Cyber and the Russians; Club for Growth's Win; Page and the FBI; 'Say Hey' Fever

Good morning. It’s Thursday, June 7, 2018. On this date in 1951, a heralded 20-year-old centerfielder for the New York Giants collected two singles in a sparsely attended Thursday afternoon game at the Polo Grounds. Nothing so memorable about that — the — except that it put the slow-starting rookie’s batting average at .200 for the first time.

As I wrote a few years ago in this space, after that that first week in June 67 years ago, Willie Mays was on his way to baseball immortality. He went on to win the Rookie of the Year award, and in the career that followed, Mays accumulated two Most Valuable Player awards, 12 Gold Gloves, while hitting 660 home runs, batting .302, playing in four World Series, and starring in 24 All-Star games on his way to enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

“They invented the All-Star Game for Willie Mays,” Ted Williams once said.

Six years ago this week, Mays rode on Air Force One and later introduced President Obama to a San Francisco audience. I’ll have more on that encounter — and on the Say Hey bipartisan appeal — in a moment. First, I’d first point you to RealClearPolitics’ , 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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From Russia, With Malice. Our cybersecurity series continues with my at the historical roots of Russian manipulation of information, which has become more sinister, and damaging, in the digital age.

Club for Growth Notches Another Win. Tom Bevan the organization’s role in Matt Rosendale’s victory in the Montana GOP Senate primary.

It’s Newsom’s Race to Win, Whether California Likes It or Not. Bill Whalen the frontrunner for governor’s defiantly liberal politics.

Trump’s Courage Could Free U.S. From OPEC. Bernie Marcus that as long as Americans drive vehicles limited to gasoline, our dependence on foreign oil will not end.

Carter Page: Russian Spy or FBI Honor Scout? In RealClearInvestigations, Paul Sperry on evidence countering Democratic assertions regarding the Trump campaign aid.

America’s Sheriffs Should Support the FIRST STEP Act. Retired Sheriff Currie Myers in RealClearPolicy that the bill would better prepare offenders to reenter society.

Illinois Is Better Off Bankrupt. Also in RCPolicy, John Merrifield & Barry Poulson  that bankruptcy is the only way to make state officials enact effective fiscal rules and pursue sustainable fiscal policy.

Should We Get Rid of Dietary Guidelines? RealClearScience editor Ross Pomeroy whether it makes sense to prescribe a fairly specific diet to a broad, diverse populace.

Cancer Prevention Is a Children‘s Health Issue. In RealClearHealth, Ronald A. DePinho that combating cancer starts with a focus on prevention at an early age.

Why Did Israel Attack the USS Liberty? In RealClearHistory, Richard Brownell  the lingering questions surrounding the June 8, 1967 incident.

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Red Smith, the great New York sportswriter, once observed that you could get a fat lip in any New York saloon by starting an argument over which of Gotham’s 1950s centerfielders — Duke Snider (Dodgers), Mickey Mantle (Yanks), or Willie Mays (Giants) — was the best. “One point was beyond argument, though,” Smith added. “Willie was by all odds the most exciting.”

That thrill transcended race and generational appeal, and it has stood the test of time. It even extends to those not old enough to have seen Mays play in his prime — or in person at all. Included among that number was Barack Obama, who was introduced by Mays at a political fundraiser in San Francisco in 2012.

“I had no idea in my lifetime that we would have an African-American guy in the White House,” Mays said.

On that cue, Obama came on stage and physically embraced the great centerfielder. “Willie Mays, everybody,” the president said. “The Say Hey Kid.”

Barack Obama’s favorite sport is played on hardwood, not grass and dirt. But the president was sufficiently steeped in the national pastime’s lore to express gratitude for how Mays and Jackie Robinson and other black baseball stars of their era helped pave the way for him to make history in politics. They laid the groundwork, Obama said, “for a more inclusive America.”

In that observation, the president was on solid, and nonpartisan, ground. For a generation of Americans of any political persuasion, Willie Mays was more than a baseball star, especially after the Giants moved to San Francisco. Young Californians, kids in far-flung National League cities, Yankee-bashers, racial liberals in New York and elsewhere — and African-Americans everywhere — found in Mays a man who signified something profound: a glimpse of what a post-racial America might look like.

“There have been only two geniuses in the world,” Tallulah Bankhead once quipped after somebody called her a genius. “Willie Mays and Willie Shakespeare.”

Although Chuck Berry probably had Jackie Robinson in mind when he wrote the baseball-themed verse to “,” Bay Area native John Fogerty saw someone else in his mind’s eye when he borrowed a Berry line for “,” an exuberant rock ’n’ roll classic about baseball. (“And roundin’ third, and headed for home, it’s a brown-eyed handsome man…”)

Willie Mays himself is a Democrat, but love of baseball — and admiration for Mays — is a bipartisan affliction. In the 1950s, a New York banker named Bucky Bush would take his nephew Georgie to the Polo Grounds to see the Giants play. The kid couldn’t take his eyes off the magnetic centerfielder, and when he grew up, George W. Bush would tell schoolchildren that his boyhood dream never involved politics — it was growing up “to be Willie Mays.”

That dream did not come true, but even in adulthood, visions of Mays patrolling the outfield or tearing around the bases or hitting the cover off the baseball, always put Bush — like millions of other Americans — in a happy frame of mind.

And in 2000, as he prepared to walk on stage to debate Vice President Al Gore, Bush’s nerves were calmed by his adviser Mark McKinnon, who whispered a pleasing mantra in his ear: “Willie Mays, Willie Mays…” 

Carl M. Cannon  
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics

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