On Aug. 16, 1920, Cleveland shortstop Ray Chapman was struck in the head by a pitch from the Yankees Carl Mays. He died the next morning. The Indians were in a three-way pennant race with the Yankees and the Chicago White Sox, whose 1919 Black Sox treachery became public in the closing weeks of the season. 

          Chapman was a stellar shortstop, good field/good hit, whom Bill James projected as a possible Hall-of-Famer had his career continued. With Chapman’s death, the Indians turned to Harry Lunte. But, shortly thereafter, he pulled a leg muscle.

          Needing a shortstop, and reeling from losing seven of their first nine games after the tragedy, the Indians dipped down to the minor leagues and found 21-year-old Joe Sewell at A-Ball.

          He looked at the stars around him and wasn’t sure he belonged. But, then, he developed the tactic described by James in his revised Historical Abstract:

          “He overcame his convictions that he wasn’t good enough by pretending to be Ray Chapman. Before each game, he would tell himself that he was Ray Chapman, fighting to bring honor and glory to Cleveland.”

          Over the course of 22 games, Sewell, one of our first documented method actors, hit .329, scored 14 runs and drove in 12 (without a homer) and helped Cleveland to the World Series, which they won over the Dodgers. And, it was Sewell, most famous for striking out only 114 times in 8,333 career plate appearances, who earned a plaque at Cooperstown.

          Sewell’s legacy came to mind when video drifted down from Washington last week of Oklahoma Republican Sen. Markwayne Mullin challenging a witness at a Senate committee hearing to a brawl and standing up as if ready to duke it out on the committee floor.

          The Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions is chaired by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. After telling Oklahoma’s junior/freshman senator (with a fifth grade view of life) to sit down. Sanders scolded him: “You’re a United States senator. Act it.”

          Yeah, if you don’t have the statesmanship that should be required in The Most Exclusive Club (100 members), try faking it.

          In fact, that has been the mantra of self-help gurus for years. Pretend to be the person you want to be, and you might just get used to acting that way. You can change your ways by changing your ways.

          Sanders later labeled the committee dust-up “pretty pathetic.”

          Later that same day, news maven Rachel Maddow cited Mullin’s eagerness for violence as evidence of the GOP’s effort to normalize political violence, maybe in anticipation of another attempted coup.

          And, as anyone who has ever tried to get healthier can testify, making the effort to improve oneself is darn hard even with the best intentions.

          Mullin, of course, has no such intentions to change his demeanor, citing Andrew Jackson’s early 19th century duels as his 21st century guidepost for proper behavior in an interview with Oklahoma City’s Channel 9.

          “If I didn’t call him out, what would people think of me, too? Because you can’t just simply say that kind of stuff,” Mullin, a former MMA fighter, said. 

          “We would have solved our differences like we used to when we were kids,” Mullin told the TV reporters.

          Yep, that’s an Oklahoma Standard. Act like you’re a fifth grader. Make us proud. 

          (Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party.)

Try to fake it ‘til you make it

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