Hail – and farewell

We didn’t want another minute to go by without acknowledging some of the all stars who have graced WAG’s pages and our careers and have made news recently.

First, kudos to Mariano Rivera, generally regarded as baseball’s greatest closer to date, who became the first player Tuesday to be elected unanimously to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. (One wit noted that he was probably a unanimous choice of the Baseball Writers Association of America, because his swiftly winning relief work enabled the writers to make their deadlines.) He joins fellow former New York Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina, the late pitcher Roy Halladay and Edgar Martinez, who played third base for the Seattle Mariners, as this year’s inductees. A longtime Westchester County resident, Rivera has done much for education, particularly for Hispanic youth in our area, as we discovered when we profiled him for the cover of January 2016 WAG. The induction ceremony takes place July 21 at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown, New York.

Kudos, too, to the cast and crew of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” nominated for five Academy Awards. Our own music critic Gregg Shapiro has an interview with Best Actor nominee Rami Malek, who plays lead singer Freddie Mercury – as well as Gwilym Lee and Dutchess County’s Joseph Mazzello, who co-star as bandmates Brian May and John Deacon – in WAG’s February “Romantic Fascinations” issue.  The awards will be telecast Feb. 24 on ABC.

And finally we bid a fond farewell to longtime New York Times columnist Russell Baker, whose sly, laconic wit enlivened his Pulitzer Prize-winning “Observer” column and millions of readers’ lives for 36 years. People might not remember that he succeed household name Alistair Cooke – otherwise known as Alistair Cookie on “Sesame Street” – as host of what was then called “Masterpiece Theatre.” Both were journalists, but Baker brought to “Masterpiece” a slice of American “wry” that was a 180-degree turn from Cooke’s British urbanity. In its Jan. 23 tribute, PBS NewsHour played a clip of Baker’s introduction to a 1998 “Masterpiece Theatre” adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s “Far From the Madding Crowd”: Here’s how he introduced it:

“It was deep winter when I first looked at the program you’re about to see, and I had one of those colds that make you feel so sorry for yourself you want to break down and cry.

Four hours later — that’s how long the show runs — I was cured. Oh, I still had the cold, but I no longer wanted to die. I had been to a wonderful place, one of those places they don’t make anymore, and never will again, I suppose. And I had met a fascinating bunch of people.”

It was during PBS’ initial announcement of Baker as Cooke’s successor that we met him, a courtly, modest Southerner who told us frankly that he took the job, because who doesn’t want to be on TV?

That was vintage Baker. He was funny, because he was truthful, especially about himself.

Georgette Gouveia

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