24 February 2018
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Sport & leisure

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Lithuanian-American Johnny Podres (1932-2008):
US baseball’s ‘most
valuable player’ in 1955

Johnny Podres, Lithuanian American, son of immigrant parents, born and raised Upstate New York, pitched two historic World Series wins against the New York Yankees in 1955. The World Series championship was the one and only victory in the history of the "Brooklyn" Dodgers. Subsequently, the Dodgers (and Podres) moved to Los Angeles in 1958.
People always said the cigarettes and the gambling and the whiskey and the late hours would surely get Johnny Podres. In 2008, those experts were proved right. Now they’re going to have to explain how The Pod made it to 75. 

Podres was one of those fortunate human beings who was born exactly when he should have been.  He pitched for the Dodgers when they desperately needed a young lefthander who would go out for the ninth inning of Game 7 of a World Series they had never won, would flick aside his cigarette, utter a what-the-hell and go out and finish shutting out the Yankees. 

That’s what The Pod did in 1955, winding up airborne in the embrace of Roy Campanella, and when the Dodgers celebrated their first championship at the old Bossert Hotel that night, the party revolved around Podres. 

“He and Don Drysdale were the Pied Pipers,” Vin Scully recalled Monday. “Johnny and Don Zimmer and Ed Roebuck would go out, and then Drysdale would have half the team following him. And Sandy Koufax would be eating dinner with Doug Camilli, who was the thirdstring catcher. 

“When we went to Cincinnati, Johnny and his guys would go over to Kentucky and gamble all night. Roebuck once told them, ‘If I’d never met you guys, I’d be a millionaire.’ ’’ 

“What amazed me,” Roebuck said, “was the way Johnny would go out and have a good time every night except the night before he pitched. He would always turn in and get a good night’s sleep. If I did that I’d be staring at the ceiling.” 

There was the day Zimmer and Podres called General Manager Buzzie Bavasi from a racetrack in Detroit. They owed Buzzie $100 each, but now Podres told him he’d put $200 on this sure-fire horse and they’d be even. Bavasi hung up the phone and told his secretary, “I just lost $200.” Sure enough, Podres called back later to explain that, miraculously, the 12-to-1 shot once again got nipped at the end. 

It’s uncertain how Podres would have made it through baseball these days, with the personal trainers and the pitch counts. 

But Podres was the pitching coach of the Phillies when they won the National League in 1993. On his blog Monday, Curt Schilling said Podres influenced him more than anyone outside his own family. When Frank Viola won the 1988 Cy Young Award, he credited Podres, who taught Viola the same changeup that worked in ’55. 

Podres was not the obvious nominee to pitch that Game 7. He was 9-10 that year, and he’d gotten pasted in a World Series game in 1953, and he was facing veteran Tommy Byrne, who passed away in December, 23 days before Podres did. 

“Thing is, even in spring training, he was always really good against the Yankees,” Roebuck said. 

Some Dodgers remember Podres proclaiming that he only needed one run. Scully doesn’t think
Podres was ever that brash. “But he did say he wasn’t nervous, he didn’t feel the pressure, because in his mind he had nothing to lose,” Scully said. 
    Eight hits, eight left, no runs. 
    “Somebody was looking after me,” Podres said. 
    Somebody always was. 

Podres grew up in Witherbee, N.Y., son of an iron miner. “We kept hearing about this ice fisherman who was going to be joining us,” Scully said. 

He always remembered coming out of a tryout camp and then hearing General Manager Branch Rickey tell someone, “Don’t let that boy get away.” 

Podres went 21-3 for the Dodgers’ Class-D farm club in Hazard, Ky., in 1951. “I was the original Duke of Hazard,” he would say. Two years later, he was the youngest player in the majors. 

After the Dodgers moved to L.A. he was in the rotation for six years, went 18-5 in 1961, won two games in the ’59 World Series, and beat the Yankees again in Game 2 of the ’63 World Series. 

He also pitched the first game in Dodger Stadium. In 1969, he came off an idle year to join the expansion Padres, at Bavasi’s behest, and blanked Houston over 8 1 /3 innings in their second game ever. 

Later, the Twins made him their pitching coach in Walla Walla. He gathered his rookie pitchers and asked who the beer drinkers were. Several raised their hands. 

“Good, you’re my starters because you need your rest between games,” Podres said. “The rest of you, you milkshake drinkers, you’re the relievers, because you can pitch every day.” 

Zimmer was in Montreal one year when he found out Podres had suffered a heart attack. He drove down to Glens Falls, N.Y., to visit. When he walked in, a bed-ridden Podres handed him a betting slip and told him to hurry to the OTB parlor before post time. “And don’t tell my wife,” he said. 

The years finally caught up to Podres in 2008. Now, that’s a pursuit of happiness.

Category : Lithuania in the world / Sport & leisure

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The other dream team
New film about Lithuania’s 1992 basketball team

The Other Dream Team is a documentary film directed by Marius A. Markevičius (picture). The inspirational story of the 1992 Lithuania national basketball team and their incredible journey from the clutches of Communism to the Summer Olympics in Barcelona. It stars many famous basketball persons like Yao Ming, Arvydas Sabonis, David Stern, Jim Lampley, Bill Walton, Šarūnas Marčiulionis, Paul Gasol and others. The film should be released in 2012.

When you hear the words "dream team" the names such as Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Scottie Pippen come to your mind. That's the squad of USA national team in Barcelona Olympic Games 1992. But that wasn't the only team in Barcelona which deserves the title "dream team". The other dream team was Lithuania.

The moment of Lithuania returning to the world's basketball family and instantly winning bronze in the Olympic Games was a unique moment in the history of basketball, memories of which brings NBC Sports Broadcaster Jim Lampley to tears. The full movie features many basketball legends such as Bill Walton, Šarūnas Marčiulionis and more. presents you the trailer of the new documentary by Marius A. Markevičius called "The other dream team". Enjoy the video.

Category : Front page / Sport & leisure

Arvydas Sabonis – EuroBasket 2011 ambassador and basketball legend

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Sabonis at the “Berlin ITB”, held 9 – 13 March

AP photo

In Lithuania, basketball has an almost religion-like status and a big part of the population considers hosting a EuroBasket an once-in-a-lifetime experience.

In this context, it's easy to understand why the EuroBasket 2011 official ambassador needed to be a "larger than life" figure. Luckily, figures -Lithuanian or otherwise- don't come any bigger than that of Arvydas Sabonis.

The basketball legend who revolutionized the game in the 80's, when he showed the world that a big (2.22m big to be precise) player could pass the ball like a point guard and shoot from long range even better than one, was the automatic choice when the LOC and FIBA Europe asked themselves who better personifies Lithuania and EuroBasket 2011.

Sabonis, in his capacity as the official ambassador has been promoting the event all over Europe since late October. "This is a big day for our country, after 72 years basketball is coming back to Lithuania",
"We built five new arenas, EuroBasket is very important for our young players and for all Lithuanians, for us basketball is like a second religion."

Arvydas Sabonis was in Berlin, Germany
promoting Lithuania and EuroBasket 2011
at the “Berlin ITB”, held 9 – 13 March,
which is one of the largest World Tourism Fairs in the world
Photo courtesy of Vilija Turiene

When asked what he thought of Spain, Turkey, Great Britain and Poland (plus the second team to come out of the Additional Qualifying Round) being drawn in the same group with the host country, he smiled and said "of course our group is a little bit tough, but what happened, happened."

As someone who has four Eurobasket medals in his collection (one Gold, one Silver, two Bronze) and was named European player of the year on six different occasions, Sabonis is well qualified to speak of Lithuania's chances in the tournament.

"Last year we had a new team, now we have the chance to make it even stronger with young players and with some others that couldn't play because of injury,"

Sabonis is a man of few words. As one of the biggest players in the history of the game, he knows it's actions that count. To that effect, he has done more than his fair share to bring to prominence some of these young players he's talking about. The Sabonis Basketball School was founded in 1994 and its mission is to teach young players the fundamentals of the game. Last year alone, as many as 800 promising students attended the program in the school's state of the art centre. School graduates include Lithuania internationals Martynas Andriuskevicius, Jonas Maciulis or Paulius Jankunas.

It's all part of the vision Sabonis has for both his country and basketball, a vision that will be fulfilled when EuroBasket 2011 tips off on 31st August. It's obvious the official ambassador can hardly wait: "We want the whole of Europe to see how we live here, how we love basketball," he says with expectation.

Information courtesy of EuroBasket 2011

Category : Sport & leisure

Lithuanian sport A – W

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Ramūnas Vyšniauskas, the weightlifter whose medal collection contains European silver and bronze medals.

There are over a hundred different kinds of sports in Lithuania, with the top three most popular sports being basketball, football, track-and-field. Check this web page to read more:

Category : Sport & leisure


Have your say. Send to:

By Dr. Boris Vytautas Bakunas,
Ph. D., Chicago

A wave of unity sweeps the international Lithuanian community on March 11th every year as Lithuanians celebrated the anniversary of the Lithuanian Parliament's declaration of independence from the Soviet Union in 1990. However, the sense of national unity engendered by the celebration could be short-lived.

Human beings have a strong tendency to overgeneralize and succumb to stereotypical us-them distinctions that can shatter even the strongest bonds. We need only search the internet to find examples of divisive thinking at work:

- "50 years of Soviet rule has ruined an entire generation of Lithuanian.

- "Those who fled Lithuania during World II were cowards -- and now they come back, flaunt their wealth, and tell us 'true Lithuanians' how to live."

- "Lithuanians who work abroad have abandoned their homeland and should be deprived of their Lithuanian citizenship."

Could such stereotypical, emotionally-charged accusations be one of the main reasons why relations between Lithuania's diaspora groups and their countrymen back home have become strained?

* * *

Text: Saulene Valskyte

In Lithuania Christmas Eve is a family event and the New Year's Eve a great party with friends!
Lithuanian say "Kaip sutiksi naujus metus, taip juos ir praleisi" (the way you'll meet the new year is the way you will spend it). So everyone is trying to spend New Year's Eve with friend and have as much fun as possible.

Lithuanian New Year's traditions are very similar to those in other countries, and actually were similar since many years ago. Also, the traditional Lithuanian New Years Eve party was very similar to other big celebrations throughout the year.

The New Year's Eve table is quite similar to the Christmas Eve table, but without straws under the tablecloth, and now including meat dishes. A tradition that definitely hasn't changes is that everybody is trying not to fell asleep before midnight. It was said that if you oversleep the midnight point you will be lazy all the upcoming year. People were also trying to get up early on the first day of the new year, because waking up late also meant a very lazy and unfortunate year.

During the New Year celebration people were dancing, singing, playing games and doing magic to guess the future. People didn't drink much of alcohol, especially was that the case for women.

Here are some advices from elders:
- During the New Year, be very nice and listen to relatives - what you are during New Year Eve, you will be throughout the year.

- During to the New Year Eve, try not to fall, because if this happens, next year you will be unhappy.

- If in the start of the New Year, the first news are good - then the year will be successful. If not - the year will be problematic.

New year predictions
* If during New Year eve it's snowing - then it will be bad weather all year round. If the day is fine - one can expect good harvest.
* If New Year's night is cold and starry - look forward to a good summer!
* If the during New Year Eve trees are covered with frost - then it will be a good year. If it is wet weather on New Year's Eve, one can expect a year where many will die and dangerous epidemics occur.
* If the first day of the new year is snowy - the upcoming year will see many young people die. If the night is snowy - mostly old people will die.
* If the New Year time is cold - then Easter will be warm.
* If during New Year there are a lot of birds in your homestead - then all year around there will be many guests and the year will be fun.

* * *

* * *
Christmas greetings
from Vilnius

* * *
Ukraine won the historic
and epic battle for the
By Leonidas Donskis
Philosopher, political theorist, historian of
ideas, social analyst, and political

Immediately after Russia stepped in Syria, we understood that it is time to sum up the convoluted and long story about Ukraine and the EU - a story of pride and prejudice which has a chance to become a story of a new vision regained after self-inflicted blindness.

Ukraine was and continues to be perceived by the EU political class as a sort of grey zone with its immense potential and possibilities for the future, yet deeply embedded and trapped in No Man's Land with all of its troubled past, post-Soviet traumas, ambiguities, insecurities, corruption, social divisions, and despair. Why worry for what has yet to emerge as a new actor of world history in terms of nation-building, European identity, and deeper commitments to transparency and free market economy?

Right? Wrong. No matter how troubled Ukraine's economic and political reality could be, the country has already passed the point of no return. Even if Vladimir Putin retains his leverage of power to blackmail Ukraine and the West in terms of Ukraine's zero chances to accede to NATO due to the problems of territorial integrity, occupation and annexation of Crimea, and mayhem or a frozen conflict in the Donbas region, Ukraine will never return to Russia's zone of influence. It could be deprived of the chances to join NATO or the EU in the coming years or decades, yet there are no forces on earth to make present Ukraine part of the Eurasia project fostered by Putin.

* * *
Watch this video if you
want to learn about the
new, scary propaganda
war between Russia,
The West and the
Baltic States!

* * *
90% of all Lithuanians
believe their government
is corrupt
Lithuania is perceived to be the country with the most widespread government corruption, according to an international survey involving almost 40 countries.

* * *
Lithuanian medical
students say no to
bribes for doctors

On International Anticorruption Day, the Special Investigation Service shifted their attention to medical institutions, where citizens encounter bribery most often. Doctors blame citizens for giving bribes while patients complain that, without bribes, they won't receive proper medical attention. Campaigners against corruption say that bribery would disappear if medical institutions themselves were to take resolute actions against corruption and made an effort to take care of their patients.

* * *
Doing business in Lithuania

By Grant Arthur Gochin
California - USA

Lithuania emerged from the yoke of the Soviet Union a mere 25 years ago. Since then, Lithuania has attempted to model upon other European nations, joining NATO, Schengen, and the EU. But, has the Soviet Union left Lithuania?

During Soviet times, government was administered for the people in control, not for the local population, court decisions were decreed, they were not the administration of justice, and academia was the domain of ideologues. 25 years of freedom and openness should have put those bad experiences behind Lithuania, but that is not so.

Today, it is a matter of expectation that court pronouncements will be governed by ideological dictates. Few, if any Lithuanians expect real justice to be effected. For foreign companies, doing business in Lithuania is almost impossible in a situation where business people do not expect rule of law, so, surely Government would be a refuge of competence?

Lithuanian Government has not emerged from Soviet styles. In an attempt to devolve power, Lithuania has created a myriad of fiefdoms of power, each speaking in the name of the Government, each its own centralized power base of ideology.

* * *
Greetings from Wales!
By Anita Šovaitė-Woronycz
Chepstow, Wales

Think of a nation in northern Europe whose population is around the 3 million mark a land of song, of rivers, lakes, forests, rolling green hills, beautiful coastline a land where mushrooms grow ready for the picking, a land with a passion for preserving its ancient language and culture.

Doesn't that sound suspiciously like Lithuania? Ah, but I didn't mention the mountains of Snowdonia, which would give the game away.

I'm talking about Wales, that part of the UK which Lithuanians used to call "Valija", but later named "Velsas" (why?). Wales, the nation which has welcomed two Lithuanian heads of state to its shores - firstly Professor Vytautas Landsbergis, who has paid several visits and, more recently, President Dalia Grybauskaitė who attended the 2014 NATO summit which was held in Newport, South Wales.

* * *
Read Cassandra's article HERE

Read Rugile's article HERE

Did you know there is a comment field right after every article we publish? If you read the two above posts, you will see that they both have received many comments. Also YOU are welcome with your comments. To all our articles!
* * *

Greetings from Toronto
By Antanas Sileika,
Toronto, Canada

Toronto was a major postwar settlement centre for Lithuanian Displaced Persons, and to this day there are two Catholic parishes and one Lutheran one, as well as a Lithuanian House, retirement home, and nursing home. A new wave of immigrants has showed interest in sports.

Although Lithuanian activities have thinned over the decades as that postwar generation died out, the Lithuanian Martyrs' parish hall is crowded with many, many hundreds of visitors who come to the Lithuanian cemetery for All Souls' Day. Similarly, the Franciscan parish has standing room only for Christmas Eve mass.

Although I am firmly embedded in the literary culture of Canada, my themes are usually Lithuanian, and I'll be in Kaunas and Vilnius in mid-November 2015 to give talks about the Lithuanian translations of my novels and short stories, which I write in English.

If you have the Lithuanian language, come by to one of the talks listed in the links below. And if you don't, you can read more about my work at
* * *

As long as VilNews exists,
there is hope for the future
Professor Irena Veisaite, Chairwoman of our Honorary Council, asked us to convey her heartfelt greetings to the other Council Members and to all readers of VilNews.

"My love and best wishes to all. As long as VilNews exists, there is hope for the future,"" she writes.

Irena Veisaite means very much for our publication, and we do hereby thank her for the support and wise commitment she always shows.

You can read our interview with her
* * *
Facing a new reality

By Vygaudas Ušackas
EU Ambassador to the Russian Federation

Dear readers of VilNews,

It's great to see this online resource for people interested in Baltic affairs. I congratulate the editors. From my position as EU Ambassador to Russia, allow me to share some observations.

For a number of years, the EU and Russia had assumed the existence of a strategic partnership, based on the convergence of values, economic integration and increasingly open markets and a modernisation agenda for society.

Our agenda was positive and ambitious. We looked at Russia as a country ready to converge with "European values", a country likely to embrace both the basic principles of democratic government and a liberal concept of the world order. It was believed this would bring our relations to a new level, covering the whole spectrum of the EU's strategic relationship with Russia.

* * *

The likelihood of Putin
invading Lithuania
By Mikhail Iossel
Professor of English at Concordia University, Canada
Founding Director at Summer Literary Seminars

The likelihood of Putin's invading Lithuania or fomenting a Donbass-style counterfeit pro-Russian uprising there, at this point, in my strong opinion, is no higher than that of his attacking Portugal, say, or Ecuador. Regardless of whether he might or might not, in principle, be interested in the insane idea of expanding Russia's geographic boundaries to those of the former USSR (and I for one do not believe that has ever been his goal), he knows this would be entirely unfeasible, both in near- and long-term historical perspective, for a variety of reasons. It is not going to happen. There will be no restoration of the Soviet Union as a geopolitical entity.

* * *

Are all Lithuanian energy
problems now resolved?
By Dr. Stasys Backaitis,
P.E., CSMP, SAE Fellow Member of Central and Eastern European Coalition, Washington, D.C., USA

Lithuania's Energy Timeline - from total dependence to independence

Lithuania as a country does not have significant energy resources. Energy consuming infrastructure after WWII was small and totally supported by energy imports from Russia.

First nuclear reactor begins power generation at Ignalina in 1983, the second reactor in 1987. Iganlina generates enough electricity to cover Lithuania's needs and about 50%.for export. As, prerequisite for membership in EU, Ignalina ceases all nuclear power generation in 2009

The Klaipėda Sea terminal begins Russia's oil export operations in 1959 and imports in 1994.

Mazeikiu Nafta (current ORLEAN Lietuva) begins operation of oil refinery in 1980.

* * *

Have Lithuanian ties across
the Baltic Sea become
stronger in recent years?
By Eitvydas Bajarunas
Ambassador to Sweden

My answer to affirmative "yes". Yes, Lithuanian ties across the Baltic Sea become as never before solid in recent years. For me the biggest achievement of Lithuania in the Baltic Sea region during recent years is boosting Baltic and Nordic ties. And not because of mere accident - Nordic direction was Lithuania's strategic choice.

The two decades that have passed since regaining Lithuania's independence can be described as a "building boom". From the wreckage of a captive Soviet republic, a generation of Lithuanians have built a modern European state, and are now helping construct a Nordic-Baltic community replete with institutions intended to promote political coordination and foster a trans-Baltic regional identity. Indeed, a "Nordic-Baltic community" - I will explain later in my text the meaning of this catch-phrase.

Since the restoration of Lithuania's independence 25 years ago, we have continuously felt a strong support from Nordic countries. Nordics in particular were among the countries supporting Lithuania's and Baltic States' striving towards independence. Take example of Iceland, country which recognized Lithuania in February of 1991, well in advance of other countries. Yet another example - Swedish Ambassador was the first ambassador accredited to Lithuania in 1991. The other countries followed suit. When we restored our statehood, Nordic Countries became champions in promoting Baltic integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions. To large degree thanks Nordic Countries, massive transformations occurred in Lithuania since then, Lithuania became fully-fledged member of the EU and NATO, and we joined the Eurozone on 1 January 2015.

* * *

It's the economy, stupid *
By Valdas (Val) Samonis,

n his article, Val Samonis takes a comparative policy look at the Lithuanian economy during the period 2000-2015. He argues that the LT policy response (a radical and classical austerity) was wrong and unenlightened because it coincided with strong and continuing deflationary forces in the EU and the global economy which forces were predictable, given the right policy guidance. Also, he makes a point that LT austerity, and the resulting sharp drop in GDP and employment in LT, stimulated emigration of young people (and the related worsening of other demographics) which processes took huge dimensions thereby undercutting even the future enlightened efforts to get out of the middle-income growth trap by LT. Consequently, the country is now on the trajectory (development path) similar to that of a dog that chases its own tail. A strong effort by new generation of policymakers is badly needed to jolt the country out of that wrong trajectory and to offer the chance of escaping the middle-income growth trap via innovations.

* * *

Have you heard about the
South African "Pencil Test"?
By Karina Simonson

If you are not South African, then, probably, you haven't. It is a test performed in South Africa during the apartheid regime and was used, together with the other ways, to determine racial identity, distinguishing whites from coloureds and blacks. That repressive test was very close to Nazi implemented ways to separate Jews from Aryans. Could you now imagine a Lithuanian mother, performing it on her own child?

But that is exactly what happened to me when I came back from South Africa. I will tell you how.

* * *
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