Tag Archives: war

The greatest Astro/Dodger

The World Series is here and so it’s time again to figure out which player in the history of baseball has had the most distinguished joint record of contributions to both teams in contention for the title.  (Last year:  Riggs Stephenson was the greatest Cub/Indian.)  Astros history just isn’t that long, so it’s a little surprising to find we come up with a really solid winner this year:  Jimmy Wynn, “The Toy Cannon,” a longtime Astro who moved to LA in 1974 and had arguably his best season, finishing 5th in MVP voting and leading the Dodgers to a pennant.  Real three-true-outcomes guy:  led the league in walks twice and strikeouts once, and was top-10 in the National League in home runs four times in the AstrodomeCareer total of 41.4 WAR for the Astros, and 12.3 for the Dodgers in just two years there.

As always, thanks to the indispensable Baseball Reference Play Index for making this search possible.

Other contenders:  Don Sutton is clearly tops among pitchers.  Sutton was the flip side of Wynn; he had just two seasons for Houston but they were pretty good.  Beyond that it’s slim pickings.  Jeff Kent put in some years for both teams.  So did Joe Ferguson.

Who are we rooting for?  On the “ex-Orioles on the WS Roster” I guess the Dodgers have the advantage, with Rich Hill and Justin Turner (I have to admit I have no memory of Turner playing for the Orioles at all, even though it wasn’t that long ago!  It was in 2009, a season I have few occasions to recall.)  But both these teams are stocked with players I just plain like:  Kershaw, Puig, Altuve, the great Carlos Beltran…



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Dead people are not numerators

One more thing about the Steven Pinker interview in the Guardian, previously kvetched about here in October.  The interview leads with a very strange table, which lists mass killings (mostly wars, with a sprinkling of famines and non-state-certified genocides) and ranks them by “Death Toll (2oC equivalent.)  “The table takes past conflicts and tyrannies,” the Guardian explains, “and recalibrates their death tolls so their scale can be compared directly.”  In other words, you take the total death toll and you divide by the world population at the time; a single murder two thousand years ago is the equivalent, in this sense, of a 20-person killing spree now.

Bad idea!  I wrote in Slate a while ago about the folly of computations of this kind — in particular, why killing one Israeli is not the “equivalent” of killing 47 Americans.

(Not to mention the fact that the table asks us to compare “The Middle East Slave Trade,” which took 1200 years to rack up its total of 132 million “20th century deaths” (constituting 18m actual slaves), to World War II, which killed its 55m in half a decade.)

None of which is meant to argue against the thesis of Pinker’s book, which seems pretty uncontroversial.   I haven’t read it, but there’s no doubt that Pinker has access to, and uses, more sophisticated quantitative methodology than dividing one number by another and calling it a day.

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Public opinion, 1935-1946

Working in Memorial Library again today. Today’s interesting book picked off the shelf is Public Opinion, 1935-1946, a 1200-page compendium of public opinion polls conducted around the world on every topic imaginable. And it looks like the full text is online!

A few nuggets:

  • In January 1937, 70% of Americans thought it had been a mistake for the U.S. to enter World War I. In November 1940, only 39% thought so.
  • In May 1940, voters were asked “Would you like to see the Republicans nominate Roosevelt for President if the Democrats would agree to accept the choice of the Republicans for Vice-President?” Now that’s a piece of stunt nomination the likes of which we’d never see today. Also, in July 1940, we have this note on a national election poll: “Southern Negroes were omitted in this tabulation because their franchise is largely ineffective.”
  • In April 1941, U.S. opinion was strongly against entering the war: 21% in favor, 79% opposed. But there were very big differences between states — in Wisconsin (home, then and now, of a substantial German population) only 14% favored war, while in Florida 35% wanted in.
  • In March 1938, Americans favored the right of teachers to spank kids in school by 53%-44%. By August 1946, it had flipped to 35% in favor and 61% opposed. Parents who had themselves been spanked as kids were only a little more pro-spanking; 41% supported spanking in school, 56% opposed.
  • In March 1938, 82% of Americans supported amending the Constitution to prohibit child labor. It turns out that The Child Labor Amendment is still outstanding and would be adopted if ratified by just 10 more states. Who knew?
  • In March 1942, 66% of Americans agreed that “most people can be trusted” and 25% disagreed. (I couldn’t resist looking up more recent numbers: by 1964 trust was ahead 77-21, but in 1983 just 57% thought most people could be trusted, with 40% saying no.)
  • In June 1937, 63% of Americans favored taxing chain stores at a higher rate than independent stores.
  • In November 1945, 58% of Americans felt that “Jewish people in the United States have too much influence in the business world,” up from 50% in January 1943.
  • In March 1944, 27% of Americans had raised chickens during the previous year.
  • When asked in 1946 which President was greatest: FDR, Washington, Lincoln, or Wilson, Americans gave Roosevelt 39%, putting him ahead of Lincoln (37%), Washington (15%), and Wilson (5%).
  • In April 1946, 67% of Germans disagreed with the statement “The experience of enduring bombing and shellfire steels a man’s character.”
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