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07/18/2007

A Memorable, Valid Ticket

Last Saturday night was a big one for Old Bortrum, who was
taken back to his youth attending Pittsburgh Pirate games at the
late Forbes Field from 1946 to 1950. As discussed at some
length in Bar Chat (7/16/2007), it was Ralph Kiner Night at Shea
Stadium. I must thank our Editor Brian Trumbore for his
generosity in taking me, Harry Trumbore and my grandson to
this memorable event. I was shocked that, when I mentioned to a
half dozen or so fellow mall walkers that I was going to this
event, they had never heard of Kiner! This despite the fact that
for over four decades he’s been a New York Mets broadcaster,
not to mention a Hall of Fame homerun hitter with awesome
slugging statistics in a 10-year career shortened by a severe back
problem.

Kiner averaged 7.1 homeruns for every 100 times at bat, second
only to Babe Ruth and Mark McQwire in the retired player
category. And I’m not sure we even knew the word “steroid” in
those days! At the ceremonies honoring Kiner, I enjoyed seeing
players such as Tom Seaver, Rusty Staub, Ed Kranepool, Bob
Friend, Bud Harrelson, Jerry Koosman, Keith Hernandez and
Yogi Berra in attendance. However, I was blown away when it
was announced that walking onto the field with his wife was
“Rapid Robert”. I thought, “Surely, this can’t be.” But it was
indeed 88-year-old Bob Feller and his wife all the way from
Iowa!

Seeing him brought back one of the stupidest things I’d ever
done – turn down an opportunity to meet and talk with Feller!
In 1966, I was at a meeting of The Electrochemical Society in
Cleveland and Feller was at the hotel in some sort of public
relations capacity. I saw in the hotel gift shop that one could buy
a baseball autographed by Feller and decided to buy one for
Brian. The clerk asked me if I wanted to meet Feller when he
signed it. I refused, saying I didn’t want to miss some of the
talks at the meeting. I don’t have the foggiest idea as to the
content of those talks but I surely do remember my stupidity!

Prior to that, I had seen Feller up close at an event I’ve
mentioned in an earlier column. In April 1951, when I was
employed in Cleveland at the National Advisory Committee for
Aeronautics (NACA), General Douglas MacArthur was on his
way back to Washington from the Korean conflict after being
fired by President Harry Truman. MacArthur, with his wife and
son, stopped briefly at the Cleveland airport, which borders
NACA (now NASA). We heard MacArthur would stop and
went over to see him. Cleveland’s mayor was there, as was Bob
Feller, who presented MacArthur’s son with an autographed ball
and/or a glove. I was surprised to see that MacArthur’s hands
were shaking quite noticeably during his brief remarks. I believe
it was the next day that he gave his eloquent “Old soldiers never
die” speech before Congress.

In retrospect, I am surprised that I only went to one baseball
game in the two years I was in Cleveland and never saw Feller
pitch. This was in contrast to my preceding 4 years (1946-1950)
in Pittsburgh, when I attended well over a hundred games at
Forbes Field and got to see Kiner hit many of the home runs that
were his trademark. Kiner spent his last year as a player in
Cleveland, where I presume he met and became friends with
Feller, which would explain Feller’s appearance at Shea Stadium
last Saturday.

So much for reminiscing. I should bring in something related to
science or technology. At Shea Stadium, in addition to be
wanded by security as we entered, there were announcements to
the effect that anyone attempting to enter the stadium using
tickets not obtained through legitimate sources would be denied
entrance if the tickets were counterfeit. I noticed that, instead of
tearing off stubs, the ticket person lasered the tickets’ bar codes
as on checking out items at a supermarket. (I also noted that
Brian paid at least $48 per ticket. If memory serves correctly, I
paid 50 cents for my bleacher seats at Forbes Field!)

But what about those counterfeit tickets? Or for that matter,
counterfeit currency? With the sophisticated copiers available
today, it’s not easy to combat the dedicated counterfeiter. In an
article in the July 9 Chemical and Engineering News, Alexander
Tullo discusses progress in the field of RFID tags. RFID stands
for radio-frequency identification. If you have E-ZPass, the
gizmo I have mounted on my car’s windshield, the RFID tag
allows one to go through toll plazas without reaching for change
or picking up tickets and paying tolls on turnpikes.

According to Tullo, RFID tags based on silicon chips today cost
about 15 cents each. RFID tags have small circuits and antennae
and can be powered either by a battery, as in my E-ZPass or by
the electromagnetic pulses emitted by the device that reads the
data encoded in the tag. The tags are becoming more prevalent,
attached to all kinds of products for tracking and inventory
control. Wal-Mart, for example, plays a big role in determining
the specs for RFID tags. With silicon, the eventual cost of a tag
can be envisioned in the vicinity of 5 cents a tag. However, even
that cheap a tag is too much for low cost products. To truly
dominate the market, a penny a tag is a goal and much effort is
being spent trying to come up with alternatives to silicon.

To cut the cost down to a penny a tag will require a mass
production manufacturing process analogous to printing a
newspaper. In printing RFID tags, the presses will print RFID
circuits on long rolls of flexible polymers in a process that would
yield zillions of cheap tags, analogous to the cheap transistors of
the Moore’s Law era of the silicon chip. These printed tags are
barely in their infancy and aren’t yet ready for primetime.
However, one proposed applications is to foil counterfeiting of
tickets and currency. In such an application, the detection of a
counterfeit ticket might involve simply the determination as to
whether a tag is present or not.

I understand that some rock concert tickets actually are selling on
the scalping market for ridiculous prices into the thousand-dollar
range. I should think that for a dedicated fan even the 15-cent
RFID tag embedded in the ticket would be well worth the cost to
ensure not being turned away at the door.

As for me, I’ll take a Ralph Kiner Night any day (or night)!

Allen F. Bortrum



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-07/18/2007-      
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Dr. Bortrum

07/18/2007

A Memorable, Valid Ticket

Last Saturday night was a big one for Old Bortrum, who was
taken back to his youth attending Pittsburgh Pirate games at the
late Forbes Field from 1946 to 1950. As discussed at some
length in Bar Chat (7/16/2007), it was Ralph Kiner Night at Shea
Stadium. I must thank our Editor Brian Trumbore for his
generosity in taking me, Harry Trumbore and my grandson to
this memorable event. I was shocked that, when I mentioned to a
half dozen or so fellow mall walkers that I was going to this
event, they had never heard of Kiner! This despite the fact that
for over four decades he’s been a New York Mets broadcaster,
not to mention a Hall of Fame homerun hitter with awesome
slugging statistics in a 10-year career shortened by a severe back
problem.

Kiner averaged 7.1 homeruns for every 100 times at bat, second
only to Babe Ruth and Mark McQwire in the retired player
category. And I’m not sure we even knew the word “steroid” in
those days! At the ceremonies honoring Kiner, I enjoyed seeing
players such as Tom Seaver, Rusty Staub, Ed Kranepool, Bob
Friend, Bud Harrelson, Jerry Koosman, Keith Hernandez and
Yogi Berra in attendance. However, I was blown away when it
was announced that walking onto the field with his wife was
“Rapid Robert”. I thought, “Surely, this can’t be.” But it was
indeed 88-year-old Bob Feller and his wife all the way from
Iowa!

Seeing him brought back one of the stupidest things I’d ever
done – turn down an opportunity to meet and talk with Feller!
In 1966, I was at a meeting of The Electrochemical Society in
Cleveland and Feller was at the hotel in some sort of public
relations capacity. I saw in the hotel gift shop that one could buy
a baseball autographed by Feller and decided to buy one for
Brian. The clerk asked me if I wanted to meet Feller when he
signed it. I refused, saying I didn’t want to miss some of the
talks at the meeting. I don’t have the foggiest idea as to the
content of those talks but I surely do remember my stupidity!

Prior to that, I had seen Feller up close at an event I’ve
mentioned in an earlier column. In April 1951, when I was
employed in Cleveland at the National Advisory Committee for
Aeronautics (NACA), General Douglas MacArthur was on his
way back to Washington from the Korean conflict after being
fired by President Harry Truman. MacArthur, with his wife and
son, stopped briefly at the Cleveland airport, which borders
NACA (now NASA). We heard MacArthur would stop and
went over to see him. Cleveland’s mayor was there, as was Bob
Feller, who presented MacArthur’s son with an autographed ball
and/or a glove. I was surprised to see that MacArthur’s hands
were shaking quite noticeably during his brief remarks. I believe
it was the next day that he gave his eloquent “Old soldiers never
die” speech before Congress.

In retrospect, I am surprised that I only went to one baseball
game in the two years I was in Cleveland and never saw Feller
pitch. This was in contrast to my preceding 4 years (1946-1950)
in Pittsburgh, when I attended well over a hundred games at
Forbes Field and got to see Kiner hit many of the home runs that
were his trademark. Kiner spent his last year as a player in
Cleveland, where I presume he met and became friends with
Feller, which would explain Feller’s appearance at Shea Stadium
last Saturday.

So much for reminiscing. I should bring in something related to
science or technology. At Shea Stadium, in addition to be
wanded by security as we entered, there were announcements to
the effect that anyone attempting to enter the stadium using
tickets not obtained through legitimate sources would be denied
entrance if the tickets were counterfeit. I noticed that, instead of
tearing off stubs, the ticket person lasered the tickets’ bar codes
as on checking out items at a supermarket. (I also noted that
Brian paid at least $48 per ticket. If memory serves correctly, I
paid 50 cents for my bleacher seats at Forbes Field!)

But what about those counterfeit tickets? Or for that matter,
counterfeit currency? With the sophisticated copiers available
today, it’s not easy to combat the dedicated counterfeiter. In an
article in the July 9 Chemical and Engineering News, Alexander
Tullo discusses progress in the field of RFID tags. RFID stands
for radio-frequency identification. If you have E-ZPass, the
gizmo I have mounted on my car’s windshield, the RFID tag
allows one to go through toll plazas without reaching for change
or picking up tickets and paying tolls on turnpikes.

According to Tullo, RFID tags based on silicon chips today cost
about 15 cents each. RFID tags have small circuits and antennae
and can be powered either by a battery, as in my E-ZPass or by
the electromagnetic pulses emitted by the device that reads the
data encoded in the tag. The tags are becoming more prevalent,
attached to all kinds of products for tracking and inventory
control. Wal-Mart, for example, plays a big role in determining
the specs for RFID tags. With silicon, the eventual cost of a tag
can be envisioned in the vicinity of 5 cents a tag. However, even
that cheap a tag is too much for low cost products. To truly
dominate the market, a penny a tag is a goal and much effort is
being spent trying to come up with alternatives to silicon.

To cut the cost down to a penny a tag will require a mass
production manufacturing process analogous to printing a
newspaper. In printing RFID tags, the presses will print RFID
circuits on long rolls of flexible polymers in a process that would
yield zillions of cheap tags, analogous to the cheap transistors of
the Moore’s Law era of the silicon chip. These printed tags are
barely in their infancy and aren’t yet ready for primetime.
However, one proposed applications is to foil counterfeiting of
tickets and currency. In such an application, the detection of a
counterfeit ticket might involve simply the determination as to
whether a tag is present or not.

I understand that some rock concert tickets actually are selling on
the scalping market for ridiculous prices into the thousand-dollar
range. I should think that for a dedicated fan even the 15-cent
RFID tag embedded in the ticket would be well worth the cost to
ensure not being turned away at the door.

As for me, I’ll take a Ralph Kiner Night any day (or night)!

Allen F. Bortrum