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Carusone At Bat

March 28, 2007

Cancer Free

By John Carusone

I recently completed my one-year cancer checkup with another colonoscopy. I now know that I am completely clear of that dreaded disease. I will go back in three years for another colonoscopy. How lucky I am. When you consider that White House press secretary Tony Snow’s colon cancer has returned and spread to his liver, how lucky I am that I had my scheduled process last year.

The cancer I had according to my doctor, George Yavorek, could have been described as Stage 0, not even Stage 1. Mine had a survival rate of 98 percent. Snow had reached Stage 2 and had his entire colon removed. My surgery removed a very small section and required no chemo since none of my cancer had reached the lymph nodes. Snow’s cancer had. Snow had a family history as I did. In 1960, my grandmother had developed liver cancer and Snow’s mother met the same fate.

What is so important here is that if you are over 50 and haven’t yet had a colonoscopy do it ASAP. Remember that last year I had no symptoms. I was as active then as I am now. My physical last year showed no abnormalities, but the cancer had just begun. Had it not been for my scheduled process it would have gone undetected and probably would have spread. The hardest part of the colonoscopy is the day before. For sure it is uncomfortable, but the actual colonoscopy process is painless and takes less than a half-hour. Remember the symptoms of colon cancer are easily recognizable: weight loss, persistent constipation and diarrhea, loss of appetite, blood in stool and anemia. When you have those symptoms you probably already have the disease. The time to get your colonoscopy is before you have any symptoms, just like I did.

An important part of the process is the doctor you choose. I am not in the business of soliciting business for any doctor, but I have to mention how my doctor worked with me. From the beginning, he was always completely honest with me. He made it quite clear that if the cancer had reached my lymph nodes my chances for recovery would be lessened. I have always appreciated straight talk whether it comes from politicians or doctors. Just remember colon cancer, while a real killer, is the most curable of all the cancers if it is diagnosed early.

John Carusone was mayor of Hamden from 1987-1991, assistant school super from '69-'82 and a legislative councilor from '65-'69. The Hamden native is now retired but stays active in town affairs -- and has a lot to say about them. (Note: The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Hamden Daily News.)

March 21, 2007

2000 Olympics: yours truly, Frank “Butch” Savo and sponsor Cecil Gabriel.

Senior League at Bat

By John Carusone

There’s an old saying that in the spring a young man’s fancy turns to something. Let me amend that by saying as far as I am concerned this senior citizen’s fancy turns toward beginning my 59th consecutive year playing baseball or softball. Unbelievable, isn’t it?

Over 5,000 games with only a few injuries to speak of. This year I will once again be a player-manager in the over-60 Wallingford Senior Slo-Pitch Softball League. The four-team league will practice on April 16, 18, 23 and 25. Games will begin on April 30 and continue through September with a year-end tournament. Anyone out there who wants to participate can contact me at 288.6151 or any of the other player-managers -- Bob Justo 265.2898, Dom Cardamone 878.1784 or Don Sheehan 860.667.0726. League commissioner Dan O’Connell, 860.951.0408, and Wallingford Park and Rec, 294.2920, can also be contacted. Registration is $25 for Wallingford residents and $30 for others. All games will be at Wallingford’s Praegman Field. For the first time last year the league accepted its first female player, college All-American Cheryl Mrazik.

Other senior teams will be organized for next year. Bob Justo and I will co-manage the Wallingford over-65 traveling team, which will play independent throughout the state and region. Players from that team will be selected from the four Wallingford teams. An over-70 team will be sponsored by Edge Technology to play all of the state and regional tournaments. Ray Talamelli will organize that team which I will be playing on. Other players will be Justo, Sheehan and former high school principal Larry Des Chaine, who has established himself as one of the premier long-ball hitters of all time. Hamdenite Dick Reilly will play on that team, too.

I have also agreed to play in the Milford over-50 league with Gabes, the team that sponsored our Senior Olympics teams in Louisiana in 2000 and Virginia in 2003. A game in the 2000 Olympics will forever stand out in my memory as it was the first time in my career I was ejected from a game. Let me explain. In the first game we had beaten 1999 national champion Texas 11-1 and were set to face Wisconsin in the next game. The Olympics have a mercy rule that if you are down by 10 runs after five innings the game is over. The games have a time limit of one hour, 15 minutes. We were down 13-3 going into the fifth but had scored five runs and had the bases loaded with two outs. Player Jack Dunn was up at bat. He hit a slow roller that died on the third-base line. The ball was eventually fielded by the third baseman but he made no play anywhere so another runner “Butch “ Savo scored and I was coming up. Out of nowhere the field umpire charged in from second base shouting, “You’re out!” Who was out? No play had been made anywhere. I met the ump halfway and continually demanded for him to say who was out. He kept turning his back on me and I kept turning with him getting closer all the time. He finally shouted, ”You’re out, 21!” referring to my number. The game was called as the argument took the game over the time limit. Eventually on our appeal the game was lost but the umpire was suspended from the tournament. How about that call?

John Carusone was mayor of Hamden from 1987-1991, assistant school super from '69-'82 and a legislative councilor from '65-'69. The Hamden native is now retired but stays active in town affairs -- and has a lot to say about them. (Note: The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Hamden Daily News.)

March 15, 2007

Scooter On My Mind

By John Carusone

Let’s do some potpourri about sports, politics and current events. First “Scooter Libby.” Someone tell me if the current rightwing zealots asking that Libby be pardoned now have the title of biggest political hypocrites of all time. Why do I say that? This gang was all over the airwaves during the Clinton impeachment hearings demanding that he be impeached for lying under oath about a consensual sexual relationship. Perjury was only second to murder.

The only thing Libby did is lie under oath and now is a convicted felon. That’s not a big deal? Are you kidding? What did he lie about? Our cooked intelligence that got us into this Iraq debacle.

Now onto the veterans’ scandal. How widespread is it? Last year I visited Hamden World War II hero Ray Calandrella at the West Haven VA. Ray was legally blind and suffering from cancer. When his meals were served there was no one to feed him so he had to feed himself in bed unable to see his food. He was advised by staff that meat on the plate was at 12 o’clock, potatoes at 3 o’clock, veggies at 6 o’clock, dessert at 9 o’clock. Most of his food was easily spotted on his pajamas. His last comment to me, from a rock-ribbed Republican, was, “I would never vote for Bush again.”

Ray Calandrella on June 6, 1944 (fifth on the right with helmet, goggles visible) prior to his jump into Normandy.

Ann Coulter is at it again. A therapist could have a field day with her. She needs a course in anger management. She is full of so much hate. You have to wonder about her motivation. Is it just to sell books or does she have a deeper problem?

I can’t understand how the baseball veterans’ Hall of Fame committee once again overlooked Jim Kaat. 288 wins, a 25-year career, 16 gold gloves, two World Series rings -- one from each league -- an ERA of just over 3. And how about Tommy John? 283 wins, great numbers all around. So why are Robin Roberts and Red Ruffing in the hall when their numbers don’t match up with either John or Kaat?

Now to the recent tornados in Alabama and Georgia. One story from a survivor brought back a very keen memory of a similar situation I had in Hamden. The Alabama survivor told of being hurled over a long distance and landing safely. In Hamden I came upon a man clothed only with his boxer shorts and clutching a Sports Illustrated sitting on second base of Rochford Field’s softball diamond. He commented to me over and over again, “You won’t believe what happened to me.” A fireman told me he was in his apartment next to the middle school on the second floor sitting in a chair reading his magazine while filling up his tub. The next instant the tornado came and took the entire second floor away including his chair and bathtub. He had traveled over 250 feet landing on second base. He was only in shock. Wow!

John Carusone was mayor of Hamden from 1987-1991, assistant school super from '69-'82 and a legislative councilor from '65-'69. The Hamden native is now retired but stays active in town affairs -- and has a lot to say about them. (Note: The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Hamden Daily News.)

March 7, 2007

It Might Not Be Hillary, Barack, John or Rudy

By John Carusone

A while ago I wrote a column on presidential candidates from both parties. So let’s have an update and see if my first predictions are holding up. Let’s do the Dems first.

I felt then and even stronger now that neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama will be the eventual candidate. Whether we like it or not, this country is not ready to elect a woman or an African-American to the top job. One further liability is that Mrs. Clinton has a miniscule 30 percent favorability among men. Recent polls show that Mrs. Clinton’s black support has been diminished by Obama causing her to drop 10 points in the polls.

So who’s going to be the candidate?

If Edwards falters then I believe former VP Al Gore might be convinced to enter the race formally. Remember now, Gore has already won a presidential election only to see it stolen by a partisan Supreme Court. His Academy Award-winning documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” has been the reason for his Nobel Peace Prize nomination. An embarrassed Bush Administration had to eat a large dose of crow as it was forced to admit that global warming is a fact and no longer just a theory.

I was vice chairman of Gore’s 1988 presidential run in Connecticut and had an opportunity to speak to him. He is a brilliant man with a low-key sense of humor that makes him, I think, a solid alternative to all the Dems.

From the 2000 presidential campaign: Gore, Gloria Sandillo and yours truly.

On the Republican side, just as I predicted, John McCain is dropping in the polls because of his hawkish stance on the Iraq debacle. Further, talk radio -- a solid indication of conservative thought in America -- shows that McCain’s act about being pro-conservative on social issues is not resonating with conservatives.

They just don’t like him.

That leaves Rudy Giuliani who right now has a commanding lead. But let me point out another fact of American political life: I don’t believe America is ready to elect an Italian-American to the top spot. Mario Cuomo found that out the hard way in 1988.

So where does that leave the Republicans? Mormon Mitt Romney doesn’t seem to have attracted any support. Newt Gingrich would be laughable. Sen. Sam Brownback could be a solid Republican candidate. The point I make here is that both parties have to let the dust settle and then settle on two candidates who are relatively unscarred in the political world. The primaries are a long way off. I truly believe there are going to be surprises in both parties.

Back to Giuliani for a moment. Did you notice that at his last political appearance none of his children was in attendance, estranged from him because of his multiple marriages? How’s that for family values?

John Carusone was mayor of Hamden from 1987-1991, assistant school super from '69-'82 and a legislative councilor from '65-'69. The Hamden native is now retired but stays active in town affairs -- and has a lot to say about them. (Note: The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Hamden Daily News.)

February 28, 2007

Republican Good and Bad

By John Carusone

Most political junkies and students of political science are familiar with JFK’s “Profiles in Courage.” He chronicled the political careers of office holders who in his judgment took courageous stands, which in many cases cost those individuals their political careers. There are two current office holders, both Republicans, who deserve a chapter in that book’s sequel if that was possible.

Republican Gov. Jodi Rell has proposed a budget that will slightly increase the income tax, but will generate millions to be given back to the towns and cities. It seems clear that if the budget passes the Democratic Legislature most, if not all towns and cities, will be able to lower their onerous and high property taxes. She will take much heat from her fellow Republicans just as former Gov. Weicker did when he proposed the state income tax.

What Weicker did and what Rell is proposing were and are solid financial practices that will in the long run benefit all taxpayers. When you figure what your increase in the income tax will be and compare it to the lower property tax that will ensue, there is no comparison. Hamden will finally receive its fair share of state aid and see a property-tax reduction.

The second Republican is U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel, who has proposed that no troops be sent to Iraq until they are properly trained and equipped. Five-time draft dodger Cheney considers that a radical idea. Let me explain.

Nearly half the troops in Iraq are National Guard or “weekend warriors. From my point of view, I was a “weekend warrior.” I spent six-plus years in the Nation Guard and six months in active duty being trained as a combat field medic. My training was intensive and very difficult. In the 1960s, my outfit was nearly called up during the Cuban Missile crisis. My outfit, the 118th medical battalion, had some 40 soldiers. Nearly half of them would have been unable to take the physical strain of active duty. Many were overweight and had no physical activity to speak of in private life. Some even had vision problems.

The New York Times recently ran a feature story illustrating the points I made here. So many NG service people are being killed or wounded every day. If their NG outfit was like my outfit -- and I have reason to believe it is -- many of the NG soldiers are not physically fit to take a strong combat role. They are truly weekend warriors who usually performed duties in their respective states well within their physical ability.

Back to my outfit for a moment. Fellow Guardsmen and athletes Paul “Topsy” Del Gobbo, Vin Bucci and Ralph Carrano could have easily stood the strain. All were in their 20s. There is no doubt that those in their 30s, 40s and 50s could not have made it.

Yours truly and Bob Fucci.

Vin Bucci and yours truly.

In fact, every time I look at Cheney, a man about 40 pounds overweight, I am reminded of certain individuals in my NG outfit with the same weight problem. And yet with a straight face Cheney has no problem sending physically unfit soldiers into a combat zone. He ought to be ashamed of himself.

John Carusone was mayor of Hamden from 1987-1991, assistant school super from '69-'82 and a legislative councilor from '65-'69. The Hamden native is now retired but stays active in town affairs -- and has a lot to say about them. (Note: The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Hamden Daily News.)

February 21, 2007

Feigner Memories

By John Carusone

Softball pitching great Eddie Feigner passed away at 81. My mayor’s team played his four-man team in 1991. They clobbered us 17-4. The “King and his Court” became legends in their own time. In 1972, Sports Illustrated named him the most underrated athlete ever. He pitched 238 perfect games. In 2000, the same magazine named his team the eighth greatest team of all time. During one exhibition he struck out in order: Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Brooks Robinson, Maury Wills, Harmon Killebrew and Roberto Clemente -- all baseball Hall of Famers. His fastball was clocked at 104 mph, the fastest pitched ball of all time, baseball or softball. In 2002, ESPN listed Feigner as one of the 10 greatest pitchers of all time in a list that included Walter Johnson and Sandy Koufax.

Carusone's homer against Feigner.

When he played against us he certainly was up in years, but he could still throw that ball. The first time I faced him, I hit his first pitch for a homerun. He got madder than hell, but made up for it the second time I batted. I looked like I had blindfolds on for the first pitch he threw because I didn’t see the ball. The second pitch he threw behind his back and the ball dropped over a foot. Now the third pitch he threw from second base and I hit a limp popup for an out.

There was only one player I ever played with who had that kind of arm strength. That was Howie Reilly, brother of Hamden mayoral candidate Dick Reilly. Howie was inducted into the Connecticut Fast Pitch Hall of Fame. He played on my senior team until illness overtook him. One play will always stand out in my memory.

Howie was playing centerfield with a runner on first base. A hit in the gap was fielded by Howie and he threw out the runner trying to go to third base -- underhanded. By the way, in the game with Feigner his alternate pitcher Ted Hoppe hit four homeruns clearing the 348-foot fence at Hamden High School.
That game brought back memories of another legend I played against, Satchel Paige. He quit the majors in 1952 to have his own barnstorming team. He later went back in 1965 to pitch three shutout innings for the Kansas City Athletics to become the oldest pitcher ever to pitch in the majors.

Because of his color, he was a 42-year-old rookie for the Cleveland Indians in 1948. In 1959 the Connecticut League all-stars played his team. He pitched three innings and mowed down all nine hitters -- yours truly being the first. I can still see his first pitch. He was tall and thin and had a hesitation move to his pitching motion that threw your timing off. I saw a tailing fastball probably in the high 80s. I popped up to the third baseman. I’ve always felt that I was too anxious and should have waited for a better pitch to hit. It’s a shame that Paige, who while playing for the Negro all-star teams defeated the white major league all-star teams on numerous occasions, wasn’t allowed to play for major league baseball while in his prime.

Both these men are in my Hall of Fame.

John Carusone was mayor of Hamden from 1987-1991, assistant school super from '69-'82 and a legislative councilor from '65-'69. The Hamden native is now retired but stays active in town affairs -- and has a lot to say about them. (Note: The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Hamden Daily News.)

February 14, 2007

Lieberman (R-Red Light District)

By John Carusone

Since U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman has become a Republican I am amazed at the number of Democrats, independents and even some Republicans who are disgusted with his support of the Republican attempt to stymie debate on the Iraq war. “Take away his chairmanship,” e-mails one individual. “Remove him from the party,” says another. “Impeach him,” comes from another source.

The sad fact, however, is that nothing can be done to the junior senator who has become such a despised figure among his former Democratic colleagues. All this will change in two years when the Dems will retake the White House and win a solid majority in the Senate. Lieberman will then become the Senate pariah and will be stripped of his chairmanship and seniority.

Every day we are stuck in the middle of this civil war more young kids are going to get killed or maimed for life. There is no other recourse but to follow the advice of the Baker-Hamilton Commission, field commanders and so many brilliant others, and start removing our troops now and immediately begin to turn over to the Iraqis more responsibility. We now know conclusively that this entire war was based on lies by Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Rice-Powell-Wolfkowitz and the rest of the neocons who cooked the intelligence to have it come out their way.

Lieberman, with a straight face, still defends his original vote hoping to land the VP slot on the McCain ticket. How do you defend an indefensible war? However, Republicans are not going to waste their VP slot on Lieberman. They have him pegged just like the Dems.

I note that nearly $400 billion spent so far on this monumental blunder could have been better spent on developing a universal health care program for Americans. Our transportation problems could have been solved. Deficits would have become a memory. Can you believe $11 billion just disappeared? That’s equivalent to three tons of $100 bills just vanishing. Fraud in Iraq is on such a scale that it makes Boss Tweed look like a philanthropist. Cheney speaks of “enormous progress” in Iraq. If he’s referring to Halliburton, he’s right on target. They have fleeced the government for over $7 billion.

And yet Lieberman and his dishonest allies continue to lead this nation down a path clearly in the wrong direction. It will take decades for this country, if ever, to once again be the symbol of what the Statue of Liberty represents. Lieberman and his cronies don’t seem to care that nearly 80 percent of the world’s population consider America to be the biggest threat to world peace. Or that over 70 percent of Americans disapprove of the country’s direction?

I’ve often felt that Republican Kathryn Harris of Florida was the poster politician for political prostitution. Move over Kathryn, you’ve got company.

John Carusone was mayor of Hamden from 1987-1991, assistant school super from '69-'82 and a legislative councilor from '65-'69. The Hamden native is now retired but stays active in town affairs -- and has a lot to say about them. (Note: The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Hamden Daily News.)

February 7, 2007

State Street Reincarnated

By John Carusone

I just returned from the grand opening of the newest grocery store to take over the original A&P store on State Street, Limon Foods. The chain has 12 stores with 10 in New York and New Jersey and two here in Connecticut. The place was packed, and from early indications it will be a great success for Hamden. Economic Development Director Dale Kroop has done a solid job attracting Limon along with other successful businesses on State. I couldn’t help but reminisce about the area and what it was like growing up there.

The only food store was the Universal Market operated by Jim Manfredi on the corner of Merritt and State. Jim developed a customer base that attracted shoppers not just from Hamden but surrounding towns as well. He had a call-in grocery store service. In the 1950s, all us kids worked there as stock boys for $0.65 an hour. I will never forget one Friday night, the one night the market stayed open until 9 p.m., in1952. I had a baseball game at Legion Field in the Hamden Rec baseball league at 6 p.m. Jim didn’t want me to go, but I had to play so I left.

I pitched a no-hitter that night, striking out 17 opposing batters. Then I returned to the store to help with the closing. Not so fast. I was fired on the spot. My father, who had come to the game with me, was aghast when I told him what happened. He visited Jim, and I had my job back.

In later years, Jim would be at the Clelian Center and when I visited he would always recount that story. He was a fantastic man who developed the entire corner, all of which stands today. The west side of State Street, between Ridge Road and Hyde Street, was an empty field. When Jim got going with his development plans, the west side showed the newly developed A&P and an office complex. Farber’s drugstore opened on the east side in 1949 and what a thrill it was to get a cherry Coke for 15 cents. Rosano’s shoe store, Martone’s flower shop and a bank opened in the office complex. All have long since left.

But now under the direction of Dale Kroop, former Mayor Amento and current Mayor Craig Henrici, the entire area is in the revival mode. The former Detroit Steel plant will become the site of the new Connecticut Bus Terminal. Welton Street is booming. Spec-Rail is planning an expansion next to the athletic field named after me. The former infamous Farricielli dumpsite is the subject of many serious discussions with the hope of an industrial park being developed there under new ownership. Let’s watch that one. There’s been condominium development. A new Asia market, Bob McNeil’s No. 1 Fishmarket, and Country Food Store and Deli are doing quite well.

This was a neighborhood that was vibrant for many years and then saw a decline. There is no question an economic revival is happening.

John Carusone was mayor of Hamden from 1987-1991, assistant school super from '69-'82 and a legislative councilor from '65-'69. The Hamden native is now retired but stays active in town affairs -- and has a lot to say about them. (Note: The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Hamden Daily News.)


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