Dr. Know: April 2015

Kitty at the bat.
Kitty at the bat.

Illustration by Lars Leetaru

I’m sure I’m not the first person to ask this question, but I haven’t found the answer in your magazine or anywhere else. That crashed-plane sculpture thing along I-275!? Just when, you know, you’re getting to the airport!? Who? Why? What were they thinking?—Shirley You’re Joking

Dear Shirley:
You have apparently misplaced your copy of our September 2013 issue, wherein this precise question was submitted, albeit with a touch more elegance. Our original Doctor addressed the issue (think of him as the column’s Connery, and your current respondent as its Moore). Admittedly, his philosophical conjecture did not so much satisfy the reader’s inquiry as it did the column’s word count. This tradition continues when necessary, but in this instance we will actually provide an answer:

The sculpture at the Airport Exchange Office Park in Erlanger suffers from Tower of Pisa Syndrome. Erected horizontally over a small lake almost 40 years ago, it has slowly bowed to the god of gravity. The five-figure cost of repair or removal has prohibited a succession of the park’s owners from addressing the issue. Doubly frustrating is that another identical sculpture stands nearby, unyieldingly horizontal, that drivers on I-275 cannot see. Perhaps the highway could be re-routed there? A question for a future Doctor Brosnan.

I’m a lifelong Reds fan, so I’m excited about the upcoming 80th anniversary of baseball’s very first night game, played at Crosley Field in 1935. But after all these years, is there anything interesting about that night we don’t already know? —Bright Red Machine

Dear Bright:
The Doctor savors a challenge. He has uncovered an explosive financial scandal behind that historic game of May 24, 1935. To wit: why did some tickets show Ohio Sales Tax—brand-new that year and only 3 percent—as 3.9-plus percent? Who mandated, and pocketed, that extra tax? Perhaps Powel Crosley, who had famously paid for the new lights himself without blackmailing Cincinnati in a pay-or-die tax deal (known today as Brownmailing). The investigation continues.

A greater question is why Crosley Field’s sixth night game isn’t more famous than its first. On July 31, the world-champ St. Louis Cardinals came to town, attracting thousands of extra fans. As tickets were the major source of Reds revenue back then, nobody was turned away and the overflow was herded onto the field behind the foul lines like Kahn’s hogs. What could go wrong?

This night’s events could easily become a “based on a true story” blockbuster without Hollywood having to typically make most of it up. By the eighth inning, after several paragraphs of humanity’s social contract had gone missing, out of the raging mass of on-field hecklers ran one Kitty Burke to home plate, snatching a bat and taking the position. Cue the crowd wildly chanting, “Pitch, Pitch!” A ball was lobbed by the bewildered St. Louis pitcher to Ms. Burke, who grounded out. The Cardinals’ insistence on registering this as an official out was quickly overruled, but Kitty subsequently promoted herself as the first woman to “play” Major League Baseball. Whom should we cast here? Reese Witherspoon? Jennifer Lawrence? Definitely Clooney as Crosley.

Why does Cincinnati Bell have my Social Security number, and why must I confirm it before they’ll talk to me? Isn’t this illegal? When Social Security cards were created in 1936, they were prohibited from becoming the “show us your papers” nightmare that was developing in Nazi Germany. When did that change? My number now resides in countless hackable corporate databases. —Risky Business

Dear Risky:
Ah, yes, the inbox’s daily “that’s just what Hitler did!” accusation. The government indeed frowns upon your number being used by the private sector, but has never actually outlawed the practice. Cincinnati Bell is hardly alone in using, and potentially losing, your personal digits. You are not legally required to provide this data to any non-government entity, but neither are they required to do business with you should you refuse. It’s your call, unless your call is requesting a landline; then you will have to reveal your private parts.

You are correct that at first, Social Security (“SS”—coincidence?) discouraged the use of its cards as identity documents. Early cards even had “Not For Identification” printed on the front. Since this proved to be about as effective as “I affirm that I shall transport these fireworks out of Ohio within 48 hours,” the line was removed in 1972.

Originally published in the April 2015 issue.

Illustration by Lars Leetaru.

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