonah shrugged. "Nah." I tried to be angry, but he out-cuted me.

When we visited Washington, there was a lot of walking. Monuments, museums, walk, walk, walk. We were really exhausted!

On Tuesday we went to my congressman's office to take a tour of the U.S. Capitol his staff had arranged for me. (I had contacted them to arrange for a White House tour, but I missed out on the six weeks it takes the Secret Service to screen visitors.) At 1:30 Congressman Gordon walked into the office for a chat. Julie and I were the only visitors.

He showed us into his office to talk about a few issues. He was pleasant and courteous, showing us the different space-related curios in his office (he chairs a committee on space--of all things).

As I was talking to him, I saw Julie start to grin. I turned, and to my horror I spotted Jonah, squirming around on the congressman's nice leather couch.

In the 30 seconds I had talked with this important congressman, Jonah had found a way to slip off his shoes and kick back on the couch.

He certainly made himself at home.

I couldn't believe it.


Julie snapped the picture that you see at left.

I have to admit, I have studied this picture carefully. Jonah is on the couch, pointing his bare feet at the congressman (if this were an Arab country, where feet are considered unclean, it would be equivalent to flipping the bird.) Joshie is next to him, shoeless as well.

Every time I look at the picture, I try to scrutinize Congressman Gordon's smile. It looks genuine, doesn't it? Or is it the opaque smile of an experienced politician? Behind the smile, is he thinking, "The people I represent HAVE GOT to do a better job of raising children! This is leather furniture! These miserable rednecks and their spawn!"

I'll give him the benefit of the doubt on this one. At least I will know, when I cast a vote for him in November, that he has certainly earned it.

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