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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

18 Responses

  1. Allen Wilson says:

    The audio cuts off at about 2:44.

  2. Steven Lakoff says:

    I had no trouble listening to the full podcast. It may have been just a temporary glitch

  3. James D. says:

    Pete Rose is undoubtedly one of the greatest baseball players of all time, but he seems to me to be a perfect candidate for Dr. Fleming’s book on “Jerks.”

  4. Rex Scott says:

    Allen, Audio is good to go. please try again.

  5. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    In the three years we lived in Oxford, Ohio–the early 70’s–you could not see any news program without hearing about Pete Rose and Johnny Bench. Even Sparky Anderson was lionized. Success like that is hard to deal with. From a long distance, he seemed to me to be driven by a single-minded arrogance that bordered on hybris. His denied entrance into the Hall of Fame raises serious questions about baseball. The implication is that he was somehow morally inferior to other Hall of Famers, like Willie Mays who, so people in the business claimed, never played except when he hoped to maintain his batting average and later worked for the gamblers who corrupt all sport in the USA. Athaletes are generally not nice, not admirable people. Rose is the exemplary sinner, because his behavior cast a lurid light on the sport. Similarly Ty Cobb was demonized as a bigot and a nasty psychotic who spiked infielders, and Ted Williams allegedly spat upon fans. In the case of Cobb and Williams, the stories are somewhere between gross exaggeration and plain old-fashioned lies. The first mistake is to idolize athletes, the second is to ideologize their shortcomings. I mean to say no one, if the name William Shockley came up, would immediately say, “Oh, you mean the bigot who thought IQ was unequally distributed among the races.” Or, in the case of Jefferson, “That slave-owner who sired children from a slave girl!” Or, or, or.

  6. James D. says:

    My dislike of Rose stems from his sadism. He really seemed to enjoy injuring other players. The most prominent example was what he did to Ray Fosse in the All Star game. Rose could have easily slid under the tag, but instead he put a shoulder into Fosse’s neck and ruined his career. After the play, he stood over an obviously-injured Fosse and rubbed it in like single-digit IQ boxers are known to do. Also, I’m not sure how much of his “hustle” was actually cocaine and amphetamines.

  7. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Good point. I’m not an athlete and don’t care much for the ones I have known, but they are driven to extremes. Do drugs make them compulsive, or do they take drugs to fuel their compulsions? In Roses’s case, he seems to have been this way throughout his career. If we step back and analyze dispassionately the incident you describe, we might construct several different narratives, a la Rashomon. Did he actually intend to injure Fosse? “Could have easily” is a third party’s judgment call. I wasn’t there. Jeering over the victim is a pagan tradition, not very sportsmanlike but hardly unusual and hardly a provable case of sadism–the psychopathic pleasure one takes systematically in inflicting suffering.

    I neither like nor dislike Rose. He was a tough player in a game that is not supposed to be rough but in fact is. Keeping Rose out of the baseball Hall of Fame would be like excluding Chuck Berry from the Rock and Roll Hall of fame because of his sexual antics.

  8. Raymond Olson says:

    You missed me! I’m neither a day older nor a day younger than 72 today. (Thank you, thank you.) Let me recommend to Chaplin fans and wannabe fans his last black-and-white movie, The King in New York, which hilariously parodies TV advertising and celebrity worship.

  9. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Happy birthday Ray. I’ll include you in the next one that covers today

  10. James D. says:

    I’ve been working on a theory that the guys who are less talented in a given field, but will their way to success, are the generally the most heinous people, because, due to their singular focus they have on their goal, they ignore all of the other important aspects and duties in their lives. Stan Musial’s nephew worked for my father when I was a kid. Mr. Musial signed several baseballs for me, and knowing that I played baseball, would ask his nephew how I was doing. I never met him in person, but we are from the same area and I have never heard a bad word uttered about the man. Obviously, he was an incredible talent, so maybe he was able to maintain his humility and decency because he didn’t have to focus solely on just making it.

  11. James D. says:

    Interestingly, Musial, Ken Griffey Sr., and Ken Griffey Jr. were all born in the same small town in Western, PA.

  12. Ken Rosenberger says:

    Donora, PA, if I’m not mistaken. Way out in Western Pennsylvania, which as all football fans know, is the cradle of Quarterbacks (Unitas, Marino, Montana, Namath, Blanda, Kelly, etc.). Much as Dr Fleming surely knows that Miami of Ohio is the cradle of football coaches.

    Much as the original Hall of Fame was started by private interests in Cooperstown, as a Depression era tourist attraction, I’ve long wished someone would start a Hall of Class. It would be a small hall, to be sure. Musial and Christy Mathewson would be obvious charter members. As would the great Addie Joss (birthday, 12 April), who won 160 games in the majors, before his tragic death (meningitis) at the age of 31, in 1911. A serious, scholarly, and amiable man, he also produced a good deal of sports journalism (when sportswriters might just as easily have become novelists) for the Cleveland Post and worked as an engineer. He took to heart his responsibility to provide for his family, in an era when making a living in baseball was a precarious undertaking.

    When I was growing up in the 60s, and every boy was obsessed with baseball from April to early October, I recall that there was a general consensus that Ty Cobb was the greatest player ever. His long fall from grace had a lot, I suspect, to do with a Southern bias, that really intensified in the age of the Neocons, who convinced mainstream conservatives to embrace Lincoln as their greatest hero. The more I read of Cobb, the more I find admirable. He was smart with his money, got in on Coca Cola stock early. He knew how to dress and act in the drawing room. When he was in nearby Greenville, SC, he’d make it a point to stop by Joe Jackson’s liquor store and say hello. He was generous with tips for youngsters he thought showed great promise, like Ted Williams. He generously supported his impoverished hometown Royston, GA, and helped found a hospital there. To the assertion that he was a bigot, you’d have to say, “sure, he hated blacks; he hated everyone.” On the field, at least. And seemed to have been hated back. It was a rough game, played by rough men, someone always trying to take your job, your job that paid comparative peanuts and cracker jacks compared to later on. So a whole lotta hatin’ going on.

    Happy Birthday, Ray. Give me your take on Chaplin’s scandalous Monsieur Verdoux. Apparently, as recently as the Fifties, people were upset by a story about a man who married women for money and killed them. Go figure.

  13. Harry Colin says:

    Indeed, Mr. Rosenberg and Mr. James D…Musical and NortHridge jail from Donora.

    The cradle of quarterbacks also includes Johnny Lujack, who led Notre Dame to three national titles and won the Heisman Trophy in 1947. His college life was interrupted by the war, where he served as a naval officer. Quite a story, especially compared to modern athletes, celebrities and athletes. After all, our upcoming presidential election will feature a total of 10 deferments between the two main principals.

  14. Harry Colin says:

    When I hit send, auto-stupidity spat out that nonsense above, instead of Musial and both Griffeys! Sorry!

  15. Ken Rosenberger says:

    Good Polish boy that he was, I was delighted to learn that Stanislaus Musial’s teammates called him Stosh. His black teammates seemed to think of him as Lawrence Welk. Curt Flood said that he and Bob Gibson tried to guess each day how many times lovable Stosh would use the word “wunnerful” to the local beat writers.

  16. Harry Colin says:

    Speaking of ethnicity, Dan Marino’s mother is Polish! Sto lat!

  17. Allen Wilson says:

    Thank you, Rex. Yes, it’s working now. Not sure what was going on.

  18. James D. says:

    Mr. Colin,

    My grandfather graduated from Notre Dame, attended at the same time as Lujack and was roommates with John Panelli who was the starting fullback and linebacker on those championship teams.