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CHICAGO—Promising that every effort would be made to limit the impact on residents’ day-to-day lives, Chicago officials announced Wednesday that a fleet of plows was working around the clock to clear more than 18 inches of fresh bullet casings that had blanketed the metropolitan area overnight.
Sources at the city’s Department of Streets and Sanitation confirmed that over 250 ammunition-removal vehicles had been deployed to deal with the knee-deep layer of spent cartridges, which have been steadily accumulating on Chicago’s streets, alleys, and pedestrian walkways since the previous evening.
“Our crews have been out there all night trying to make our roadways passable, but given how quickly the handgun and semi-automatic shells have piled up, it’s going to take some time,” DSS commissioner Charles L. Williams told reporters, thanking the public for its patience while crews made their way across the stricken municipality. “We’re making good headway, but as you can imagine, it’s not an easy job, especially with casings continuing to fall throughout the city.”
“So unless you have an emergency, we’re urging all citizens to stay put for the time being,” he added. “Right now, it’s just not safe to be out in such treacherous conditions.”
Williams stated that as casing levels surpassed 12 inches, scores of extra workers from outside the city were called in to help keep pace with the buildup. In addition, numerous dump truck crews have reportedly been tasked with carting off entire trailers full of cartridges from the hardest-hit areas and depositing them in nearby landfills before circling back to pick up more.
According to sources, by the morning rush hour, over 300 public and private schools in the Chicago area had been either closed or delayed due to concerns over the large amounts of ammunition covering the city. Citing increased hazards, officials further advised residents to stay off back streets and avoid venturing out at night.
“Man, it’s brutal out there,” said Paul Bergeron, 34, a resident of the Lawndale neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side, showing reporters where plows had piled up over nine feet of empty casings in the parking lot of the grocery store across from his apartment. “I ran out to Walgreens, and on my way back, I nearly took a spill trudging through all the .40-caliber shells—I just wanted to get home as quickly as possible.”
“Growing up in Kansas, I never saw anything nearly like this, but it is what it is,” he continued. “When you’re living here, you learn to deal with the bullets and adjust your life accordingly.”
Some locals, however, have complained that the areas receiving priority attention from the city’s plows were not consistent with those that had been most severely affected. In Chicago’s western and southern neighborhoods, for example, eyewitnesses reported that cartridges had risen as high as some first-floor windows, making it difficult for the occupants to even open their front doors.
“The plows always seem to get to the rich neighborhoods first, that’s for sure,” said Gloria Hawkins, 53, a lifelong resident of the South Side community of Auburn Gresham. “Down here, you have no choice but to go out there into the ammo and shovel your car out yourself. It can be pretty frustrating when things are really bad out, because by the time you finish clearing the walk in front of your house, there’s already an inch or two of fresh bullet casings piling up where you started.”
“But we’ll get through it, just like we always do,” Hawkins continued. “This city is very much used to this sort of thing.”
I copied this.. well worth reading
Twenty two years ago, in Nashville, Tennessee , during the first week of January, 1996, more than 4,000 baseball coaches descended upon the Opryland Hotel for the 52nd annual ABCA’s convention.
While I waited in line to register with the hotel staff, I heard other more veteran coaches rumbling about the lineup of speakers scheduled to present during the weekend.
One name, in particular, kept resurfacing, always with the same sentiment — “John Scolinos is here? Oh, man, worth every penny of my airfare.”
Who is John Scolinos, I wondered. No matter; I was just happy to be there.
In 1996, Coach Scolinos was 78 years old and five years retired from a college coaching career that began in 1948. He shuffled to the stage to an impressive standing ovation, wearing dark polyester pants, a light blue shirt, and a string around his neck from which home plate hung — a full-sized, stark-white home plate.
Seriously, I wondered, who is this guy?
After speaking for twenty-five minutes, not once mentioning the prop hanging around his neck, Coach Scolinos appeared to notice the snickering among some of the coaches. Even those who knew Coach Scolinos had to wonder exactly where he was going with this, or if he had simply forgotten about home plate since he’d gotten on stage. Then, finally …
“You’re probably all wondering why I’m wearing home plate around my neck,” he said, his voice growing irascible. I laughed along with the others, acknowledging the possibility. “I may be old, but I’m not crazy. The reason I stand before you today is to share with you baseball people what I’ve learned in my life, what I’ve learned about home plate in my 78 years.”
Several hands went up when Scolinos asked how many Little League coaches were in the room. “Do you know how wide home plate is in Little League?”
After a pause, someone offered, “Seventeen inches?”, more of a question than answer.
“That’s right,” he said. “How about in Babe Ruth’s day? Any Babe Ruth coaches in the house?” Another long pause.
“Seventeen inches?” a guess from another reluctant coach.
“That’s right,” said Scolinos. “Now, how many high school coaches do we have in the room?” Hundreds of hands shot up, as the pattern began to appear. “How wide is home plate in high school baseball?”
“Seventeen inches,” they said, sounding more confident.
“You’re right!” Scolinos barked. “And you college coaches, how wide is home plate in college?”
“Seventeen inches!” we said, in unison.
“Any Minor League coaches here? How wide is home plate in pro ball?”…………“Seventeen inches!”
“RIGHT! And in the Major Leagues, how wide home plate is in the Major Leagues?
“SEV-EN-TEEN INCHES!” he confirmed, his voice bellowing off the walls. “And what do they do with a Big League pitcher who can’t throw the ball over seventeen inches?” Pause. “They send him to Pocatello !” he hollered, drawing raucous laughter. “What they don’t do is this: they don’t say, ‘Ah, that’s okay, Jimmy. If you can’t hit a seventeen-inch target? We’ll make it eighteen inches or nineteen inches. We’ll make it twenty inches so you have a better chance of hitting it. If you can’t hit that, let us know so we can make it wider still, say twenty-five inches.’”
Pause. “Coaches… what do we do when your best player shows up late to practice? or when our team rules forbid facial hair and a guy shows up unshaven? What if he gets caught drinking? Do we hold him accountable? Or do we change the rules to fit him? Do we widen home plate? “
The chuckles gradually faded as four thousand coaches grew quiet, the fog lifting as the old coach’s message began to unfold. He turned the plate toward himself and, using a Sharpie, began to draw something. When he turned it toward the crowd, point up, a house was revealed, complete with a freshly drawn door and two windows. “This is the problem in our homes today. With our marriages, with the way we parent our kids. With our discipline.
We don’t teach accountability to our kids, and there is no consequence for failing to meet standards. We just widen the plate!”
Pause. Then, to the point at the top of the house he added a small American flag. “This is the problem in our schools today. Thequality of our education is going downhill fast and teachers have been stripped of the tools they need to be successful, and to educate and discipline our young people. We are allowing others to widen home plate! Where is that getting us?”
Silence. He replaced the flag with a Cross. “And this is the problem in the Church, where powerful people in positions of authority have taken advantage of young children, only to have such an atrocity swept under the rug for years. Our church leaders are widening home plate for themselves! And we allow it.”
“And the same is true with our government. Our so called representatives make rules for us that don’t apply to themselves. They take bribes from lobbyists and foreign countries. They no longer serve us. And we allow them to widen home plate! We see our country falling into a dark abyss while we just watch.”
I was amazed. At a baseball convention where I expected to learn something about curve balls and bunting and how to run better practices, I had learned something far more valuable.
From an old man with home plate strung around his neck, I had learned something about life, about myself, about my own weaknesses and about myresponsibilities as a leader. I had to hold myself and others accountable to that which I knew to be right, lest our families, our faith, and our society continue down an undesirable path.
“If I am lucky,” Coach Scolinos concluded, “you will remember one thing from this old coach today. It is this: “If we fail to hold ourselves to a higher standard, a standard of what we know to be right; if we fail to hold our spouses and our children to the same standards, if we are unwilling or unable to provide a consequence whenthey do not meet the standard; and if our schools & churches & our government fail to hold themselves accountable to those they serve, there is but one thing to look forward to …”
With that, he held home plate in front of his chest, turned it around, and revealed its dark black backside, “We have dark days ahead!”
Note: Coach Scolinos died in 2009 at the age of 91, but not before touching the lives of hundreds of players and coaches, including mine. Meeting him at my first ABCA convention kept me returning year after year, looking for similar wisdom and inspiration from other coaches. He is the best clinic speaker the ABCA has ever known because he was so much more than a baseball coach. His message was clear: “Coaches, keep your players—no matter how good they are—your own children, your churches, your government, and most of all, keep yourself at seventeen inches.”
And this my friends is what our country has become and what is wrong with it today. Now go out there and fix it:
“Don’t widen the plate!”