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Pitched battles

Americans fight their demons and dragons in baseball, society, and politics

Pitched battles

Washington Nationals fans at an Oct. 15 game against the St. Louis Cardinals. (Simon Bruty/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

The slang term “86” in restaurants refers to an item no longer on the menu, but in baseball it’s meant futility and perseverance. Boston baseball fans waited 86 years (1918-2004) for their team to win a World Series and shake off their demons. Washington fans waited 86 years (1933-2019) for their team even to be in a World Series. But from Oct. 11 to Oct. 15 the Washington Nationals swept the St. Louis Cardinals in four straight games to win the National League championship and face the Houston Astros in the World Series.

In the United States, some demons—racial tension and questions surrounding police use of force—seem never to go away. In early October, images of a young black man hugging the white woman and former cop who killed his brother gripped the country. A jury had just sentenced Amber Guyger to 10 years in prison for murder in the death of Botham Jean, whom Guyger shot after she entered the wrong apartment in Dallas, Texas, and mistook him for an intruder. From atop the witness stand, the victim’s brother Brandt asked a judge for permission to hug Guyger. Brandt told her he forgave her: “And if you go to God and ask Him, He will forgive you. … I think giving your life to Christ would be the best thing that Botham would want you to do.”

But days later in nearby Fort Worth, another shooting: At 2:30 a.m. on Oct. 12 a white police officer peered in a window at the home of Atatiana Jefferson, a 28-year-old black woman. Body cam footage shows Aaron Dean shouting at Jefferson, pointing his gun, firing through the window, and killing her. Jefferson’s 8-year-old nephew watched her die. Fort Worth Police Chief Ed Kraus said Dean violated policy: He and other officers, who were responding to a neighbor’s call of suspicious activity, never identified themselves to Jefferson as police. Dean later resigned and now faces a murder charge.

Jefferson’s nephew told investigators his aunt pointed a handgun at the window after she heard noise outside. National Review columnist David French asked about police officers’ responsibility in tense situations: “Does a homeowner not have a right to investigate someone lurking on her property? Can she not arm herself at 2:30 a.m. when she hears a strange sound in the darkness?”

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Elijah Cummings (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

With racial tension heightened in Fort Worth and swirling questions about an officer’s use of force, a congressman known in part for roles he played in such conversations died. U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings of Baltimore died Oct. 17 after complications from health problems. Many in Baltimore remember Cummings for walking the city’s streets in 2015, pleading through a bullhorn for rioters to be calm and return home amid protests over the death of Freddie Gray, a black man who died in police custody. Cummings, the son of sharecroppers, earned a law degree, served in the Maryland House of Delegates, became chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, and sparred with President Donald Trump.

Cummings pushed for investigations of the president that Democrats now hope will lead to Trump’s impeachment. Ever since news of Trump’s July 25 phone call with the president of Ukraine, Democrats have clamored to impeach him. Republicans criticize Democrats for meeting behind closed doors. Democrats criticize the White House for not cooperating with subpoenas. Meanwhile, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney took heat on Oct. 17 for saying in a news conference that Trump’s delay of aid to Ukraine—the crux of impeachment arguments—was based on Trump’s desire for the country to investigate rumors of a Democratic National Committee server housed there. Mulvaney walked back the comment in a written statement later, but Democrats again sounded like the boy who cried “quid pro quo!” 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is now the dragon some Democrats want to slay as the presumed front-runner in the party’s leftward lurch to the 2020 election. In a debate on Oct. 15, rivals including Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Kamala Harris, and Joe Biden treated Warren as such, with attacks on her plans for “Medicare for All” and a tax on rich Americans.

Still, ghosts from 2016 linger for Democrats. Former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton claimed on a podcast that former Green Party candidate Jill Stein was a “Russian asset” and that Russians will be grooming a third party candidate from among the 2020 field of Democrats. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii took the remark to be a veiled reference to her and fired a Twitter salvo against Clinton, calling her the “queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long.” Just days before, Gabbard became the least radically pro-abortion Democratic candidate by saying she agreed with what Clinton once said about it: that it should be “safe, legal, and rare.”

The Nationals aren’t the only ones in D.C. throwing curveballs these days.

Michael Reneau

Michael Reneau

Michael Reneau is WORLD’s deputy editor based in East Tennessee. Follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelReneau.