The Weekday Ramble is a daily dose of sports, music, culture, and more from Rambling On founder Erik Ritland. For more information check us out on Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, or at our website.
Thursday July 2, 2015
Our third and final #FunFacts feature of the week covers a baseball team with an animated history, John Mellencamp’s thoughts on being a spokesperson for America and small towns, and a neglected pastime.
Gene Autry’s baseball team
Few baseball teams have a history has colorful as that of the California Angels. Okay, so they’re currently called the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, but that’s a mouthful. Plus I’d rather call them by the name cowboy singer Gene Autry did when he bought the team in the ‘60s. In 1997 he sold the Angels to Disney (of all people) who sold them a few years later to Arturo Moreno, the first Hispanic owner in baseball history.
A bunch of random facts about them: they won their first, and as of 2015 only, World Series in 2002. Nolan Ryan, the hardest working, hardest throwing pitcher of all time, threw four no-hitters in three years for them between 1972 and 1974. His number 30 is retired by the team, along with 26 for their first owner Autry and 29 for Rod Carew (who had as legendary of a career with the Angels as he had with the Twins, who also retired his number).
The songs of John Mellencamp are about as American as apple pie, the stars and stripes, and grandmother's sharing lame memes on Facebook. Odds are you’ll hear his hits “Pink Houses” (“ain’t that America…”), “Small Town,” and “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.” at some point this holiday weekend.
Mellencamp isn’t too thrilled about this association. “For me to pretend I’m the keeper of the small town mentality or that’s all I’m interested in is wrong,” he has said. “When I wrote ’Pink Houses’ nobody was talking about that, right? The next thing I know you can’t see the TV without hearing commercials with ’listen to the heartbeat of America,’ or ‘born the American way.’ That whole America thing now—I hate it.”
I understand his frustration – who likes being pigeonholed? – but I don’t think he’s being completely sincere. Either that or he doesn’t know himself, because his music has always had to do with “the America thing.” And that’s not a bad thing. Ol’ Johnny needs to let labels lie and just continue being himself.
The controversy of pinball
Pinballl seems like such an innocuous game, doesn’t it? Yet it was banned in most major cities in the U.S. from the 1940s until the early 1970s, including New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. It was seen as a form of gambling, there were rumors of mob ties, and authorities didn’t want it corrupting the youth. It corrupted Waylon Jennings, that’s for sure, who is said to have stayed up for days at a time, fueled by cocaine, playing on machines in Nashville.
Streissguth, Michael. Outlaw: Waylon, Willie, Kris, and the Renegades of Nashville. New York: Harper-Collins, 2013. Print.
Erik Ritland is a writer and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. His blog and podcast Rambling On features commentary on music, sports, culture, and more. He was also Lead Staff Writer for Minnesota culture blog Curious North. Support Erik's music via his Patreon account, reach him via email, or find him on Facebook and Twitter.