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May 19th, 2007:

Gallegos’ absence and the last days of the session

With Sen. Mario Gallegos back in Houston due to his health, what happens now with HB218?

Ailing Sen. Mario Gallegos’ absence from the Capitol leaves his fellow Democratic state senators one vote shy of a procedural tool they can use to block legislation.

Republicans did not take advantage of the situation Friday to force a vote on a contentious bill that would require voters to present identification, which Democrats have blocked.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who presides over the Senate, said senators told him they “didn’t want to take it up today out of respect for Senator Gallegos.”

But he was noncommittal about his plans for next week, saying he believes a vast majority of Texans support the idea.

“We’ll see,” he said. “I would like to see it passed.”

Dewhurst has shown his true nature this session, so take him at his word here.

Democrats won’t disclose how they will respond if Dewhurst brings the voter ID bill up for debate.

Options could include breaking quorum or filibustering, either of which would kill other legislation in the waning days of the session.

“I’m not going to expose our strategy,” said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus. “We’re looking at this on a day-by-day situation. Certainly, the Senate realizes that we have really important bills and work that needs to get done.”

She warned that bringing up the voter ID bill would distract from the Senate’s need to finish work on budget, transportation, border security and air quality bills.

I figure everyone will be prepared to filibuster on Monday. I’d have to do a thorough search of my archives, but I recall there were some changes made to the rules for establishing a quorum in the aftermath of the Ardmore/Albuquerque exoduses (exoda?), so I don’t think that strategy will be reused. But I could be wrong, and I don’t doubt that everyone is poring over the rules this weekend to see what all the options are.

Honestly, if Tuesday the 22nd is the hard deadline for passing bills, then filibustering has got to be the weapon of choice. Worst case scenario, you need to talk for a maximum of 48 hours, and you’ve got ten people who can each take a turn. That would kill every other bill as well, but that’s the reason this is such a potent threat. What’s more valuable to David Dewhurst? We’ll find out on Monday.

One more thing:

[Sen. Gallegos] had diagnostic surgery Friday, and has not gotten the green light from his doctor to return to Austin.

Gallegos received a liver transplant earlier this year and missed most of the legislative session. He has been in Austin for the last couple of weeks, against his doctor’s wishes. Gallegos pleaded with his doctor to delay the procedure he had Friday until next Thursday, after the deadline for passing bills.

“This was a matter of medical urgency that the doctors weren’t willing to put off for one day,” said Gallegos’ spokesman Harold Cook, who said the senator was being checked for infection in or around his liver.

“It’s been frustrating to him that he hasn’t gotten better faster. There’s a reason his doctors didn’t want him up here. His body isn’t ready yet.”

Sen. Gallegos was at Melissa Noriega‘s election night party last Saturday. He looked good. I took an opportunity at that time to shake his hand and thank him for everything he’s done this session. I’d like to take this opportunity to do so again.

Barry and the Babe revisited

In the course of arguing that Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig should attend Giants games as Barry Bonds makes his final assault on Hank Aaron’s home run record, King Kaufman makes the following assertion:

Hank Aaron, by the way, can turn his back on Bonds. He has said he won’t be there when Bonds breaks his record. If I were Aaron’s friend I’d say, Either go to the games and shake Bonds’ hand or come out and say you believe Bonds is a cheater, rather than hinting at it by claiming to have a golf date on whatever day Bonds hits No. 756. But Aaron’s not the commissioner of baseball. He can stay away just to pout over his record falling for all I care.

Every record comes with mitigating circumstances, a context that could call its legitimacy into question. It might be the quality of the opposition, the helpful or hindering effects of a home park, the run-scoring environment of the era or a hundred other things, including, now, the prevalence of drugs, including steroids but also including the amphetamines that were eaten like candy by ballplayers during the career of Hank Aaron.

For all the Jackie Robinson Days and Negro League Throwback Uniform Days baseball plays host to, it’s very rare for anyone around the game to say, “Sure, Babe Ruth hit 714 home runs, but he never had to face Satchel Paige or Bullet Joe Rogan or Nip Winters, he never had Oscar Charleston race into the gap and turn even one of his 506 doubles into an out.” And don’t forget how the New York Yankees built a ballpark specifically designed for Ruth to hit home runs in.

While I can’t ever recall anyone claiming that Babe Ruth hit a disproportionate number of his home runs at Yankee Stadium, the perception that he must have done so is easy to understand. They do call it “The House That Ruth Built”, after all, and it was a pretty cozy 295 feet down the right field line back in the day. Of course, it quickly ballooned out to 350 feet in “shallow” right field, and 429 feet in deepest right field, a fact that often gets overlooked in this kind of discussion.

But never mind. Did Babe Ruth take advantage of the dimensions at Yankee Stadium, like the way Mel Ott made the even shallower right-field porch at the Polo Grounds his personal launching pad? As it happens, Jay Jaffe answered that question three years ago, and he took Hank Aaron’s stadium situation into account as well.

The Braves moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta in 1966. According to Ballparks.com, Milwaukee County Stadium’s fences at the time they left were (left to right) 320′- 362′-402′-362′-315′, standing at 8’4″ to 10′ tall. Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium’s fences were further back to begin with (325′-385′-402′-385′-325′) but they stood only 6′ tall. The park underwent some rejiggering in the team’s first few years and stood at 330′-375′-400′-375′-330′ by 1969. While those dimensions made the field larger than Milwaukee’s, the Atlanta stadium’s altitude of 1,000 feet above sea level placed it as the highest park in the majors until the Colorado Rockies came along, and its impact on homer totals gave it the nickname “The Launching Pad.”

In his nine years in Atlanta, Aaron hit 192 homers at home, 145 on the road. But besides the home runs, the park wasn’t especially a hitter’s park, at least until a few new NL ballparks came into play midway through that string.

Hmmm. What about The Babe?

Despite the “House That Ruth Built” tag applied to Yankee Stadium, he actually had more homers on the road than at home. Here’s a quick breakdown of the Bambino’s career by phase:

Years Park HHR RHR 1914-19 Fenway 11 38 1920-22 Polo 75 73 1923-34 Yankee 259 252 1935 Braves 2 4 TOT 347 367

In other words, Ruth lost a few home runs early on when he played at Fenway, and was basically the same player on the road as he was at home while he was with the Yankees. So much for that.

Kaufman’s right: Every record has a context to it, and you can’t say how a player in one era and set of circumstances might have done in someone else’s shoes. I happen to think Babe Ruth would have been Babe Ruth whenever he played, but all I have to back that up is my own personal feelings. But if we are going to talk about contexts and circumstances, let’s take all of them into consideration. It makes for a more productive discussion that way.

Meet the BARC boss tomorrow

From my Inbox:

ATTENTION ANIMAL LOVERS

The Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care (BARC) and their Chief, Kent Robertson, would like to invite YOU, to a meeting this Sunday, MAY 20TH AT 11 AM in the admin. building meeting room at BARC. Kent wants to talk to you TAXPAYERS about BARC’s past year and BARC’s future years, and get your input. All volunteers, past, present, or future are welcome. All adopters and fosters, past, present, and future are welcome. All residents and taxpayers are welcome.

The Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care (BARC) enforces city ordinances that encourage annual rabies vaccination and licensing of pets and requires that all dogs are confined in a yard or on a leash. BARC investigates animal bites and encourages spaying/neutering to control the unwanted animal population. The kennel is open to the public 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

You can get directions and see photos of all of the available animals by going to http://www.houstontx.gov/health/BARC/index.html. The adoption fee is only $55 which includes the animal’s vaccinations, spay/neuter surgery and micro chipping.

Note that if you’re the least bit susceptible to cute animals, beware of going to the kennel unless you really need another dog in your house. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you, I’m just saying. Thanks to Andy Neill for the heads up.