So consider the bit of text/video making the rounds today on ex-Phillies pitcher and baseball Hall-of-Famer, Jim Bunning, who these days is known for holding the position as senator from the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
Not to delve too deeply into the issue, but the old pitcher and retiring senator is single-handily holding up the extension of unemployment benefits to more than a million Americans that were to start next week. Surely the senator is concerned about deficit spending, but the head-scratcher is that no one on either side of the aisle seems to understand what he’s up to or how to decipher this, from Politico:
On the floor Thursday night, he breached Senate protocol when he shouted out: “Tough s—” as Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley pleaded with him to drop his objection.
Or this gem from the ol’ ballplayer himself:
I want to assure the people that have, heh, watched this thing until quarter of twelve — and I have missed the Kentucky-South Carolina game that started at 9 o’clock, and it’s the only redeeming chance we had to beat South Carolina, since they’re the only team that has beat Kentucky this year — all of these things that we have talked about and all the provisions that have been discussed, the unemployment benefits, all these things. If we’d have taken the longer version of the job bill…we wouldn’t have spent three hours plus telling everybody in the United States of America that Senator Bunning doesn’t give a damn about the people that are on unemployment.
Look… he’s says it right here:
So the fact that there is an unemployment rate pushing toward 11 percent in Kentucky is of less importance than the regular-season matchup between Kentucky and South Carolina. Be that as it might, Bunning's last stand reminded me of a funny story I wrote about him as well as a conversation I had with the senator during the last home opener at The Vet in 2003.
Here’s what I dug up from my archives and sent along to Meech over at The Fightins:
On my way to the press box lavatory, I literally ran into Jay Johnstone. No one was hurt, but the first thought that popped into my head when nearly trampling the Dodgers’ broadcaster was, “Hey, I read your book when I was a kid.”
The book was called Temporary Insanity and it wasn’t too bad for jock-lit. There were plenty of good stories about all the crazy things baseball players like to do in their free time, including some of the finer details about Johnstone’s time as a Phillies farmhand where he spent most of his energy terrorizing his manager Jim Bunning.
Bunning, of course, is currently the senior Republican senator from the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and based on a conversation I had with him in 2003, he still has not let go of the mental anguish Johnstone caused him.
My favorite story from the book was when Johnstone caught wind that Bunning had been trying to nail him for any team rule infraction he could. So just to steam his manager even more than already necessary, Johnstone spread the word that he was organizing a wild, beer-drinking and card-playing night in his room at the team hotel. Bunning, as planned, got wind of the party and thinking he was finally going to get his chance to burn Johnstone once and for all, the manager showed up at the room after curfew only to find Johnstone sitting on his bed and reading a book.
Funny, right? More exasperating for Bunning was when Johnstone looked up from his book at the angry figure in the doorway and said something like, “Hiya, skip! You’re out kind of late, aren’t you?”
As the story goes, Bunning stormed out of there chapped that he couldn’t finally stick it to Johnstone. However, later the future senator got the last laugh. During that conversation with Bunning in 2003, I asked him about Johnstone and he told me that when the Phillies’ brass called him about the best player on his team he immediately told them about the guy who had been a bee in his bonnet. As a result of that, the Phillies called up Johnstone from the minors and he went on to be a valuable left-handed bat for the team.
“I was finally rid of him,” the senator said.
Oh yes, a win-win for all.
It doesn't sound the least bit unreasonable to surmise that because Bunning couldn't hack it as a minor-league manager or control Jay Johnstone, he went on to be a U.S. Senator.