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AMERICAN MOSAIC - Baseball, Puerto Rico and 'Year of the Blues' - 2003-03-27

Broadcast: March 28, 2003



Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC -- VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.


This is Doug Johnson.

On our program today: the Major League baseball season opens...

We answer a listener’s question about Puerto Rico...

And, we play some music in honor of the "Year of the Blues."

Another Baseball Season


The Major League Baseball season opens in the United States on Sunday. Millions of Americans are happy about the start of the baseball season. For the next seven months, people of all ages will be attending the games. Others will listen to them on the radio and watch them on television. Steve Ember has more.


Perhaps no other sport has become as deeply rooted in American life as baseball. And none has created so many popular traditions. There are many poems, songs, books and films about the sport. Famous players of the past and present are as well-known to Americans as the country’s great scientists, writers and political leaders.

Major League Baseball officials are continually exploring ways to add to these traditions. This year, for example, the Opening Day game was to be played in Tokyo, Japan. The Oakland A’s and Seattle Mariners were to play two games this week before flying back to the United States.

However, American baseball officials decided last week to cancel the two games because of the threat of war in Iraq. Officials made the decision after President Bush announced that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had to leave country or face military action by the United States. Bud Selig (SEE-lig) is Major League Baseball’s top official. He said it would be unfair for the players and other employees to be away from their families at this time. Baseball officials say the cancelled games will be played in the United States later this season.

This year, Major League Baseball is offering something new for computer users. It plans to show one-thousand games directly on the Internet. This is the first time that officials have offered a full season of games.

Major League Baseball offered its first live production of a single game on the Internet in August of last year. This year, plans call for forty-five games to be shown each week. Computer users will be able to watch games that do not involve their local team. Local games can be seen ninety minutes after play ends.

The new service will cost about fifteen dollars a month or eighty dollars for the complete season. Individual games cost about three dollars a game. You can find out more by going to Major League Baseball’s Web site. The address is m-l-b-dot-com.

Puerto Rico


Our question this week comes from China. VOA listener Zhiwen wants to know about the relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States. Puerto Rico is an island between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean. Spanish and English are the languages of its four-million people. Puerto Ricans are American citizens. They must obey American laws. But they govern themselves. They do not pay federal income tax.

Puerto Ricans can serve in the American military. However, they cannot vote in national elections. Their congressional delegate in Washington cannot vote either. Still, Puerto Rico has close ties, especially with New York. That city has a big Puerto Rican population.

Puerto Rico means "rich port" in Spanish. Spain gave up the island in eighteen-ninety-eight after the Spanish-American War. The United States declared Puerto Rico an American territory. Then, in nineteen-fifty-two, Puerto Rico became a commonwealth with a constitution that provides for self-government.

Puerto Ricans have voted three times to remain a commonwealth. But some want their island to become the fifty-first American state. Still others want their own nation. In the nineteen-fifties, Puerto Rican nationalists tried to kill President Harry Truman and later wounded five congressmen. Three years ago, Puerto Rico elected its first female governor, Sila Calderon. During her campaign, she promised to end more than sixty years of American Navy exercises on the nearby island of Vieques.

Many Puerto Ricans said these artillery and bombing exercises hurt economic development. They also worried for the environment -- and their lives. The cancer rate among the people who live on Vieques is higher than the Puerto Rican average.

In nineteen-ninety-nine, two bombs missed their targets. A security guard was killed. Protests followed.

Puerto Ricans have succeeded in their goal for Vieques. The Navy plans to leave the island in May. Clean-up is expected to take years. But something new has come to Vieques. A big hotel opened last month. It is expected to become the top employer on the island.

Year of the Blues


Congress has declared two-thousand-three the “Year of the Blues.” This declaration honors an influential form of American music. Special music events and education programs will take place throughout the year. As Phoebe Zimmerman reports, the goal is to spread the word about blues music and its history.


To "feel blue" means to feel sad. Music has "blue notes" that sound sad. Blues music is rooted in the experience of American blacks. Songs tell about hard work, lost love, bad marriages and bad feelings.

Two-thousand-three is the Year of the Blues in honor of musician W-C Handy. He did not invent it, but he became known as the father of the blues. One-hundred years ago, in nineteen-oh-three, W-C Handy began to collect and publish some of the first blues music. He also wrote his own. One of his most popular songs was “The Memphis Blues.” Here it is, performed by Louis Armstrong.


Blues music has influenced other forms, such as country, rock and roll, folk and jazz. Musicians like B-B-King, Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker gained fame in the blues tradition. And not just men. Here is Bessie Smith performing “Any Woman’s Blues.”


Though still popular, blues music has not been taught much in American schools. Several music organizations hope to change that with new teaching materials to use during the Year of the Blues. They say young people should know the roots of much of the music they listen to today. And the influence of the blues has spread beyond America. We leave you with a song by Britain's Rolling Stones.



This is Doug Johnson. Please join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC -- VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.

This AMERICAN MOSAIC program was written by Jill Moss, Cynthia Kirk and George Grow. Our studio engineer was Glen Matlock. And our producer was Paul Thompson.