Tuesday, April 30

The Allies got a Lucky Break

By Art Cashin

On this day (-1) in 1942 (according to published reports), the U.S. Navy turned to rather unusual sources for military information.

Actually, if you are any kind of student of U.S. history, and particularly of military and covert operations, the Navy's source may not have been all that unusual.

At this time, World War II had recently begun (for the U.S. anyway) and, while most eyes were on the Pacific, the Navy was already thinking about the invasion of Europe. And, since the only place the Allies were holding their own was North Africa, they figured that invasion would have to be across the Mediterranean. And, that meant Sicily would be the key.

Now, if this was 1942, and you were the U.S. Navy and, you went in the chart room, you'd have a problem. Because if you looked in the drawer marked Sicily, you might find its latitude and longitude but little else. There would be few files on the depth of harbors and almost no data on shore defenses. Not a very good data base on which to plan an invasion. So..…to get data on Sicily, you began to think what a less politically correct government might assume in time of war.

Having read the tabloids, the Navy assumed a guy named Lucky Luciano might know something about Sicily. And, since he was early in on a 40 to 50 year sentence, he would have time to listen. Mr. Luciano (according to the same published reports, your honor) did not recall much direct detail of Sicily but (according to the same reports) thought he might know a guy or two who did. And boy, did he!

Over the next 10 months the Mafia (er... an unknown group of partisans) provided enough data on Sicily's defenses that when the allies invaded (7/10/43), they captured the whole island in 37 days. And they killed 167,000 of the enemy while losing under 24,000 - - remarkable in any invasion at that time.

The story, of course is, we are sure, just a coincidence of history. And, the fact that Mr. Luciano's sentence was changed three years later (he was released from jail in 1946 and deported to - where else - Sicily - - despite about 35 years left on his term). The whole thing is, of course, wild conjecture (except for the facts). We also hope to disprove the Mafia/Castro/ Assassination linkage in a future episode. Imagine, the U.S. Government cavorting with gangsters. How very, very unlikely!

To mark the day find some guy named “Don” and see if he has any contacts in Afghanistan.

Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.

Tuesday, April 23

Rome Wasn't Built On Just Any Day

Image= MHarrsch Photostream

By Art Cashin

On this day (-1) in 753 B.C., the Ancient and Eternal City of Rome was founded. For the first quarter millennium of its existence it was ruled by kings - starting with Romulus (part of a notable brother act with a doggy home life) and ending with Tarquinius Superbus. (If your king sounded like an oversize van, wouldn't you give up the monarchy?)

Next came the Republic: lots of success, gladiators, scholars, arch-ways, public baths, Spartacus and Caesar (but no salads). During this period, Rome dominated, educated and even enumerated virtually all of the known world. (Doubters may look up "Census - Tiberius et. al.)

So - okay - you're sitting there saying "I learned all that in sixth grade." And you're also saying "does that dope expect me to believe he knows the precise date when Ancient Rome was founded." Well...the answer is - Yes! You see it's the "A.U.C." thing.

If you were living in Ancient Rome and wanted to count time, it was tough. You couldn't do "B.C." since you couldn't anticipate the date of the birth you were counting before. (Huh?) So, without the birth of Christ as a date of demarcation, the Romans had a problem. If you were opening a toga shop, would you put on the
letterhead....er....parchment head....e.g. "Founded - ???"

At first they tried the obvious: "In the third year of Romulus..." But that got to be a problem as new kings were envious of the names of old kings still having their names around on walls, letterhead, etc. Even worse, it could get confusing, "Was he born in the second year of Pliny the III or the third year of Pliny the II"

So, the Romans opted for something a bit more permanent like the city itself. So, they began dating everything from the time the city was founded which you will recall from Latin class would be Ab (from) Urbe (the city) Condite (founding). Thus, they made cornerstones and time clocks possible. "Annus 2768 A.U.C."

Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.

Wednesday, April 17

Don't Let Stubby Bite You in the Ass

Stubby was very fond of dogs.
Image = Esquire.com
By Grant Davies

On this day (give or take a few),  in 1918, an American soldier was wounded in a WWI battle. It was during a raid to take the town of Schieprey that he was hit in the leg with shrapnel from a grenade thrown by a retreating German soldier. The soldier in question was a sergeant, known affectionately by his fellows as "Stubby."

Stubby had quite an interesting career in the war. At different times during his 18 months at war he participated in seventeen battles on the front.

 He  was gassed by the enemy, and although he recovered, he never forgot the smell of the poison or the sound of the shells as they came in. Everyone who served with him knew he had greatly enhanced senses of hearing and smell. So when he warned of a surprise mustard gas attack, they paid close attention.

Stubby was also very good at finding and giving comfort to his wounded comrades out in "No man's land." But his most impressive feat was when he caught a German spy single-handedly.

It was during the battle of Meuse-Argonne in September, 1918, when he spotted  the spy mapping the American trenches. The spy tried to deceive him and pass by unnoticed, but ole Stubby wasn't fooled. When the German finally gave up the ruse and fled into the forest, Stubby, who could outrun almost any other soldier, ran him down. During the brief scuffle Stubby did what he had to do...he bit him in the ass! That's right, and he wouldn't let go until other soldiers caught up and subdued the scoundrel. It made the front page of almost every major newspaper back in the states.

So Stubby was famous. And when he returned to his beloved US as a hero he was honored by President Woodrow Wilson. Later he was also to meet Warren G Harding and Calvin Coolidge at the White House. He was given free rooms at the finest hotels, and lifetime memberships in the American Legion, the Red Cross, and the YMCA.

Starting in 1921, he was featured during halftimes at Georgetown University football games. He basically invented the halftime shows we enjoy today. Quite a guy that Stubby.

He was also invited to the Smithsonian Institute so people could see what he looked like, and he hangs out there everyday... to this very day. Yes, he's old, but he looks the same as he did back then. You see, they liked him so much they had him stuffed and put on display.

Stubby was after all... a dog.

Thursday, April 11

A Toast to Walter Hunt

Image = Moah.org

By Art Cashin

On this day (-1)  in 1849, the U.S. Government issued patent #6281, for a very remarkable and stunningly successful product. The product was so simple yet useful that most people think it's been around for centuries.

No smarty, it was not the telephone nor the fax nor even the radio, this product sold ten times as many items as every telephone, fax or radio ever made. Pointedly speaking, short of matches maybe no other product has sold so often or in such volume.

The product is....the safety pin! And its invention was a bartender's delight. In a saloon conversation a customer complained of the problem of fastening things easily without cutting your finger or harming the person wearing what you were fastening. After a couple of rounds, a guy named Walter Hunt opined that the solution to the riddle was not so tough. After calling for a piece of string steel (to the left of the olives and two shelves down from the boiled eggs - - doesn't every saloon have them) he began to twiddle.

Egged on by cynics and buyers of rounds he first resolved a loop at the end to give the gadget spring. But what helped was a spring with two pointed ends. Amidst hecklers and more drink buyers Hunt showed that by hammering one end (with a bartender's muddle); you could cap the sharp end of the pin. Thus in less than three hours Walter Hunt had invented one of the most widely sold items in human history.
But it wasn't over. The cynics at the bar said it would never work. Another round please! But one guy said, "Hunt, I'll pay you $100 for the rights." And Hunt said, "Sold!" Thus in three hours and ten minutes Hunt had conceived invented and then sold the rights to one of the simplest yet most successful inventions in history.

It’s hard to imagine. Whoever heard of a clever guy sitting at a bar giving away million dollar ideas for free?  Pass those peanuts please.

Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.

Wednesday, April 3

The Gipper and the Buck Fifty Dog

image= business insider

By Art Cashin

On this day (-1) in 1984, it was opening day of the baseball season. Of course, the U.S. President was there to throw out the first ball. And because he was a fan - - he stayed. But of course he was a fan. Early on in his life he had made a living broadcasting baseball games in the Midwest. Sometimes he even had to call the game when he wasn't there. He sometimes "reinvented" the game from teletype reports in an office miles from the stadium.

But he was good at it. In fact, he was very good at it. And so the Midwest came to love a radio sportscaster named "Dutch Reagan" and decades later all of America would love Ronald "Dutch" Reagan enough to elect him - - President of the U.S.

So, on this particular day, the fans, the players and the nation were happy to see him sitting in the stands - - with his secret service men - - enjoying America's pastime. Enjoying enough that when the hot dog guy passed by, the President waved his hand and ordered four dogs. The vendor served up four with Kraut and handed them to the President. The President smiled and handed the vendor a crisp $5 bill. Since inflation had raised the price to $1.50 per, the vendor kept his hand out. Since neither Pelosi, Boehner, Reid nor McConnell were present, someone else would have to resolve the issue. After a dramatic pause, an alert secret service guy stood up and made up the right change and included a tip. And, thus a national emergency was again averted.

To celebrate take a deep sip from an empty glass and explain to some young associate that this was surely the first and only time that someone in government ordered more than they had the money to pay for. But make sure your companion is either quite gullible or can't spell deficit.

Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.

Tuesday, April 2

Aw, Ya Throw Like a Girl!

Image = latimesblogs
By Grant Davies

On this day in 1931, two fairly well-known baseball players were struck out, back to back, by a fairly unknown pitcher, in a game hardly anyone cared about. So why on earth would anyone care about it today?

Well, the players who struck out were none other than Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. And the pitcher, Jackie Mitchell, who took only seven pitches to send the two of them back to the dugout in embarrassment, was a virtual unknown who was playing the first (and only) game of a very short professional career.

The game was a preseason contest between the NY Yankees and the Chattanooga Lookouts, their AA minor league affiliate. Jackie had been signed to a contract just a few days before and had yet to appear in a game.

The pitcher had basically one pitch, but it was a doozy. A "drop ball", basically known as a sinker nowadays. Ruth and Gehrig probably struck out back to back dozens of times (at least) over the years. So what the heck is so interesting about this?

It may have something to do with who Jackie Mitchell actually was... a seventeen year old girl. Yep, that's right. Her name was Virne Beatrice "Jackie" Mitchell, and she was the first female to ever be signed to a professional baseball contract.

And the strikeouts were no fluke. She came into the game in the first inning as a reliever after the starter, Clyde Barfoot, gave up a double and a single to the first two batters. The next two hitters were Ruth and Gehrig and it didn't look like Clyde was up to the task, so in came Jackie and out went the fearsome duo.

Ruth took ball one low, but swung and missed the next two and watched the last one catch the corner for a called third strike before throwing his bat in disgust. Some say he cursed the ump and kicked the dirt in what might be called a "hissy fit" today. So much for the "Sultan of Not."

As for the next batter up, Lou Gehrig outright whiffed on three straight sinkers and Jackie got a standing ovation from the crowd. She walked the next batter and was pulled for a new pitcher by the manager, who obviously had a sense of the historical value of the moment.

But no good deed goes unpunished. A few days later the commissioner of baseball,  Kenesaw Mountain Landis, voided her contract. He claimed that the sport was "too strenuous for women."  As for the Babe, he whined to the press: "I don't know what's going to happen if they begin to let women in baseball. Of course, they will never make good. Why? Because they are too delicate. It would kill them to play ball every day."

But not on that day, Babe, not on that day.
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