Show: FRESH AIR
Date: APRIL 29, 1997
Sect: News; Domestic
MARTY MOSS-COANE, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Marty Moss-Coane filling in for Terry Gross.
The presidential Summit for America's Future concludes today in Philadelphia. It began on Sunday with a rally and a clean-up along an eight-mile stretch of Germantown Avenue, a street which runs through a poor section of the city marked by graffiti, litter-strewn parks and boarded-up buildings.
That's been followed by two days of speeches and discussions about how to mobilize the nation to help young people at risk through mentoring programs, health care services, safe and effective schools, and the chance to give back through community service.
While this star-studded event has gotten most of the spotlight, a counter-convention called "The People Summit" has been meeting just a few blocks away. Activists from around the country have called for more jobs and more government programs to help the needy.
We invited journalist Nicholas Lemann on FRESH AIR today to talk about the summit and its goals. He's national correspondent for "Atlantic Monthly," and the author of "The Promised Land," about how the country was changed by the migration of blacks from the South to the North, published in 1991.
I asked Lemann about how much he thinks volunteering actually helps the person receiving the services.
NICHOLAS LEMANN, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "ATLANTIC MONTHLY": There's a lot of social science about what is the effect of various kinds of face-to-face improvement programs on the person who supposedly is being improved. The statistical record of these programs is not as great as the people who are involved with the programs want it to be.
Typically, what happens is you get some kind of improvement in the person over the short-term, and then it kind of falls off over the long-term after the program is over. Now, lately, there's one program that has come up with just killer numbers, and that program is Big Brothers/Big Sisters, which also happens to be exactly the program that, if I'm right about what General Powell has in mind, the program that's closest to his central conception of what volunteerism is supposed to be.
MOSS-COANE: Big Brothers and Big Sisters is a national program and it aims to pair an adult with a child or a young adult, a teenager, helping them deal with school work or some of the problems that might be endemic in their neighborhood. And it's a relationship that gets developed over time -- someone that this young person can talk to.
That's an extraordinary commitment of someone's time and energy to another person -- very different from cleaning up trash along the highway or perhaps even spending a day cleaning up a street in Philadelphia, as was done on Sunday, Germantown Avenue, in need of a facelift.
LEMANN: I can speak to this as a former Big Brother myself. I found being a Big Brother very rewarding. And it is -- it -- the time commitment for me -- I would spend, usually, Saturdays with my little brother, who was a kid who didn't have a father. And -- so it's a pretty big commitment of pretty much one whole day a week, or at least half of that day.
I thought it really did make a difference in the kid's life. And it just -- it just seemed to mean a lot to him. Now, I would -- I would give two caveats based on my own experience. One is, after I had been doing it a certain amount of time, I got a new job that required moving to a different city, and I moved away. I later heard from the Big Brothers/Big Sisters office in the town that the kid's mother and the kid himself were quite upset that I had moved away -- so upset that they almost felt that the downside of the relationship was greater than the upside.
Second thing is, now that I have children of my own, I don't have time to do it any more. I -- I just wouldn't be able to. So, Big Brothers requires -- and Big Sisters also, mostly, require people who have hit adulthood, but don't have enough family responsibilities to preclude doing it. So it's a pretty narrow band of humanity that can be Big Brothers and Big Sisters.
MOSS-COANE: If I can enlarge this discussion slightly, because Big Brothers/Big Sisters is an example of a program that has some track record and looks like it's doing a fairly good job. But, again, I think it's only 100,000 children across the country are actually part of the Big Brother/Big Sister program.
Looking at volunteer work, at charity work, what do you think they do well? And what do you think they really cannot be asked to do?
LEMANN: Let me answer the second part of that first. Anything that the society wants to offer as a kind of guarantee of citizenship almost by definition, if it's put in the hands of volunteers, it isn't being guaranteed.
MOSS-COANE: Because volunteers move, programs change -- there -- there's a kind of loss of consistency?
LEMANN: Well, it's -- volunteerism is voluntary.
MOSS-COANE: Right. Right.
LEMANN: It depends -- tautological -- but I'll give you an example which would be Medicare and Medicaid, when they were created in 1965. Before Medicare and Medicaid, what those programs do was done through volunteerism. In other words, hospitals customarily treated, and doctors treated, poor people and elderly people who couldn't pay free of charge, or the families pitched in.
The reason we passed those programs and the reason those programs are so incredibly popular is people just don't trust volunteerism to take care of something that important. Same would go for public education through 12th grade, where the society have made a decision that we're going to provide that to every kid as a right of citizenship.
So, you know, anything you want to have absolutely guaranteed cannot be voluntary because, you know, by definition it won't be guaranteed to everybody who needs it. It'll only go to some people who need it, maybe even most, but not all.
MOSS-COANE: When you look at some of the programs, and perhaps looking at programs aimed at the elderly is a good example, because we decided as a society that people are entitled to a form of health insurance when they get old, and then some kind of -- form of Social Security, so they won't die in poverty. Looking to those programs as successful programs, where does the anti-big government sentiment come from? We hear that more and more.
LEMANN: Well, the answer to that, I'm afraid, is extremely simple -- mostly extremely simple. I'll go into it a little more. The easy, quick answer to your question is people don't like paying taxes. On the whole, people like government, I believe, on the whole, pretty much they like government, but they don't like to pay for government. And so, people develop a kind of mental construct where there is this thing called "big government" that's doing all sorts of stuff that I would not be willing to pay taxes for.
Actually, and this has been increasingly true in the -- over the last 20 years, government -- the things government does are exactly the things that are very popular and people want it to do, such as national defense, Social Security, and Medicare.
But -- but, you know, people just don't like paying taxes and they don't want to believe that the substantial amount of money they pay in taxes actually goes to something that -- that is useful or necessary. They would much rather believe that it's all wasted, because that kind of justifies the resistance to taxes.
MOSS-COANE: Let me jump in here, though, because, looking at some of the Great Society programs and other social programs that have been established over the last 50 years or so, and look at the fact that in many ways, they -- they promised to fix problems which they have not yet done. There are big bureaucracies that have been established around trying to deal with social problems. And the -- the feeling, I think, from critics is that there -- there's a kind of poverty industry that has grown up that is as much a part of the problem of poverty as poverty itself.
LEMANN: I would like to forcefully disagree with that argument. I just think that argument is on -- almost completely untrue. And let me explain why. First of all, the Great Society, which is an umbrella term for basically everything Lyndon Johnson did domestically, covers a huge amount of ground. Conservative critics will come up with a very big number attached to the Great Society, which is, you know, a little tendentious, but I won't go into that. But -- but always keep in mind, that by a huge, huge, huge margin, the biggest program of the Great Society is one thing, and that's Medicare.
Everything else it did is dwarfed by Medicare, and Medicare -- with incredible -- I mean, you can argue with a lot of things about Medicare -- the costs are out of control -- but it with -- with incredible efficiency wiped out in one generation the problem it was aimed at wiping out, which is medically under-served elderly people. That -- that is just not a problem any more for our society, and it was a huge problem before.
The second biggest item in numbers in the Great Society was various programs pumping federal money into higher education. That, again, nobody argues with. Everybody likes those programs and -- and they're widely taken advantage of, and we now have the country that -- that sends many, many more people to higher education than any other country in the world. Again, that's viewed as a success.
A small subset of the Great Society, very small, is the collection of programs that are called the "war on poverty." Again, numerically, it's almost an insignificantly small part of the Great Society -- all of Lyndon Johnson's programs. So don't be misled by the thought that we spent billions and billions and hundreds of billions of dollars to wage the war on poverty. We didn't. We spent hundreds of billions of dollars to get more people to college and to bring medical care to the elderly and poor. We did not spend untold billions on the war on poverty.
Also, Johnson stipulated that the war on poverty could not give any cash grants to poor people. So the war on poverty is completely separate from welfare and the war on poverty never sent a check of just cash money to any poor person. That's another big misconception.
MOSS-COANE: Nicholas Lemann is national correspondent for "Atlantic Monthly." We'll be back after a short break. This is FRESH AIR.
MOSS-COANE: Journalist Nicholas Lemann is our guest, and we're talking about the volunteer summit and its goals.
If there were either greatly diminished federal funds or almost no federal funds that were going to social programs, would charity be able to do the work that they want to do in the inner city?
LEMANN: You see, most of the -- most of what people think of as federal social programs -- I mean, most of what are federal social programs -- are actually grants to charities in the inner cities. That's -- that's what is not widely understood here. So most charities, rather than being freed by an abolition of federal programs, would actually be bankrupt. And I'll give you an example from my own life.
MOSS-COANE: Yeah, go ahead.
LEMANN: I'm right now the board president of a day care center that serves -- it's a -- we serve a mix of kind of half poor and half middle class kids. It's totally -- the board is totally made up of volunteers, and my work there is completely as a volunteer.
Now, our center, which is a private non-profit -- again, supervised by volunteers and we put in a lot of time on this -- we actively seek, and used to get a lot of, federal funds. We used to get a lot of money from a federal social program called Title XX, which is -- which is, you know, falls under the umbrella of those bad federal social programs.
And all it is is a grant to a poor family, particularly a welfare family, where the mother wants to leave welfare and go off to work, to put the child in a good day care center. Our Title XX funds in our center have been cut just horribly in the last few years.
MOSS-COANE: How much do you get? Yeah, how much do you get in Title XX funds, do you think?
LEMANN: We're now down to basically zero. We have 40 kids in the center. We had ten kids on Title XX last year, and we have zero kids right now on Title XX. And so, it just means that we can't serve as many poor children in our center. We -- we have made up some of the gap through fundraising, but you know, you can't make up all of the gap.
So it -- it's -- you hear the national debate on this, and it's like watching a kind of topsy-turvy world where, according to the debate, if the government would stop it's intrusive social programs, then that would free the voluntary sector to deliver the same services better. Well, you know, we're able to -- we're the voluntary sector and we're able to deliver those services 'cause government pays us to do it, and if government social programs are shut down, that means we can't do it any more 'cause they took our money away.
MOSS-COANE: Well, let me ask you about how your see foundations which give out millions of dollars every year to charitable organizations. What role do you think they play? And if the idea is to sort of re-draw the balance between government and the people, do you see them picking up the slack?
LEMANN: The role that foundations traditionally play -- now, let me just define the term a little for listeners who aren't familiar. A foundation generally refers to an organization that is sitting on a big pot of money that some rich person left them. And they give out that money as they see fit. But they aren't actively trying to fund raise for anything.
LEMANN: And they usually aren't operating programs. They're usually giving money to people who operate programs. Most -- most of the big foundations, what they really try to do is be a kind of leading-edge of social change, and to create experimental models that -- that they hope government will then follow.
I mean, we were talking a minute ago about the war on poverty. The war on poverty was really all done before it got started by the Ford Foundation, which is the biggest private foundation in the country. So they -- because -- remember about foundations that, although they're certainly the good guys and all that, they're probably the most unaccountable institutions in the entire society. They are responsible to absolutely no one. They have no voters. They have no contributors. They have no outside board of directors, very often. They have no customers who could leave them if they don't provide good services. They can do whatever they want.
And traditionally, foundations have taken that freedom to do whatever you want. They can screw up if they want to. They can do unpopular things if you want to. They take that freedom -- they experiment with things. They find the things that work, and then they are very closely connected with government, and they essentially go to government and say: OK, this, of our experiments, really works and you guys should pick it up. And that often has had happened.
Many govern -- almost all, I would venture to say -- government domestic programs started somewhere back when as a foundation experimental program.
MOSS-COANE: There's been a lot of criticism of the summit, that it really isn't answering or addressing some of the more critical issues, such as jobs. What do you think is -- is going to bring jobs back to the inner cities or back to the people that really need them if they're going to get off of welfare, get out of poverty.
LEMANN: Well, I -- I would conceive of the problem as not one of how do we bring jobs back to the poorest neighborhoods in America, but instead one of how do we get jobs for the people who live in the poorest neighborhoods in America. Remember that often these neighborhoods are in the middle of cities and, you know, you can usually get from North Philadelphia to downtown Philadelphia if there are jobs there. So -- so -- I don't -- I think it doesn't help that much to think that the only way to solve the problem is to get businesses to locate physically in these poorer neighborhoods.
Instead, it's to get people who grow up in these neighborhoods trained for the job market as it is today, and then placed in jobs.
MOSS-COANE: How do you think the American people can be either sold on the idea, or perhaps even educated, about what it is that the federal government really does? Because, again, I think you're up against a -- a profound skepticism about the -- the function of what federal government is.
LEMANN: I agree that it's -- it's a big job. I think it actually has begun to turn around, at least a little bit. But I agree that it's a big job. Let me suggest something that comes to mind because of the main organizer of the volunteer summit.
When Colin Powell was a general, there was a military doctrine associated with him called the "Powell Doctrine" and what that said was roughly as follows: Powell felt that in -- the American people unfairly blamed Vietnam on the military, and therefore they wouldn't support anything about the military or anything that the military wanted to do because of this mistrust.
So he felt that what you had to do first was rebuild the bond of trust between the public and the military. And, only after you had done that, could you rebuild the military itself. And so he had a strategy that's been much criticized, but it actually worked as he conceived of it, which was to take on these kind of easy wins, militarily, and show the military performing extremely well, such as in the Gulf War -- quickly, overwhelming force, clear mission. And then once you did that, it would turn around the public attitudes toward the military.
I would propose that we do a Powell doctrine on domestic government, and particularly the part aimed at poverty. The opposite of the Powell doctrine is what Johnson did when he declared war on poverty, which is to take on an enormous mission that no head of state has ever solved in the history of the world, and at least raise the expectation of doing it quickly.
If I -- what I think would help a lot is to define two or three very specific things and say: Here's a problem. Government is going to take this problem on. It's going to apply overwhelming force and there's going to be a very clear, specific mission, and we're going to produce a win. And then the public will see that, and that will begin to turn around the public perception of government.
MOSS-COANE: And what do you think would produce a win? What would be a program that you could almost guarantee success on?
LEMANN: Well, the one that pops into mind right now is crime control, because local police forces -- I mean, the problem with it is that -- that crime control is a local function, and not a national function. Although, again, police forces are a local organization that get a lot of money from the federal government.
But that's an area where the reductions have been so dramatic in the last few years in big cities at least. So that would be an example of where you can have a win. Housing is another example, where I think you can have a win. There's just been a lot of experience built up over the last generation, particularly by local community development corporations which, again, are substantially funded by the federal government.
So -- so what I would do in the domestic Powell doctrine is find the things where there's a body of experience, target those as modest, but achievable and important goals, instead of saying, in some big, vague way: We are going to do XYZ thing that is actually very hard to do, such as eliminate poverty or create a job base in the ghetto.
MOSS-COANE: Well, Nicholas Lemann, thank you very much for joining us today on FRESH AIR.
LEMANN: Thank you.
MOSS-COANE: Nicholas Lemann is national correspondent for "Atlantic Monthly," and author of "The Promised Land." I'm Marty Moss-Coane and this is FRESH AIR.
Dateline: Marty Moss-Coane, Philadelphia, PA; Terry Gross, Philadelphia, PA
Guest: Nicholas Lemann
High: Journalist Nicholas Lemann is national correspondent of the "Atlantic Monthly." He's written an essay in the April 28, 1997 issue of Newsweek, "The Limits of Charity." He'll talk with Marty Moss-Coane about the volunteerism touted at the current presidential summit.
Spec: Business; Children; Consumers; Economy; Education; Families; Government; Lifestyle; Media; Minorities; Mentoring; Poverty; Taxes; Volunteers; Youth
Head: John Young
Sect: News; Domestic
MARTY MOSS-COANE, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Marty Moss-Coane.
Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color line 50 years ago and became a hero to every black child who dreamed of playing in the major leagues. But today, the percentage of African-American players playing professional baseball is just 17 percent -- well behind basketball and football.
My guest, John Young, wants to reverse that trend. In 1989, he founded RBI, "Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities." It's supported by funds from major league baseball and works to increase interest in the sport by organizing teams and tournaments. It also works with boys and girls, encouraging them to stay in school. Today, there are RBI programs in 75 cities across the country.
John Young was a scout for the major leagues and played first base in the minor leagues for most of the '70s. An injury curtailed his major league career with the Detroit Tigers. John Young began playing ball as a kid growing up in South Central L.A. because of a role model a little closer to home.
JOHN YOUNG, FOUNDER OF RBI AND SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO THE GENERAL MANAGER, CHICAGO CUBS BASEBALL CLUB: A friend of mine -- he was a little bit older than me, by the name of Edward Hamm (ph) -- he was three years older. And I've constantly said that if Edward Hamm would have been a gang-banger or did something negative, there was probably a chance that I would have been negative, because, you know, as a little kids, you know, there's always that one person that you look up to. And I always say, fortunately for me, that Edward Hamm was into sports and he was into baseball and he was very good, and I looked up to him. And he's the one that got me started playing baseball.
MOSS-COANE: So he said, come on John, let's go play baseball. Let's go down the, you know, to the local park or down the street and play ball?
YOUNG: Well, he would play -- we would play on the block, right there on 103rd, which was a pretty big block. In fact, we would have, like, games against the other blocks -- 103rd, 104th, 108th -- like the Murray's grew up on 108th, a bunch of family members, and the most famous one being Eddie Murray.
But, we would have, like, block weeks. But he went to a junior high school that had a summer recreation program and they had one for youngsters, and he encouraged me to come out and play.
MOSS-COANE: So where's Edward Hamm today?
YOUNG: Edward Hamm is cutting hair, and still lives in South Central L.A., and doing well.
MOSS-COANE: And still loving baseball?
YOUNG: Loves all the sports, yes. Yeah.
MOSS-COANE: Now, did you take to this game right away, I mean, the moment your friend Edward Hamm introduced you to the sport, was it kind of love at first sight?
YOUNG: Well, even -- I can remember -- this is, I'd say, 1959, 1960 -- but I can remember 1955, my parents watching the World Series on television. You know, the Yankees were playing the Dodgers, and Jackie Robinson, as you know, was playing for the Dodgers and this was like the Jackie Robinson generation. So, most African-American families were really into baseball at that time, particularly, you know, Dodger fans. And I just -- I was five or six at the time, and I remember going out in the backyard and throwing up a -- a sock and hitting it with a broom stick, and so.
But baseball, I think, through Jackie Robinson and through my parents, was really my number one sport as a child.
MOSS-COANE: Well, how did the major leagues hear about you? I mean, what was the process of you making it to professional baseball?
YOUNG: When I was in high school, it was like a -- baseball was really flourishing in South Central L.A. Several people came out of the neighborhood and scouts were really -- it was like a hotbed in the area, and scouts were all over the community looking for talent. People like Roy White (ph) and Reggie Smith that came before me -- Bob Watson (ph), Bob Toland (ph), Doc Ellis (ph) -- these people were like, you know, within three years of me.
And so, when I started playing ball at Mount Carmel High School, I could run and I was a little crude. And there was a player on our team by the name of Tommy Williams who was a catcher, switch-hitting catcher, who all the scouts would come to see. And he was a grade ahead of me, so by scouting him, they happened to notice me. And that's usually the way most kids get noticed. Scouts are going to see someone else, and they either see a teammate or a player on the opposing team, and that's -- they put it on the follow list.
MOSS-COANE: So you -- you made it, what, to the minor leagues. I guess you got -- you got picked for the minor leagues. What -- what was the process, I guess, of your career in professional baseball?
YOUNG: Well, I've had a very detailed career. I -- I like to think that I probably experienced many of the emotions or most of the emotions that a person can feel in the game. I've had several decisions to make. I was drafted out of high school by the Cincinnati Reds. And I was drafted about the 27th round, and they offered me $500, which at the time I thought was all the money in the world.
MOSS-COANE: Five hundred for the season?
YOUNG: Signing bonus.
MOSS-COANE: Oh, a signing bonus.
YOUNG: And $500 a month, and that's just for the four or five months of the season.
YOUNG: And here is one of those decisions that my dad assisted me with. Well, I don't know if it was assistance. He said: No, you're not going to do that.
MOSS-COANE: And that was that, right?
YOUNG: That was that. And I had a scholarship to go to Chapman College. Went to college, and I really developed as a player.
MOSS-COANE: Mmm-hm. Did college, though, give you some time to just mature as a person? And I imagine the difference between a 19-year-old or 18-year-old or maybe, even, 17-year-old playing professional ball, and someone in their early 20s?
YOUNG: Yes, college did more for me, I think, than anything to prepare me for pro ball. Not only did I develop my physical skills by playing in a winter program, by playing more games and by really concentrating on just baseball. Also, it allowed me to grow up. It was, you know, my first time away from home.
Another thing that really assisted me -- I was -- there was two African-American players on the team. So, coming from South Central, it was the first time I had been a minority on a -- on a sporting team. And as I get into my career, you know, later professional career, my first year of pro ball, I was the only African-American on the team, you know, playing in the South. I think it prepared me for some of the things that happened, you know, when I was playing pro ball, but also it had me -- I just grew up a little bit. I became more responsible. I became more confident with my baseball skills. And I think that had I went out and played my -- right out of high school, I don't think I would have lasted long.
MOSS-COANE: We'll talk more with John Young after a short break. This is FRESH AIR.
John Young is our guest, and he played professional baseball from 1969 to 1978. He was a batting instructor and a scout for the Detroit Tigers. He currently works with the major league as a consultant, and in the late '80s, he began a program called "Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities" or "RBI."
You work as a scout for the Detroit Tigers, and when did you begin to notice that -- that baseball was disappearing from some of the inner city neighborhoods around the country, including the one that you grew up in South Central L.A.?
YOUNG: The first week I was -- I became a scout. I was living in Alabama at the time -- Montgomery -- and I was with the Tigers. And I had the -- had four states of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida -- And Georgia -- five states. And as I would travel into Birmingham, New Orleans, Atlanta, all the major cities, you know, in those states, and scout the high school players, I really noticed a difference in the participation with African-Americans, and the quality of the programs in the inner city schools.
As we scouted the colleges, we would notice that, unless it was a historically black school, there weren't many African-Americans playing college baseball. So, right away, we -- it was just so noticeable.
MOSS-COANE: What was the concept, then, behind the program that you started -- again, this is in the late '80s -- this program called "RBI"?
YOUNG: I moved up to Detroit as director of scouting. And I really -- as we would attend baseball organization meetings with other scouting directors, you know, the subject would still come, oh, we've got to find talent. We've got to find another resource for talent. We've got to do something with the inner cities. We've got to do something to get more athletes involved.
And then I moved back to Southern California, and I was working for the San Diego Padres as a scout. And same thing -- I'm -- I'm talking -- this is like '84, '85 -- and I'm talking to the same subject with a different group of scouts.
So finally, in 1987, I got together with Roman Heman (ph) who was the general manager of the White Sox and general manager of the Orioles, but in between that, was working at the commissioner's office, and expressed my concerns. And he suggested that I write a proposal and send it to, at the time, Commissioner Peter Ueberroth. And that's exactly, you know, what -- what we did -- sent the proposal to Peter Ueberroth. He gave us funding for the first year, and RBI appeared to be off and running.
MOSS-COANE: Well, you began in -- in South Central L.A., where you grew up. What happened the first day of tryouts?
YOUNG: Prior to the first day of tryouts, we went into the local junior high schools. And we had a -- we had some really impressive alumni, you know, with us. And when we went into one junior high school, we went in with one of the former alumni, Eric (ph) Davis. We went to another junior high school with Darryl Strawberry, with Hubie Brooks (ph). And it was very impressive. And the kids were all fired up about, you know, this -- this new league. And we were -- we gave the kids the first-year jackets to wear, and everybody was excited. And when we told them the location of the parks, you know, it was just silence.
And we didn't really pick up on it, you know, and we just -- we just didn't pick up on it. And the problem was the kids were concerned that with the locations, over -- crossing over gang territory. And so it was concerned, and we met with the recreation and parks people. And -- who incidentally -- RBI does not get off the ground had it not been for the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks. They provided facilities and, really, the manpower.
But we went to the supervisors and they provided rangers -- you know, they have park rangers that were there. And we assured the kids that security would be no problem.
We also, you know, went to the community police stations and made them aware of what we were doing. So they would, you know, they would drive by and then they would, like, you know, get out and they would walk the park, and their presence was felt.
MOSS-COANE: Interesting. Well, I'm curious to whether you ever talked with any gang members there -- if you were at a park and there was -- I don't know -- kids hanging around -- whether you ever went over and talked to them?
YOUNG: Well, you know, actually, prior to the start of RBI, part of the research, you know -- I had a cousin that was a gang-banger. And, you know, I talked with him about this. You know, this is one problem we've -- you know -- I was just saying, well, why would the gang-bangers, you know, prevent these kids from doing something positive?
See, a lot of scouts are afraid to come into South Central because of this problem. And one of the things I was telling him, I says, you know, this is something that if you have -- if the scouts are afraid to come into the area, you're hurting the community. You're hurting the kids in the area, because that's going to limit their opportunity to -- to be exposed to, you know, professional baseball, to college baseball, to what have you.
And what he told me was that the gang-bangers really don't bother the activity at the park. Most of the activity at the park is done at night. And that it would not be a problem.
MOSS-COANE: And has it -- has it ever been a problem?
YOUNG: Knock on wood, it hasn't. One thing that we -- in Southern California -- the big gangs are the Crips and the Bloods, which are with the red and blue colors. So we had to outfit our league the first couple of years, you know, without using red or blue.
And you know, if you've been involved in -- with your youngsters -- try to outfit a 24-team league -- baseball -- without using red and blue, it becomes very difficult.
MOSS-COANE: You probably don't want too many of those pinks and other kinds of colors.
MOSS-COANE: So, what can baseball teach young people, even apart from other sports? I mean, I think all sports teach winning and losing and good sportsmanship. But what do you think is distinctive about the game of baseball and what it can teach -- especially a young person?
YOUNG: The thing about baseball that I think is unique from every other profession, every other sport, is that it teaches you to really deal with failure. You look at a 300-hitter, who's a star -- he fails seven out of ten times.
YOUNG: And I think that's the number one -- you know, it teach you to, you know, deal with adversity, dependency on the other members, and I think it teaches you humility. And I think those are really the key, key points.
MOSS-COANE: There's another part of this program which I think is very interesting, which is to link baseball, to link athletics, with learning. And I know that's a very important part of this RBI program. How do you make that link for a young person? Do they have to make sure their homework is done, or have certain kinds of grades in order to be part of the team?
YOUNG: Well, let me kind of give you a little background on how the educational component was devised. When -- when I wrote the commissioner, Peter Ueberroth, the first time to get the program started, one of the points that I made with Peter Ueberroth was that in 1986, from the draft, the June free agent draft, of the players that were signed from America -- through the draft, not counting the Dominican Republicans -- but through the draft -- 82 percent came from college, as compared to, when I signed in the late '60s, most of the players that were signing came from high schools.
YOUNG: So my thinking was that for the workforce that -- that, as major league clubs cut back on minor league clubs, for economics, that eventually baseball is going to use the colleges similar to the way the NBA and NFL use the colleges -- really, to cut back on scouting and player development. That's a trend that we're taking.
Also, I noticed that when we did our survey, that the players from America that were in the major league -- on major league rosters, 45 percent of them came from Southern California. That's from Fresno to San Diego. Then we did a survey on who was attending colleges. So we did -- we did a survey on the rosters from San Diego to Fresno, California. And we found that less than two percent were African-American, less than three percent of the players were Latino.
So that told me that, if this is going to be our trend, and that if there's only two percent, you know, minority participation at the colleges, in -- 10 years from now, we won't have any American minorities playing baseball. So we felt that it was important to get the academic component in place.
MOSS-COANE: Well, I'm thinking about Tiger Woods. And I wonder whether baseball needs a Tiger Woods. And by that I mean, a young and charming, gifted, articulate player to really ignite interest, 'cause it seems to me there is no more white or suburban sport than golf these days. And yet, in the last couple of weeks, it seems as if everyone's talking about golf.
YOUNG: I think so. I think we've got our stars. And I think that baseball has really stepped up the pace on marketing the players. And I think that's going to be taken care of. I think what baseball needs is more volunteers at the, at the youth level, more quality coaches to teach the game and to be role models.
MOSS-COANE: Is there a kid you think that really exemplifies what this RBI program is all about, a kid that really, I don't know, uses this experience to his own betterment?
YOUNG: Well, I think the one kid that I -- he's always been my favorite. In fact, he played, I think, day one -- by the name of James Lofton (ph). Came into the program at 13. Horrendous home life. Mother was on drugs. You know, very low self-esteem -- very small in stature -- came in at 13. Played on every RBI team that we had. I always kid him saying that he probably has more RBI uniforms than we do.
But he got bigger. He got stronger. He got, you know, more self-confidence. And when he graduated from high school, he was, like, the city player of the year. And he attended L.A. Community College. And that really surprised me, because I didn't think that when this kid first came in the program, that he would do the things that he's accomplished.
He signed a contract with the Cincinnati Reds and he's currently playing in their minor league system. I don't know if James is going to play in the major leagues, but the day that he entered L.A. City Community College was probably the proudest day for me, and the program -- to see how far he had come.
And here's a kid that played in the program, never paid one dime to play in the program. So, we were able to -- to give this -- this youngster a great experience -- uniforms, trophies and for absolutely free. And I really believe that this is a life that we've saved.
MOSS-COANE: Well, John Young, it's been a real pleasure to have you with us today on FRESH AIR, and I thank you for joining us.
YOUNG: Thank you, Marty. It was my pleasure.
MOSS-COANE: John Young established RBI in 1989 to encourage youngsters to play baseball and stay in school. Today, there are 75 RBI programs in cities across the country.
This is FRESH AIR.
Dateline: Marty Moss-Coane, Philadelphia, PA
Guest: John Young
High: Former major baseball league scout John Young is currently special assistant to the general manager of the Chicago Cubs. In 1988 he began a program in South Central Los Angeles to get inner city kids playing baseball. Known as RBI, "Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities," the program has since expanded to include 51 cities and 40,000 youth.
Spec: Children; Baseball; Cities; Drugs; Education; Families; Lifestyle; Minorities; Race Relations; Sports; Youth
Head: Lee Konitz meets Jimmy Giueffre
MARTY MOSS-COANE, HOST: In 1958, musicologist Gunther Schuyler (ph) coined the term "third stream" to describe a new hybrid of jazz and classical music. Two jazz musicians who wet their feet in the third stream were saxophonist Lee Konitz and Jimmy Giueffre, more often associated with the style of cool jazz.
A recent reissue of four sessions recorded in the 1950s documents their involvement.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP OF LEE KONITZ AND JIMMY GIUEFFRE JAZZ RECORDING "PALO ALTO")
KEVIN WHITEHEAD, JAZZ CRITIC: "Palo Alto" from the 1959 LP "Lee Konitz meets Jimmy Giueffre." That's classic cool jazz.
The rest of the music in the new two CD Konitz-Giueffre compilation is a cross section of early third stream activity. That cross-breeding of jazz and classical in the 1950s is usually regarded as a dead end, but this music suggests it's time to reevaluate.
Check out Bill Russo's music for alto saxophone and strings. Lee Konitz is the soloist.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP LEE KONITZ PLAYING BILL RUSSO'S "MUSIC FOR ALTO SAXOPHONE AND STRINGS")
WHITEHEAD: I like that -- a little cool jazz; a little bebop saxophone, and some nice details, like the way bluesy guitar eventually gives way to plucked violins.
This was early in the transformation of trombonist Bill Russo into composer William Russo, but he could already write well for strings.
Composer Ralph Burns' (ph) piece "Turista" (ph) from his 1951 album "Free Forms" has a similar crush of ideas, but the effect is more wacky.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP Of RALPH BURNS, "TURISTA" FROM "FREE FORMS")
WHITEHEAD: The hectic pace and evocations of Latin music there suggest Ralph Burns may have been listening to Carl Stallings' (ph) innovative cartoon scores.
In any case, recording recognizable styles for a collage effect wouldn't catch on in classical music for a few years yet, and wouldn't become common in jazz until the 1980s. Listening to this music now, the third stream begins to sound less like a failed experiment and more like music 40 years ahead of its time.
The other session in this compilation consists of two suites by Jimmy Giueffre for his own clarinet and a string orchestra. One suite is totally notated. On the other, called "Mobiles", the clarinet parts are all improvised and even the orchestra's role is a bit flexible. In one movement, the strings play specified notes and improvised rhythms. In another, the string chords are notated, but the conductor cues when they are sounded, the number of repeats, and how long and how loud they should be played.
That anticipates the way Butch Morris (ph) conducts either improvisations or chamber music nowadays.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP OF JIMMY GIUEFFRE'S RECORDED "MOBILES")
WHITEHEAD: One apparent inspiration for Jimmy Giueffre's "Mobiles" is "Some 50 Pieces with Movable Parts" by composer Earl Brown who was, in turn, inspired by the mobiles of sculptor Alexander Calder. Giueffre also studded his "Mobiles" with short solo improvisations, a decade before jazz horn players really took to playing unaccompanied.
Of course, a lot of improvisers who now use modular forms or -- quote -- "familiar styles" or play musical games, or take orders from conductors, or play solo clarinet pieces, don't realize composers like Earl Brown, Mauricio Cagel (ph), Ralph Burns, or Jimmy Giueffre beat them to it.
Yeah, but it's also true that some musicians who use these ideas are big time record collectors who deliberately borrow from their forebears. Those are two ways things develop in jazz. Some musicians happily reinvent the wheel. Others take old ideas and put them to the test.
To put a spin on a cliche, those who know the past are often tempted to repeat it.
MOSS-COANE: Kevin Whitehead is currently living in Amsterdam working on a book. He reviewed "Lee Konitz Meets Jimmy Giueffre" on the Verve label.
For Terry Gross, I'm Marty Moss Coane.
Dateline: Marty Moss-Coane, Philadelphia, PA
Guest: Kevin Whitehead
High: Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews the reissue collection "Lee Konitz meets Jimmy Giueffre."
Spec: Entertainment; Jazz; Music
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End-Story: Lee Konitz meets Jimmy Giueffre
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