History-making music group for UMM - morris mn

History-making music group for UMM - morris mn
The UMM men's chorus opened the Minnesota Day program at the 1962 Seattle World's Fair (Century 21 Exposition).

Monday, August 7, 2017

Chico Ruiz steals home and puts hex on Philadelphia?

Major league baseball was unusually blessed in 1964. We saw extremely tight pennant races in both leagues. I'm sad the Chicago White Sox couldn't pull out the American League pennant. It would have been nice seeing Moose Skowron play in another World Series. Instead we got the Yankees walking their treadmill toward another A.L. flag. It would be their last of that era. Our Minnesota Twins dislodged them from their perch in '65. And then in '66, the Yankees sank like a rock.
The National League story in 1964 was epic. The Cardinals with a young Lou Brock emerged on top. Cincinnati was easily in the hunt. Let's consider Philadelphia. Those red-trimmed uniforms looked oh so grand for most of the '64 summer. Gene Mauch was at the helm. Maybe that was a sign that Philadelphia fans should have been whistling past the graveyard.
Mauch's Phils showed great command through most of the summer. What a blessed summer it must have seemed in the City of Brotherly Love. John Callison hit a walk-off home run to win the All-Star Game for the Nationals. The crafty Jim Bunning was in his prime - he pitched a perfect game in June vs. the new York Mets. Chris Short was in the groove as pitcher. Richie Allen, later to be known as Dick Allen, was spectacular as a rookie.
Early August saw Philadelphia really turn on the jets. Man oh man. For two weeks they looked like world-beaters. They went from 1 1/2 games up to 7 1/2 games, the latter bulge happening on August 20. Could Phils fans relax after that 12-4 stretch?
 
A date of fate in baseball annals
Bring on Monday, Sept. 21. The Phils sported a win total of 90 compared to 60 losses. They were 6 1/2 games up on second place with only 12 games left to play. It was an evening game in the City of Brotherly Love (an ironic name when you consider the city had an image of racism). A crowd of a little over 20,000 was present to see the Phillies take on that other team with red trim: Cincinnati. This was the Cincinnati team that had Frank Robinson. Robinson would go on to make his biggest mark with the Baltimore Orioles. In '64 he was the Reds' best hitter.
The Reds sported a record of 83-66. Dick Sisler was the manager, having taken the reins from the terminally ill Fred Hutchinson. Vada Pinson wielded a bat for those Reds. Oh, and there was Pete Rose, not yet a superstar but budding. Jim O'Toole and Jim Maloney were leading pitchers. I can't help but remember O'Toole in Jim Bouton's 1970 book "Ball Four," standing out as the classic troubled pitcher with a perpetually sore arm, in the "Diathermy" machine all the time, remember?
The September 21 game had Jon Tsitouris pitching for Cincinnati and Art Mahaffey taking the mound for Philadelphia. A bad omen for Philadelphia was being snakebit with runners in scoring position: 0-for-8.
The top of the sixth seemed to be when the baseball gods did their thing. Chico Ruiz singled to right field. Remember that name. Pinson hit a long single to right that advanced Ruiz to third, although Pinson was thrown out at second by outfielder Callison. Robinson strides up to bat. Nice scoring opportunity, right? His average was .306 and he had 27 home runs.
There were two outs so the Reds apparently needed Robinson to hit safely. Chico Ruiz had other thoughts dancing in his head. Mahaffey went into his long windup. Ruiz becomes like a bat out of hell, tearing for home a la steal. The steal of home is always an exotic play. We here in Minnesota associate it with Rod Carew.
Not only did this play succeed with Ruiz, it became legendary as it appeared to be a hex vs. the Phillies. Mahaffey uncorked a wild pitch. Ruiz scored and the Reds won 1-0. The game ended with the Phillies advancing the tying run to third with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, but shortstop Ruben Amaro struck out to end the game.
Writer Ray Kelly observed: "Nobody tries to steal home with a slugging great like Frank Robinson at the plate. Not in the sixth inning of a scoreless game." Mahaffey was quoted saying: "Now you must realize that with two outs and two strikes, if you throw a strike, Frank Robinson swings and knocks Chico Ruiz's head off. It was just so stupid." Stupid like a fox, I guess.
 
The Phils' advantage erodes
The Phillies still had a lead of 5 1/2 games with eleven games left. Now the stage is set for the famous choke of the '64 Phillies: a ten-game loss streak. It was so bad, it didn't matter that they won their last two games of the season (over the Reds). The Cardinals went 9-3 to close out the season. The Cardinals won the pennant on the last day as they beat the Mets 11-5.
A sabermetric analysis has shown that Ruiz's steal of home was not a bad percentage play. In the book "The Hidden Game of Baseball," authors John Thorn and Pete Palmer write that "the two-out steal of home is the unknown great percentage play." Ruiz said "it just came to my mind. In this game, you either do or you don't."
I was nine years old in 1964. Kids back then could have quite strong emotional connections with their home baseball team. Looking back, I often think how unfortunate this connection was - it was out of proportion. So you can imagine how many young Phillies fans felt as their team crashed in 1964. Samuel Alito of our U.S. Supreme Court was a big admirer of outfielder Callison. Callison seemed a lot like our Twin Bob Allison. Richie Allen was like Tony Oliva.
It was a golden age of baseball. Integration of the game had proceeded well enough - halting at times but adequate - and we did not yet have the disruption of zealous unionism and excessive drug use. I will always wonder if those '64 Phillies could have won the world championship in '64. Just as I wonder if our 1967 Minnesota Twins could have done it after getting edged out for the pennant! We close our eyes and imagine.
Ruiz entered baseball annals permanently with his unique, impulsive play, a play that impacted fate!
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, July 31, 2017

It's the time of summer for spiritual slumber

The image shows the Papa John's clowns who once entertained at summer events in the Morris area. Photo by Del Sarlette.
 
We're in the laziest part of summer, aren't we? In between Prairie Pioneer Days (PPD) and the fair, that's it.
Our family asks little of Prairie Pioneer Days, just that we can enjoy an early afternoon lunch at Luther's Eatery. It seems that PPD has lost several of the special features it once had. That's sad but not real disheartening. It's a social hub and that is what is most important.
There was nothing like PPD when I was a kid. An exception was the year of the Morris Centennial. What special memories I have of that. The year was 1971 and Morris truly came alive that summer. I don't know why people couldn't get the bright idea to do something annually like that. We got on board in the early 1980s with PPD. There was a time when the FFA kids built a replica of the famous "alfalfa arch" across East 7th Street. We all need to be reminded of the historical significance of the alfalfa arch.
I wonder if the day will come when Superior Industries will take over PPD just as this company has made inroads with the county fair. I'm not clear on when exactly Superior has the fair reserved for itself. I told an acquaintance of mine who's on the fair board that "I guess this is one of those small town things where 'you just have to know.' " I don't like these small town phenomena.
The way Superior expands as if by magic, I have fears that this operation will snake around to behind our neighborhood of Northridge Drive, and devalue our property.
 
Will football keep its popularity? Should it?
So, after the fair, where does our attention turn? I remember year after year seeing the Tiger football team in pre-season practice at the old East Elementary playground, at the same time as the fair. It was a tap on the shoulder that "fall is near." People would speculate on how our football team might do.
Is such talk becoming an anachronism? There are new waves of news coverage all the time about how football is dangerous to play.
How much longer can the sport withstand all the startling revelations? You must have seen the headlines last week. "CTE" is a dangerous thing to court. No game can possibly be worth the risk of incurring this.
A sea change in society's notions can be slow and grudging to develop. I mean, who wants football to just fade away? Hasn't it been a mammoth sort of phenomenon in our popular culture? Frankly, hasn't it grown into an addiction? So, we're talking about overcoming an addiction. So as with any addiction, we have to be ready to stand up, as if at an AA gathering, and admit we have a problem. We need to admit the nature of the problem in frank terms.
Why on earth are our brains so programmed to feeling this turn-on, by the sight of men running with a football or catching a football, seeking yardage and touchdowns? It's terrible. Someday we will all admit this to ourselves.
A few years ago you'd occasionally see a news nugget from somewhere about how a school board member would suggest that football be removed. None of these could really break through. Many onlookers were reluctant to say these individuals were out in left field, but at the same time there was a "whistling past the graveyard" quality to their reaction. They could not deny the factual foundation for arguments being put forth. But my goodness, cancelling football? Who would want to be responsible for a suggestion like that?
There is still hesitance toward the notion. But I sense that momentum is slowly building toward that "sea change" that would marginalize football. It has been predicted that football will have its last bastion in the U.S. Southeast. The sport will more and more be associated with players who have a dysfunctional family background. Intelligent people will know better and act accordingly.
I suspect that Morris Area Chokio Alberta will have a football team again for 2017. Have there been any football naysayers in our community, people in important public positions willing to air their skepticism? If society is reluctant to go this route, maybe insurance companies will straighten everyone out. That and lawyers.
 
Remember the "earthen pool?"
It's the end of July and it seems we're all in slumber now, spiritually. I think it's a blessed time of year. Remember the days of the "earthen pool" at Pomme de Terre City Park? That's getting more distant in our community's history. It seemed quite successful for a time. It faded toward the end partly because of a tragedy that happened out there.
I don't think the "spray park" has been an adequate substitute. This community has bandied about for years the idea of outdoor swim recreation. Well, the Alexandria lakes aren't that far away. I have often enjoyed the Lake Latoka public swimming beach.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, July 24, 2017

The power of a typewriter and unencumbered thought

Only once in my life did I stay in a movie theater to see the same movie back to back. It was "All the President's Men."
Hollywood is great for designating heroes and villains. A common fault of Hollywood is to caricature these people, lest their (stupid) audience has a hard time delineating. Remember "Mr. Potter" of "It's a Wonderful Life?" A prime example. Also, that British army officer in "The Patriot." By the tine that officer got killed, my only thought was "why did we have to wait so long?"
"It's a Wonderful Life" would not be considered such a classic today - maybe not a classic at all - if it hadn't been in the public domain at a time when rapidly proliferating TV channels were looking for material to run.
"All the President's Men" with Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman mesmerized me. Yeah, I ended up as a newspaper writer myself. I was amazed at the power a person could wield with a typewriter, a newspaper job and the freedom to think unencumbered about what was right and what was wrong.
 
Echoes from a previous time
Memories of Watergate come rushing back because of what we are seeing with the Trump administration today. Trump's supporters say the public really doesn't care about the Russia stuff. They say it's a narrow obsession of certain elements within the media. But deep into Watergate, polls showed the public didn't much care about that either. These polls make sense because in the day to day lives of ordinary people, such matters appear to have little impact. However, the powers that be in Washington D.C. need to be held to rules. Along with that, we absolutely need the free press in spite of how Trump rants about that: "fake news!"
Nixon and his people tried to quarantine the Washington Post as if Watergate was limited to the narrow interests of that paper. The Washington Post could have gotten cowed. Why didn't that happen? We think of the Washington Post as a paper with a national constituency, but its soul is invested in Washington D.C. or that "Beltway" as it's called. As such it feels called upon to keep the reputation of its immediate community sound and intact. It's in the interests of the Beltway for established rules to survive and be applied. So the Washington Post with "Woodward and Bernstein" was persistent.
Bad guys and good guys? In reality so much falls into a shade of gray. The key to Watergate and its accelerating revelations was the disgruntled FBI person, Mark Felt, who was doing nothing more than back-biting and revenge-seeking, the kind of motivations we are all familiar with. Felt funneled that information to those salivating reporters. The rest is history.
Nixon governed from the middle and did some arguably good things, like creating the EPA. I would fault him primarily for staying stuck in Viet Nam. It's an unforgivable sin. It was LBJ's war that was oh so stubborn to stomp out. The war headlines were endless as I grew up. We had a friend of the family from Brainerd who was killed by friendly fire in Viet Nam. I cannot rule out "fragging."
My first summer out of high school was the peak of Watergate revelations, creating that rolling snowball that culminated with Nixon's resignation in August of 1974.
 
A waltz inspired by Watergate
Should a new Watergate movie be made? I would say no because it's too painful to have to reflect on the sheer stupidity that was the mother's milk of the scandal. The late Walt Sarlette of Morris wrote a waltz for our Tempo Kings dance group - we called it "The Watergate Waltz." Del Sarlette and I had some fun beyond that. Del wrote "I Didn't Want To Do It" in parenthesis under the title - this was a takeoff on the old Harry James tune "You Made Me Love You." "I Didn't Want To Do It" was inserted under that title. I suggested that "fast 4" be noted as the rhythm which was ridiculous because it was a waltz. Del wrote "fast 4" with the additional words: "(possible parole after 2").
Del put down some credits, including "Arranged by G. Gordon Liddy." We had "Music by H.R. Haldeman" and "Lyrics by John Dean (deleted)." It was a fun-sounding waltz and had the sax players grab their clarinets for a part. It was fun thinking of all the wearisome machinations of Watergate while hearing this lively waltz. Kudos to the late Mr. Sarlette who ought to be viewed as an iconic figure from this community's history.
The focus now is on Russia. It was because of the Soviet Union and the Cold War that us schoolkids were pushed so bad when we were in school. We had to "beat the Russians." We suspected the Russian people really weren't that different from us. This was a message we took away from the movie "The Russians Are Coming." Remember that classic with Alan Arkin as a Russian? Del says this is one of the movies that could never be re-made. (I say the same thing about "The Dirty Dozen." Lee Marvin's role could never be reprised.)
So, I sat through two shows of "All the President's Men" at the twin cinema theaters next to Crossroads Shopping Center, St. Cloud, during the disco '70s. My own approach as a writer was probably shaped by all that. It's not a philosophy that works well in today's news media. Today's writers tend to defer to authority at the local level. It's knee-jerk and sometimes rather fallible. But at the macro level we still need the crusaders. How on earth are the Trump family issues going to turn out? Heaven only knows. The key as always will be the maintenance of the free press.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Fast-moving Trump/Russia story goes hurtling along

My current post on "I Love Morris" pushes us back to 1973. We go there because of the parallels between the Trump/Russia thing and Watergate. I suggest we shouldn't be too hasty making parallels.
I just clicked on "publish" for the "I Love Morris" post even though I wrote it yesterday. Alas, the Trump/Russia story is moving so fast, anything is at risk of becoming dated. I don't like to be too hasty posting. A day's wait means I might catch some little issue that needs to be straightened out.
Perhaps I should gulp some coffee and get my timeline a little more confined. I'm writing this post as I watch "Morning Joe" on MSNBC, a show where certainly they gulp coffee. It's the must-see for updating one's knowledge of the incredible Trump/Russia imbroglio.
Already I hear that the comparison with the summer of 1973 should maybe be put aside. Because, now it seems we're into the summer of 1974. At that point there is no rallying for the president (Nixon) anymore. We had all become quite battle fatigued. Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon because of the sheer fatigue that was dragging down the nation. At least this is how Ford argued. He may have lost his bid to retain the presidency as a result. Yes, we were fatigued by Watergate but in order to gain resolution we should have ascertained more facts. Instead we ended up in kind of a netherworld.
Where are we headed now? I argue in "I Love Morris" that there's no way we can predict. We might assume that the outcome will be essentially similar to 1974. I'm checking CNBC and I see the futures are pointing upward again. The financial markets seem a world apart. Can this pattern hold indefinitely? Should we dismiss all the D.C. scandal-mongering as an amusement or distraction, only?
Not when the Republican Party is flirting with an actual overhauling of health care. Someone like Ted Cruz is amusing to watch as a character who pushes this firm political ideology. He gets attention with his extremism. This bright shiny object of a human being casts a shadow with his rhetoric. Conservatives present their principles in a way that makes us sympathetic to a degree. These principles work in an ideal world where everyone can carry their own weight. No messy complications arise in people's lives. No one suddenly needs to go to a nursing home. No one suddenly gets a serious chronic health condition.
I had a wise friend in college who said: "Republicans are great for arguing on principle, but Republicans don't care about people." Republicans have gotten a tremendous amount of traction over the recent past, becoming what I have called "the default political party" in America. In the current political climate, for whatever reason, you don't really need to explain yourself if you're a Republican. Democrats seem rather stigmatized. Democrats are forced on the defensive and have to explain themselves more. I am waiting for this to change.
Give Republicans just a little more power and they might actually craft and push through a draconian health care bill. And then there will be real world consequences of all our sympathy to the GOP cause. Cruz will have actually helped craft legislation affecting your very own life. So he's no longer a mere curiosity.
President Trump called a pep rally to promote the draconian health care bill out of the House of Representatives. This after Trump said in the campaign that all of America would get a health care package ("overturning Obamacare") that would be better for all. He uses hyperbole that is totally child-like. And yet we haven't risen up against this yet. We are fighting the donor class of the Republican Party.
The White House is becoming a festering boil on this country. It is embroiled in an indefinite struggle merely for survival, as if any of us really ought to care about those deceiving people. It's almost like a drug-induced fantasy. We don't know if Trump will start talking to portraits on the wall the way Nixon did. His presidency may be beyond salvage.
It would be interesting if he suddenly declared himself a Democrat and called in Chuck Schumer for some meetings.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, July 10, 2017

Tony Cloninger's incredible feat in 1966 summer

I was eleven years old in 1966. My family lost a friend to friendly fire in Viet Nam. He was from Brainerd, my mom's hometown. The mid-1960s was a time of escalation of the Viet Nam conflict. Major league baseball was like a pleasant elixir helping us put aside, to a degree, the anxiety of the war, a war that it seemed we could do nothing about. "Let Daddy do his work," as "Dr. Evil" would say to his son. We Americans had to "let Daddy do his work" in terms of letting the Viet Nam war grow, against all logic.
If it happened before, it could happen again.
In 1966 our Minnesota Twins were a year removed from their pinnacle year of the 1960s. We won the pennant in '65 and then lost the World Series in seven games to the Dodgers. It's strange how we seem to remember nothing abut the '66 season. We still had an arguably super team. But we were not No. 1 in the league this time. We were No. 2 among the ten teams. America is a land that prioritizes being No. 1. I'm sure there were many pleasant afternoons and evenings at our Metropolitan Stadium, when our powerful Twins dispatched the opposition. But 1966 gets lost in obscurity in our collective memory, because in '65 we were No. 1, not in '66.
In 1966 the Braves were in their first year in Atlanta. Strange how Milwaukee could not do what was needed to keep the Braves. The Braves had been a highly exciting team with many interesting individuals in Milwaukee. Milwaukee would later show it could support big league ball with the Brewers. But something went haywire and caused those Hank Aaron-led Braves to migrate south. They had spent 13 seasons in the brew town.
Aaron, Joe Torre, Ed Mathews and Rico Carty took their act to Georgia. In '91 our Twins would dispatch the Braves in the fall showcase.
 
A pitcher who could hit
Tony Cloninger was a 25-year-old pitcher in 1966. I remember from playing the APBA simulation game that Cloninger was a superb-hitting pitcher, rather like having a DH in the order instead of the typical anemic-hitting pitcher. I remember that Cloninger was the Braves' staff ace in 1964, still in Milwaukee, when the Braves were involved in a suspenseful pennant race with several other teams. Warren Spahn was still with the Braves. Unfortunately he fell off from his prime. He had such a sturdy arm for so many years. Had he coaxed one more stellar season from that left arm, the Braves would have certainly won the '64 pennant. Instead they got edged out, as St. Louis with a young Lou Brock won the pennant and then went on to beat the Yankees in the World Series.
Cloninger's APBA card for 1964 suggested he was something other than a pitcher. But a pitcher he was, with hitting numbers that showed he could be quite the asset in that department.
Let's drift back in time to that 1966 summer when the Braves were established in their new home of downtown Atlanta. Let's park on the date of July 3, 1966, in the midst of the holiday slowdown for the Fourth. The setting was San Francisco, Candlestick Park with its mystifying winds. It was Sunday afternoon at the heart of the Independence Day spirit.
The Alou brothers batted leadoff for the two teams: Felipe for the Braves and Jesus for the Giants. Jim Bouton wrote that teammates didn't pronounce Jesus in the proper way, HAY-soos, but rather like the Biblical man, in the typical irreverent spirit of big league players of that era. They weren't paid or treated as well as they should have been. Therefore they could develop bitter or cynical edges.
The Braves weren't excelling as of July 3 as they were in eighth place among the ten N.L. teams. They were 15 games behind the league-leading Giants. The July 3 game developed in an explosive way just like the fireworks. Cloninger had a seven-run lead before he even went out to the mound in the bottom of the first. He had quite the role in getting that early spurt. How that rally developed: Felipe Alou popped out, Mack Jones singled, Aaron forced Jones to second, then here come the fireworks: Carty singled to right. Torre homered to deep center. Frank Bolling and Woody Woodward singled, chasing Giants pitcher Joe Gibbon. (Going through all these names revives memories of my baseball card collection!)
Denis Menke - yes, just one "n" in Denis - drew a walk from Bob Priddy. Priddy was probably relieved to get to the pitcher, Cloninger. Cloninger worked Priddy to a full count. Then, fireworks: Cloninger hit the ball to almost the same spot as Torre's homer: a grand slam. The ball cleared the 410-foot sign. Ah, six hits, seven runs. A Carty homer made the score 8-0 in the second.
 
Here we go again!
The fourth inning saw Carty trot down to first with a walk. Torre got on by error and Bolling singled to score Carty. There were two outs with two baserunners on when Menke came up to bat. Menke walked as he had done previously. The sacks were loaded again with Cloninger set to bring his bat to the plate. The count was 0-and-1 when Cloninger socked his second bases-loaded homer of the game, a liner over the opposite field fence in right. The score after 3 1/2 innings was 13-0.
Aaron hit his league-leading 25th home run in the fifth. The eighth inning saw Cloninger hit a run-scoring single. The final score was 17-3, quite a way to mark America's birthday. Cloninger's RBI total of nine on the day was quite the new standard for pitchers. The Braves sent 52 batters to face Giants pitching. Five Braves each had at least three hits.
 
Sharp on the mound too
Cloninger pitched a complete game, scattering seven hits while allowing three earned runs. He fanned five batters and walked two. He won for the sixth time in his last seven starts, raising his record to 9-7. He quipped after that July 3 game: "Funny thing, nobody is asking me about my pitching."
Fans left Candlestick Park wide-eyed to be sure.
Major league baseball fascinated me through the '60s as I passed through junior high, a rather arduous time of life typically. Baseball was an escape for me, a taste of the exciting "macro" world away from my mundane "micro" world of where I lived. How much more joy we would have felt, with no Viet Nam war as a horrible, devilish specter. We miss you, Richard Ungerecht.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, July 3, 2017

Let's keep Rico Carty in pantheon of baseball's greats

Rico Carty's name has not had the staying power of many of his superstar baseball peers. Fans at the time of his prime were most impressed. He did not present the most graceful public persona. But he was a monster hitter. I wince when I see that his career batting average was .299. Oh no! But stats can be superficial.
I remember when Carty was playing for Toronto, not at his best at the time, our great broadcaster Halsey Hall said "I don't care what this guy's average is, he's a good hitter."
Carty was so good in 1964, he hit for a higher average than our phenomenal rookie here in Minnesota, Tony Oliva. Only Roberto Clemente had a higher average in 1964. Carty was a rookie in '64 but, believe it or not, did not get Rookie of the Year. Instead it was Philadelphia's Richie Allen who got that honor.
Carty developed a devoted following in Milwaukee. Those were the days of the Braves, not the Brewers. The Braves shifted to Atlanta where Carty's popularity was such, we saw "Carty's Corner" in the left field stands. Carty might have climbed to Hank Aaron stature were it not for some bumps in the road. He had illness, injuries, issues with his defensive play and rough edges in his personality. He came to the American League in 1973 (my year of high school graduation).
In theory the new designated hitter rule seemed most suited for Carty. In theory the rule was supposed to help some fine hitters extend their career because of being relieved of defensive rigors. It doesn't really work like that. A player who finds it difficult to play in the field will probably have problems hitting too. The whole body is involved in hitting. Carty did not take to the DH role initially.
 
A man of the people with votes
I remember Carty really bursting into public consciousness in 1970. Fan balloting for the All Star game was new. Carty was on fire with his batting prowess. But his name wasn't on the All Star ballot. The list of 48 candidates in each league was compiled during spring training. No Rico Carty on the ballot. A more corporate personality might have helped him.
More than two million fans voted. A write-in campaign helped the big guy get 67,000 more votes than Pete Rose! So Carty, thanks to the determined and well-publicized write-in effort, joined Aaron and Willie Mays in the starting National League outfield. He walked and grounded out in the 1970 All Star showcase. He overcame injuries to lead the N.L. in batting average with a sizzling .366 mark.
Even in this, his best season, Carty had problems with a volatile nature. He got in a fight with pitcher Ron Reed. He had the highest career average among active players. Nevertheless he was the subject of trade rumors. Playing in the Dominican League after that 1970 season, Carty collided with teammate Matty Alou and fractured his knee. His leg was in a brace for 1971 spring training. He hobbled out of the dugout on Opening Day to a standing ovation. He got a blood clot in his injured leg.
Complications continued when he and a brother in law got in a fight with two off-duty Atlanta cops. A racial slue precipitated, legend has it.
My, those physical challenges continued into 1972: elbow tendinitis and a pulled hamstring. He managed to bat .277. October saw him get traded to the American League's Texas Rangers. Braves fans were deflated. Carty and the new Atlanta manager, former Braves superstar Ed Matthews, were not on the same wavelength. Meanwhile the Texas manager, none other than Whitey Herzog, said he was "looking for ballplayers, not Boy Scouts."
Alas, Carty was dealt another piece of injury misfortune as Pedro Borbon delivered a pitch that fractured Carty's jaw. Herzog saw Carty as a fine DH candidate. But Carty didn't share that enthusiasm. His stats sank as the DH but then he got re-assigned to left field, even though his errors would often outnumber his assists. He broke a bone in his foot sliding into second base. He was batting .232 when he was sent to the Cubs. The Cub experience was fleeting and then it was on to Oakland. The A's won the World Series but Carty was not eligible for the post-season roster. He was released on December 12.
Doubt circulated as to whether Carty could continue as a productive ballplayer. Carty himself was resolved to keep going. He was up for winter ball again. His skills were revived and this got the attention of the Cleveland Indians. Despite a hamstring issue, he batted .363 in 33 games as the Tribe's DH and first baseman.
Carty pulled on the Cleveland uniform again in 1975 at age 35. His talents were most intact with a .308 batting average. Things got better in 1976, at least for a time, as he flirted with a .400 average. Despite more injuries, Carty played in a career-high 152 games and batted .310. He produced a team-best 83 RBIs. He had finally come around to the DH role. He was voted Man of the Year by the Cleveland baseball writers.
He was picked by Toronto in the 1976 expansion draft, but he was promptly traded back to Cleveland where in 1977 he was the highest-paid team member. A clash developed with manager Frank Robinson. Carty was not carrying himself very gracefully. But it was Robinson who appeared to come out on the short end as he got fired. I seem to recall Gaylord Perry not getting along well with Robinson either.
Carty got righted with his hitting and produced a .280 average with a team-best 80 RBIs. But he was sent to Toronto for 1978. He produced 19 RBIs in April for Toronto. He had a super August homestand. But he would be on the move again, pulling on an Oakland A's uniform as he was traded for Willie Horton. He had an early 15-game hitting streak for Oakland. He hit eight home runs in his first 19 games. His 31 home runs for the season was his career-best! Amazing resiliency by this veteran.
He was granted free agency. He became a Toronto Blue Jay again, inking a bulky five-year contract (probably incentive-laden). He claimed an odd injury: stabbing himself with a toothpick. His hitting suffered. August 6 of 1979 saw Carty hit his 200th career home run. He could not resist the ravages of time and age anymore. His extended contract lasted but one year and he was released on March 29, 1980.
 
Born to be a hitter
He may have been big and slow but he seemed as natural a hitter as Tony Oliva. His regular comebacks from various kinds of adversity were inspiring. He could engage in cheerful banter with fans. It's ironic that he also had a reputation as somewhat of an agitator. He merely claimed that he "stood up for his rights" and this he did with a wide variety of individuals. You might say he was "equal opportunity" in that respect.
I think it's unfortunate that the big guy isn't remembered better, not in the same league as the squeaky-clean Hank Aaron. He was volatile as many talented people are. Let's keep his memory alive!
 
Addendum: It dawns on me that Carty gets mention in "Ball Four," the groundbreaking baseball book by Jim Bouton, groundbreaking because of the rules it broke. Of Carty, the knuckleballing Bouton said he didn't trust banks. "He also doesn't trust clubhouse valuable boxes." So when Carty was on TV and you saw a big bulge in his back pocket, it's his wallet! Bouton's book went below the surface in evaluating ballplayers and their idiosyncrasies, the idea being to make them totally human. I guess we all should have understood that in the first place.
Maybe there was something to be said about Carty's paranoia about the financial world!
 
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Pitcher Dick Hall's longevity: it is explained easily

We see Dick Hall portrayed in Billy Crystal's famous movie about the Roger Maris/Mickey Mantle home run chase. The broadcaster refers to Hall's "crazy sidearm delivery." Maris was trying to break Babe Ruth's record within 154 games. The big league schedule had been expanded to 162 games. It seems quaint to think that people in baseball put so much stock in this issue: whether a record, especially a home run record, could be broken in a schedule that went beyond the previous standard of 154 games.
It says a lot for Dick Hall's longevity that he was a nemesis for my Minnesota Twins in 1969 and 1970. I was emotionally invested in our Twins back then, when I was junior high-age. I hated those Baltimore Orioles. Of course that was a foolish way to think. The Twins seemed snakebit then, this in spite of the fact that they were unquestionably spectacular in regular season play. But when the post-season arrived, I sensed that the fans around me became defeatist. We shrugged and figured it was unlikely that we could get past those Baltimore Orioles with relief ace Dick Hall.
Such a nice, crisp name to pronounce: one syllable for both the first and last names.
Hall made his first post-season appearance in 1969 against our Twins. He was the wily graybeard: 39 years old. Any clues as to his longevity? There is one huge one: It wasn't until he was 16 years old that Hall began to play baseball. He was a member of a 16-year-old team that won the Cardinal Gibbons championship (Baltimore area), and that, he said, "was my first taste of baseball."
So my point is: Hall preserved his body and especially his arm so that he would have the physical resilience for a long career in baseball.
Hall strode out to the pitching mound at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium in early fall of 1969. This was the first year of the divisional format. The Twins won the West while Baltimore came out of the East. In the first American League Championship Series ever played, Hall was the Game 1 winning pitcher in a 4-3 Orioles victory. It was the epitome of the kind of heartbreak us Twins fans were dealt in the post-season of both 1969 and '70. You'll recall that 1969 was the year of the "Miracle Mets." Baltimore fell to the Mets in the '69 World Series. Hall was the losing pitcher in Game 4 but he got his World Series creds started.
In 1970 Hall was the oldest active player in the American League. He turned 40 on September 27. His savvy and sound physical health helped him achieve a 10-5 record with an ERA of 3.08 and three saves. He issued just six walks, only four of them unintentionally. Pinpoint control was an absolute hallmark of his career. Ted Williams commented that Hall might look like an easy pitcher to hit when he was warming up. That appearance was totally deceiving.
The 1970 A.L. divisional series was like a carbon copy of '69. Our Twins tore up the opposition in the regular season. Tony O. and Harmon were superlative. But the snakebit quality could not be escaped vs. those Orioles. Again, Hall was the winning pitcher in Game 1 of the divisional playoffs. He allowed just one baserunner in his 4 2/3 innings. Once the Orioles completed business in that series, a sweep again, they went on to face Cincinnati in the World Series. The Orioles were not to be denied this time. Game 2 of the Fall Classic saw Hall enter the game in the bottom of the seventh with runners on first and second and two outs. Hall set down Tony Perez, Johnny Bench, Lee May, Hal McRae, Tommy Helms and pinch-hitter Bernie Carbo and Jim Stewart to save the Orioles' 6-5 victory.
 
"He keeps getting people out"
Helms' comments about Hall reflected the norm: "His pitches don't seem to be moving, but I guess it's deceiving. He keeps getting people out." It was a long time since Hall showed that "crazy sidearm delivery" against Maris, Mantle and the Yankees. Baseball had gone from one epoch to the next. Hall with his well-preserved arm was able to endure and prosper. What if he had logged the usual number of innings in Little League, Babe Ruth or other levels for young boys? He could have easily over-taxed his arm.
Baseball was not enlightened about such things in the old days. It is tragic how many fine pitchers went into rapid decline, during my youth, due to overwork of the arm. Today we hear all about the "pitch count." What a blessing. A pitcher might be removed from a game even if he has a no-hitter going.
Johnny Bench hollered out at Hall from the dugout: "How can you be out there with that garbage?" The results speak for themselves. Hall had his final big league season in 1971 at at the age of 41. He won six games and saved one. His ERA bulged up a little but he had gas left in the tank for the World Series. On October 11, in Game 2 vs. the Pirates at Memorial Stadium, Hall earned a save for Jim Palmer in what turned out to be Hall's last big league appearance.
Ted Williams described Hall as a "pinpointer" with his control. "You never got a fat pitch to hit."
We must acknowledge that Hall was known as an intelligent and intellectual person. I see no evidence that these traits annoyed other ballplayers, not the way Jim Bouton's erudite traits could.
 
Breaking the language barrier!
There is a fascinating story with Hall's romance that led to his marriage. He met the love of his life while playing winter ball in Mexico. His first winter there saw him meet Maria Elena Nieto. They were married on December 31, 1955. The marriage would produce three daughters and a son. Maria did not speak English when they met. Hall had to learn to speak Spanish. Imagine being in love with someone who didn't speak your language! Quite the story.
Hall's whole story is most inspiring and it might not have happened had he not waited until age 16 to start pitching.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com