All-Star Weekend with Lou

Saturday, July 6–With Major League Baseball’s decision to hold its 2019 All-Star game in Cleveland on Tuesday, July 9, I once again saw a golden opportunity to promote peace on a national–if not world stage–just as I was able to do three years ago when the Republican National Convention was held in Cleveland.       Several baseball-related activities a few days before the All-Star game provided peace-promotion opportunities, particularly near the PlayBall Park held in the Huntington Convention Center on Lakeside Avenue, with outdoor activities nearby.        

As I set out from Tower City this morning, I unfurled my peace flag and rested its pole atop the right shoulder of my 51-year-old U.S. Army dress uniform issued to me at the Oakland Army Depot in California after my return from Vietnam in the wake of  a year’s tour of duty with the First Infantry Division from July, 1967 to July, 1968.       I approached one security official outside PlayBall Park to ask the location of the zip lines. I asked where he was from and he said, Louisville, Kentucky. Turns out he, too, is a Vietnam veteran, a Marine who had been stationed near the DMZ (demilitarized zone). He said he had been awarded a Purple Heart with an oak leaf cluster, indicating he had been wounded twice in combat during the war.        Shortly after I parted company with a handshake from the Marine, and walked in front of the nearby Hilton Hotel, a woman walked up to me and asked if she could take my photo as her male companion looked on. Of course I agreed and encouraged the woman, who lives in Middlefield, to circulate it as much a possible–Facebook, email, etc. As I started to walk away, a member of a video crew, which I had noticed while talking with the Marine, approached me and asked if I would agree to be filmed. Of course there was only one answer to that question. I was asked to walk toward the camera as the operator filmed me.       I asked who they were with, thinking they might be affiliated with a local television station. The young man said they worked for New Era, a company which sells licensed MLB baseball caps, as well as other sports caps. The company  provides the official on-field cap for the Cleveland Indians, with its logo apparent on the side of the caps. I can only guess the video team’s supervisor might want to use the footage in a New Era commercial, but I said to the young man, “Some people might not like the peace flag.” He smiled in agreement.     When I got to the corner of Ontario Street and St. Clair Avenue, I noticed a Cleveland policeman holding a rifle with the muzzle pointed downward. It was the first time I had seen a policeman with a rifle, as they normally carry handguns. As I approached him to ask a question, he seemed to stiffen a bit, wary of my intent.       I asked if the black rifle was an M-16, the rifle used by infantrymen in Vietnam. I thought it might be a new design for the rifle as it did not look quite like the ones in Vietnam.       He said, “It’s an AR-15.”       I was a bit taken aback as that controversial notorious rifle is designed to kill as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time.      I said, “I hope you don’t have to use it.” He mumbled, “Me too.” At least that’s what I think he said. (Stephen Paddock possessed 14 AR-15 rifles and several other weapons in his Mandalay Bay hotel room in Las Vegas, Nevada when he opened fire on concertgoers in October, 2017, killing 58 people and wounding 422. The murderous rampage also caused a huge panic that resulted in injuries to 851 other people. Paddock subsequently killed himself in his hotel room.)       I decided to walk over to Progressive Field to see if there was any action there, but it was pretty quiet as preparations were still underway for Tuesday’s game. However, a woman who was working as a volunteer, according to the ID tag suspended from a lanyard, walked up to me outside the venue’s right field gate near East Ninth Street and asked if she could take my picture and of course I agreed, encouraging her to circulate it as much as possible. Her name was Mindy. She grew up in Canton but now lives in Willoughby. I told her I live in Shaker Heights but grew up in Painesville. She said her Daughters of the American Revolution chapter has meetings in Painesville.       I told Mindy how much fun I had promoting peace during the Republican National Convention in 2016 and said the highlight was being interviewed and photographed by Katie Couric, with Katie posting the results on Instagram. Mindy’s jaw dropped and she said, “I’m SO jealous!” I gave Mindy my business card and encouraged her to google what I had written on the back–Pumphrey RNC–to see several peace-promotion photos and some interviews of yours truly done during the convention.     As I headed back to Tower City to catch a blue line rapid transit train home, I was stopped by a young man asking to take my picture. He was wearing a navy blue polo shirt with the word SkyCam embroidered in white on the upper left side of the shirt. I asked where he was from and he said, “Fort Worth.”      As you can see in the below link, SkyCam is headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas.   

Sunday, July 7–Progressive Field is hosting the All-Star Celebrity Softball Game this afternoon with the teams dubbed “Cleveland” vs. “The World”. Members of the Cleveland team include six-time all star Kanny Lofton, three-time all star Carlos Baerga, former Indian Travis Hafner, comedian and Cleveland native Drew Carey, hall of famer Jim Thome, and former Cleveland Browns offensive lineman Joe Thomas.        Among members of “The World” team are actor Jamie Foxx who won an Oscar in 2005 for his portrayal of singer Ray Charles in the film Ray, and Bernie Williams, who played 16 years with the New York Yankees.        That game was to be followed by the MLB All-Star Futures Game featuring top minor league players thought to have an excellent chance to make it to the majors.         While waiting in the Avalon Road shelter on Van Aken Boulevard in Shaker Heights for my rapid transit ride in the morning to take me downtown for people going to the softball game and futures game, the male half of a young couple was curious about my presence and I mentioned my membership in Veterans for Peace and my intent to promote peace at PlayBall Park and at Progressive Field. He said he and his friend were headed to PlayBall Park. I unfurled my flag to show him the peace symbol on the navy blue field.         The young man understood my perspective, saying he had some friends who served in Iraq. He indicated they came away from that experience disillusioned and disheartened.          Before going to Progressive Field, I again visited PlayBall Park, greeting people at the entrance. Most were stone-faced and apparently deaf or simply unhappy with my message. At least they will not soon forget the image of a uniformed veteran promoting peace. A few people, however, shook my hand and appreciated my presence, which was gratifying. Many thanked me for my service, even if they were uncomfortable with my peace flag.          A middle-age Asian man asked if he could to take my picture next to his wife and of course I obliged. They were visiting from Japan.          After about an hour I decided to walk to Progressive Field, standing at East Ninth Street and Carnegie Avenue to greet pedestrian and vehicle traffic. One man stopped by and asked if he could take my picture. You already know my answer. Of course I asked him to circulate the photo as much as he could.          He had an accent and I asked where he was from. He said Denmark and that it was his first visit to Cleveland. He came to spend some time with his daughter who he said is a surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic. 
**All-Star Game** Day, Tuesday, July 9–I knew this was going to be a grueling, long day, but I still looked forward to championing peace as much as I could. It started  with a red-carpet parade in the morning that included all 70 All-Star players from the National and American Leagues. I initially stood on the north side of Lakeside Avenue, in front of City Hall, occasionally hoisting my peace flag when the wind was strong enough to stretch it out for the throngs of spectators on the south side of the street to see as well as some of the players going by, seated in the beds of pick-up trucks. After a while I decided to walk to East Ninth Street, then south to Progressive Field where the parade ended. During my walk many people watching the parade also saw my flag because they were looking toward the oncoming pick-up trucks. Some people thanked me for my service and a few young women applauded my message, saying they liked my flag. I said, “I wish everyone did.”        Before the parade started, one man said, “Thank you for your witness.” It had been a while since I heard such a comment.       I cheerily greeted people, as is my habit, but most people acted as if they were deaf. At least I gave them a visual that they will not soon forget. I would rather take my message to people who disagree with me rather than those who do, which is like “preaching to the choir.”        After lunch at a Subway restaurant on East Ninth and relaxing for a while in air-conditioned comfort in the nearby Cleveland Public Library, I headed to my post at East Ninth Street and Carnegie Avenue.        One woman asked how I handle a situation where someone says I have “desecrated” the American flag with a peace symbol.       I said, “In the fall of 2017, when the Indians were in a post-season game with the Yankees, a man stopped by with his wife and their two daughters. He said my flag ‘disrespected’ the American flag and I said, ‘I was in Vietnam for a year and from my perspective, it doesn’t disrespect the American flag. It respects peace. People who have never been in a war will never EVER…NEVER EVER… respect peace to the same degree I do. It just can’t happen. It’s impossible”        She and her husband were impressed with my answer, judging from their smiles.        One man stopped by and asked if I was a veteran. I said, “Yeah, but it wasn’t my idea. I got drafted.” He shook my hand and said, “Thank you for your service, no matter what your opinion is.” (I’m guessing he was not simpatico with my peace “opinion.”)         The day ended on a rather sour, unpleasant note, as I headed to Tower City to catch a blue line rapid home. Shortly after crossing Huron Road, I heard a voice call out to me. I stopped and a young man wearing an olive drab uniform replete with a bulletproof vest and the word SHERIFF printed on the center of the vest in the upper part of his chest wanted to inspect my uniform. He apparently was skeptical as to its authenticity. Also, I am sure he was not at all pleased with my peace flag.         He asked what I was doing and I said, “I’m promoting peace. We need much more peace, civility, tolerance, mutual respect and compassion in our society. These qualities have seriously eroded over the past three years.” He said nothing, remaining stoic, even when I lamely offered a somewhat humorous comment about my tight uniform, saying “I really don’t need a belt to hold these pants up.”          As he looked at the three patches on the left arm of my uniform jacket, the six ribbons on the left chest of my jacket and my name tag, he said, “This uniform is a mess.”           As you might imagine, I became a bit exercised, saying, “This is an original uniform! It is 51 years old! Do you want to see a copy of my DD214 (military discharge paper)?”          He declined.           I think the reason for his negative comment and skepticism is that one of the patches on the left arm of the uniform is unusual. Normally there are only two patches: one indicating the unit in which a veteran has served. (In my case, the First Infantry Division, known as The Big Red One.) Beneath that patch is another indicating my rank, which was Specialist Fourth Class, or E-4, same level as a corporal.)          What distinguishes my uniform and perhaps puzzled my nemesis, is a black patch with gold lettering above the Big Red One patch that reads: Official U.S. Army Correspondent. That patch is part of the uniform for anyone who has served in the army’s Public Information Office (PIO), which was comprised of reporters, combat photographers and editors. (I was a reporter, then editor, for the First Infantry Division newspaper, published at the Kim Lai An Quan Printing Co. in Saigon, a Vietnamese shop.)           Apparently my complainant came to accept my explanation, grudgingly mumbling as he walked away, “Thank you for your service.” I said, “You’re welcome.”           Well, to conclude on a lighter note, the evening before–Monday, July 8–I walked to Progressive Field to greet people going to the Home Run Derby and walked through two security checkpoints without a hitch. However, when I approached a third checkpoint about 20 minutes later, one of the security folks walked up to me and said word had come down that I wouldn’t be allowed to enter the area just outside Progressive Field because of my flagpole. The polite, affable gentleman said there was concern among his supervisors that I might deliberately hit somebody with my flagpole and cause injury.            I said, “I think the real reason is someone doesn’t like my peace symbol.” The man convincingly said that was not the case and that it was simply a concern about my hitting someone with my flagpole.            I smiled and said, “It’s kind of ironic that I would hit someone with a flagpole carrying a peace flag.”             He smiled in return, saying, “Yeah, it is ironic.” 

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