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).

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Just what is this "Northstar" publication?

I'm not sure what's up with this "Northstar" thing that was in with the Morris newspaper on Saturday.
I don't buy the paper but I always get a chance somehow to peruse it, mainly out of curiosity.
That "Northstar" publication appealed to one's curiosity on Saturday. I'd like to do some research to see how the heck it got distributed beyond the UMM campus. It seems not the type of publication suitable for distribution among normal, level-headed adults.
I understand both of these types within the human species: regular adults and edgy students. Even though I'm age 58 - definitely getting up there - I think I can grasp the mindset of your typical irreverent student. Such students have exploring minds which they are at liberty to exercise at this transitional stage in their lives. They are encouraged to think freely. We fawn over them too much sometimes, thinking they have more to offer than they really do.
Many adults might look back and feel some embarrassment about the avant-garde ideas they embraced once.
When I was in college, those on the left side of the political spectrum prevailed. They steam-rollered those who ventured to publicly declare they were Republican, while many right-leaning students no doubt opted to just stay quiet. Watergate was a fresh wound and fresh memory. 
We are reminded in the CNN documentary "Our Nixon" just how depraved the Republican administration of the late '60s and early '70s was. These were people for whom power was far more important than ideology.
Right now on college campuses, there is a highly assertive movement that isn't really Republican, it's libertarian. It's tea party-ish. This is the philosophy that obviously inspires "Northstar."
Why would the Morris newspaper allow such a strongly ideological publication to get nestled in with its Saturday issue? How many Morris area residents would know the background of this publication? How many of us might never have taken the time in our lives to understand the idiosyncratic ways of so many college students?
It's not that the non-college-oriented people are narrow, rather they have spent their lives in the nuts and bolts matter of getting by, of taking real responsibility and not dabbling in matters of philosophy. These people believe in direct and non-nuanced communication. Hats off to them.
Still, we must acknowledge the reality that college kids are outside of normal mature boundaries some of the time. Really?
If a paper like "Northstar" simply stayed within the campus boundaries, fine. We can expect all sorts of crazy thought and expression to be found within those ivy-covered walls. OK, I'm not sure how much real ivy we have out there. Or, if there's an "ivory tower." But the academic firepower of our University of Minnesota-Morris apparently has no peer.
Students in such a setting engage in exploration. My generation spoke out and protested on the war in Southeast Asia, the environment and on civil rights including women's empowerment. Turns out, some of the people who have irritated me most in my life have been women. We reap what we sow, heh heh.
There is a vocal element on college campuses now that sows pure libertarianism.
Frankly, I'm not sure how much of this "Northstar" thing we're supposed to take at face value. I'm nervous at this point in the discussion, because I have always felt I could be attuned to the college mindset, i.e. to be "hip." But heavens, I'm 58 years old. Am I still as sharp in identifying such things as sarcasm, parody, irony and hyperbole? To what extent are these ingredients in "Northstar?"
Or, is all of it to be taken literally? If it's meant to be taken literally, it's downright scary because of some of the incendiary language directed at certain individuals such as Sandy Olson-Loy. I don't even wish to repeat the most offending word.
Is it possible that Olson-Loy is "in on the joke" and that a lot of us prudes outside the ivy walls aren't going to get it? Huh? If so, I resent the intrusion of this publication into the community. And if it isn't meant to be understood literally, I resent it anyway, because a more direct means of communication would be preferable.
If people are left simply puzzled by "Northstar," wondering if it's just a concoction of pseudo-political silliness, it's offensive on the face of it.
People on campuses can handle this sort of thing - no doubt. In the community it's another matter.
If the motivation toward Olson-Loy - a totally sweet and intelligent person - was truly harsh, I'm not sure she wouldn't have legal recourse, maybe not toward UMM which after all is her employer, but toward the Morris Sun Tribune which was a party in distributing the papers.
I think the whole matter may justify an argument I made a while back, that UMM may not need a "paper" campus paper anymore. I think it's fine if there's a paper the purpose of which is to inform, as with upcoming events. As a political vehicle it just isn't necessary. All these pockets of ideologically motivated students can just go online and have a field day. They can interact, battle with each other etc.
The existence of piles of papers around UMM and beyond suggests UMM as an institution is facilitating this. It doesn't need to - not the kind of garbage that spewed forth with "Northstar."
UMM has a mainstream campus paper in The University Register. Mainstream, yes, but the Northstar crowd would describe it as "liberal." These kids would consider a ham sandwich liberal.
I have always found the libertarian position interesting and with certain narrow aspects that might be practical for implementation. If we allow these people to govern, heaven help us.
I can't imagine that the UMM administration is going to feel comfortable with "Northstar" continuing to get good distribution within Stevens County.
Unless we're "let in on the joke," or if someone would kindly like to translate it for us knaves, then knock it off.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The epic fade (or choke) of 1964 Philadelphia Phillies

We're in the midst of the 2013 October Classic as I write this. Frankly I pay little attention to baseball today. The strike of 1994 severed the kind of attachment I once had to the game. ESPN ran a little PSA back then with the caption "Play ball. . .please."
Baseball has righted itself. I don't think it encourages the kind of emotions it once did. Boomers like me remember a time when the emotions connected to "your" team were intense. I'm reminded of this as I read reflections by a Phillies fan, name of Mike Walsh. Walsh is one of those poor souls who followed the 1964 Philadelphia Phillies.
1964! It's getting rather remote in time. I remember being in the local Punt, Pass and Kick on an autumn Saturday and hearing the P.A. announcer giving updates on the 1964 World Series game of that day. It was St. Louis versus the New York Yankees. Walsh's Phillies were out of the running.
It's amazing because the Phils had a lead of 6 1/2 games in the National League with 12 games left to play. Walsh like me had a part of himself invested in his team.
Remember that back then, there wasn't a wide choice of games to watch on TV through the summer. Watching baseball almost always involved watching "your" team. The rare exception was NBC's "Game of the Week" with Curt Gowdy and Tony Kubek. Curt and Tony gave us the chance to watch some star players who only rarely showed up on live national broadcasts. The typical Twins fan, or in Walsh's case with the Phillies, would be fixated on that one team for all practical purposes. This is why I point out the bond was so emotional.
For the Phillies to collapse left young men like Walsh truly crestfallen. It wasn't as if the Phils could settle for a wild card slot in the playoffs. No such thing then. It's amazing to think we had two ten-team leagues in '64 but only two teams getting the nod for the post-season. I guess the money for media deals just wasn't on the table then, in that age of the "big three" TV networks in dominance. Extended playoffs weren't marketable then, not to the mass U.S. audience.
Today in the niche world of media, we are so spoiled. Boomers like me are apt to forget the quaint times. (Boomers conveniently forget a lot of things!)
The 1964 Philadelphia Phillies under manager Gene Mauch went into a tailspin, losing ten straight games. The first seven of those games were played at home: Connie Mack Stadium. Fans watched as if it was some sort of Halloween horror presentation.
 
Oh, to go back in time
So epic was this collapse, it led to a novel being written: " '64 Intruder," by Gregory T. Glading. The story has a fan going back in time and preventing Cincinnati Red Chico Ruiz from stealing home. By far this is the defining play of the skid, although it's hard to believe one play explains all the futility. Of course it doesn't. It guess it just seems symbolic. It came at the start of the skid, perhaps applying a hex?
Frank Robinson was at bat when Ruiz made his move from third base. The game was scoreless in the seventh inning and there were two outs. Ruiz was a backup infielder. On the mound for Philadelphia was Art Mahaffey. Walsh recalled in his online piece that Ruiz "should have been out by 20 feet." Walsh called it a "crazy stunt."
What possessed Ruiz to try this move? What ever possesses a runner at third to do this? It seems to defy the odds, as a normal delivery by the pitcher should get the would-be stealer retired. Rod Carew had an uncanny instinct of knowing how to steal home. Same with the great Jackie Robinson. There's something in the ether making certain players sense they can do it.
Because it's an unusual play, it can get the defensive players unnerved, jarred, losing focus etc. This seems to be the ingredient in many if not most steals of home. Sometimes the ball can get jarred from the catcher's glove. The catcher isn't anticipating having to make a play like this. Any time a tag is required, we can't assume the out.
Ruiz tore for home as if crazed, but he was crazy like a fox. The diminutive Ruiz arrived safely and his Reds won 1-0.
Of course, the Phils could have dusted themselves off and taken care of business in the following games. Instead the Phils dealt heartbreak to their emotionally invested fans like Mr. Walsh. It was the kind of heartbreak us Minnesota Twins fans felt at the end of the 1967 season, when we saw a highly achievable pennant slip away. I relate to the kind of heartbreak Walsh recalls.
"I was hurt," he wrote. "I was naive and vulnerable. We were shell-shocked. Forty years later it still hurts. I learned a lesson: Life isn't fair."
I could have written the same after '67.
We were also crestfallen when the Twins lost to the Dodgers in the 1965 World Series, and let's include the four Super Bowl losses by our football Vikings. All of this is why, when '87 and '91 unfolded and Minnesota won the baseball World Series, it felt like redemption, of reaching the Promised Land!
I'll repeat: Boomers grew up with an emotional attachment to their team. Today you can be a broad "baseball fan" and appreciate all that's going on in the two leagues, what with so many teams getting on TV all the time. In the '60s we penciled the televised Twins games onto our calendar, and the production standards could be crude. Let me remind that with many games, there was no center field camera position - something we take for granted today. There might be one camera positioned behind home plate.
Many boomer males loved Twins baseball despite the limitation. I feel guilty recalling the emotional nature of my attachment. The odds are so high for disappointment. It's not healthy. The baseball strike of '94 cured most of that for me.
 
A tumble into second for Philly
The 1964 Philadelphia Phillies finished in a tie for second place with Cincinnati, each with a 92-70 record, one game behind the St. Louis Cardinals who would go on to win the World Series.
A pennant would have cured longstanding frustration for Phillies backers. From 1919 through '47, Philadelphia finished last 17 times and next to last on seven occasions. They really needed Roy Hobbs.
The Phils climbed to respectability in 1962 and '63. In '64 they assembled a cast that included the immensely talented Dick ("Don't call me Richie") Allen. Allen was in his rookie season. Jim Bunning, today a U.S. Senator from Kentucky, was obtained from Detroit at the start of the season. Bunning was a premier pitcher. This he showed on Fathers Day of '64 when he twirled a perfect game vs. the Mets, the first perfecto in the N.L. since the 1880s. Bunning's heroics were at New York's Shea Stadium where the crowd got on his side, roaring with cheers in the ninth inning. Bunning struck out John Stephenson for the last out.
The '64 Phillies had star John (or "Johnny") Callison in right field. "TV Guide" went to press with a World Series preview that had a photo of Connie Mack Stadium. Surely the Phils would enter the Fall Classic. It was "The Days of Wine and Rojas," as has been joked (takeoff on "Days of Wine and Roses"). Bobby Wine and Cookie Rojas were team members. Fielding whiz Wine is remembered as throwing out batters from shortstop while falling toward third.
We had Zoilo Versalles, Philly had Bobby Wine.
Other important Phils players included Chris Short, Tony Gonzalez and Tony Taylor. But our focus should maybe be on manager Mauch. He is well-known to Twins fans, having managed here in the late 1970s. Actually he also managed the Minneapolis Millers before the Twins came into existence. He had a long managing career in which his basic acumen was never questioned. In fact his acumen won raves to the point where one might theorize he "over-managed." This is a very easy theory to offer.
Mauch has been called the father of what came to be known as "small ball." The idea is to "manufacture" runs with such things as bunts, grounders to the right side, hit-and-runs etc. Mauch platooned liberally. This means batting righties vs. lefty pitchers and the other way around. It's controversial.
I don't think baseball science has ever really given a verdict on bunting. Yes, bunting can advance a runner into scoring position (although success isn't guaranteed). But you sacrifice an out. You're only allotted 27 outs in a game. You might remember that Brad Pitt in the movie "Moneyball" said his team simply wasn't going to bunt. And when the other team bunted, the play would only be made to first, no "trying to be a hero" by throwing to second.
Mauch's Phils won eight of their first ten games in 1964. They dueled with the San Francisco Giants (with Willie Mays) much of the time. The all-star break arrived with the Phils' red color looking brilliant indeed, the team in first place. It was a far cry from 1961 when the team lost 23 straight games! Dick Allen was headed for Rookie of the Year honors. (At that early time in his career, the name "Richie" prevailed with him.)
John Callison hit a three-run home run in the ninth to win the All-Star Game for the National League. The Phillies kept on winning. They returned home from a West Coast trip on September 20, up by those 6 1/2 games and with TV Guide anticipating their post-season entry. World Series tickets and programs were already printed!
"Go Phillies Go" bumper stickers were out and about. All that was needed, Walsh recalled, was "four or five measly wins."
The Reds of Cincinnati came to town. Ruiz did his trick of stealing home. Was this the dagger?
Mauch should have steadied things. Instead the venerated skipper panicked. He pitched Bunning and Short with too little rest. The clutch hitting vanished. The bullpen went haywire. Late-inning leads slipped away in several games. Boos began cascading down. Worse yet, Mauch became withdrawn and sullen.
The ten-game loss streak was followed by two wins but it was too late. Walsh wrote that "a crushing choke is an especially painful thing for a young sports fan." We never forget it.
I still try to imagine what it would have been like if the Twins had won just one of those last two games against the Red Sox in Boston in 1967. The only thing that would have made me happier, would be for the U.S. to get out of Viet Nam. Let's not forget that dark cloud of the 1960s and how the draft terrorized young men then, how we realized the war wasn't worth it. Baseball was escapist entertainment in troubled times. We can forget how troubled.
Dick or "Richie" Allen was the first African-American Phillies star. Collectors of baseball cards will remember he was from "Wampum, Pennsylvania." He was a controversial player in an age when edgy behavior and speech were frowned upon. He thrilled with home runs and overall power. He was assigned third base which he had never played before. He would later play first base.
Allen became a lightning rod when he got into a fight with Frank Thomas on July 3, and Thomas subsequently got released. Fans blamed Allen. Allen also grated on some people by writing messages in the dirt around the infield. He'd write "boo" or "trade me." The league ordered him to stop. Back in that Lawrence Welk era, there was a sense of decorum that was very important.
 
Fitting expected mold
I would argue that players weren't even expected to sound very educated when they were interviewed. Remember when ESPN showed re-runs of all those "Home Run Derby" shows? The host was Mark Brandt. Players were wooden with their disposition and speech as they stood there, answering Mark's banal questions. I mentioned this to a friend once who said "The players were scared of the owners."
I remember Minnesota Twin Jim Kaat coming across as a player with better than average education, or he was at least very articulate and not hesitant about showing it. We'd think nothing of this today - nothing. In the '60s it could come across as untoward.
So you can realize that Dick Allen's behavior went sharply against the grain, especially in those times of inflamed race relations.
Two non-fiction books have been inspired by the 1964 Philadelphia Phillies and their collapse. One has Allen's name in the title and gives a lot of attention to integration (of the races).
Allen stuck with the Phils and in 1966 batted .317 with 112 RBIs. He later played with St. Louis, Los Angeles, the Chicago White Sox and Oakland, before returning to Philadelphia for 1975 and '76. He had 351 career home runs and a .292 average. Folk singer Chuck Brodsky wrote a song inspired by Allen, called "Letters in the Dirt."
 
Bred in Oklahoma: two stars
John Callison was a native of Oklahoma like Mickey Mantle. Callison isn't remembered as well as he should be. Oh, if he'd only played in New York! He was second in the MVP voting to Cardinal Ken Boyer in 1964. Callison hit 226 home runs in ten years with Philadelphia. He was a native of Qualls OK, while Mantle was a native of Spavinaw and moved to Commerce. Callison led the National League in outfield assists four straight times. He had 840 career RBIs.
If Gene Mauch is calling for the "double switch" today, he's doing it from heaven. He left us in 2005, having never won a pennant despite his genius and longevity. He managed four big league teams from 1960 to 1987. His tenure with Philadelphia was from 1960 to 1968. Yes, he kept the reins even in the wake of the epic 1964 collapse. 
Mauch would later be the inaugural manager of the Montreal Expos. He managed our Minnesota Twins in disco (and inflation) times of 1976 through 1980. He had a reputation for provoking opposing teams with taunting. He had a strong temperament but he sure couldn't will that '64 Phillies team out of its funk. He had the nickname "Little General." He got close to the World Series on three occasions. He was the manager for two of the longest losing streaks in history: 23 with the 1961 Phillies and 20 with those '69 Expos.
The Expos' streak caused the media to remind everyone of the '64 Phillies collapse.
 
Mauch with our Twins
Mauch had a winning record with the 1976 Minnesota Twins, when Calvin Griffith was still the owner. The '76 Twins went 85-77 and were third in the A.L. West. However, the Twins inspired little enthusiasm among the populace. Our fan turnout of 715,394 was the lowest total in the American League. It was the third straight year for Minnesota to have the fewest fans. Amazing.
Frankly, the Twins had become passe in the eyes of the state's boomer fans, who were giddy about the Vikings and made the soccer Kicks a part of their trend-conscious lifestyle. But the Twins? We seemed to yawn, inexplicably, I'd argue.
Our Metropolitan Stadium was always a wonderful place to enjoy baseball. We had gotten spoiled. We had so much success with our Twins in the 1960s. The euphoria of 1961 when the Twins began, was gone. We were so fortunate having the Twins. And we were still a winner in 1976. In 1979 we went 82-80 for fourth in the A.L. West but we were only six games behind champion California.
But in 1980 we faded to 19 1/2 games behind Kansas City. Bring on the Metrodome! Metropolitan Stadium's history was about to conclude. And today we have Target Field in downtown Minneapolis, a state of the art place. We have gone light years from the Minneapolis Millers (Triple-A) days. Dave Moore may have waxed nostalgic about those Millers but I doubt many others did. Nicollet Park! I'd venture to say it was a dump.
The Twins and Vikings came into existence in 1961 and the rest is history for us doted-upon boomers.
How we loved the Twins in the '60s, just like Walsh loved his Phillies. The table was set for heartbreak. We lost in Game 7 of the '65 World Series vs. Sandy Koufax, who had to keep an eye on the calendar for Jewish holidays. We lost at the end of the '67 regular season and felt crushed, exactly how Phils fans felt at the end of '64.
Walsh wrote that "1964 ingrained something insidious in my brain - something defeatist."
It's too bad a mere sport can have such a hold on us. The '94 strike cured a lot of that for me. But we never become detached from our childhood.
Perhaps a novel could be written about the '65 World Series in which the Twins heroically get to Koufax at the end of Game 7.
"And the crowd goes wild." But it didn't happen. Life goes on.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, October 24, 2013

1968 "Year of the Pitcher": It had to be stopped

Luis Tiant allowed a .168 batting avg. in 1968.
The number of shutouts by MLB pitchers in 1968: 339, nearly double the 1962 total.
 
"My pitching philosophy is simple: Keep the ball away from the bat." - Satchel Paige
 
You might think Sandy Koufax adjusted his mechanics to become a great pitcher. He definitely turned the corner from being a more pedestrian pitcher. Was it a case of maturing and learning?
A book by the late David Halberstam once informed us that another big factor was in play. He wrote that the umpires started calling the high fastball a strike.
The powers-that-be in Major League Baseball adjust the balance between offense and defense by tinkering with the strike zone. Force a pitcher to "groove it in there," and greater offense results.
We all shed tears (of emotion) over the Billy Crystal movie "61*," but we should realize the aberrational offense of 1961 had consequences. Those noisy bats appeared to contribute to a strike zone alteration putting the pitcher in better shape. The consequences weren't seen overnight. But the pendulum was swinging the hurlers' way.
Roger Maris hit 61 home runs in 1961. Less famous but just as aberrational was Norm Cash's .361 batting average. Something was definitely up in that 1961 season. The theory has also been offered of corked bats (i.e. of umps looking the other way with regard to these).
The Minnesota Twins were in their first season in 1961. We weren't really knocking the cover off the ball in that season. We were still in sort of a hangover from our Washington D.C. years. Calvin Griffith's franchise came here for a reason in 1961 - to shake those blues. The New York Yankees continued their dynasty up through 1964. The dynasty may have officially ended when Harmon Killebrew hit a home run against them just before the all-star break in 1965.
You would think Maris with his 61 home runs in '61 would be in the Hall of Fame. But the rest of his career was just too lackluster. Some in fact clamor that he should be in the Hall anyway. He had a habit of getting into the World Series, with St. Louis (often forgotten) as well as New York. He had defensive prowess. It wouldn't bother me if he got in.
But in '61 ol' Rodg appeared to be taking advantage of an unusual climate in Major League Baseball.
The American League had grown from eight teams to ten. This prompts the obvious theory that pitching was "watered down." It has become a knee-jerk analysis but I don't buy it completely. It seems too simple. Is there that much of a drop-off from baseball's best pitchers? Enough for a guy to hit over 60 home runs, or for Mr. Cash to bat a stupefying .361?
Cash of Detroit was a pretty typical power type of hitter for most of his career, bearing no resemblance whatsoever to the likes of Rod Carew. The .361 average was Carew-like.
 
Change strike zone, see change happen
OK, what happened after that 1961 season was: The size of the strike zone was increased from the top of the batter's shoulders to the bottom of his knees.
Halberstam, whose book was simply called "1964," wrote that the high fastball was made a strike. But if it's high, how can it be a strike? Those poor batters. Pitchers like Koufax and St. Louis' Bob Gibson just mowed hitters down, pouring their "smoke" into that stretched strike zone. I suspect most fans were just mystified.
Maybe if you're the kind of fan who likes 1-0 soccer games, you liked what ensued through the 1960s. I suspect most fans didn't. The people who ran big league baseball had tweaked that delicate balance of power between offense and defense. I'm sure in their back-room meetings, they know how delicate it is. All of the ramifications weren't seen right away. In 1968 they were very much in view for everyone. It came to be called "the year of the pitcher."
It got so bad, I wonder why MLB didn't make adjustments before the season was over. Don Drysdale put together an incredible streak of innings in which he was unscored-upon. We are reminded of this in the movie "Bobby" about the assassination of RFK at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. A kitchen worker is excited over his tickets to a game in which Drysdale will throw.
Denny McLain won 31 games pitching for Detroit. That number is comparable to Marris' 61 in '61. but there was never any talk of an asterisk. (Apparently the asterisk stuff with Maris is just legend anyway.)
We later learned that McLain was one of those poor souls born with criminal proclivities. He couldn't shake that even though he could have made a very good living just being Denny McLain. Bowie Kuhn would later write that it was odd, because it was incongruous to think of an individual with the talent and work ethic to be a pro athlete also being a criminal.
It's not as if McLain was a white collar criminal, the type many of us are inclined to forgive - admit it - he was an unsavory type of criminal showing base behavior. Yet he won 31 games in '68 which was an unheard-of accomplishment. Bob Short would eventually make a terrible trade for McLain in Washington D.C.
Oh, and McLain was a musician too! Remember how he endorsed the Hammond organ? Musicians aren't supposed to be criminals either. We are so human an animal.
Bob Gibson fashioned an ERA of 1.12 in 1968. He probably took it personally every time he gave up a run. That ERA was the lowest in 54 years, and he set a World Series record with 17 strikeouts in Game 1. Mickey Lolich of Detroit won three complete games in the '68 World Series. Three complete games! What a different universe baseball was. No talk of "setup man" and "closers."
Luis Tiant of Cleveland had a 1.60 ERA in the American League. He allowed a batting average of .168 - a record. Drysdale's unscored-upon streak went to 58 2/3 innings. Catfish Hunter of Oakland threw the first perfect game in the A.L. in 12 years. Just one batter in the A.L. had an average over .300: Carl Yastrzemski, who barely eclipsed that mark.
The A.L.'s slugging average of .340 was the lowest since 1915 (the dead-ball era). The A.L.'s cumulative batting average of .231 was an all-time low. Yes, there was a problem.
Pitchers had everything figured out. It was time to humble them and juice up the game. I would argue the change was belated. But it happened following that "year of the pitcher," and it had the MLB rules committee rolling up its sleeves. The strike zone was reduced - the most obvious step.
It didn't stop there, as the mound was lowered from 15" to 10". (That's "inches," for all you Spinal Tap fans.) Jim Bouton would joke in his book "Ball Four" about how some players blamed their slump on this. But the hitters were truly a beneficiary.
You might say pitchers were "brought down to earth." Fans didn't notice the details. We just saw the results.
Pitchers with a three-ball count were going to have to take some mustard off their next delivery, lest they have a baserunner at first with a walk. A batter could dig in. Indeed, the 1969 averages climbed back to historical levels. Pitching would never again be so dominant. Those soccer aficionados who appreciated negligible scoring could just stick with soccer.
We in Minnesota actually experienced a significant phase in our history with the Minnesota Kicks soccer team. But we never let go of our Minnesota Twins.
The Twins in 1967 had the most heartbreaking season in team history. Bring on the "year of the pitcher." The 1968 Twins story was a 79-83 W/L record which put them in seventh place. Cesar Tovar handled the pitching dominance quite fine as he was second in the league in hits with 167. He was third in runs with 89. Tony Oliva stayed quite sharp in his hitting but fell below .300. His .289 was actually superb as it was third in league. Oh, if Tony only could have stayed healthy his whole career.
Harmon Killebrew was injured in the All-Star Game and missed much of the rest of the season. He hit 17 home runs and had 40 RBIs.
Four of our pitchers won ten or more games: Dean Chance (16-16), Jim Kaat (14-12), Jim Merritt (12-16) and Dave Boswell (10-13). Boswell was the guy who would get into a fistfight with Manager Billy Martin. Kaat won his seventh Gold Glove in 1968.
Killebrew was one of three Twins in the All-Star Game, joined by Carew and Oliva. The All-Star Game seemed a much bigger deal in those days, when our opportunity to see non-Twins stars on TV was much more limited (the limited reach of television compared to today).
Minnesota had the fourth highest attendance in the American League, of 1,143,257. Metropolitan Stadium still stood there like a grand castle on the Bloomington prairie.
 
The outside world in '68
We as a nation faced much bigger problems in 1968 than the dominance of pitching. The North Viet Nam and Viet Cong troops launched the Tet Offensive. The Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia. War protests swelled in the western world. The assassination of Martin Luther King led to violence and race riots.
U.S. soldiers massacred men, women and children in My Lai. LBJ announced he would not seek re-election. "Bobby" got shot in Los Angeles.
In the non-tragic side of the ledger we had the first Big Mac going on sale for 49 cents. The Beatles recorded "Hey Jude." Moviegoers took in "The Graduate," "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," "Bonnie and Clyde" and "Planet of the Apes." (Shouldn't Charlton Heston have been suspicious when he noticed that all the monkeys were speaking English?)
The Doors recorded "Hello, I Love You," and Simon and Garfunkel gave us "Mrs. Robinson." Will Smith was born!
 
Rocky season for our Harmon
Our beloved Hall of Famer-to-be Harmon Killebrew began 1968 as a prosecution witness in a case where his name was being used to sell stocks in Idaho, unknown to him.
Killebrew felt the wrath of the "year of the pitcher." Yes, he made the all-star team but he had an anemic .204 average at the all-star break, with 13 home runs. He started at first base for the A.L. all-stars. He admitted being embarrassed by his selection. We would have been so much better off had he not made the trip to Houston. In the third inning he stretched for a ball thrown by shortstop Jim Fregosi, his foot slipped and he did the splits. He ruptured his left medial hamstring and was carried off the field on a stretcher.
It was a career-threatening injury, but after missing six weeks he returned to limited action. After seven months of rehab, he was still in pain but he rebounded to have his best season in 1969.
Of course the pitching had been diminished for that '69 campaign which was the first with East and West divisions. The Twins with Martin as skipper won the West in 1969.
 
A player we ought to remember better
I'd like to acknowledge an unheralded Twins player from the mid to late 1960s. He's Ted Uhlaender, an outfielder who was solid if unspectacular in his contribution. He came through with a .283 average in that year of the pitcher. He had 138 hits, 21 doubles, five triples, seven home runs, 52 RBIs and 16 stolen bases in '68. His stats were similar in 1969.
Ted was fleet of foot and manned the center field position. I remember the Twins broadcasters always mentioning that he was from McAllen TX (way down south). He was traded to Cleveland in 1970 and played his final year in big league ball in '72 with Cincinnati. He batted lefty. His last name takes a little practice to type. It's too bad he couldn't break through to some stardom somehow.
Ted Uhlaender passed away in 2009 at age 69. He was signed by the Twins in 1961, our first year. Ted Uhlaender, RIP. Harmon Killebrew, RIP.
Those were exciting years of baseball for Minnesota's then-young boomer population. We were emotionally invested. Players hadn't yet gotten all that leverage for huge contracts. For the best ones, it didn't matter because they could parlay their names into great riches in the future, going to card shows etc. That's all Denny McLain would have needed to do. But his DNA was of a common criminal right out of film noir. A shame.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, October 17, 2013

1962 Minnesota Twins: Pinocchio becomes real boy

Image from The Trading Card Database
The image at left is of a baseball card from a breakfast cereal box! I most likely had this card in my collection. - B.W.
 
One of the missions of my online writing has been to remind people of the Met Stadium chapter of Twins' history.
Our baseball team has played outside, inside and then outside again. We're told today there's no substitute for outdoor baseball. And yet the Twins won their two world championships when playing under that Teflon roof. Who knows when we'll flirt with that accomplishment again.
It was an accomplishment just to have big league baseball here in 1961. The 1961 season was significant because it was the first. The 1965 season was significant because it brought us our first pennant. In between there was a season of note that has no automatic place in historical annals. I'd like to remind fans of the thrills brought in 1962. The Calvin Griffith organization climbed to great heights that season, having thoroughly escaped the lows seen when the organization was still in Washington D.C.
We were so fortunate to have such quality here.
Why is the '62 team not as well-remembered as it should be? Let's look at the structure of baseball. The American League had expanded from eight to ten teams. But alas, those were the days when only one team from each league went on to the post-season. We jumped from the regular season to the World Series. It hardly seemed fair to a number of high-quality teams. The New York Yankees still had their sheen of dynasty. They were getting older but they still had pennant-winning talent.
In 1962 we were just one year removed from Roger Maris' 61-homer season. Mickey Mantle was playing hard and drinking hard. Meanwhile our Minnesota Twins were surging, just not well enough to close the gap with the Yankees. But we were close. In 1962 the Twins won 91 games and lost 71. We were second in the new ten-team A.L., behind the Yankees by just five games. Our attendance was also second-best in the A.L., coming in at 1,433,116.
Second place teams were total bridesmaids in those days. We had no choice but to just celebrate our regular season success. The Twins still had their new-car smell in the perception of giddy Minnesotans. We had a manager, Sam Mele, who would lead us to that 1965 pennant.
 
Mele picks up from Lavagetto
Mele began as manager in June of 1961. He took over from the fired Cookie Lavagetto. Lavagetto had become manager in 1957 when the team was the Senators. The Senators were in last place and weren't about to escape that status soon. Griffith's organization finished last in 1957, 1958 and 1959. The atmosphere must have been like what we saw with the fictional "New York Knights" in the movie "The Natural" before "Roy Hobbs" (Robert Redford) showed up. Consider Lavagetto to be like Wilford Brimley.
Finally in 1960, the Senators made some strides under "Cookie," rising to fifth place in the then-eight-team league. The improvement came too late to save the franchise in Washington D.C. The Griffiths packed up and headed west to Minnesota, anointed as heroes, pushing Minnesota to big league status. 
We also welcomed the Vikings in 1961. I was kindergarten age. The oldest of the boomers were 15 years old. We were a demographic wave that would guarantee success for big league sports.
In 1961, the new-car smell was all that would matter. In that inaugural season, the Twins struggled with a 70-90 record and finished seventh. Our attendance was third of the ten teams. We were in ninth place when Lavagetto took a seven-game leave in early June. He would return but he was fired on June 23. The Twins were still in ninth, to be led henceforth by Mele.
Lavagetto was in that generation of players that had to sacrifice a portion of their career for World War II. Lavagetto missed four full seasons! Our nation pays tribute.
"Cookie" had a playing career highlighted by a double that ruined Bill Bevens' no-hit bid in game 4 of the 1947 World Series. That double, delivered as a pinch-hitter, helped give his Brooklyn Dodgers a win over the Yankees in a game that came to be remembered as "the Cookie game."
As manager with the Griffiths, Lavagetto languished with a 271-384 record (.414). Let's consider that a footnote under his wartime service. Stars like Ted Williams and Bob Feller made the same sacrifice. 
 
A trade fuels turnaround
Sam Mele guided our Twins through a turnaround from 1961 to 1962. The team announced its first major trade on April 2 of 1962. We said goodbye to pitcher Pedro Ramos. Ramos went to Cleveland in exchange for Vic Power and Dick Stigman.
Vic Power! The flashy first baseman had a lot to do with the Twins' early success. You might think Harmon Killebrew set the pace in that regard. You might think Hammerin' Harmon was the Roy Hobbs of the early days of the Twins franchise. The stats show the then-young Harmon definitely had impact. But you'll be startled to know that of the four all-stars from the Twins in '62, Harmon wasn't one of them! Instead we had Rich Rollins, Earl Battey, Jim Kaat and Camilo Pascual getting the nod.
Killebrew had a slow start in '62. He struck out a career-high 142 times that season. Trade rumors circulated. Some fans dismissed him as "Harmless Harmon." Never known to hit for a high average, Harmon batted .243 in 1962, in that pre-Bill James time when batting average got great emphasis relative to other stats.
Killebrew definitely got his homer bat going as the 1962 summer progressed. He hit 31 home runs over the last 81 games and finished with 48 total. Hardly harmless. Certainly all-star material. Harmon drove in 126 runs. He was tops in the A.L. in homers and RBIs. Not Mickey Mantle, rather Harmon Killebrew. The Twins were on their way.
"The Killer's" homer blasts had fans awestruck, but the first base playing style of Vic Power had as much to do with the team's success as anything. He was flamboyant. His trademark was to field the ball one-handed. It was a style that optimized flexibility. Eventually it would be used widely.
We were fortunate to be part of Power's playing history. He was a significant and unique figure, the second Puerto Rican of African descent to play in Major League Baseball. He was signed by the Yankees in 1951. Players of dark skin had to advance in fits and starts. Power dealt with this climate and was hurt by it. As a member of the Kansas City Blues of the American Association in 1952, Power batted .331 and led the league in doubles and triples. He batted .349 the next season in the same league. But Power didn't even get a spring training invite in either '52 or '53.
Power had style, personality and character, "character" being defined the way the bartender did in "It's a Wonderful Life," speaking to the angel. Power had a sharp wit and deadpan humor, much of it directed at racism and segregation. Baseball was hesitant about promoting a black man with these qualities. Power would be no more welcome than that angel at the bar counter. The bartender, played by Sheldon Leonard, said "we serve customers here who want to get drunk fast." And Major League Baseball was looking for dark-skinned players who carried themselves in a conservative, unobtrusive way.
Sensing the roadblock for Vic Power, blacks and Puerto Ricans protested in front of Yankee Stadium. How fun it would have been to see Power show that flashy style as a younger man, his whole career ahead of him, at Yankee Stadium - the pinnacle of baseball accomplishment. What a story it could have been.
We still got a heckuva story out of Vic Power. But he would come to be associated with backwater baseball places, which, honestly, Minnesota was in its early history. The Yankees opted to have the mild Elston Howard as their first black player. We wrinkle our foreheads as we reflect today. 
 
Vic Power: Twins' MVP in '62
The Gold Glove award was created in 1958. Power won this award for first base from '58 to 1964. He was an all-star for Kansas City (then the Athletics) in 1955 and '56, and for Cleveland in '59 and '60. He was one of eleven players to steal home twice in a game. He made two unassisted double plays in a game. He struck out only 247 times in 6,046 at-bats. He was the Twins' Most Valuable Player in that important 1962 season.
I wrote during my print media career that it was a shame Power wasn't around for that pennant year of '65. He was a Twin from '62 to '64 and then became an Angel of Los Angeles, an expansion team.
Power was one of three Gold Glove honorees with the '62 Twins. Catcher Earl Battey and pitcher Jim Kaat were the other two.
On August 26, Jack Kralick pitched the first no-hitter for the Twins, beating Kansas City 1-0. 
We turned to a former Purdue University quarterback, Bernie Allen, to play second base. Alas, his rookie season ended up being his best. Third baseman Rich Rollins also faded after a terrific start to his career. He's remembered for his red hair as much as anything. The unforgettable Zoilo Versalles played shortstop. Mele considered it important to obtain Vic Power as a way of helping the young infielders whose throws could be erratic.
Vic Power didn't have the kind of power bat that teams normally seek for first basemen. But the Twins had plenty of power from elsewhere on the diamond. Killebrew was transitioned to outfield for the '62 season and would stay there two more seasons, playing in left which would be logical for someone of his limited acceleration. Center field was patrolled by Lenny Green who might be considered an underrated Twin.
A peer of mine in the Morris school, Gary Rose, reportedly traded away many of his valuable baseball cards to get a Lenny Green card, only to see Green get traded soon thereafter. A lesson in vagaries of the marketplace.
Many of us bought baseball cards, a nickel a pack, at the old Stark's Grocery, a neighborhood store located down the hill from the old East Elementary.
Bob Allison played right field. On July 18 he and Killebrew hit grand slam home runs in the same inning vs. Cleveland, making Minnesota the first team in the 20th Century to do this. Pinocchio, you're a real boy now. Long gone were the Minneapolis Millers of AAA.
Journeyman Bill Tuttle was an outfield hand with the '62 Twins. I remember him as looking sad on his baseball cards. Don Mincher was a first baseman showing power potential.
Dick Stigman was a valuable pitcher in 1962 and '63. Camilo Pascual's 206 strikeouts led the A.L. He became the first 20-game winner for the Twins in '62. Power's Gold Glove was his fifth. For catcher Earl Battey it was his third, and for up-and-comer Jim Kaat, his first. On April 3 of '62, Billy Martin got his release as a player from the Twins. Joe Bonikowski and Lee Stange were pitchers to watch.
Team MVP Power batted a nifty .290 with 16 home runs, 28 doubles and two triples. Undoubtedly that '62 season was bittersweet, with so many wins but only a bridesmaid's role in the American League race. Those Yankees finished 96-66 while Minnesota was 91-71.
Our AAA team in those days was the Vancouver Mounties.
A 1962 Twins yearbook today, with its picture of "the Met" on the cover, is reportedly worth $100 to $125. 
 
A dangerous world in 1962
I guess we were all lucky to even survive the year 1962. The Cuban missile crisis gripped us from October 22 to the 28th. 
Culturally the year was more of an extension of the '50s than the dawn of anything new. Remember the song "Duke of Earl?" This hit was heard on the radio in '62, given us by Gene Chandler.
We also heard "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" (the Tokens) as a hit that year. Oh, and it was the year of "The Twist" with Chubby Checker. Also, of "Soldier Boy" (the Shirelles) and "Sherry" (the Four Seasons).
The female sex symbols were Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, Audrey Hepburn, Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Loren, Doris Day, Annette Funicello and Kim Novak. (My friends would say I'm true to form in reporting that.)
Monroe's death that year would end up ensnarled in stories of the mob, JFK and RFK; and it was a baseball icon, Joe DiMaggio, who handled her funeral arrangements even though he and Marilyn were divorced in 1954.
The year 1962 saw the first Taco Bell restaurant open in Downey CA. The first computer video game, "Spacewar," was invented. Audio cassettes were born.
My father, the recently-deceased Ralph E. Williams, took the University of Minnesota-Morris men's chorus to the Seattle World's Fair (a.k.a. the Century 21 Exposition) to perform. The UMM chorus opened the "Minnesota Day" festivities there.
As a seven-year-old I was just beginning to discover lots of things including our Minnesota Twins.
Let's not forget Vic Power's role in our state's big league sports history. Let's not forget the 1962 Twins who today would be a highly-placed playoff team. Five games behind the dynastic Yankees? It was the stuff for a real toast in 1962, that time of Camelot.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, October 10, 2013

morris mn - essays at most pleasant time of year

A glimpse of autumn nature, out by Pomme de Terre North Lake. (B.W. photo)
Note to readers: "Morris of Course" is a companion website to my older site which is called "I Love Morris." Thanks a lot if you've visited both! Local sports reviews generally go on "I Love Morris." Because I have posted more frequently on sports this past fall, and because many of the sports reviews aren't particularly long, I have inserted some general interest commentary as sort of a post-script. If you are not interested in reading the game reviews, you may not have been aware of the unrelated stuff. Assuming you might be interested, I have assembled much of that here today on "Morris of Course," as sort of a compendium or potpourri or whatever you might want to call it. Why am I posting more often on sports? It is because of the often-sluggish performance of the local newspaper with its website.
 
Nice name for a lake - let's revive it? (posted October 2)
The "Lake Crissey" name has faded from general use through the years. I don't think it was ever cancelled. It's the name for what we would otherwise call "the Pomme de Terre reservoir." You know, it's that body of water out at Pomme de Terre City Park. It was once a state park. It once had a popular "earthen pool" right next to the river.
You see, "Lake Crissey" is a wide spot on the Pomme de Terre River. So is Pomme de Terre (or Perkins) Lake north of Morris, along with "Middle Pomme de Terre" and "Pomme de Terre North."
I have suggested before that "Pomme de Terre" gets used too much and thus we can get confusion. Whatever, the city park has wonderful aesthetic qualities that attract campers, walkers, bicyclists and everyone.
Our city park out there once had the name "Riverside Park." The local Kiwanis coined that name in the mid-1930s. The dam was not yet fully constructed. Oddly the name didn't catch on. Once the dam was fully up and running, the lake and beach became a magnet for people. The lake (or reservoir) took on the name "Lake Crissey." It was named for A.D. Crissey who was the region's state representative and who supported the creation of the dam and park.
It's a nice name, isn't it? It rolls off the tongue easily. It's nicer than "Pomme de Terre Reservoir," wouldn't you say?.
I first heard the name when I was doing an article for the local print media on the biking/walking trail. I was handed a map that had "Lake Crissey" on it. I was intrigued, asked a question or two, and got some background.
It turns out "Lake Crissey" had faded from popular use years earlier. Perhaps one reason is that this lake doesn't really seem like a lake. It doesn't seem quite big enough and it hasn't been used for swimming in a long time. There was some swimming there when I was a kid, enough to justify a diving raft. Today the feeling you get when visiting there, pleasant as it is, is that it's just a wide spot on the river.
So what? I would like to suggest here and now that "Lake Crissey" be fully restored as the name for this body of water. It's a reminder of our history. The City of Morris should put a sign up. How about it?
  
Whither old school property? (posted September 18)
The recent suggestion of an outdoor pool for the old school property should have many of us feeling like Bill Murray in "Groundhog Day."
I mean, the proposal has come up with regularity through the years. It's almost embarrassing because we can't seem to realize this goal. We eventually did realize the goal of an indoor ice arena. Perhaps we all take that for granted now. That's fine, but I remember well the days when hockey was kind of a "church mice" sport in Morris - a sandlot type of sport.
It was "mission accomplished" with the ice arena, our Lee Community Center, but the outdoor pool continues as kind of a mirage in our heads. It's a lofty idea or goal, and we have in fact flirted with success.
We had the "earthen pool" out at Pomme de Terre City Park for a time. It was all the rage when it opened but then it faded.
More recently we have gotten the "spray park" built at the city park. I don't know to what extent that has been successful. But I doubt many of us judge that as a substitute for a real outdoor pool. So we hear again that clarion call that a new pool is needed in Morris, an echo of many such cries through the years.
I remember writing a feature article about this for the local print media back in about 1980. I remember two female lobbyists showing up at a city council meeting. They much appreciated the attention I gave the subject. But there was no immediate action.
We eventually got that earthen pool. For some reason that couldn't get established for the long term. So a void is once again seen.
And now we hear the call for a new pool on the old school property. I'm not sure why we had to wait for this property to become available. I'm not even sure why the City of Morris ended up with the property dumped in its lap. But whatever, we're moving forward and now there's the high-profile suggestion of getting this new pool.
A good idea? Naturally, but it's much easier coming up with new ideas than paying for them.
Had the community really wanted this asset, why not initiate it at Green River Park? Green River is quite ideally located in terms of being convenient for residential neighborhoods. The old school property is on the northern end of town.
I'm skeptical about whether there's potential for any kind of development on the old school property. A new outdoor pool? Maybe it's worthy of looking at, but we as a community need to reach a resolution on this. Let's either get one or move on from this dream.
The suggestion has one feeling like Bill Murray (listening to Sonny and Cher at wakeup-time).
 
McDonald's not enough? (posted October 5)
I'm healthier today than I should be. I attempted to have my evening meal at McDonald's in Morris on Thursday and Friday nights, but I had to depart. Customers were crowding there. As I left on Friday, I noticed cars backed up for what seemed like a block from the drive-in window. Had I waited to be served, the wait would have been too long and uncomfortable.
I have noticed that sometimes McDonald's has only one cash register going when they should have two. A customer waiting in line behind me pointed this out once. Sometimes a customer will be at the counter being served a large and complicated order. It takes time.
So, maybe there should be benches for waiting, or maybe the place should operate like a traditional restaurant where you take your seat and get "waited on." At least you could sit and relax.
But McDonald's is "fast food." Problem is, fast food establishments are not as fast as they used to be. One reason is their menus have gotten larger. It's a trade-off: Do you want to emphasize speed of service or variety of selections? I don't know, but the glut of business that sometimes happens at our McDonald's is calling for some sort of remedy.
It was kind of sad Friday night, seeing this little oasis of a business with bright lights on the north end of town attracting such a crowd of people wanting a service, while the rest of the town seemed deader than a doornail. Something is out of whack in terms of supply and demand. 
Either we need a second fast-food restaurant, like we had for a while with Burger King, or McDonald's needs to expand or otherwise adjust its service for those "runs" of business.
A bus pulled in while I was there on Thursday. Buses are to be expected from time to time. Like any business, McDonald's should strive to serve all its customers in an effective way all the time. It's a community or Chamber of Commerce issue.
Bring back Burger King? Is it true our local McDonald's pulled certain strings to see that the Burger King would leave? That's fine as long as McDonald's can handle the demand henceforth. I'm not sure it can.
If anyone associated with our local McDonald's reads this, don't cuss or gnash your teeth. You should be thankful for people like me who care about your business.
"I'm lovin' it?" Well, not all the time.
Oh, what did I end up having for supper on Thursday and Friday nights? A bowl of Grape Nuts Flakes and whole wheat toast.
 
Fan mail from some flounder (posted September 13)
I was walking home from my breakfast at McDonald's the other morning when a car pulled up beside me and the window rolled down. This charming citizen informed me that in her view, the Morris newspaper isn't nearly as good as when I was there.
Obviously there is a lot I could say about this. The reason I have rolled up my sleeves of late writing about Tiger sports is that the newspaper has seemed to exude more lethargy than usual, certainly in terms of its website. If the coverage isn't later, it's minimal or skeletal. It might have originated from the Willmar newspaper.
I learned long ago that the Willmar paper is quite fallible when the Tigers play on the road. That's because the home team coaches call in.
But even if the material weren't fallible, we have kind of an empty feeling when our own Morris paper relies on material from Willmar. I assume the Morris paper has an employee who "gets in free" with a "press pass" for home games. Thus there's an expectation that the Morris paper will give a rip.
If this attitude is not forthcoming, then I have a theory as to why. I shared this with a sports parent at the Morris Public Library recently. The day may come when the newspaper pleads that it really can't do a good job without "sponsorship" (i.e. sponsorship specifically of sports coverage). I guarantee you this is their mindset these days.
And don't think my theory is outlandish. Who would have thought ten years ago that people would have to pay for obituaries? Today they do, by paying something like 50 bucks to the funeral home which then pays the paper.
We already have "sucker businesses" in Morris who pay to be in the paper's "sucker ads." This is the term used by some in the newspaper industry for those "ads" which are just a block of space with some benevolent or promotional theme at the top, and then you see lists of businesses below. I'm sure you know what I'm referring to.
Even the MACA sports schedules appear each season in a "sucker ad" form, with those tiny - yes, very tiny - boxes along the edge with businesses' names. If you have paid for such an ad, think of how you might spend this money better. You could give it to the Sports Boosters or the Morris Area School Foundation, where the money would have tangible results. You don't have to send it to Fargo where the newspaper is owned out of.
Just stop and think, please.
And most importantly, keep supporting the Tigers!
 
Should "visitors' comments" be re-visited? (posted September 7)
I'm starting to get the notion that our Morris Area school board will rue the day it began the "visitors' comments."
The public has historically not made a big deal of this, or at least that's my impression. Lately, though, I get the impression that "visitors' comments" might be becoming a forum in which parents with a variety of beefs are going to show up and hang them out to dry.
Free speech? Of course we have free speech. The question is process. Should anyone just be allowed to show up and squawk about something? This perhaps isn't even the crux of the problem.
The crux may be the inclination of a certain media business in Morris to highlight a "squawk" in its subsequent coverage, as if that item had the most gravity on that night. A parent will come and vent and then see that subject get headline treatment. The public observes and realizes this is a platform for getting grievances aired.
Which is fine, but grievances could get disproportionate attention in the scheme of things. We all know it's tremendously easy for school parents to develop their little gripes, not that they are all to be dismissed, of course, but it's impossible running a school to please everyone all the time.
Here's the danger I see now: A pattern of complaints getting disproportionate attention in the press, could get administrators discouraged, feeling under siege as it were. They might become jaded and cynical before their time. And we don't want them to have that kind of outlook. We want them to be cheery and idealistic as long as possible.
I have seen certain school administrators get worn down in my life. It's a daunting job they have. And I'm not sure school board members should have to sit there listening to comments on subjects that may not be under their direct purview. Many such comments ought to go directly to an administrator, perhaps via email, and get a response on those terms with no newspaper headline involved.
It is ridiculous that the school's most reasonable no-hat (in classroom) policy became a tempest in a teapot recently. A certain media manager in Morris greased the skids on that, crossing a line in terms of propriety, in my view. I don't think this community has been torn apart at all on the hat policy.
This pass-fail hubbub of late could probably be adjudicated without the public demonstration at the school board meeting. Parents who wish to speak for "visitors' comments" should perhaps at least be screened beforehand, to see if the subject is really proper for the board to listen to in such a formal setting.
Other than that, let's have a happy and successful new school year at MAHS!
 
Anniversary of infamy today (posted on September 11)
I'm writing this post on September 11, 2013. I remember showing up at the (now vacated) Morris Sun Tribune building on the morning of September 11, 2001, entering through the back which was typical, and being told a plane hit the World Trade Center (or "Twin Towers").
I remember being in New York City in the summer of 1972 and using my Kodak Instamatic to shoot a photo right from the base of the towers, which were at the time new and I don't think even fully implemented yet. It will be haunting to look at that photo.
Instamatics were the "camera for the masses" at that time and not real impressive. We're so spoiled today having digital cameras with quite fine quality, ease of operation and economy! Of course I don't have one yet. I always trail fairly far behind when it comes to technology. I use my Canon AE-1 35mm camera at Tiger football games. I feel rather like Paul Bunyan and his axe competing with the folks with chainsaws.
But I'm proud of my work.
I wrote a 9/11 remembrance post in 2011. Here is the permalink to that. Thank you for reading. - B.W.
 
Newspaper publishes paean (posted on September 20)
I noticed a feature article on a former superintendent in a recent Morris newspaper. I don't buy the paper but I can occasionally page through at a public place.
I saw a feature article on a fellow named Frank Fox. He is deceased.
I wondered at first if this was the first in a series of articles on former supers. That would be an interesting concept. I wrote a blog post at the time Dennis Rettke passed away, sharing some personal recollections and acknowledging what I felt were his strong points. All supers have strong points or they wouldn't have reached that level in their careers.
I'm starting to think the newspaper feature on Mr. Fox was a one-shot deal. It was written by someone not on the newspaper staff. Maybe someone with personal connections to Frank Fox just wanted to see this article, written as a paean, done. I don't blame them.
But I'm not sure that Fox, who really wasn't here that long (1947-56), needs to be put on a pedestal relative to any other supers. I suspect he worked in a time when people in his position had greater latitude to run the system, as opposed to a later time when unionization and the empowerment of unions created a quite different complexion.
I was in high school when a fellow named Fred Switzer was superintendent. I think Mr. Switzer had the misfortune of working in a time when the teachers union really had its claws out. I remember a time when the spectre of teacher strikes seemed to be looming quite regularly around Minnesota.
I remember attending a public discussion at the Grant County Fair, Herman, one year where an exasperated individual (I believe either an active or retired superintendent) talked about how teacher strikes were "tearing apart" small communities. Charlie Berg was part of that discussion, I recall.
Teachers unions still exist. But it seems the system has been tweaked so that their activities aren't as disruptive as they once were. Oh, we all love teachers. But we want to stay on an even keel.
Fred Switzer himself told me about the tremendous amount of time required to get every "i" dotted and "t" crossed in negotiations with teachers. I also seem to recall there was a nucleus or clique of teachers here - I could name names but I won't - who were aggressive and parochial on these matters, pursuing sort of a scorched-earth policy vs. that big bad administration (and board).
Working under these circumstances, it would have been impossible for Mr. Switzer to have wrapped up his career here drawing such warm feelings as did Mr. Frank Fox (evidently).
I would say Mr. Switzer was a "maligned" superintendent. Which means that he got criticism but that much of it was undeserved or overstated. He was here a long time. I think he knew the ropes.
It is true that some phases of extracurricular declined during Fred's tenure. Even here I'm not sure he deserves much if any of the blame. Schools were going through retrenchment that meant they'd have to bite the bullet and allow volunteers to play a bigger role, especially with elementary athletics.
Morris dragged its feet on this, and it was that nucleus of activist and parochial teachers, that I have already alluded to, that bears the blame. Volunteers were anathema to all their aims. I'm quite sure that if a volunteer were walking down a school hallway and said "hello," many of the teachers wouldn't say anything back.
I think this climate has been addressed now. The MACA extracurricular is right in line with other schools, maybe superior. But it was a tough battle to fight for a long time. I was there. I was at that sports banquet/program of infamy back in about 1987. Many of you not familiar might not even believe me, if I were to tell you bout it. It's not a "tale from the crypt" but it's close.
Mr. Switzer should get his due. Maybe the newspaper can continue a series of profiles of former supers. It's really a pretty good idea. That paean about Frank Fox was quite fine. Now let's see some more.
 
What's in a name? (posted October 4)
The Washington D.C. team of the National Football League has always given us interesting stories. The current one has to do with the nickname. 
That name has the same unsavory air as the "Charlie Chan" movies. You know, those Charlie Chan movies that now appear to have been blackballed, all because a certain cable movie channel once announced plans for a "Charlie Chan Marathon." There was a tempest of a reaction, just like when Trent Lott opined that America would be better off if Strom Thurmond, the old Dixiecrat, had been elected president.
Old westerns are treading rough water in terms of still having circulation among the public or getting on television, "marathon" or not. The Washington D.C. team of the NFL is of course called the "Redskins." The name is right out of an old John Wayne type of western, right in there with other terms like "pale face" and phenomena like smoke signals and "Indians lining up on the hill" (ready to charge and scream).
No doubt there was conflict and misery in the old west. But to take a term like "redskins" and attach it to a contemporary sports team, making Native Americans a sheer mascot, is unacceptable in the year 2013.
I remember when Charlie Berg, a long-time politician from West Central Minnesota, used the term "smoke signals" in a quote of note. Berg has an uncanny talent for delivering the quotable quote. He even continued that during the big local protest vs. the proposed jail in Stevens County.
He once talked about how his constituents might get lost trying to find a big league sports stadium in Minneapolis. Dick Guindon of the Star Tribune did a cartoon on this, showing Berg delivering this statement not in the capitol but in a nearby church cathedral (i.e. with dome), because he had gotten lost.
Remember Guindon? He did the famous cartoon of Minnesota kids "walking to school backwards" against a wind in mid-winter, part of the panorama of our (beloved) Minnesota lifestyle.
"Redskins" should be ushered aside. The new name for the Washington D.C. franchise should be "Red Tails," honoring the Tuskegee Airmen. This suggestion is being put forth strongly vs. the stubborn owner of the team.
When I was a kid, the Washington NFL team was known as the "over the hill gang," a group of older players who were more than the sum of their parts, coached by the eccentric George Allen. I believe Allen eventually got blackballed from the league because, legend has it, he made a coaching decision based on the (gambling) pointspread for a game. That's an utter no-no.
The Redskins also gave us the ungodly sight of Joe Theismann experiencing a compound fracture in the leg on national TV.
The Redskins also made it clear through Doug Williams that African-Americans, lest there be any doubt, could man the quarterback position with 100 per cent capability and acceptance. It took a while.
Today the Washington quarterback is the African-American "R.G. III" who has found himself in controversy not because of his skin color, but because he was likely exposed to unreasonable risk of aggravated serious injury in last year's playoffs, perhaps jeopardizing the rest of his career.
The "Redskins" name might be the least of the NFL's problems now, as the revelations keep coming on the unacceptable health risks all players have playing the game.
Go Vikings? I couldn't care less.
 
Media happenings (posted September 24)
Looking at the want ads in the Morris newspaper, it looks as though turnover is happening at the Morris newspaper.
It is my opinion that the newspaper is not a pleasant work environment.
We all know changes are happening with newspapers. The Internet has been a highly disruptive force for this medium. This is a good development for the general public but it creates obvious stress with the print media. Newspapers no longer have the entitled position they once did. They are trying to preserve whatever niche they have left.
Technology has allowed more work to be consolidated, to be done in central locations (like with Detroit Lakes, relative to the Morris newspaper). History books may someday tell us that networked computers were the biggest job killers of all time.
The Morris newspaper is owned by a chain which means it can harness all of the current trends. Does that mean it puts out a better product? Heavens no. But it can use synergy to cut costs.
Being an employee in a business that aggressively seeks to cut costs means watching your back. The modern corporation works the numbers constantly to optimize profit. Employees are statistics.
The heroes in the movie "Moneyball" (Brad Pitt) weren't the players. Rather we saw the cutting-edge approach with numbers analysis, using computers, trumping all the judgment that the scouts once made. It was a numbers proposition. You plugged in certain players that together had the odds favor them vs. most opponents.
But it wasn't about the players, not about their hopes, their dreams or their families. It was about the numbers and ultimately the money.
I don't know all the details about what is happening at the Morris Sun Tribune. I could scrounge around but have felt no strong impulse to do so. I suspect there is an atmosphere of instability and never reaching a status quo that can be comfortable for an indefinite period.
Should we care? Historically we have felt we should care about the stability of our newspapers. But that was when papers were in their entitled era, when they performed functions that couldn't easily be duplicated in any other way in the community. We have come light years from that.
People can get information at the micro level from their computer. The systems may have been a little specialized at first. The average layman might have been a little slow catching on to it.
I remember about seven years ago telling a friend that my photos were being posted on the Morris Eagles baseball website. This individual, who had a good education and worked at the soils lab, said "how do you find it?"
The average person is far more well-versed today "finding stuff" on the world wide web. Search engines are anything but a mystery. (We can be nostalgic about "Alta Vista.")
"Friday Facts" from our Morris Area Chamber of Commerce is getting better continually, as a bulletin board for upcoming events in our community.
I have continually needled the school district about how it should make its website more of a PR and outreach tool to the whole community. I have continually needled businesses in Morris to quit supporting those "sucker ads" in the Morris newspaper, which simply extract money from businesses with no tangible return.
Old habits fade slowly. Let's hasten the process.
I'm delighted to perform journalism with no need for a printing press. It's the year 2013. If you are going to spend money on advertising in print, then do it with Heather Storck's "Morris Area Merchant" publication. It's entirely local in its orientation. It doesn't exist to serve Fargo, ND.
 
In the days before Peyton Manning (posted September 27)
"The Book of Manning" is a much-promoted special on ESPN these days. I remember Archie Manning not as the revered patriarch but as a young quarterback coming out of Ole Miss, much heralded.
It seems we'll never know how good ol' Archie could have been. His pro career was quite full, lasting 14 years. You'd think at some point he'd be part of a team that could assemble winning pieces. Instead, he seemed destined to play in situations where his talent was held back. Clearly this is how football history portrays him.
Many of us might not remember he had a stint with our Minnesota Vikings. He came here in a celebrated trade, joined by Dave Casper who was another huge name. I remember the Star Tribune headline word for word: "Vikings get Manning, Casper in trade." It made our jaws drop.
Trades involving big names often aren't what they seem. Players get nicked up through the years. Far from leading Bud Grant's Vikings to the summit, the pair limped along in a mostly forgettable phase.
What fun it would have been had Manning been in top form at quarterback and led the Vikings to some glory. Maybe he was just disoriented being north of the Mason-Dixon Line. This was a man of the very Deep South having played for Ole Miss and then the New Orleans Saints.
As a Viking I recall him getting sacked often and violently, so much so, I remember Del Sarlette saying that the sight of Manning at the end of a sack was like Beetle Bailey having just been beat up by Sarge.
I also remember a "highlight scene" where Manning, on the run, made an awkward and inappropriate, for him, underhand pass attempt. It was a blooper candidate.
Manning's time with the Vikings isn't recalled in ESPN's "The Book of Manning." Today his reputation is probably inflated. Minus the wins, we just can't assume how good he really was. His sons carry the football banner to be sure.
Peyton threw seven touchdown passes in the season opener. The previous pro QB to do that? It was Joe Kapp of our Minnesota Vikings. Yes, I remember Kapp as something other than an old man getting into a fight with another old man in a YouTube video.
Kapp threw seven touchdown passes on September 28, 1969, in a 52-14 win over Baltimore (the Colts, not the Ravens). His feat was on a warm Sunday afternoon at Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington. Kapp threw passes to 12 different teammates that day.
Jim Souhan sketches a history of Vikings quarterbacks in his column today (9/27). He might have written more about the season when the position was up for grabs among three players. I remember that season well because it was the first when I really followed pro football and the Vikings. It's not so much that I reached a certain age, it was more of a case that we had just gotten the "able cable" (cable TV).
Coach Grant had acquired Norm Snead in the off-season. Many of us assumed that the well-established Snead would take over. Grant wasn't completely sold. Knowledgable friends told me Snead threw over the middle too much to suit Grant, who was very risk-averse. Remember, the rules didn't favor passing in those days so much as today.
Grant set up a three-way competition for the starting quarterback job. Gary Cuozzo was in this along with Bob Lee, who also punted. Lee had an advantage of height and stature. He ended up winning out.
Those were the days of the heralded "purple people," when our defense could really apply a vise. Alan Page was a long ways from showing his sober wisdom as a Minnesota Supreme Court justice. He was a supreme lineman, not always quite on the same page with the stoic Grant.
Us boomers have fond memories. We have seen many quarterbacks come and go since. For the record, Archie Manning is in there, unfortunately as a footnote, perhaps worthy of a Beetle Bailey cartoon.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, October 7, 2013

That amazing 1967 American League pennant race

Image from "Classic Minnesota Twins" blog
Once upon a time our Minnesota Twins played on the Bloomington prairie. We saw a billboard sign as we approached the stadium, proclaiming Bloomington "Minnesota's fourth largest city." A friend of mine sniffed at that, saying Bloomington wouldn't even exist were it not for Minneapolis-St. Paul. No point quibbling about that.
Metropolitan Stadium was originally the home of the AAA Minneapolis Millers, about the best minor league team you could find. But my, Minneapolis-St. Paul was oh so ready for the big leagues. The Twins were born and we won the pennant in 1965.
Boomers like me remember Sam Mele as the early manager. Technically he wasn't the first. Cookie Lavagetto is a trivia answer now.
Owner Calvin Griffith called on Mele to replace Lavagetto in mid-1961. It would be a long run. Mele had the reins for the Twins' storied World Series campaign of 1965. The Dodgers' Sandy Koufax stood in the way of the absolute summit.
Mele and football's Bud Grant became like father figures to us boomer males, pillars with their leadership.
But pro sports are a rough and tumble world with capriciousness. Griffith wasn't about to get out his checkbook just because the team had soared to great heights. We remember Calvin - often the reference was just with his first name - as a curmudgeonly throwback. Baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn, in his autobiography, described the Griffiths as "church mice" with their resources. It wasn't an atmosphere conducive to getting pro players to be totally happy and committed, much as us fans desperately wanted them to be.
Our hearts got broken.
In 1967 the Twins appeared to be at least as good as in 1965. Talent and reputation had no shortcomings.
But, there were chinks in the armor early in that season. Mele became sort of a fall guy. It comes with the territory in managing. Mele was fired in early June of 1967.
There were morale issues. One had to do with whether the venerable Mele would be eligible for a World Series share. The veterans were sympathetic to the guy, but their argument didn't carry the day.
Those were days when the owners could truly be nickel and diming. Players hadn't gained their empowerment yet. An analogous situation today might be NCAA Division I football players, who are steadily getting restless and turning to possible legal remedies. In baseball we had the Curt Flood case. The college football remedy appears inevitable.
It seems quaint to reflect on major league baseball as it existed in 1967. We were far from the tech revolution that would allow fans to follow sports through myriad media channels. Money didn't seem to be the be-all and end-all. For example, World Series games were played in daytime as a matter of principle. Principle? The word might not even cross the lips of the sports movers and shakers of today. It's a Machiavellian world. So let's step into the time machine and go back to 1967 and get a taste of a previous era.
It's not hard to feel nostalgia about 1967. But we have to blot out one thing: the Viet Nam War. The war was arguably at its worst in that year. Us boomers were ready to object to that war with every fiber of our energy. Still, ordinary life had to go on. We followed the Minnesota Twins as if they were going to follow the same route as in 1965: to the World Series. Without the extraneous issues brought about by ownership's penny-pinching, we could well have celebrated that summit. The Twins of '67 were boffo with their talent. They might as well have pulled away from other contenders. Instead we got one of the most suspenseful pennant races in history.
Had the Twins won, I'm sure whole books would be written for the Minnesota audience. I might not have to write this post as a reminder of that season. Pro sports are wild with the pendulum of fate. Can't we all imagine Gary Anderson's field goal try going through the uprights (vs. Atlanta)?
 
Meet Cal Ermer, man of (possible) destiny
We had a manager for the bulk of the '67 season, Cal Ermer, who is remembered today as a minor league fixture. The '67 summer was his big chance to find the limelight. He's a trivia answer today. He would not be a trivia item, had his Twins won just once over their final two games. The scene was Fenway Park, Boston. The Twins and Red Sox were two of the four teams scrapping desperately down the stretch. It was suspenseful but not artful. Chris Jaffe wrote that the four teams "fought like junkyard dogs."
With a week left, all were within a game of first. From September 15 until the last day of the season, all were within two games of each other.
"High noon" arrived at Fenway for those last two games. I remember.
Us boomers of Minnesota had an emotional tie with our Minnesota Twins. Being a fan seemed more emotional then than today. We rarely saw teams other than the Twins on TV. TV broadcasts could be crude, often with no center field camera position (which we take for granted today). The broadcasters weren't as analytical about baseball as they are today. You might call it vapid banter, the equivalent of what we saw on the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. The media tailored their products for a mass audience. Thus the "least common denominator" often ruled.
Halsey Hall entertained us as we followed that incredible '67 pennant race. Hall was as much a throwback as Griffith. We loved him. He came to Morris in 1969 to help honor our native son Jerry Koosman (pitcher with the Mets). He joked about whether Koosman's "key to the city" would open a certain establishment across the street which was of course the liquor store. We laughed about alcohol consumption in those days. I suspect Calvin Griffith enjoyed his afternoon cocktail.
  
"Yaz" vs. Kaat at the end
The stage was set with those final two games left in 1967: Twins vs. Red Sox.
Carl Yastrzemski, the iconic Red Sox star, was 28 years old and patrolling left field at Fenway. He was a total clutch performer in 1967.
It's now forgotten that Jim Kaat was a similarly clutch performer for the Twins in that stretch drive. Kaat had a super September with a 7-0 record, 65.7 innings pitched and a 1.51 ERA. His arm was overworked. He had to leave the game on Saturday when the first of those two fateful games were played. He injured his elbow and exited in the third inning. Minnesota took a 1-0 lead into the fifth inning. Boston plated a couple runs but Minnesota got the score tied in the sixth.
Ron Kline pitched in relief for the Twins. George Scott of the Red Sox homered to center on Kline's first pitch. Our great shortstop Zoilo Versalles committed a bad error in the seventh that resulted in two runners on for Boston. Boston's great Yastrzemski brought his lumber to the plate. He homered into the bullpen. We lost that game 6-4.
We tuned in for Sunday's game with some unease. Many of us felt the baseball gods just weren't going to be kind to us. Just like on Saturday, Minnesota got an early lead. "Yaz" committed an error that helped us go up 2-0. But in the sixth, "Yaz" singled with the bases loaded, getting the score tied. The rally continued. Minnesota was down 5-2 at the end of the rally, and the forces of destiny seemed not on our side.
Then Yastrzemski made a perfect throw in the seventh to nail Bob Allison at second.
Ermer in pre-game had made an unusual comment, that the moment of truth in bullfighting arrives at 4 p.m. Indeed, late-afternoon at Fenway Park brought resolution to a degree, although four more hours would pass before Bostonians could truly break out the champagne. Bobby Knoop of the Angels fielded a grounder 700 miles west of Fenway, at Tiger Stadium in Detroit, and started a double play that knocked the Tigers out of a possible tie. Boston had achieved what came to be known as "the impossible dream."
Boston's Sunday win over the Twins was by a score of 5-3. Fenway had a crowd of 35,770 which was beyond capacity. The fans had been starved for success. Yastrzemski had seven hits in eight plate appearances over those last two games. He had two infield hits, a double, three solid singles and a dramatic three-run homer.
Yes, there were four teams scrapping down the stretch and although it was undoubtedly exciting, the teams were not playing what you would call artful baseball. That's easy for us to say. Let's see us try to go out there and do it.
Yes, teams were fumbling away opportunities. The White Sox were a half-game out with five games left vs. weak sisters Kansas City and Washington, and had their best pitches rested. The door was open for them. Chris Berman of ESPN always proclaims "That's why. . .they play. . .the game." The White Sox got shut out three times in the last five games, and lost all five. That's why they play the game, indeed.
Detroit kept challenging but was erratic. Meanwhile our Twins gamely held on to first, sole or shared, for nearly all the stretch beginning on September 2 up to that "high noon" time. We can reflect on one pivotal series. We dropped three to the White Sox and in the middle game, we collapsed in the ninth, allowing a four-run rally and losing 5-4. Were the baseball gods at work? 
 
Ermer, Kaat and Chance - can they win?
This was Cal Ermer's time to try to carve out a niche in baseball history. He entered those last two games ready to deploy his best two pitchers: Kaat and Dean Chance. The Twins had a history of doing well at Fenway. In '65 they beat the Red Sox in eight of nine games there, and 17 of 18 overall! Where did that magic go in 1967? One writer suggested "bad luck and bad morale" for the Twins. A veteran Twin said of the thumbs-down on a World Series share for Mele: "I was never so ashamed of anything in my life, and we had enough problems even before that came up."
Today the issue of an extra World Series share would seem like pocket change. Mountains of money accumulate around big league sports today. Griffith cut his teeth as owner when concessions sold at games was a big part of the team's financial fortunes. No ESPN.
Bowie Kuhn called the baseball owners of that time "sportsmen." Their motivations went beyond money. World Series games stayed in the afternoon time slot, until that finally ended with Kuhn famously wearing his long underwear to stay warm, sans jacket, at night World Series games. He was pooh-poohed for that. Call Kuhn a fall guy.
Dave Barry has joked that the baseball post-season games of today are played "after everyone has gone to bed." When the Twins played in the '65 Series, I'd get all the details when getting home from school. I was in the fifth grade.
I was in junior high (that awful phase of life) for that '67 campaign. We saw those disturbing headlines about the Viet Nam War. Seeking to put that aside, we enjoyed songs like "A Whiter Shade of Pale" by Procol Harum. We ate up the Monkees and their songs like "I'm a Believer." Oh, the Beatles were still together and they produced "All You Need is Love," "Hello Goodbye" and "Penny Lane." We'd turn on our transistor radio and hear "San Francisco (Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair)." The dark Doors gave us "Light My Fire." Frank Sinatra and daughter Nancy sang "Somethin' Stupid."
But the war loomed, even invading our supposedly escapist entertainment world. Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys was indicted for draft evasion. The draft board of Louisville KY refused an exemption for Muhammad Ali.
On TV we followed the shows on the big three broadcast networks. "The Newlywed Game" premiered on ABC. The Rolling Stones appeared on Ed Sullivan. Super Bowl I was played in 1967! Green Bay beat Kansas City 35-10 in Los Angeles. Verne Gagne beat Mad Dog Vachon in St. Paul to become NWA champion. Wilt Chamberlain of hoops made 35 straight field goals.
Ermer became Twins manager as a promotion from Denver of the Pacific Coast League. Baseball was his life, at least professionally speaking. He was married to a former Miss Chattanooga (TN) and Miss Tennessee! As a player Cal was in just one major league game. Post-1967 he would manage the Twins' AAA affiliate in Toledo OH. As Twins manager he won 66 of 112 games. One more win would have put him in Minnesota history annals in an indelible way.
But the baseball vagaries would send glory in another direction. It seemed capricious, or was it a matter of Griffith's skinflint reputation? I think the latter. Pitcher "Mudcat" Grant, in protest, considered going full-time with his entertainment pursuits ("Mudcat and the Kittens"). In retrospect, these guys should have gone all-out to win, undistracted, not because of the money they'd make then, but because of the fortune they could make down the road as famous former big leaguers, going to card shows etc. Denny McLain could have done that but he evidently found crime more attractive.
Cal Ermer served with the U.S. Marines in World War Two. He left us for that diamond in the sky in 2009. Cal Ermer, RIP. You didn't deserve such heartbreak as what came down in 1967. Why not a world in which the Twins could win and there was no war? "Imagine," as John Lennon prodded us.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com