Trump-Putin Fallout; Critics Melt Down; Microtrends; 'Big Mac's' Moment

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Good morning, it’s Tuesday, July 17, 2018, the scheduled date of Major League Baseball’s annual All-Star Game here in the nation’s capital. I say “scheduled” because possible thunderstorms are in the forecast, which is what happened 49 years ago, the last time the Midsummer Classic was played in Washington, D.C.

I believe we’ll be okay tonight. Certainly, Monday night’s festivities in Nationals Park seemed like a good omen: Nats’ slugger Bryce Harper won the Home Run Derby in dramatic fashion in front of 43,698 cheering fans while dressed as a patriotic pirate -- and his own father pitching to him. And his hair was perfect.

Homer-hitting contests of this type date back at least 60 years. Owing to the miracle of YouTube, you can watch footage of Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle engaged in a one-on-one Home Run Derby in an empty stadium. That was 1959, the year Mays would be joined by another Willie on the San Francisco Giants. It was this “other Willie” who stole the show when the All-Stars came to D.C. 10 years later.

I’ll have more on this game, and this player, in a moment. First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics' front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion columns spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following:

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Trump Feels GOP Heat on Putin, But Will It Linger? Caitlin Huey-Burns assesses the impact of the president’s much-criticized press conference yesterday with the Russian leader, which drew strong reaction from his own party members.

Trump Trips, But His Critics Melt Down. Steve Cortes writes that there are lessons to be learned from the president’s missteps in Helsinki -- and from reaction to them.

The Macro Power of Microtrends. Tony Mills has this Q&A with Mark Penn on the sequel to his book about how seemingly minor developments often exert outsized influence on society.

Both Parties Are Stuck in the Cold War. In RealClearDefense, Kristopher Harrison argues that U.S. policy under both Obama and Trump is predicated upon old assumptions of Russian strength. 

Politics in the Ruins. In a new RealClearPolicy series centered on the American Project, an initiative of the Pepperdine School of Public Policy, Richard M. Reinsch II looks to a 1984 Walker Percy novel for understanding of what ails our political community.

By Picking Brett Kavanaugh, Trump Is Fulfilling His Promise. Also in RCPolicy, Tim Chapman contends that by establishing a Supreme Court that honors the separation of powers and interprets laws as written, the president is returning power to the people.

There's No Excuse for Protectionism, So Stop Offering One. RealClearMarkets editor John Tamny questions the overnight justification for protectionism among supply-siders. 

Students Are Consumers. It's Time to Treat Them That Way. In RealClearEducation, Carol D'Amico urges institutions of higher learning to align their approach to education with the needs and desires of the students they exist to serve.

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Like Willie Mays, Willie Lee McCovey hailed from the state of Alabama. At 21 years of age, he was called up to the San Francisco Giants late in the 1959 season. Was it apparent that this big left-handed hitter was headed for the Hall of Fame? Not, but it was instantly evident that he belonged in the majors and was going to stay awhile.

The Giants had Orlando Cepeda, another future Hall of Famer, ensconced as their first basemen, but Willie Mac was too good to keep on the bench. Although he played in only 52 games that season, McCovey batted .354 with 13 homers and 38 runs batted in -- and was named Rookie of the Year in the National League.

Imposing physically, McCovey had various nicknames: “Stretch,” “Big Mac,” or just “Mac,” but opposing pitchers simply knew him as the most intimidating hitter in the game.

“He could hit a ball farther than anyone I ever played with,” Willie Mays said simply.

When he retired, McCovey had hit 521 homers, the same as Ted Williams, while playing in an era in which walking sluggers was almost considered bad form. “Here’s a guy who is the most feared in baseball, but everyone pitches around him,” said Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson. “If you pitch to him, you’ll ruin baseball. He’d hit 80 home runs.”

McCovey was more philosophical about the logic of this than were his fans. Sportswriter Robert Markus once put the question to Big Mac himself: “You’re the manager of the other team in a tie game with two outs and nobody on in the ninth. The batter is Willie McCovey…”

Before he could finish, McCovey broke in: “I’d walk him,” he said, laughing.

But you don’t do that in an All-Star Game, thank goodness, which is how in 1969, the “other Willie” was able to showcase his talent in the nation’s capital. Fierce thunderstorms necessitated the postponement of the game. They played it the next day, to the chagrin of the American Leaguers. For nearly two decades, Willie Mays had used the summer exhibition game to showcase his transcendent talent. Now it was his teammate’s turn. McCovey homered in the second inning, putting the game on ice early, and did it again in the fourth inning for good measure. He was named the game’s Most Valuable Player, and was the league’s MVP for the 1969 season, too.

“When he belts a home run,” Dodgers Hall of Fame Manager Walter Alston once said, “he does it with such authority, it seems like an act of God.” 

Carl M. Cannon 
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics
@CarlCannon (Twitter)

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington Bureau Chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

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